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First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, April 10, 2014

Date published:
April 10, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • Wiggins serious about Paris-Roubaix ambitions

    Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) back at De Ronde for the first time since 2005
    Article published:
    April 09, 2014, 20:48 BST
    Barry Ryan

    "I can afford to take risks in these races now"

    Bradley Wiggins wore a half-smile as he was presented at the sign-on ahead of Scheldeprijs in Antwerp on Wednesday, telling the gathered masses that his plan for the day was to sit on the back and "wait for the crash," before playfully inspecting and then dismissing the race’s gold trophy. "It’s not worth winning the bike race for that, is it?" he deadpanned.

    When it comes to Paris-Roubaix this weekend, however, Wiggins is rather more serious. Given that he has followed a largely different race programme to the rest of Sky’s classics unit so far this season, externally at least, there was a degree of uncertainty over his precise intentions for the race, but those doubts were allayed by a solid display at the Tour of Flanders last Sunday.

    "I want to do well in Roubaix, it’s no secret. You don’t start that race unless you want to do well," Wiggins told reporters on the start line of Scheldeprijs. "I wouldn’t have risked it in Flanders if I didn’t want to do well in Roubaix. Whether it happens or not is another thing."

    The Englishman’s decision to focus on the Hell of the North this spring has elicited understandable curiosity: the last Tour de France winner to triumph in the Roubaix velodrome was Bernard Hinault in 1981, and only three others, Eddy Merckx, Felice Gimondi and Jan Janssen (whose Roubaix win pre-dated his Tour triumph) have done so in the last half century.

    Wiggins, of course, is no Paris-Roubaix neophyte, and lined up in the race as recently as 2011, his second season at Team Sky. By his own admission, however, he was reluctant at that point to take the necessary risks in the fight for position on the pavé, but with Tour de...

  • Van Poppel on the podium in Scheldeprijs

    Danny van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) on the podium after winning stage 1 at Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen
    Article published:
    April 09, 2014, 21:42 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Youngster boosted by Cancellara's support

    Nobody was able to match the power and speed of German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) at the one-day classic Scheldeprijs in Schoten, near Antwerp, Belgium. With a third place at a respectable distance of Kittel young Dutchman Danny van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) was more than happy.

    "This is really nice. I'm very happy," Van Poppel said while gasping for air, shortly after crossing the line in Schoten.

    Before the race Van Poppel told Cyclingnews that he hoped for a top five result, while expecting to ride his own race amongst the men from the Classics team who were training for next Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. When asked if he would be receiving support from Vlaanderen winner Fabian Cancellara, Van Poppel said he was not counting on it. "Fabian is here to prepare Paris-Roubaix," he said.

    "Well, he did it, and I didn't have to ask for it," Van Poppel told Cyclingnews right after the race. "Fabian did great work and I thought that was really cool. And that while he's actually here to train. The whole team helped me perfectly, they were super."

    When starting the sprint Van Poppel was on the wheel of Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), who was on Kittel's wheel. Kittel blasted past Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) and grabbed his third win. Behind the German there were at least two bike lengths and a close battle between Farrar and Van Poppel for second place.

    "It was great that I was well positioned, a bit distant though. I saw Kittel launch his sprint and when I kicked off I knew it wasn't for the victory. I came close on Farrar but Kittel was on a league of his own, like so many times. I aimed for top five, and finish third so that's more than an accomplished mission. That's for...

  • Petacchi unable to repeat 2009 Scheldeprijs win

    Alessandro Petacchi
    Article published:
    April 09, 2014, 22:21 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Omega Pharma-Quickstep podium-less again in Belgium

    The team leader for the star-studded Omega Pharma – Quick-Step team at the Scheldeprijs was a somewhat unexpected name. In the absence of the team's dedicated sprinter Mark Cavendish, who's recovering from a fever, it was neither Tom Boonen, nor Mark Renshaw nor Gert Steegmans, but forty year-old Alessandro Petacchi who tried to finish the work from his team-mates in Schoten.

    A second victory for Ale-Jet didn't happen as German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and Danny van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing) all passed him in the final metres. After crossing the line Petacchi was down-hearted to finish off the podium. He explained that he briefly hesitated to start his sprint, waiting for Steegmans to swing to the right. It might have cost him the podium.

    "I tried to do the podium, after five years. When I won in 2009 it was different. Today I waited to start my sprint because I didn't understand if they wanted to go left or right. I wanted to go left, but I waited for Gert to go right because it would be early because of the wind. Kittel started before me but for sure the same would win," Petacchi said.

