- Article published:
- May 3, 2013, 21:45
- Alasdair Fotheringham
French champion seeks first Grand Tour stage win on Saturday
French national champion Nacer Bouhanni is aiming for what would be his first ever Grand Tour win in the Giro d'Italia's opening stage on Saturday, an urban circuit through Naples which looks all but certain to finish in a bunch sprint. Victory would of course net the 22-year-old the pink leader's jersey as well as his fifth win of the season.
In an uneven season so far, Bouhanni was consistently defeated by an all-conquering Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) in the Tour of Qatar before clinching a chaotic final stage of the Tour of Oman - where Cavendish did not race.
Things got even better when he returned to Europe. Bouhanni likes to box in the off-season and he was certainly punching above his weight in the opening stage of this year's Paris-Nice, which he won against riders as experienced as Alessandro Petacchi and as quick as Elia Viviani (Cannondale) - the latter also racing the Giro and another contender for Saturday's stage.
"Of course Cavendish is quick and the big favourite for tomorrow (Saturday) but I hope I can win a stage on this year's Giro," Bouhanni told Cyclingnews.
"I had a break after Amstel Gold and then I started building up for here, getting ready for this year's Giro."
He agrees that as a short, urban, flat stage with everybody fresh and keen to grab the pink jersey the bunch sprint - should it materialise - will likely be chaotic. "I can't say there's a particular type of sprint that I like, but it's going to be very nervous, 130 kilometres is very short so everybody's going to be up there. It's a shame that we can't check out the stage beforehand but as we'll be doing the circuit several times there'll be time to have a good look at the finishing kilometres."
Rather than acting as a lone sprinter and having to use other teams' lead-out trains. Bouhanni will have a strong degree of support, in any case, from his FDJ squad. "Laurent Pichon and Murilo Fischer will be my lead-out men and Anthony Roux and Johan Le Bon will be working in the last few kilometres."
Asked what his strongest point was as a sprinter, Bouhanni says it is - like Cavendish - his ‘jump‘ - an ability to produce an ultra-fast acceleration and change of pace. "But I don't really care if it is uphill or flat, either one suits me. So long as there's a sprint, I'll try to be there."
So far his only top three finish in a Grand Tour was second in stage 10 of the Vuelta last year behind John Degenkolb - who took five stages in total there - before abandoning. But on Saturday he will do his best to go one better.
- Article published:
- May 3, 2013, 23:01
- Barry Ryan
Australian primed for Naples start
Sprint opportunities are few and far between in the 2013 Giro d'Italia but Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge) is one of a number of fast men aiming to get off the mark with the opening pink jersey of the race in Naples on Saturday.
"It's going to be hectic and that's always the way when the first stage of the race is a road stage rather than a prologue," Goss said. "But I've got a really strong team here who could make a difference. In any case, it's one of the few flat stages in the race and we're definitely going to try win so we can take the jersey into the team time trial."
Most sprinters are glumly estimating just four or five guaranteed sprint finishes in this year's Giro but Goss's ability to survive climbs better than many of peers means that the Australian might have an additional chance or two to get a stage victory under his belt.
Stage 5 to Matera in the shadow of its famous Sassi, or caves, climbs sharply upwards in the finale and may see a number of the faster finishers jettisoned from the main peloton.
"It's hard to make the call now just looking at the profiles but there's a couple like stage five where I'll just have to push to the end and hope I can be up there in the front group and see what comes of it," Goss said. "There could be a couple of opportunities for me to pick up stage wins when maybe some of the other sprinters are out of contention."
Two of the best opportunities for the fast come in the final week of racing – stage 16 to Ivrea and the grand finale in Brescia on May 26. With no such carrot at the end of last year's Giro, Goss pulled out after two weeks in order to save himself for the Tour de France, but he said he was starting this Giro with the intention of finishing it.
"I'm here for the three weeks I think," Goss told Cyclingnews. "We'll see how it goes, it's something we'll assess as we go along. The Tour is obviously very important but at this point I think I'm going to do the full race. I'd say I'm 90 percent sure to finish the race."
