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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, February 11, 2012

Date published:
February 11, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Cunego begins campaign in Calabria

    Damiano Cunego (Lampre - ISD)
    Article published:
    February 10, 2012, 21:42 GMT
    Cycling News

    Italian builds towards Ardennes classics

    Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) is getting his season underway at the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria in southern Italy this weekend with the simple goal of getting some racing miles in his legs ahead of stiffer tests to come.

    Fresh from a team training camp in San Vincenzo, Tuscany, Cunego admitted that he was keen to return to competitive action as he begins his build-up towards the Ardennes classics. “I want to race and rediscover the sensations that only a race can offer you,” Cunego said.

    The two-day race kicks off on Saturday with a stage from Melito Porto Salvo to Chiaravalle, and concludes the following day at Piazza Italia in Reggio Calabria. As was the case in last year’s three-stage event, Cunego expects the sprinters to be to the fore this weekend.

    “The characteristics of the route won’t allow me to get a result, but it will give me the chance to ride for two days at race rhythm, which is exactly what I need,” Cunego said. While the southern tip of Italy should avoid the brunt of the wintry conditions that have struck much of Europe in the past week or so, Cunego noted that the weather might have an impact on the race.

    “The race could be made more difficult by the bad weather,” he warned. “The forecast is that the weather will deteriorate further, but let’s hope the temperature doesn’t drop too much.”

    Cunego had initially been slated to head on to ride the Giro della Sardegna later in February, but has yet to confirm what race – if any – he will add to his programme following the recent cancellation of the event. The opening part of his season will be built around preparing for the Ardennes classics, and Cunego has also confirmed that he will forgo Tirreno-Adriatico in favour of Paris-Nice.

  • Unforgiving roads take their toll in Qatar

    The Tour of Qatar peloton during stage 4.
    Article published:
    February 10, 2012, 22:15 GMT
    Mark Robinson

    Punctures and crashes make headlines over a tough week

    With the 2012 Tour of Qatar now at an end, the teams involved have just three full days to lick their wounds before next week's Tour of Oman gets underway just a short flight away to the east of the Gulf state. And while the form of overall winner Tom Boonen has been the highlight of the week, the mechanics and medical staff have certainly earned their money here.

    With the exception of the team trial that occurred on day two, the other five stages have all featured numerous punctures for the riders and several crashes that have left the victims nursing injuries. Mark Cavendish escaped serious injury when he crashed in the finale on the final day, but Farense Vini-Selle Italia's Filippo Pozzato wasn't so fortunate during Thursday's fifth stage when he broke his collarbone in a horrible spill early on.

    BMC's Adam Blythe is also nursing a pretty nasty looking gash on his right leg from stage five, a wound that will serve as a reminder of an eventful week. He has had more than his fair share of bad luck here and he suffered a puncture the day before his crash when well placed with 3.2km to go - the incident leaving him tantalisingly close to being able to invoke the 3km rule. The 22-year-old Briton eventually finished in 10th place in the overall GC and only just missed out on the white jersey for best young rider - a solid performance for sure, but one that may have been even better.

    "My leg isn't too bad, it looks worse than it is and it's on the mend," he told Cyclingnews on Friday. "I didn’t come out of it too badly so I was lucky. But it hasn’t just been our team that’s been affected by these incidents, it’s all of us. I’ve heard...

  • Ullrich's explanation met with disappointment in Germany

    Jan Ullrich at the Gran Fondo Colnago Miami
    Article published:
    February 11, 2012, 9:03 GMT
    Cycling News

    Continued participation in cyclo-sportive races legally questionable

    Jan Ullrich's statement concerning his doping past and two-year ban have been met with disappointment in Germany. In addition, questions have arisen as to his continued participation in Grand Fondos and similar cyclo-sportive races.

    After the Court of Arbitration for Sport issued its ruling that concluded he had “engaged at least in blood doping”, the German issued a statement in which he admitted contact to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and apologized for his conduct.

    He did not, however, directly address the issue of doping. And this met with much disapproval within the German cycling scene.

