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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, March 16, 2014

Date published:
March 16, 2014, 0:00 GMT
  • Kwiatkowski ready to fight with Contador for Tirreno-Adriatico victory

    Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) in the leader's jersey
    Article published:
    March 15, 2014, 19:17 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    "I'm really happy that I'm still in the leader's jersey"

    Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) used the Tirreno-Adriatico leader's jersey to stay warm as he spoke to the media at the top of the climb to Selvarotonda.

    Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) cut the Polish rider's lead to just 16 by winning the stage but Kwiatkowski is confident he can defend his lead until the end of the weeklong race on Tuesday.

    "I'm really happy that I'm still in the leader's jersey," Kwiatkowski said.

    "We expected some big attacks from Contador and Quintana, and they did them. They really pushed me to the limit but I'm really thankful to Wouter Poels, who lead for seven kilometres on the climb, and Rigo Urán because they really did a good job for me. They set a good tempo on the last climb and I didn't lose so much time."

    "I knew that I couldn't follow the attacks because they could really blow me up but I was able to handle the small difference between us. That's my style, my technique."

    Kwiatkowski praised Alberto Contador and said he expects him to attack on the steep wall finish to Guardiagrele. Yet he is ready to take on Contador in the final, decisive time trial stage on Tuesday.

    "He was strong. He has this day and tomorrow where he can gain seconds on the GC. He's the biggest contender for winning the whole of Tirreno. It's normal that he won. Congratulations to him," Kwiatkowski said.

    "Everything's going well for me but tomorrow is the last mountain stage. I expect even more attacks tomorrow than today because the climbers know they can gain some time. I'll try to do my best and my team as well."

    Time trial showdown

    Kwiatkowski is ready for a show down with Contador on the Muro di...

  • Porte ready to fight on at Tirreno-Adriatico

    Richie Porte (Team Sky)
    Article published:
    March 15, 2014, 20:00 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    "It's not over yet", says Sky rider

    Richie Porte (Team Sky) regretted spending too much time at the head of the peloton in the final kilometre of the mountain stage of Tirreno-Adriatico but insisted that the Race of the Two Seas' is far from over.

    The Tasmanian made several long surges on the front of the select group as the finish approached, trying to distance his weaker rivals. The surges put race leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) into the red and left him swinging on and off the back, but also set up Contador for his late attack.

    Porte finished fifth on the stage, at five seconds, moving up to fourth overall at 34 seconds behind Kwiatkowski.

    "It was a hard, really hard stage," he said as he pulled on layers of warm clothing for the descent to the team bus, 14km back down the Apennine valley.

    "I know it wasn't a great idea to ride at the front but you never know, you might slip away if they are riding cat and mouse. I'm not too unhappy with how it panned out. I think I was up there with the top guys and tomorrow's another day."

    Porte praised Bradley Wiggins and Mikel Nieve for helping in the valley and then on the climb. He was also genuinely pleased to see Contador back to his best, even if it will cause him and his Team Sky teammates some problems at the Tour de France.

    "Brad was great today, pulling on the front for me in the valley. He's obviously on the way back up," he pointed out.

    "It's good for the cycling fans to see him (Contador) winning again. This year, maybe he can take it up to Froome a little bit more than he did last year. Now we are all going to be watching Alberto and seeing how he goes tomorrow, too."

    Despite Kwiatkowski holding onto the race leader's blue jersey, passing a major test of his ability after...

  • Teams fit compact chainsets for Tirreno-Adriatico Muro finish

    Team wheels are wrapped with Veloflex tubulars for racing
    Article published:
    March 16, 2014, 9:30 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Team Sky give their riders a super low 34x32 option

    Mechanics from every team in action at Tirreno-Adriatico spent Saturday night getting their riders' bikes ready for Sunday's fifth stage and the much feared Muro (Wall) di Guardiagrele finish.

    The climb to the village that hosts the finish of the stage is only 610 metres long but kicks up at an average of 22%, with the inside line on one corner touching 30%. It is almost certain to be the steepest climb the riders will face all season.

    The road climbs through the olive groves on the side of the hill, with even staff from RCS Sport who designed he route, describing the climb as 'scary'.

    Mechanics fitted compact crank sets to team bikes and some tweaked the working of the derailleur arm so it can handle up to a 32 tooth sprocket.

    One mechanic, who Cyclingnews will protect for his own safety in the peloton, said that if riders cannot get up the climb with a 36x28 gear then they should not be professional athletes.

