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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, March 23, 2013

Date published:
March 23, 2013, 0:00 GMT
  • Gallery: On the startline at E3 Harelbeke

    2011 race winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Trek)
    Article published:
    March 22, 2013, 11:37 GMT
    Cycling News

    Cold snap continues as Classics stars come out

    After a rain-effected Dwars door Vlaanderen, Belgium’s cold snap continued into Friday as the Classics stars gathered for the Tour of Flanders dress rehearsal, E3 Harelbeke.

    The 211 kilometre race which starts and finish in the sleepy town of Harelbeke on the outskirts of Kortrijk provides riders such as Fabian Cancellara, Tom Boonen and Peter Sagan with the chance to fine-tune their form ahead of next week’s monument, with much of today’s course featuring in next week’s race.

    Fifteen bergs feature in E3, the first of which is the Leberg at 56km. However from kilometre 120 until the final 20 kilometres, the race is peppered with some of Belgium’s toughest cobbled terrain: from the Taaienberg to the Kwaremont and Kapelberg, E3 serves as a direct form guide for Flanders, and as a WorldTour in its own right, it provides competitive racing throughout.

    So while the snow and rain have finally abated – temperatures rose to a blistering 4 degrees at the start - riders edged towards the startline with a little less reluctance than they did at Milan-San Remo and Dwars door Vlaanderen.

  • McQuaid: Verbruggen's philosophy was "to protect the sport"

    UCI President Pat McQuaid tried to defend the UCI's record on doping
    Article published:
    March 22, 2013, 13:15 GMT
    Cycling News

    UCI president secretly filmed by Vayer for French documentary

    UCI president Pat McQuaid has acknowledged that his predecessor Hein Verbruggen’s first instinct when faced with cycling’s doping problems was “to protect the sport” but said that he has not followed the same philosophy during his own presidency.

    McQuaid was secretly filmed in conversation with former Festina trainer Antoine Vayer as part of a France Télévisions documentary on the Lance Armstrong affair, which was screened on Thursday evening. Both McQuaid and Verbruggen had turned down requests to be interviewed for the documentary.

    Vayer, who is also part of pressure group “Change Cycling Now,” met with McQuaid in October and, unbeknownst to the Irishman, filmed their conversation. In a brief excerpt screened as part of “Armstrong: The Secrets of a Godfather,” McQuaid spoke of his predecessor.

    “Verbruggen did a lot for the sport, to develop the sport but his decisions were – and this is between you and me – any decisions he made in a certain period to do with doping and so forth… It certainly wasn’t that he was pro-doping or encouraging doping, but he would always protect the sport,” McQuaid said. “If he had to take a decision on something and he could see that the sport would be damaged because of that decision then he wouldn’t take the decision. I think that his was sort of his philosophy: ‘to protect the sport.’”

    “I don’t fully back that but then again maybe I’m wrong,” McQuaid added.

    Verbruggen was president of the UCI when Lance Armstrong reportedly recorded suspect values in doping controls at the 2001 Tour de Suisse. Armstrong was called to Switzerland the following year and...

  • Sagan: The Tour of Flanders is my destiny

    Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
    Article published:
    March 22, 2013, 18:10 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Slovak upbeat in spite of Harelbeke defeat

    Peter Sagan’s quest for a major Belgian race continues after the Cannondale rider finished second behind Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) in E3 Harelbeke on Friday. The race marked Sagan’s third major runners-up spot this season after he was also second in Strade Bianche and last Sunday’s Milan-San Remo.

    Despite another lost opportunity, however, Sagan remains optimistic, with the knowledge that he can still win a Monument in next Sunday’s far more crucial encounter at the Tour of Flanders.

    “Maybe the Tour of Flanders is my destiny and that will be big win next Sunday. That’s what I’m waiting for now,” Sagan told Cyclingnews after completing his regulatory anti-doping test.

    In truth Sagan won second place rather than lost first. During the opening set of climbs he allowed Omega-Pharma Quick Step to control the field but he found himself on the back foot when the race split on the Taaienberg. QuickStep’s confidence in Tom Boonen was misplaced when the Belgian later cracked but Cannondale were put under severe stress as they battled to bring Sagan back on level terms.

    A bike change with 44 kilometres to go made matters even more problematic for Sagan who could have easily sat up and saved his legs for another day.

