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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, April 20, 2014

Date published:
April 20, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • Rodriguez says Liège-Bastogne-Liège is number one goal of season

    Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) steps onto the stage to receive another Catalunya leader's jersey
    Article published:
    April 19, 2014, 17:54 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Katusha man delayed by three hours on flight to Belgium

    Second in last year’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège despite crashing out of Amstel Gold the Sunday before, 2012 Flèche Wallone winner Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) says he is in top form for the forthcoming Ardennes Classics.

    Rodriguez was not best pleased that his flight to Belgium out of Spain was delayed by three hours on Friday, however, but on arrival the recent winner of the Volta a Catalunya told the Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure that he was “in great shape” following a spell of training at altitude in the Canaries.

    “I’m expecting a lot from this part of the season, Liège is my number one goal of 2014,” Rodriguez added. “Of course a week earlier my form won’t be any worse, and if I can win Amstel, I will not let the occasion pass me by.”

    Rodriguez finished in second place at Amstel Gold Race in 2011, beaten by the on-form Philippe Gilbert as he was at Flèche Wallonne three days later. The Catalan claimed a maiden classic victory at Flèche Wallonne the following year, but was beaten by Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) in a thrilling finale at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last season.

    Rodriguez will be joined in Katusha’s line-up for Amstel Gold Race by Dani Moreno, winner of Flèche Wallone last year. Moreno was elevated to the role of team leader for that race following Rodriguez’s setback at Amstel last year, and the pair should again form a dangerous double act in the finale in Valkenburg on Sunday.

  • Lotto Belisol hoping to turn luck around at Amstel Gold Race

    Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) takes third place on the day
    Article published:
    April 19, 2014, 18:24 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Gallopin, Vanendert expected to turn out results

    After a cobbled classic campaign littered with bad luck and a lack of results, Lotto Belisol will be hoping to improve on their fragile but growing momentum in the Amstel Gold Race after Tony Gallopin finished third in De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne.

    The Belgian squad came into the Classics with high hopes with Andre Greipel, Jurgen Roetlands and new signing Gallopin looking to lead the line. However all three suffered crashes during the spring.

    "We had a lot of bad luck but now we enter a new phase of races with new riders and new chances," team manager Marc Sergeant told Cyclingnews on the eve of Amstel.

    "It started in Argentina when we lost Jelle Vanendert then we had Jurgen Van Den Broeck go down in Tirreno-Adriatico and open up his knee again. The most important was André Greipel who crashed in Gent-Wevelgem because he could have won that race.

    "Then Jurgen Roetlands crashed in Flanders. It's a long list and it's always been the top riders. Tony Gallopin, he also crashed twice as well but he survived and was third in Brabançonne despite having a puncture with 5km to go. That gives us a bit of hope."

    Sergeant will be looking for more than just hope from his team during the Ardennes races. The squad have not tasted victory in exactly a month and although Van Den Broeck is yet to regain his top form, Gallopin and Vanendert will be expected to return decent results.

    "From the riders we have Gallopin is the fastest and if he can make the lead group then I think he can end up with a top five in Amstel. The others in Vanendert and Van den Broek, Wellens, we have a few good ones, they...

  • Vos to work for teammate Van der Breggen at Fléche Wallonne

    2013 elite women's road race world championship podium (L-R): Emma Johansson, Marianne Vos and Rossella Ratto
    Article published:
    April 19, 2014, 19:40 BST
    Kirsten Frattini

    World champion kicks off her road season at the World Cup in Belgium

    World champion Marianne Vos announced that she will work for her Rabo/LivGiant teammate Anna van der Breggen at the next elite women’s World Cup, La Flèche Wallonne Féminine, even though she enters the race as the defending champion and has won it on five occasions.

    She is currently training in Spain ahead of the race scheduled for April 23 in Belgium, which will be her first road race of the season, and said on Twitter that she was prepared to work for her teammate. Van der Breggen placed 2nd at the World Cup opener Ronde van Drenthe, 4th at Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio and 6th at the Tour of Flanders.

    After the first three rounds, Van de Breggen is sitting in third place in the overall standings with 220 points, behind leader Elizabeth Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) with 320 points and Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) with 240 points.

