- Article published:
- August 24, 2013, 17:25
- Peter Hymas
Former US pro champion crashed heavily just prior to Colorado
"Yesterday I got out of bed and I felt terrible," Ben King (RadioShack-Leopard) told Cyclingnews after finishing stage 5 at the USA Pro Challenge, a 16.1-mile mountain time trial in Vail, Colorado. "Before the race I was hit by a car so I'm happy just to be riding."
While the peloton is certainly feeling the effects of hard racing at altitudes not seen in any other professional race, King faced the extra burden of having crashed heavily in training four days prior to the seven-day stage race's start in Aspen.
"I was training and there was a car that just turned in front of me without signalling or anything," said King. "I had no outlet so I could either smash into the side of the car or go off the road. So I went completely off the road and looked for an escape route but the road was lined with boulders. I ended up slamming on the brakes, going over the handlebars and landed on my stomach on one of the boulders."
Just prior to the USA's other marquee stage race, the Amgen Tour of California in May, King also crashed and injured his hands to such an extent that he wasn't able to start.
"A lot of people, after I crashed out before California, said I'm two-for-two, what's going on man? It's not exactly true – I've done about 80 races this year and I crashed twice. My record is still pretty good it's just bad timing.”
"It gets better every day," King said of his injuries. "The directors probably would have called for a replacement but it was too late to fly someone over from Europe so we decided to just see what I could do.
"On stage 2, I had to help the guys pull a break back and that really hurt me but I'm not here just to survive. I don't need to prove that I can finish here in Colorado. If I'm in the race I'm going to be trying to help the team out and do my job as best I can."
Regarding the time trial on Friday, which started just above 8,000 ft. in elevation in Vail Village and ascended to the finish line about 9,500 ft. on Vail Pass, the Virginia native provided insight into the struggles of racing in rarefied air.
"Today I decided to start fast and see if I could keep it going," said the 24-year-old. "I had my minute-man in sight the whole way. I figured Danny Pate's a good time triallist so I kept the pressure on.
"It's amazing – I tried to accelerate and I think I missed out on a couple of places just in the last couple of hundred meters. I just exploded and was weaving across the finish line."
King's effort of 27:51.18 for the course put him in 44th for the day, 2:50 down on stage winner and USA Pro Challenge leader Tejay van Garderen.
"The altitude here is just unbelievable what it does to you. It's not my specialty. Utah is on a slightly lower level – not race-wise or competition-wise but altitude-wise – but this altitude is really something special. It's something different that we don't do anywhere else in the world.
"People ask a lot about racing in Europe but you don't do anything like this in Europe. The answer is definitely no – this is the only place in the world where I think you deal with altitudes like this."
Heading into the stage 5 time trial RadioShack Leopard's best-placed rider on general classification was the 23-year-old New Zealander George Bennett who held 13th overall. King's teammate Jens Voigt nearly pulled off his second stage win in as many years at the US Pro Challenge on Wednesday into Steamboat Springs, but the evergreen German's solo effort was neutralised just three kilometers from the finish.
"It's been a little disappointing but I think George [Bennett] still has a chance - we'll see how he goes in the time trial. He can score a top-10, maybe [Bennett moved into 8th overall after the time trial - ed.]. Jens is as always in the breakaway, mixing things up.
"I think we don't really have a chance anymore for the overall podium but tomorrow (Saturday) we'll see what we can do – go in breakaways."
For King, the USA Pro Challenge may be his last race of the season.
"I'm on the reserve list for the races in Canada and Beijing, but I'm possibly going to have my longest off-season in years. I'm going to think of something fun to do. I want to start my off-season, go mountain biking, stay fit and just enjoy it."
- Article published:
- August 24, 2013, 20:50
- Pat Malach
Trail-blazing American a VIP driver in Colorado
US Cycling Hall of Fame inductee Ron Kiefel is back in the thick of bike racing in Colorado, but this time he's behind the wheel of a car rather than driving his bike over the high mountain passes of the Centennial State.
The former pro – who rode for the pioneering 7-Eleven teams throughout the 1980s before joining Motorola, Coors Light and Saturn and then retiring after the 1995 season – is at the USA Pro Challenge this week piloting a VIP car in the race caravan.