    Once he had made contact with the leaders, Sagan kept a low profile compared to the aggression he’d shown at Tirreno-Adriatico and when Cancellara made his race winning move on the Kwaremont – the same pitch of road he’d used to devastating effect in 2011 – Sagan could only watch as the RadioShack rider quickly established a 15 second advantage.

    “I tried to go with him on the climb but I was a bit empty in my legs...

  • Cancellara shows his hand at E3 Harelbeke

    Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack - Leopard) solos to the win
    Article published:
    March 22, 2013, 18:38 GMT
    Jane Aubrey

    Swiss rider romps to victory ahead of Flanders favourites

    Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) confirmed himself as favourite for next week's Tour of Flanders with his third victory in E3 Harelbeke on Friday. Slaying the demons from a crash on the same roads and spurred on by his family and a hospitalised Eddy Merckx, the 31-year-old claimed his team's first WorldTour win of the season while warning that this was only the beginning.

    "I've been waiting for a victory," Cancellara said following his solo win in Harelbeke over Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss. "I've been waiting for something a little extra. It's not over. It's the start of coming to the special Christmas week next week. Now I don't say I go home and just be on the couch and doing nothing, it's going even harder now, especially mentally. The pressure will be even more.

    "I saw in San Remo that I'm ready. I saw today that I'm more than ready. Whether I've scared the people or not at the end, I've done my job and what I had to do and that's bringing home a victory."

    At E3 Harelbeke last year, Cancellara crashed twice and then a week later, fractured his collarbone in three places at the Tour of Flanders while riding through the feed zone. Today's race, he said, was "important" as it was his first race back on the Belgian cobbles, although it left him feeling mixed emotions. In some regards he explained, it was "like home" but his reconnaissance in the lead up brought back memories that he would rather forget.

    "The goal was to win and how I was going to win was not important," Cancellara said. "It's just that I won."

    Though he may protest, Cancellara's method of disposing of his rivals was so emphatic that it will set the tone for the coming weeks. With close to 150km of racing complete, Cancellara passed the first...

  • Boonen dangling while Cancellara flies in E3

    Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma Quick Step)
    Article published:
    March 22, 2013, 18:55 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    "My motor is ok, I simply ran out of fuel"

    Coming into the E3 Harelbeke on Friday the form of Belgian cycling star Tom Boonen was a major question mark. The 32-year-old Belgian champion had a troubled winter in which he almost lost his arm due to an infection. The weeks without training in January didn’t allow him to come into this key part of the season at the desired level of form.

    On Friday afternoon, Boonen showed flashes of his unquestionable talent by creating the decisive breakaway move with an acceleration in the asphalted gutter of the cobbled Taaienberg climb. In high contrast to that acceleration, however, was his performance 25 kilometres later on the Oude Kwaremont when Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack) blasted away in front of the group towards his third victory in Harelbeke

    Boonen was dangling at the back of it, failing to hold the wheel of men like Andrey Amador (Movistar). Usually Boonen is the one who rides away there but this time no fewer than three of his teammates rode in front of him at that stage: Sylvain Chavanel, Stijn Vandenbergh and Zdenek Stybar. Just over one week away from the Tour of Flanders it is clear Boonen still has work to do. Boonen’s Omega Pharma-QuickStep team director Wilfried Peeters agreed.

    “Tom was a question mark before the race and it’s clear he will not start as the outright favourite,” Peeters said.

    After the finish, Boonen took his time before talking briefly with the attending press and – by his standards – the 32-year-old kept it short, possibly to avoid the cold in these crucial days ahead of the two monuments: the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

    “I’m seventh. If...

  • Sky misses out on podium at E3 Harelbeke

    Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
    Article published:
    March 22, 2013, 20:09 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Thomas finishes fourth in Belgian Classic

    Sky's Classics campaign continued where it left off at Dwars Door Vlaanderen with the British team providing strength in numbers but again missing out on the top step of the podium at E3 Harelbeke. Geraint Thomas was their best finisher, crossing the line in fourth behind a podium led by Fabian Cancellara and rounded off with Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss.

    Unlike Dwars Door Vlaanderen where Sky took the race by the scruff of the neck, they played a more cautious hand in E3. With the calibre of competition higher and with no clear leader, their tactic of loading the front group with strength in numbers appeared to pay off when Mathew Hayman, Thomas and Edvald Boassan Hagen made the front group inside the final 50 kilometres.

