- Article published:
- February 8, 19:30
- Barry Ryan
Road race to start and finish on Doha's Corniche
The head of the Qatar Cycling Federation has ruled out building a special circuit or climb for the 2016 world championships in Doha but said that the ongoing development of the city's transport infrastructure means that precise details of the route are yet to be defined.
Speaking to reporters in Doha, federation president Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Thani said that the local organising committee had considered constructing a purpose-built course for the Worlds, but that the time frame simply didn't allow it.
"It was suggested, it was something that was done in Moscow before [for the 1980 Olympics], but unfortunately we don't have the time to do it," Al Thani said. "It's very complicated here because Doha and Qatar are developing very quickly with a lot of infrastructure going around. It would have been difficult to change all the planning. I don't think it would be feasible to do it."
Doha's Corniche, the city-centre promenade that hosts the final stages of both the men's and women's Tours of Qatar, will be the site of the start and finish lines for the road races at the 2016 Worlds. Al Thani explained that a provisional course has already been sketched out, but added that that Qatar's rapidly-expanding road network means that the current parcours is by no means definitive. In any case, however, it is certain to be flat and likely to suit the sprinters.
"We already have route planned as it exists now in Qatar, but Qatar is a very fast-developing country and you have new roads every day, and I think it will change over time," he said.
The fast growth of Qatar's infrastructure has not been without controversy. Al Thani pointed to the fact that the stadia for the football World Cup in 2022 will be linked by cycle paths and rental bikes, but it was also recently reported that 185 Nepalese immigrants working on construction sites for the tournament died in 2013 alone.
The date of the Doha world championships is also yet to be decided, although unlike the 2022 World Cup, it is unlikely to necessitate a radical overhaul of the 2016 cycling calendar. The Qatari preference, Al Thani said, is to hold the race as late as possible in order to avoid high local temperatures in September, but the final decision rests with the UCI.
"It's up to the UCI but we're getting the impression that it will be in early October. It will be the better time for us, I think," Al Thani said. "The world championships are normally in September but we're trying to make it as late as possible because here the weather is a little bit harsh, at least in early September. It's not too bad, but the later we have it, the better it will be."
While the best riders in the world will descend on Qatar in 2016, it remains to be seen if there will be local participants in all of the races on the schedule. The country's first women's team was only established in late 2013, under the stewardship of former professional Pia Sunstedt, and the odds seem stacked against any Qatari participation in the elite women's races.
"With the men, we are sure we are going to be there. The girls are just starting and we hope they will continue with us. They have a goal in front of them, so we hope to see them participate in the world championships," Al Thani said. "We have been through this before. When we first started cycling in Qatar in 2001, in preparation for the 2006 Asian Games and we had a [men's] team in time for that. We had a plan and we made it."
- Article published:
- February 8, 20:30
- Zeb Woodpower
Criterium du Dauphiné the season goal for young Australian
For last year's winner of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour Calvin Watson (Trek Factory Racing), the opportunity to defend his title arose due to withdrawals from the KordaMentha Australian team and the Jayco U23 Team, and he takes his place on the start line with the number one dossard.
Having made his debut with his WorldTour team at the Tour Down Under, Watson was given the chance to change his kit from black to white for the race, which has stepped up a level since claiming the overall win on his 20th birthday.
"The race this year is completely different scenario to last year, obviously the field is a lot higher quality so there are no easy stages this year so it's been pretty chaotic racing and pretty stressful but I'm enjoying the tour and I'm happy to be back here," Watson told Cyclingnews.
It was on the climb up Mt Alexander that the race came alive and in the descent Watson was one of the many riders who found the heat and hard racing tough.
"It was really hard yesterday, I think everyone was suffering in that last 20km. I know that personally, I was cramping with 5km to go, so I didn't really have anything to work with so I was struggling in the finish there but I think everyone was in the same boat. The heat out there was just really crazy."