By that late point in the race, of course, the sprint fraternity will doubtless be reduced in number, something which Goss believes is something of a double-edged sword. While the reduced opposition in theory increases his chances of winning, it also detracts from the peloton's motivation to reel in breakaways.
"If I've still got a couple of my lead-out guys with me in the final week, then for sure I'll keep going and make use of them," Goss said. "Some of the other sprinters might be gone home by then, too, so it's probably an opportunity to pick up a win, but then if I'm there by myself with no lead-out then there's probably not much point, especially if there aren't other sprinters left either."
- Giro d'Italia
- Article published:
- May 4, 2013, 00:38
- Barry Ryan
Italian looks to take first maglia rosa in Naples
With Mount Vesuvius shimmering through the haze across the bay, there could scarcely be a more fitting arena for the opening bunch sprint of the Giro d'Italia than the seafront finale at Via Caracciolo on Saturday.
Bunch finishes are at a premium in the Giro's modern era and with just four or five stages to the fast men's liking this year, stage one might be not so much a mass sprint as an eruption. Indeed, the aftershocks of one of last year's seismic early sprint exchanges are still being felt in the peloton.
On stage three in Horsens 12 months ago, Mark Cavendish crashed in the finishing straight after Roberto Ferrari switched lines dramatically in front of him. An angry Cavendish called for Ferrari to be thrown off the race and his humour scarcely improved when the Italian upset the applecart to beat him in Montecatini Terme the following week.
Now at Lampre-Merida after switching from Androni-Venezuela during the off-season, Ferrari is one of the men looking to deny Cavendish the honour of taking the first maglia rosa of the Giro in Naples on Saturday.
"What happened, happened," Ferrari told Cyclingnews, on the eve of the race, admitting that in spite of his overtures, he has not succeeded in building any bridges with Cavendish since.
"We talked but we didn't clear things up," Ferrari said. "We don't have a relationship at all, but I admire him as a rider and basta."
Given the paucity of opportunities for the pure sprinters in this year's Giro, Ferrari can envisage nothing other than a bunch finish on Saturday. "It's going to be a very fast stage because it's flat and it's also so short," he said.
"And then because there are so few chances for sprinters, it's going to be even harder again for a break to stay away. We sprinters have only got four or five chances and we've got to make every one count.
"It's going to be hard though. Obviously the main rival is going to be Cavendish but Orica-GreenEdge and Argos-Shimano will be trying to keep things together as well, so I hope I can do something."
Ferrari's Lampre stablemate Alessandro Petacchi surprised all and sundry by announcing his retirement the week before the Giro and then looking to make a rapid return in the colours of Cavendish's Omega Pharma-QuickStep squad. Ferrari had been given the nod for Lampre's Giro team ahead of the veteran, who had been slated to ride the Tour de France.
"It was a surprise to me and for the whole team too, I think. I'm sorry he's gone because we've lost a point of reference for the team and I just hope he's taken the right decision," Ferrari said diplomatically.
Cavendish's efforts to sign Petacchi as a lead-out man – and Petacchi revealed that he already made informal enquiries last season – are a clear sign that all is not flowing as smoothly in the Omega Pharma-QuickStep sprint train as the Manxman would like, even if his haul of seven wins so far this season has offset its significance.
"It's certainly harder for him to do sprints without a team and I think this is a weak point for him," Ferrari said. "So we'll try and take advantage of that too."
By contrast, Ferrari is left to his own devices in the sprints and outside of his five or so sprint opportunities, the Brescia native must spend his days sheltering team leader Michele Scarponi from the wind and piloting him through the peloton.
"I have to manage the sprints by myself but that's only right because we've got a team here to try and put Scarponi on the podium," Ferrari said. "I'm not concerned because I'm able to manage by myself in a sprint."
In the frenetic finale on Saturday, therefore, as the peloton careers along Via Partenope and then swings into the finishing straight at Via Caracciolo, Ferrari will flit from lead-out train to lead-out, searching for the wheel that might pull him to his first win of the season.