    Thomas was the last of the trio to latch onto the leaders having been poorly positioned on the Taaienberg.

    "I lost a lot of ground just before," he told Cyclingnews at the finish.

    "I got knocked off the road a bit so had to unclip and ended up right near the back of the group. I tried not to panic and just sat there and moved up through the gutter."

    "Fortunately Cannondale missed a move so they chased and I got across with them."

    Any numerical advantage the team had ended on the Kwaremont when Cancellara launched his race-winning move. Behind the Radioshack rider the field exploded with Tom Boonen and the other pre-race favourites struggling to keep any momentum. Boassan Hagen and Hayman found themselves in trouble with only Thomas able to join the first chase group that included Sylvain Chavanel (Omega-Pharma QuickStep), Daniel Oss (Team BMC), Peter Sagan (Canndonale) and Sebastian Langeveld (ORICA GreenEdge).

    While Cancellara quickly established a healthy lead, Thomas sat on the back of the...

  • Orica GreenEdge's Classics fortunes looking up second time around

    Jens Keukeleire (Orica-GreenEdge) spent plenty of time up front
    Article published:
    March 22, 2013, 20:58 GMT
    Jane Aubrey

    Strong E3 performance bodes well for Gent-Wevelgem

    Largely anonymous during the cobbled Classics in 2012, the fortunes of Orica GreenEdge are already looking up with at least one more card to play, Jens Keukeleire, along with lead rider, Sebastian Langeveld.

    The latter rode to fifth place at E3 Harelbeke after having ridden in the front group of riders that were off the back of the efforts of eventual winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard). It was exactly the performance that the Australian team had been wanting from their designated cobbled Classics man.

    "Last year in Flanders, I was right on time - in good condition but I didn't really have the confidence that the condition was there," Langeveld told Cyclingnews. "With the result of today, we can go with trust and confidence that we can do something in the race next week."

    Langeveld was in elite company in the 11-rider move that went with Cancellara on the Taaienberg, Tom Boonen, Zdenek Stybar and Stijn Vandenberg (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step), Lars Boom and Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco), Mathew Hayman and Edvald Boasson Hagan (Sky), Daniel Oss (BMC) and Vincent Jerome (Europcar).

    The Dutchman was left to then fight it out for the minor placings once Cancellara rode away again on the Paterberg, caught between a rock and a hard place of trying to go with the Swiss specialist, but not wanting to drag Peter Sagan to a sprint finish given he'd already fought his way back into contention.

    "QuickStep was running with three guys and with the first guys like Oss and Sagan, Geraint Thomas, it's pretty hard. What can you do? I'm pretty happy with fifth place," Langeveld said.

    At Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen among a relatively inexperienced team...

  • Gilbert not a factor in E3 Harelbeke

    Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
    Article published:
    March 23, 2013, 8:52 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    BMC racer more likely to excel in Tour of Flanders

    The E3 Harelbeke usually is the first one-day race in which the Spring Classics specialists collide with each other on the cobbled hills of Flanders. While world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) isn't a pure Classics specialist, he tends to perform well.

    Gilbert is more of a man for the longer, paved Ardennes climbs. On Friday afternoon, he was never in contention for the victory and only briefly appeared in the picture.

    With nine days to go before the Tour of Flanders, the world champion doesn't seem ready to take on another favorite, Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack).

    "Cancellara was very strong. Personally I hope to be much stronger next week," Gilbert said to Cyclingnews.

    Racing the Spring Classics is a sub-specialty of its own. There is a continuous fight to stay near the front of the peloton on the narrow roads which connect the multiple, short, cobbled climbs.

    At 62 kilometres from the finish of the E3, the peloton hit the Taaienberg. In front, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) powered away, with men like Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) and Cancellara following the Belgian champion swiftly. Gilbert was much further back.

    A few kilometres further up the road after the following climb, Gilbert tried to set things straight when a group of four riders went in the counterattack. Lars Boom (Blanco), Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Vincent Jerome (Europcar) and Sebastiaan Langeveld (Orica-Greenedge) already had a good gap on the peloton when Gilbert was caught by the camera, trying to close the gap on his own.

    A few moments later, it was painful to see him lose the battle to bridge up. He looked behind and sat up. The peloton swallowed him up and no more was seen from the world...