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First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, March 31, 2012

Date published:
March 31, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • Video: Cancellara confident in RadioShack's support

    Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan)
    Article published:
    March 30, 2012, 15:47 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Says QuickStep's dual leadership could harm their Flanders bid

    Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) believes that the responsibility to control the Tour of Flanders rests with his rivals at Omega-Pharma QuickStep. The 2010 race winner held court at his team’s press conference outside Brugge and despite not wining a race on Belgian soil in over 12 months, he still attracted the cycling world’s press to the event.

    Cancellara’s last win in Belgium came at the E3 Harelbeke last spring. It was supposed to be the begging of an incredible spring for the Swiss rider but he was left frustrated in both Flanders and Roubaix, as a combination of negative tactics from cannier riders out-foxed him for the wins.

    This spring Cancellara is again in superb form. Two crashes and three punctures in E3 destroyed his chances of victory, while in Gent-Wevelgem he was one of the race’s most aggressive riders in the closing stages.

    With the route at Flanders changing for the first time since the 1970s, Cancellara was asked about his opinion on the parcours.

    “It’s going to be a new edition but it's still the Tour of Flanders. With the loops we are going to do it looks harder, but it’s up to the riders to make the race harder. With the wet conditions and the Kwaremont and Paterberg it’s going to be harder than the previous finish with the Muur and the Bosberg,” he said.

    “The last 10km to the end is tough and you have to be focussed all the time. We’ve done the parcours and we’ve happy with it. It’s not just the Kwaremont and Paterberg that will make the race. You’ve got lots of other climbs that will hurt more than people think.

  • Tour of Hangzou poised to enter WorldTour

    It was a wet day of racing at the Tour of China.
    Article published:
    March 30, 2012, 17:19 BST
    Cycling News

    McQuaid, Rumpf visit China to sign agreement

    UCI officials flew to China this week to help usher another Chinese stage race, the Tour of Hangzhou, into the WorldTour.

    Pat McQuaid, president of the UCI, and Alain Rumpf, director of the UCI's Global Cycling Promotion met with officials in Hangzhou to sign an agreement to launch the race, which is scheduled to follow the Tour of Beijing on the calendar.

    Deputy Mayor Chen Xiaoping, in the presence of the Secretary Huang and the Director of the Hangzhou Sports Bureau Zhao Rongfu, inked the agreement to support the event.

    “This agreement represents the first step in a new phase of our development strategy," Rumpf said. "After the Tour of Beijing, China offers us a second fantastic opportunity to promote the image of cycling in the world’s biggest country, and I am convinced that those in charge of this initiative are perfectly capable of meeting the other administrative deadlines necessary to obtain a place in the UCI WorldTour.”

    The five-stage event is set for the Wednesday through Sunday following the Tour of Beijing in Hangzhou, which is 200km southwest of Beijing.

    Rumpf and his crew did their first reconnaissance of the roads in the area. “The lay of the terrain will allow us to design a very interesting course, ideal for a high-level race wishing to become part of the UCI WorldTour,” said Rumpf.

    According to the regulations, the Tour of Hangzhou must now make a request for a UCI WorldTour licence, which will be examined by the Licences Commission.

  • Omega Pharma-QuickStep with “110 options” for Tour of Flanders

    Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) won Gent-Wevelgem for the third time in his career
    Article published:
    March 30, 2012, 18:41 BST
    Cycling News

    Belgian team could win with Boonen, Terpstra or Chavanel

    Wilfried Peeters of Omega Pharma-QuickStep has a luxury problem, with at least three riders on his team who might win the Tour of Flanders on Sunday. “We want as many riders in the finale as possible,” he told

    The team has a stunning 23 wins so far this season, with five of them coming in the last ten days. Niki Terpstra opened the streak by winning Dwars Door Vlaanderen, followed by Tom Boonen's wins in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem. Sylvain Chavanel topped things off by winning the closing time trial of the Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde to take the overall win.

    Chavanel had not been feeling well earlier, which affected his performance n Paris-Nice and kept him out of Milan-San Remo. His health problems “are completely behind him,” Peeters said.

