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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, April 5, 2014

Date published:
April 05, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • Video: Top 10 riders to watch in the Tour of Flanders

    How sweet it is! Fabian Cancellara revels in his Tour of Flanders victory on the podium.
    Article published:
    April 04, 2014, 13:39 BST
    Cycling News

    Sagan, Cancellara and Boonen headline

    Unlike in the last few seasons there doesn’t appear to be single lone favourite for this year’s Tour of Flanders. Defending champion Fabian Cancellara has shown flashes of his old self but is yet to win a race this year while Peter Sagan, his closest rival – according to the bookmakers at least – hasn’t quite matched the form he displayed in 2013.

    With a modified route, uncertainly over the weather conditions, and no single stand out favourite, fans could be treated to one of the most exciting and closest editions of the race in recent years.

    Tom Boonen may have had injury problems in the build-up to the race but the three-time winner cannot be ruled out. His Omega Pharma-QuickStep team have been in scintillating form all year and with Niki Terpstra in the form of his life, Patrick Lefevere certainly has more than one card to play during Sunday’s race.

    The canny team boss surely won’t focus on Sagan and Cancellara alone as his team’s main rivals.

    Sep Vanmarcke has steadily risen through the ranks and his 2014 performances suggest than a first Monument win could be just around the corner. A fast finish, a strong climber, he could be the next Belgian rider to take over the mantle left by Boonen in the future.

    Another home-grown rider with a point to prove is Greg Van Avermaet. The BMC rider has finally been given the chance he’s dreamed of: sole leadership of a WorldTour team. He’ll be looking to repay the squad’s faith with at least a top-five finish.

    They’re not the only riders to watch out for on Sunday’s race and Cyclingnews have picked out 10 riders you should keep an eye on.

  • Horner's Lampre-Merida team to debut in Tour of Utah

    Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida)
    Article published:
    April 04, 2014, 16:01 BST
    Cycling News

    12 teams announced for "America's Toughest Stage Race"

    Organisers of the Tour of Utah announced the first dozen teams for the 2014 edition, naming Chris Horner's Lampre-Merida team as one of six WorldTour squads to accept invitations. Also named were American teams BMC, Garmin-Sharp and Trek Factory Racing, and the Dutch team Belkin.

    Horner made his comeback from a knee injury at the 2013 Tour of Utah, coming in second to Garmin's Tom Danielson before going on to become the first American to win the overall at the Vuelta a España.

    The USA's two Professional Continental teams were also named for the August 4-10 event: Novo Nordisk and UnitedHealthcare, along with four Continental teams: the Hincapie Sportswear Development Team, Jelly Belly/Maxxis, Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies and the Brazilian Funvic Brasilinvest squad.

    "The Tour of Utah continues to attract an impressive field of teams each year," Miller Sports Properties president Steve Miller said. "Hosting six ProTeams who will be racing at the Grand Tours, like the Giro [d'Italia] and Tour de France, speaks volumes about how this race has grown into a highly-respected event for international cycling. These top-level teams, representing four continents, will make the 10th edition of the Tour very exciting in August."

    The Tour of Utah kicks off in Cedar City on August 4, the second year the race has dipped down into red rock territory. The second stage heads from Panguitch to Torrey, and on the third stage heads from Lehi to the Miller Motorsports Park.

    The race largely bypasses Salt Lake City, heading from Ogden to Powder Mountain on stage 4 and then dipping into Wyoming for the start of stage 5 in Evanston, with a finish in Kamas, Utah.

  • Thomas plans aggressive showing at the Tour of Flanders

    BMC directuer sportif and Sky rider Geraint Thomas have a chat before the start
    Article published:
    April 04, 2014, 17:20 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Welshman hopes experience can tell at De Ronde

    The penny dropped for Geraint Thomas midway during his reconnaissance of the Tour of Flanders route on Thursday. After years of struggling to see the wood for the trees in the Flemish Ardennes, the Welshman knew exactly where he was – the intricate geography of De Ronde had revealed itself.

    “I think it takes a few years because you’ve so many lefts and rights – a climb here, a descent there,” Thomas said in Kortijk on Friday. “When [Mat] Hayman was in the team he was always saying things like ‘We do this descent in E3 but we go up that now, or we take that left here instead of that right like in Nieuwsblad, and you’d be like, ‘How the hell do you know that?’ But the more you race here, the more you get dialled into it and you know where you are.”

