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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, March 30, 2013

Date published:
March 30, 2013, 0:00 GMT
  • Cancellara not racing for second place in Tour of Flanders

    Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) speaks at the Tour of Flanders press conference
    Article published:
    March 29, 2013, 21:33 GMT
    Jane Aubrey

    Swiss star to remain calm at site of 2012 crash

    Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) is relishing the pressure heading into Sunday's Tour of Flanders where he'll be chasing a second Easter Sunday victory for the second time in his career.

    In last week's win at E3 Harelbeke, the Swiss rider found the confidence that capped off five months of preparation for a return to Flanders where he crashed out in 2012, suffering multiple fractures to his collarbone in a freak feed-zone spill. Time back at home, reviewing his rivals and last year's race, skipping the Three Days of De Panne; resting and training have resulted in Cancellara being "more than race ready".

    "I've done my homework, I've done everything and now there's just Sunday's race and with all the experience I have... for me it's important for me to say in Brugge on the start line that I've done what I have to do," he said on Friday in his pre-race media conference. "That's what the most important thing - to be calm and relaxed and to not make mistakes."

    Recent Classics seasons have been billed as a battle of two strongmen - Cancellara vs. Boonen - but this year, given the Belgian's season began on the back foot due to an elbow injury and illness, there is a new element in Peter Sagan (Cannondale), winner in Gent-Wevelgem. Cancellara though, was unwilling to rule out Omega Pharma-Quick-Step's Boonen, with much riding on his performance as a three-time winner and also that it's The Ronde's Centenary.

    "Never forget Tom because he's experienced enough in this race and you never know what's going to come," he said.

    In the week since Cancellara withdrew from Gent-Wevelgem, Omega Pharma-Quick-Step dominated the

  • Chavanel ready to take leading role at the Tour of Flanders

    Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)
    Article published:
    March 29, 2013, 22:35 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Frenchman coy about tactical approach

    Following four seasons as a support act in the QuickStep spring line-up, Sylvain Chavanel has a rare opportunity to top the bill at the Tour of Flanders, even if the Frenchman was reluctant to make any bold statements of intent before taking to the main stage on Sunday.

    With leading player Tom Boonen struggling for form in the wake of an early-season beset by injury and illness, Omega Pharma-QuickStep manager Patrick Lefevere acknowledged that the "situation is completely different this year" and said that his team would not be built solely around Boonen at this year's Ronde.

    After impressing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Milan-San Remo and E3 Harelbeke, and then winning the Three Days of De Panne, Chavanel is the man most likely to step into the leadership role should Boonen falter, but he steadfastly refused to talk up his position when he met the press in Nazareth on Friday afternoon.

    "Everybody is saying that Tom isn't in condition but he still won the sprint in Harelbeke behind the break that I was in," Chavanel said cagily. "It's all well and good to talk about form today, but what really counts is what happens on Sunday. They are two different things and it's always better to do your talking on the road."

    Chavanel has tended to perform a playmaking role for Omega Pharma-QuickStep, going on the offensive from distance in a bid to soften up the opposition before Boonen takes over in the finale. For all of self-sacrifice involved, it is still...

  • Boonen weighs his Tour of Flanders chances

    Tom Boonen at the pre-Tour of Flanders press conference
    Article published:
    March 29, 2013, 23:55 GMT
    Cycling News

    Belgian glad to have Sagan as a foe

    For a man with a nation's cycling hopes resting on his shoulders Tom Boonen cut a relaxed figure at Omega Pharma QuickStep's Tour of Flanders press conference on Friday.

    The three time winner and defending Ronde champion opened events by describing the less than perfect season he has endured. Frankly anything would have been seen as less than perfect when held up against last season's triumphant run of domination, when QuickStep swept all before them to claim a historic run of spring victories, but with Flanders and Roubaix within a week of racing Boonen is hopeful that he can pull out a result.

    Twelve months on from last year's success, the team is scrambling to save its campaign with Ronde and Roubaix their two opportunities for redemption. The fickle nature of professional sport demands that.

    "Of course it's not the same as it was last year but it's not looking that bad either with the circumstances," Boonen said.

    He's right. The team have De Panne in the bag, and although they were out-fought in E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem they remain a force to be reckoned with, and anyone who believes that perennial rival Fabian Cancellara and upstart Peter Sagan need just turn up Bruges on Sunday to determine the Ronde crown are sorely mistaken.

    For all of Boonen's setbacks this spring, he remains a man to beat. Perhaps lacking in form, he is certainly not suffering a lack of experience or level-headedness.

