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First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, April 11, 2013

Date published:
April 11, 2013, 13:00
  • Van Avermaet hopes form holds through to Amstel Gold Race

    Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
    Article published:
    April 10, 2013, 19:55
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian to conclude his spring campaign on Sunday

    Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) has proven remarkably consistent in garnering top results this spring with today's sixth place at Brabantse Pijl the latest in a string of top-seven finishes stretching back to the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in late February. Van Avermaet and teammate Philippe Gilbert provided BMC with a powerful one-two punch in the Brabantse Pijl's endgame, with only a spectacularly on-form Peter Sagan (Cannondale) to spoil their endeavours. Sagan neutralised Van Avermaet's attack on the final climb and accompanied by Gilbert, the Slovak champion came around the world champion metres from the finish to claim victory.

    Despite showing top form today, the Amstel Gold Race this coming Sunday will be the conclusion of Van Avermaet's spring campaign - there's no Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on his schedule. Van Avermaet spoke to Cyclingnews after Brabantse Pijl and reflected on his results garnered thus far this season, including 5th at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 6th at Strade Bianche, 3rd at Gent-Wevelgem, 7th at Tour of Flanders and 4th at Paris-Roubaix.

    "I was always there in every race. I don't think I can blame myself for anything. I always ran into riders who're superior. Today, during the final 500m, I thought I was going to win but sadly enough they still came over me. Once they overtook me my motivation was gone. So be it.

    "I really suffered today, although in the finale I managed to improve a bit. I hope the form is still there. There's three days to recover and then I think I can show something in the Amstel Gold Race. I think I can ride for my own account at the Amstel, probably a bit like today. If I would do Liège as well that would be over the top."

    Once again Van Avermaet and Gilbert will face Sagan at Amstel Gold, and Van Avermaet believes they'll again have to try to put the Slovak under pressure in order to win. Van Avermaet likes Gilbert's chances.

    "To me he [Gilbert] was top today. He'll be satisfied with his second place. It's a confirmation that he's doing well and it'll boost his confidence ahead of the Ardennes. We'll have to do it like today in the Gold Race. If he stays on Sagan's wheel, then it'll be hard. By attacking like today we have a chance."

    That strategy was demonstrated in their perfectly-timed attack at 17km from the finish. Van Avermaet punched away with Gilbert, although an attentive Sagan immediately joined the BMC duo. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano) later bridged up and in no time the five men joined the six remaining leaders. Nobody else was able to get back to the front and the 11-man group would battle it out for the win.

    "I told Gilbert to get on my wheel, that I would try to attack. Danilo Wyss perfectly delivered us in front of the group. I went flat out until the top and then I saw we had a nice group. That was ideal to ride the finale," Van Avermaet said.

    In the finale he might have lacked the energy to finish the job, having dug deep for a fourth place finish at Paris-Roubaix last Sunday. "I rode a good result in Roubaix and I'm pleased that I rode it. It's a race that suits me. Even if I skipped it these guys [today] would've been hard to beat."

    Surprisingly, Van Avermaet was by far the team's best man at the Hell of the North while the team's dedicated leaders didn't feature in the finale. "We knew it before the race. If you're not super in the Tour of Flanders then you can't expect to be flying in Paris-Roubaix. I felt like I was the strongest man of our team and that's what showed in Roubaix."

  • Leukemans pleased with Brabantse Pijl podium finish

    Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM)
    Article published:
    April 10, 2013, 21:16
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Belgian still feeling effects of Paris-Roubaix

    There are few men who can keep up with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) once they go flat-out on uphill roads. Unsurprisingly, Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) lost ground, too, but the 35-year-old Belgian fought his way back to their wheel at the Brabantse Pijl, just before cornering into the 220m-long finishing straight. By that time there was no more fuel in his tank and he settled for third place once the sprint got underway. Leukemans was pleased by his performance, especially considering he was the only rider of the trio to have raced Paris-Roubaix three days earlier.

    "I can accept this result," Leukemans said. "Especially if you've done Roubaix and you're not completely recovered from that one and run into the world champion and Sagan who both didn't race Roubaix... I also had been in a move that drained my energy levels for a quite a while."