The Denver native knows well the roads he's been negotiating; aside from training on them for most of his career, he raced every edition of the Coors Classic, the previous professional race in Colorado that ran from 1980 through 1988.
"I raced in all of them," Kiefel told Cyclingnews after the opening stage in Aspen. "The first Red Zinger I did was '79. And I did it all the way until '88, the year Davis [Phinney] won the overall, so I've seen it all."
Kiefel, 53, said aside from the shared roads and communities, the old Coors Classic doesn't compare with the three-year-old USA Pro Challenge.
"This event is much bigger in terms of sponsorship and media," Kiefel said. "And just in terms of the whole way the thing is put together it is much more professional. I think the budget is $10 million, and I think [Coors Classic promoter] Michael Aisner at the peak had 750,000 to one million. … So it's nice to see that this wasn't just another race at the Coors Classic level. It's the next step up. And their vision is bigger – to be like the US Open or the Kentucky Derby or the Indy 500. That's their vision."
Kiefel's own vision this week has been restricted to keeping his VIP passengers safe and entertained as he negotiates his way through the race caravan, but he has the advantage of years of peloton experience to help guide him through.
"It's just fun to get back into the sport and watch the riders do what they're doing," he said. "You're battling with team directors for position, talking with the clients, trying to drive and listening to the race radio. So there's a lot going on for us.
"As a cyclist you're just kind of used to always looking around," Kiefel said of caravan driving. "You have that peripheral vision, and you can see stuff happening and what's going on behind. That's why cyclists make good drivers, because they look all the way around and they anticipate a lot."
Kiefel's time competing in the peloton is marked by many historical firsts. As a rider on 7-Eleven, he was the first American to win a Grand Tour stage at the 1985 Giro d'Italia. He was part of the first US team at the Tour de France in 1985, and he claimed wins at one-day races Trofeo Laigueglia in 1985 and the Giro di Toscana in 1988. He also won stages at the Tour of Luxembourg and the Tour DuPont in 1992. He was inducted into the hall of fame in 2004.
Many things have changed in cycling since then, especially in the United States, where international cycling was in its relative infancy for US riders during the Coors Classic run. But one thing that hasn't changed is the attraction for European riders to cross the Atlantic to compete.
"I remember when we were in Hawaii the year we did the race there," Kiefel said. "The Italians laid by the pool all day, then they did the race. So for the European guys it was really about coming to the United States. And we didn't have all the internet and the television coverage, so unless someone was a real super fan, they didn't know these European riders very well, except for Bernard Hinault. So the European riders could come here and be anonymous and walk down the street without being hassled."
Five-time Tour de France champion Hinault came to the Coors Classic in 1986 following his Tour battle with Lemond, who earlier that year became the first American to win the overall at the French Grand Tour.
"Hinault really wanted to come to the United States, and LeMond talked to him a lot," Kiefel said. "LeMond kind of acquiesced so Hinault could win everything. Hinault rode really well, it's not like LeMond handed it to him, but it wasn't a death battle like they had in the Tour de France."
US cycling and its fans have come a long way since the years of LeMond, Hinault and 7-Eleven, and the USA pro Challenge reflects that evolution. While the Coors race had an abundance of American-style criteriums, the USA Pro Challenge is a more conventional stage race.
"This race now is much more European style with the longer circuits and the point-to-points," Kiefel said. "Whereas with the Coors Classic, Mike Aisner's vision was to bring as much of this bike racing to the crowd as possible, because you didn't have the helicopters, the airplanes, television or Tour Tracker and all that. You didn't have that, so the crowd just wanted to get there and see the race, walk around the course and hear the announcer."
US fans now know a lot more about the sport than they did when Kiefel was racing alongside riders such as Phinney, Andy Hampsten, Jeff Pierce and Roy Knickman.
"I really appreciate the fan base and the people who understand cycling now – certainly all the years with the Tour de France on television and the people coming over and the history," Kiefel said. "When we first started doing the Coors Classic, people didn't know what the word peloton meant, or breakaway or chase group."