    The Italian veteran was surprised himself to be the team's leader at the Scheldeprijs. Only after the final trip over the cobbles of the Broekstraat, which featured in the local circuit of 16.4km, Petacchi told his teammates that he was feeling good enough to do the sprint.

    "This morning the team asked me to try the sprint. After the cobble stones I told the guys OK, I try. Today I had a really good team. In the last lap the break had too much," Petacchi described the final kilometres in which the six-man breakaway group was caught quite late. Thanks to the work from Tom Boonen...

  • Rowe rides aggressively at Scheldeprijs

    Luke Rowe (Sky) out on his own
    Article published:
    April 09, 2014, 23:50 BST
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    Welshman looking forward to second Paris-Roubaix

    Luke Rowe (Team Sky) went on a self confessed suicide attack at the Scheldeprijs, expecting that the inevitable would happen and the sprinters' teams would catch them. That did happen, but that wasn't for want of trying and the Welshman looked like he could have the legs to steal the victory from under their noses.

    Rowe made it into the five-man breakaway, which had just over a minute as the race entered the final 10km. However, once Omega Pharma-QuickStep took to the front, the gap was quickly cut down to size. Sensing the danger, Rowe pinged off the front with a strong attack. He had to fight against a headwind along the canal and he was eventually caught with less than three kilometres to go and eventually finished two minutes back on the bunch. Rowe thinks that there was a slim chance for victory, but was happy to prove to himself that he's got the legs at the moment.

    "I wanted to go on the attack today, to test my legs and see what I could do. It’s a sprinter’s race and there’s about 99.9 per cent chance that it’s going to go down to a sprint, but you've got to try and it went really well," he told Cyclingnews at the finish. "We only needed another 30 seconds and we could have made it, but guys started soft tapping it and sitting on with 15km to go. It was always a case that we had to go 100 per cent and then sprint it out."

    "It would have been nice. It's obviously nice to win a race, but we came here to get a good ride done and stay safe. I think that we’ve all done that, so we’re happy enough."

    Rowe's teammates all made it through the race without hitting the deck, something that will be a huge relief for them after the many incidents over the last two weeks. In fact Rowe is one of the few members...

  • Bennett pleased with consistency after Scheldeprijs sprint

    Sam Bennett (NetApp-Endura) lines up for Dwars door Vlaanderen.
    Article published:
    April 10, 2014, 1:20 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Irishman finishes 5th in Schoten

    Sam Bennett (NetApp-Endura) still wasn't sure exactly where he had finished when his soigneur handed him a bidon at the end of Scheldeprijs but he knew what his performance in the bunch sprint symbolised. After 12th place at Gent-Wevelgem last week, the Irishman’s 5th place finish in Schoten was another step in the right direction.

    A sprinter always wants to win – and Bennett already has this season, landing the Clasica Almeria last month – but rubbing shoulders with the likes of Marcel Kittel, Tyler Farrar and Alessandro Petacchi at the business end of a semi-classic is not something within the capabilities of every neo-professional.

    "I'm happy enough," Bennett told Cyclingnews after thanking his teammates Jan Barta and Ralf Matzka. "The consistency is coming so eventually it will have to go my way."

    As ever at Scheldeprijs, the final lap of the finishing circuit was a frenetic one, and the organisation of the Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Giant-Shimano lead-out trains ensured that the bunch was strung out in one long line in the closing kilometres. That meant that, for once, the finale was not marred by crashes, but it also left those caught behind with a lot of ground to make up just to contest the sprint. As he showed at the Tour of Qatar in February, Bennett is well able to navigate alone through a chaotic peloton, but moving up at Scheldeprijs was very much a collective effort.

    "It was a bit hectic, but the guys did a great job in the last couple of kilometres to get me up," Bennett explained. "We got blocked and they still did a massive effort coming into the finishing straight and got me back up. It was a really hard finish and I just didn't have the power at the end to get on the podium."

  • 71st Tour de Pologne route unveiled in Warsaw

    The 2014 Tour of Poland route
    Article published:
    April 10, 2014, 4:00 BST
    Cycling News

    Race celebrates 25 years since free elections in Poland

    The official presentation of the 2014 WorldTour Tour de Pologne route, held in Warsaw, revealed the seven stage race in early-August will be distinctly a  Polish after last year's grand depart in Trentino.