    Third place at E3 Harelbeke last week highlighted Thomas’ form, and he hopes that his accumulated experience can help him still further as he up for his fourth tilt at the Tour of Flanders. This time out, Thomas starts the outright leader of Team Sky, a status that had been conferred upon him even before Ian Stannard was forced out by injury. He acknowledged that the hierarchy and specific roles within Sky’s classics unit have been more clearly defined than they had been twelve months ago.

    “That’s probably one of the biggest changes, especially in Roubaix, where we had five guys all sort of there,” Thomas said. “Of course, it can all change pretty quickly here but at the same time I think it’s good to go in with that one plan and do as best you can with that.”

    The plan, at least for Thomas, is to go on the offensive and, where possible, look to get up the road before the favourites – Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan – wind up to land...

  • Winless Cancellara puts Flanders pressure on Sagan

    Two-time Strade Bianche champion Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) finishes 6th in the 2014 edition
    Article published:
    April 04, 2014, 19:28 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Flanders is twice as hard for Sagan, says defending champion

    Less than 48 hours ahead of the Tour of Flanders the Trek Factory Team gave a press conference in the team’s hotel on the outskirts of Bruges. Team leader Fabian Cancellara and his lieutenant Stijn Devolder took questions from a big group of international journalists that attended the press conference. A somewhat uncertain Cancellara and Devolder each have two Flanders wins in their palmarès and both are keen on adding a third title to that list. A third win would put them equal with five other riders including Belgian’s cycling star Tom Boonen.

    When Cancellara was asked whether he had a possible record-equalling third win in Flanders on his mind, the 33-year-old Swiss rider acted surprised. “Maybe now because you mention it. I wasn’t thinking on that. I was just thinking about the race and not the side effects. Thank you for mentioning it.”

    Other things have been worrying Cancellara. In contrast to previous years, he lacks a win at any of the Spring Classics before Flanders. Cancellara mentioned that he had mixed feelings on the bike after Gent-Wevelgem.

    “During training, or better cruising, it was weird. I was not happy. There were a lot of questions. ‘Am I ready?’ There were a lot of questions I could not answer. Then I had a few phone calls and some chats with people who know. All the questions I had were answered. That’s why I’m really relaxed. Since Tuesday I’m fully concentrated. That was a very big key point. In the end it’s just a bike race with a number on your back. I have won it and can handle the pressure. Other riders haven’t won it and waste energy because they lack the experience. It’s everything around it, including the thousands, millions of people who...

  • Boonen: I can win Tour of Flanders

    Tom Boonen wins his third Kuurne title
    Article published:
    April 04, 2014, 20:23 BST
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    Belgian accepts he is not the favourite

    Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) pushed aside any doubts that he wouldn’t be able to win this Sunday’s Tour of Flanders. The Belgian has had a tough time of it recently, but said that while other riders have looked better in recent weeks as long he is more than able to take the top step of the podium.

    "I don’t think that being a favourite is important," he said at his team’s pre-race press conference on Friday. "If I take the start then I’m always capable of winning. Maybe I don’t take the start as a grand favourite on Sunday. Maybe it’s a good thing or maybe it’s a bad thing, we will see. If I can take the start then I’m always able to win the race there."

    This year’s route has seen more alterations to the route, something Boonen wasn’t too pleased about, saying that Classics courses should remain just that and stay the same. Boonen wasn’t able to ride the previous incarnation of the course, after he crashed out 19 kilometres into the race. The organisers were heavily criticised for nullifying some of the action and the new route was introduced to liven things up once again. However, Boonen believes that it could make for a very closed race.

    "It won’t make the race harder, as the climbs are more focussed on the final now," he explained. "It will be difficult to start racing earlier. Sometimes putting less climbs in the final makes it more open and gives the race more possibilities. I think it will be hard to start racing 50km to the finish line, because there are so many difficult climbs there."

    Multiple contenders

    After last year’s face-off between Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan, this weekend’s race sees a...

  • Sagan wants to have fun at the Tour of Flanders

    Peter Sagan makes it look easy on the Koppenberg
    Article published:
    April 04, 2014, 21:00 BST
    Barry Ryan

    "I don’t know my destiny"

    Since he was unleashed upon the peloton in 2010, just 20 years of age but seemingly already fully-formed, Peter Sagan has worn the look of a man who can’t quite understand what all the fuss is about. Over the past four years, the Cannondale rider has routinely gone about the business of winning and appeared largely nonplussed by the attention that surrounds him.