    In the Brabantse Pijl Leukemans anticipated the attack from the big guns. Just before hitting the second of three local laps at 50km from the finish, he followed Paul Voss (NetApp-Endura) in chasing down a move from compatriot Stijn Devolder (RadioShack Leopard).

    "I didn't even know it was Devolder. I just tried something quite early because the local laps are longer than in the past, which allows for more recovery. Voss went and I was well positioned in front. I just followed. I also spotted Gilbert and I thought that if he went the selection would already have been made. Once up the climb there was only the two of us and that wasn't so good," Leukemans said.

    Nevertheless the duo kept going and eventually they made it to the early leaders. Only 30km later they were finally joined by Gilbert, who made the juncture with his teammate Greg Van Avermaet, Sagan, Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano). Despite spending a lot of energy in the breakaway move Leukemans managed to play a role in the finale.

    "I was just sitting on their wheel but he – Sagan – accelerated so fast. I quickly told myself to focus on the podium. That's why I went full gas over Van Avermaet, making sure I stayed ahead of him."

    Leukemans referred to Paris-Roubaix to point out that the two riders ahead of him at the finish line were much more fresh than him. In Paris-Roubaix the Belgian rider had been unlucky. Before the start of the Brabantse Pijl he also regretted that he wasn't helped by teammate Juan Antonio Flecha, who accelerated while he was trying to bridge back up after a mechanical. While hoping for the podium or at least the top-10 Leukemans had to settle for 16th place at the Hell of the North. Leukemans finished in the large group that sprinted for eighth place on the vélodrome in Roubaix.

    "You can run into bad luck in Roubaix. If it happens at a bad moment then it's over. Roubaix is behind us now and there's nothing I can change about it now."

    What lays ahead is the Amstel Gold Race. Leukemans will be trying to improve on his best-ever result on the Cauberg which is a seventh place achieved in both 2011 and 2005.

  • Ewan continues European dominance with victory at La Côte Picarde

    Caleb Ewan (Jayco-AIS) wins the under-23 GP Palio del Recioto
    Article published:
    April 11, 2013, 02:38
    Cycling News

    Australian National Team on top step at first round of Nations Cup

    Australia's up-and-coming under-23 rider Caleb Ewan has scored his second big victory of the season - in Europe - by taking out the opening race of the Nations Cup at La Côte Picarde in France.

    The youngster, who is part of the revamped Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy squad but was representing the Australian National Team at the U23 race had to scrape himself off the ground after crashing inside the final 15km before he could even consider the win into the finishing town of Mers-les-Bains. The Australian team ensured Ewan made his way back into the bunch before placing him in the right spot leading into the final climb with 10km to go. It's from there Ewan jumped across the 25-second gap to bridge to the leading group.

    Ewan performed a long sprint to take victory at the end of the 172.2km race in 3:59:52 to notch up his second win from two starts. Ewan most recently took out the Grand Prix Palio del Recioto earlier this month in similarly dominant fashion when the sprint opened up.

    "First Nations cup race and win today! Thanks to all the boys who rode so hard to set me up! Also to the support staff for their hard work!," Ewan tweeted.

    The team lined-up with a powerful five-man team that included Mitch Mulhern, Damien Howson, Campbell Flakemore and Adam Phelan who took to controlling the race after the day's breakaway stretched their advantage to over two minutes with approximately 50km still to race.

    Howson, the current under-23 national time trial champion and bronze-medallist from the U23 World TT Championships in 2012 took to the front along with Mulhern in order to bring the race back into the fold for the final finishing laps around the 18km circuit.

    Ewan's crash may have seen the chance of victory dissapear up the road but the cool-headed winner of the 2013 Bay Series Criteriums made his way back into the bunch before Phelan and Flakemore took over the role of protecting their leader heading into the day's final ascent.

    An impressive jump from the eventual race winner saw him bridge to the leading group and once at the front, it appeared his win would be certain. His performance at GP Palio del Recioto meant he would be the favourite for the win and while he was forced to the front with 500m to go he bided his time before unleashing a winning kick. Ewan bested Belgian Sean de Bie and Great Britain's Simon Yates for the win while his teammate Flakemore capped out another successful day by finishing in 9th-place, sprinting in with the group that finished 22 seconds in arrears.

