- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 13:06
- Cycling News
Fuglsang riding pain free
Jakob Fuglsang can ride again without pain and, having missed the Giro d'Italia, has hopes of making the RadioShack-Nissan Tour de France team. Meanwhile, both he and Matti Breschel are both playing with the idea of returning to Team Saxo Bank in the coming season.
Fuglsang was to have been RadioShack's captain at the Giro d'Italia, but had to withdraw at the last minute due to knee problems. He has also recovered from the broken wrist which he suffered in the Volta a Catalunya the end of March.
“I have no problems with the knee. I still need to be careful, but don't feel anything from the injury, the damage, and no longer have problems with my hand,” he told sporten.dk. “I don't have full movement in the hand, but it's not a problem to ride the bike.”
The Tour de France is “probably” on his race calendar. “They are taking me to the training camp for the Tour stages, so I expect that I will ride the Tour,” he said. “But I must still have a certain level. I'm pretty sure I have that level, so if I can avoid more trouble this year, I feel confident I can ride the Tour.”
Return to Riis?
Both Fuglsang and Matti Breschel left Saxo Bank after the 2010 season, with the latter joining Rabobank. Now both Danish riders are contemplating a possible return to Bjarne Riis's team. While neither has had a top year so far, both could bring in much-needed points to the struggling Saxo Bank team.
“It could be an option, and it could be interesting, but right now there is no more to it,” Fuglsang said. “There is still a long way to go before there is a signature on a piece of paper.”
The team also admitted interest. “Of course Jacob as an interesting rider. He will be so to many teams, and it's great if he thinks that we are for him. But it is still a long way to agreeing to a deal,” said team spokesman Anders Damgaard.
Breschel had ridden with Riis's team since 2005 before leaving to lead Rabobank's Classics squad. Knee problems knocked him out of the 2011 spring season, and this year didn't go as hoped-for either, as his top result was third in Gent-Wevelgem.
“I have no contract for next year, and for Team Saxo Bank, I would say that anything is possible right now. But now we see,” he said.
He does have another option, however. “I will not worry about next year. Rabobank has announced they would like to extend with me.”
Riis would like to see the possible return of the 27-year-old. “He has proven himself. We think that Matti is an exciting rider and it's great if he thinks it might be interesting for him to return to the team. It is certainly a good starting point. But there is still a long way to go before an agreement is in place,” Riis said.
- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 15:20
- Cycling News
World time trial champion “optimistic”
World time trial champion Tony Martin of Germany is “very optimistic” after checking out the 2012 London Olympics time trial course. The 44km-long course is “not very technical,” he said.
“Technically not very challenging curves, good riding climbs and fast flat sections,” he commented on his personal website, saying the course “positively surprised me.”
The course is relatively straight “and the curves are good to ride. The few climbs are rolling, with the most difficult being about 700 meters long and with a maximum gradient of about five percent.
“After this course re-con, I am really optimistic.”
Martin, who rides for Omega Pharma-QuickStep, rode the course not on his time trial bike, but on the bike of the team doctor who has an apartment in London. “So I could only travel with carry-on and spared myself the bike bag and all that waiting.”
He was also happy to note that “physically I feel really good. I don't notice anything any more except for a bit of tingling in my jaw.”
Martin was struck by a car in training in April, suffering multiple facial fractures as well as fractures in his shoulder blade and upper arm. He was training again within a week, and racing again less than three weeks after the accident, finishing fourth in Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt on May 1.
“After the race in Frankfurt, my recover had a real boost. It was good that I got back on the bike again so quickly after the crash. That accelerated the healing. And it was also important for my motivation after the shock.”
- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 18:23
- Cycling News
Katusha rider predicts tough final week
Gatis Smukulis (Team Katusha) took a few minutes out before the start of stage 13 of the Giro d’Italia to talk to Cyclingnews about his team’s Giro and Joaquim Rodriguez's (Katusha Team) defence of the maglia rosa.
The Spaniard claimed pink on the road to Assisi on stage 10 and since then has kept a narrow lead over his challengers.
The Russian team appeared willing to relinquish the jersey on stage 12 when Sandy Casar (FDJ BigMat) became the virtual leader on the road. However Liquigas-Cannondale turned the screw, chasing hard enough to bring the jersey back onto Rodriguez’s shoulders.
In this exclusive interview Smukulis, who is riding with Rodriguez for the first season, talks about keeping the pink jersey, and whether the Spanish climber can win the race overall.
- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 20:34
- Jean-François Quénet
Italian expected to shine again on mountainous weekend stages
In the absence of exceptional champions or personalities riding for general classification at this year's Giro d'Italia, the revelation thus far has been Domenico Pozzovivo. The 29-year-old Colnago-CSF Inox rider is currently contesting his sixth corsa rosa, but only now has he been the focus of such media attention and scrutiny despite previous encouraging overall results in 2007 (17th) and 2008 (9th). It's not too late for his compatriots to know the numerous interests he has besides cycling though.
In addition to his climbing prowess on the bicycle, Pozzovivo has attracted perhaps even more attention for his myriad interests outside of cycling, such as meteorology, economics and politics. After stage 13 to Cervere, he was asked to play piano live on TV at the post-race show Processo alla Tappa. More interestingly for the Giro d'Italia itself, he's been questioned about the weather conditions for the coming two stages. He downplayed predictions that the peloton's foray into the mountains would be amidst horrible conditions.
"The latest forecast I've seen mentioned 5°C at the top of Cervinia," Pozzovivo said. "At 2,000 metres of altitude, even 2 or 3°C aren't bad." If his weather predictions come to fruition, Pozzovivo is optimistic about his chances for victory on stage 14 in the Valle d'Aosta.
At the start in Savona, his directeur sportif Roberto Reverberi told Cyclingnews: "I have no doubt that Pozzovivo is physically able to ride for the overall victory in this Giro d'Italia. It depends more on the conditions of racing that we'll face."
Pozzovivo, from Basilicata in the south of Italy, is currently 14th at 1.12 from race leader Joaquim Rodriguez and spoke about his chances to move up on general classification this coming weekend.
"Tomorrow is a much longer climb than Lago Laceno but it's a bit easier too," Pozzovivo told Cyclingnews: "I might try and do something to get further up in the general classification and I'll certainly have some thoughts about the stage win, but out of the two stages this weekend, the one on Sunday is better suited to me.
"To be honest, for now I'm still thinking about stage wins but on Sunday we'll take stock and see if it's worth hanging tough on all the stages and having a go for the general classification."
In his blog for Cyclingnews, Marco Pinotti described Pozzovivo as "the Colombian from Italy". He certainly has the capacity to ride everyone off his wheel in some of the coming climbs, but the second question mark over Pozzovivo is his ability to perform over three weeks.
"In the final week, I've always gone well, both when I finished 17th and when I came 9th," Pozzovivo said. "The losses I'd taken all beforehand were through crashes, flat stages and time trials. So I'm optimistic from that point of view, I'm certainly not afraid of the third week. The fact that I've already been on top form for over a month, since the Giro del Trentino, is a bit of a question mark, but I'm not concerned about coping with three weeks of racing."
For the first time, Pozzovivo puts his feet in the camp of the favorites. "I can see that Basso's form is on the up," he noted. "Already at the start of the Giro, Scarponi was quite advanced. We know Rodriguez always goes well in the opening weeks, but on the long climbs he might lose a bit. I also think Kreuziger is pedalling really well and doesn't seem under any strain."
- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 21:16
- Barry Ryan
Third stage win and increased points lead for world champion
Mark Cavendish (Sky) places great store on his reverence for the history of the Giro d'Italia, and when the world champion rattled off his third stage win in Cervere on Friday, the assumption was that he would join in one of the corsa rosa's most time-honoured traditions – the mass exodus of sprinters ahead of the race's entry into the high mountains.
But when Cavendish arrived in the press room after the finish, it was not to bid a coy farewell to the Giro, but rather to reiterate his desire to carry on until Milan. Indeed, in picking up the remaining points on offer at the intermediate sprint, Cavendish had already hinted that he wouldn't be scrambling for departures at Turin airport on Friday evening.
"When I came to this Giro, I planned 100 percent on going to Milan and I really planned on winning the maglia rossa," Cavendish said in Cervere. "Obviously with the crashes, the red jersey might be out the window but I still don't have plans to go home."
With Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) leaving the race on Friday evening, Cavendish holds a healthy 51-point lead over Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) in the points classification, though he has just one more chance to add to his tally, at Vedelago on Thursday.
Regardless of whether he holds red or not, however, Cavendish is keen to stay in the race and if he does so, there are murmurs that he may scratch the Tour de Suisse from his pre-Tour de France programme. "I'm feeling ok. Assuming I don't get eliminated by the time cut, I don't see myself going home just yet," he said.
Cavendish had a much-publicised brush with the time cut on the road to Porto Sant'Elpidio in the opening week, prompting speculation as to the true state of his form, but he pointed out that his heavy fall on stage 3 in Denmark had taken its toll.
"I came in with very good form and I could have got through the first weeks pretty relaxed, but after the big crash on the third day it really took me a while to recover," he said. "There were some hard days that I probably really would have been ok with if I hadn't crashed, but that really put me on the edge as my body wasn't great. Finally after a week I recovered and I'm getting a bit stronger now."
