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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, February 28, 2010

Date published:
February 28, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Tour de Langkawi: Number 15 ready to go

    Venezuelan Jose Rujano of the ISD-Neri outfit is the pre-race favourite and will be the rider to watch on stage six to the top of Genting Highlands.
    Article published:
    February 28, 2010, 12:09 GMT
    By:
    Les Clarke

    Venezuelan wonderboy wants win number one in Malaysia

    ISD-Neri rider José Rujano remains the favourite for 15th edition of the Tour de Langkawi, as the 20 teams competing were presented this afternoon in Kota Bharu ahead of the opening stage on Monday.

    The likes of Footon-Servetto, Italian Professional Continental squad ISD-Neri, Vorarlberg-Corratec and Australian outfit Drapac-Porsche were presented by Kelantan Mentri Besar (Regional Chief Minister for Kelantan) Nik Aziz.

    The withdrawal of Footon-Servetto's Manuel Cardoso following his crash in the Volta ao Algarve was a blow for race organisers, with Rujano (pictured right) the undisputed favourite for the crown.

    "I hope my team can work together to get me in the right position for the Genting climb," explained Rujano, who also said he likes the reputed ascent, having secured a third-placed finish on the mountain during the 2007 edition of the race.

    It's been well-publicised that this year's race lacks the big teams and riders of previous editions but the runner up of the 2005 event admitted that he'll still have a tough battle on his hands to better his previous best result.

    The Venezuelan shot to prominence during the 2005 Tour de Langkawi as the late South African rider Ryan Cox took the title by a meagre 18 seconds. While Rujano is expected to take overall honours by a larger margin this year, he's remaining focused on the task at hand.

    "I've taken second before [in 2005] and I want to win it," stated the dimniuitive climber.

  • Nocentini breaks leg at GP dell'Insubria-Lugano

    Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2r-La Mondiale)
    Article published:
    February 28, 2010, 12:15 GMT
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    Italian likely to face long recovery after crash in Switzerland

    Ag2R-La Mondiale rider Rinaldo Nocentini's strong early season has been derailed after he suffered a broken leg in a crash at the GP dell'Insubria-Lugano in Switzerland on Saturday.

    The Italian had gone on the attack with Eros Capecchi (Footon-Servetto) on the penultimate lap of the 173-kilometre race but came down heavily on a descent. He was immediately transported across the Swiss-Italian border to hospital in Domodossola, Italy, where X-rays revealed fractures of the tibia and fibula.

    Ag2R-La Mondiale confirmed the extent of Nocentini's injuries on Sunday, but were unable to indicate how long the 32-year-old will be out of competition.

    It is a significant blow to what has been one of the strongest starts to his 12-year professional career. Victory on stage one of last week's Tour du Haut Var had followed second place overall at Tour Méditerranéen, behind Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne).

     

  • HTC-Columbia backs Cavendish for Sanremo double

    Mark Cavendish (HTC - Columbia)
    Article published:
    February 28, 2010, 13:50 GMT
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Sports Director Aldag convinced Manxman still has time to hit top form

    HTC-Columbia hasn’t given up on Mark Cavendish winning a second Milan-Sanremo title. The sprinter has endured a painful start to the 2010 season and is without a win and only four days of racing in his legs after his winter was wrecked by dental problems.

    However HTC’s Sports Director Rolf Aldag believes that time is still on Cavendish’s side after he gained essential training miles in last weeks Ruta del Sol, in Spain.

    "The latest news is that he finished all but the last stage and I think that was really good considering the conditions. It was cold, raining and a lot of climbs. So there’s nothing to stress about and we’re convinced he’s on a good wave. Last year at the same time he was, shall we say, a bit more stable," Aldag said, after the finish of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, on Saturday.

    With Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico on Cavendish’s race programme between now and Sanremo, Aldag believes that with continued training and racing Cavendish can once again win the Italian Classic.

    "These races give you a little bit of time to find the right workload and everything. There’s still a good chance he’ll do Milan-Sanremo and for him to win it. He has enough time catch up. You see other sprinters here and they’re struggling here and there. It’s not over yet."

