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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, April 21, 2013

Date published:
April 21, 2013, 09:00
  • Porte says five different Sky options in Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Richie Porte (Sky) finished off the hard work from his team
    Article published:
    April 20, 2013, 09:58
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Expects Katusha to play a key role on Sunday

    Sky's Richie Porte says his team will have up to five different options for Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, and that the team will be aiming "at least to be on the podium."

    Speaking to a small group of journalists, the Paris-Nice winner said that "most of the teams will want to control and ride on the front on Sunday, we're just one of many teams that are going to be going for that."

    "Katusha and those sort of teams will take their role, guys like [Joaquím] Rodriguez and [Fleche Wallonne winner] Dani Moreno, those guys are totally suited to these climbs, but Chris Froome and Rigoberto [Urán] are good at that sort of thing too."

    Although Bradley Wiggins was also due to be taking part in Liège-Bastogne-Liège for Sky but is not now present, Porte says they won't be lacking "strength in numbers. Realistically we've got five strong guys who would be the outright leader in any other teams." Amongst them will be "Sergio [Henao, second in Fleche Wallonne] is in great form. With guys like that we shoujld be closer to winning or at least be on the podium."

    Making his debut in Liège-Bastogne-Liège after a first-time ride in Fleche Wallonne, Porte says he was perhaps "not really prepared for the amount of stress and the fight there was in the bunch at Fleche Wallonne. I'm guessing Liège is going to be much the same. What I've learned is that you don't come here the first time and win it. Usually the seasoned guys wins, guys that know every climb and every turn."

    Porte has not done any specific training for La Doyenne's 11 classified climbs, but Sky's Ardennes riders (with the exception of Chris Froome, arriving Saturday) have done a reconnaissance of the LBL climbs, riding the final 80 kilometers on Friday. And as Porte points out, the Vuelta al País Vasco, where he finished second, had a "lot of short sharp climbs and here it's not too different. I didn't have an ideal run-in, I got a bit sick after Pais Vasco but I think 90 percent of the peloton did."

    And with his podium finish there in the Pais Vasco and a classy stage win on the toughest day, the road-stage into Beasain held in freezing cold, rainy weather, Porte has more than proved that he should be totally at home on Ardennes-like climbs. This Sunday may well provide a reconfirmation of that.


  • La Flèche Wallonne to start in Bastogne in 2014

    The Fleche Wallonne bunch hits the Mur de Huy
    Article published:
    April 20, 2013, 11:03
    Cycling News

    Mur de Huy to continue to host finale

    Next year's La Flèche Wallonne will depart from Bastogne in the province of Luxemburg in the Ardennes region of Belgium.

    André Gilles, President of the Province of Liège and Amaury Sports Organisation's Christian Prudhomme made the announcement on Friday evening.

    The 77 editions of Flèche Wallonne have seen various starting points including Tournai, Mons, Charleroi, Liège, Verviers, Huy and Spa.

    The move to Bastogne is significant with the 100th edition of Liège-Bastogne- Liège to follow.

    Meantime, it was also announced that Flèche Wallonne will continue to have its finale on the Mur de Huy until 2018 with the ASO's agreement with the city of Huy extended.


  • Wiggins' gear problems cost him dear at the Giro del Trentino

    An unhappy Bradley Wiggins (Sky) after a mechanical
    Article published:
    April 20, 2013, 12:36
    Stephen Farrand

    Team Sky left to rue compact chainset complexities

    Team Sky had enjoyed a successful Giro del Trentino until a mechanical problem mid-way up the climb to the finish in Sega di Ala robbed Bradley Wiggins of any chance of overall victory.

    The British team won the team time trial, the second TTT win in the history of the team, and a road stage with Kanstantin Siutsou. Wiggins and all the team looked strong and well-drilled, with the Giro d'Italia weeks away.

    Everything changed and their chances of overall victory disappeared when Wiggins' gears let him down.