The race will come down to the triple-ascent of Arthur's Seat on the Mornington Peninsula on Sunday afternoon, with the Amy's Ride Grand Fondo taking place prior to the stage ensuring large crowds on the slopes of the climb.
"Tomorrow is going is to be the day when all the fireworks happen and the overall is shaped and whether Simon [Clarke] is strong enough to win, we'll have to see tomorrow."
"I'm going to give it a crack tomorrow, I've been saving myself for much of the week just trying to give myself the best opportunity to give it a go tomorrow but I'll have to see how the legs are and if I have good legs then ill try to stay with the best guys and fight it out."
Having lost teammate Pat Shaw after today's stage, Watson is confident his teammates' abilities to deliver a surprise or two. "It's nice to be back here, no disrespect to the team, but it's not a super strong team. It's a team that's been put together with NRS [National Road Series] riders and a few other guys so it's not easy when you come together for just one race of the year.
"Everyone is doing a good job and I've been really impressed with how the boys have come together. I'm sure that tomorrow few guys in the KordaMentha squad will surprise a few people."
Watson begun his three continent racing schedule that he will contend with in his debut season in South Australia and if the race is anything to go by, he'll be a happy rider in October.
"The Tour Down Under was really a great race to get as my first race under the belt with the team and it was really special lining up with Jens [Voigt] and Franck [Schleck] in my first WorldTour race.
"It was a special occasion and I race I'll remember for many years, and I was really happy with how it all went so it was cool."
With the move over to Europe, Watson explained how chose France as his base. "I've set up home in Nice, as it was important for me to be around riders who I'm comfortable with and I've got good mentors in that area.
"For me that's important as I'm still young and I need to learn off guys who I have faith and trust in. Simon Gerrans has been a massive impact on me making the move to France. I think I can only be in safe hands when Simon is looking after me."
Part of adjusting to life in France and life in the WorldTour peloton is learning French, which is an off the bike season goal for Watson. "I speak better Italian than French but hopefully throughout the year I can learn French, but I do want to continue to speak Italian. I'm lucky that the main language of Trek is English so I'm not in a bad place."
Once his Australian racing is done and dusted, Watson heads over to Europe with the aim of peaking for June as he rides himself into top condition.
"After the Sun Tour I go back to Europe and start at the Tour of Catalunya, Romandie, Tour of California and Dauphiné. For me it's been a bit of a quieter start to the year, I haven't been preparing a huge amount to be in super condition in January but my goal is to be in top shape by Dauphiné so I'm on the right path."
- Article published:
- February 8, 21:53
- Stephen Farrand
Cavendish unlucky in sprint finishes
While Marcel Kittel and his Giant-Shimano teammates celebrated a hat trick of stage victories at the Dubai Tour, Mark Cavendish and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team were left wondering when their bad luck will end after a series of misfortune and misunderstanding in the sprints.
The Belgian team came to Dubai ready to protect and lead out Cavendish, with strong domestiques and Alessandro Petacchi and Mark Renshaw for the final kilometre. However, Cavendish is still searching for his first victory of the 2014 season despite looking lean and on form in his white British national champion's jersey.
It is easy to jump to conclusions and think that Cavendish may have lost his luster and has been dethroned by Marcel Kittel as the king of the sprints. A analysis of the racing and sprinting during the three stages indicates otherwise.
Cavendish sat up and had accepted defeat on stage 2, finishing 30th on the windswept edge of the Palm Jumeirah resort, after his lead-out train failed to punch through a gap and take him up to the front to contest the sprint. Alessandro Petacchi admitted that he failed to set up Renshaw and Cavendish due to feeling the effects of the stomach virus that forced him to retire during stage 1 of the Tour de San Luis in Argentina.
Stage 3 indicated that Cavendish is on better form than his results show. He finished in the front group of just 39 riders that formed after the series of aggressive attacks on the climbs but his performance was overshadowed by Kittel's victory.
Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing), Petacchi, Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) and Andrea Guardini (Astana) were all dropped, but Cavendish managed to get back on to the front group after the climbs with Kittel. If world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Luca Paolini (Katusha) had not made late attacks, and perhaps if his teammates had looked after him better, Cavendish could have been able to move up and contest the sprint shoulder to shoulder with Kittel.
Cavendish was left fuming at the end of the final stage in central Dubai on Saturday after hitting a plastic bollard in the final kilometres. He hurt his hand and his gears and crossed the line with his chain hanging off. He could only again sportingly congratulate Kittel on his win via Twitter and reveal how unfortunate he had been.
Renshaw got the team's best result of the race by finishing second behind Kittel in the sprint. Guardini was third and Ferrari fourth.
"Little bit shaken up after the stage today. Hit a plastic road bollard with 1.5km to go," Cavendish said in a series of three tweets.
"Ripped my chain out of the rear mech & gave me a swollen hand. Can just count myself lucky. If it had been a concrete or metal one that they have in Europe, then I'd be in no position to be tweeting right now. That's for sure. Congratulation AAAAGGAAIINN to @marcelkittel & of course to my bro @taylorphinney for the GC."
Cavendish is expected to back in action and no doubt even hungrier to land his first victory of 2014 at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal from February 19-23.
- Article published:
- February 8, 22:58
- Cycling News
American part of a 12-man team
Chris Horner will make his debut in Lampre-Merida colours at the Challenge Mallorca next week.
Lampre-Merida have kept their options open and will make daily decisions on the nine riders who will take the start. Horner will form part of the 12-man team that will compete over the four events that make the Challenge.
The 42-year-old became the oldest winner of a grand tour when he won the Vuelta a España last season. Despite his victory, Horner found himself out of contract with his RadioShack-Leopard team, after he rejected their initial offers. He eventually signed a one-year deal with the Italian squad at the end of January, after a protracted search for a new team.
Along with the American will be Lampre-Merida’s Giro d’Italia leaders Przemyslaw Niemiec and Damiano Cunego. Sprinters Diego Ulissi and Maximiliano Richeze also make the list of 12 riders to race on the Spanish island. World Champion Rui Costa will travel from racing at the Tour of Dubai, which finished today (Saturday), to join the team in Mallorca
The Challenge Mallorca consists of four single-day races, which begins with the sprinters’ course Trofeo Palma on Sunday. Ulisi is likely to be their main hope there, the young Italian already kicking off his season with a stage win at the Tour Down Under. Horner's chances will come on the more mountainous Trofeo Ses Salines-Campos-Santanyì and Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana. The Challenge concludes on Wednesday with the lumpy, 160km Trofeo Muro-Port d’Alcudia.
Lampre-Merida for Challenge Mallorca: Chris Horner, Damiano Cunego, Diego Ulissi, Sacha Modolo, Maximiliano Richeze, Przemyslaw Niemiec, Josè Serpa, Kristijan Durasell, Jan Polanc, Rui Costa, Nelson Oliveira and Mattia Cattaneo.
- Article published:
- February 9, 00:58
- Barry Ryan
Belgian ready for leadership at BMC
Greg Van Avermaet's aims for his first Tour of Qatar in 2007 were typical of any young rider in his first professional race; he wanted to survive each day in the peloton and avoid bringing down any of the big names in a crash. The Belgian would do that and more, of course, marking an auspicious beginning to his career by sprinting to victory on the penultimate stage.
The Ritz Carlton in Doha, the crosswinds and the desert sunshine are all still here, but as Van Avermaet lines up for his sixth Tour of Qatar on Sunday, he views his Gulf experience with the pragmatism of a Tour of Flanders contender rather than the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a neophyte.
"It's different alright, because now I know I'll be fine and I will survive here," Van Avermaet laughed. "It's more like a preparation for the classics. It's good to come here from training camp because it's always hard racing, there's a lot of wind, and you get a lot of speed in the legs.
"Some other riders maybe prefer other races in February, and I've tried a lot of other things - Down Under, Algarve, Bessèges - but I think for me this one fits the best."