After a facing a series of technical finales during the opening two weeks of the Giro, Cavendish and the sprinters had as trouble free a run-in as one could imagine at Cervere, with a finishing straight some three kilometres in length. Nonetheless, Sky's lead-out was not quite pitch-perfect and they faced stiff competition from both Saxo Bank and Orica-GreenEdge, but Cavendish still managed to eke out the space he needed to launch his sprint.
"I had to rethink my calculations and wait for a gap to open," he said. "The team was really good and we got some more experience, but I think we can learn from today. To be fair we got out-led by GreenEdge, but I was lucky that Gossy opened the door. At first I thought he was just giving me a free sprint, but from the helicopter shot I saw that he was closing [Mark] Renshaw down."
Before his press conference drew to a close, a relaxed Cavendish also demonstrated a keen grasp on a more recent Giro tradition - Mario Cipollini's oft-repeated criticism of his weight. He smiled wryly as the question was put to him, and gently suggested in Italian that the Lion King start counting wins instead of kilos: "I won Milan-San Remo at 23 and the Worlds at 26, I've won twenty stages at the Tour de France and twelve stages here…"
- Article published:
- May 18, 2012, 23:19
- Barry Ryan
Basso's lieutenant expects GC battle on mountain finish
A perennial contender for best supporting actor, Sylwester Szmyd (Liquigas-Cannondale) has taken centre stage for much of a Giro d'Italia in which the water-carriers have been to the fore more often than the stars.
Ivan Basso's most faithful lieutenant has been a constant presence on the head of the peloton every time the road has gone uphill, protecting the interests of his leader. Allied to Paolo Tiralongo's attacks in support of his Astana captain Roman Kreuziger, there is a sense that to date, this has been very much a Giro dei gregari, with caution the order of the day among the main contenders.
"For now, it's a Giro where the leaders have been hiding a bit. We haven't really seen them attacking apart maybe from Purito Rodriguez, who won where he needed to win," Szmyd told Cyclingnews in Savona on Friday. "But then again the terrain hasn't really been there for the leaders to show themselves either, it's been short climbs and it's been their gregari who've been controlling things. Tomorrow everything changes."
After facing a smattering of shorter climbs in the Apennines during the opening ten days, Saturday sees the first bona fide mountain stage of the Giro d'Italia as the race enters the Alps on the road to Cervinia. The gradients are not quite as redoubtable as those to follow in the Dolomites, however, and Szmyd does not expect the status quo to be disrupted from too far out.
"There'll still be gregari on the front tomorrow and for longer than their leaders," he said. "I really don't think anyone will go on the penultimate climb tomorrow [the Col de Joux – ed], it will be the gregari who will pull there too. I'm expecting a bit a battle between the leaders on the last climb, but only in the last 3 or 4 kilometres."
Given Basso's lack of explosiveness, Liquigas-Cannondale have repeatedly looked to squeeze the life out of the peloton and discourage changes in pace on the sinuous, hilly stages they have encountered to date. Thursday's stage to Sestri Levante was a case in point, as the lime green squad seized the initiative to ensure there were no significant moves on the final climb of Villa Tassina, even though Katusha and Joaquim Rodriguez held the pink jersey and the theoretical burden of controlling the race.
"The climb wasn't hard but the descent was a tricky one and it's our job to protect Ivan and ride to his strengths," Szmyd said. "He's not a scattista, so it's up to us to keep the tempo high so the others can't attack. We felt it's better to take the race in hand ourselves. Even if it means doing a lot of work, so be it. We don't look to Katusha because they have pink, we're only thinking of our own job and then we'll see in Milan how it's gone."
Domenico Pozzovivo's solo victory at Lago Laceno was one of the few occasions in the Giro where Liquigas-Cannondale's stranglehold was broken, but while Szmyd acknowledged the ferocity of Pozzovivo's acceleration, he explained that his first priority was to maintain an even tempo for Basso and that the Colnago-CSF rider was not considered an immediate threat.
"At that moment it was good for us that somebody took away the bonuses on that finish, as Rodriguez and Scarponi could have picked time on Ivan, so we figured it was better to let Pozzovivo and [Benat] Intxausti take them," Szmyd said. "That was a bit our tactic, but at the same time, Pozzovivo went very well. I was already going hard, but he went really, really fast and it would have been tough to bring him back."
Basso had endured such a troubled build-up to the Giro that his very participation was in serious doubt until late April, but Szmyd is confident that his leader put things to rights during a lengthy spell at altitude at Mount Teide. "Even at Teide he wasn't very tranquillo, but then when we were sharing a room at Romandie, he told me that he was back on the right track," Szmyd said. "After 14 years as a pro, he knows when he's going well or not. And he feels really strong enough to win the Giro."
