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First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, May 20, 2012

Date published:
May 20, 2012, 21:00
  • Basso continues containment strategy at Giro d'Italia

    Ivan Basso (Liquigas)
    Article published:
    May 19, 2012, 21:15
    Barry Ryan

    Catenaccio from Liquigas-Cannondale ahead of final week

    Ivan Basso may be over a minute off the overall lead of the Giro d'Italia, but he and his Liquigas-Cannondale team continued to ride as though they were in possession of the maglia rosa on the first bona fide mountain stage to Cervinia on Saturday.

    Banking on his belief in his ability to endure the hardships of three weeks of racing better than his rivals, Basso has made no secret of his strategy of containment in the opening two-thirds of this Giro. Once again, on the Col de Joux and on the final climb to Cervinia, Liquigas set a stiff tempo at the front of the peloton, looking to dissuade any sudden changes in pace rather than prepare the ground for an attack from their leader.

    "As a team, we took the reins of the race so that we could control any attacks," Basso said. "Ours was a strategy of containment, albeit a sustained rhythm. Seeing as it's the first mountain stage, my rivals were at more or less equal strength, so for this reason, I preferred to control things rather than to force it.

    "We knew that it was going to be a hard stage, and then the weather made the climbs even harder."

    The sheer length of the final haul to Cervinia (27km) meant that, one by one, Basso's teammates began to drop away from the group of favourites, and with a shade under 5km to go, his gregario di lusso Sylwester Szmyd swung off and Basso was alone.

    It was at this point that the contenders finally began to crackle into action, with Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) jumping away. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Domenico Pozzovivo (Colnago-CSF Inox) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) were among the riders to try and steal away on the final ramps before the road flattened out, but Basso was again happy to maintain a watching brief.

    "I wouldn't have been able to make the difference that I wanted. It was better to save a bit more energy for tomorrow's stage," he said. "Today, we tried to contain the race as per the instructions from the team car, and then in the finale, I preferred not to try anything."

    Sunday brings the race to the shore of Lake Como and into the heart of Tour of Lombardy country on the road to Pian dei Resinelli, near Lecco. The climbs are shorter and sharper than those Basso faced on stage 14, but he was hopeful that the weather conditions might turn the stage into something of an endurance contest. "It should rain tomorrow, so I expect it should be even tougher than today," Basso said.

    As he looks to add a third Giro title to those of 2006 and 2010 (which bookended his suspension for his implication in the Operacion Puerto blood doping investigation), Basso remains happy to play a long game. Time will tell if the strategy is the correct one.

  • Video: Giro d'Italia stage 15 preview

    Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin - Barracuda) is back in pink after stage 14
    Article published:
    May 20, 2012, 08:49
    Cycling News

    Tough and crucial day lies ahead for riders

    The riders will enjoy a well-earned rest day on Monday after a period of almost two solid weeks on the road at the Giro d'Italia - but not before they tackle one of the race's toughest and most significant stages that is almost certain to shake up the general classification on Sunday evening.

    Stage 15 runs from the Lombardian town of Busto Arsizio, some 30km north of Milan, to Lecco in the beautiful Italian lake district and it is 172km that will test the mettle of the world's best climbers. After a relatively flat first 70km, the final 100km is massively undulating. It features four categorized climbs, including the formidable category one Valico di Valcava that comes first. The finish line comes at the top of a final category two climb, with the riders crossing the line at an elevation of 1280m.

    Daniel Lloyd of Team IG Sigma Sport was on hand to record a video guide to this potentially race shaping stage, so see what he has to say about it. Can Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) hang on to the pink jersey?

  • Gesink shows two good legs in Amgen Tour of California victory

    Robert Gesink (Rabobank) in hot pursuit of the stage win.
    Article published:
    May 20, 2012, 09:43
    Laura Weislo

    Rabobank rider improves time trialing ahead of Tour de France

    After showing an impressive improvement in his time trialing ability in the Bakersfield stage of the Amgen Tour of California, Robert Gesink confirmed to the world that the leg he broke last September is no longer slowing him down by storming away to victory on the torturous slopes of Mt. Baldy. Now on the verge of taking the overall race win, Gesink is looking toward the Tour de France as his next major goal.

    Gesink described his path to today's stage win, from his mid-September crash in which he broke his right femur in four places, to his still ongoing rehabilitation. After having surgery to pin the bones back together, Gesink said he was back on the bike before he could even walk, but the hardest part was getting back to his level today.

