- Article published:
- June 8, 2012, 16:27
- Daniel Benson
Dampens rumours of Specialized deal
Pinarello has dismissed Team Sky’s possible deal with Specialized for 2013 as pure speculation, insisting that they themselves are still negotiating with the British team.
Luciano Fusar Poli, Managing Director for the Italian bike firm, confirmed that the existing deal between Sky and Pinarello – signed three years ago – is set to conclude this year. However he added that, “nothing has been signed. We have a contract which ends at the end of 2012 so we’re still the sponsor and the bike supplier. Negotiations are going very well and we have a good relationship with the team and we’re hopeful. There’s no problem, so far.”
On Friday L'Equipe speculated that a deal between Sky and Specialzed may have been completed for a rumoured 6 millions Euros a year.
“I think many companies are interesting but I don’t know about this particular company. Team Sky is the best team in the peloton at the moment not only for performance but for the image and the way they’re running the team so many of the big companies could be interested,” Fusar Poli added.
“We’ve had a three-year relationship with the team and the British Cycling Federation, and they’ve been three fantastic years. We’ve developed a lot of products with them and we’ve improved our knowledge and given them good products to ride.”
Fusar Poli singled out Mark Cavendish, Sky’s main sprinter, who rode on Specialized last year.
“Even Cavendish. We had a conference call at the beginning of the year when we delivered the bikes and asked for feedback. Mark said simply it was perfect and not to change anything. What’s special about is that we make good bikes and we’re supporting the team as best as possible," he said.
“I think negotiations will be concluded very soon. Legally nothing can be announced soon but we’re negotiating and in a good position.”
- Article published:
- June 8, 2012, 17:09
- Barry Ryan
Luxembourger loses 14 minutes at Critérium du Dauphiné
At this stage in his career, Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) is well-versed in downplaying concerns about his condition in the weeks leading up to the Tour de France and on Friday, he duly looked to put a brave face on another disappointing day on stage 5 of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Schleck reached Rumilly almost 14 minutes down on stage winner Arthur Vichot (FDJ-BigMat) after he was distanced over the top of the day’s great difficulty, the Col du Grand Colombier. Unlike his nondescript showings earlier in the race, however, on this occasion there was at least some mitigation for Schleck’s display given injuries he sustained in his heavy fall in Thursday’s time trial.
While Schleck broke no bones in that crash, he did suffer a heavy blow to his ribcage and right side, and said that he felt the effects of his road rash every time he tried to climb out of the saddle.
“I didn’t have too many problems when I was riding in the mountains – I had my place in the peloton and I was able to ride along and I didn’t suffer too much,” Schleck said from the steps of his team bus afterwards. “The problem was after corners, when I had to get out of the saddle and accelerate. So I ended up doing more or less 90% of the stage sitting down.”
Asked if he had considered abandoning the Dauphiné in the wake of his accident, Schleck admitted that he had already deprived himself of too many racing days this season. Illness forced him out of Paris-Nice after just two stages and he subsequently withdrew from the Volta a Catalunya.
“I’ve abandoned too many times this year already,” he said with a half smile. “Earlier in the season, you can ask yourself what’s the best option. But now the Tour is in four weeks so it’s a case of no turning back. You have to go straight on.”
Given his litany of seemingly miraculous resurrections of condition in the final throes of his Tour preparation, Schleck prefers to ignore the perennial wailing and gnashing of teeth that accompanies analysis of his June performances.
“The most important thing is that I’m getting the kilometres in and doing some mountains,” he insisted. “It’s also good that I didn’t break anything yesterday and I rode the stage today. It wasn’t possible to do something today. Maybe it will be better tomorrow, but in any case I’m happy to be here.”
Saturday sees the Dauphiné peloton tackle the Col de Joux Plane en route to Morzine. With six ascents on the menu, it’s the toughest stage of the race, and Schleck acknowledged that he would like to have at least one day rubbing shoulders with his Tour rivals in the mountains.
“If I get to the foot of the Joux Plane near the front and without the same problems that I had today then I’ll try to stay with the best,” he said.
The best so far have been Cadel Evans (BMC) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) – the Tour champion and the man thought most likely to steal his crown come July. Perhaps in a reflection his own more gradual approach to the Tour, Schleck tipped Wiggins for Dauphiné victory but wondered if the Briton had reached top form too soon ahead of the Tour.
“From what I saw of the time trial yesterday, Evans isn’t 100 per cent yet, whereas Wiggins is on top of his game. I don’t think there’s anyone who can beat Wiggins here given the way that he’s riding,” Schleck said, before casting a cautious eye towards July.
