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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, February 17, 2013

Date published:
February 17, 2013, 0:00 GMT
  • Sciandri looking forward to coaching Italian national team

    Fabio Baldato and Max Sciandri are part of BMC's management.
    Article published:
    February 16, 2013, 13:23 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Bettini takes on position of general technical director at Italian federation

    Although the Italian federation has yet to formally confirm him in the role, Max Sciandri has said that he is looking forward to taking over as coach of the Italian national team.

    The previous incumbent, Paolo Bettini, has already signalled that he will assume the new position of general technical director at the federation, and he publicly recommended Sciandri to take over as coach to the elite men’s team, or commissario tecnico, in January.

    “It still has to be confirmed officially but I can’t wait to start the new project,” Sciandri told Radio Sportiva. “I’ve already been coach with the British national team, and that was a role that helped me to grow and it added to my professional experience for the future.”

    Sciandri is currently a directeur sportif with BMC and he explained that he will continue in that role until the Giro d’Italia, before devoting himself to his duties with the Italian national team.

    “I won’t be a part-time manager, my role will be full-time and I will always be present at the races,” he said. “I expect an intense programme up to the Giro with the team and then I can focus my energies on everything. In any case, I will always be at races and I think that can be an advantage when it comes to evaluating the condition of the riders.”

    The squadra azzurra, traditionally the point of reference at world championships, endured disappointing outings at Copenhagen and Valkenburg in 2011 and 2012, but Sciandri said that there is plenty of talent at his disposal.

    “We’re not lacking in raw material in Italy. However, there are riders who need international experience in big tours or classics...

  • Phinney ends Oman on a high

    Taylor Phinney (Team BMC) made his 2013 race debut in Qatar
    Article published:
    February 16, 2013, 15:00 GMT
    By:
    Stephen Farrand

    BMC rider building for the cobbled Classics and the Giro

    Taylor Phinney ended the Tour of Oman on a high note, taking third in the final sprint and helping the BMC Racing Team to win the overall team prize of the race.

    The 22-year-old American rode both the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman, chasing stage victories and more importantly, a fat base of form and race miles to use as a foundation for his assault on the spring Classics.

    "If you do both Qatar and Oman, it’s a kind of mini-Grand Tour because there are only two days between the two races. It's good racing, hot weather, great hotels and so you can't ask for much more," Phinney told Cyclingnews after collecting the team prize and a special Oman khanjar dagger as a trophy.

    "It was a better sprint for me this time because the circuits were not so straightforward – there was a little climb in it. I also got great help, especially from one of the best domestiques in the world: Michi Schär, in the last couple laps. And Brent [Bookwalter] was up there helping me out on his birthday. I'm happy to come away from Oman with some decent results and a good team atmosphere. Now the really important stuff starts."

    Phinney played a key part in BMC's victory in the team time trial stage at the Tour of Qatar but picked the first stage of the race as his best day of two weeks of productive racing.

    "It was really windy but I always made the front group. Unfortunately the attacks didn’t come off and there wasn't a big selection but Brent won and so it was a good day," he said.

    "Throughout both races I've felt I'm a lot further forward than where I was last year....

  • Kenny Elissonde: the next French pure climber

    Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) took the white jersey.
    Article published:
    February 16, 2013, 20:40 GMT
    By:
    Stephen Farrand

    FDJ rider impresses in Oman as a new generation emerges

    Early season races often throw up surprises and the revelation of this year's Tour of Oman was without a doubt French pure climber Kenny Elissonde of FDJ.

    The 21-year-old is in his second season with FDJ and showed his potential by finishing sixth on the mountain stage to Green Mountain. He went on to win the best young rider's white jersey and finished eighth overall, 1:19 behind overall winner Chris Froome (Team Sky) but only 15 seconds down on Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). He was also 13th overall at the Tour Down Under.

    Elissonde weighs just 52kg and the smallest white jersey the race organisers could find was at least two sizes too big. He is a pure climber but has also done well against the clock in Under 23 races, suggesting he could one day develop into a Tour de France contender. His 2011 victory at the Ronde de l’Isard stage race in the Pyrenees, ahead of George Bennett (Radioshack-Leopard) and Joe Dombrowski (Team Sky), is concrete proof of his potential.