    Vos has decided to reduce her annual racing schedule, which normally includes road, mountain bike and cyclo-cross disciplines, by removing some of the mountain bike events. Her less hectic season did, however, start with two wins in the mountain bike short track and cross country events at the Sea Otter Classic held from April 11-13 in California.

  • Astana stage multi-headed attack on Amstel Gold Race

    Astana's Enrico Gasparotto enjoys a winning beer after the 2012 Amstel Gold
    Article published:
    April 19, 2014, 20:47 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Gasparotto goes for second win in three years, whilst Nibali has freedom of action

    Amstel Gold Race 2012 winner Enrico Gasparotto will be part of a hydra-like multi-headed group of attackers on the Netherland’s premier Classic for the Astana squad, the team’s sports director Stefano Zanini told Cyclingnews on the eve of the race. As Zanini points out, Gasparotto is just one of several contenders in Astana who are capable of waging a strong battle for the Kazakh outfit.

    The winner himself of Amstel Gold in 1996, Zanini is convinced of Gasparotto’s chances, pointing out that he “has got the legs and the head and we’ve got a very strong team. Gasparotto, [Jakob] Fuglsang, [Vincenzo] Nibali and [Maxim] Iglinsky” - the winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2012 - are all possible candidates. BMC are very strong collectively, too, but we’ve definitely got our options.”

    Amstel Gold was in fact Gasparotto’s last win, back in 2012, but the 32-year-old has never been far off the mark in the one-day hilly Classics before or since. He finished ninth in Amstel last year as well as taking sixth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and fifth in the Tour of Lombardy. On the other side, time-wise, of his biggest Classic win in 2012, Gasparotto also took third in Amstel back in 2010 and in his earliest days as a pro with Liquigas he also netted a fourth and a seventh in the warm-up race for Amstel Gold, the mid-week Brabantse Pijl.

    Although the 2012 finish - which was much closer to the summit of the Cauberg than in 2013 or on Sunday - was better for Gasparotto, Zanini nonetheless feels that the change of route could well strengthen the hand of other Astana players. “We’ve got Bozic, too, who can handle that kind of finale very well.”

    The former...

  • Rebellin returns to Amstel Gold Race with a plan to win

    Davide Rebellin (CCC Polsat).
    Article published:
    April 19, 2014, 22:02 BST
    Cycling News

    CCC Polsat Polkowice offers Italian up to two more years

    Italian Davide Rebellin (CCC Polsat Polkowice) will take the start line at the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday for the first time since serving a two-year suspension that ended in 2011, and he aims to try to win it. The Polish pro continental team believes that his form is good enough for a podium, and in light of his strong performances this spring, it has extended an offer on his contract up to another two years.

    “I think he can make the podium,” CCC Polsat director Piotr Wadecki told L’Equipe on Friday. “He thinks victory. He’s motivated, he knows he can show his form, and he will play his last card.”

    Rebellin, born in 1971, will be the oldest rider in the peloton during this year’s Amstel Gold Race. He won the 2004 edition, along with La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, making him one of two riders in the peloton, alongside Philippe Gilbert (BMC), to have won the Ardennes classics triple crown.

    During this career, he has raced for Team Polti, Liquigas, Gerolsteiner and Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli. He tested positive for the blood-boosting drug CERA in a retroactive test about eight months after placing second during the 2008 Olympic road race in Beijing. He served a two-year suspension and returned to the peloton with Miche-Guerciotti followed by Meridiana-Kamen, and has been with CCC Polsat Polkowice since 2013.

    The Polish team received its first wildcard invitation to the Amstel Gold Race this year. "I'm still very motivated,” Rebellin said. “Yes,...

  • De Jongh predicts tough Amstel Gold defense for Kreuziger

    Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) was third overall in Tirreno-Adriatico
    Article published:
    April 19, 2014, 22:58 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Dutch directeur thankful for support from Tinkov

    After his storming ride in last year's Amstel Gold Race, it's unlikely that Roman Kreuziger will be given the same amount of leeway in this year's edition of the race. Twelve months ago the Tinkoff-Saxo rider broke clear with 17 kilometres to go, and was part of a group which caught solo leader Mikel Astarloza. He then slipped clear inside the final seven kilometres to take the biggest one-day win of his career.

