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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, March 24, 2012

Date published:
March 24, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Video: Cyclingnews guide to the Spring Classics

    The cobbles of Paris-Roubaix take an incredible toll on bike and rider.
    Article published:
    March 24, 2012, 0:00 GMT
    Cycling News

    Step-by-step guide as the season accelerates in northern Europe

    The Classics season is now underway and with six more ahead of us in the next three weeks, Cyclingnews brings you a beginner's guide to what's in store in the days ahead.

    Gent-Wevelgem takes place this Sunday, starting off the cobbled classics that also comprise the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Then after that we move on to the region of Ardennes, where Philippe Gilbert dominated in 2011, for three more.

    Cyclingnews will bring you unrivalled coverage of these fabled races, so stay with us over the next few weeks as all the drama unfolds.

  • Rowney enjoying run with Specialized-lululemon

    Loren Rowney (Specialized/Lululemon) taking the win.
    Article published:
    March 24, 2012, 1:30 GMT
    Cycling News

    Australian takes third season win in Redlands

    If she had ever had any doubts that she could step up to the top level of the sport, Loren Rowney (Specialized-lululemon) has been given another strong endorsement of her credentials with a sprint win on the opening road stage of the Redlands Bicycle Classic.

    Rowney moved to Specialized-lululemon at the start of the year, and though seen to be a talent within Australian, she was untested when it came to the higher level of racing overseas. But starting 2012 on the front foot, she picked up a confidence boosting win at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic Series on a tough Geelong course, before taking her first UCI women's win in the Women's Tour of New Zealand.

    "We went into the race with the early plan just to be present in any important moves and to look after Amber [Neben] for GC," explained Rowney. "Ally [Stacher] and Katie [Colclough] did a great job of being in the moves early and I wasn't feeling great.

    "But I had a feeling it would be a bunch kick at the end so on the penultimate lap I tested my legs in an intermediate sprint on the finish line. Katie led me out and I went too early so for the finish I knew I had to hang back a bit and time it better."

    She read it perfectly and though the sprint was close, she pulled clear of Joelle Numainville with a final lunge to the line. Team director Ronny Lauke praised the team and Rowney, who he believes at just 23 years of ages is a big talent for the future.

    "The girls are racing really well but I'm very impressed with Loren in her first year. She has a great understanding of bike racing and reads the race really well."

    The Redlands Bicycle Classic continues on Saturday March 24.

  • Devolder on course for third Flanders win?

    Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM).
    Article published:
    March 24, 2012, 4:00 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian shows off good form during E3-Prijs Harelbeke

    It’s that time of the year again. The Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix are now both within the next fortnight and the regular list of favourites are putting their hands up as likely contenders. A list of dark horses are also presenting themselves, not least Stijn Devolder.

    The Belgian is a double winner of the Ronde in (2008 – 2009) but has faded away in the past couple of years. The 32 year-old rode a good Tirreno-Adriatico but crashed during the first Flemish test, Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday. During the E3-Prijs Harelbeke he bounced back and showed glimpses of the 'old Devolder' - with several accelerations deep into the finale. The crowd in Harelbeke were ecstatic when Devolder launched his attack and made it quite clear that they hope for a comeback for the man they call Volderke.

    "It’s moral-boosting to learn that there are still a lot of people supporting me," said Devolder to Cyclingnews. "This is my home region and hopefully I can offer them something in return for their support. I think I’m growing back towards my best form. It’s been three years since I was able to fight along for the prizes in Harelbeke. It boosts my confidence.

    "E3 Harelbeke always has been my final rehearsal for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. If you’re good here then you’re often good in Flanders too. I know enough."

    "Today I waited as long as possible to attack because no selection had been made, and then give all I had on the Vossenhol [Tiegemberg] but sadly enough it didn’t work out. I went full gas. They brought me back but it must’ve hurt for them. I’ve added color to the finale...

  • Video: Degenkolb disappointed with E3 Harelbeke result

    John Degenkolb - Marcel Kittel (Project 1T4i)
    Article published:
    March 24, 2012, 9:15 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    German confident for Gent-Wevelgem

    Last season the Project 1T4i team (formerly Skil-Shimano) were the plucky underdogs trying to make a name for themselves in races like E3. A year on, and despite securing a top ten place in a WorldTour race due to John Degenkolb, the team feels a sense of disappointment. It’s a mark of how far Iwan Spekenbrink’s squad has progressed in the last 12 months with a handful of canny signings and another year of racing under their belts.

    At the finish in Harelbeke Degenkolb admitted that he felt he’d missed an opportunity to win the race. The German had ridden well through the day, only missing one serious break, which he was eventually able to close down with the help of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky).

    After a 5th place ride in last week’s Milan-San Remo, Degenkolb, was a good bet for a podium place in today’s race and his teammates worked towards positioning him in the finale. With Dominic Klemme a non-starter plus Koen De Kort and Bert De Backer ruled out through crashes, the Dutch team was on the back foot but Tom Stamsnijder was able to stay with Degenkolb until the finish and help him in the sprint.

    Degenkolb was keying off of Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) in the sprint finale, and ultimately crossed the finish line in 6th place.

    In this exclusive video for Cyclingnews, Degenkolb talks about his race and his expectations for Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem.

  • Sagan caught between two stools at E3 Harelbeke

    Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)
    Article published:
    March 24, 2012, 10:35 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Slovak uses his matches ahead of sprint

    When you have so many weapons in your armoury, it can be difficult to know which one to use, as Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) discovered at E3 Harelbeke on Friday. Rapid in the sprint, powerful beyond his years and blessed with naturally aggressive instincts, the young Slovak perhaps played his hand too early in the finale of a race won by Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

    Sagan was prominent when it appeared that the race was about to fragment on the slopes of the Oude Kwaremont, and then joined a late attempt to power off the front of the lead group after the final climb of the Tiegemberg. When it all came back together for a 45-man sprint in Harelbeke, however, the 22-year-old paid for his generous efforts and could only manage 14th place after losing his position on the final bend.