    Dr. Werner Franke, an anti-doping crusader who has often been in court against Ullrich, called the statement “without substance” and “the laughable attempt to close the affair.” He told the dpa news agency, “I continue to see this as fully insufficient.”

    Franke doesn't think the whole thing is over, though. “Bit by bit, everything will come out.”

    A German politician expressed a similar reaction. “This explanation was absolutely disappointing, but for me no surprise,” said Dagmar Freitag, head of the German Parliament's Sport Committee. “Jan Ullrich missed his last chance to win back even a little of his credibility, because he failed to come clean.”

    His former employer Deutsche Telekom did not address his statement, but noted simply that “The CAS decision underlines that the team management's decision in 2006 to separate itself from Jan Ullrich was correct.”

    The firm will not sue him or attempt to get any money out of him. “There will be no request on behalf of Telekom for payment for damages from Jan Ullrich in light of the CAS decision,” it said.

    The CAS decision requires him to pay the UCI 10,000 Euro to cover the trial costs. It is also unclear as to whether race organisers or other sponsors may demand the...

  • Gallery: Garmin-Barracuda rides reconnaissance over new Tour of Flanders route

    Martijn Maaskant (Garmin-Barracuda)
    Article published:
    February 11, 2012, 10:05 GMT
    Cycling News

    American adventure in Belgium

    Before their scheduled race at the Tour of Qatar, Garmin-Barracuda’s Classics contingent travelled to Belgium to recon the Tour of Flanders route.

    Led by new management of Allan Peiper and Geert Van Bondt the team rode over sections of the new course that will be raced for the first time this year.

    The Tour of Flanders will this year finish in Oudenaarde instead of Meerbeke, thus omitting the race's most mythical helling, the Muur van Geraardsbergen. The new finale will include the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg, to be covered three times on a final circuit - with the Paterberg as the last ascent before the finish in Oudenaarde, 13km before the finish.

    “Geert brought Tyler from Gent and Johan Van Summeren came with Thomas Dekker. Maaskant brought Haussler who came by train from Germany. Sep Van Marke lives 10kms from Oudenaarde where we started the ride at the museum. So six seasoned pro’s and me,” Peiper wrote on the team’s website.

    “The boys went out of the blocks for the last 150km of the course because of the cold and after 5km we hit the Taaienberg followed by the Eikenberg. We did six climbs and four sections of cobbles before a long 35km section which is normally head wind before we started on the final three laps. Three times over the Kwaremont and Patersberg with a variation of other climbs each lap and 10kms flat to the finish.”

    Garmin’s Classics roster has gone through some notable changes this year. Thor Hushovd – who never favoured Flanders – has moved to BMC. The team has drafted in Dekker and Seb Rosseler (formerly of...

  • Alberto Contador starts training again

    Contador is back in training despite his suspension
    Article published:
    February 11, 2012, 10:52 GMT
    Cycling News

    “Back to work” for suspended Spaniard

    Alberto Contador said at his press conference earlier this week that he would come back from his two-year doping suspension in August, and on Friday took the first step towards that return to racing. The Spaniard went for his first training ride since the Court of Arbitration for sport ruled on his doping case.

    “Going back to work,” he tweeted.  “Sacrifice and hard training, this is our sole secret.”

    He also posted a photo of himself, wearing a white jacket with no apparent team identification. He was riding a Specialized time trial bike, again with no obvious team affiliation.

    At his press conference Tuesday, he said, "I'm sure of one thing. I want to come back to ride the best races. I'll train clean as I've always done. Right now even though my morale is low I know I'll come back just as strong."

    On Monday, the CAS ruled that he had violated anti-doping regulations and gave him a retroactive two-year ban, which expires August 5.

  • Galimzyanov content with second in final Qatar stage

    Katusha's Denis Galimzyanov won the final stage and the points classification.
    Article published:
    February 11, 2012, 12:22 GMT
    Cycling News

    Katusha sprinter set on Olympic year

    Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) continued his solid start to the season with second place in the final stage of the Tour of Qatar. It was the Russian’s second top ten finish in the race.

    "I'm very happy about this podium,” Galimzyanov said at the finish.