Thus, the tactic for Szmyd and Liquigas will remain one of containment at least until the Giro's final salvoes in the Dolomites, where their hope is that Basso's diesel-like qualities can come to the fore. "We believe that Ivan can win the Giro, and if he does, he'll win it at Alpe di Pampeago or even the Stelvio."
- Article published:
- May 19, 2012, 01:16
- Barry Ryan
Orica-GreenEdge sprinter takes aim at Tour and Olympics
Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) brought the curtain down on his Giro d’Italia with 6th place in the bunch sprint on stage 13, but the Australian leaves the race with his morale intact and with his sights set firmly on the Tour de France and London 2012 Olympics.
With just one possible sprint stage in the final week of racing, Goss is unlikely to be the only fast man to pull out of the Giro on the eve of its entry into the high mountains at Cervinia on Saturday. Speaking to Cyclingnews as he prepared to leave Cervere, Goss explained that his entire season has been centred around performing in July.
“I came into this season deliberating trying to be better from now through to the end of the Tour and the Olympic Games,” Goss said. “The programme from here is the Tour of Slovenia and then the Tour de France. Normally I’d do the Tour de Suisse, but I think it’s too much to do the Giro, Tour, Suisse and the Olympic Games, so I’ll really just take it easy now and recover.”
Goss arrived the Giro without a win to his name this season, but an early victory on stage three at Horsens served as something of a liberation. Although he didn’t add to his tally thereafter, the Tasmanian was encouraged by his consistency over the two weeks, twice finishing second to Mark Cavendish (Sky) and enjoying a spell in the red jersey of points leader.
“I was really happy to win the stage, both for myself and the team, because that was the goal coming in here,” he said. “I was a little disappointed to crash on stage 9 because that would have been another great opportunity to win a stage, but I’m still happy to come out of here some with consistent performances, apart from a couple of little crashes.”
Goss came a cropper on the final corner on stage 9, and he was still feeling the effects of that tumble in the sprint on Friday, even if he admitted that he didn’t have the necessary vim in his legs to match Cavendish at Cervere.
“I think my gluts were a little bit locked from those crashes in the past few days but I’m not making any excuses – those guys were just quicker than me today,” he said. “It just kind of slowed a little bit at the end of the lead-out and when I had to accelerate, I just didn’t have that pure punch that I needed.”
Goss will be hoping that such punch isn’t lacking when he lines up at the Olympic Games road race on July 28, particularly given that it comes just five days after the Tour de France draws to a close in Paris.
“The Olympic Games are going to be the same for most people,” he said. “It’s going to be trying to get recovered as quickly as possible from the Tour so you can race again. But in any case, I’m really going to focus on the Tour before that. I’ll look to be consistent, try and win some stages, and have a crack at the points jersey if I’m thereabouts.
“We came here to get the team working well for the Tour, and it definitely is I think, so I’m really looking forward to July now.”
- Giro d'Italia
- Article published:
- May 19, 2012, 02:02
- Pat Malach
Knee pain from earlier crash shrinks Dutch team
Rabobank suffered a blow to its GC hopes Friday at the Amgen Tour of California when persistent knee pain caused Laurens Ten Dam to abandon the stage to Big Bear before the second KOM about 40 miles into the race.
Ten Dam placed third during last year's stage to Mt. Baldy, which the riders will face again Saturday, and figured heavily into the team's plan to boost Robert Gesink into the race lead. Gesink is currently third overall, 39 seconds behind leader David Zabriske (Garmin-Barracuda).
Rabobank directeur sportif Adri Van Houwelingen said Ten Dam crashed during stage two, hitting his knee.
"[Ten Dam's knee pain] went up and down the previous days," Van Houwelingen. "Today it was too bad and he stopped. It may be more than one of eight that we lost today, because Laurens could have been really good in the final kilometers."
Gesink, who won California's Best Young Rider jersey in 2007, 2008 and 2009, rode into his current GC spot with a third-place finish at the stage 5 time trial in Bakersfield and is well-placed to leap into the lead on the steep slopes of Mt. Baldy. Now he'll have to do it without one of his main lieutenants in the mountains.
Luis Leon Sanchez, who recently won back-to-back stages in the Tour de Romandie will be available tomorrow, but Van Houwelingen said Gesink will have to grab the bull by the horns on Baldy if he wants to win the general classification.
"Today was a day to follow and not lose any time," Van Houwelingen said. "Tomorrow is a big day. I think the team was five riders in the front group today, so I think we will be able to bring [Gesink] in good position in the last kilometers. But in the final, Robert has to do it on his own, so we'll see what it brings."