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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, March 1, 2014

Date published:
March 01, 2014, 0:00 GMT
  • Meintjes keen to show off South African jersey

    Louis Meintjes (MTN - Qhubeka) is the South African road champion
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 19:10 GMT
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    National champion looking for first European victory

    Louis Meintjes (MTN-Qhubeka) is only 22 but he has already become South Africa’s national champion. With a silver medal at the world championships in the under-23 road race also in his pocket, it looks like Meintjes’ career is on a steep upward curve.

    Cyclingnews caught up with the young rider ahead of the Tour de Langkawi, his first international race of the year. Needless to say Meintjes was excited about showing off his newly-acquired jersey. "I’m really looking forward to it, hopefully it will make riding in the bunch easier. Normally the guys, when you’re wearing a special jersey, they give you a little more room in the bunch. So hopefully I get that," he told Cyclingnews, with a big grin on his face.

    "It’s still sinking in. When I went there, especially looking at some of the form that my other teammates had leading up to it, I was sure that one them would take it. So it was a really big surprise."

    Meintjes beat Daryl Impey to take the title. Despite the huge scalp he took, Meintjes isn’t letting it get to his head. He believes that there was an element of luck to it and takes more solace in the fact that he could stay with the Orica-GreenEDGE rider. "Me sprinting against Daryl is like 99 to 1. Luckily that one percent came my way. It would have been nice to win another way, but cycling is about crossing the line first," explains Meintjes.

    "It still feels good, because I was in that position. I feel that if I had one or two percent more then I could have dropped Daryl on the last climb. I take more satisfaction and more confidence out of being able to do that then actually winning the race."

    Meintjes is in his second season as a professional rider, after stepping up...

  • Phinney ready to do wild things at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

    Taylor Phinney (BMC) rehydrates
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 19:36 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    American given free role in BMC line-up

    It’s not quite outright team leadership but Taylor Phinney’s wildcard role in BMC’s squad for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is an indication of his development as a classics rider at the beginning of his fourth season as a professional.

    Though criticised for their lack of spring success in recent years, few squads boast as much strength in depth for the classics as BMC. Local rider Greg Van Avermaet and the experienced Thor Hushovd are the designated leaders on Saturday, but Phinney has been handed the freedom to go on the offensive should the opportunity arise.

    “I am a bit of a wildcard in the race tomorrow, so I’ll be doing wild things,” Phinney joked in Kortrijk on Friday afternoon. “Obviously I can’t tell you my secret plans for tomorrow’s attacking, but we’ll see.

    “This will be my third time coming to this race and I feel like I understand it better every time I come here. It’s a race where you need experience and to know the roads. I’m here for these guys [Van Avermaet and Hushovd] but if there’s a chance for me to do something strange or out of the blue, I’ll do that.”

    Even before he turned a pedal in anger in 2014, Phinney had described this past winter as the most consistent off-season of his career to date, and those sensations were confirmed by an assured overall victory at the Dubai Tour at the beginning of February. “It’s probably the best feeling of my career so far and it’s really good to get a win before your main target races,” he told reporters at BMC’s pre-Omloop press conference.

    Now facing into his third Belgian campaign, Phinney is all too familiar with the brick and stone interior of the Broel Hotel in Kortrijk, BMC’s classics base. More...

  • Jake Keough motivated for leadership role at 5-hour Energy

    The 2014 5-Hour Energy/Kenda team's Jake Keough and Sam Bassetti
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 20:56 GMT
    Pat Malach

    Sprinter helping build his new team's lead-out train

    Jake Keough's move in the off-season from the UnitedHealthcare team, where he had ridden for four years, to 5-hour Energy/Kenda took many by surprise. It seemed odd that the talented sprinter, who had ended his 2013 season with stage wins at two well-regarded UCI races, would step down from the Pro Continental ranks to a domestic Continental team.

    But the 26-year-old from Sandwich, Massachusetts, recently told Cyclingnews that at some point last season, the direction he wanted to take had diverged from the direction UnitedHealthcare was going.

    "I wanted to explore different opportunities, and I think the team, I don't know if they were focused in the same direction that I was, so we parted ways. I think that kind of speaks for itself," Keough said from the 5-hour Energy team camp in Georgia.

    "I was with the team for four years, and we had a lot of success," he said. "I was able to build the crit team up from a group of guys that didn't really have anything. We were nothing, and we all got along well and built it. It was fun, but it was kind of time to part ways."