    “Personally it's a good result, which came thanks to the fantastic help of the whole team. It wasn't easy because today the stage was very hard, with a strong headwind in its final part. All my teammates worked together in order to allow me to fight for win without spending too many energies during the whole course. After some not so good stages, today we can proudly say we worked as a team, and today's result proved we worked well.

    “In the final straight I was ahead of the group: I decided to stay behind Renshaw's wheel. My sprint was good and I passed him, but I was quite surprised by Demare, which had much space to do a good rush. Unfortunately I wasn't able to reach him and he deserved to win. Anyways, I'm happy with my first podium of the season: now, in Oman, my goal is to take the first win".

    Galimzyanov’s major aim for the season will be the road race at the Olympic Games. Katusha has put a huge emphasis on Olympic medals this year and Galimzyanov is central to those plans. The Russian is yet to win a race this year.


  • Lance Armstrong admits "difficult times" during Federal Investigation

    The beginning of the end. Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) pedals leadenly to the finish at Morzine
    Article published:
    February 11, 2012, 13:06 GMT
    Cycling News

    Seven-time Tour de France winner clear of FDA

    Seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has told AP that he is relieved to put the US Federal investigation in the past. Armstrong said: "I'm happy. I'm glad it's behind me."

    "It's not a pleasant experience ... It was difficult at times," he said. "But I was confident that we would always end up in this place."
    Armstrong and the US Postal team were under Federal investigation on possible fraud charges. However last Friday the US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles closed the two-year long investigation.

    "It's over," he said. "I'm moving on,” Armstrong also told AP.

    During the investigation Armstrong remained confident that he would not be charged. In 2010 one of his lawyers, Brian D. Daly, condemned the federal investigation of his client and his former US Postal Service team as “un-American and a waste of taxpayers’ money."

    "I don't want to get bogged down with that. I'm not concerned with that. I'm not going to worry about that," Armstrong told AP.

    "I hugged my kids, hugged my girlfriend and went and opened a cold beer," Armstrong said.

    WADA and USADA have both made their intentions clear that the FDA and all other US departments that were part of the closed investigation should provide any relevant evidence to USADA. Therefore, although Armstrong has put one legal battle to bed, another could potentially ensue.

    "You had to consider all possibilities," he said.


  • O'Leary returns from cancer to Bontrager-Livestrong

    Connor O'Leary poses with the Bontrager Livestrong team
    Article published:
    February 11, 2012, 16:35 GMT
    Pat Malach

    20-year-old aims at cycling's top level

    A little more than a year after being diagnosed with testicular cancer, 20-year-old Connor O'Leary is set to return to top-level cycling with the Bontrager-Livestrong development team. But it hasn't been an easy trip from the top of sport to the depths of life-changing illness and back.

    As one might expect with a group of rowdy teenage athletes, the specter of cancer is a galaxy away from their everyday thoughts. So in the spring of 2010 when O'Leary started experiencing pain and swelling in one of his testicles while on a trip to Belgium with the US U23 national team, the then 19-year-old's discomfort was dismissed as a result of too much time in the saddle and quickly became the brunt of some not-so-subtle jokes.

    One of O'Leary's teammates at the time, Ian Boswell, remembers a particularly laugh-inducing incident that involved a graphic demonstration with some fruit.

    "At one point during the ongoing joke about Connor's jewels, I remember someone setting out a banana with a grape as one testicle and an apple as the other," Boswell recently recalled. "At the time it was hilarious."

    But that laughter turned to shock two months later when O'Leary was diagnosed with cancer just days before he was scheduled to leave for the national championships.

    "I was getting pretty fatigued, and I had a mass on my left testicle," O'Leary said. "Cancer was in the back of my mind, but I never thought it could be anything that serious, really. But then I thought I needed to get checked, and within about two seconds of the doctor looking at it he said he was 90 percent sure it was cancer."

    Tests proved the doctor right, and so instead of heading off to fight for a stars-and-stripes jersey, O'Leary set his cycling goals aside and started four months of chemotherapy in his battle against cancer.

    "It was kind of like an out-of-body experience," he said of hearing the diagnosis. "It didn't even hit for a couple of days, even after...