“It’s very early though, so I still think Evans is the favourite for the Tour. Maybe it’s Wiggins on paper at the moment, but I think there’s a long way to go. I don’t think Wiggins can go any faster in a time trial than he did yesterday. It’s very early.”
Almost 30 minutes down in 129th place, Schleck will certainly be hoping that is the case.
- Article published:
- June 8, 2012, 18:00
- Barry Ryan
Frenchman with Australian fan club takes stylish win
Arthur Vichot (FDJ-BigMat) claimed the biggest success of his young career with a canny victory on stage 5 of the Critérium du Dauphiné at Rumilly. The third-year professional infiltrated the break of the day ahead of the Col du Grand Colombier and then jumped away from his companions in the finale to come home 26 seconds clear.
Perhaps best-known to English-speaking fans for the impromptu Vichot fan club that sprang up at the 2010 Tour Down Under, the punchy 23-year-old has shown steady progress over the past three seasons. Winner of a stage of Paris-Corrèze in 2010 and Les Boucles du Sud Ardèche and the Tour du Doubs in 2011, Vichot credited FDJ-BigMat's elevation to WorldTour status for his Dauphiné triumph.
"I've moved up a level," a delighted Vichot said afterwards. "I had already had three wins before this, but they were all at domestic level. This was my first win in the WorldTour. At the start of the year, I asked to do as many big races as I could, and I think that's paid off."
Vichot was part of a 10-man break that formed shortly after the Côte de Corlier after 61km of racing, though he admitted that he was concerned he would be dropped on the redoubtable slopes of the Col du Grand Colombier, which the Dauphiné was tackling for the first time in 24 years. "I was a little bit worried by the Grand Colombier because there were some good climbers in that break."
While Vichot safely stuck with Rémi Di Gregorio (Cofidis), Daniel Navarro (Saxo Bank) et al all the way to the summit of the mighty climb, a further threat emerged on the descent, when Cadel Evans (BMC) sparked a dangerous counter-attack that slashed the break's healthy lead.
Such was the ferocity of Sky's chase that the gap to the leaders – which had reached six minutes ahead of the Grand Colombier – was reduced to barely a minute over the final climb, the Col de Richemond. "Our advantage was tight in the finale, and as we got closer to the finish, there was less and less collaboration in the break," Vichot noted.
With seven kilometres to go, Navarro took a flyer down the right hand side of the road, and it was at this point that Vichot sensed his opportunity. "Fortune favours the brave," he smiled, as he recalled closing down Navarro's acceleration and then clipping off the front himself for good measure.
"I was the only puncheur left in the group, so I knew I ought to be the quickest," Vichot said. "I took my responsibilities and thought of how my teammate Anthony Roux had won a stage at the 2009 Vuelta in a similar way."
Vichot now turns his attentions to July, where he expects to line up for his second Tour de France. With the race set to traverse his home region of Franche Comté at the end of the opening week, the Frenchman is not short on motivation.
"I'm going to go there with ambition – not for the overall but for a stage win," he said. "There are some uphill finishes and the Tour goes through my neck of the woods, so I hope to be up there." The Australian fan club has been forewarned.
- Article published:
- June 8, 2012, 18:57
- Laura Weislo
American confident in Andy Schleck, rehabilitating his own back injury
RadioShack-Nissan's Chris Horner is eschewing the normal Critérium du Dauphiné or Tour de Suisse preparation races for the Tour de France, choosing instead to remain home in San Diego, California to train in hopes he will be chosen for the team in July.
Horner has had to rehabilitate a minor back injury he had after his unsuccessful attempt to defend his 2011 Tour of California title, but is back on track for July. "The muscles tightened up on me, and I needed some rest," Horner told Cyclingnews. "I strained something that happened in the past and it flares up from time to time. I had to take a week to relax and I'm back on the bike so everything's fine, and it certainly isn't affecting my ability to train."
The down side of being home is that his teammates are showing themselves in the June races to the directeurs sportif who will decide the team for the Tour de France, while Horner will have to rely on their belief in his form and his abilities.
"I've been riding well all year, and I'm on the same program as last year where I went straight from the Tour of California to the Tour de France, so I'm not too worried about it. But it's something for the directors to decide."
Having placed ninth in the 2010 Tour and close to the main contenders, were it not for a crash, in the 2009 Giro d'Italia, Horner's climbing and time trialing abilities would make him a general classification contender for most teams, but in RadioShack-Nissan he knows his only role is that of a support rider for the Schleck brothers.
