- Article published:
- August 30, 2013, 12:21
- Cycling News
Frenchman leads Tour du Poitou-Charentes
Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) caused something of an upset by winning the first time trial of his career at the Tour de Poitou-Charentes on Thursday but he is cautious about the prospect of maintaining his form as far as the world championships road race in Florence next month.
The Frenchman trailed Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge) by two seconds at the intermediate check point, but he turned on the after-burners in the second half of the 22.8km test in Civray to win the stage by 23 seconds from Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) and move into the overall lead.
“It wasn’t my objective to win the time trial because I didn’t believe that I was capable of it,” Voeckler told L’Équipe. “But I had the bit between my teeth at the start and I did it full on. I was complaining beforehand that it was a bit long but that suited me in the end, as I wasn’t too far behind at the time check and then the second part went in my favour.”
Although Voeckler had looked to conserve as much energy as possible during the morning stage, he admitted that he was surprised to beat the likes of Durbridge and Gustav Larsson (IAM Cycling) against the watch.
“All I’m missing now is to win a bunch sprint, then I will have done everything in my career,” he joked. “It’s a new string to my bow. I won’t lie, I’m very surprised.”
Voeckler now carries a 26-second lead into Friday’s final stage of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes to Poitiers, but he was cautious when asked if he felt his form would carry through to the end of the season, pointing to his low-key showing at the Tour de France in July.
“It’s true that there are a lot of objectives, from Plouay on Sunday [the GP Ouest-France] to the Worlds in Italy at the end of September, but there’s no point in getting too excited,” Voeckler said. “Cycling isn’t an exact science. Based on my form in June [when he won the Route du Sud – ed.] I should have done a great Tour de France and we saw what happened there.”
- Article published:
- August 30, 2013, 15:57
- Cycling News
Di Luca's father-in-law to manager new Abruzzo-based squad
Vini Fantini is set to cease sponsorship of Luca Scinto and Angelo Citracca’s Pro Continental outfit at the end of this season and instead back a new team based in the Abruzzo region.
According to a report in Italian newspaper Il Centro, Vini Fantini owner Valentino Scitotti will be one of the backers of a new venture, which will be managed by Stefano Giuliani, formerly a directeur sportif with the Pro Continental team and this year manager of the affiliated under-23 squad, Vini Fantini - D'Angelo & Antenucci.
Giuliani is the father-in-law of Danilo Di Luca, the rider who signed for Vini Fantini shortly before this year’s Giro d’Italia only to test positive for EPO. Di Luca had signed for Vini Fantini expressly at the behest of Sciotti, in spite of the initial misgivings of Scinto and Citracca.
Di Luca’s teammate Mauro Santambrogio also later tested positive for EPO after winning a stage at the Giro, and the scandals cast considerable doubt over the future of the Vini Fantini-Selle Italia team, who returned its wildcard invitation to the Tour of Lombardy to organisers RCS Sport by way of apology.
Il Centro reports that Giuliani’s new team could be unveiled at the world championships in Florence next month and would seek a Pro Continental licence for 2014. Current Vini Fantini-Selle Italia riders Fabio Taborre and Roberto De Patre have been linked with joining the team.
Earlier this week, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia general manager Angelo Citracca told Il Tirreno that his and Scinto’s riders were free to look for other teams for next season and said that his team had only “a 25 percent chance of going ahead.”
Although Citracca had already conceded that Vini Fantini was unlikely to continue to sponsor his team next year, on Friday he expressed surprise that the wine company was about to back another squad instead.
“I’m stunned. We knew there was a project to put together a Continental team that would have brought some promising youngsters from the amateur Vini Fantini – D’Angelo & Antenucci team to a higher level, but I didn’t know that our current main sponsor was involved,” Citracca told Tuttobici.
“As for our team, we’re working for next season. We have reached some agreements and we’re working to involve other companies. Mr. Sciotti had told us that he would try to continue his sponsorship but he’s never given us an official response.”
- Article published:
- August 30, 2013, 17:06
- Cycling News
Breakaway given advantage by mistake
The solo victory of Topsport Vlaanderen's Jelle Wallays in stage 1 of the World Ports Classic: a stunning display of determination and power? A gross miscalculation by the chasing teams? Or something more nefarious?