    This year, Kreuziger has been an integral part in Alberto Contador's successful season but has still managed to earn himself fifth in Strade Bianche and third in Tirreno-Adriatico. He recently finished 17th overall in Pais Vasco where he helped Contador add to his growing pile of 2014 overall wins.

    "He's a bit tired from Pais Vasco, but it was a really hard race this year and a lot of riders are complaining. I don't think he'll be superb at the beginning of the race but towards the end I think his fitness will show and he'll be good," Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif Steven de Jongh told Cyclingnews on the eve of the race.

    "It's possible that he can win again. After what he did last year though it's going to be difficult because now the rest of the peloton know that if he attacks he can hold on. He's a danger so he'll be watched. That's not to say we don't have a game plan. I can't share everything but we won't be waiting for the final climb up the Cauberg."

    The new finish currently in use at Amstel sees the race finish less than a kilometre from the top of the final ascent of the Cauberg. It's an element that can draw out late attacks but gives those chasing from behind a glimmer of...

  • Moreno and Rodriguez return to 'Lucky Room 11' for Ardennes Classics

    Katusha teammates Dani Moreno and Joaquim Rodriguez
    Article published:
    April 20, 2014, 9:06 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Room in Piva’s hotel has had numerous former winners at Amstel, Flèche and Liège

    For years, BMC sports director Valerio Piva’s hotel near Liège has been a favourite location for teams to stay during the Ardennes Classics with one reason amongst the more superstitious for choosing it being that its ‘lucky room 11’ has had many winners of the three races as its guests.

    Room 11’s list of successful guests ranges from Dani Moreno last year in Flèche Wallone all the way back to Mario Cipollini in 2002, prior to triumphing in the Worlds at nearby Zolder, double Liège-Bastogne-Liège victor Michele Bartoli in the 1990s and fellow Italian Moreno Argentin, who won La Doyenne four times.

    Last year Moreno told Cyclingnews after winning Flèche Wallonne: “I’m not usually superstitious but I’m getting that way, I think we’re going to end up buying the room.” It’s perhaps not by chance, then, that with Katusha staying in the same hotel, he and ‘Purito’ Rodriguez are once again in room 11.

    After moving to BMC from Katusha as a director, Piva said “my team’s not staying there this year” – Katusha and Cannondale having opted to do so – “so it’s Moreno and Purito who’ve got the room again. Purito was in there in 2012, too, when he won Fleche.”

    However, Piva was uncertain if the room’s good luck would continue into 2014, speculating “We’ve had the room refurbished and repainted over the winter, so maybe the luck will have finally dried up now!” Come a week on Sunday, there will be a more definitive answer to his theory.

  • Schlecks line up for first major objective at Amstel Gold Race

    The Schleck brothers before the start
    Article published:
    April 20, 2014, 11:28 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Frank takes leadership role

    Once perennial contenders for the Ardennes and now ceaselessly asked if they can return to their ‘glory days’, the Schleck brothers lined up for one of their first major objectives for the season at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday morning in Maastricht.

    Older brother Fränk won here in 2006 and finished second two years later, while younger sibling Andy won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2009. However, not since Philippe Gilbert handed the pair a lesson in one-day racing in 2011 have the Luxembourg pair featured in the finale of an Ardennes race.

    Injury, illness and in Fränk’s case a positive test for the diuretic Xipamide in 2012 have hampered their careers. In fact you have to go back to 2011 to find the last time either rider stood on the top step of a race podium.

    This year Fränk has started the season in better form, picking up placings in a number of early season stage races. As a result he has been handed the leadership role at Trek for Amstel, with Andy pigeon-holed with greater responsibility for next week’s Liege.

    “I was working well and feeling better in Pais Vasco,” Andy told Cyclingnews at the start of Amstel.

    “I think I can make it to the finish today. I was training well over the last few weeks so I believe that if I don’t have a bad day I can be near the top. The final is different for me this year but that should make the race harder but we’ve done the training, we’re motivated so we’re hoping for the best. Until now it’s been about preparation but this is a major objective.”

    Frank pulled out of Pais Vasco on the final stage, citing tiredness and illness but appeared in more confident mood as he drew alongside his brother on the start line.

    “I had a hard time in...