Van Avermaet's position within BMC's firmament of galacticos has shifted slightly as he begins his fourth season with the team. The softly-spoken Belgian has been BMC's most reliable performer on the cobbles in that time, but more often than not has approached those races in a rather secondary role, his light under a bushel.
With Philippe Gilbert opting to skip the Tour of Flanders, Alessandro Ballan suspended and Thor Hushovd still searching for a return to form, however, Van Avermaet assumes the mantle of BMC's leader for De Ronde from the very outset of the 2014 campaign.
"It gives me pressure, but it's good to have that pressure," he said. "I like to be leader there because I've proved already that I can be good there. It gives me motivation that one of the biggest teams in the world gave me this role. I hope to finish it off one time because I've been in the top ten in the classics a lot, but I know I've got it in me to be a winner also."
Chasing a big classic
Van Avermaet has been a beacon of consistency across an array of spring classics in recent years - he's been 4th at Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, 3rd at Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, 7th at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, 9th at Milan-San Remo - but he has yet to land a signature victory. His win at Paris-Tours in 2011 looked set to signal a turning point in that regard, but the big spring triumph has yet to
"I'm always chasing this big classic," he admitted. "I feel I've got it in me but some guys like Cancellara, Boonen and Sagan are a little bit stronger. But I'm still only 28, so I have a few more years to go. I'm getting a little bit stronger every year and I hope it comes. For me this is the big goal: to win one classic would be wonderful for my career."
Should it arrive, that win is likely to come on the cobbles. In a mirror of Gilbert's decision to focus exclusively on the Ardennes classics, Van Avermaet has scratched Liège-Bastogne-Liège from his programme, and will instead build his spring around the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"Last year, I was planning not to do Roubaix, but after Flanders, I had the feeling that I was on my best form of the year and I thought it would be a bit stupid to stop and then try to build up again for Amstel and Liège," Van Avermaet said. A fine fourth place in what was his first Paris-Roubaix appearance in three years proved his instincts were correct. "It gives me a different programme now, and I'm not doing Liège anymore."
The sharpening of Van Avermaet's focus to the cobbles is a reflection too, perhaps, of BMC's change in management. Allan Peiper has been installed as manager following John Lelangue's departure after last year's Tour de France, while Valerio Piva joins as a directeur sportif. "It's a little bit stricter and we get our goals more [clearly] than the others years," Van Avermaet said. "Everybody is more focused now."
The addition of the Pompeiana to the parcours at Milan-San Remo may have drawn Van Avermaet's eye - "It's better for me because you can drop more sprinters on it, and I'm still a pretty fast guy on the end," he said - but even La Classicissima is viewed primarily through the optic of preparing for the Tour of Flanders: "I always want to be good for Milan-San Remo because if I'm good there, I'll be good for the whole classics period, I think."
Indeed, while Van Avermaet will take a day after Paris-Nice to reconnoitre the new San Remo finale, he made his first assessment of the De Ronde's new course all the way back in November. Not that his memory needed any particular refreshing. "Flanders I know really well," he said. "I know every stone."
- Article published:
- February 9, 10:18
- Cycling News
Bike manufacturer keen to keep Sagan on board
Fernando Alonso may be looking to join forces with the Cannondale team in an attempt to join the WorldTour, according to a report in Biciciclismo.
The report states that the new team would be known as Team Alonso Cannondale. Current Cannondale rider Peter Sagan has been heavily linked with a move to Alonso's team, after his contract runs out with the American team, at the end of this year. It is believed that the potential loss of the Slovakian is the driving force behind the merger.
While the team has a number of strong riders, there is no doubt that Sagan is top of that list and the team may struggle without him. The potential union could help Cannondale retain their number one rider and provide some much needed cash.
Cannondale has already looked into taking on a second sponsor and had talks with Oleg Tinkov, towards the end of last year. The Russian businessman chose not to join forces with the bike manufacturer in favour of buying out Bjarne Riis at Saxo-Tinkoff. The result was that Cannondale bought a majority share in Brixia Sports, who owns the cycling team.
