Movistar rider hoping to work on time trialling at San Luis
Beñat Intxausti [Movistar] will put aside some of his own personal ambitions this season when he rides the Tour de France in support of teammate Alejandro Valverde, but the Spaniard says he is not bothered by the adjustments to his calendar.
"The situation is clear. Valverde and Nairo Quintana are the leaders,” Intxausti told Diario Vasco. “I do not dislike the idea. I do not mind leaving the Giro and see how it goes my Tour.
“They [Valverde and Quintana] are rides to who can dispute the great events, in which you have to help them. When they are not, then you have your opportunities. This is to take advantage of. There are races for everyone."
In July he will ride as a domestique for Valverde, and Quintana - if he chooses to ride it. Intxausti has only ridden the Tour de France once before, but he abandoned on stage eight, which was won by his teammate Rui Costa, with a broken wrist.
For the past two years the Movistar rider has ridden the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España. However, neither are on his calendar for this year. Last season he wore the Giro’s maglia rosa for a stage, before taking his best grand tour result with eighth in the overall classification.
He closed the year with his first WorldTour victory at the Tour of Beijing, taking the overall victory as he did so. The Spaniard believes that there is still more to come in 2014. “Mentally I'm getting stronger, you see that there are goals that can be achieved, you can reach them,” he explains.
"I want to do better than in 2013 or at least try. I will go to the Tour instead of the Giro...
Gerrans on verge of third overall Tour Down Under victory
Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) wrested back control of the Tour Down Under's ochre leaders jersey from rival Cadel Evans (BMC) on a hard fought stage five featuring not one, but two torturous climbs up the infamous three-kilometre Willunga Hill. The winner, Richie Porte, not only took the stage, he nearly took the overall lead and moved to within striking distance of the general classification sitting at just 10 seconds behind Gerrans in fourth place.
The two-time race winner and reigning Australian national road race champion started the race seven seconds down after earning back five bonus seconds on two intermediate sprints along stage four to Victor Harbor. Gerrans, who captured third place and four bonus seconds today, is now one second up on Evans, whose two days in ochre were a career first, leading into the sixth and final stage in Adelaide city centre on Sunday.
"It's not only a huge thrill, it's a huge sigh of relief," Gerrans said. "My whole team has put in such a huge effort to support me this week. I'm so thrilled to have the lead back going into the last stage.
"We had the stage under control right up until the final couple of kilometres."
Immediately after surrendering the jersey to Evans on Thursday, Gerrans warned of the difficulties in holding onto the lead with Willunga’s punishing uphill finish. Gerrans had won stage five on the climb last year and placed second in a photo finish tow years ago.
"I've definitely had some good results here in the past," said Gerrans. "As far as a favourite, I don't think I ever hurt as much as I do going up this climb. But there's so much at stake, so I really gave it everything today.
Relishing role as team GC contender at Australian race
Under any other circumstances, Nathan Haas’ (Garmin-Sharp) fight for the podium would be making Australian sporting page headlines. But while Aussie heavyweights Cadel Evans and Simon Gerrans wrestle for control of the Tour Down Under’s ochre leader’s jersey, Haas, who was sitting in fourth position just nine seconds off third place Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida), has now dropped to fifth overall and is no longer in podium contention. But that has not dampened Haas’ spirits and what has become a feel-good story of the race.
Haas now trails race leader Gerrans, who re-claimed the ochre leader's jersey from Evans in a brutal battle on the infamous Willunga Hill. Haas is behind Evans, who is one second behind Gerrans, Diego Ulissi and stage winner Richie Porte.
"If I am currently sitting fifth on GC and guys like Gerrans, Evans and Porte are ahead of me then that's not bad company to be around," said Haas, the 2011 Herald Sun Tour winner. "And to have guys like Robert Gesink at the moment behind me then I’ve outdone where I thought I would be this time of year anyway," he told Cyclingnews.