"Andy and Fränk Schleck are definitely the GC guys for the team. Where I stand in the Tour is [as support] in the mountains. I want the team to win the Tour de France. My goals have always been with what serves the team."
The results so far this spring have not promised that the Schleck brothers can contend for the win, however, in particular over the course of the more than 100km of time trialing they will face in July. Horner says that if Andy Schleck wants to win, he will have to win in the mountains.
"Everybody knows that Andy has to win in the mountains, [Bradley] Wiggins has to win in the time trial, and [Cadel] Evans can do both," Horner said.
Wiggins is currently holding a commanding lead in the Critérium du Dauphiné, but until tomorrow's mountainous stage it is unknown how he will fare when the climbers get on their own turf.
"It will be interesting to see if Wiggins goes really good in the mountains now, or if he's going to rely on the time trial. Cadel can climb with the best if he isn't the best, and he can time trial close to Wiggins as well. If you look at Andy from two years ago, nobody could climb with him, and he didn't lose massive time in the time trial. If he can get the form from two years ago when he won the Tour he'll be the hands down favorite."
Horner has ridden in service of several team leaders: from his days with Evans at Predictor-Lotto, to Astana with Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong and on to RadioShack with the Schlecks. He contrasted the leadership style of these men, underscoring RadioShack's belief in Andy Schleck for this year.
"The only race I've done with Andy are the Classics, but I think everyone on the team likes him and understands how good he is. I think it will be easy for him to have the whole team behind him. I've been on teams with Cadel, he's more quiet and just doing his part and the team has to do their part. With Alberto he was more forward with what he wanted and expected, so that was simple. I've ridden enough with Andy to know the team believes in his abilities. I wouldn't be surprised if it was [Fabian] Cancellara that really controls the team and puts them where they need to be."
Cancellara was critical to Horner's success at this year's Tirreno-Adriatico. Horner led the race into the final time trial, where he was overtaken by Vincenzo Nibali. "When I raced with Cancellara at Tirreno-Adriatico, he made my job really easy. He really took over and controlled the team and put them where I needed them to be, and when it was time to do my job, I did my job. So I wouldn't be surprised if he had a big impact on what the team does during the Tour de France.
"When we had the cobbled stage in the Tour de France (in 2010) it was Cancellara who was really controlling the Saxo Bank team and keeping Andy out of trouble in the cobbles and crosswinds sections before we got into mountains. You could clearly see that Cancellara had a dominant role in the team looking after Andy."
Andy Schleck is currently suffering the after-effects of a crash in the time trial, which concerns Horner more than his time losses prior to that point in the Critérium du Dauphiné. "Of course the crash in the time trial is a concern, but him easing up in the stages is not a concern. He's not riding 100 percent and getting dropped out the back, he's sitting up and saving the form. What we see is absolutely no concern in terms of what I think he will be prepared to ride like in the Tour de France."
His teammate's current troubles are a stark reminder of Horner's own devastating crash in last year's Tour, where he suffered a concussion and rode to the finish in a daze. Even more harrowing was the blood clot that later surfaced in his lungs and could have proven fatal. The clot meant he had to spend six months on blood thinners, during which time he could not race.
"It wasn't that I lost fitness, it was that I couldn't afford to crash - and if you race your bike, you are going to crash. I could train with precautions, but it wasn't an option to race. The first race back in Tirreno went well, The Tour of the Basque country was OK, and although the Tour of California was kind of a nightmare in the time trial, other than that, clearly my form was every bit as good if not better than the other guys in the race.
"Now it's up to the directors and of course Johan to decide if I go to the Tour."
At age 40, going on 41 in October, Horner still isn't ready to say this will be his last Tour de France if he is chosen for the team. "No, I don't think so. Certainly there is power left in the legs, and that's all that concerns me. You can always work around any other problems, but when the legs quit going fast then that's when your career's over."
His comments echo those of his teammate Jens Voigt, who is just five weeks older than Horner. Who will retire first? Horner let out a hearty laugh. "We've joked about that before. I would be afraid to say. I was quite impressed with Jens at the Tour of California and from what I saw at Tour of Luxembourg. I've wanted to be teammates with him for many years, so it's been quite a pleasure for me to spend even a small amount of time with him as teammates during my career."
- Article published:
- June 8, 2012, 20:35
- Barry Ryan
Dutchman lies 5th overall ahead of final weekend
Like the footballing equivalent at Ajax Amsterdam, the Rabobank nursery has built up an enviable reputation for developing young talent and the latest starlet off the production line is Wilco Kelderman.
