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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, April 22, 2012

Date published:
April 22, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • Gallery: Liège-Bastogne-Liège teams presentation

    Dan Martin (Garmin-Barracuda) stays dry
    Article published:
    April 21, 2012, 15:19 BST
    Cycling News

    Gallery: Liège-Bastogne-Liège teams presentation

    The final spring classic Liège-Bastogne-Liège, brings down the curtain on a campaign that has seen excitement, intrigue and surprises, but unlike the Omega Pharma-QuickStep shut out during the cobbles, the Ardennes have been far more open affairs.

    Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) got the ball rolling with a shock win in Amstel Gold Race, while Joaquim Rodriguez captured his first classic with a typically explosive attack in La Fleche Wallonne.

    Liège offers a number of riders the chance to salvage their campaigns, and whether through their own poor form or Omega Pharma’s domination on the cobbles, there are a number of riders with something to prove in Liège.

    Defending champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) is the biggest headline act who has failed to sparkle this spring. His improving form was evident at Fleche and the Belgian will be looking to close out with a win. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was expected to challenge throughout the Ardennes but so far the Spaniard has failed to reactivate the pre-doping ban form that marked him out as one of the most lethal riders on this terrain. On Saturday, 24 hours before the race depart, the riders and teams gathered at the Palais Provincial in Liege for the routine of the teams presentation. There were frequent overhead showers - as expected for Sunday's race too - but that didn't dampen the spirits of the crowds, who once again turned out to see their favourites on show.

  • Guardini builds for Giro d'Italia debut in Turkey

    Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia)
    Article published:
    April 21, 2012, 17:40 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Italian sprinter gets ready for May 5

    Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) will fine-tune his preparations for his debut Giro d’Italia by riding the Presidential Tour of Turkey, which gets underway in Alanya on Sunday.

    Directeur sportif Luca Scinto has set his team the lofty goal of racking up three stage victories at this year’s Giro d’Italia, but Guardini was coy about divulging how many of those wins he himself might contribute in the sprints.

    “The priority is to win one, and then we can talk after that,” Guardini told Cyclingnews recently.

    The 22-year-old Italian is perhaps the most eagerly awaited debutant at this year’s Giro after he clocked up no fewer than 11 races in his first season as a professional in 2011. Scinto resisted the clamour for Guardini to be thrown into the deep end at the Giro last year, citing the lack of opportunities for sprinters.

    That decision was vindicated by the fact that there were ultimately just three pure bunch finishes at last year’s race, but the more humane 2012 route should offer Guardini and the sprinters plenty of opportunities to shine.

    “Certainly the idea is to get to the first week of the Giro d’Italia very strong because there are a lot of stages that could finish in bunch sprints,” said Guardini. “Beyond that, I’m certainly not starting off with the idea of pulling out somewhere along the line, and I’ll keep going as far as I can.”

    One certainty about Guardini’s Giro debut is that Mario Cipollini will not be lining up as his lead-out man. The erstwhile Lion King’s purported return to professional cycling has unsurprisingly lost momentum in recent weeks, and Guardini was diplomatic when asked what he...

  • Scarponi testing Giro d'Italia legs in Liège

    Michele Scarponi (Lampre)
    Article published:
    April 21, 2012, 18:28 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Italian supporting Cunego at La Doyenne

    The presence of Michele Scarponi in the Lampre-ISD line-up for Liège-Bastogne-Liège didn’t garner too much attention but the Italian is present in the Ardennes with the aim of testing his legs ahead of the Giro d’Italia. In two weeks’ time, Scarponi will start the 2012 edition of the Italian Grand Tour on May 5 in the Danish town of Herning as the defending champion, after Alberto Contador’s 2011 results following his positive test at the 2010 Tour de France were stricken from the record.

    In Liège, Scarponi will try to help his in-form teammate Damiano Cunego to the win, and the latter showcased his condition during the week by winning a stage at the Giro del Trentino.

    “I’m not in my best form yet but of course I’ll do the best I can,” Scarponi said. “Damiano showed that his legs are really good. On Sunday, he’ll be our team leader and I’ll think he’ll do a great job.”

