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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, March 17, 2012

Date published:
March 17, 2012, 14:00
  • Gilbert doesn't expect to play a significant role in Milan-San Remo

    Article published:
    March 16, 2012, 15:47
    Cycling News

    Recovered from dental problems, Belgian says he could still surprise in the race

    Heading into Milan-San Remo last year Philippe Gilbert already had three victories on his way to becoming the dominant rider of the year. Things are different this year, and he is struggling to find his form. He is now recovered from a toothache which stopped him in Tirreno-Adriatico and doesn't feel he will be a force in MIlan-San Remo this year, but doesn't exclude that possibility entirely.

    “I came to Tirreno with a toothache,” the BMC rider said at a press conference Thursday, according to  “It was getting worse instead of better. The pain and inflammation cost me strength and energy. I think it even caused my fever.”

    Gilbert ultimately abandoned the race and had the problem finally taken care of. Being pain-free again has now given him “new courage,” but he acknowledged that probably won't be enough. "I'm not ready to play a significant role on Saturday."

    "But exactly because I am not one of the top favourites, I will be very relaxed at the start. And sometimes strange things happen on the course. Even if I'm not 100%, I climb better than some sprinters.

  • Boasson Hagen sees Hushovd's absence as advantage in Milan-San Remo

    Edvald Boasson Hagen won a stage and the points tittle
    Article published:
    March 16, 2012, 16:41
    Cycling News

    But will Team Sky Norwegian have to ride for Cavendish?

    With Thor Hushovd knocked out by a fever, Norway's hopes to win Milan-San Remo rest on the young shoulders of Edvald Boasson Hagen. Hushovd's absence increases Boasson Hagen's chances, but the question remains whether the Team Sky rider will be able to go for the win himself or will have to ride for world champion Mark Cavendish.

    The two Norwegians have not ridden the same race yet this season. “It's too bad that he is ill. It would be fun to ride against him again,” Boasson Hagen told “I hope he'll be back to the Classics and especially Paris-Roubaix.”

    Boasson Hagen did see one advantage of his countryman's absence, though. “He is a strong rider, so this may increase our chances” of winning.

    Boasson Hagen is “fighting fit”, Team Sky coach Kurt-Asle Arvesen said. But who will the team ride for on Saturday?

    “Edvald is protected. But if 'Cav' hangs on over the Poggio climb at the end, Edvald will sacrifice his chances and ride for him,” Arvesen said.

    It may not come to that, though, he added. If the race “is too tough for Cavendish as they approach the finish, it is quite possible that Edvald will get the chance himself. He is strong enough to stay up front all the way in and could very well win this race, I think.”

  • Saxo Bank's McGee praises Tour de Taiwan

    Stage 4 winner Jonathan Cantwell (Team Saxo Bank)
    Article published:
    March 16, 2012, 18:10
    Jean-François Quénet

    ProTour squad ends Asian experience with two stage wins

    As the Asia Tour becomes increasingly appealing for the ProTeams, Saxo Bank was the first to answer the call of the newly upgraded UCI 2.1-ranked Tour de Taiwan. Even though the event was created in 1987, it remains fairly new on the international calendar where it first appeared in 2005 as a category 2.2 race. The Danish outfit's Tour de Taiwan campaign included Takashi Miyazawa holding the yellow jersey for one stage plus two stage victories from their Australian sprinting recruit Jonathan Cantwell.

    "At first when we joined the event in Taipei last week, myself and the whole team were shocked by the differences between European races and Asia," directeur sportif Bradley McGee told Cyclingnews after the finish in Kaohsiung. "Everything feels different. But soon enough, we realized that these slight differences in terms of organization and racing were of no major importance. It's like French cuisine and Asian cuisine: it tastes different but it's food and it's good quality."

    The morning following their arrival from Europe, the Saxo Bank riders were invited to a press conference that actually consisted of tasting Taiwanese food. "The feeling about racing in Asia is: it's on the up and it's going somewhere," McGee said. "There's a useful enthusiasm from the spectators, the organizers and the old riders on the Asia Tour. They're quite amazing at 40 [years old].

    "It's a big change from Europe's aging organizers and bored journalists mixed with a less than juvenile spectator base… Here we race through zones of school children playing drums rather than in front of pension houses or retirement villages in Europe."