    Some teams and their different component suppliers are trying to give their riders an even lower gear in case of problems on the Muro. No one will be surprised if some riders, especially at the back of the front group, are forced to walk up the climb.

    Team Sky mechanic Gary Blem admitted to Cyclingnews that he was worried that one of his riders could have a problem and so the British team has opted for a super low gear.

    "We'll be using a compact 34 with a 32 cassette tooth sprocket on the rear. Not all the guys will perhaps use the 32 but the high-cadence guys like Richie Porte probably will," he explained.

    "The challenge with that is the clearance of the pulley wheel of the rear derailleur and the 32 sprocket. Shimano doesn't have an 11-speed long-cage derailleur, so we've had to modify the derailleur ourselves to make it work."

    "It's a challenge for us because we've never tried it in race conditions yet. We're under pressure to make sure it works because we're...

  • Thomas out of Paris-Nice after crash

    Race leader Geraint Thomas (Sky)
    Article published:
    March 16, 2014, 10:42 GMT
    Cycling News

    Sky hope to go on the attack on final stage

    In the world of cycling your luck can change in an instant and Geraint Thomas (Sky) was on the blunt end of that shift in fortunes on stage 7 of Paris-Nice.

    Thomas was forced to abandon after coming down with a handful of riders on the final descent of the day. He took to twitter after the stage, “All is ok thanks guys. Just gutted, good all race then boom... Nothing.”

    The Welshman was comfortably in the main group of favourites, but took a tumble on one of the many corners that characterised the day’s racing. While the other riders involved in the incident were quick to get back up Thomas remained on the ground for some time. He managed to finish the stage some seven minutes behind the winner Tom-Jelte Slagter, with several visible cuts and large tears to his kit.

    Sky later confirmed that he wouldn’t take part in the final stage to Nice. Team doctor Richard Usher says that Thomas’ injuries were not as bad as they had initially appeared. “Thankfully nothing appears to be broken,” he told “Geraint’s got multiple bruises and abrasions but we’ve cleaned him up and he won’t need a trip to the hospital. He’s travelled back to the hotel with us this evening and we’ll monitor his situation closely overnight.”

    Up to the accident Thomas had been having a very good Paris-Nice. He was quickly promoted to team leader when Sky chose to send Richie Porte to Tirreno-Adriatico. Thomas spent two days in the yellow jersey and was sitting in second place, eight seconds behind Carlos Betancur, and the team had hoped they could end the week in a high placing. With no man in contention for the general classification, the other Sky riders could get free rein to attack.

    “We’d been able to put G in a good position and...

  • Costa frustrated with another second place

    World Champion Rui Costa (Lampre Merida)
    Article published:
    March 16, 2014, 11:47 GMT
    Cycling News

    World Champion still looking for victory at Paris-Nice

    Rui Costa’s (Lampre-Merida) hunt for a victory in the rainbow jersey continues after he had to settle for second place for the fifth time this season on stage 7 of Paris-Nice.

    Costa was visibly upset by his failure to notch up his first win of the season. The Portuguese rider took some time to himself, slumped over his handlebars, after he crossed the line.

    “I really thought I could win, but I missed the victory once again. The bitterness is huge, because the team raced in an amazing way and my condition is very good,” said Costa. “It will be important to turn this sorrow into a spur for trying to win tomorrow.”

    By the evening Costa was able to find some humour in the situation and in a twitter exchange with Geraint Thomas, who crashed out of the stage, said that he believed second just might be his lucky number. He has notched up two at Paris-Nice and found himself in the bridesmaid position on three occasions at his home race the Volta ao Algarve.

    On stage 6 Costa launched a sprint that looked like it would give him the much desired victory, but he was cruelly denied by an in-form Carlos Betancur just before the line. He looked strong, yet again, at the finish of stage 7, but couldn’t find the power to overhaul Tom-Jelte Slagter. "Approaching the final lap, I told my team mates to go in the head of the group in order to speed up the pace, because I had noticed that Betancur was not at the top. I wanted to put pressure on him and I’ll try to do this tomorrow, in the last stage: nothing should be untried”.

    It hasn’t been for trying that victory has evaded Costa. Despite being a marked man in the peloton, due to his rainbow jersey, he hasn’t...

  • Illness forces Porte out of Tirreno-Adriatico

    Richie Porte (Team Sky)
    Article published:
    March 16, 2014, 12:39 GMT
    Cycling News

    Australian to return to racing at Catalunya

    Richie Porte becomes the second Sky rider forced to take an early trip home after team Sky announced that he won’t take part in the rest of Tirreno-Adriatico.