    Should Cavendish fail to find his legs before then HTC-Columbia do have one of the best plan-Bs in cycling with André Greipel able and, more importantly, willing to ride. The German has won five times already this season but unlike Cavendish has never won a Classic.

    "For the moment we support the winner of last year. For the moment there is no other solution. Greipel is definitely on the long list, there’s no question about that. We'll do Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico and then we decide. He has expressed interest in the race but not leadership."
     

  • On the startline at Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne

    A local band at the start
    Article published:
    February 28, 2010, 14:45 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Riders face-up to rain and wind in Kuurne

    While the peloton were treated to comparatively good February weather at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, the start of Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne on Sunday marked a return to cold, wet and windy conditions so often typical of the Classics season.

    Despite the drizzle, race favourites Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) were amongst a number of riders eager to begin the 63rd edition of the Belgian event.

    Cyclingnews was on hand to capture the scene as the peloton donned the rain capes and prepared to set off for the return journey between Kuurne and the Belgian capital.

    Local fans flooded into Kuurne to see their heroes depart, hopeful that a Belgian might mount the podium upon their return in the afternoon. Juan Antonio Flecha's win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad led the first Belgian podium shut-out of that event.

    Follow Cyclingnews' live coverage of Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne to see whether the local riders can bounce back.

     

  • Baumann out after breaking knee at Beverbeek Classic

    Eric Baumann (Team NetApp)
    Article published:
    February 28, 2010, 15:06 GMT
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    NetApp endure a tough start at their Belgian debut

    German Eric Baumann (Team NetApp) is expected to miss most of the Spring racing calendar after breaking his knee in a crash at the Beverbeek Classic in Belgium on Saturday.

    Baumann came down during the 168-kilometre event and will be forced off the bike as he faces up to an as-yet undetermined recovery period. The incident added injury to insult for NetApp as they faced a torrid start to their first Belgian race of the season.

    "It's a bitter blow for us. Eric will probably have to wear a cast for a few weeks," said NetApp Sports Director Jens Heppner.

    "Today's race went badly for us in every respect. I've never heard of such bad luck: within three kilometres [of the start], we had to deal with numerous tire problems."

    The team's best placed rider, Nico Keinath, finished the event in 24th position. However, despite the mechanical problems that plagued them during the day, the team was able to show itself through Bastien Delrot, who formed part of a five-man breakaway that survived until 15 kilometres to go.

    "Bastien did an excellent job," said Heppner.

    The race was won by Belgian Yannick Eijssen (PWS Eijssen Cycling Team) ahead of Lotto-Bodysol's Edwig Cammaerts and Grégory Joseph (Topsport Vlaanderen – Mercator).

  • Stannard lives childhood dream at Kuurne

    Rick Flens (Rabobank), Bobbie Traksel (Vacansoleil), Ian Stannard (Team Sky) on the podium
    Article published:
    February 28, 2010, 18:12 GMT
    By:
    Daniel Benson

    Briton steps-up to seal a strong start to Classics for Sky

    Ian Stannard came into Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne as a Classics unknown but left as a future star after finishing third behind Bobbie Traksel (Vacansoleil) and Rick Flens (Rabobank), and in the process sealed Sky’s second podium result of the weekend in Belgium.

    Stannard, who signed from ISD-Neri at the end of 2009, has always dreamed of competing in the Classics. Raised in Essex, England, the 23-year-old wrote on his Sky blog, "When I was a kid I loved the pictures in the magazines of those Classics, when you can't make out the riders' kit, and when they take their glasses off it's like they've been wearing goggles, and everyone's crashed about ten times."

    Today he has his chance to emulate the riders he grew up watching as he navigated through atrocious conditions to seal one of the UK’s best Belgian Classics results in recent years.

    Shivering at the finish as he tried to warm up with a cup of coffee in his shaking hands, Stannard managed to stretch a weak grin across his dirt-caked face as he began to take questions from the press.

    "This morning I wasn't losing motivation because of the weather forecast; I like this weather, It brings out the best in me," he said, his eyes swollen after more than five exhausting hours in the saddle.

    "Before the Oude Kwaremont I attacked to have space. By doing so I could avoid crashes and choose my own line on the cobbles."

