Australian's 2015 Tinkoff-Saxo team bike
Winner of the 2015 Tour Down Under
New and old kicks and lids seen at WorldTour race
Wiggle Honda team bike of two-time World Champion
Women's Tour of Flanders is an initial barometer, says coach
With four spots up for grabs on the Team GB squad for the women's road race at the London 2012 Olympics this summer, tomorrow's Women's Tour of Flanders is set to provide a host of clues as to which women are making the early running to for selection. Five of the six riders who are looking to make the grade for the summer will be on the start line: AA Drink–leontien.nl teammates Lizzie Armitstead, Emma Pooley, Lucy Martin and Sharon Laws; and Faren Honda's Nicole Cooke.
Armitstead has enjoyed a successful start to the season by claiming victories at Omloop van het Hageland and Gent-Wevelgem and has described tomorrow's race as her main early season target. Relations between her and Cooke had not been the most cordial since their spat in the wake of Team GB's below-par showing at the 2011 road world championships in Copenhagen, but the women buried the hatchet at a training camp last month.
National coach Chris Newton is confident that the focus will be on the road this weekend and that although there is still months of work to be done ahead of the summer, tomorrow's race is important as a fact-finding exercise.
“The riders are coming through from their winter training and early season prep and going into the racing season," Newton said. "We won’t have everyone on song straight away which is understandable. To be fair what we want is everyone to be on song come July and it will be a bit of a wave pattern – some riders going better than others at certain times but it will eventually become a peak for July.
“I’m out there at Tour of Flanders this weekend to oversee the race and get a bit more...
British star to help fund sporting prospects on native Isle of Man
Great Britain's reigning world road race champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) used Thursday night's Isle of Man Sportsperson of the Year Awards to announce that he will be funding a new scholarship scheme to help the development of some of the island's brightest sporting prospects. Cavendish hails from the island off England's north west coast and he revealed that his own struggles were a motivating factor in his decision to start up the scheme, which will provide annual assistance for three youngsters.
"This island is great at producing sportspeople across all sports and the youngsters deserve the opportunity to get away and show it off," he said, after collecting his award for Sportsman of the Year for the eighth consecutive year.
"I love this island and I really love coming back here, but I know first-hand how difficult it can be to get off it every weekend - both financially and practically. I thought 'now I'm in a position to help people who are in the same position that I was in.'"
"Part of Mark's donation will be used each year to ensure we can send riders to British Cycling's regional school of racing and they will go as members of Cavendish Racing Isle of Man," said Geoff Karran, the island's chairman for sport. "This is a fantastic bequest and gives a fantastic opportunity to young cyclists."
1996 Tour of Flanders winner on new course
Michele Bartoli has voiced his disappointment at the absence of the Muur van Geraardsbergen from the route of this year’s edition of the Tour of Flanders. The Italian has found memories of the Muur, after soloing clear on its slopes to win De Ronde in 1996, but the legendary helling has been removed from the course as the race now finishes in Oudenaarde rather than in Meerbeke.
“It’s worse than taking the Poggio from Milan-San Remo,” Bartoli told Gazzetta dello Sport. “For me, the Muur is a piece of the history of the Tour of Flanders, it’s a huge loss. I mean, if I had attacked at another place [in 1996], it wouldn’t be remembered so readily now.”
While the Muur and the Bosberg have consigned to the history books, the finale of the race now features three ascensions of the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg. On paper, the new route is more difficult, but Bartoli pointed out that it would all depend on the approach of the riders.
“The Oude Kwaremont isn’t very hard, but it’s long and disjointed. It’s also a bit anomalous in that there’s a stretch of flat pavé afterwards that can hurt. The Paterberg is short but it goes up at 20%, a real wall,” he said. “I couldn’t say if Flanders will be harder because it depends on the riders, but at its key points, the roads are very narrow, and technical ability will be fundamental.”
Bartoli reckons positioning ahead of the first ascension of the Kwaremont with 70km to go could prove essential, but he was loathe to pick a favourite out of Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara. “It’s hard for Boonen to drop Cancellara, but the opposite could happen. Although if it doesn’t, then Tom would be at a real advantage in the sprint…”
Blow for Rabobank on eve of race
Pre-race favourite Marianne Vos will not be present on the start line at tomorrow's Women's Tour of Flanders after falling ill, her Rabobank team hasconfirmed. Vos will be replaced in her team's ranks by Germany's Sarah Duster, and the 2008 Olympic gold medallist faces a race against time to be fit for the Energiewacht Tour, which starts on Wednesday. Earlier in the year she celebrated an incredible fourth consecutive cyclo-cross world championship and had made a pleasing start to the road season by winning the Ronde van Drenthe and the Trofeo Alfredo Binda.