The 165km stage from Antwerp to Rotterdam should have been one for the sprinters, and even if the 2.1-ranked event meant that riders had no radio communication with their team cars, gaps given by the timers should have allowed the peloton to rein in the five-man escape in time for a bunch sprint.
However, the peloton was left literally shaking their heads in disbelief when they crossed the line 26 seconds after Wallays, the general classification of the flat, two-stage event nearly decided.
What went wrong?
Sporza.be posted a photograph comparing the race route signs at a roundabout with 46km to go, showing the breakaway following signs down one exit, but by the time the peloton came through the arrows were pointed a different direction, and the bunch was led off course.
The end result was a 1:20 gap that ballooned to 4:40 by the time the bunch was back on track.
“It was a strange stage because the break was led in the wrong direction, while the field did the original route and the breakaway therefore got a huge advantage in the finale," Saxo-Tinkoff directeur sportif Steven De Jongh said.
Credit, however, still goes to Wallays, who soloed for 23km and still maintained his healthy advantage at the line.
"Wallays did a very strong finale and regardless of the precarious situation, he was very hard to catch for the sprinters."
Lotto Belisol sprinter Andre Greipel took out second on the stage, but was disappointed to not be stepping into the race lead.
"Have to say that @jellewallays @jellwas pretty strong 2day but sad that the bunch had not the gap infos," Greipel wrote on Twitter.
- Article published:
- August 30, 2013, 18:15
- Cycling News
Combined with Farrar puncture, crash was “the perfect storm,” says Weltz
A bad crash in the end of stage seven of the Vuelta a España saw Ireland’s Dan Martin complete the day’s racing but the Garmin-Sharp rider was then taken to hospital for further checkups as a result of his injuries.
Without going into detail, Garmin-Sharp sports director Johnny Weltz said Martin had suffered injuries on his right side and that they had taken him to a hospital after the stage. He could not confirm if Martin would start the stage tomorrow. An official race medical report by the Vuelta’s own doctors said Martin had suffered “multiple blows to an arm and hip” and that team-mate Nick Nuyens had also crashed.
Martin went down with around ten kilometres to go and finished 1:33 back in 116th place. The 2013 Tour de France stage winner crashed shortly after teammate Tyler Farrar had punctured and was being pulled back up to the peloton, with Garmin-Sharp suddenly having to fight to get both sprinter and their GC rider back in the bunch.
Johan Vansummeren and other teammates tried to bring Martin back into the peloton, but with the bunch already going flat out on a very technical, fast finish and Martin not in a good condition in any case, it was mission impossible.
“It was a perfect storm, I have to say that,” Johnny Weltz told Cyclingnews afterwards. “He hit some kind of a hole in the ground and went into his handlebars and went down.”
“Tyler had just punctured before this shit started going down so we already had to stop to give him a wheel. Then Dan came down, it was just the most chaos it could have possibly been.”
Weltz, like Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) was critical of the stage finish, saying “the final was absolutely crazy. You know you have to be on the front but on a circuit like that....”
To add insult to injury, Martin, Farrar, Vansummeren, Alex Howes and Nick Nuyens were all handed 20-second time penalties and fined 50 Swiss Francs by the commissaires for drafting behind a team car. Johnny Weltz and fellow directeur sportif Bingen Fernandez were fined 200 CHF for the same incident.
Furthermore, Farrar was fined another 50 CHF for “irregular team support” following his puncture, with Fernandez fined 200 CHF for the same offence. Ferandez was landed with a third 200 CHF fine for irregular feeding, while Caleb Fairly was fined 50 CHF as the recipient of the illegal feed.
In total, therefore, Garmin-Sharp amassed 1,150 CHF in fines on stage 7 of the Vuelta.
- Article published:
- August 30, 2013, 19:46
- Alasdair Fotheringham
Former Cyclo-Cross World Champ beats Gilbert in spectacular last-metre duel
After all the disappointment of a near-miss at Paris-Roubaix - with all chance of a podium finish lost through no fault of his own when he collided late on with an over-enthusiastic spectator - and the delight of taking his first WorldTour stage race this August, Zdenek Stybar’s roller coaster 2013 season hit a new high on Friday with his first Grand Tour stage win on stage 7 of the Vuelta a España.