    The Tour de France winner was chasing Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on the climb when his gears seemed to slip and spin out. He was using a compact Shimano SRM chainset and a lowest gear of 36x28. For some reason the gears refused to work perfectly.

    Wiggins eventually finished ninth on the stage, 1:39 behind winner and Giro d'Italia rival Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). He finished the four-day race in fifth place, 1:40 down on Nibali.

    When his gears refused to work, Wiggins climbed off his Pinarello bike and pushed it away in anger, letting it fall against a wall. He was quickly given his spare bike by the Team Sky mechanic but the race had disappeared up the road. He chased hard and closed the gap to the leaders even though Nibali was in full flow with a teammate and then with Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia). However victory had gone.

    Wiggins fought his way to the finish but a further technical issue slowed him: his spare bike was fitted with a 39 chain ring, leaving him over geared on the steepest part of the climb.

    Cyclingnews studied both of Wiggins' bikes to understand what happened. His spare bike was fitted with a new FC-9000 Dura Ace Di2 chainset, while his race bike, the one which failed, was fitted with an older SRM Dura Ace SRM chainset. Team Sky staff were vague about why Wiggins' spare bike was fitted with a 39 inner ring.

    No comment from Wiggins

    Wiggins was naturally angry after crossing the finish line. He continued to ride up the road to the team bus, dissipating some of his anger on the road.

    After spending 20 minutes on the bus, Wiggins refused to speak to the handful of waiting journalists. The team positioned a getaway car close to the front of the bus and Wiggins jumped in quickly, refusing to talk as if he was running from the paparazzi.

    His teammates and team staff were left to do the explaining.

    "He had a problem on the first climb and as everyone saw, another one on the last climb. I haven't seen the bike and been able to find the problem but it was his gears," directeur sportif Marcus Ljungqvist said.

    "When you change bikes you lose your rhythm. Brad did a great job fighting his way up there. But you can't give anything to guys like Nibali on such a tough climb like that. We didn’t expect them to wait."

    "Looking at the big picture, it's all looking good for the Giro d'Italia, that's the main thing."

    Siutsou waited for Wiggins but could do little to help his team leader.

    "We perhaps paid for all the work we did at altitude and I didn't have a great day either. He changed bikes and I waited for him to give him a hand but he went past me at twice my speed," the Belarus rider said.

    "After he changed bikes, he didn’t have the right gear. He was close to getting back on but then there were the really hard parts of the climb and Nibali was able to spin a lower gear and save his legs."

  • Rodriguez: Improving fast for Liege-Bastogne-Liege

    Purito Rodríguez with his prizes for second
    Article published:
    April 20, 2013, 14:09
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Katusha leader’s injury all but resolved

    Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez says he is confident of a top result at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and that his Amstel Gold injury - very heavy bruising on his upper thigh from a crash - that left him slightly on the backfoot on Wednesday’s Fleche Wallonne is barely an issue now.

    “The pressure on the team to get a result has lowered anyway, we’ve got a really good win already this week after Dani [Moreno] took Fleche Wallonne but I’m really motivated to try and get a good result here,” Rodriguez, second in the 2009 Liege-Bastogne-Liege behind Andy Schleck, said at Saturday’s team presentation.

    “I’ve always worked well with Dani” - his room-mate and friend as well as team-mate - “and although he’s taken a big step forward at Fleche that’s not going to change.”

    His injury, he says, “is much better but not 100 percent recovered, the bruise has come out and we’ve done the whole 100 kilometres reconnaissance of the last part of Liege” - from just after the Cote de Wanne, immediately before the Stockeu, the first really difficult Liege climb - “without any problems.”

    “With the weather being so much better and the change of climb” - Roche aux Faucons has been replaced by the Cote de Colonster - “it’s going to be a very fast race. That new ascent is not half as hard as the Roche aux Faucons.”

    However, Rodriguez refuses to automatically accept the very popular idea that there will definitely be 50 riders in the front group at the foot of the Cote de Saint Nicolas as a result of the route change.