“It’s really unfortunate for Marianne,” said Rabobank sporting director Jeroen Blijlevens. “The Tour of Flanders was one of her biggest targets of the spring. We hope that she is fit again soon.”
Blijlevens can take comfort in the fact that in spite of the absence of Vos his team are still blessed with lots of talent at their disposal for tomorrow's race, including France's rising star Pauline Ferrand Prevot and Annemiek van Vleuten and Tatiana Antoshina - who finished first and second at Flanders last year. They are set for an intriguing battle on the cobbles tomorrow with AA Drink–leontien.nl, whose lineup includes the in-form Lizzie Armitstead.
The contenders line up in Bruges
Christmas Day in Flanders was how Fabian Cancellara coined it, and there certainly was festive feel to the city of Bruges as the Tour of Flanders got underway from the city’s picturesque Markt square on Sunday morning.
The threatened rain had held off at least for the start of the race and huge crowds gathered to cheer on their favourites for De Ronde. As ever, there were swarms of fans milling around the Omega Pharma-QuickStep bus, and Tom Boonen was raucously cheered all the way through the cobbled streets of Bruges as he rode to sign on.
The Belgian is flanked in his team by Sylvain Chavanel and Niki Terpstra, and the feeling is that the battle between the collective might of Omega Pharma-QuickStep and the individual force of Cancellara will dictate the way in which the race unfolds. Among those hoping to take advantage of any stalemate between those heavyweights are Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) and double champion Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil-DCM).
With a new finish town at Oudenaarde, and a challenge new course that includes three ascensions of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, the Tour of Flanders is a race pregnant with possibility. Fresh from victory at the Three Days of De Panne, Chavanel was insistent that Boonen was the real leader at Omega Pharma-QuickStep, and he was reluctant to give anything away when asked if he might try and go clear on the Kwaremont. “Why not?” he smiled.
As the riders departed Bruges, faint sunshine was slowly lifting the early morning chill. The first climb is the Taaienberg after 109km, and the riders must cross 15 more hellingen and potentially face some light showers before the winner is crowned in...
BMC veteran and Garmin rider race Belgian Classic
George Hincapie (BMC) and Heinrich Haussller both lined up for the start of the 2012 Tour of Flanders in Bruges on Sunday morning. The veteran American could set a record for the number of Flanders finishes if he crosses the line today. Currently tied on 16, one more Ronde would see him set yet another record in his illustrious career.
Haussler, 10 years Hincapie’s junior, lines-up as part of a strong Garmin-Barracuda team. Like Hincapie he has podiumed in Flanders but without top form he finds himself in a support role for Sep Vanmarcke.
In theses exclusive videos for Cyclingnews, Hincapie and Haussler talk on the Flanders start line about this aspirations for today’s race.
UCI unfairly kept him from competing for six months
A Belgian court has ordered the UCI to pay Iljo Keisse 100,000 euros for unjustly prohibiting him from racing. It is only the latest step in a long and complicated legal case for Keisse, now with Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
Keisse tested positive at the Six Days of Gent in November 2008, and the Belgian federation banned him for two years. The federation lifted that ban at the end of 2009 and he resumed racing. The UCI appealed that decision, and the CAS overturned it, confirming that Keisse was to sit out his entire ban. He was allowed to ride in all areas other than Belgium as of August 2011, but was only allowed to ride in Belgium again as of January 27, 2012.
The Belgian court has now ruled that the UCI unfairly prohibited Keisse from riding from December 2010 through May 2011. He will also be allowed to retain the second place finish in the Rotterdam Six Day race from January 2011.
Updated: RadioShack favourite breaks collarbone in feed zone crash
Fabian Cancellara has crashed out of the 2012 Tour of Flanders, hitting the pavement at the feed zone. Much of the RadioShack-Nissan team waited on its captain, who lay a long time on the road, before taking off. Cancellara was moving and did not appear to have lost consciousness.
The team confirmed that the four-time World time trial champion had suffered a "triple fracture of the right collarbone." He will travel immediately to Basel, Switzerland, for surgery.