    McGee and the Saxo Bank squad were impressed with their debut experience in Taiwan.

    "Looking at the racing at the Tour de Taiwan, there was a great parcours every day," the 2003 winner of the prologue of the Tour de France and 2004 Olympic champion for team pursuit said. "There was a high standard of cyclists as far as skills and abilities. It was better than I expected, I must admit. I've seen stand-out performances, also, from Asian riders like Wong Kam Po, Feung Chun Kai, Adiq Hussainie… These guys know what they're doing and they do it well.

    "It took all our focus to succeed with two stage wins. It's never easy to be the number one team and Saxo Bank was looked at as the only ProTeam at the race, so we had to pay attention to details and ride aggressively to achieve this goal of two stage wins that we set. We've had to work really hard for it."

    On the last day, Volodimir Gustov had even been the virtual leader of the Tour de Taiwan prior to a regrouping highly wanted by the sprinters. It paved the way for Cantwell's second successful bunch gallop after stage 4 in Taichung. "I'm willing to discuss a return to the Tour de Taiwan, shall the dates fit our schedule again in the coming years and the organizers being keen to continue to improve," said McGee prior to sending his riders back to Europe for the Classics.

  • Merckx inducted into Giro d'Italia Hall of Fame

    Eddy Merckx was inducted into the Giro d'Italia hall of fame
    Article published:
    March 16, 2012, 19:15
    Cycling News

    Belgian sees no role for Gilbert in Milan-San Remo

    Eddy Merckx has become the first rider inducted in the Giro d'Italia Hall of Fame. Merckx was presented the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame trophy for 1974, the year of his final Giro d’Italia victory.

    Present at the event were numerous other former greats of the Merckx era and his former directeur sportif and mechanics, including Alfredo Martini, Fiorenzo Magni, Ernesto Colnago, Gianni Motta, Italo Zilioli, Giorgio Albani, Davide Boifava, Ugo De Rosa and Mario Molteni (the son of the sponsor of Merckx’s Molteni team).

    The seven-time Milan-San Remo winner also cast an eye on this year's edition of that race, seeing poor chances for fellow Belgian Philippe Gilbert.

    Being named to the Hall of Fame of the Giro, a race he won five times, means a lot to Merckx. “Being the first person in the Giro d’Italia Hall of Fame is a great honour for me. I consider Italy my second home. I’m loved as much in Italy as I am in Belgium. I have a lot of fans here and that’s very special for me” Merckx said.

    “Italian cycling gave me a lot. My first big wins were in Italy. Then I joined an Italian team and learned a lot. Fiorenzo Magni became a good friend. He took me to criteriums and then introduced me to Colnago, who became my mechanic and built my bike for the hour record. After that Ugo De Rosa taught me how to make bikes and helped me create my own bike company.”

    “Our era was special because all the great riders rode all the big races and competed against each other. It’s a pity that doesn’t happy very much today. For great races, you need great riders.”

    Speaking of great riders, Merckx looked to Saturday's Milan-San Remo and did not see a good race Saturday for Gilbert, saying the BMC rider did not give a good impression at Tirreno-Adriatico. “Gilbert isn’t so on form but we’ll see what happens. Though if he was dropped in a team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico, it’s not a good sign.”

    But if Gilbert is not in shape to take the win, many others are. “I think Mark Cavendish has a good chance. If they don't drop him on the Poggio, he is hard to beat.

    "Nibali is going well, he’s a classy rider, I saw him win a stage in Oman. However he’s got to learn to use his head more and race more intelligently. He lost Oman because he made a mistake. If he’s going well, he could get away on the Poggio and so perhaps win Milan-Sanremo.

    "Cancellara looks good, so too does [Peter] Sagan, [Tom] Boonen and [Greg] Van Avermaet. Nobody has talked about Oscar Freire but he’ll be there after 300km and could win his fourth Sanremo"

  • Team Type 1-Sanofi confronts AEG on Amgen Tour of California selections

    Team Type 1 CEO Phil Southerland.
    Article published:
    March 16, 2012, 20:27
    Laura Weislo

    Team alleges invite was contingent on sponsorship

    After being snubbed by Amgen Tour of California organiser AEG, Team Type 1-Sanofi's owner Phil Southerland, outraged by his team's exclusion, is accusing AEG of making their invitation contingent upon a $100,000 sponsorship by Sanofi. AEG, however, insists the invitations were based on merit and not payment.