    Scarponi has participated in La Doyenne three times during his career, often coming close to the win. Back in 2003, Scarponi rode for the Domina Vacanze – Elitron team and he finished fourth during his debut, right behind illustrious names like winner Tyler Hamilton, Iban Mayo and Michael Boogerd. The following year, Scarponi finished seventh in the large group that sprinted for fifth place. Davide Rebellin won the race that day thus completing his triple domination in the Ardennes week.

    In 2007, however, his Acqua & Sapone - Caffè Mokambo team wasn’t allowed to race Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and a little later, Scarponi admitted to the Italian Olympic Committee that he was “Zapatero” and “Il Presidente”

  • Kroon argues for changes to WorldTour points system

    Karsten Kroon (Saxo Bank)
    Article published:
    April 21, 2012, 19:10 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Current system benefits richer teams

    Saxo Bank's Karsten Kroon has added weight to team boss Bjarne Riis's desire to see elements of the UCI WorldTour points system change. Last week Riis said that he disagreed with the UCI's rule that any points brought in by a rider returning from a doping-related suspension will not count for his team for two years. His team currently sits at the bottom of the WorldTour ranking after losing over two thirds of their points due to the suspension of Alberto Contador.

    Kroon did not comment on the situation with Contador, but he did criticise the format of the points system, which he sees only helps the richest prosper. The team is currently last in the UCI's point list, in 18th place with 32 points. Seventeenth-ranked FDJ-Big Mat has 72 points, while leading team Omega Pharma-QuickStep has 547 points.

    "Of course it's an issue within the team," Kroon said when asked about his teams WorldTour plight.

    "We've not been doing very well this year and in the end if you look at the system, if you don't have a rider at a world class level at the moment, it's very hard to get some points to finish within the first 10 in these big races. And unfortunately at the moment there's nobody within the team that has that level. It's very hard for us to score more WorldTour points," he told Cyclingnews.

    Kroon, 36, has raced through various UCI schemes, from the World Cup, to the ProTour and the latest evolution, the WorldTour.

    "The whole situation with the WorldTour has changed the way of racing. I think a lot of riders would rather go for a third or fourth than try to go for the win. For me, personally, the win is more important, but of...

  • Gesink on track for Tour de France

    Robert Gesink (Rabobank) has not reached his top form yet this season
    Article published:
    April 21, 2012, 20:57 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Dutchman to support Mollema at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Robert Gesink (Rabobank) has yet to reach the form that carried him to top six places at both the Tour de France and Vuelta a España but the Dutchman is confident that his beefed-up race programme will set him straight before this year’s Tour de France.

    Gesink will close out his spring campaign at Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday, and despite a mediocre showing in the Ardennes, he's still pleased with how his season has developed. Having broken his leg in a training crash towards the end of last season, there's certainly room for optimism, both for a strong showing in Liège and for the Tour de France in July.

    "My form is getting better and better but I've noticed that it's still a bit early to have great expectations. I'm getting there and I'm happy with it at the moment but my top level is still not high enough to compete with the best, but it's only been few months since I could walk again. So for now everyone is happy with how it goes but it's still early," he told Cyclingnews.

    Rabobank will be led by Bauke Mollema on Sunday but Gesink will be hoping to last the pace, and protect the team's leader for as long as possible.

    "I think Mollema is in good shape at the moment so he's a guy from the team we can expect in the final. My form wasn't enough in Amstel, it was a bit better in Flèche so I hope to be better again in Liège but I don't know what I can do or where I can be in the race tomorrow. Maybe I can help out a bit and be there in the final."

    The Tour de France is still Gesink's major objective for the season. He was sixth in 2010 but a series of crashes ruled him out of competing at the highest...

  • Chavanel leads Omega Pharma - Quick Step at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Sylvain Chavanel has had a long spring campaign
    Article published:
    April 21, 2012, 21:47 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Frenchman modest about chances in "La Doyenne"

    For Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma - Quick Step), the Spring Classics season is coming to a close with Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. The French champion leads his Belgian team in La Doyenne although his ambitions for the one-day race are modest.