    “You can’t say that, this is Liege-Bastogne-Liege, it’s a very hard race and anything can happen. There are a lot of people out there who like to make predictions about bike races, but most of the time they’re wrong.”


  • Contador: New climb makes Liège-Bastogne-Liège a very different race

    Alberto Contador just didn't have good legs today.
    Article published:
    April 20, 2013, 15:00
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    "El Pistolero" with good morale for last race before break

    Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) says that even if he is feeling a little tired after the end of a long first block of racing in the 2013 season, the atmosphere of a major Classic like Liège-Bastogne-Liège will be a big boost to his morale on Sunday, his last race before taking a break.

    "These kinds of Classics always have a great atmosphere to them," he told Cyclingnews as he waited to go up onstage at the team presentation on Saturday in Liège, "and that always improves the way you feel about racing here."

    "I may not be in top condition because it's been a very intense start to the year and I'm right at the end of that period now. But tomorrow [Sunday] is my last day of racing prior to taking a break and then starting to build up for the Tour and so I will give it 100 percent and try to go out from this first part of the season on a high note."

    As Contador - whose previous Liège-Bastogne-Liège, in 2010, netted him a tenth place - has said before, the change of route, with the replacement of the Roche aux Faucons with the Cote de Colonster, is not one that suits him at all.

    "It's not a climb that really is not going to be that significant, teams can easily get organised to work hard there to pull back breaks and it's going to make for a very different kind of race as a result. And in my own personal case, it's a route that's far worse for me than what we had previously," he told Cyclingnews.

    Contador finished 33rd in La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday after easing back at the foot of the Mur de Huy. His best performance in a one-day race this year has been third in the Klasika Primavera in the Basque Country.

  • Weening: No Faucons gives the breakaway a better chance at Liège

    Pieter Weening represented Orica-GreenEdge in the attacks
    Article published:
    April 20, 2013, 16:05
    Jane Aubrey

    Dutchman on form heading into Giro d’Italia

    A catalyst for the race-winning break at Amstel Gold, Pieter Weening (Orica GreenEdge) sees similarities in the bookends of the Ardennes Classics due to the removal of the Roche aux Faucons for tomorrow's Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

    Formerly on the podium at the under-23 edition of Liège, Weening has been building into top form over the last two months, all with an eye to the Giro d'Italia, a little under a fortnight away. Weening finished second overall at the Tour de Langkawi and then finished sixth on GC at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco prior to his top-10 finish at the Amstel Gold Race.

    The 32-year-old Dutchman will be part of the three-pronged attack for the Orica GreenEdge outfit that also boasts Simon Gerrans and Michael Albasini.

    "Tomorrow will be my last race before the Giro," Weening confirmed. "It's a nice race and I'll try and get a result but it's also good training at 260km so it's good preparation for the Giro. Hopefully I can keep this shape until the Giro."

    The Faucons has been replaced by the Cote de Colonster at 17 kilometres to go and while not as difficult as its forebear, Weening is willing to bet that with the element of the unknown it gives any breakaway added hope.

    "The finish of Amstel Gold Race was a little bit different than before and that gave guys in the breakaway more opportunity to win that race," he explained. "Tomorrow that can happen here but we'll have to wait and see what happens because this final is different.

    "Normally for the win it will be decided on the last climb but there's a lot of hard racing before also. It depends on how the weather is, how the wind is and how they're going to race the last 100km."

    Making the most of May

    In 2012, a knee injury led to a slow start to Weening's season and instead of making a return to the Giro where the year before he had worn the maglia rosa for four days, he raced the Tour of California. There, he finished 10th overall off the back of a strong performance on Mount Baldy but admits it wasn't quite the same. 

    "It's a long one but for me normally, May is a good month and I hope to be good this year again," Weening told Cyclingnews.

    Along with sprinter, Matt Goss, Weening must be considered as a genuine chance for a stage win over the course of the three-week event, especially given his form - if it can be maintained. Something that he admits requires a fine balance.