    “Unfortunately due to illness which occurred overnight it’s been decided that Richie is too unwell to start the race this morning. We expect him to recover quickly and hope to have him back in training within the next 48 hours,” said team doctor Allan Farrell.

    It has been a rough 24 hours for Sky, after Geraint Thomas was forced out of Paris-Nice while he was in second place in the general classification. Thomas came down in a crash in a corner on the final descent, while he was able to finish the stage the team decided it would be best for him to sit out the final day of racing.

    Saturday’s stage four was the first big test of the climbers, with the summit finish at Cittareale (Selva Rotonda). At the finish, Porte lost five seconds to the stage winner Alberto Contador, but managed to move himself into fourth overall and close the gap to race leader Michal Kwiatkowski. The Australian later lamented spending so much time on the front of the peloton during the day, but was positive that he could still challenge for the race victory.

    “He’s really disappointed but recognises that this is the best course of action to prepare him for his upcoming races,” explained Farrell. “He’s looking forward to the Tour of Catalunya next week.”

    The Volta a Catalunya begins on Monday 24th March, where Porte will ride in support of Chris Froome. Froome was supposed to be riding Tirreno-Adriatico but had to

  • King celebrates his great day out at Tirreno-Adriatico

    Ben King (Garmin-Sharp) hangs on for third
    Article published:
    March 16, 2014, 17:17 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    American goes on the attack on the day is family arrives in Italy

    Ben King (Garmin-Sharp) celebrated with his family after taking his first ever top three result in a WorldTour race atop the Wall of Guardiagrele at Tirreno-Adriatico.

    The 24-year-old American was in pain after spending the day in the breakaway but was proud to have been at the very front of the action on a great day of racing.

    King even tried to anticipate Alberto Contador by attacking before the 22 per cent climb to the finish in Guardiagrele. He was passed by both Contador and breakaway companion Simon Geschke (Giant-Shimano) but made it to the top of the climb to finish third at 45 seconds.

    "My family is here, all the way from Virginia in the USA, they arrived last night, so it was a special day," he said after getting a hug from his parents and sister.

    "It's my first podium finish in a WorldTour race and so I'm pretty happy about that. Having my family here gave me some extra motivation and it was cool to be out front to let them see me on television. I was thinking of a top three or even two. I was trying to get some space from the other guys. I also like to attack, it’s more exciting that way."

    King admitted he had been concerned about the 20 per cent gradient of the Muro of Guardiagrele.

    "I don’t know if I've ridden a climb like that before in a race. It was so steep. My arms hurt as much as my legs after a climb like that," he said.

    "We were talking about it at the breakfast. [David] Millar was already trying to decide the best way to avoid walking up the climb because he didn't want that haunting him all his life. I had that in my mind too and so I wanted to be off the front, so that I wasn't seen walking or running."

    King was actually the first rider to hit the climb...

  • Contador full of confidence after taking charge at Tirreno-Adriatico

    Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) celebrates his dominant performance on stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico
    Article published:
    March 16, 2014, 18:17 GMT
    Cycling News

    Spaniard leads with two stages remaining

    Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) arrived at his post-stage winner's press conference close to two hours after winning alone atop the wall of Guardiagrele but nothing could dent his satisfaction after he confirmed that he is back to his very best and ready to take on anyone, including Chris Froome, at the Volta a Catalunya and more importantly at the Tour de France.

    Contador has returned to firing off his Pistolero winning salute this year, with each victory boosting his confidence even more.

    “Winning is always important for your confidence," he said.

    "When you win one, they seem to come easier. Though at times winning resists you and sometimes you start winning from the very start of the season."

    "I was good before Algarve and before this race but you never know if you're going to win. It's good for my confidence. I'm feeling good and so I was able to win from far out, which is nice too."

    Contador denied that he had wanted to show who was strongest by attacking so far out. His second acceleration on the Passo Lanciano cracked Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and showed that he was far superior to Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

    "I think there are some very strong riders in this race," he said modestly. "But today I felt good, right from the start of the climb. That gives you confidence and I'm happy because I've been working very hard I get the same sensations that I've felt at camps, where I've worked very hard."

    Bjarne Riis had told journalists at the finish in Guardiagrele that Contador had suffered in 2013 when he struggled in the Tour de France.

    The Danish team manager revealed that he had convinced Contador to train with more structure and scientifically.

    Contador suggested that he'd worked better and harder because...