    Boonen is going into Sunday's race as top favourite and team captain, but his teammates will also be very present. Peeters likes that. “I prefer a team that is strong in with.”

    How might the race go, and what will the team plan? “There are 110 scenarios for Sunday. I have something in mind and Saturday night we will sit around the table. We obviously want as many riders in the finals as possible and want to make no mistakes.

    "The course is also a factor. This is new for everyone," Peeters added. “"For now it is conjecture what the course will be like. Before, you knew: we take 50 (riders) to the Muur (van Geraardsbergen) and...

  • Boonen: I don't need to drop anyone in Tour of Flanders

    Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) at the pre-Flanders press conference in Kortrijk
    Article published:
    March 30, 2012, 20:44 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé and Laura Weislo

    Reborn Belgian has his sprint as a weapon

    It's a new Tom Boonen that walked into the overcrowded press conference at the Kennedy Hotel in Kortrijk, Belgium today - a Tom Boonen that has the confidence of not only winning two major events prior to Sunday's Tour of Flanders, but also a rider who has re-found his sprint and his spirit.

    With new E3 Prijs-Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem trophies shining on his mantle back home, Boonen is approaching a shot at a third Tour of Flanders title with confidence and caution.

    "You have to forget everything you've won before and try to race the best way you can," Boonen said. "It doesn't really matter how many races you have already won as it all depends on Sunday. We've got a good team which is ready to ride a good Ronde van Vlaanderen."

    Although he won Paris-Roubaix in 2009, it's been a long six years since Boonen's last success in Belgium's most important race, De Ronde, and he underscored just how much victory means here to a native son.

    "It's one of the two most important races of the season. I would really like to win," he said. "If you talk to the foreign guys they find it hard to understand why there’s that much attention, so much media coverage about one single race. It’s something that has been growing for the last hundred years. Every year it's a nice race."

    Yet in the race's nearly 100 year history, no course has veered so drastically from the usual point-to-point, and three challenging circuits ending in Oudenaarde will change the tactics and the efforts for the riders, but Boonen said every year is different, and the key is to be flexible in your strategy.

    "It can be a different style of racing every year on this course. If...

  • Video: Hincapie in line to set Tour of Flanders record

    George Hincapie (BMC)
    Article published:
    March 30, 2012, 22:41 BST
    Daniel Benson

    American Classics rider on verge of history

    His teammates are jokingly calling him Briek Schotte in training but George Hincapie knows that he has a serious chance of making history on Sunday if he finishes the Tour of Flanders. The American is currently tied with the late Schotte on 16 Ronde finishes and at his team’s press conference in Kortrijk, he played down the monumental achievement, only cracking a smile after team leader Philippe Gilbert stopped proceedings and called for a round of applause for the American.

    “It’s an honour to have been around the sport for so long and from the first day I turned professional I knew I had to work hard and I was super excited to sign my first pro contract and I’ve never taken it for granted since then and I’ve done everything I can for the sport,” Hincapie said.

    “There’s nothing harder than the Tour of Flanders. The first time I was super excited to be part of it. I still get goose bumps on the start line. It’s a real battle and there’s no other race like it on the calendar. Unless you do the Tour of Flanders people really can’t understand or appreciate how hard it is. So for me it’s just an honour to be part of the war and the battle so to speak. Hopefully we have a great success day on Sunday.”

    Hincapie’s race is a sub-plot to BMC’s overall race. With Gilbert and Hushovd seemingly lacking form, the responsibility for a result may rest on the shoulders of Alessandro Ballan and Greg Van Avermaet but Hincapie has racked up three top ten places in Flanders – two in the last two years – and his consistency could be BMC’s saving grace come Sunday. In a team stacked with superstars it could be their 38-year-old veteran who saves their blushes.

    “At the...

  • Video: Gilbert unsure ahead of Tour of Flanders

    Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team)
    Article published:
    March 31, 2012, 8:52 BST
    Barry Ryan

    No signs of form from Belgian champion thus far

    Twelve months ago, Philippe Gilbert was busy downplaying expectations ahead of the classics, but a year on, the Belgian champion is putting a brave face on his chances at the Tour of Flanders after a difficult beginning to life at BMC.