    Stannard bridged across to Traksel with Flens and the trio worked well over the final 80 kilometres. Coming into the finale Stannard countered a move by Flens before launching an unsuccessful bid for glory. Re-caught by his companions he was immediately spat out of the back, but as the press room held its collective breath he gradually clawed his way back to the leaders.

    Despite missing out on claiming Sky’s second win in as many days the Englishman remained unsurprisingly proud and upbeat.

    "I'm very happy. I rate this result...

  • Flens fights the elements in Flanders

    Dutchman Rick Flens (Rabobank) rides the wet cobbles.
    Article published:
    February 28, 2010, 20:44 GMT
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Rabobank rider ends the day in second

    Fighting the elements on a light bike while wearing a skinsuit over five hours can seem awful, but a victory in a semi-Classic like Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne makes up for much of that terrible experience. But what about for the rider that is the runner up? Rick Flens, who came up one place short of a victory in the sprint at the end of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, wasn't deterred by the wet and cold conditions that discouraged many. He finished second to Vacansoleil's Bobbie Traksel.

    "In the sprint Traksel's on a different level than me," Flens said of his defeat. The 26-year-old Dutchman captured his last victory at a time trial - a discipline at which he excels - in the Post Danmark Rundt back in 2007

    For Flens, fighting the rain and wind turns a road race into a personal sort of time trial. "This morning I was happy with the weather forecast. It's hard for everybody. I'm powerfully built. There's a lot of oxygen in the air and I like that," Flens said to Cyclingnews.

    Flens joined fellow Dutchman Traksel in the lead shortly after climbing the Oude Kwaremont, where he had attacked. "On the Oude Kwaremont, I accelerated but nobody followed. I figured that my advantage would be useful once the real burst came..., but it turned out that my move had been the decisive burst," Flens said, trying to laugh though he was clearly feeling the effects of his arduous day.

    Once up front, the breakaway was almost caught by a chase group that included bigger name Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam). "I remained calm when I heard that there was a group coming back with Hushovd in it. If they had gotten to us, well, then that's how it would have been," said Flens, who explained that he wasn't worried about who would join him and the others at the front.

    In the end, the names didn't matter. Only the strongest men managed to stay near the front, and Flens was proud to be among them.

  • Relatively unknown Traksel rides to Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne win

    Bobbie Traksel (Vacansoleil)
    Article published:
    February 28, 2010, 21:44 GMT
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé

    "Stupid" move leads to biggest career win for Dutchman

    Vacansoleil's Bobbie Traksel won the semi-classic Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday. "Bobbie who?" asked some after the finish.

    The relatively unknown Traksel is a 28-year-old Dutch rider who gathered 13 victories in 10 years as a professional rider. His biggest win so far was probably the overall win in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen in 2008.

    After winning the under 23 version of the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2000, Traksel spent four years with Rabobank. No longer considered such a talent, he started riding for Hilaire Van der Schueren's teams.

    Traksel is powerfully built rider who likes foul weather, and on Sunday morning the remnants of a storm named Xynthia crossed paths with the semi-Classic Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Yet after fighting his way through powerful winds and continuous rains, Traksel showed up at the post-race press conference looking as if he had just finished a stage at the Ruta del Sol. Shouldn't this man have been shivering from the cold?

    "Sometimes they say I'm fat, but in these conditions it's pretty helpful. I can deal well with this foul weather," Traksel said after the race. "Perhaps I should've lowered my armwarmers, just like Steven de Jongh did in the past, to make an impression."

    "I'm not getting worse in these races, and I'm able to ride in a supple way, maintaining a small gear, which is crucial in the finale. These races, this weather... this is my environment," said the beaming winner.

    "Two years ago, I finished seventh in this race, without having any other races in the legs beforehand. I knew that I was capable of this [win]. February and March are my months. We'll see what happens after that."

    After 100 kilometers of racing and after the first feed zone where the first quarter of the peloton hopped into the warm team cars, the race radio crackled, "...an attack by Arnaud van Groen, Rony Martias and Bobbie Traksel".

    "'That's stupid,' was what I thought...