Kiefel is still involved in the cycling industry when he's not driving the VIP car. His family owns a 30,000-square-foot bike shop in Denver called Wheat Ridge Cyclery. But the time he spends at the Colorado race puts him back in the spotlight, if only for a few days.
"This is so cool," he said. "There are people who are fans here who remember the Coors Classic and say, 'Oh, Ron, hey how are you doing? Good to see you.' But that was about 40 pounds ago that I was really fit and lean here."
But the biggest thrill for Kiefel is just seeing how well the race has been received and what a great postcard it has become for his native state.
"It really fits super well in Colorado," he said. "Plus, it's showcasing Colorado to more than 200 countries. I mean what kind of video imagery and pictures do they show that make people say, 'Oh, I need to get to Colorado.' You know, Switzerland or Colorado."
- Article published:
- August 24, 2013, 21:52
- Alasdair Fotheringham
Astana rider takes unexpected Vuelta lead
It’s now seven years since the last time Slovenia’s Janez Brajkovic (Astana) was an ephemeral leader of the Vuelta a Espana, taking it for just two days in the race’s first week before Italy’s Danilo Di Luca then took over in the top spot. Fast forward to 2013, and the 29-year-old recognised his spell in the race lead after the stage 1 team time trial will probably be equally brief, but he looked to be equally if not more happy at the prospect.
Brajkovic has had a tough year, crashing out in his biggest target of the season, the Tour de France, with a left knee injury in the first week, and he still has no contract for 2014. His spell in the lead in the Vuelta lead puts him back in the limelight in the nick of time. If he was in pain again at a Grand Tour in the Vuelta’s opening team time trial, this time, unlike July, Brajkovic said it was “the kind of pain you want to feel.”
“I wasn’t over the limit when it hurt, I was just on the limit, and for the first time this year I felt good, the kind of pain you like,” the 29-year-old, whose last win was in the Tour of Slovenia last season, said. Despite his strong Vuelta debut, he brushed aside any aspirations at gunning for the overall.
“[Teammate Vincenzo] Nibali is the number one favourite, and the one and only leader on this team,” he said. “I’ll be focussed on supporting him as best as I can even if I’m wearing this jersey tomorrow.
“I’ll pass it to him soon and hopefully he’ll wear it all the way to Madrid.”
The course, he said, was complicated by the strong tailwind “for around 60 percent of the route. It made for a very fast TTT and even when you drafted behind other riders, you couldn’t recover properly because you were going so fast. It was pretty hard.”
Astana, though, were able to complete the course with six riders, and a seventh, Alessandro Vanotti, only lost time in the closing kilometres.
On such a tough, tumultous team time trial course where several strong squads all but fell apart, Brajkovic said he had had no idea that he would end the day in the leader’s jersey.
“Getting the lead is like a dream, though, I was not expecting to win it, there were so many other strong squads here. But we did a really good job and I think we deserve it.”
- Article published:
- August 25, 2013, 02:08
- Cycling News
British newspaper "entirely happy" with final resolution
The Sunday Times reports that it has reached a settlement with Lance Armstrong.
In 2004, the British newspaper was forced to pay the now-banned cyclist £300,000 (368,000 euros) after elements of the allegations raised in David Walsh's co-authored book "L.A. Confidentiel" were printed in an article printed on June 13, 2004 and written by Alan English. The suit was settled out of court in 2006 after London's High Court ruled that the article "meant accusation of guilt and not simply reasonable grounds to suspect." The judge said that the article strongly implied that Armstrong had taken performance enhancing drugs, and that The Sunday Times would have had to defend that position if the case went to trial.
Last December, The Sunday Times announced it was suing Armstrong for up to 1.2 million euros, based on the original legal costs plus interest, after the American was formally stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, along with all results going back to 1998 as well as receiving a lifetime ban following the United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation into the Armstrong and his associates.
This week's edition runs a story whereby it says that the newspaper, Walsh and English had "reached a mutually acceptable final resolution to all claims against Lance Armstrong related to the 2012 High Court proceedings and are entirely happy with the agreed settlement, the terms of which remain confidential."
- legal case
- Lance Armstrong
- Article published:
- August 25, 2013, 03:32
- Cycling News
Lead defended as Cummings withdraws, another podium for Van Avermaet
American Tejay van Garderen remains overall leader of the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado with one stage left to race, but it wasn't all plain sailing for the BMC squad on Saturday.