The 24-year-old mountain biker-turned-road cyclist has replaced teammate Rohan Dennis as Garmin-Sharp's general classification leader, after Dennis failed to find form following a nasty spill during the Australian men’s National Time Trial Championships in Ballarat earlier this month.
Haas, who missed the Australian nationals due to a season-ending injury, told Cyclingnews that his "move up in the pecking order was completely organic" and that Rohan had asked him if he had the legs on stage three...
Swiss rider tests material at Palma Arena velodrome
The Palma Arena in Mallorca is one of the tracks being considered by Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) for his possible bid on the world hour record, according to a report in the Diario de Mallorca on Friday.
Cancellara visited the track to test material earlier this week during his Trek Factory Racing team’s training camp on the Balearic Island, just as he had done on the cement track of the Luis Puig velodrome in Valencia in December.
While Cancellara went there primarily to fine-tune his position on the track, he is reported to have added Palma to a possible list of hour record sites that already includes Aguascalientes in Mexico and Moscow, where current record holder Ondrej Sosenka set the current record of 49.7 kilometres in 2005.
The indoor Palma Arena was inaugurated in time for the 2007 world track championships, where local rider Juan Llaneras claimed the final rainbow jersey of his career in the points race. Llaneras was on hand to watch Cancellara’s test earlier this week and said that the Swiss rider was impressed by the velodrome.
“Cancellara really liked the Palma Arena. He considers it to be a velodrome where you can ride very fast, and he even told me that he wouldn’t rule out attempting the hour record in Mallorca,” Llaneras told the Diario de Mallorca.
“After the good feelings he had during the test, Cancellara has included the Palma Arena among the possible venues for his attempt, along with the velodromes in Aguascalientes and Moscow.”
Speaking to Cyclingnews in December, Trek Factory Racing manager Luca Guercilena confirmed that
The UCI has announced the registration of 31 women's teams to the professional ranks for the 2014 road season. It also ranked the teams based on the individual UCI points of the top four athletes from each team, and points from the 2013 UCI Road World Championship team time trial to determine automatic invitations for the class 1 events.
The top 20 teams in this ranking earn the right to participate in the UCI Women's Road World Cup, while the top 10 are automatically invited to class 1 (1.1, 2.1) events as do the top five national teams.
The Rabo Liv team of world champion Marianne Vos topped the rankings, with Emma Johansson's Orica-AIS in second. Boels Dolmans, led by Briton Lizzy Armitstead was third, while American squad Specialized-Lululemon was fourth over hitec Products.
The top national teams were the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, the USA and Australia.
The total number of women's teams was down three, from 34 in 2013 to 31. Nine teams went away - most notably the Belgian Sengers Ladies Team, Bourgogne-Pro Dialog from France. The Cyclelive Plus - Zannata and Team Futurumshop.nl merged to form Futurumshop.nl - Zannata, and the Exergy women's team stepped back to the non-UCI ranks.
Among the new teams to the UCI peloton is the UnitedHealthcare women's team, already victorious in the first UCI race of the season, the Tour Femenino de San Luis, won by American Alison Powers, and the Bigla Cycling Team from Switzerland.
Having ridden away from Richie Porte (Sky) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) on the Corkscrew climb during Stage 2 of the Tour Down Under, today it was Cadel Evans (BMC) who was distanced by his rivals on the climb to Willunga Hill. Evans conceded his overall lead to Gerrans, losing eight seconds, and enters the final stage of the Tour Down Under one second off the lead with ambitions to take back the lead, stating post-race, "don't underestimate the competitive fire."
When the race turned onto the lower slopes of Willunga for the second time, Evans was well placed with two teammates to call upon. Orica-GreenEdge had put the hammer down on the descent from Willunga which left Gerrans with a numerical advantage over Evans who praised the efforts of the Australian WorldTour team.
"Orica-GreenEdge I would have to say rode fantastically. After they put pressure on after the KOM sprint on the first time up Willunga, it caught some of us on the back foot and that cost me at the start where I had to make moves," Evans said.