    "In the beginning of course, it went fast, I could ride my bike earlier than I could walk," he said. "Riding the bike was easy because you have two legs, and the right leg only has to follow and the left leg was doing the work. Walking is a whole different thing, during the surgery to put everything back together they had to go through some muscles.

    "I had to do a lot of exercise to get those muscles back. Of course, I had to build up from zero. There were no muscle anymore in my right leg, and I couldn't even move it one centimeter from left to right. Now they look similar, but in beginning of the season I had one small leg and one normal leg. It's a lot of work to get two normal legs again. Then you have to get in shape. They say it can take a year to have the same strength again, and I'm still working on that.

    "The last few steps are the most difficult. I was racing already this year, but the results weren't there. I'm happy [now] because athletes want results. It's been slower than I wanted but now I'm here.

    "I'm really happy it all came together here in America where I've got really good memories," he said. Gesink won a stage in San Jose in 2008, and was best young rider for three years between 2007 and 2009. "Also I've spent some of my holidays over here, so I like California. And also winning this race, it's a good combination for me."

    Gesink began his Grand Tour career with a seventh place at the Vuelta a Espana in 2008, and followed that with a sixth the next year. After taking fifth overall in the Tour in 2010, he fell victim to the Tour's fickle fortune in 2011 when he fractured a bone in his wrist on stage 5 and struggled to 32nd place overall, but he hopes to reverse that luck in July.

    "As always I have ambitions for the GC in France. The Tour de France is the most important race in the world. I've already been fifth once, but it's a crazy race. Last year a lot of guys crashed out in the first week. In the Tour a lot of things can happen."

    This year, with more than 100km of time trialing on tap, the Tour de France in theory should not favour Gesink, who lost the majority of his time in 2010 in the race of truth. But this year seems to bring a new Robert Gesink, if the Bakersfield time trial is any indication. There, he was fourth overall and kept stage winner and time trial specialist David Zabriskie to 38 seconds over 29.7km.

    "I've been working hard on the time trial as you guys have seen. I was happy and a bit surprised with the great result. When you put a lot of energy into something like time trialing it's nice to see a result. I was in the wind tunnel again this year, we're always working on the best materials, best clothing and best position. I took the TT bike to the wind tunnel and rode the machine a lot to get better. It's nice to see it work. It's a surprise to do so good in a flat time trial."

    Gesink hopes to go to the Tour de France with his teammates Bauke Mollema, who placed fourth in the Vuelta last year, and Steven Kruijswijk who was top 10 in the Giro and will be racing his first Tour.

    "We're all the same age, we trust each other and we can talk to each other in a good way. So we're going to the Tour with an open vision and we will see in the end who will do the best GC. We're all professionals, so there has to be someone who sacrifices himself. After the Tour there's also the Vuelta, so the roles will be turned around."

  • Fränk Schleck pulls out of Giro d'Italia

    Frank Schleck (RadioShack - Nissan)
    Article published:
    May 20, 2012, 11:55
    Cycling News

    RadioShack-Nissan rider quits in early part of stage 15

    It has been confirmed that RadioShack-Nissan's Fränk Schleck has pulled out of the 2012 Giro d'Italia on stage 15. The 32-year-old from Luxembourg, who finished in third place at last year's Tour de France, was a late addition to his team's squad for the Giro following an injury to Jakob Fuglsang and had stated a week ago that he was starting to enjoy himself in Italy despite a hurried preparation.

    However, a collision with Alex Rasmussen in an incident-packed stage 11 on Wednesday upset Schleck, who publically criticised the Garmin-Barracuda rider and blamed him for the time he lost in the GC. Schleck started the 15th stage this morning in Busto Arsizio but pulled out just before the peloton reached the 30km point. He was lying 15th overall in the GC, 2:20 behind race leader Ryder Hesjedal and will now focus all his attention on his Tour de France preparations.

    At the start in Busto Arsizio on Sunday morning, however, RadioShack-Nissan manager Johan Bruyneel told Cyclingnews that he did not believe Schleck’s injury was serious enough to merit abandoning the Giro d’Italia, and he was adamant that his rider could not only continue but aspire to a placing in the top 5 overall.

    “As far as I’m concerned, his physical condition is good,” Bruyneel said. “There is an injury. It will probably be a problem sometimes to stay with the best guys but it’s definitely not an injury to consider an abandon.”

    Bruyneel also denied that Schleck had earlier sought to abandon the Giro in order to prepare for the Tour de France in the company of his brother Andy. On Sunday morning Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Bruyneel, Schleck and Kim Andersen held a meeting on the matter on Saturday night at the RadioShack-Nissan hotel in Cerro Maggiore, but Bruyneel said the story did not have substance.