Van Garderen and teammate Mathias Frank held on to their 1-2 on the general classification, with Garmin Sharp's Tom Danielson 12 seconds back on the Swiss rider, but BMC needed to be on their guard throughout the 185.4km sixth stage.
"The attacks were just going non-stop," van Garderen said. "For a lot of teams, this was kind of their last chance to try something. That made for a hard, fast race."
The team also lost the services of Stephen Cummings who was forced out of the race mid-stage, just a day after narrowly missing out on the podium for the individual time trial. The attacks which punctuated the stage, eventually won by Peter Sagan (Cannondale) proved too much for the trusted domestique in what was the final day in the mountains.
"I just couldn't breathe and my heart rate went super high and that was it," the Brit said. "It's frustrating really, I couldn't even stay in the bunch."
"It's frustrating, really," he continued. "You want to do your job."
Meantime, the remarkable run of from of Greg Van Avermaet continued with the Belgian securing his third top-five finish of the race, and his sixth podium in the US this month having previously competed at the Tour of Utah. Van Avermaet finished third in the sprint finish behind Sagan and second-placed Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano).
"I started my sprint at 200 meters to go," Van Avermaet said. "Sagan is a bit stronger and came over me. It's another good try, I think, and it's nice for me to be up there in the sprints. Plus, it has given me good motivation for the next races."
Van Avermaet said his main priority of the day was to assist van Garderen and Frank, ensuring the 15-man breakaway came back to the bunch.
"I tried to bring Tejay in a good and safe position to the finish," he said. "I think we did a really good job with the team. That was our first goal. Tejay is still in yellow without losing time."
- Article published:
- August 25, 2013, 05:13
- Cycling News
Up to a minute earned on key GC rivals
Vincenzo Nibali's bid for a second Vuelta a España title, after his first in 2010, received a slight advantage on Saturday after his Astana squad took out the opening stage Team Time Trial.
Nibali crossed the finish line as second rider behind teammate and first leader of the Spanish grand tour, Janez Brajkovic, earning the Italian 22 seconds of breathing space on the next best of his GC rivals, Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran from Sky. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is a further seven seconds in arrears with Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) at 32 seconds and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) nearly a minute off the pace.
"I don't know if I'm the favorite, but I'm happy to have taken some time from my rivals," Nibali told AS.
"Tomorrow is the first stage with a summit finish. The goal is to stay among the overall leaders."
The 28-year-old, who is also attempting to claim the Giro d'Italia, Vuelta double this season, preferred instead to shift the focus to the efforts of his Astana teammates following their victory.
"The team have been fantastic. It was a great time trial," he said, clearly happy. "We have remained united and have been strong from beginning to end. Jani [Brajkovic] has had very bad luck recently so it's fair to let the red jersey.
"I'm in very good condition. The Vuelta is a very hard and long race. There are very important stages to come so we have to go day-by-day."
- Article published:
- August 25, 2013, 09:43
- Pat Malach
Slovakian claims win number three in Colorado
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) sprang back from some mid-week illness to take his third win of the 2013 USA Pro Challenge on Saturday and his 17th win of the season.
The Slovakian national champion and winner of the green jersey at the Tour de France took stages 1 and 3 in Colorado earlier this week and then came down with a stomach bug before stage 4 from Steamboat Springs to Beaver Creek.
"On the fourth stage I didn't feel very good," Sagan said after winning stage 6 in Fort Collins. "I had some problems with my stomach, but I don't know why. Maybe I had a little bit of a cold for my tummy. I recovered yesterday during the time trial, and today I felt very good."
Sagan's team chased down two breakaways during stage 6 before the 23-year-old freelanced his way through the closing kilometers and beat Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) to the line.
Sagan started the Queen Stage on Thursday in third place overall, just 11 seconds behind leader Lachlan Morton of Garmin-Sharp. But after having to stop several times during the stage and struggling to the finish in 97th place, more than 16 minutes back, he dropped to 47th overall. He finished 53rd during the stage 5 Vail time trial, losing more than three minutes to stage winner and overall leader Tejay van Garderen (BMC).