    "I've made a lot of progression in the last few weeks and we'll see on Sunday if it's good enough to get a result in the race, but I did the maximum possible to get here so I can't expect anything more."

    Asked as to where he ranks in comparison to last year, he replied directly: "I have lot more question marks....

  • Knaven: Thomas can win the Tour of Flanders

    Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
    Article published:
    March 30, 2013, 8:10 GMT
    Jane Aubrey

    Sky look to make a move before the final two laps

    Team Sky director sportif Servais Knaven says that team leader Geraint Thomas has what it takes to match the overwhelming favourites for Sunday's Tour of Flanders, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard).

    Asked if he believed that Thomas could win the 100th edition of the Ronde, Knaven was adamant.

    "I'm sure," he said on Friday evening at the team hotel in Kortrijk.

    "I'm sure Geraint can follow Peter Sagan and Fabian Cancellara," Knaven added.

    Sky will be playing the numbers game on Sunday, and joining Thomas whose best result came in 2011 when the Welshman finished in 10th place, will be Ian Stannard, Mathew Hayman, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Bernhard Eisel, Salvatore Puccio, Gabriel Rasch and Luke Rowe. Eisel has been ill this week, and while Knaven indicated that he is "going to be fit" there is still uncertainty over the level of the Austrian. As for the rest of the squad, Knaven said "we have other guys who are almost at the same level" as Thomas.

    The Tour of Flanders will be just the second time that Sky has taken on this year's classics campaign with a dedicated leader, with Thomas also number one at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad late last month. Since, however, it's been up to the individuals to show their hand, probably going some way to the team earning top-10 results in Milan-San Remo (Stannard, 6th), Dwars door Vlaanderen (Hayman, 3rd, Stannard 9th), E3 Harelbeke (Thomas 4th) and Gent-Wevelgem (Eisel 7th).

    "The other races we didn't work with one real captain because we wanted to give everyone a chance," Knaven explained. "They were training all winter for these two, three weeks and we wanted to give everybody different roles in different races so everybody got their own opportunity to show what they can...

  • Evans to ride the Giro d'Italia

    Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) talks to Gazzetta dello Sport
    Article published:
    March 30, 2013, 10:01 GMT
    Cycling News

    BMC rider to tackle the Giro-Tour double

    Cadel Evans has revealed to Gazzetta dello Sport that he will ride the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France this summer as he looks to get back to his best after a virus wrecked his hopes of a second Tour de France victory in 2012.

    Evans will take on 2012 Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), 2012 Tour winner Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and Italy's Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) at this year's corsa rosa, which begins in Naples on May 4.

    "I'm going to ride the Giro. And I want to make it clear, I won’t be riding it for training but to get back to my best level," Evans told Gazzetta dello Sport during an interview at his home in Stabbio, in the Italian speaking part of southern Switzerland.

    "BMC suggested doing it. My 2012 season ended with the disappointment of seventh in the Tour de France. The idea was to add an important race like the Giro to my programme. I thought about it and said yes. Getting some extra race days in my legs won't do me an harm at all."

    Evans confirmed that he will ride the Giro and the Tour this season, riding the Giro del Trentino and Liège-Bastogne-Liège along the way.

    "I'll do the Giro and the Tour. I'm going to do a training camp now, then I'll ride the Giro del Trentino, probably Liège-Bastogne-Liège and hope to be ready for the start (of the Giro) in Naples," he said.

    Maglia Rosa memories

    Evans last rode the Giro d'Italia in 2010, finishing fifth behind Ivan Basso, his ride affected by illness picked up during several rain-soaked stages. He won the now-legendary stage on the Tuscan dirt road to Montalcino in the rain and wore the pink jersey for a day in the first week.

    He also wore the iconic jersey for a day back in 2002, early in his road...

  • Sagan strikes relaxed note ahead of Tour of Flanders

    Peter Sagan (Cannondale) enjoys all Belgium has to offer
    Article published:
    March 30, 2013, 11:30 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Cannondale team leader drawing lessons from Harelbeke

    Absent-mindedly referring to E3 Harelbeke as “Arenberg” and describing the Tour of Flanders as “the Hell of the North” would normally be considered a grave faux pas in the heart of Flemish cycling country, but the normal rules do not seem to apply to Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling).

    The Slovak is not a regular 23-year-old bike rider, nor is he a typically wide-eyed Tour of Flanders hopeful. He bowled into his pre-race press conference in Kortrijk on Friday evening with the air of a man who simply couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, wholly unperturbed by his status as one of two outright favourites for the win on such hallowed terrain.