It's a solitary existence compared to the collective efforts in place for Cavendish, John Degenkolb, Matt Goss et al, but Ferrari shrugged his shoulders at the thought. "Ah, I get by," he said.
- Article published:
- May 4, 2013, 09:18
- Cycling News
Swiss team knew it would not be invited to Spain
The wildcard invitations to the Vuelta a Espana have left Team NetApp-Endura happy and IAM Cycling Team disappointed. Earlier this week race organizers announced that the three wildcards would go to NetApp, Cofidis and Caja Rural.
“The whole team is excited and can¹t wait to race the Vuelta," said NetApp team manager Ralph Denk. “The Vuelta is very demanding this year. But I think that is good. Because we have always had our biggest upsets when the challenges were particularly large. The team's development is simply enormous since the Giro last year. Therefore I am confident that we will justify the invitation to the Vuelta with a great performance.”
NetApp rode its first Grand Tour last year, tackling the Giro d'Italia. While the German Professional Continental team did not win any stages, it secured several top ten finishes, including two second-places. It merged with the British-based team Endura over the off-season, and has one win so far this season and took all three podium places in the Ronde van Drenthe.
“I appreciate that the organizers of the Vuelta invited a young team as we are. We are a new generation of successful riders who need to compete in the world¹s best races to further develop,” said Denk.
IAM Cycling -the new Swiss-based team, had hoped to take part in a Grand Tour in its first year, and was disappointed not to be invited to the Tour de France. The disappointment continued as it was also not invited to the Vuelta.
In a statement released Friday, the team said that it had already known about the Vuelta non-invitation. After the Tour wildcards were announced, “less than a week later, the organizers of the Vuelta à España warned the head of IAM Cycling that they had decided not to grant the request for an invitation which they had received as soon as the decision regarding IAM Cycling’s place in La Grande Boucle was known.”
Team founder Michel Thétaz was not happy with the lack of invitations. “Unsurprisingly the Vuelta chose NetApp as their final selection for the 2013 wild cards. However, the organizers have confirmed their interest in our team,” he said. “We were in contention for the final wild card. Preference, however, was given to NetApp. We acknowledge and respect the decision of the organizers."
“From our side, it should push us to exceed in all the races we will contest to prove to the organizers what our true sporting value really is. Of course, we are working to establish a program of races for the second part of the season, but are also making plans for 2014.”
IAM has two wins in its first season: Thomas Lövkvist won the Tour du Mediterranean and Matteo Pelucchi won a stage at the Tour de la Sarthe.
The Vuelta runs from August 24 to September 15, starting with a team time trial in Vilanova de Arousa and ending 3319 kilometers later in Madrid. The race includes only one individual time trial and 13 mountain stages.
- Article published:
- May 4, 2013, 11:29
- Cycling News
Italian sprinter back to his best after overcoming cocaine problems
The 2013 Giro d'Italia and the expected first sprint in Naples on Saturday afternoon will be an emotional moment for Italian sprinter Mattia Gavazzi, win or lose.
The 29-year-old Italian sprinter, the son of 1980 Milan-San Remo winner Pierino Gavazzi, has had a troubled career and life, testing positive twice for cocaine and struggling to overcome his problems with the drug.
Cycling has helped him and an offer from Gianni Savio and a place in the Androni Giocattoli team have allowed him to resurrect his career. If he wins the sprint on the Naples seafront, he will also pull on the pink jersey and become the first rider in Savio's team to ever wear the leader's jersey at the Giro d'Italia.
Gavazzi is a pure, explosive sprinter and one of the few riders able to take on Mark Cavendish in a sprint. And he has a real chance of winning stage one in Naples if he can time his sprint to perfection. Last weekend Gavazzi showed he is on form by winning the Giro della Toscana.
"I'm in the right place at the right time because I've never been as strong in my life," he told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Winning gave me a lot of confidence because I won the sprint after getting over two climbs. It was the best possible build-up for the Giro d'Italia. I've done everything I could and that only makes me feel more confident."