But the rider who has staked his claim as one of the world's best sprinters was back on Saturday for his third win in Colorado, despite the fact that many other sprinters avoided the race. Even Sagan himself didn't think at the start of the week that he would have multiple opportunities to win.
"I am a little bit surprised, yes," he said. "I came here for maybe only being in the race to prepare for the [September World Tour races in] Quebec-Montreal. But now that I've won three stages, I'm very happy and a little surprised."
And Sagan has an even better chance of adding another stage win on the final day in Denver. Sunday's mostly flat stage is tailor-made for his fast finishing kick.
"I've won every one of the sprints here," Sagan said when asked about his chances for another stage win. "And tomorrow is not too long, only 100km, I think, no? So we'll see how my teammates feel and how I feel, and we can try also tomorrow."
Sagan will compete at the Tour of Alberta September 3-8 before the one-day races in Quebec and Montreal. Then he'll head to Florence, Italy for the world championships. Asked about his chances to win the rainbow jersey, Sagan threw the question back, saying, "Why not?"
"It's too difficult to say now whether I can win or not," he added later. "But I'd like to do well. I'm here to prepare for Quebec and Montreal, and after if I feel good I will go for the world championships, and we will see in the race. I don't know now."
- Article published:
- August 25, 2013, 10:25
- Alasdair Fotheringham
Tough first segment leads to long, draggy ascent to top
Following Saturday’s opening team time trial, Sunday’s first full road stage of the Vuelta a España kicks off with what is quite possibly the earliest ever appearance of a full-strength mountain top finish in a Grand Tour – and following the dramatic events of Saturday’s team time trial, the 11 kilometre Alto de Monte da Groba will surely see a second major sort-out in the race.
Located on the southern edge of Galicia, close to Portugal, the Alto de Monte da Groba has never been tackled before in the Vuelta. And for its debut, riders will approach it along a winding, very exposed coast road, which in turn means the peloton could have split apart before reaching the climb. And the flattish, well-surfaced and broad roads prior to a sharp right-hand turn leading onto the first slopes of the Groba make it likely they will approach the day’s big challenge at high speed with a ferocious fight to be close to the front.
The average gradient of the Groba, essentially a huge headland facing the Atlantic and rearing up over the coastal town of Baiona, is a comparatively low 5.6% and the whole climb is on smooth, recently tarmacked roads.
That’s the ‘good news’. However, its steepest segments are at the foot of the climb, most notably after a couple of kilometres where a daunting 15 percent ‘ramp’ around 300 metres long takes the race away from the outer suburbs of Baiona high above the city and into an area of dense eucalyptus and fir woods. What is usually already a difficult change of pace in a stage racing from flatlands to climbing, then, will be particularly painful for the riders in this case – and more liable, therefore, to see at least some big names go backwards.
The first real break in the series of steeply rising ‘steps’ comes after five kilometres, as the road passes – appropriately enough for a rest in the action – a cafeteria and a large, roughly tarmacked car park. It then eases into a gentler, but steady grind towards the summit, with broad bends and a slightly flatter segment with three kilometres to go. The views of the Atlantic coastline below through the trees are spectacular, but there is little else to see – no villages, not even a lone house or farm: in winter this road must be a very lonely place.
Around one kilometre to go, at a viewpoint known as O Cortellino, the road begins to kick up again towards the Groba summit, 630 metres above sea level, but only to around eight percent. Not as hard as the early part, but bearing in mind that it comes at the end of a tough climb, and given that there is nothing to provide shelter at the finish area from the strong coastal winds that tend to blast, day in and day out, over this climb’s upper slopes, the tougher gradient could see some gaps open up.
Given the mountain’s format (steep at first, flatter for most of the second half and then kicking up again) and with no classified climbs beforehand, Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) told Cyclingnews it is likely that 15 or 20 riders will be together close to the top.
However, it’s equally likely that one of the big favourites could use the steeper final slopes to gain a little extra time, not to mention a time bonus – 10, 6 and 4 seconds to the first three across the line – and send a clear message of strength to his rivals, right from the word go. After Astana’s strong team time trial on Saturday evening, there are a lot of riders out there with a point to prove, too.