    Before joining UnitedHealthcare, Keough cut his teeth on the US domestic criterium scene. As the oldest brother in a family of cyclists, he worked his way through the junior ranks on the East Coast and started the 2008 season with the CRCA-Sakonnet Technology Under-25 team. He moved to Kelly Benefit Strategies-Medifast in June of that season and stayed with the team [currently Optum Pro Cycling] until 2010, when he signed with UnitedHealthcare.

    Keough began piling up the wins with UnitedHealthcare, which moved from the Continental ranks to the Pro Continental level in 2011. He took nine wins that season, mostly as part of the team's domestic criterium squad.

    Over the past several years, Keough had begun proving himself at UCI stage races in Europe and elsewhere. In 2009, while riding...

  • Teams pleased with ASO wildcard invitations to Classics

    The cobbles of Paris-Roubaix provide an epic backdrop
    Article published:
    February 28, 2014, 22:05 GMT
    Cycling News

    UnitedHealthcare, MTN-Qhubeka, NetApp-Endura and Colombia react

    The Professional Continental teams are at the whim of the race organisers when it comes to getting into the highest-profile events of the season, and when those invitations come, there is cause for celebration. The UnitedHealthcare, MTN-Qhubeka, NetApp-Endura and Colombia teams were among those expressing gratitude for the call-up by the Amaury Sport Organisation to Paris-Roubaix, La Flèche Wallonne or Liège - Bastogne - Liège.

    For the first time in its history, UnitedHealthcare will be on the start line for Paris-Roubaix and La Flèche Wallonne, and general manager Mike Tamayo credits the team's hard work over the past few years to establish its reputation in the one-day races.

    "Getting wildcard selections for both Paris-Roubaix and La Flèche Wallonne is an enormous honor," Tamayo said. "Having a rider like Martijn Maaskant who has finished 4th in Roubaix before gives us ample motivation to support him."

    MTN-Qhubeka's goal for the year was to get into either the Giro d'Italia or Tour de France, but while neither materialised, team principal Douglas Ryder was encouraged to earn the faith of the ASO for the Classics.

    "It's wonderful to receive this news and now have the biggest WorldTour calendar we've ever had," Ryder said. "To line up as Africa's team on the start line of the 100th edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège is especially significant for the sport and something we'll see the rewards of years from now.

    "We've not been confirmed for a Grand Tour yet but what it's done is motivated the guys more to prove we're capable of racing at the top level of the sport and we're very grateful to be...

  • Van Avermaet: It feels a bit different without Gilbert

    Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
    Article published:
    March 01, 2014, 9:57 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Hushovd confident ahead of Het Nieuwsblad

    When Philippe Gilbert signed for BMC at the beginning of 2012, it seemed to signal a diminishing of Greg Van Avermaet’s status within the team. Uneasy stable mates during their time at Lotto, Van Avermaet had expressly left Gilbert’s court in order to follow his own ambitions, and thrived in 2011, winning Paris-Tours.

    Gilbert’s arrival, then, seemed destined to block Van Avermaet’s path once again, but the past two seasons have not followed the set script. While Gilbert has struggled to recapture the form of his annus mirabilis of 2011, Van Avermaet has quietly and consistently outshone most of his fellow galacticos in BMC’s classics unit.

    In the BMC cabinet reshuffle that followed Allan Peiper’s appointment as team manager this winter, it was decided that Gilbert would give the cobbles a wide berth in 2014 and focus exclusively on the Ardennes classics, while Van Avermaet has been handed the brief of leading the team at the Tour of Flanders. Speaking to the press in Kortrijk on the eve of Omloop Het Nieuwslad, Van Avermaet admitted that it felt strange not to have Gilbert as part of the equation on the cobbles this year.

    “It feels a bit different,” Van Avermaet said. “It’s a little bit strange for me that he’s not here but he’s taking another way to be good for his goals, and we have other riders who can win these races also.”

    While Van Avermaet’s responsibilities have changed somewhat, the terrain he faces remains very familiar, at least for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The Muur van Geraardsbergen may have been added to the parcours, but the inalienable truths of the opening race of the Belgian season remain untouched – the selection is made from the back and the strongmen are invariably left in front for the finale.

    “When you come to Ronse, there the race...

  • Greipel confirmed for Milan-San Remo

    Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol).
    Article published:
    March 01, 2014, 11:58 GMT
    Cycling News

    Sprinter set to ride after the Pompeiana is removed from route

    André Greipel has confirmed that he will race this year’s Milan-San Remo after race organisers RCS confirmed on Friday that the Pompeiana will not feature in this year’s race.