    Against in-form men like Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) and local hero Philippe Gilbert (BMC), the Frenchman feels like he doesn't stand a chance on the decisive climbs.

    "I'll try to anticipate in the race. We'll see how the legs are on Sunday, but I realize that the peak of form is behind me," Chavanel said on Saturday. "I'm at the start and am motivated to do well but without high ambitions. I hope to have fun."

    The Frenchman rode the Spring Classics season with mixed results. He captured the win in the Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde and completed the one-two in Dwars door Vlaanderen when teammate Niki Terpstra won the semi-Classic. In Paris-Nice, he once again captured a top-10 result in the general classification while the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix resulted in wins for teammate Tom Boonen. Last week, he finished on a distant 37th place in the Amstel Gold Race.

  • Video: Andy Schleck wants Kim Andersen at the Tour

    Johan Bruyneel will attempt to work the oracle with Andy Schleck in 2012.
    Article published:
    April 21, 2012, 22:51 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Has Bruyneel made the right choice in pulling Andersen from team car?

    “I have full faith in Johan to make the right decisions.” These are the words Andy Schleck used to describe the delicate situation involving mentor and sports director Kim Andersen, who has been left out of RadioShack-Nissan’s management team for the Tour de France.

    Friday’s news that Andersen would hand over the keys to the RadioShack-Nissan team car in July came as quite a shock to many but in reality it may have been on the cards for some time, with team boss Johan Bruyneel seemingly intent on breaking the Schleck brothers from the comfort zones they’ve occupied in previous seasons.

    Andersen has played a pivotal role in the brothers’ careers, helping them to podium places in the Tour de France as well as setting up the Leopard-Trek team around them in 2011.

    But Bruyneel’s latest tactic can be traced to the team’s presentation in January, where he hinted at the possibility of sending older brother Frank to the Giro d’Italia, before utilising him as a super domestique at the Tour de France for Andy.

    Perhaps Bruyneel simply wanted to spur the Schlecks on, perhaps he’s still unsure about his best Tour de France line up, or perhaps he genuinely thinks he can win the Giro with Frank before attempting a Tour bid with Andy?  Either way it remains to be seen whether the manoeuvring of Andersen will pay off.

    In this exclusive interview for Cyclingnews, Andy Schleck talks about his current form, his progress before the Tour de France and his thoughts on Kim Andersen at the Tour de France.

  • Joaquim Rodriguez extends with Katusha through 2013

    2012 La Flèche Wallonne champion Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
    Article published:
    April 22, 2012, 9:52 BST
    Cycling News

    Fleche Wallonne winner looks to Liege-Bastogne-Liege

    Joaquim Rodriguez goes into Liege-Bastogne-Liege bolstered by his new contract with Team Katusha. The team announced on Friday that it has extended its contract with the winner of the Fleche Wallonne by one year, though 2013.

    “I feel very comfortable within Katusha and The Russian Global Cycling Project. The team gives me its support and the opportunities to realize my dreams as a rider,” Rodriguez said on the team website. 

    “I´m very happy and I´m really looking forward to continuing our common future: in this team I´m held in high esteem, I proved my qualities as a leader so it was natural to continue this relation.That gives me even more motivations in order to do something great on Sunday, for Liege-Bastogne-Liege: it´s definitely my favorite race, even more than World Championships or big stage races.”

    The Ardennes Classics have always been “the season's climax” to him since his childhood, he said. This year he finally achieved his goal of winning one of the races, and is eager to repeat that feat.

    “Before winning Fleche Wallonne I was a little nervous, because I´ve never won a great Classic race: but now I feel more calm and comfortable. We´re getting ready to the event in the best possible way, so on Sunday we´ll play our part in order to take this double.”

    General manager Hans-Michael Holczer called him “one of the best riders in the world and plays an important role for Katusha and the whole Project. Therefore, it is good for both sides to provide the early foundations for the future.”