    Omega Pharma-Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere tried to sign him for 2012 but Elissonde opted to join FDJ after a spell as a stagiaire. He is coached by Julien Pinot, the bother of Thibaut Pinot, who finished 10th overall and won two stages at last year's Tour de France.

    "I like it when the climbs are steep and hard. I prefer long climbs too, but the climb to Green Mountain was superb," he told Cyclingnews.

    "I was on the right wheel at the start of the climb, with five kilometres to go and then realised I could climb with the leaders. It's impressive to ride with riders like Contador, Evans, Nibali and Froome....

  • Hushovd earns first win at BMC in Tour du Haut Var

    Thor Hushovd (BMC)
    Article published:
    February 16, 2013, 22:00 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Norwegian grateful to team for their support during frustrating 2012 season

    Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing Team) ended a frustrating victory drought today with a win in the opening stage of the Tour du Haut Var. The 35-year-old Norwegian had not stood on the top step of the podium since September 14, 2011, where he won stage 4 at the Tour of Britain.

    Much was made of the 2010 world champion's move to BMC in 2012, but a virus and muscle inflammation kept Hushovd sidelined for the bulk of the season in which he totalled just 28 race days. His best result of 2012 was a fifth place finish in stage 7 at Paris-Nice in a season which came to a conclusion in mid-July when we was unable to finish the Tour of Poland.

    Having now scored his first victory in BMC colours, Hushovd breathes a sigh of relief in what he hopes is a harbinger of better days ahead for his 2013 campaign.

    "This is really big because last year was frustrating and mentally hard," Hushovd said. "I didn't know what was wrong and to say no to the Tour de France, the Olympics and the Worlds and not do anything for the team was not a good feeling. So I have been very grateful to the team the whole time for supporting me."

    Hushovd had already notched a pair of top-10 finishes in field sprints this season, and a strong lead-out from his BMC teammates put the Norwegian in perfect position in the 152.7km stage's finale.

    "The whole team was supporting me well in the end and on the last lap they were riding hard to bring a couple of riders back," said Hushovd. "Daniel Oss and Manuel Quinziato brought me to the front with 200 meters to go and then [Tom-Jelte] Slagter tried to jump me in the end, but I still had a last gear to respond."

    While Hushovd also picked up the Tour du Haut Var leader's jersey with his...

  • Pozzato takes aim at classics

    Filippo Pozzato becomes the first three-time winner of the Trofeo Laigueglia.
    Article published:
    February 17, 2013, 10:35 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Italian buoyed by Trofeo Laigueglia win

    Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) opened his account for 2013 with his third Trofeo Laigueglia victory on Saturday and afterwards the Italian said that he has rarely prepared more assiduously for the spring classics.

    Pozzato’s 2012 season was interrupted by a three-month suspension during the summer after he confessed to having been trained by Dr. Michele Ferrari between 2005 and 2009. He returned to action at Milan-Turin in September and left Farnese-Selle Italia for Lampre during the off-season.

    “From when I started back training on November 15 all the way through to Paris-Roubaix, I’ll be preparing myself seriously and conscientiously,” Pozzato told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I feel even better than I did a year ago, when my broken collarbone hindered me going into the northern classics.

    “People keep thinking that I’m a playboy, maybe because I tweet when I go out for dinner with my friends and not when I’m out training alone at Christmas.”

    Pozzato pointed to his reconnaissance of the finale of the Trofeo Laigueglia on the eve of the race as an indication of his devotion to his craft. Already a winner in Laigueglia in 2003 and 2004, Pozzato left nothing to chance in the closing kilometres, and delivered a fine sprint to take the spoils.

    “My plan was to attack 2.5km from the finish, but Mauro Santambrogio went before I did,” Pozzato said. “I didn’t think twice, and Diego Ulissi and I threw ourselves into the pursuit and then Francesco Reda joined us. In the sprint, I led from the front.”

    Pozzato’s list of objectives in the coming weeks have a familiar ring, beginning with Omloop Het Nieuwsblad next Saturday, and so too does...

  • Di Luca to Vini Fantini-Selle Italia

    Danilo Di Luca attended in the event
    Article published:
    February 17, 2013, 11:37 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Italian veteran to continue in 2013

    Danilo Di Luca has signed for Vini Fantini-Selle Italia for the 2013 season, according to a report in Il Centro. The 37-year-old raced for Acqua & Sapone last season but was left without a contract when the team folded at the end of 2012.