Despite losing his lead, Evans was adamant he will fight until the very end of the race. "When you have an opportunity to win a big race you want to win it."
"This was not just an opportunity to race in Australia, but to win a race ... while I can be competitive I don't have that many opportunities to win here. When it is possible to win and you don't it is a little disappointing."
Evans explained that today's stage was always going to be testing and he was beaten by the better rider on the day but has been buoyed by his form as he builds for the Giro d'Italia in May.
"I anticipated that the lead into Willunga was going to be very important and the fact that the race previous to that was much more difficult and suited to me and the whole team. Sometimes you just get beaten by a...
The first training camp of 2014 for the newly reformulated Team SmartStop is providing director Mike Creed an opportunity to see how the riders he's assembled will work together. And so far, Creed says, things are going well.
"I'm excited by how the team is gelling together," Creed told Cyclingnews this week from camp in Tucson. "We did a good job of balancing personalities and finding good people. I learned a lot from [Optum Pro Cycling director] Jonas Carney about how to pick a roster and people, and I think it's paying off."
The UCI Continental team has made no secret that it is targeting invitations to North America's biggest stage races, starting with the Amgen Tour of California in May. But the SmartStop season will kick off with two events outside of the US, first at the Vuelta Independencia Nacional in the Dominican Republic in February, followed by the Vuelta a Mexico in early March.
"We want to do some quality racing without a lot of pressure, away from the sneaky American cycling media like you guys," Creed said. "We want to just do some really hard, really challenging racing without a lot of pressure. We're going to race hard, and it would be nice to be in the running for some stage wins and the overall if it comes about, but it won't be a make or break situation for us."
The team will return to the States for the San Dimas Stage Race March 28-30 before kicking off the National Race Calendar schedule at the Redlands Bicycle Classic April 3-6. The SmartStop program will focus on the NRC and the UCI stage races, as well as select criteriums and the national championship events in Chattanooga in May.
Since announcing the initial 13-rider roster late last year, the team has added two riders with extensive European experience, including Jure Kocjan, who comes to SmartStop from the Euskaltel-Euskadi WorldTour team, and Josh Berry, a US rider coming from French Continental outfit La Pomme Marseille.
Astana rider aiming for Tour de France, Ardennes Classics
If Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) hopes to win the 2014 Tour de France, one of the riders he'll count on in a super-domestique role is 26-year-old Estonian Tanel Kangert. During Astana's 2013 Grand Tour campaign Kangert provided key support for Nibali in both the Giro d'Italia (won by Nibali with Kangert finishing 14th) as well as the Vuelta a Espana (2nd by Nibali with Kangert in 11th).
The core of Astana's 2014 Tour de France roster, including Kangert, have started their season in Argentina at the Tour de San Luis where their primary mission is to get in a block of hard racing in warm weather. Michele Scarponi currently is highest on GC for Astana in 23rd overall at 8:00, belying the bigger fish to fry further along in the season.
Kangert is coming into his own regarding Grand Tours. He's completed all four he's started and has progressively improved his GC result every time: 2011 Vuelta-64th, 2012 Giro-26th, 2013 Giro-14th and 2013 Vuelta-11th. On tap for 2014 is his Tour de France debut which is the primary goal of the Estonian's season.
"Right now I have the Tour de France in my program, a race I've never done before so obviously I want to do good there," Kangert told Cyclingnews following stage 5 at the Tour de San Luis. "I also have one little dream of my own - to do the Classics. It's my sixth year as a pro this year and I've never even participated in them. I look forward to the Ardennes Classics."
When asked to clarify if he had any predilection for Classics on the pave of Belgium and France, Kangert was quick to respond.
"Cobbles are a real man's race," he said with a laugh. "I have nothing to do with that."
A strong time trialer (a three-time Estonian champion against the clock) as well as a climber, the Estonian thus...