The BMC team struggled to make an impact in the E3 Harelbeke, with Greg Van Avermaet saving the day for the team with tenth place in the big group that sprinted for seventh. Former world champion Thor Hushovd, abandoned the race after 150km and the Hotondberg climb.
Van Avermaet claimed he was close to getting a much better result. But the result could have been much worse. He suffered a flat tyre 57km from the finish but managed to get back to the front and stayed there despite several crashes taking out riders around him.
“I wasn’t bad, always riding in the front and going with the moves. At the Oude Kwaremont I was in the group with the men who were riding away. More was possible but I’m satisfied. I was able to keep up easily on the Paterberg. On the Oude Kwaremont I was one of the best,” Van Avermaet said.
Van Avermaet admitted he was on his limit when Geraint Thomas and Nikki Terpstra rode away but he referred to eventual winner Peter Sagan who also got dropped at that point. From there Van Avermaet said he took some pulls in the chase group in order to get back to Thomas and Terpstra but was unable to go with Stijn Vandenbergh when he jumped away.
“It’s about positioning, so that shows that there’s not a lot of difference between me and those guys. That boosts my confidence,” he said.
Once in the chase group with Fabian Cancellara there was not much Van Avermaet could do. If he worked he sacrificed his chances of success and if he waited the gap wasn’t going to come down. Having a teammate in front would’ve helped his situation a lot, Van Avermaet suggested.
“[Stijn] Devolder (Trek Factory Racing) and [Dries] Devenyns for Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) were still working, trying to close the gap. I tried to get...
Team Sky's successful Classics campaign continued at E3 Harelbeke, with Geraint Thomas taking third place after an aggressive performance. However the team were left with some concerns after Ian Stannard was forced to abandon following a tumble on the cobbles. On balance, though, the British outfit was pretty happy with its performance.
"The team was pretty strong with Bernie Eisel, Edvald [Boasson Hagen] and G [Geraint Thomas]. Result-wise I think that we can be happy," Team Sky directeur sportif Servais Knaven told Cyclingnews at the finish.
"I think with losing Ian it was a pity, but still we were strong. I think that everybody is on a really good level. Especially G, in his first race in Belgium this year. After his crash I think that he is back on the level where he was in Paris-Nice. That's looking really good."
Thomas made the first crucial split in the peloton on the Oude Kwaremont. His form was doubtful ahead of the race and the team had no concrete plans for him to be aggressive.
"Those things you cannot plan. It's all about whether you have the legs or not. Apparently he had really good legs, so that is the best way to race for him and just go for it on the climbs. I think he was probably the strongest."
Stannard was to be one of the team's leaders for the race. He was looking strong going into the race, after a good showing at Dwars door Vlaanderen two days prior. He had been hoping to add to his victory in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad but got taken down in a multiple rider pile-up. Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge) was taken to hospital after a nasty fall, which also caught out Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), leaving the Belgian with an injured thumb.
Race winner Peter Sagan and Thomas were also involved in falls during the day. "I think almost the whole team crashed today," Knaven...
“It cannot go worse than last year, Roelandts told Cyclingnews. "Two years ago I was injured and last year I had a lot of bad luck. I think I am in good condition and with a bit more luck than last year I can get some nice results."
The only ray of sunshine in the Belgian’s troubled two years was a podium place at last year’s Tour of Flanders. He was dropped by Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan on the Peterberg, but caught Sagan before the line. He was eventually out-sprinted by the Cannondale rider, but it was enough to secure him third.
Roelandts is from Asse in Flanders, just down the road from the finish of the Tour of Flanders in Oudenaarde. He rides the race route daily and it continues to drive his passion for the race that he dreams of winning.
“I grew up in this area and I’ve always wanted to win Flanders, which is not...
With the ‘100 days til the start of the Tour de France’ celebrations formally kicking off the start of the countdown for Le Grand Depart in Yorkshire, defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Team Sky) says he is already sensing the growing anticipation and revealed he will travel to Yorkshire to study the opening stages.
“You definitely pick up that buzz on the social media,” Froome told Cyclingnews during the Volta a Catalunya. “People are really talking about it, and people are getting excited about it and geed up about it now we’ve got 100 days to go. For us riders, it’s the same things, we’re slowly getting the same buzz. It almost feels like the countdown to the Olympics again.”
Asked what he knew about Yorkshire and whether he had already visited it, Froome answered: “Not a lot, but I’ve been through it on the Tour of Britain a couple of times, round that kind of area.”
“My initial thoughts are ‘Wow, that’s going to be a tough place to have a bike race, especially the start of the Tour when you’re going to have 200 plus guys on the start line who are really nervous, everyone wants to get into yellow in the first couple days and have the experience of leading the Tour de France.”
“It’s going to be pretty chaotic and we’re definitely going to have our hands full on the riding side of things and trying to take in the experience. It sounds like it’s building up to becoming something incredible.”
Froome plans to go and do a reconnaissance of the Yorkshire stages.
“I’ll build that into the schedule in the next couple of months, two or three days, go and ride those, especially the...