    Earlier this week, AEG announced the 16 teams which will take part in this year's race, and while the two other North American Professional Continental teams, Spidertech-C10 and UnitedHealthcare, were invited, Team Type 1-Sanofi was not on the list. Instead, Colombia-Coldeportes and Project 1t4i from the Pro Continental ranks, and Bissell, Exergy, Bontrager-Livestrong and Optum Pro Cycling as Continental teams, completed the list of non-WorldTour teams.

    "We were approached on January 29 by AEG with a sponsorship package for Sanofi, which included various benefits such as VIP passes, television spots and various PR opportunities for a total of $100,000," Southerland told Cyclingnews.

    "We were told that if we didn't activate [meaning, have Sanofi sign a sponsorship deal -ed.], then we would not be invited. We declined, and we weren't invited."

    Aside from being incensed that AEG would omit one of the two US Pro Continental teams, Southerland said that the race's strong-arm tactics, while not officially breaking the UCI's rules against pay-to-play, were questionable.

    "I don't disagree with the idea of sponsorship activation, but the invitation shouldn't be contingent upon it. We get paid start money to race Liège - Bastogne - Liège, Critérium International and Tour of Poland. I should think on home soil we'd at least get the same type of treatment."

    While Southerland may have interpreted the interaction with AEG as making his invitation contingent upon "sponsor activation", AEG denies that its selection process has ever required sponsor payment for a team's participation.

    "At no time have we made team entry contingent on sponsor activation," said AEG's Michael Roth. "In fact, seven of the 16 teams invited this year have no activation at all.

    "We based our decisions on a number of things: the make-up of the team, past performances, the current skill set and the outlook for their season.

    "I'm proud we've built a race where teams are so desperate to be invited," Roth said. "And we are free to use whatever criteria we want, but we do not base selection on activation."

    Other teams which have not been invited to this year's race have confirmed to Cyclingnews that they were never asked to pay in order to secure an invitation, and the previous race promoter, Andrew Messick, who was in charge of the race for the three previous years in which Team Type 1 participated in the Amgen Tour of California, backed Roth.

    "It has never been a policy of AEG to require payment to get into the race when I was in charge, and I find it difficult to believe that this has changed," said Messick, who stepped down after last year's race to become the CEO of Ironman. "Over the years there have been numerous teams with no sponsor relationships at all with the race who have been invited.

    "Of course, we have encouraged teams to activate: when partners get involved with the race they get additional exposure and it's good for them, for the team and for the race."

    When asked if an agreement with a sponsorship might have swayed AEG's decision in a team's favor, Messick said it was one of a large number of factors. "Does it help? Probably. Is it required? No."

    Regarding Team Type 1's past participation, Messick said the team had never been a sure bet for inclusion based on its roster. "They were always a bubble team, and one of the final teams in. For a couple years we let them in at the 11th hour because we wanted to support US cycling, but they never made a huge impression.

    "From the beginning we made a conscious and explicit decision that every team would be in the race for a good reason: it could be the riders they brought, how they might influence television distribution, that they'd create a better expo or help the race's bottom line. We had to think about what the teams were offering the race, and a lot of it had nothing at all to do with money."

    Southerland admits that in the past, his team was invited to the race without having to coerce AEG through sponsorship packages. In 2009, the team "did the race free of charge", he said. But in 2010, Southerland said they were given a similar ultimatum - this time for a $40,000 package. At the time, they were trying to establish the brand with their sponsor and agreed to the terms. But in 2011, when the team turned Pro Continental, Southerland put his foot down and demanded the team be invited and won a bid.

    Messick and Roth may have felt that Team Type 1-Sanofi failed to make an impression in past years, but Southerland asserts that while the team "got its butt kicked in 2009", the team rode well in the subsequent years.

    Team Type 1-Sanofi's top finisher in 2011 was Alexander Efimkin, who took 13th overall and earned the most aggressive rider award on the Mt. Baldy stage for his tenacious ride as last man standing from the day's breakaway.