It has been quite a busy 24 hours for rainbow jersey wearers in the Vuelta. On Thursday Tony Martin (Omega Pharma Quick-Step), reigning world time trial champion, was pipped to the line by a former track world champion, Michael Morkov (Saxo-Tinkoff), with former world TT champ Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack) leading the last surge for the line and taking third. Then on Friday, Stybar, twice a former world cyclo-cross champion, had the better the reigning world road champion, Gilbert (BMC).
“It was very tough to beat him,” Stybar said. “When I got in the break, I was always thinking about how I could do the finale, I tried to keep some energy back, but I didn’t launch the sprint perfectly.”
“I won though, even if you win by one centimetre or one millimetre, it’s winning that matters.”
Stybar’s sixth place in Paris-Roubaix came after he was brought to a halt on the Carrefour d’Arbre and deprived of fighting for what likely would have been a top three result, even if Fabian Cancellara was by that point unreachable and the top spot in Roubaix velodrome long decided. The normally loquacious 28-year-old gave his one short answer of the whole winner's press conference when asked if victory in the Vuelta acted as some kind of compensation for his bad luck in April.
“No,” he replied bluntly. “It doesn’t make up for it. Paris-Roubaix is next year, and that’s where I’ll have my revenge.”
He also insisted, like several other riders, that the twisting, technical finale of the Vuelta had been anything but risk-free. “For a bunch of 200 riders, with cobblestones and sharp turns, for sure it was dangerous.”
Still, after a lengthy spell away from racing because of a post-Classics knee injury and operation, Stybar is experiencing a golden second half of the season. He recovered so well he could first take the Eneco Tour and two stages in August, and in the Vuelta he has now become one of the few riders able to beat Philippe Gilbert in a two-man duel.
Part of the inspiration for doing so, he said, came from Omega Pharma teammate Tony Martin’s agonizing near miss the previous day. “It was so amazing, he nearly made it, he could have been a legend,” Stybar said.
“But at the finish we all gave each other hugs and talked it over at dinner. We all felt disappointed, but we were also very motivated. That’s what makes us a strong team.”
- Article published:
- August 30, 2013, 20:40
- Peter Hymas
Sprinter shows progress in USA Pro Challenge
While Peter Sagan dominated the sprint finishes at last week's USA Pro Challenge, winning four of four, another 23-year-old with a fast finish quietly posted his best results of the season in Colorado - Team Colombia's Edwin Avila.
While Avila's squad's maxim states "Inspired by climbing", the young Colombian, in his first season as a professional, has a world-class track background with the 2011 points race world championship the crown jewel in his palmares. And in the rarified air of Colorado's high mountains, it would be Avila who notched Colombia's best stage finishes at the USA Pro Challenge: 4th in Fort Collins behind WorldTour fast men Peter Sagan, Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), plus 6th in both Steamboat Springs and Denver.
"The results are very good but it was a result of a job that started at the beginning of the year," Avila told Cyclingnews through a translator, Team Colombia's press officer David Evangelista. "I've been working all year to get to compete with those guys (peloton's sprinters) so it was good to finally get there and to be in the mix."
While in Colorado Avila usually had to rely on the skill and acumen which won him a points race world title in the closing kilometres of the sprint stages as he can't count on a dedicated lead-out train through to the finish as other sprinters have at their disposal.
"Not all of them (teammates) have the experience and the capacity to stay up there at speed - we're a team of climbers - but if they're feeling good I expect people like [Jarlinson] Pantano to help me get a good position ahead of the sprint," said Avila. "I sometimes feel alone, because all the other guys are doing a different business (climbing), so when you're the sprinter you're kind of on your own.
"Of course I always have the backing of my teammates - they're usually able to help me until about 10km to 5km to go to get me positioned. Then I'm usually on my own, but I don't lack the support of my teammates."
The compact Avila believes his best opportunity to win his first professional race will come on a hillier parcours where the pure sprinters are at a disadvantage, but improving on all fronts is paramount to the first-year pro.
