- Article published:
- June 30, 2012, 12:08
- Brecht Decaluwé
Lieutenant Vanendert targets Seraing, La Planche des Belles Filles and La Toussuire
Belgian riders Jurgen Van den Broeck and Jelle Vanendert from the Lotto-Belisol team didn't hide their ambition for the upcoming three weeks of the Tour de France. During the Lotto-Belisol press conference on Friday afternoon, Van den Broeck stated he was ready to seize his moments to be in the mix for the podium in Paris. Vanendert said he hoped to receive the go ahead to chase a stage win.
Jurgen Van den Broeck has high ambitions for the general classification. Back in 2010, he showed off his talent by finishing fifth, later moving up to fourth after the positive clenbuterol test from winner Alberto Contador. Last year, the Belgian was on course to be in the mix for the podium until a massive crash in the descent of the Col de Pas de Peyrol during stage 10 to Saint-Flour took him out of the race.
"I'm not as nervous as last year. I learned from that crash that it can soon be over. I did the maximum, I couldn't do more. I lived for it and trained for it so I know that I'm ready. If it doesn't work out then I can't blame myself, if it does work out then that's fantastic.
What's 'it'? A nice goal, a nice result. The podium?
"I don't have to hide that this would be the best outcome, if not then that's a stage win. From third to tenth place anything is possible and even the first two are not certain because also they can have a bad day," Van den Broeck said.
This year Van den Broeck arrives in perfect shape to the start of the Tour de France which kicks off in his home country Belgium. After last year's crash, tackling tricky descents turned out to be a tough task on the mental front and that might be one of his weakest points. In contrast to that are his climbing skills and his improvement on the time trial bike.
"The difference can be made anywhere. During the first week there're the stages where the wind is dangerous. You can't win but you can lose. Then there're the tough stages in the Vosges or the Jura. Then there's the time trial and then there's already the Alps. Really, it can happen everywhere and if you have the chance you have to take time because Evans and Wiggins are the better riders in the time trial. So you have to try and take advantage of that in the mountains. The first time trial will show where everybody is but then there're still the Alps and the Pyrenees to come so it will not be decided by then," Van den Broeck said.
In contrast to the Sky team with top favourite Bradley Wiggins, the Lotto-Belisol team opted to include three riders who need to work for the team's sprinter André Greipel. Van den Broeck was quick to add that it wouldn't be a one-way street.
"The difference is that even a man like André will do his work in my stages and there're not a lot of sprinters who do that," Van den Broeck said.
One of the men who'll be working for Van den Broeck is Jelle Vanendert. Last year he showed with his stage win on the Plateau de Beille that he can target specific tough uphill finishes.
"I hope to battle along for a stage win again this year. Then I would prove that I'm in the mix again. In contrast to last year I will not ride totally in support as I'll receive my chances," Vanendert said.
The lieutenant for Van den Broeck checked out the stages in the Pyrenees together with his compatriot for five days.
"There were a few unknown factors, while the Alps didn't have many secrets for me. Also the climb of La Planche des Belles Filles was new to me. Already on Sunday in Seraing I hope to get a good result but the peloton will still be fresh and the sprinters will probably still be there in the finale. Much depends on what happens with Jurgen but I am also targeting La Planche des Belles Filles [stage 7] and the one to La Toussuire [stage 11]. The first one suits me because it's a really steep climb and the second because it's a really tough stage," Vanendert told Cyclingnews.
On Saturday afternoon Van den Broeck's race gets underway at 17:06 local time, which is one minute before top favourite Bradley Wiggins. When asked about his ambitions for the prologue VDB made clear he didn't want to focus on a result or a certain time loss over the top favourites.
"The result is unimportant as only the time matters. I will not talk about a successful prologue, only about a successful Tour," a clearly focused Van den Broeck said, pointing out that a disappointing prologue result wouldn't keep him from eying the podium in Paris.
- Article published:
- June 30, 2012, 14:59
- Cycling News
South African team to seek Professional Continental status in 2013
MTN-Qhubeka plans to be the first African team in the Tour de France. Sponsor MTN has said it will pursue “the African dream,” whilst the South African team announced it will register as a Professional Continental team next year.