The 21-year-old from Amersfoort entered the professional ranks this season with an already lofty status but he garlanded that standing still further with an assured performance on the Critérium du Dauphiné's time trial stage to Bourg-en-Bresse on Thursday.
At 53.5km in length, the test was easily the longest of Kelderman's career to date, but the Dutchman showed no inhibitions on a course buffeted by stiff winds. Rather than feel his way tentatively into his effort, Kelderman roared off the start ramp and his audacity was rewarded with a fine fourth place finish, 1:26 behind Bradley Wiggins (Sky).
"That was a solid time trial today, there was no way of bluffing it or fluking it," Wiggins said admiringly of Kelderman afterwards. "It was a real test."
Kelderman earned the white jersey of best young rider for his efforts, and as he prepared to start stage 5 on Friday, he admitted to Cyclingnews that his expectations before the Bourg-en-Bresse time trial were deliberately modest.
"I really didn't expect it. It was my first time to do such a long distance in a time trial," Kelderman said. "I'd hoped for top 30, so it was really special to finish 4th.
"I started off really fast and I managed to hold the rhythm a little bit. It was dangerous sometimes with the crosswinds but it was a really good time trial for me."
While much of the buzz whipped up by Kelderman's under-23 career rested on his talents as a climber, he still boasted a string of strong time trial results in 2011, including victory in the prologue of the Tour de l'Ain – incidentally, at Bourg-en-Bresse.
"This was a very different kind of time trial though, it was very long," Kelderman told Cyclingnews. "Two weeks ago I was 27th in the time trial in California, so that's already a big difference. So I'm hopeful I can keep doing as well in the next time trials."
Tour of California
Indeed, Kelderman's 7th place overall finish at the Tour of California may already have marked something of a watershed moment in his fledging career. "In the beginning, it's really hard to get results," he said. "As a young rider, you're not strong enough to cope with the distances especially, and the long stage races. But now I'm feeling better in the races and I'm starting to ride for results."
Impressive though his Californian display was, the Dauphiné marks a perceptible leap in quality as he faces a peloton replete with riders preparing to do battle at the Tour de France. "It's a really high level, there are a lot of really great riders here – that's the big difference between California and this," he said.
A low-key start on a rainy morning outside the Mavic factory in Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans may seem a million miles from the bright lights and baying crowds of the Tour de France in July, but the Dauphiné has a proud history of providing a launch-pad for future Tour contenders.
Understandably, Kelderman insists that he is still some way off fostering that kind of aspiration and his Grand Tour debut will wait until 2013 at the very earliest – "maybe the Giro or the Vuelta" – but he is not without ambition for the remainder of the Dauphiné.
"Ah, I hope to defend the white jersey," he said. "It's going to be really hard with guys like Tejay [Van Garderen] so close, but I hope to hold it. It's all new for me. This is a big race with all the really good riders for the Tour de France, so we'll see."
- Article published:
- June 8, 2012, 21:30
- Barry Ryan
Defending Tour champion and Briton go head-to-head at Dauphiné
The Tour de France may be the big summer blockbuster of the cycling season, but the Critérium du Dauphiné has provided an enticing teaser trailer to date, as leading men Cadel Evans (BMC) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) have strived to deliver all the killer lines during the week thus far.
Against the watch, Wiggins has been clearly superior and delivered a knockdown if not quite a knockout blow in the long time trial to Bourg-en-Bresse on Thursday afternoon. On the open road, however, it is Evans who has been more inclined to throw fortune to the wind, first powering clear to victory on the run-in to Saint-Vallier on Monday and then attempting to repeat the feat on the treacherous descent of the Col du Grand Colombier on stage 5 on Friday.
In an off-the-cuff move, Evans slipped clear in a solid group that included teammates George Hincapie and Tejay van Garderen, as well as Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), and it took a whole-hearted chase from Wiggins and Sky to bring them back.
"It was Europcar who put a little bit of pressure on the descent as I think they were familiar with it," Evans said. "There were gaps in the peloton and the opportunity presented itself to us. It was a long way to the finish and a long shot but sometimes we have to take those opportunities when they come our way and see what we can do with them."
With Richie Porte in particular putting in a lengthy stint on the front of the peloton, the Evans group was never able to able to stretch its gap much beyond 30 seconds, but while the bomb was quickly defused, the tension lingered a little longer.