    "Congrats @CalebEwan for winning la cote Picarde today #whatcanthedo #Unreal, Happy with my ride for 9th.Team was super strong again today," tweeted Flakemore.

    "This is another great result from the team, a fantastic win and a fourth podium from four starts thus far," said Head Coach James Victor to Cycling Australia

  • Van Der Ploeg looking into the unknown at Tour de Perth

    Paul van der Ploeg talks to reporters after winning.
    Article published:
    April 11, 2013, 03:48
    Alex Malone

    Former World Cup winner shows promise in recent Asia Tour debut

    The Van Der Ploeg name is one that's fairly well known within the National Road Series but this year it's Paul, not Neil who is hoping to convert his already-proven mountain bike talent onto the Australian domestic and Asia Tour road scene. Fresh off winning the KoM classification at the Tour of Thailand, along with a podium result on Stage 1, Paul is hoping a few easy days will see him perform well at the opening round of the NRS at the four-day Woodside Tour de Perth.

    The racing which kicks-off today on the famous Rottnest Island will be only the third road tour he has contested. There was a brief showing in the NRS with search2retain at the Tour of Tasmania in 2011 but since then his focus has been circled around stints in the domestic XC National Series and the European XC World Cup circuit - where he won a round of the eliminator in 2011.

    "I did the Tour of Tasmania one year with search2retain but that was at the end of a long mountain bike season and I was really cooked when I entered it. I didn't take a real serious approach to it," he told Cyclingnews.

    The experience at Thailand had its ups and downs, according to the 23-year-old who lost the green points jersey on the final stage of the six-day tour.

    "Thailand was massive experience for me, I hadn't competed in any road racing at that level internationally before. The first five days were pretty awesome; getting on the podium on the first day, getting the KoM jersey and then getting into the green [points] jersey at the end of Stage 5. I was going into Stage 6 pretty amped and excited and then tactically I just made a couple of bad decisions and the whole dynamic of the race changed for me, Van Der Ploeg told Cyclingnews.

    "I pretty much got caught out behind the split. The yellow jersey was in my group and his whole team was there so I just assumed his team wouldn't let a big break of 27 riders go. It was just super fast and a bit of a crazy stage. We averaged just under 50km/h! It was a bit of a wild stage.

    "The Satalyst boys had Peter English and Brad Hall up front and they got third and sixth on the stage so it wasn't a complete loss for the team. That's an intriguing part of road racing because even though I had a terrible stage, the team didn't actually have such a bad day," he added.

    The Tour de Perth offers Van Der Ploeg his next major challenge; backing up for a second consecutive race with just a few days to recover. Just hours before the start of Stage 1 Van Der Ploeg and his Satalyst-Giant teammates were heading out to preview to the 20km circuit around the island and while he knows he has potential and the power to be a factor in the NRS, there's plenty of elements to the racing which he is yet to discover.

    "Tour of Thailand was the most riding in kilometre volume that I have done so I was pretty fatigued the last few days but hopefully it's enough time to recover and light it up again," he said.

    "I don't really know what kind of rider I'll be at this point. Neil can obviously climb and he's an all-rounder so I would assumed I will be a similar style to him. It's all a bit of an unknown at this stage.

    "I did 2,100 [watts] in the lab and then on the road I have punched out 2,200 in January. I think there's an assumption that from my results in the lab that I will be able to destroy everyone in the sprint but there are so many variables besides raw power that you have to integrate but it should be interesting," he added.

    With the Olympics in Rio still four years away Van Der Ploeg says he's happy to take on a more varied schedule. Signing with Giant Australia, as compared to a World Cup-focussed squad has given him a number of options which he hopes will develop his off-road craft even further. But for now, it's all about taking the opporunities that arise in 2013 and seeing where it leads.