“As proud sponsors of Team MTN-Qhubeka, we are pleased to announce our pursuit of the African dream to get the first African cycling team, with predominately African riders to race in the Tour de France,” said Serame Taukobong, Chief Marketing Officer of MTN SA, in a press release. “This dream has the potential of unlocking vast opportunities for cycling in South Africa and in the entire continent.”
“To register Africa’s first UCI Professional Continental Team is great for the riders on our team who have worked so hard in building their performance to this higher level of racing which shows in their results over the last 12 months,” said Team Principal Doug Ryder.
“The plan is to race a dual program in 2013, one in Europe and the other in events that span the other continents, with the intention of raising the awareness of cycling on the African continent and how, through Qhubeka and World Bicycle Relief, we are mobilising change one bike at a time in Africa.”
The team has 22 wins so far this season, both in Africa and Europe. South African Janse Van Rensburg has 14 of those wins, including the national time trial title and the 1.1 ranked Ronde van Zeeland Seaports earlier this month.
Anthony Fitzhenry, founder of Qhubeka, said, “We are thankful to MTN for their support of the team and Qhubeka, and we will put all our efforts and resources into helping the team to continue to achieve their impressive goals, including an African Tour de France team and mobilising many more children on bicycles throughout Africa,” he says.
MTN, based in South Africa, is a multinational telecommunications group operating in 21 countries throughout Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Qhubeka, which means ‘to move forward’, is a Corporate Social Investment project which aims to help rural communities advance their lives by providing bicycles to children in return for work done to improve their environment and communities.
- Article published:
- June 30, 2012, 18:32
- Brecht Decaluwé
Defending Tour de France champion content with time trial result
Cadel Evans (BMC) was the last rider to get underway in the 99th edition of the Tour de France which began today in Liège, Belgium with a 6.4km prologue time trial. Last year's winner went smoothly through the few sharp corners and developed a lot of power on the twisting course through the crowd-packed Belgian town. Halfway into the parcours the Australian was even one second ahead of GC-rival Bradley Wiggins (Sky) but he couldn't keep up that high rhythm through to the finish.
Evans faded towards the finish line at the Parc d'Avroy and eventually lost ten seconds on his British rival for the general classification, finishing 17 seconds behind stage winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan).
"This isn't really my thing," Evans said while cooling down on the rollers. "It's not my speciality. I didn't want to lose time and it wasn't too bad. I expected to lose time on GC-riders. I've lost a couple of seconds on specialists like Wiggins. This was good to normal to me.
"We've got the Tour started. That's the first thing and now I've got to keep going."
On Sunday the peloton will tackle a mini-edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in a stage that finishes on a slightly uphill finish in Seraing, a town in the heavily industrial area southwest of Liège. Due to his time loss on Wiggins the Australian might opt to make a first effort to gain some seconds back on the Sky-rider but Evans stated that the outcome of the prologue didn't do much to the team's original plans.
"It doesn't change much. We're a bit away from the yellow so we're a bit calmer in that regard. We'll take the stage like we would anyway. Of course we'll do what we came for, whether that's for time or the result in the stage. We go in with the same mentality," Evans said.
- Article published:
- June 30, 2012, 19:39
- Peter Cossins
It was the ideal start for the team, says Sky boss Brailsford
After all the talk, you could sense the release of tension all around the Tour de France as the racing finally got under way today, and nowhere more so than at Team Sky, who have been the centre of so much attention in recent days. The British squad had a great day all round, with Bradley Wiggins finishing second, Edvald Boasson Hagen fifth and Chris Froome 11th, and with no mishaps to report on what was a tricky prologue course tackled in gusty conditions.
Tour favourite Wiggins said he was glad to get the opening day's racing out of the way, and happy that it had gone so well for him. "I finished second, which is a good start. Physically, I felt fantastic out there," said the Briton, who gained at least six seconds on all his likely GC rivals and half a minute on some of them.
Wiggins said that after doing recon of the Liège prologue course in the morning, he noticed that there were several tricky sections and decided not to take any major risks. "I concentrated on physically doing everything we've been training for," he said. "There was a cobbled section and a few drains on the way out, there was an off-camber roundabout where again I didn't take any major risks.
