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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, March 6, 2011

Date published:
March 06, 2011, 0:00 GMT
  • Plaza breaks leg in Vuelta Murcia crash

    Mauricio Soler (Movistar) on the attack before crashing out on the final descent.
    Article published:
    March 05, 2011, 20:23 GMT
    Cycling News

    Movistar loses two as Soler abandons

    Team Movistar lost two of its top climbers in the second stage of the Vuelta Ciclista a la Region de Murcia today, as both Rubén Plaza and Mauricio Soler crashed out on the final descent from the Alto del Collado Bermejo.

    Plaza was in the lead chasing group of five behind eventual stage winner Alberto Contador, while Soler was in the next group with teammates Vasil Kiryienka and Fran Pérez when the crashes occurred on the tricky descent.

    The two riders were taken by ambulance to the Hospital Virgen de Arrixaca de Murcia, where tests indicated that Plaza has suffered a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg. He is expected to undergo surgery in the coming days.

    Soler escaped with several cuts on his left leg but no fractures.

    Euskaltel-Euskadi's Mikel Landa fractured a collarbone in the same crash.

  • UCI's decision on Contador appeal to be made soon

    Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Sungard) wins stage 2
    Article published:
    March 05, 2011, 21:21 GMT
    Cycling News

    March 24 deadline to fight RFEC verdict

    The International Cycling Union (UCI) will decide by March 24 on whether it will appeal the decision of the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) to acquit Alberto Contador on charges of an anti-doping rule violation.

    The UCI's president Pat McQuaid told the AFP today that they received the complete dossier on February 24, and have one month to submit an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). The organisation will begin reviewing the documentation this week.

    Contador was able to convince the RFEC's disciplinary commission that he did not knowingly take the banned stimulant Clenbuterol, for which he tested positive on the 2010 Tour de France's second rest day. The Spanish rider argued that contaminated meat was responsible for his positive test.

    He was cleared of the doping charges and freed to race by the RFEC on February 15, and is currently leading the Vuelta Murica after winning stage 2.

    In a recent case, the UCI appealed to CAS the Belgian Cycling Federation's 2009 decision to acquit Iljo Keisse of doping. The Belgian was handed a two-year suspension by CAS, but he is currently allowed to race only in his home country after an appeals court suspended the court's decision.

    Keisse also argued that contamination was responsible for his doping positive, blaming a tainted supplement. He is currently participating in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen while awaiting a discussion of the validity of the CAS decision by a Belgian court in April.

  • Vinokourov targets stage victory at Paris-Nice

    Alexander VInokourov considers a question at the Astana presentation
    Article published:
    March 06, 2011, 10:29 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Kazakh returns for first time since suspension

    Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) has said that he is targeting a stage win rather than overall victory at Paris-Nice as the race comes too early in a season where his primary focus is July’s Tour de France.

    This is the Kazakh’s first appearance in Paris-Nice since he returned from a two-year suspension for blood doping at the end of 2009. Last season, he opted to race at Tirreno-Adriatico while his then-teammate Alberto Contador triumphed overall in Nice.

    “It arrives perhaps a little early for me this year because I have objectives further down the line, like the Ardennes Classics and certainly the Tour de France,” Vinokourov told La Dernière Heure. “But Paris-Nice can never be treated with indifference, you always want to do something good in this race. It marks the big start of the season.

    “I’d like to win a stage and help Roman [Kreuziger], Rémy [Di Gregorio] and Robert [Kizerlovski] get a good placing overall. We’re coming to put one of our riders on the podium in Nice.”

    Vinokourov has a lengthy history with Paris-Nice, and has met both triumph and tragedy on its roads. He was the overall victor in both 2002 and 2003, but the latter year his win was overshadowed by the death of his friend and compatriot Andrei Kivilev after a crash on stage two.

    “That was a turning point in my career,inf my life,” Vinokourov said. “It made me much stronger too. I treated it as an ordeal to be passed in order to go further. Andrei is still there, he’s my brother, I talk to him sometimes. A day...

  • Ballan and Cunego pleased with Strade Bianche showings

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) on the podium, flanked by Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD).
    Article published:
    March 06, 2011, 11:41 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Italians give best to Gilbert in Siena showdown

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) was the hugely impressive winner of Saturday’s Montepaschi Strade Bianche, but his two Italian dauphins in Siena also declared themselves to be pleased with their outing in Tuscany. Alessandro Ballan (BMC) repeated his second-place finish of 2008, the year of his world title victory, while Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) came home in third on his first appearance in the event.

    Ballan put up the stiffest resistance to Gilbert’s pressing on the last uphill stretch in Siena’s narrow streets, although an error on the final corner into Piazza del Campo effectively ended his challenge. Nonetheless, coming on the back of solid displays at the Santos Tour Down Under and the Giro di Sardegna, Ballan felt that his performance augurs well for the weeks ahead.

    “When Gilbert attacked, first I tried to recover and then to pass him, but I didn’t manage it,” Ballan told Gazzetta dello Sport. “To win would have been great, but I’m happy with this too: in comparison to the past two years, I feel like another man.”

    Ballan has endured lean times since taking the rainbow jersey in Varese three seasons ago, and reached his lowest ebb last spring when his BMC team sidelined him for his part in a Mantova-based anti-doping investigation. Although later cleared by an internal team investigation, the Italian struggled for form throughout 2010, but a solid winter has seen him start this season with renewed confidence.