    "This year I've planned to mix it up a little bit and just change up what I'm doing. I'm taking a different pathway this year because it is four years away from the Olympics and there's not that much really high-level mountain biking on this year. I'll be trying a lot of other things; road racing at the NRS and Asia with Satalyst-Giant, mountain biking in Australia and maybe a few stage races and then also some cyclo-cross racing across the whole year. I'm really excited about the year I've got planned because it is such a contrast to last year where I was overseas for six months racing World Cups, being locked-in to a long-haul European trip.

    "It's [the Olympics] definitely something I'll look at and I think the road might complement the mountain biking. That's what I'm trying to figure out and then I can make decisions further down the track. At this stage I'm really enjoying having new things on the horizon, new races and new challenges.

  • Lance Armstrong sells off Austin estate

    US president Bill Clinton flanked by Lance Armstrong and his wife Kristin as he presents Clinton with a Trek and yellow jersey in 1999
    Article published:
    April 11, 2013, 08:59
    Cycling News

    $3.1 million paid for rider's US estate

    Lance Armstrong has sold his home estate in Austin, Texas for a reported value of $3.1 million. The sale was confirmed by Armstrong’s spokesperson according to ESPN, with the property obtained by an oil-and-gas-rights agent.

    According to ESPN, “The Austin American-Statesman reports a deed of trust filed with Travis County last week showed Al Koehler obtained a $3.1 million loan to buy the property, which had been Armstrong's home since 2004."

    Armstrong plans to remain in Austin, Texas, where he has lived since retiring from the sport.

    In 2012 he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles as well as all his other results dating back to 1998, by USADA. Their Reasoned Decision led to Armstrong confessing to using performance enhancing drugs during his career. The confession came during a live interview with Oprah Winfrey in January of this year.

    Since his confession Armstrong has kept a relatively low profile. In February he called for a truth and reconciliation commission within the sport of cycling, even admitting that he would help with the process. However the American has also had to do deal with several litigation issues with both The Sunday Times and SCA trying to obtain sums of monies they lost in legal battles with Armstrong before his confession.

    In February it was also reported that the government of the United States was reportedly intending to join a whistleblower lawsuit against Lance Armstrong and others who ran the US Postal Service-sponsored cycling team.

    Last month Armstrong attempted to compete in a Masters level swimming competition but was blocked from racing due to his life-time doping ban.

  • Rusvelo's Kaikov fails drug test

    The RusVelo jersey
    Article published:
    April 11, 2013, 09:39
    Cycling News

    Russian rider fired from team, positive for GW1516

    Valery Kaikov (Rusvelo) has failed an out of competition drug test and has been fired by his team with immediate effect. The rider tested positive for GW1516. The UCI have since moved to suspend Kaikov.

    “Rusvelo team notes regretfully that the out-of-competition drugs test for rider Valery Kaikov gave a positive result,” the team announced in a statement Thursday morning.

    “Immediately Kaikov´s contract with the Russian team has been terminated and UCI Administration has been notified about this incident.”

    In a press release the UCI stated: "The decision to provisionally suspend this rider was made in response to a report from the WADA accredited laboratory in Köln indicating an Adverse Analytical Finding of metabolite GW1516 sulfone – Metabolic Modulator in a urine sample collected from him in an out of competition test on 17th March 2013."

    "The provisional suspension of Mr. Valery Kaykov remains in force until a hearing panel convened by the Russian Cycling Federation determines whether he has committed an anti-doping rule violation under Article 21 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules."

    Rusvelo were formed in 2012 as a programme for young Russian riders on the track and road. Their team management includes Serhiy Honchar who was suspended for 30 days and later fired in 2007 by T-Mobile for failing a blood test.

    However the team also state that they have zero tolerance towards doping.

    “Moreover Rusvelo team declares that the main team´s ideology is zero tolerance to doping in cycling. We do support clean cycling and we will stick firmly to our policy.”


  • Alex Rasmussen finally makes comeback

     Alex Rasmussen (Denmark) approaches the line
    Article published:
    April 11, 2013, 11:16
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Blames UCI, UCI blames Garmin team for delay

    Administrative problems at the Circuit de la Sarthe kept Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Sharp) from making his comeback on April 2. The Danish rider was banned after missing three out-of-competition doping controls which were part of the whereabouts system (ADAMS). His ban ended on March 18 but when heading to Sarthe Rasmussen was denied the start.