"There's a commitment in that kind of race for the stage win and there's a commitment thinking of the three weeks, and I took the second option. I didn't go across the first section of cobbles on the tri-bars – I came off them for safety reasons. I felt in control during the first half and then just stepped it up."
Asked about Sky boss Dave Brailsford's post-stage comment that the team didn't want the yellow jersey, Wiggins said: "I wouldn't say I didn't want the yellow jersey. I would have taken it. But I did say to the team last night that there's one man who could beat me and that's Fabian [Cancellara]. He's always king of those things and he's proved once again that he's the best in the world."
Like his team leader, Brailsford looked very satisfied with the day's outcome. "The objective beforehand was to get the team through in good shape and to gain some time on the GC riders if possible, to get a few seconds on them. We didn't really want to win it. It would have been nice to have won it, but we didn't really want the yellow jersey right from the very off. It would have complicated issues for us in terms of the bigger picture, so it's been the ideal start," he said.
Brailsford was quick to pay tribute to his team leader, admitting he was particularly impressed with the way Wiggins had performed given the pressure that has been building on him. "Bradley's had a lot to do in the last few days. The media intensity around him is massive, and the expectation that's put on him is bigger than ever. But after all that he's delivered and he's shown that he's very, very strong. His last kilo was very fast. He looked really impressive," said Brailsford.
"I think what's really positive is that when there is so much extra pressure on someone and you can put all that to one side and step up and deliver like Bradley has done today, then it shows that he's a big time performer and that you can rely on him. He deserves a lot of credit for doing as well as he did today in this environment."
Brailsford also paid tribute to his team's other leading performers on the day. "I think Froomey did a great ride and Edvald did a super ride – technically, a very good ride indeed, so that was really rewarding."
Asked about Boasson Hagen's prospects on tomorrow's uphill finish in Seraing, the Sky boss agreed that it should suit the Norwegian powerhouse, but admitted he's got other priorities. "The first thing to do tomorrow is to get everyone through the stage safely. If Edvald is then in a position to win I think he will certainly be in with a chance as it's his kind of final."
- Article published:
- June 30, 2012, 20:31
- Daniel Benson
Young American looks to learn from Evans
If America needed further proof that a new generation of riders had arrived then it was cemented with Tejay van Garderen's display in the Tour de France prologue. After Taylor Phinney won the prologue at the Giro in May the BMC all-rounder finished fourth, 10 seconds behind Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) in Liege, doing enough to sneak into the white jersey.
The 23-year-old is the only American in the Tour under the age of 28, and with compatriots Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and Dave Zabriskie all over 30, Van Garderen's display was all the more important.
"I gave it my all and I’m very happy with my performance. Hopefully my form is pretty good. I prepared well for this and I just hope it means I'm going to be strong support for Cadel come later in the Tour. [The white jersey] is not something that's a team goal. We came here with one goal and that's to get Cadel on the top step of the podium in Paris, but anything can happen," Van Garderen said.
As he made his way to the Tour podium, he added: "It's going to be incredible. I've got chills waiting to go up there and get it. I've had this white jersey in mind for a while because normally I go pretty well in prologues so I gave it a go and now I'm just so excited."
Van Garderen has already tasted Tour success, having pulled on the King of the Mountains jersey during last year's race, the first American to ever wear the jersey [Greg LeMond held the jersey in his career but wore yellow during that spell – ed.] However, Van Garderen's biggest challenge lies ahead, and defending the white jersey will become irrelevant in the coming days as the battle for yellow intensifies. Van Garderen is Evans' most talented climbing support on the BMC team, and his fitness and stamina will be crucial in Evans's title defence.
During yesterday's pre-race press conference, BMC toyed with the option of holding the American rider back in time trials in order to save his legs for the mountains that lie ahead.
"To be honest the team has great spirit, the guys are super relaxed and having a bunch of fun. Andy Rihs and Jim Ochowicz were having a barbecue last night and cracking open a few bottles of wine. I mean, yeah, the riders we're pretty serious but we have a joke around the table. During the team meeting, Cadel was saying 'Guys, don't stress - winning the Tour is fun we had fun doing it last year and we'll have fun doing it this year.’
"I'm learning a lot from Cadel and being a GC-style rider myself, I hope to learn a lot from him and help him and then hopefully in a few years time he can pass the torch."