    Southerland also feels that his current squad brings a lot to the table for the Amgen Tour of California, with Daniele Colli as a cancer survivor and the team's message of hope for Type 1 diabetics, which fits in well with Amgen's partnership with the race.

    Southerland said that while he's disappointed to be excluded from the race, "I'm not going to lose sleep over it. We have filled our calendar with other races during that time period - we will be racing in France and at the Tour of Norway," and he hopes to be invited to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado as well.

  • Vandborg joins Spidertech

    Brian Vandborg (Den)
    Article published:
    March 16, 2012, 22:05
    Cycling News

    Canadian team brings in Danish time trial ace

    Danish rider Brian Bach Vandborg has been signed by the SpiderTech team for the remainder of the 2012 season. The 30-year-old rode in 2011 with the Saxo Bank-Sungard squad, and before that he was with Liquigas, but was still without a contract as of last month.

    Vandborg is best known for his performance in the 2006 UCI road world championships time trial in Salzburg, Austria, where he set the early fast time and was only surpassed by Alexander Vinokourov, David Zabriskie and winner Fabian Cancellara.

    He has competed in the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España, and brings seven years of WorldTour experience to the team.

    "I'm definitely excited about joining the team. It's still a pretty new project. Obviously the number one Canadian team and it's still growing. I know the goals of the team and I really want to be part of that," declared Vandborg.

    Team founder Steve Bauer welcomed the addition of the Dane. "The arrival of Vandborg within our ranks will help to fill an important sporting gap for Team SpiderTech. He's a strong all-rounder, with deep time trial abilities. He will certainly add depth and strength to pilot the team through hardest races, and will serve as a captain for our young team, bringing his extensive experience."

    Vandborg is expected to race with the team in the Amgen Tour of California, and will debut with the squad next week at the Dwars door Vlaanderen in Belgium.

  • Degenkolb and Project 1t4i hope to be in on Milan-San Remo finale

    John Degenkolb (Project 1T4i)
    Article published:
    March 17, 2012, 10:18
    Cycling News

    Race debut for Dutch team and German sprinter

    John Degenkolb is taking on Milan-San Remo for the first time, as is his team, Project 1t4i, and their mutual goal is to have at least one rider at the finish to bring in a top result. The young German sprinter is at the head of the team, along with fellow German Simon Geschke.

    “Our team's goal is to have at least one rider in the finale, who can set himself in the scene and go for a top placing,” Degenkolb told “The Cipressa and the Poggio will once again be decisive and it would be great if we could possibly come over them with two or three men in the front group.”

    Degenkolb prepared for today's race by riding Paris-Nice, where he twice finished third in mass sprints. “And I was slightly ill, the week cost me a lot of strength. But now I am fine again and I think that I am in very, very good form. For me personally, the top ten would be an enormous success and a great dream.”

    He is realistic, though. “This is my first start here in Milan-San Remo, and to talk about winning would be too much.”

    Degenkolb assumes that a small group – of which he hopes to be a part – will come to the finish.  “It would be ideal if I could save as much energy as possible in the first half of the race and then come over the Poggio with a teammate in a group of 20 men.  But in the end, that is all unnecessary speculation.”

  • Could Cavendish abandon Tour de France early to concentrate on Olympics?

    In most people's eyes, Mark Cavendish is the current number one sprinter
    Article published:
    March 17, 2012, 13:10
    Cycling News

    Ellingworth considers race schedule

    World Champion Mark Cavendish could abandon the Tour de France before the race reaches Paris in order to focus on his assault of the London Olympic road race.

    The 2011 Tour de France green jersey winner abandoned the 2008 Tour in similar circumstances in order to build up for the Beijing Games.

    Rod Ellingworth, Cavendish’s coach at Team Sky, told The Guardian about Cavendish’s possible plans.

    “Mark has said he wants to finish the Tour, but if he knows that he can win the Olympics, he will take the final week day by day.”

    “If the green jersey comes, it comes. He wants to win stages at the Tour, not have the green jersey as his main objective. There is a chance he could get off in the Tour if he is tired and is digging himself into a hole.”

    Cavendish had previously spoken about his desire to complete the Tour de France but The Guardian add that he and Ellingworth will move closer to a plan after the sprinter has ridden on the Olympic road course. Cavendish won the shorted version of the race in last year’s Olympic test event.

    Olympic games