How to beat Cavendish
Gavazzi is convinced it is possible to beat Cavendish. He knows that position will be vital because he will also have to take on Matt Goss and his Orica-GreenEdge leadout train, as well as fellow Italians Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida).
"It's going to be a complicated, difficult, hard sprint," he said, showing the lack of fear every sprinter needs to win.
"It's not impossible to beat Cavendish. If I'm in the right place, I'm one of the few who can beat him. Perhaps I haven't got the quick reactions in a sprint that I once had but I can climb better and I'm sure I'm stronger. At the Tour de San Luis, my first race, other riders were coming past me left, right and centre but then I got things right. I'm not a dangerous sprinter but I'm also not afraid of anything."
Gavazzi also has the raw power needed to sprint and the ability to read an sprint and make instinctive decisions.
"Last week I set a new record: 1792 watts after a 198km training ride," he revealed.
"It's easy to say to follow Cavendish but I'll decide in the race. Ermeti will look after me until 2-3km to go and then I'll look after myself. I've got the legs to do it and when I get a sniff of the finish, I'll get everything out."
Gavazzi wants to wear the pink jersey and also wants to make it through the Giro to Brescia.
"The maglia rosa, even one, for a day, changes your life. It'd be incredible considering what I've been through," he said.
The Giro finishes in my home town of Brescia with a sprint and I'm willing to die to be there. I will be here. Once getting to Brescia was a dream, now it's an objective."
- Article published:
- May 4, 2013, 12:30
- Cycling News
Argos-Shimano looking to German sprinter in Giro debut
John Degenkolb has one clear goal at his first Giro d'Italia: to win at least one stage. The German sprinter is leading Team Argos-Shimano in its debut at the race, and he hopes to repeat his Grand Tour success from last year's Vuelta a Espana.
“If you look to results, then I think we have to name John,” said sport director Addy Engels in a team video. “He showed last year that he can win some stages in a Grand Tour and we have good guys to support him.”
Degenkolb, 24, won five stages at the 2013 Vuelta, his first Grand Tour, but is not putting pressure on himself at the Giro d'Italia.
“I think I will be really happy when we have achieved our goal to win a stage here and that's really one nice point which we can achieve. We have a team which can support me in a great way and they can totally help me to do a good result.”
Degenkolb has had a slow start to the season, with his best result so far being only a fourth place in the recent Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt, although he was also ninth in the Tour of Flanders.
“John hasn’t achieved the desired goals of the season yet, but with a top ten place in the Tour of Flanders we can’t complain,” Engels said. While Degenkolb is looking to the first stage and hoping to take the first maglia rosa, Engels is looking to later in the first week, “ with stages 3, 7 and 9. Maybe the 5th stage as well but that will be a very tough one and maybe one step too far.”
And if Degenkolb doesn't come through, the team has a back-up plan, with Slovenian Luka Mezgec. The 24-year-old is in his first ProTour year after three years at the Continental level. “If John isn’t able to sprint, he will take over the lead role and the team will work for him. Luka has made incredible progression this season. He comes from a small team and he develops quickly and fits perfectly into the team. With some top five results in Tour de Romandie – he is ready for his first Grand Tour," Engels said.
Both sprinters will be supported by Albert Timmer, Bert de Becker and Koen de Kort. “Albert is always of great value in the sprint train and has grand tour experience as he has already ridden the Tour and Vuelta,” according to Engels. He called de Kort a “key player” in Degenkolb's Vuelta succeses, and will be the lead-out man. De Becker “also has a clear role in the sprint train, but it is his first grand tour so we need to see how he reacts to this.”
The only remaining question is whether Degenkolb will stay in the race all the way to the finale in Brescia or whether he will abandon the race in light of his first Tour de France. “I think I'll be riding to the end, but we will see how it goes and how I feel,” he told radsport-news.com.