Boonen went down hard early in the race, before the La Houppe climb. He managed to finish 11th behind winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale) but admitted it had been a painful day in the saddle and on the cobbles.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step has already lost Mark Cavendish after the Manxman was hit by a fever but Boonen confirmed he would ride on Sunday after medical staff taped his thumb and he tested how it felt during Saturday's training ride.
"The medical staff taped his thumb this morning, and Boonen was able to go out for a ride with the rest of the team on Saturday, even with some soreness," the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team said in a statement.
"Tom Boonen will be at the start at Gent-Wevelgem. If it will be necessary after the race, Boonen will pass further examinations.
"Boonen suffered a strong contusion on his right thumb that caused him pain on the articulation. The thumb is swollen and he also has a stretched ligament."
With the Tour of Flanders just a week away, Boonen tried to stay optimistic after fighting the pain to finish E3 Harelbeke.
"It’s never good to ride over the cobbles when your hand hurts. I did 100km with a lot of pain. On the climbs there’s often a gutter so that was fine but on the cobbles it hurts a lot," Boonen said.
"I managed to finish the race so I’m not panicking. Most of the times they’re able to do something with these kind of injuries but it’ll hurt a lot. It’s a bit swollen. It will probably...
Team boss on the hunt for Sky's first Classics win
When Dave Brailsford announced that Team Sky’s aim was to win a Tour de France with a British rider within five years not too many people took him seriously. Four years on and with two British Tour champions within the ranks, Team Sky rank as one if not the most consistent Grand Tour teams in the world.
With back-to-back Tour wins courtesy of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome and a depth of international talent to draw from 2014 may yet turn out to be equally as successful as the last two seasons.
Yet although the team have had success on the road it hasn’t always been plain sailing. Rifts between Wiggins and Froome have threatened to thwart Sky’s often methodical approach.
In this exclusive video brought to you by inCycle TV, Brailsford details the necessary steps needed to run a successful team, one where ‘happy families’ come second to the demands and needs for a killer instinct and hunger to win.
Brailsford also talks about the pressure and demands on the team to win a one-day Classic, something they’ve come close to but never fulfilled since their inception at the start of the 2010 season.
The team has varied its approach to the spring campaign on a number of occasions but Brailsford believes that their persistence will eventually pay off.
Catalunya leader has minimal margin on GC rivals for last stage
The good news for Volta a Catalunya leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) on Saturday evening was that he now goes into the final stage of the week-long race on Sunday with his four-second overall advantage over Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) intact.
However, with the top 12 riders on general classification separated by one minute, the chances of some all-out attacks by the other contenders, not just Contador, on Sunday's multiple laps of Montjuic park and the corresponding eight ascents of its third category climb are high.
Rodriguez knows, therefore, that for all he has responded perfectly to all the challenges so far, the clinching of his second Volta a Catalunya win in four years is yet to harden into an absolute certainty. The time bonuses on offer at the finish - ten, six, and four seconds - can only help make the challenge even more complicated.
On top of that, although the forecast rain was kind enough to stay away - just - on Saturday's stage, it looks all but certain to put in an appearance for the finale in the Montjuic Park in Barcelona.
"It's not just Contador tomorrow, there are a lot of rivals at less than a minute," Rodriguez said after Saturday's stage, won by Holland's Stef Clement (Belkin) from a nine-man break. "Sunday isn't going to be just about one rider, I'm going to need eight sets of eyes, or maybe more.
"I know the circuit well, but it's very tricky, with lots of twists and turns. This is not going to be easy."
Rodriguez admitted that he was worried Contador would attack on the last lap, "but if I've got the whole team with me, then it shouldn't be a problem. On the other hand, if it rains, then that'll make things very different again."
Italian hindered by mechanical problems at E3 Harelbeke
A week out from the Tour of Flanders, Filippo Pozzato's prospects remain something of an unknown quantity, and a series of mechanical problems meant that few were any the wiser as to the true state of his form following E3 Harelbeke.
Pozzato's chain slipped three times on the cobbles on Friday – he coyly admitted that he was using something slightly different to his teammates – and after spending much of his afternoon chasing the race rather than participating in it, he sat up in the finale and rolled home over five minutes down on winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
"I was feeling good, but I had this problem three times and I had to get back on three times. Then I was caught behind crashes a couple of times, so I spent the whole day chasing back on really," Pozzato told Cyclingnews in Kortrijk on Saturday. "We'll see what happens at Gent-Wevelgem tomorrow. I just hope I can ride the race as normal and then we'll see how I am."
The man from Sandrigo reported no further problems with his equipment after a three-hour training ride on Saturday morning, and he was optimistic that the issue has been resolved. "It seems to be a bit better, so let's hope so," he said.
Pozzato's attempts to move back up to the front after his mechanical problems on Friday were not helped by the slight alterations to the parcours at Harelbeke, which saw a number of narrower roads added to the course this year. Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) touched on the same issue after the race, although Pozzato acknowledged that such obstacles are simply part of the game in Flanders.
"I was talking to Cancellara about it on the phone last night," Pozzato said. "Maybe the old parcours was...