- Article published:
- June 30, 2012, 21:22
- Peter Cossins
Irishman says his task is to learn during his first Tour appearance
Few riders were beaming more broadly than Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin when they finished their Tour de France prologue rides in Liège on Saturday. The stats say that he finished 24 seconds down in 55th place on the day, but of far more importance to the Irishman was the fact that his Tour de France career was under way after some dashed hopes in the past.
“When I set off I was concentrating so hard on my effort that I didn’t notice the people around the course at first. But then I became aware it was a tunnel of noise,” said Martin. “I feel like a Tour de France rider now. It’s actually one of the first prologues I’ve ever done as the other grand tours I’ve done have started with team time trials.”
The Irish climber admitted he was happy to put the prologue behind him and be able to focus on something more in his line during the opening road stage to Seraing on Sunday. But don’t expect to see him in the thick of the action just yet. “My aim now is to relax and stay out of trouble in the first week and count time down until we reach the Alps. I’ve always thought that the mountains are what the Tour de France are all about and that a lot of people tune in to see that stunning French countryside and us suffering our arses off in it,” he said.
Martin says his role is very much one of a support rider to Garmin-Sharp’s Giro d’Italia winner, Ryder Hesjedal. “I’m definitely in the race to help Ryder, I’ve got no GC ambitions at all. My other role this year is very much to see the Tour as a learning experience. My chance of riding for the GC will come next year.”
Asked whether he had any last-minute advice from his cousin, Ag2r’s Nicolas Roche, Martin said: “I’ve not spoken to Nico recently, but it’s good to know he’s here. I think we’re the only riders from the same family in the race this year. But I won’t be judging my Tour against his as he’s got more experience. This is his fourth Tour and he’s got a team built around him.”
For the record, Roche finished 56th on the day, one second and one place behind his cousin.
- Article published:
- June 30, 2012, 22:22
- Brecht Decaluwé
Lotto-Belisol rider appreciative of fan support on home soil
The Belgian hope for a high placing in the Tour de France received somewhat of a knock as Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) finished a distant 77th place in the prologue on home soil. Van den Broeck lost 21 seconds on top favourite Bradley Wiggins (Sky) in the 6.4km long time trial in the city of Liège.
"Twenty seconds is negligible," Van den Broeck said. "We'll see at the end of the Tour de France but I don't have to look at others but at myself. It's important that I don't lose twenty seconds on a man like [Robert] Gesink,"
While losing 11 seconds on defending Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC), Van den Broeck lost only two seconds on Robert Gesink (Rabobank) who has similar climbing qualities as the Belgian.
"I think I can improve and the legs are not good yet, so it wasn't bad. I know the rhythm has to come but I'm confident it'll come."
The performance from Wiggins didn't surprise Van den Broeck. "It was to be expected. In the Dauphiné you could tell he's riding on another level in this discipline. My goal was to clock a time of 7:30, that would be good for me and it is 7:41. I think that all in all I can be satisfied. I hope to do better [in the long time trials]," said Van den Broeck.
According to the Belgian, riding on home soil in the Tour de France resulted in a special atmosphere as the huge amount of fans – probably mainly Belgians – cheered him on when he rode on the course in sunny Liège.
"It was fun, it gave a kick but maybe not good enough. I didn't expect that my legs would already be super in the prologue, right after altitude training. I think I was further back in the past. I cannot be happy but it could've been worse."
Last year there was no opening time trial in the Tour de France but two years ago Van den Broeck lost ten seconds on Evans in Rotterdam, and 22 seconds on eventual – later suspended – winner Alberto Contador; he was 7 seconds ahead of then struggling Wiggins. Back in 2009 during the 15.5km long opening time trial in Monaco the Belgian lost 53 seconds on eventual winner Contador, 52 seconds on Wiggins and 48 seconds on Evans.
- Article published:
- July 1, 2012, 00:12
- Cycling News
Cancellara superb as the Swiss master takes first yellow jersey
It was a case of history repeating for Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan), as he won the Tour de France 6.4km prologue in Liège just as he had eight years ago.
While Cancellara's performance was flawless; the same could not be said for rivals Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) or Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) who both struck their own brand of trouble on the technical course. In the battle for general classification glory, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) struck the first blow against defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC) with 10 seconds separating the pair.