    “I felt good, it’s just that I made some errors that I shouldn’t have made and then at the end I was missing a bit of strength,” Sagan told Cyclingnews as he rolled away from his team bus after the finish.

    Sagan had talked through those errors in a short debriefing with Liquigas-Cannondale management after crossing the line, but there was a consoling pat on the shoulder and a ‘bravo’ of encouragement from manager Roberto Amadio as he sent him to pedal off back to the team hotel in nearby Kortrijk.

    “I pulled in the group as well, and then I tried to go away in a break and then in the end, after the final kilometre there was a curve to the left and I got left behind, so I wasn’t able to do the sprint,” Sagan explained.

    While a rider with Sagan’s speed might have been expected to try and keep his powder dry for a sprint finish, a mitigating factor was...

  • Video: Freire rues E3 Harelbeke mistake

    Runner-up Oscar Freire (Katusha) probably wishes he previewed the finish as a mistimed sprint cost him the race.
    Article published:
    March 24, 2012, 11:02 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Spaniard mistimes sprint

    Oscar Freire (Katusha) has made a career out of popping up unnoticed to take the biggest of victories, but the wily Spaniard was caught out when he mistimed his finishing sprint at E3 Harelbeke on Friday and he had to settle for second place behind Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

    The final 200 metres in Harelbeke curl gently around to the right, obliterating the riders' sight of the finish line, and Freire was horrified when he belatedly saw the banner come into view 300 metres earlier than he had anticipated.

    "I went too late because I thought the finish line was further on. When I saw the finish it was too late," a frustrated Freire told reporters immediately after wheeling to a halt outside the Katusha team bus.

    By that point, Boonen had swept past a strangely inert Freire, and although the triple world champion succeeded in eating up almost his entire deficit in the space of just 50 metres, he simply ran out of road and had to settle for the most exasperating of second place finishes.

    Never exaggerated in his reactions to victory or to defeat, the amiable Freire was able to muster up a rueful smile when he entered the press room after the race. When it was tentatively put to him that he had made a small mistake in the finale, Freire was quick to correct his inquisitor.

    "Not a small mistake – a big mistake," he said, shaking his head. "With 100 metres to the finish we couldn't see the finish. When I saw the finish it was too late. I started the sprint but it was too late."

    Although Freire's...

  • Cancellara's bad luck ruins E3 Harelbeke defence

    Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) picks himself up from a crash.
    Article published:
    March 24, 2012, 13:11 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    RadioShack leader suffers two crashes and multiple punctures

    Bad luck cost Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) the chance of defending his title in E3 Harelbeke on Friday. The two-time race winner suffered three punctures and two crashes during the race and despite being a major factor in several attacks had to settle for 22nd place on the day.

    “Today was a day of bad luck,” Fabian Cancellara said after the race. “Luckily I don’t have so many of those days. I crashed early in the race but it wasn’t anything much. But straight after that I got two punctures right in a row. Tony Gallopin was there to bring me back but that was only a prelude of more to come.”

    Cancellara had skipped Dwars door Vlaanderen earlier in the week as he recovered from his second-placed ride in Milan-San Remo and he looked in threatening form when he matched a move from Tom Boonen on the Taaienberg. Although he was caught behind a number of riders he was quickly onto the Belgian’s rear wheel.

    At that point Cancellara had already come back from an early crash and two punctures in quick succession.

    On the Kwaremont Cancellara repaid Boonen with his own attack from the front. The move was far more devastating than Boonen’s earlier foray but luck was again lacking and the RadioShack leader suffered another puncture. With no team assistance in sight he was forced to ride to the crest of the climb with a flat tyre.

    “The original plan was to try something on the Kwaremont and that worked. There were only four guys in the group. Then the puncture of the front wheel came but I had to keep moving on the cobbles to the mechanic for a new wheel. Bennati came by me and I told him to keep riding so at least we’d have someone in the front group. Our...

  • Gallery: Memorable moments in Gent-Welvegem

    Peter Sagan (Cannondale) introduced at the 2012 Gent-Wevelgem.
    Article published:
    March 23, 2013, 18:15 GMT
    Cycling News

    From Hincapie and Cipollini to Boonen

    Dubbed the ‘Sprinters’ Classic’ Gent-Wevelgem is one of the most hotly anticipated and important races in the Spring calendar. Over the past few years it has seen a number of changes affect its course, date and distance but the sight of the pro peloton riding over the Kemmelberg remains one of the most iconic snapshots of the spring.

    In this gallery, Cyclingnews looks back at some of the most memorable moments from the last decade: from disqualifications to crashes, sprints to breakaways.

    In the last few years the race has seen a number of course and date modifications but it remains a major target and highlight of the Spring. Last year Tom Boonen took his third career victory here, but after a less than optimal performance in the E3 Harelbeke, his name will not be at the top of the favourites' list. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) will look to get revenge for being tightly marked in Friday's finale.

    The race has seen some of the best Classics action in recent years. From George Hincapie wining a close sprint in 2001 to the memorable edition of 2002 when Mario Cipollini chased down a dangerous break – that included Hincapie – and won the sprint. That year Cipollini would win a far less entertaining Worlds but his ride in Gent-Wevelgem was a welcome reminder that he was more than just a sprinter reliant on his lead-out train.

    A year later though and Cipollini was lacking form and fitness. After a crash and subsequent visit to the team car he threw two water bottles at race car when it attempted to pass him. Once over the finish line the world champion was rightly...