    It is understood that Di Luca will make his debut for Vini Fantini-Selle Italia at Tirreno-Adriatico, before lining up at Milan-San Remo. A formal announcement from the team is expected to follow.

    Vini Fantini will be Di Luca’s third team in as many seasons since he returned from a doping suspension at the end of 2010. Di Luca had tested positive for CERA at the 2009 Giro d’Italia, but had his suspension reduced to just 15 months after apparently providing information on his practices to the Italian Olympic Committee.

    Di Luca had previously served a three-month suspension in the winter of 2007 for his involvement in the Oil for Drugs doping investigation centred around the activities of Dr. Carlo Santuccione.

    Following the lengthier sanction for his positive test for CERA, Di Luca returned to action with Katusha in 2011 but was released after a winless campaign. He enjoyed a more successful 2012 in the colours of Acqua & Sapone, winning the GP Nobili Rubinetterie and a stage of the Tour of Austria. However, his team failed to secure a wildcard invitation for the Giro d’Italia and duly disbanded at the end of the season.
     

  • Boonen confirms Omloop Het Nieuwsblad participation

    Belgian champion Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) stays hydrated.
    Article published:
    February 17, 2013, 16:50 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Belgian pleased to be back in action after tough winter

    Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has confirmed that he will participate in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday. Boonen was forced to delay the start to his season due to an infected elbow but after successfully completing the Tour of Oman, he moved to allay fears that he would miss the opening race of the Belgian season.

    “I’ll certainly start Omloop on Saturday,” Boonen told Sporza on his return to Belgium. “For Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne the day after, nothing has been decided yet. I’ll see how smoothly this week goes, but if things go as normal, then I will ride it.”

    Boonen has never won Het Nieuwsblad [previously Het Volk] although he came close to landing victory in Gent last year, when he was edged out by Sep Vanmarcke in a sprint finish.

    He ruled out the prospect of competing for the win this year, although it will be interesting to see if, as per recent tradition, Boonen continues to herald the beginning of the spring by forcing the pace on one of his favourite climbs, the Taaienberg.

    “Just riding is a victory in itself,” Boonen insisted. “The key now is to find my race rhythm because that’s what I’ve been missing. There is a difference between riding in Oman and on the Flemish hellingen.”

    Given his truncated winter, during which he also suffered an intestinal infection, Boonen acknowledged that he was some way behind his rivals in his preparation for the spring classics. Nonetheless, he declared himself pleased with his progress during the Tour of Oman, his first race of the season.

    “I came though Oman well,” he...

  • Huffman enjoys his Astana debut in Qatar and Oman

    Evan Huffman (Astana) hard at work at the Tour of Oman for team captain Vincenzo Nibali.
    Article published:
    February 17, 2013, 20:20 GMT
    By:
    Stephen Farrand

    American learning fast about life in the WorldTour

    The USA's Evan Huffman made his debut with the Astana team at the Tour of Qatar and Tour of Oman, getting a taste of life in the WorldTour alongside some of the biggest names in the sport.

    The 23-year-old from Elk Grove, California joined Astana last November thanks to support from bike sponsor Specialized. He is the current Under 23 US time trial champion and rode for the California Giant-Specialized Elite team in 2012, winning the time trial stage at the Tour of the Gila ahead of Rory Sutherland and Joe Dombrowski, both of whom also signed with UCI ProTeams this year.

    Huffman was scheduled to make his debut in Italy but was switched to Qatar and Oman due to injuries to other riders. It was a great chance to get some quality racing in his legs.

    "It's been a good start for me. It's been hard racing but with good roads and warm weather. I enjoyed it," he told Cyclingnews in Oman, where he finished 108th overall after working for team leader Vincenzo Nibali.

    "It's been hard but it's not unreasonable. I've been able to ride okay and finish. I think my fitness is in a good place at the moment. There's still a lot for me to learn but I'm happy."

    Huffman admits he still has a lot to learn about European racing.

    "It's a lot of little things I need to learn," he said, with an anecdote.

    "The other day I was riding on the front but I was swinging to the far left and far right kerb, which is not good because then everyone behind is doing it even more and having to ride too hard. I thought we needed to catch the break but we just needed to hold it. I got a little...