    “It’s at least not the intention. Fränk came here to do a good Giro and that’s still the plan,” he said. “With the shoulder injury, there is obviously a problem. I think there was a small dislocation or separation. It’s been fixed but the damage is there, but a shoulder is better than a leg I would say. He can pedal, he was able to stay with the best guys on the climb yesterday.”

    Bruyneel declined to answer questions from journalists on reports that he had been served with a subpoena by federal investigators on his arrival in the United States for the Amgen Tour of California last week.

  • Dombrowski comes of age at Tour of California

    Bontrager Livestrong's Joe Dombrowski relaxes in Sonora.
    Article published:
    May 20, 2012, 13:26
    Pat Malach

    Bontrager-Livestrong rider outshines experienced rivals

    Bontrager-Livestrong's Joe Dombrowski put in the biggest ride of his career Saturday at the Amgen Tour of California's Queen stage, which featured two ascents of category 2 Glendora Ridge climb and the beyond category climb to Mt. Baldy's summit.

    The 20-year-old from Marshall, Virginia, finished fourth on the 126km stage behind winner and current race leader Robert Gesink (Rabobank), and Columbia-Coldeportes riders Jhon Atapuma and Fabio Duarte. Dombowski is currently 12th overall and earned the Best Young Rider jersey for his performance Saturday.

    More importantly, the development team rider finished ahead of WorldTour riders and Tour de France hopefuls Tom Danielson (Garmin-Barracuda), Chris Horner (Radioshack-Nissan), TeJay Van Garderen (BMC) and Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quickstep).

    It was an amazing day for the rider who continues to compile an impressive list of international and domestic results, most recently finishing third overall at the Tour of the Gila. But Dombrowski's day got off to a rocky start when he flatted about 40km into the race.

    “It took me about 20-25 minutes to get back to the group,” he said of the chase to catch back on. “I was really struggling, and my teammates were actually pushing me onto the wheel in the wind.”

    Dombrowski and his team director Axel Merckx had said they would come out swinging for a top result Saturday, but after the flat and chase, the Bontrager-Livestrong rider started second guessing his own chances. “I didn't think that I'd be able to do much on the last climb of the day because I wasn't feeling that great,” he said. “And then I kind of rode into it on the climb of Glendora Ridge.”

    Once back in the group, Dombrowski made his way up to the front and then pressed the issue on the slopes of Mt Baldy. “Coming into the base of Baldy I was sitting toward the front and tried to follow Gesink,” he said. “But it was a little too much for me, so I just rode my own pace.”

    Gesink initially pulled Danielson and Van Garderen with him but eventually rode way from his GC rivals, bringing back all-day escapees Horner and Atapuma in the final kilometres to take the win and the yellow jersey. Behind him, Dombrowski was sweeping up the scattered remains of the break – and the chasers – and making his own charge for the line. He caught and dropped all but Gesink and Atapuma, but then Duarte jumped him near the finish to deny him a podium spot.

    “It was a little disappointing,” Dombrowski said. “I was with Duarte coming into the last k, and it flattened out a little bit. He was sitting on, and I was like, 'Well, I can't really sit up.' Then he attacked with probably 300 meters to go and that was sort of it. But still, a great ride and I can't really be disappointed with it.”

    Despite his young age and “development” status, Dombrowski handled his result like a seasoned pro who is used to besting Tour de France veterans and grand tour winners.

    “I looked back at the base of Baldy, and it seemed like there was only about 10-15 guys left,” he said. “So I knew that I was in a good spot. But in the climb you're so guttered I didn't really think about it too much.”

  • Video: Giro d'Italia leader Hesjedal at start of stage 15

    Thumbs up for race leader Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin - Barracuda)
    Article published:
    May 20, 2012, 14:36
    Cycling News

    Canadian rider in relaxed mood despite wet conditions

    After regaining the pink leader's jersey from Joaquim Rodriguez on stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia on Saturday, Garmin-Barracuda's Ryder Hesjedal was in relaxed mood at the start line for stage 15 on Sunday as he spoke exclusively to Cyclingnews.

    The 31-year-old Canadian was not fazed by the damp conditions at the start and with a mountain biking background like his it was no surprise. He also rejected the notion that he would feel any added pressure with the pink jersey on his shoulders. Hesjedal was in possession of the magia rosa from stage seven through to stage ten, when it was taken from him by Rodriguez. Now he has it back, he will be reluctant to let it go once more without a fight.