"As of now the fact that I'm small in stature kind of favours me on the climbs so I would say I'm more of a rider who can get to the finish on a hillier stage in which the pure sprinters get dropped. But of course I need to improve on both the climbs and the sprints so I can win in both situations: flat stages against pure sprinters or hillier routes as well. There's still a big learning curve, but I have the ability."
Avila certainly showed his stamina and toughness earlier this season as he finished a particularly taxing Giro d'Italia in his first year as a professional.
"It was incredibly hard, particularly in the second week because I got sick," said Avila. "I had two or three days in which it was very hard to get to the finish. But in the third week I managed to bounce back and win the challenge which I really wanted to win for myself."
Team Colombia's press officer David Evangelista believes the Giro marked a turning point in the young Colombian's development as a pro cyclist.
"I noticed that after the Giro d'Italia something clicked in his head and he's turning into a more all-around rider," Evangelista told Cyclingnews. "He's a rider who finished inside the top-30 on the climb to Lagunas de Neila on the final day of the Vuelta a Burgos (a stage and overall race won by compatriot Nairo Quintana), despite riding the final 2km with a flat tire.
"I've seen his learning curve this year, much of which involved learning what being a real professional was all about. At the beginning he was struggling with his weight - being from the track it's different. He wasn't training that hard and that much, he was eating differently, so it was a complete change this year.
"He's someone who can climb and I'm convinced that he will turn out to be a significant rider in cycling in the next few years," said Evangelista, believing Avila will be a factor in one-day Classics.
But with the 2014 track world championships looming (February 26-March 2, 2014) on home turf in Cali, Colombia - the city in which the Bogota resident was born - Avila expects to make another appearance on the track.
"At the beginning I was thinking I would commit totally to road racing but now with the [track] world championships in Colombia in 2014 I'm getting some pressure to return to the track. It's my objective to get to the Worlds in good condition, so there's at least the Worlds in my mind regarding additional racing on the track."
- Article published:
- August 30, 2013, 21:10
- Cycling News
Guejar Sierra will do the most damage according to Movistar director
After three flattish stages, the high mountains kick in again on Saturday in the Vuelta a España, with three consecutive summit finishes lined up set to start a second – and more definitive – sort out amongst the favourites.
The first, on stage 8, is a 14.5 kilometre ascent to the Altos de Peñas Blancas on the Meditteranean coast. The second, on Sunday's stage 9 is Spain’s ‘Mur de Huy’, the kilometre long ascent in Valdepeñas de Jaén and the third, on Monday, is the 15.8 kilometre Alto de Hazallanas. On Tuesday, the race has a long transfer northeast and its first 'rest day'.
Each one is preceded by approaches through seriously hilly terrain, in increasing order of difficulty on each day. There are no classified climbs beforehand on Saturday’s stage through the hills of Malaga, while on Sunday there is a second category ascent in the sierras of Jaén immediately prior to the Valdepeñas ‘wall.’
On Monday, the Alto de Monachil first category ascent is a viciously steep ‘warm-up’ for the Guejar Seirra-Hazallanas climb, which according to Movistar director José Luis Arrieta, is by far the steepest and hardest of the three even though it has a small descent midway up. The racing on Galicia’s summit finishes, he says, constituted skirmishes in comparison to the real ‘war’ which is on the point of breaking out in Andalusia’s triptych of mountain stages.
“I think tomorrow will be like the first real contact with the mountains of a Grand Tour, and there will be casualties,” Arrieta told Cyclingnews on Friday morning.
“But the stage on Monday to Hazallanas is the first time in this year’s race where the eventual winner of the Vuelta will have to show exactly what kind of climbing performance he is truly capable of producing, and what he will need to produce to win the Vuelta.”
Would it therefore be too early for Valverde to try to take the jersey? “The ideal strategy would be to take the lead on the Angliru,” Arrieta says, before adding somewhat cryptically, “but you never say ‘no’ to taking it, either.”
“Getting the jersey so early on means a heck of a lot of energy is going to be used up and there is a long way to go to Madrid, two thirds of the race. But you have to defend it, too.”