    It was a similar story in Kortrijk on Friday evening, as the Tour of Flanders press pack descended upon the Kennedy Hotel to hear Sagan’s final thoughts ahead of the big day. Faced with a volley of flashbulbs and microphones, the Slovak wearily downplayed the expectations surrounding him ahead of Sunday’s race.

    "It’s too many people making pressure here because it’s a big race, but I try to take the race like fun," Sagan said. "In these important races, that’s a bit difficult, but it depends. It’s a race like another one, no?"

    After last week adding E3 Harelbeke to his Gent-Wevelgem victory of twelve months ago, there is a growing sense that Sagan is ready to graduate to winning a Monument. He was already at the receiving end of some harsh criticism when he failed to open that particular account at Milan-San Remo, but he declared himself unconcerned by the prospect of a repeat dose if he were to fall short at the Tour of Flanders.

    "It’s not my problem. I want to do well, but after that, I don’t know my future," Sagan said. "Maybe I can try for ten years to win this race and never win it. I don’t know my destiny."

    Fabian Cancellara was Sagan’s victor at the Tour of Flanders last year, but the...

  • Omega Pharma-QuickStep announces team for Tour of Flanders

    Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma - QuickStep) wins Dwars door Vlaanderen
    Article published:
    April 04, 2014, 22:30 BST
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    Wilfried Peeters admits they are not favourites

    Omega Pharma-QuickStep directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters believes that the eight riders he’s chosen for this weekend’s Tour of Flanders has got the right combination of experience and talent to take victory.

    "Absolutely one of those guys can win," he told Cyclingnews. "I think it’s more important that we have a strong team. We have a lot of good riders and sometimes the selection is difficult. I think when we lose next Sunday and there is someone stronger, then OK. When you lose Sunday and you miss things, then I’m not happy."

    Omega Pharma-QuickStep waited until the pre-race press conference on Friday to announce their team for the year’s second Monument. The importance of this weekend is almost second to none for the team and for them the selection forced them to make some tough choices.

    Tom Boonen will lead the team into battle on Sunday, but he will be flanked by a number of riders who have the potential to take the victory themselves. The three-time Ronde van Vlaanderen winner hasn’t looked at the top of his game recently. Peeters admits that, while he’s moving in the right direction, the Belgian won’t be the main favourite, despite his record at the race.

    "He’s changed a lot in one week. For me, last week Cancellara was stronger in Harelbeke and maybe he is one level up and also Sagan. He is coming on the second line and maybe not a favourite," says Peeters. "I think Cancellara is number one, then Sagan and Tom."

    Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar will also take up leadership roles at the weekend, giving the team an enviable number of options when it comes to tactics. Terpstra has been flying over the last two weeks with a victory and a podium...

  • Lizzie Armitstead renews with Boels-Dolmans

    Lizzy Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) wins the Ronde van Drenthe
    Article published:
    April 05, 2014, 9:41 BST
    José Been

    World Cup leader signs until Rio 2016

    Lizzie Armitstead has renewed her contract with Boels-Dolmans. The British champion will stay with the Dutch team until the end 2016.

    "I feel right at home with the Boels-Dolmans team and I know that this is the best place for me in the next years." This season is Armitstead's second season with the team currently ranked third in the world.

    The London Olympics silver medal winner started the season with a victory in Omloop het Hageland. One week later she won the first UCI Women Road World Cup race of the season: the Ronde van Drenthe. After a second place in the Trofeo Binda, Armitstead leads the World Cup standings by a comfortable margin. 

    Sports director Danny Stam and world time trial champion Ellen van Dijk also signed a contract with the UCI women's team until 2016. Armitstead has worked with Stam since she was part of the AA team in 2012.

    "I am very happy that I am going to stay with this team. The decision was made easier for me because Danny Stam and Ellen van Dijk will be staying on for the same period. I like to continue working with these ambitious people. I think that, as a team, we have the potential to become the best in the world and I would like to contribute to that." 

    The 25-year-old British rider is one of the favorites for the Tour of Flanders this weekend. In the absence of Marianne Vos, who will start her World Cup season in Flèche Wallonne later this month, Armitstead can take a decisive lead in the standings for the World Cup.