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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, February 24, 2013

Date published:
February 24, 2013, 0:00 GMT
  • Belgian riders note fewer blood passport controls

    Tom Boonen is hoping to return to the Tour de France in 2013
    Article published:
    February 23, 2013, 14:24 GMT
    Cycling News

    Boonen: in the meantime they already know our values

    Belgian riders Tom Boonen, Thomas De Gendt and Sep Vanmarcke are having fewer and fewer out-of-competition doping controls for the blood passport programme. “Meanwhile, they know our values,” Boonen said.

    Vanmarcke (Blanco), defending champion in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, had his last out-of-competition control in November.  “For me it was in November or December,” De Gendt (Vacansoleil) said on the Belgian television show Reyers Laat. “That was a long time ago. I sometimes wonder if I've completed by whereabouts address okay.”

    Boonen, of Omega Pharma-QuickStep, has been controlled three times so far this year, “twice out of competition and once during the Tour of Oman,” he told

    "I think I am sufficiently monitored, the controllers don't have to stand at my door every day.” When the blood passport was initially set up, “I was checked about 24 times within a short time. Now they know my values and check them less often."

    "These checks also cost a lot of money. They can't do it every day."

    On the other hand, Lotto Belisol's Frederique Robert, who won two stages at the Tour of Gabon, “has been checked 16 times this year,” according to Sporza commentator Michel Wuyts. “WADA, the UCI and the Flemish Community. And he is fine with that.”

  • Matschiner calls on Rabobank riders to confess to doping

    The Rabobank team
    Article published:
    February 23, 2013, 14:26 GMT
    Cycling News

    Austrian opens up on relationship with Dutch team

    It is time for the truth to come out about doping at the former Rabobank team, Stefan Matschiner has said. “Everyone who worked there must finally tell that there was organized doping at Rabobank,” he said.

    Matschiner was the key figure in the Humanplasma blood doping scheme. In 2010 he was sentenced to one year in prison and 14 months probation for his actions.

    In an interview with the Dutch newspaper NRC, Matschiner confirmed that former Rabobank riders Thomas Dekker and Michael Rasmussen were his clients. Dekker has acknowledged undergoing blood transfusion whilst with Rabobank and is co-operating with a Dutch Anti-Doping Agency investigation. He previously served a two-year suspension. Rasmussen recently confessed to his doping past and is now sitting out his suspension.

    Matschiner described to NRC how he delivered blood bags to Rabobank doctor Geert Leinders at the 2005 Tour de France. “I had two blood bags with me, he would have only one. He gave me the full amount paid: 1,000 euros.”

    He did not name other riders who have not confessed, but encouraged them to do so. “I will not betray athletes. But I put out a call to the Rabobank riders who were my clients. They must now finally say: I have doped.”

    Matschiner also refused to directly say whether Michael Boogerd was a doping client. The Dutchman has denied the charges, but said that he bought only vitamins from the Austrian. 

    “Maybe you should ask Michael again,” Matschiner said.  “There were probably many invoices. But I guess you could have bought lots of vitamins."

  • Winter homework pays off for Stetina at Langkawi

    Pete Stetina (Garmin-Sharp)
    Article published:
    February 23, 2013, 16:55 GMT
    Alex Malone

    Garmin-Sharp rider upbeat ahead of Genting Highlands

    The first reshuffling of the general classification at Le Tour de Langkawi may have thrown up an unexpected winner atop Cameron Highlands on stage 3 but Garmin Sharp's Peter Stetina demonstrated he's in contention for the overall when he crossed the hill-top finish line with the group containing the majority of the race favourites.

    Stetina and teammate Nathan Haas were part of the 25-man group that finished more than three minutes behind the day's winner Meiyin Wang (Hengxiang Cycling Team) despite a serious chase from the main field to try and reduce the eight-minute deficit that remained just 20km before the finish in the town of Brinchang.

    "The second climb was the hardest but it was all pretty wide road and there was a headwind for a lot of it so it was easier to follow," Stetina told Cyclingnews. "We tried a few moves here and there and I had Nathan there still. He was covering a lot of it and I had to take some pulls myself."

    While the group led across the line by Haas, who finished third, was unable to catch Wang the result doesn't spell the end of Stetina's or Haas' GC ambitions - even with more than three minutes to make up on the new yellow jersey wearer. The next real test will come on the Genting Highlands stage in two days' time, according to the 25-year-old American.