    The other, of course, is Fabian Cancellara, and their burgeoning rivalry continued into last weekend’s racing. Cancellara triumphed at E3 Harelbeke and Sagan responded in kind at Gent-Wevelgem, and a degree of verbal jousting was anticipated in their press conferences on Friday. Cancellara had obliged by noting: “We are one-one now, and we’ll see what happens on Sunday.”

    Sagan was circumspect when asked how on earth he would go about stopping Cancellara at the Tour of Flanders.

    “It’s a hard question to answer,” Sagan said with a smile. “I don’t know, we’ll just have to see in the race what to do and we’ll have to see how Fabian and the others respond. But there are a lot of other strong rivals too, not just him. It’s about staying in front.”

    An attempt to reignite the debate over Cancellara’s patrician disdain for Sagan’s exuberant victory celebrations was quickly doused.

    “We’ve already talked about this before,” Sagan said, trotting out the response he gave on the eve of Milan-San Remo for a fresh airing. “I’m not sure if everything written in the papers was...

  • Contador targetting a third victory at Pais Vasco

    Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) crosses the line
    Article published:
    March 30, 2013, 12:18 GMT
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Spaniard adds Clasica Primavera to race program, Fleche and Liege still possible

    After recovering from the virus that put paid to his start in the Criterium International, Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) will take part in the Vuelta al País Vasco, which starts on Monday in the heart of the Basque Country.

    The Vuelta al País Vasco is a race Contador knows well despite a four-year absence. He took one of his earliest professional wins there: a time trial stage back in 2005 and finished third overall. Since then he has won the race twice, in 2008 and 2009, picking up two stage wins on each occasion.

    Rain is forecast for much of the six-day race, but as Contador told Radio Euskadi in an interview, this is a factor that he is ready for. Whilst he would have preferred to take part in the Criterium International, he still feels he is good shape for the six-day race.

    Other rivals at the Vuelta al País Vasco include Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez, who won last year, as well as Paris-Nice winner Richie Porte (Team Sky) and two former Pais Vasco winners: Andreas Kloden (RadioShack-Leopard) and Juan Jose Cobo (Movistar).

    “The race is much more than Samuel and me,” Contador said on Radio Euskadi. “There’s a very high level of participation and Richie is clearly in great form and will be looking for more success here.”

    “There are plenty of other top riders and País Vasco is one of the hardest races to keep things under control: it’s not unheard of for a rider who was a team’s ‘B’ option to get in a break and walk off with the overall win.”

    A testing route

    With only one relatively flat day, stage two to Vitoria,...

  • Thomas hoping to take advantage of the Sagan-Cancellara rivalry

    Geraint Thomas (Sky) is a contender for classics glory in 2013.
    Article published:
    March 30, 2013, 14:21 GMT
    Jane Aubrey

    Welshman says Team Sky has strength in numbers

    Much has been said about Geraint Thomas' return to the Tour of Flanders. Sky's team leader for Sunday last rode the Ronde in 2011, where he finished 10th, aged just 24. Last year the Welshman was at the UCI Track World Championships in Melbourne in the lead into his Olympic campaign. With a full-focus on the road this season, Thomas has been zeroing in on the Tour of Flanders. Eventual successful would mean he is just the second British rider to win Flanders after Tom Simpson in 1961.

    Asked if he was feeling the pressure, with Team Sky opting for a Tenerife training camp in the build up to their classics campaign in a bid to replicate the conquests of 2012's Tour de France squad, Thomas admitted there was a certain expectation surrounding his Flanders crusade.

    "I guess so," he said on Friday evening at Team Sky's hotel in Kortrijk. "But no more than sitting in the chairs two minutes before an Olympic final in London. That's pretty intense. It's just one of those things. Pressure's just the norm and you've just got to deal with it... I seemed to have coped with it okay so far."

    The hour of power

    The squad's time in Tenerife under the guidance of Team Sky's head of performance support, Tim Kerrison, focused on shorter, punchier efforts and sprints at the end of rides on tougher days, reversing the order when there was a requirement to be fresh – an approach that Thomas said is similar to track training.

    "I definitely feel like the training he's [Kerrison's] doing is definitely setting us up well for the last hour of racing," Thomas said. "So far anyway. Flanders will be longer again but I definitely think being specific and concentrating on certain areas certainly helps."

    Team Sky directeur sporif Servais Knaven is