    Stricken by illness and dental problems in recent weeks, Gilbert has appeared a shadow of his former self thus far in 2012. Dropped as soon as the pace went up at E3 Harelbeke last Friday, Gilbert quickly abandoned, and he fared little better at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, rolling in a distant 39th.

    At the BMC pre-race press conference in Kortrijk on Friday, Gilbert acknowledged that his early-season form offered no indications of his possibilities for the Tour of Flanders. Whereas last year he entered the race bracketed among the favourites with Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen, this time around Gilbert insisted that he would be pleased simply to still be in contention come the finale.

    "I’m not in a situation where I can say I’m coming to finish in the top 10 or top 5 or the podium. I have nothing behind me to say something. It’s just difficult to know where I am now and what I can do," Gilbert said. "My biggest hope is to be there in the final and play with the best riders. It will already be something good for the confidence also.

    "I was not that good in Harelbeke and Wevelgem. I had a good week in training since, and I can only be better because I can’t be any worse than that. I can just be better but it’s hard for me to say if I can play with the best or not."

    Instead, Gilbert expressed the hope that he can recover his verve of 2011 by the time the Ardennes classics roll around later...

  • Cummings to return at Pais Vasco

    Steven Cummings in action at the 2011 road world championships
    Article published:
    March 31, 2012, 9:44 BST
    Cycling News

    Monday's race his first since broken pelvis

    BMC rider Steven Cummings will make his return to competitive action on Monday at Paris Vasco. The British rider has been sidelined since he was brought down in stage three of the Volta ao Algarve on February 17, a crash that resulted in a broken pelvis.

    The Volta ao Algarve had previously been a happy hunting ground for the 31-year-old from the Wirral, Merseyside, who came second in last season's Tour of Britain in the colours of Team Sky. In 2011 he led for much of the race in Portugal, up until the final time trial, and finished in seventh place overall. This year's edition was memorable for all the wrong reasons though.

    Now Cummings is ready to return to the road at Pais Vasco, which is known to English speaking cycling fans as the Tour of the Basque Country. The six-stage race is one of the oldest on the calendar, dating back to 1924, and received the go-ahead recently after concerns about the faltering Spanish economy. It is known for its tough mountain stages.

    "I think I'm at a level now where I can survive the race and do work for the team," Cummings said. "I was off the bike for three weeks and then the first week or so was very painful because the fracture was where I sat on the saddle."


  • Low-key build-up to Tour of Flanders for Team Sky

    Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) has a wealth of experience on Belgian roads.
    Article published:
    March 31, 2012, 10:48 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Flecha unsure what to expect after hand injury

    With the much anticipated Boonen-Cancellara duel occupying hearts and minds during Belgian cycling’s Holy Week, Team Sky has been one of a number of teams enjoying a quiet build-up to the Tour of Flanders. But with Bernhard Eisel, Juan Antonio Flecha and Edvald Boasson Hagen in its ranks, the British squad boasts a number of riders with the capacity to show themselves on the cobbles.

    Flecha was in fine form in February, finishing third at the Tour of Qatar and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but a broken hand sustained in training has kept him away from competitive action since. He makes his return on Sunday, and he admitted that he did not know what kind of performance he would be able to deliver in a race where he finished on the podium in 2008.

    “I just want to do the best I can,” Flecha said on Friday evening. “Of course I haven’t been racing for a while but there’s nothing more that I can do to try to be 100% for Sunday. That’s the only thing that I expect from myself.”

    A small pocket of journalists attended a rather sombre Sky press conference in Kortrijk, where Flecha was reticent to give anything away about the set-up of his team for De Ronde. “The tactics will be whatever the plan is,” he said. “I can’t tell you yet, because we haven’t done any team meeting yet, but whatever the DS asks me I will do.”

    Flecha was a little more expansive when asked about how much the team would miss Geraint Thomas in Flanders. The Welshman was one of the revelations of last year’s cobbled campaign, but he has opted to focus his attentions on the track world championships this spring, as he builds towards the...