    "I'll do my own small sort of training camp and I'll also do recovery from the Ardennes," Weening explained. "So there's not much time in between and I'll try to be well recovered so there's not too much training but I won't be too relaxed. I try to do a bit of everything. The focus is still to be fresh for the Giro."

  • Gallery: Liege-Bastogne-Liege teams presentation

    Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)
    Article published:
    April 20, 2013, 17:15
    Cycling News

    Contador, Nibali and Rodriguez headline

    On Saturday the Palais Provincial in Liege became the central point of the cycling world with some of the best riders in the world arriving for the teams' presentation of Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

    Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali, Joaquim Rodriguez, Ryder Hesjedal and last year's winner Maxim Iglinskiy all took part in the festivities but with less than 24 hours to go until the start of the final Classic of the spring, the excitement was already rising.

    For many teams Liege-Bastogne-Liege represents a last chance saloon for their Classics aspirations. Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Sky and BMC all have a point to prove after missing out on a major Classics win, while Belgium has had a disappointing campaign all-round with their two brightest stars in Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert coming up short.

    The latter has one more chance to break his 2013 duck but just like in Fleche Wallonne earlier in the week the world champion will be a marked man.

    With a predictively significant course change inside the final third of the race and no single clear favourite for the race, Liege-Bastogne-Liege could be the most open Classic of the season so far.


  • Nibali tackles Liège with sky-high morale after Trentino victory

    Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on the podium
    Article published:
    April 21, 2013, 07:58
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    2012 La Doyenne runner-up now riding with former rivals

    For many fans, Vincenzo Nibali's 20 kilometre breakaway in the 2012 Liège-Bastogne-Liège was the high point of the race. The 27-year-old's long distance move, very similar to Andy Schleck's lone attack in 2009, looked all but certain to succeed and it provided an attractive change to the typically decisive (and more predictable) battles on the Saint Nicolas.

    However, his gamble did not pay off. Instead the Italian was caught by Maxim Iglinskiy on the final part of the last interminable ascent towards Ans, and had to settle for second instead. Behind him, 2012 Amstel Gold Race winner Enrico Gasparotto took third.

    This time round there is no risk of the Shark of Messina being sandwiched between two Astana riders like in 2012. Instead all three 2012 LBL podium finishers are racing for the same Kazakh squad and Nibali, fresh from a classy win on the Sega di Ala mountain top finish at the Giro di Trentino, is one of the three Astana contenders in what could well be Liège-Bastogne-Liège's strongest team. There is also the fact that the last Giro di Trentino winner who then went on to take Liège-Bastogne-Liège was Alexandre Vinokourov in 2010, a long-time stalwart of the Astana squad and now the team's general manager. Nibali, for one, will be hoping history will repeat itself.

    "Trentino has only just finished and I've got to switch my focus fast, but I'm ready to do so," Nibali told reporters on Saturday. "The length of the course and the type of the climbs there are here suits me very well. That said there are a lot of Classics specialists who have trained really hard here just for these races so I can't expect things to work out well just like that."

    That said, the 2010 Vuelta winner is enjoying one of his best seasons to date, with a repeat victory in Tirreno-Adriatico and a strong performance in the Giro di Trentino more than making up for his non-appearance in the top end of the Classics classifications so far.

    "Maybe Trentino was my least expected win, not like Tirreno. Trentino I was going well, but there was that time loss on the first day;" - when a breakaway took six minutes. "But it was a big objective for me and to win after such a complicated start to the race was very important. Sega di Ala was a really hard climb, and there were a lot of big names there"- amongst them Bradley Wiggins, whom Nibali described as "a really tough contender."

    As for Liège, where Iglinskiy took the biggest win of his career last year, Astana sports director Stefano Zanini told La Derniere Heure on Saturday that "they [Nibali and Iglinskiy] are friends now, that's racing. One day somebody's your enemy in the race, the next they're your teammate."

    "Iglinskiy is in great shape, both he and Gasparotto will be protected riders as well in our team. So that makes for a very solid team. Of course Philippe Gilbert (BMC) is the big favourite. But I see one of our riders fighting for the victory."