The majority of the Movistar riders know the Hazallanas climb, situated in the foothills of Sierra Nevada, he says, including Valverde, even though like Peñas Blancas it’s never been used before in the Vuelta.
“They’ve nearly all been up the climb because it’s so close to where they were training at altitude. And for Alejandro it’s a good climb, it’s harder than Peñas Blancas which is more a series of ‘steps.’ It is much more gradual an ascent, and it will give riders more chance to recover.”
Arrieta’s biggest concern, he says, is not “Alejandro’s form or motivation. It’s more that when you’re going for a second peak of form in a season, it’s usually far more uneven and unpredictable. At this point of the year, anybody can have a bad day. But so far, he's been doing very well.”
Either way, after such a hard triple-whammy of mountain stages, Arrieta is convinced that there will be “just three or four riders really in contention for the Vuelta.” Combined with the individual time trial on Wednesday, then, a clear leader should emerge before the Pyrenees.
“Last year, there was no real difference between the top four [Chris Froome, Joaquim Rodriguez, Valverde and Alberto Contador – ed.] for ages, right the way into the end of the second week. But it was pretty clear after three or four tough stages who those contenders were going to be.”
“So far we’ve seen [Vincenzo] Nibali (Astana), us, Horner (RadioShack) and Katusha with Dani [Moreno] and Joaquim and Saxo-Tinkoff at the front. But the group will be whittled down a bit more and each day the Vuelta spends in the mountains we’ll see somebody else fall off the wagon.”
- Article published:
- August 31, 2013, 09:39
- Alasdair Fotheringham
14 kilometre climb makes Vuelta debut as stage 8 summit finish
For the overall classification contenders in the Vuelta, today’s 14.5 kilometre ascent of the Peñas Blancas climb will mark a watershed in the battle for victory in Madrid on September 15th. The ascent, which overlooks the Mediterranean coastline at Estepona, is the first of three tough stages in the southern region of Andalusia prior to a rest-day next Tuesday, and individual time trial on Wednesday.
Spanish daily Marca reported on Saturday that la Vuelta was alerted to the Alta de Peñas Blancas as a possible finish by one of Spain’s top bullfighters, Jose Tomas, who uses the climb when recovering from his injuries. Tomas, Vuelta director Javier Guillen and one of the route’s designers, Paco Giner, visited the climb last October and the decision was made to include it.
Initial plans to have Peñas Blancas at the end of a stage with 4,500 metres of climbing were dropped - the peloton will have enough of that on Sunday and Monday’s stages in Jaen and Granada - and the ‘only’ previous climbing will be a brief stint through the sierras of Malaga a little further north, prior to a flat, fast approach along the coast roads to the big challenge of the day.
Today’s regionale de l’etape rider is Luis Maté (Cofidis), who lives in nearby Marbella. “It’s a really tough climb which I use regularly for my [climbing] tests”, Maté told Marca. “The ascent continues for another six kilometres beyond where the Vuelta will finish. If the favourites decide to go all out, we’ll see some time gaps appearing.”
Averaging 6.6 per cent the climb’s hardest segment is at its foot, a 12.5 per cent ramp after just two kilometres. After that, although the climb has some sections of up to nine per cent and one segment at eight per cent with three kilometres to go looks like an ideal ‘blastoff point, its hardest feature is arguably its length: 14.5 kilometres and 980 metres of vertical climbing.
Temperatures are a reasonable 28 degrees centigrade, with no rain forecast, but the usual strong coastal winds in that area put in an appearance they could add an extra degree or three of difficulty to the climb.
The inclusion of three key stages in Andalusia cannot hide the fact, though, that the region’s cycling is in a state of near-irreversible decline. If a dearth of races and lack public money to back racing and teams at the amateur levels was not bad enough, the region’s flagship squad, Pro Continental team Andalucia - which also had amateur and junior teams to act as a ‘ladder’ for promising riders towards professional career - disappeared at the end of last season. The team’s former owners are now in the middle of a prolongued legal battle with its sponsors over alleged non-payments last year.
Spain’s biggest region, Andalucia, has just three riders taking part in the Vuelta: Antonio Piedra (Caja Rural), Maté (Cofidis) and Javi Moreno (Movistar).