- Article published:
- May 4, 2013, 13:54
- Cycling News
Route details announced today
The organisers of the new Tour of Alberta have announced that Garmin-Sharp will compete in the race and intend to bring Canadian star Ryder Hesjedal to headline the team for the race, which takes place on September 3-8 and runs from Edmonton to Calgary. Hesjedal is currently in Italy, getting set to defend his title in the Giro d'Italia. He is the first Canadian Grand Tour winner in history.
The Alberta Peloton Association also unveiled the details of the full six-stage route, which will begin in Edmonton with a 7.3km prologue in the capital city.
Stage 1 will head out from Sherwood Park and take in 158km of the lake district before heading into Camrose for the finish. The second stage will be 175km long, heading from Devon through rolling farmland and into Red Deer for a finishing circuit with a short, sharp climb and fast downhill finish.
The third stage from Strathmore to Drumheller will be 169km in length, and finish in the shadow of the world's largest dinosaur fossil.
The 'queen stage' of the race takes place the next day, when racers tackle 200km between Black Diamond and Canmore on a route that includes a gradual 50km-long climb followed by another 50km descent to catch back on. The stage finishes on a climb to the Canmore Nordic Center where the real selection of the race will take place.
The final stage will take the peloton 132km from Okotoks to Calgary, and is expected to be a fast, sprint-friendly finale in the shadow of the Calgary Tower.
- Article published:
- May 4, 2013, 17:57
- Barry Ryan
Italian denied by Cavendish in Giro sprint
Elia Viviani didn’t put a pedal stroke out of place in Naples on Saturday afternoon but the young Italian had to yield to the law of the strongest at the end of stage one of the Giro d’Italia, as Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) prevailed in the sprint.
His Cannondale teammate Cameron Wurf spent much of a dog day afternoon off the front, allowing Viviani to sit in the wheels as QuickStep and Argos-Shimano went about the business of setting up the bunch finish. Then, on the final lap of the city centre circuit, Viviani was perfectly marshalled to the front, escaping the crash that split the peloton and ended the hopes of Mattia Gavazzi (Androni-Venezuela).
Viviani found himself well-positioned as the Arrivo banner drew closer on Via Carocciolo and the first maglia rosa of the Giro seemed almost to loom before him as he burst past Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEdge). But at the death, Cavendish nipped past to claim the glory, while Viviani must content himself with second place and the consolation prize of the white jersey of best young rider.
“In the team meeting this morning, I asked the ragazzi to bring me to the front early because I didn’t want to get bottled in and I think they did that for me perfectly,” Viviani said afterwards. “They did great work for me in the final kilometres and then it came down to a head-to-head against Cavendish, on a finish like that… I didn’t lose by much, but I lost. I just hope at least that I gave him a bit of a fright.”
In spite of the disappointment of missing out hitting the jackpot so early, Viviani was sanguine in defeat and generous in his praise of his conqueror. All things being equal, Viviani acknowledged, Cavendish is nigh on unbeatable in a finale like that in Naples.
“We know who he is, we know how many stages he’s won at the Tour and the Giro,” Viviani said. “I said it last week at the Tour of Romandie when he was saying he wasn’t on form – Cavendish is a champion and when he has an objective in mind he’s hard to beat. I can only hope that I manage to get over the mountains in this Giro a little better than he does and then maybe I might manage to beat him in a sprint or two.”
For all the plaudits Viviani received from his teammates on crossing the line, however, he is acutely aware that sprinting is a results a business. In spite of his consistency through the early months of the season, Viviani has yet to claim a victory in 2013. Nonetheless, he looked to strike an optimistic note as he headed off to clean up for the podium ceremony.
“Even though I haven’t won, I’ve always been up there so my morale is quite high,” Viviani said. “I’m missing the win alright and when you’re a sprinter that weighs on you quite a bit. But I set out this season aiming to be a factor in the big races. I was a protagonist at Paris-Nice and I’ve been a protagonist again today at the Giro. And the Giro is still long. There are twenty stages left and a few sprints where I can have a go.”