Indeed, once the peloton came back within sight of Evans and company, it was Wiggins himself who closed the gap, bridging across alone with a move that spoke volumes about his desire to implicitly but unmistakably remind his rival of his Tour aspirations.
"The team did incredible work afterwards to bring them back and when we had them in sight, I finished the job myself to take some pressure off my teammates," Wiggins said by way of explanation.
The Englishman has looked impregnable throughout this Dauphiné, with Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) among those estimating that Wiggins simply cannot be beaten this week. "I don't think Evans is going to drop Wiggins tomorrow," Schleck said. "I don't think there's anyone who can beat Wiggins here given the way that he's riding."
That said, Wiggins admitted that he and his teammates had been caught napping when Evans swooped over the top of the Grand Colombier. Conditions were treacherous on the greasy and recently patched-up roads on the way down, and they initially approached the descent with a degree of caution.
"We did what we had to do to defend the jersey," Wiggins said. "Approaching the summit of the Grand Colombier we were warned that the descent was dangerous, but some riders forced it and there were breaks in the peloton. Cadel and three of his guys managed to get into that group, and it was a bit of an error on our part."
As Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) pointed out at the finish, however, the road surface was far more amenable near the base of the descent, and Sky and Wiggins were able to make their strength count once again. "We went away on the top of the descent where the roads were wet and then they brought us back when they had started to dry up," he said.
Ultimately, Wiggins and Evans rolled in side by side in the main peloton, although the Australian did get some reward for his endeavour. With Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) distanced on the Grand Colombier, he now moves up into fourth place overall.
"In the end, it was reasonably successful because I think it's moved me up one place on GC," Evans said. "It certainly wasn't a race-winning move, but it was a possibility to help me at least get out on the podium."
Overall, Evans remains 1:44 behind Wiggins ahead of Saturday's queen stage over the Col de Joux Plane into Morzine. Such a gap may prove insurmountable in one day, but there is plenty of scope for some more jostling ahead of the main feature in July.
- Article published:
- June 9, 2012, 08:14
- Cycling News
New deal for Amstel Gold Race winner
Astana's Enrico Gasparotto has revealed that he has signed an extension to his contract with the Kazakh ProTour team and will remain with them until at least the end of the 2014 season.
The 30-year-old Italian, who joined Astana from Lampre in 2010, was in the form of his life over the spring, winning the Amstel Gold Race and coming third at Leige-Bastogne-Liege.
He is currently in the middle of a rest period ahead of his main late summer target, the Vuelta a Espana, which starts on August 18. He is scheduled to tune up for that race at the Tour of Austria and the Tour of Poland. He is also hoping to be a key part of the Italian team at the UCI road world championships in Holland in September.
“I am very happy to renew,” Gasparotto said on the Astana website. “I will try to repay the faith that has been placed in me by doing all I can to get some more big results – not just for me for my teammates as well.
"Riding with the same team for five years will be a new personal record for me. I have already been with Pro Team Astana for three years and I know this team inside out. At the most important stage of my career, I think this is the best environment for me to be able to express myself completely, as has been the case this year.”
- Article published:
- June 9, 2012, 09:26
- Cycling News
Malori and Ulissi also re-up with Italian team
Michele Scarponi has extended his contract with Lampre-ISD for the 2013 season, the team has announced. Adriano Malori and Diego Ulissi have also signed to be with the team for the coming season, giving Lampre 11 riders so far.
“Ulissi, Malori and Scarponi are important element for the future of the team, valuable subjects for the sponsors, for the fans and the Italian cycling,” said team manager Giuseppe Saronni. “I think it’s vital for our team to have the chance to plan our programs in advance and to rely on top riders.”
Scarponi, 32, joined the team last year. In 2011 he won the overall title in the Giro d'Italia and the points ranking, as well as the overall titles in the Giro del Trentino and the Volta a Catalunya. This year he was was fourth in the Giro.
Malori, 24, joined Lampre in 2009. He won the Italian national time trial title in 2011 and the time trial stage a Coppi e Bartali that year. This year in the Giro d'Italia he wore the leader's maglia rosa for one stage after a second place finish on the sixth stage gave him the overall lead.
Ulissi turned pro with Lampre in 2010. The 22-year-old won two stages at this year's Coppi e Bartali, finishing third overall and taking both the young rider and points classifications.
The Lampre-ISD roster for the 2013 season also includes Winner Anacona, Mattia Cattaneo, Davide Cimolai, Massimo Graziato, Matthew Lloyd, Daniele Pietropolli, Simone Stortoni and Davide Viganò.