With Alonso’s cash and influence, the team may be able to build a stronger rider base along while also retaining Sagan. A number of leading Spanish riders have been linked with the outfit, including Alberto Contador, Joaquim Rodríguez and Samuel Sánchez, and Portuguese world champion Rui Costa. However, no contracts can be signed until August 1st 2014.
The Spanish Formula One driver has made his intentions of starting a cycling team in 2015 well known. However, new UCI rules prevent a team from joining the WorldTour in their first year of operation. A team must show their worth on the Pro Continental circuit before the sport’s governing body will consider an application into the highest ranks.
Alonso previously attempted to join the WorldTour when he bought the licence of the folding Euskaltel-Euskadi team. The acquisition raised a lot of hopes, but it fell through soon after, when the team were unable to put the funding in place before the final deadline.
Since then the Spaniard has been keeping a high public presence in the world of cycling, as he looks to build his team. Alonso recently made an appearance at the Dubai Tour and he spent some time at the World Championships last season. Paolo Bettini was named as the team’s manager last season and, if the merger falls through, Alonso has already secured a wildcard for the Vuelta a España. He has also met with UCI president Brian Cookson and Tour de France organisers ASO.
Whatever happens Alonso's team will provide a good boost for Spanish cycling, which has seen a large drop in the number of riders at WorldTour level, largely due to the collapse of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team.
- Article published:
- February 9, 11:00
- Cycling News
Sprinters set up for opening stage
Blue skies and relatively warm weather greeted the peloton at the start of the Spanish road season on Saturday at the Mallorca Challenge. The four day event kicks off with a glorified criterium through the streets of Palma, with long, flat roads ideally suited to the sprinters of the peloton.
Made up of riders starting a race for the first time this season - Bradley Wiggins (Team) and Chris Horner (Lampre Merida – and riders who have made the trip from last month’s Tour de San Luis, the Mallorca Challenge differs from most stage races on the calendar in that it allows riders to start or skip stages. They have to start and finish all four in order to qualify for the right to challenge for the overall but with excellent training terrain on the island a number of riders chose to skip today’s criterium.
Among them were Horner and Wiggins. The American only recently signed with Lampre and chose to head into the island’s mountains after appearing briefly at the team’s presentation prior to the start of the criterium.
Click here for the gallery.
- Article published:
- February 9, 12:10
- Cycling News
Threat from bushfires ensured no fireworks on Arthurs Seat
There was no final stage of the Jayco Herald Sun Tour's 2014 edition, after consultations between Victoria Police and race organisers concluded that today’s race at Arthurs Seat would not proceed due to extreme weather conditions.
Whilst there was no immediate threat on Arthurs Seat, emergency services including police and fire brigade, had been diverted to other areas under threat across the state.
Race director John Trevorrow said the cancellation was the right decision on what is a tough day for emergency services across the state. "Simon is a deserving victor of the 2014 Jayco Herald Sun Tour and will sit comfortably amongst an honour roll that features so many of Australia’s great bike riders," Trevorrow said.
"Whilst we are obviously disappointed that this great stage at Arthurs Seat could not go ahead, we understand the decision made by authorities.
"It is a pretty dark day out there and the safety of the public state wide and our own riders and spectators is by far the priority.
"We had a number of event staff who have left the race to go home having received news that their houses are under threat, so there is a much bigger picture involved here."
The overall, points, king of the mountains, youth and teams classifications were all unchanged after Stage 3 as Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge), Jack Anderson (Drapac), Thomas Hamilton (Jayco U23 Australia), Jack Haig (Avanti) and Orica-GreenEdge respectively, as leaders of the classifications were awarded for their victories in the blustery conditions during a presentation that at 2:30pm which was the intended starting time of the stage. Cam Wurf (Cannondale) was also awarded the most aggressive rider prize to cap off the race having also finished second overall.