  • Voigt shows plenty of life at Tour of California

    Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan)
    Article published:
    May 20, 2012, 17:09
    Pat Malach

    Veteran rider not ready to hang up his bike just yet

    Jens Voigt (Radioshack-Nissan) has some pretty big plans for his next trip to California. When asked if he will return in 2013 as a rider, team director or in some other capacity, the popular German didn't hesitate.

    “Well, I was thinking more like I should become Governor,” he said after Saturday's Queen stage finish near the summit of Mt. Baldy. “I believe my English is almost as good as the one from Arnold [Schwarzenegger], so why not.”

    Voigt has made some early campaign stops at the 2012 Amgen Tour of California, taking second behind Garmin-Barracuda's David Zabriske at the Bakersfield time trial and initiating the breakaway that launched teammate Chris Horner on his own courageous ride during Saturday's Queen stage to Mt Baldy. Voigt attacked on a wide boulevard as the field rolled out of Ontario at kilometre 0, prompting a breakaway that swelled to 11 riders before Horner and Columbia-Coldeportes' Jhon Atapuma jumped away with about 40km remaining in the 126km stage.

    It was a move that didn't pan out, as Atapuma dropped Horner, who eventually finished sixth, on the final hors category ascent of Baldy, and Rabobank's Robert Gesink grabbed the stage win and overall lead. But Voigt said he and the team had no regrets.

    “No, of course not, I mean we did what we could,” he said. “We did what we had to do. We did what we were expected to do. I had my TV time, and, you know, I enjoyed being in the sun. But seriously, we did what we could, and I think we did put on a show for the people. No, for sure it was not for nothing. It was a great day for the whole team.”

    With at least three WorldTour teams gunning for the stage win and hoping to take over – or in Garmin-Barracuda's case – hang onto the yellow jersey, making an all day breakaway stick to the finish line was always a tall order.

    “I think they all believed in their chances: Rabobank with Gesink and the BMC guys with TeJay [Van Garderen], they believed in their chance, and of course team Garmin with David Zabriske believed in their chance,” Voigt said. “So with three teams chasing, it's a lot of riders chasing, but that's just what cycling is.”

    Radioshack-Nissan went for the big splash and fell just short, but Voigt was proud of the team's effort. “As I always used to say: If you go out and try to win you might lose,” he said. “But if you go out not even trying to win, you lose for sure. So we went out trying to get it big, and that's what we do.”

    As for the serious answer to the original question about his plans for 2013, Voigt seemed primed for at least one more season in the peloton. “I mean in the moment, the shape is still good and I would say, 'Yeah, there's another year in me,'” he said. “But it's not getting easier. I'm 40 years old, so we'll see.”

  • Basso convinced he can win Giro d’Italia despite defensive tactic

    Ivan Basso ( Liquigas-Cannondale) kept himself in touch with the overall leaders
    Article published:
    May 20, 2012, 19:07
    Jean-François Quénet

    Two times winner responds to critics over his team’s behavior

    On the eve of the second rest day of the Giro d’Italia, which is most welcome by the riders after twelve consecutive days of racing, Ivan Basso explained that he feels where he needs to be with less than one week to go. He sits in third place overall with a deficit of 1:22 from reinstated leader Joaquim Rodriguez while former pink jersey wearer Ryder Hesjedal is second at 30 seconds.

    “Slowly but surely, the overall classification of the Giro d’Italia is taking shape”, Basso said at Piani dei Resinelli above the city of Lecco. “At the end of next week, we can arrive at a higher position. The fight is very open. There’s one week of battles to come. The three hardest stages are yet to come. I remain very, very confident.”

    In fact, Basso appeared even more confident than he was earlier in the Giro. Stage 14 started in Busto Arzisio less than ten kilometers away from his town of Cassano Magnago. Despite the rain, the crowd was enormous this Sunday morning for the Giro in Lombardy. “The public has been wonderful to me”, Basso said. “I’ve suffered a lot in the wet downhills but the people’s support has helped me a lot.”

    Without being asked the question, the winner of the 2006 and 2010 Giro d’Italia justified the tactics employed by his Liquigas-Cannondale team. They rode once again as if they were leading the race, with Sylvester Szmyd taking enormous turns on the climbs, even though the pink jersey keeps bouncing from the shoulders of Ryder Hesjedal to those of Joaquim Rodriguez and back.

    “I’m convinced that my behavior and my team’s behavior are right”, Basso said. “I’m sure that it’ll pay off at the end of next week. We ride for winning the Giro. We have to continue this way. People say that my team exposes itself too much to the wind but we just ride the same way we did in 2010.”