    The General Director for the Tour de Pologne, Czeslaw Lang played host for the event to baptise the 2014 edition of the race which runs from August 3-9.

    "The 2013 edition of the Tour de Pologne set off from Trentino, with two fantastic and spectacular stages that were held against the magical scenery in the Dolomites, among some of the most beautiful mountains in the world that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites," explained Czeslaw Lang of the race which was won by Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge).

    "Instead this year the Tour de Pologne will return to a kick off in Poland. After a few years' absence we are heading back North; the race will set off from the southern coasts of the Baltic Sea, in lovely Gdansk, a city that is very important for its historical, business and political background. And it's not all just about cycling; as always the Tour de Pologne will look beyond the race and as it passes through various places we will try to emphasize all of Poland's historic and traditional aspects."

    The 2014 race celebrates 25 years since free elections in Poland  from when parliamentary elections were first held in 1989 and it was labour strikes by shipyard workers in Gdansk that played a fundamental role in this process. These initiatives were organized by Lech Walesa, the founder of the Solidarnosc movement, the first union to declare independence from the Soviet Bloc. Walesa  was at the  presentation and will also be in Danzica on August 3rd to help get the race underway.

    The start in Danzica will commemorate the anniversary and the 70-year-old Walesa who the President of Poland from 1990 - 1995.

    "Coming in...

  • Boonen: Room for improvement ahead of Paris-Roubaix

    Can Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - QuickStep) find his top form in time?
    Article published:
    April 10, 2014, 4:30 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Omega Pharma-Quickstep rider looking for a little bit more

    After his seventh place in the Tour of Flanders and a calm Scheldeprijs today, there is only one more race left in the Spring Classics for Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step), and one chance to salvage his Spring Classics season. His campaign was briefly marred by personal problems, which caused him to miss Milan-San Remo. Although he won the semi-classic Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, he realizes this is not enough for a rider of his level. A strong ride on the cobbles of Paris-Roubaix can still turn things around.

    Boonen looked back one more time on his much-discussed performance in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. On the Oude Kwaremont the pre-race favourite failed to follow the move from Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). The Swiss rider surged forward towards the lead group together with Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) and eventually grabbed the win. Boonen ended up riding in the next group and won the sprint for seventh place.

    "The last 30 or 40 minutes I just wasn't physically fit enough," Boonen said before the start of the Scheldeprijs in Antwerp on Wednesday morning. "I just missed that little bit extra that the guys who finished in front of me had. Seventh was a fair result. Before the race you try to motivate yourself, but it was the first time I did a race of more than six hours. Usually I did that in San Remo, but now I missed out on a week.

    "I was very happy afterwards. I have very good sensations until the last 30 or 40 minutes. This week will give me maybe that little bit extra. Plus, Roubaix is a different race. Flanders was really hard this year. It'll be easier to save more energy for the final in Roubaix."

  • Sagan's thoughts turn to Paris-Roubaix after Tour of Flanders disappointment

    Peter Sagan (Cannondale) looking to put the Tour of Flanders behind him
    Article published:
    April 10, 2014, 5:45 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Sometimes things go well, sometimes they don't, says Slovak

    Peter Sagan (Cannondale) took no chances in the finale of Scheldeprijs, preferring to sit up and roll home 27 seconds down on winner Marcel Kittel rather than risk a crash on the notorious finishing circuit in Schoten.

    The Slovak's performance was in keeping with his declarations before the race, when he said that he had come to the banks of the Schelde simply to keep his legs ticking over ahead of Paris-Roubaix.

    "The Tour Flanders was a hard race and I need to recover but I'm already thinking about Paris-Roubaix now, and I have to train too," Sagan told reporters at the start in Antwerp. "I had a couple of days of rest but now this race is to keep myself in condition."

    Sagan finished a disappointed 17th at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday after entering the race alongside Tom Boonen and eventual winner Fabian Cancellara as one of the troika of favourites for the win. The E3 Harelbeke winner had looked on song when he made an initial selection of 13 riders ahead of the Taaienberg, shutting down a number of attacks as the move ebbed and flowed, but he was later unable to follow Cancellara's acceleration on the Oude Kwaremont and he faded in the finale.

    Immediately after the race, Cannondale manager Roberto Amadio suggested that Sagan had done too much work when he was isolated in that 13-man group alongside four QuickStep riders. While Sagan agreed that may well have been the case, he added that in any case, he simply didn't have the legs to win the race.

    "Races are like that. Maybe the next time I'll know how to manage myself a bit better in the finale but it...