    “I’ve changed a lot, if not...

  • Fränk Schleck tips Tony Martin for Paris-Nice glory

    Luxembourg champion Frank Schleck (Leopard Trek)
    Article published:
    March 06, 2011, 13:11 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Luxembourg rider building towards the Ardennes

    Fränk Schleck (Leopard Trek) has identified Tony Martin and HTC-Highroad as the favourites for overall glory at Paris-Nice. The Luxembourg rider was reticent to rate his own chances, but admitted that it would be difficult to finish in the top 5.

    “The most impressive team on paper is without doubt HTC-Highroad, with Tony Martin as leader,” Schleck told L’Équipe. “This Paris-Nice is made for him. There are no long cols and it’s only a week of racing. I’m also thinking of Roman Kreuziger and Alexandre Vinokourov, and Sylvain Chavanel of the French riders. There will be others too: the race will be very open.”

    In his eight previous Paris-Nice appearances, Schleck has finished outside of the top 10 on just two occasions, and was second overall in 2009. This time around, however, he reckons that the course may not help his chances.

    “It will be very difficult to seek out a place in the top five,” he said. “There’s a 27km time trial, and the stages that precede it won’t allow gaps of minutes to be formed. I’m here above all to build up confidence by getting the best result possible.”

    The Race to the Sun will serve as a useful test for the elder of the Schleck brothers as he continues to build up to his primary targets later in the spring.

    “I haven’t specifically prepared for this race but it’s important for evaluating my level of form before my first major objectives of the season, which are the Tour of the Basque Country and the Ardennes Classics,” he said. “I started in Mallorca, and then went on to the Ruta del Sol, where I felt I was getting better and better.”

    While Andy Schleck

  • Porte ready to fight for Paris-Nice victory

    Richie Porte (Saxo Bank-SunGard) lines up for stage 1 of Paris-Nice.
    Article published:
    March 06, 2011, 14:14 GMT
    Jean-François Quénet

    Individual time trial to suit the Australian

    Richie Porte (Saxo Bank-SunGard) tackles Paris-Nice with the memory of last year’s race still fresh in his mind. Twelve months ago, he suffered in what was one of his first major races as a professional, but this time around he approaches the event confident in the knowledge that he is now a very different rider.

    In the absence of defending champion Alberto Contador, who has opted for a lighter programme at the Tour of Murcia, the Tasmanian captains Saxo Bank-SunGard with the aim of winning the “race to the sun.”

    “My form is certainly getting there,” he told Cyclingnews on the start line of stage 1 in Houdan. “I have much more experience than last year. When I came here last year, I wasn’t prepared at all. It was the hardest race I did and I expect it to be the same this year.”

    A neo-pro with Saxo Bank in 2010, he discovered at Paris-Nice just how hard professional cycling is. After the race, he had a serious discussion with team manager Bjarne Riis and directeur sportif Bradley McGee about the weight he had to lose and the amount of training he had to do.

    Taking that advice on board, he went on to win the time trial of the Tour of Romandie and the white jersey of best young rider at the Giro d’Italia, where he also wore the pink jersey for three days. Since then, he has become one of the most sought-after riders on the cycling market. There is obvious interest from the future Australian team GreenEDGE to make him their captain for the Grand Tours, but he appears at ease at Saxo Bank-SunGard. “It’s a happy team this year,” he noted with satisfaction.

    Last week at a team training camp in Mallorca, Porte showed equivalent abilities to Contador’s in testing and he seems pleased to have the Spaniard on board.


  • Paris-Nice stage winner De Gendt reveals success secret

    Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) celebrates his win.
    Article published:
    March 06, 2011, 19:43 GMT
    Jean-François Quénet

    Belgian gave up sausages to shed four kilos

    Paris-Nice leader Thomas De Gendt scored the biggest victory of his career Sunday when he held off the charging herd of sprinters coming to the line on the heels of his successful breakaway in Houdan.

    The 24-year-old Belgian topped Frenchman Jérémy Roy (FDJ) from the move, while the pair's erstwhile companion Jens Voigt (Leopard Trek) was caught by the bunch as Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervélo) took the field sprint for third.

    De Gendt, whose last victory came in the 2009 Tour de Wallonie, revealed the secret of his 2011 success, which began with a second place on a stage of the Tour Down Under: giving up his favourite foods to shed four kilograms in the six weeks since the Australian race.

    "I'm also three kilos lighter than last year," said De Gendt, who transferred from Topsport-Vlaanderen to Vacansoleil during the off-season. "Salami and sausages are my weakness. I love to eat everything that a pro cyclist shouldn't eat."

    His teammate Romain Feillu was one of the riders the most expected to strike on stage 1 at Paris-Nice, but the Frenchman was ninth on the finishing line in Houdan today. He was delighted for De Gendt, who delivered Vacansoleil its first World Tour win.

    "Thomas has an enormous potential," Feillu told Cyclingnews on the finishing line. "He knows how to hurt himself. He can time trial pretty well. At the Santos Tour Down Under, he was already close to win stage 4. He was amazing in Australia because he was already able to climb although he was a bit overweight."

    De Gendt had options to join the two super teams from his country but opted for Dutch...