    "He [Wang] was going pretty fast up there because we had Omega use their whole team and Vini Fantini blew their whole team and then we put our team on the front and the gap wasn't coming down," said Stetina.

    "It started coming down and we thought it was no worries and then all of a sudden the gap raised three minutes and we all thought it was a mess-up from the time...

  • Wang pushes Chinese cycling into new era at Tour de Langkawi

    Meiyin Wang (Hengxiang Cycling Team) enjoys every moment of his win
    Article published:
    February 23, 2013, 18:06 GMT
    Alex Malone

    Talented climber blazes to race lead atop Cameron Highlands

    When the rider wearing the white jersey of the best Asian rider, Meiyin Wang took off in the day's early breakaway at Le Tour de Langkawi, he wasn't thinking about the stage win. Wang was just sticking to the pre-race plan: go on the attack and show-off Chinese cycling to the world stage.

    The heavily-stacked ProTeam and Pro-Continental field were happy to let Wang and his breakaway companions their time in the spotlight for the most of the the stage and allowed the gap to balloon to over 12 minutes. His time would be over when they chose, or so they thought.

    The 24-year-old was clearly the strongest from the five-man attack group and when the road tilted up toward the Cameron Highlands Wang was off on his own. The rider who hails from Qufu – the birthplace of Confucius in the Shandong Provence only needed to ascent approximately 1,500m before cresting the finish line. He would also need to ride the final 40km on his own, which the bunch felt was highly unlikely.

    The chasing field, whittled to less than 30 riders by the top could do nothing to stop the talented climber who simply maintained his advantage all the way to the line. The stage win and yellow jersey is not just a first for Wang but also for Chinese cycling. He's the first Chinese rider to win a stage at Langkawi and is now poised to become the first Asian rider to claim the Langkawi title.

    "It was a very good day," said Wang through his teammate, translator and former ProTeam rider Fuyu Li.

    "Our plan was not like this. We just tried to breakaway but not with me. Another two guys tried to breakaway but they couldn't get away so I jumped. I just tried but it turned out that I won today.

    "It was not so easy but I tried to do my best. I want to show-off Chinese cycling. I want to show everyone for the Chinese [people]."

    Entering the breakaway for the second time since the tour started is in part a small way of saying thank you to the...

  • Paolini chalks Omloop Het Nieuwsblad victory up to experience

     Luca Paolini (Katusha) leads the break
    Article published:
    February 23, 2013, 18:36 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Veteran Italian wins in Ghent

    The sprint would ultimately prove a formality, but after three and a half years without a win, Luca Paolini (Katusha) was leaving nothing to chance when he reached the finishing straight of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in the company of Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

    Paolini had not won since the Coppa Bernocchi in 2009, and the intervening period had seen the impulsive instincts of youth give way to the knowing inhibitions of a veteran. Though much the quicker sprinter by reputation, Paolini paid his former teammate Vandenbergh due deference in the finale of Het Nieuwsblad, carefully manoeuvring him into first position with 500 metres to go and then opening his sprint from distance.

    "To be honest, I was afraid he would attack because I was tired, but then I could see that he was really very tired, too," said Paolini. "I rode with Stijn at Katusha in 2010, and I knew that I was quicker than him on paper, but it was still a relief to cross the line first."

    Paolini had endured a number of near misses during his fallow period, but he said that the nadir arrived at the GP Prato at the tail end of last season. "I lost the sprint there to Emanuele Sella even though I'm a much quicker rider than him," Paolini said. "I lost because I was too sure of winning, and I waited too long to start my sprint. That's why I went from around 300 metres out here."

    The 36-year-old was a surprise winner at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, all the more so given his low-key start to the season, but Paolini said that he had benefited from being an outsider. While pre-race favourites such as Lars Boom, Tom Boonen and Filippo Pozzato were caught in the tactical stalemate behind when the winning move came together over the top of the Varent, Paolini was present...

  • Thomas tests Flanders mettle at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

    Geraint Thomas (Sky) is a contender for classics glory in 2013.
    Article published:
    February 23, 2013, 20:35 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Knaven pleased with Welshman's fourth place finish

    Geraint Thomas narrowly missed out on a podium finish at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday but Sky directeur sportif Servais Knaven declared himself pleased with the Welshman's showing at one of the key test sites for those with aspirations of higher honours later in the spring.

    Indeed, Sky's performances at the opening weekend of the Belgian season seem all the more significant - at least to the outside observer - given that its Classics squad will forgo both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico in order to prepare for the monuments with a training camp in Tenerife.

    Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne are thus the final competitive outings for Thomas, Bernhard Eisel and Edvald Boasson Hagen before they line up at Milan-San Remo in three weeks' time, and the men in black had a solid start their weekend with Thomas' fourth place.

    "They were riding good and there at the right moment when the race started," Knaven said in Sint-Pietersplein after the finish. "G [Thomas] was strong but Paolini and Vandenbergh were very strong too. At the end, though, we could see that G was still good. He chased down Chavanel and almost took the sprint, so he was going really well. We also had almost the whole team in the first chasing group so I think everyone is riding well.

    "We had our right guy in the front group: our leader was in the breakaway. Other teams didn't have their leader there. Looking at Blanco, they did a really good race but they didn't have Boom or Vanmarcke up there, so I think our guys did a good job."

    A crash after 70 kilometres threatened to derail Thomas' race but he found his way back up to the front and then latched onto what proved to be the winning move over the top of the Varent. "I don't know how it...

  • Van Avermaet rues missed opportunity at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

    Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) was in determined mood before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.
    Article published:
    February 24, 2013, 8:25 GMT
    Cycling News

    Belgian finishes fifth in Ghent after fading in the finale

    Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team) finished a disappointed fifth place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He was part of the ten-rider break that decide the race but admitted he missed out on a opportunity to win due to a lack of energy and lucidity in the final part of the race.  

    Van Avermaet’s forcing on the Molenberg helped the chasers bridge the gap to lone escapee Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) but as the ten-strong lead group sped along the run-in to Ghent, he began to pay for his efforts.

    “I had good sensations today and that’s why I accelerated on the Molenberg to try and reduce the size of our group,” Van Avermaet said. “But then on the cobbles at Paddestraat and Lippenhovestraat afterwards, I was seeing black in front of my eyes because I was running low on sugar. I took some gels but it didn’t work.”

    Just as Van Avermaet was trying to compensate for his untimely fringale, Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) attacked on the Lippenhovestraat and brought eventual winner Luca Paolini (Katusha) with him. Van Avermaet admitted that his positioning was awry when the decisive move drifted clear.

    “I wasn’t well placed and I wanted to move up because I sensed the danger,” Van Avermaet said. “I was à bloc. They took only ten metres but it was hard to bring them back. And once they got a lead of half a minute, I already knew that it would be very difficult.”

    With Chavanel soft-pedalling to protect Vandenbergh’s interests, the chasers’ firepower was diminished still further, while Van Avermaet was the only representative of BMC’s deep roster to...

  • Snow hits races across Europe

    Team Blanco vehicles in the snow at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne
    Article published:
    February 24, 2013, 9:10 GMT
    Cycling News

    Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and GP Lugano cancelled

    A late winter Europe-wide snow storm has affected a number of races on Sunday, as Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, GP di Lugano and the Classic Sud Ardèche - Souvenir Francis Delpech were all hit by weather problems. The riders and teams involved kept themelves busy by tweeting photos of the weather and snow covering the roads and their team cars.

    Heavy snow and freezing conditions in central and northern Europe made racing impossible. The GP di Lugano in Switzerland  was the first race to be cancelled, quickly followed by Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. However the Classic Sud Ardèche in the south of France looks set to go on. The Clasica de Almeria in Spain has escaped the cold conditions, while at the Tour de Langkawi in Malaysia, riders enjoyed hot and humid conditions.

    The riders set to tackle Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne awoke to find the snow already coming down. The organisers held meetings with police and officials at 11:00 local time and quickly realised the snow covered roads and freezing temperatures made it too cold to race and too dangerous for spectators. 

    In Switzerland, up to ten centimetres of snow covered the route of the GP di Lugano with freezing temperatures, forcing the organisers to cancel the race. World champion Philippe Gilbert of BMC Racing Team announced Saturday that he would skip the race due to the weather conditions.

    The Classic Sud Ardèche - Souvenir Francis Delpech in France, with its 11 climbs, was facing slightly better conditions and so the decision was made in favour of racing there.

    Twitter was busy with rumours and photos. Riders praised the race organisers for making a wise if difficult decision.

    Bernhard Eisel: "#KBK cancelled! Good decision, safety comes first! Of course it's a shame for the organizers, volunteers and fans, but too risky for us."

    Filippo Pozzato: "At least a bit of common sense…. For once people thought about riders'...