A close-up look at the Australian's purpose-built ride
Australian's 2015 Tinkoff-Saxo team bike
Winner of the 2015 Tour Down Under
New and old kicks and lids seen at WorldTour race
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 sporza.be. “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.
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 tv2.no. “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.”
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...
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).
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,...
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...
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.
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 Radsport-News.com. “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.”
Ellingworth considers race schedule
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.