    The pivotal climb was set to make its debut in this year’s race with many observers predicting that its close proximity to the finish would hamper the majority of the sprinters’ chances of success.

    However on Friday afternoon RCS Sport, who also organise the Giro d’Italia, confirmed that the climb would not be used due to concerns over safety. Recent bad weather and issues over the state of the road surface had led to worries over the safety of the peloton on the descent of the climb. The race will still feature the iconic climbs of the Cipressa and Poggio.

    "Now the Pompeiana is no longer part of Milan-Sanremo I have decided to participate,” Greipel announced in a team press release.

    “It's unfortunate that the decision has been made so late, when the teams have already made up their programmes. Because not only the Pompeiana is left out of the course, but also Le Manie doesn't have to be climbed, the sprinters have more chance. But at Lotto Belisol also Tony Gallopin and Jürgen Roelandts can win."

    Greipel, 31, has been in fine form this season winning six races, including three stages of the Tour of Oman. The German sprinter has competed in Milan-San Remo on several occasions but has never managed to finish inside the top 30. However the change of route is certainly sprinter-friendly in comparison to recent editions of the race which have included the climb of Le Manie.

  • Peloton pays tribute to Goddaert before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

    Kristof Goddaert (IAM Cycling)
    Article published:
    March 01, 2014, 12:52 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Minute’s silence held in Ghent

    The start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is usually one of the most joyous occasions on the calendar: the first race of the year in the world’s most passionate cycling nation. The crowds gather in Ghent’s Sint-Pietersplein not only to welcome the peloton back to Belgium and cheer for their favourites, but also to herald the end of the winter and celebrate a fresh beginning, like some ancient pagan festival.

    The same old rituals were all dutifully carried out before the start. Local fans swarmed around the Omega Pharma-QuickStep bus, eager to catch a glimpse of Tom Boonen. Makeshift beer kiosks did a brisk trade despite the early hour. Rider after rider on the signing on podium dutifully told speaker Michel Wuyts that it felt like the first day of school.

    And yet for all the comfort of routine, a distinct sadness lingered in the low grey skies over Ghent on Saturday morning. Kristof Goddaert’s tragic death in a training accident in Antwerp ten days ago meant that there was one empty place on this first day back.

    The 27-year-old Goddaert would have been a part of IAM Cycling’s team for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, eager to help his leaders Heinrich Haussler and Sylvain Chavanel, and perhaps better his own 14th place of two years ago in the process.

    While the peloton had already commemorated Goddaert with a minute’s silence at the Tour of Oman last week, there was a particular poignancy about paying tribute to the Belgian in his homeland, amid his fellow countrymen and ahead of one of the great landmarks of the season.

    The eight members of the IAM Cycling team went to sign on together, and they were greeted by generous applause as they stood in line on the podium. “It’s a hard moment for the team but we’ll try to do well today. That would be a good way to honour Kristof,” Sylvain Chavanel said.

    Heinrich Haussler grew especially close to Goddaert during their time as teammates,...

  • Cavendish Milan-San Remo participation not certain, says Trentin

    Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
    Article published:
    March 01, 2014, 16:00 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Hushovd likely to change his programme

    The late removal of the much-discussed Pompeiana climb from the first Monument of the season Milano-San Remo by race organizer RCS forces many teams to reshuffle their team selections for the Primavera.

    The steep Pompeiana climb was planned to be included a first time late in the Italian race, featuring in between the Cipressa and the Poggio. But just three weeks ahead of the race, RCS decided to take out the climb due to the damage on the road surface caused by poor weather conditions this winter.

    The removal of the Pompeiana climb turns the Primavera into a completely different race, and returns to being a race that suits the sprinters rather than the climbers. RCS added the loop to Pompeiana at only 21 kilometres from the finish to the route and took out the much longer Le Manie climb, wanting to keep the race length under 300 kilometres. Neither of those climbs will now feature in the 2014 edition of Milano-San Remo, making the course almost identical to that of 2007, when Oscar Freire won the sprint.

    Back in 2012, the top favourite Mark Cavendish got dropped on the nearly five kilometres long Le Manie climb, and the Manxman never managed to come back to the unleashed peloton. Teammate Matteo Trentin had a great debut in the Primavera that year but he crashed in the final corner while leading the chase group just behind the winning break.

    At the start of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, Trentin explained that many riders were not well prepared for Milano-San Remo and said it was not a given that Cavendish will line up on March 23.

    "For me it's better. The race completely changed and it's now back like in 2008. The climbers thought they had a chance but now it's for the sprinters, not for the climbers,” Trentin said. “Cavendish? I don't know if...