    At the time the 28-year-old Dane believed that he received a lifetime ban from racing instead of the backdated 18-months ban he received from the International Cycling Union (UCI). Later it was suggested that the race officials on site might have mistaken him with Michael Rasmussen. Problems were eventually resolved and on April 11th, Alex Rasmussen managed to make his comeback race at the Brabantse Pijl, a Belgian semi-classic.

    Though lining up in miserable weather conditions at the Town Hall in Leuven the Dane was all smiles. “I’m really happy to race in the rain. Then I can really see how much I missed cycling. I’m super excited to race in the rain,” Rasmussen told Cyclingnews.

    It was still unclear to Rasmussen why he wasn’t allowed to take the start in the Circuit de la Sarthe. When not being allowed to race he tweeted: “Just got taken out of La Sarthe by the evil and powerful UCI. Lifetime ban in effect by the UCI apperantly [sic].” Two hours later a new tweet followed: “UCI have finally cleared me for racing again. One hour after denying me the start in La Sarthe.”

    On Wednesday Rasmussen figured the rumours about an identity switch were true. “I don’t think it was that. I think that it was because of Easter. At the UCI they have a four Easter holiday while I had my start in Sarthe on Tuesday so they didn’t get it through. They had to send a mail to the Sarthe for me to race and that email came one hour after the race started. I think that was the problem,” Rasmussen explained.

    There were also rumours about a possible lifetime ban. “It was a joke. So many times they say you can race. Back in January a first time, then March and then again, now it’s April. I was making fun of the UCI. You have to because I have no power to change the situation. Now I can race so I’m happy. I can’t change what the UCI does. It’s really hard. They have the power in cycling at the moment.”

    According to a news item in The Guardian the UCI believed the problem was due to administrative errors from the rider’s Garmin-Sharp team. The UCI said Rasmussen was not eligible to race after “documents he was required to provide to Ernst & Young to allow registration were not provided in time.”

    Rasmussen didn’t manage to complete his comeback race, abandoning the Brabantse Pijl which was eventually won by Peter Sagan (Cannondale).


  • UCI postpone enforcement of rule 1.2.019

    UCI President Pat McQuaid at the UCI headquarters in Aigle
    Article published:
    April 11, 2013, 11:41
    Cycling News

    Reprieve given until end of 2013 but rule looks set for 2014

    The UCI backed down from enforcing its controversial rule 1.2.019, stating that it will not be enforced in 2013. However, the rule looks set to be pushed forward in 2014 with the sport’s governing body keen to discuss the implementation with race organizers, national federations, teams and riders. The UCI's initial enforcement of the rule had been met with anger and frustration from race organisers and riders, especially those in the American mountain bike community.

    UCI general regulations include a section called "Forbidden Races". Within it, Rule 1.2.019 states, "No licence holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental or world calendar or that has not been recognised by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI."  Related rules 1.2.020 and 1.2.021 provide additional details, including specifying punishment via fine or suspension for all UCI licence holders who violate the rule.

    A February letter from UCI President Pat McQuaid to USA Cycling made it clear that rule 1.2.019, which prohibits all UCI licensed riders from competing in events that are not sanctioned by a national federation, should not only apply to riders on UCI-registered teams, as a USA Cycling spokesman previously told Cyclingnews, but to all riders who hold a UCI license. According to the rules, athletes who participate in a "forbidden race" can be fined by their national federation and/or suspended up to 30 days.

    McQuaid clarified in his March 26th letter to all national federations that "Article 1.2.019 applies to all license holders, without exception. It does not solely concern professional riders or just the members of UCI teams, contrary to certain statements in the press and on some blogs."

    In an about turn on Thursday, the UCI flipped its position and said, "The UCI listened to the feedback from the various groups involved and who feel affected by a strict and immediate enforcement of rule 1.2.019 and its associated sanctions. The UCI has decided to postpone strict enforcement of rule 1.2.019 in 2013 with the expectation that all stakeholders (National Federations, race directors, teams and riders) will discuss and do what is necessary to prepare for the rule’s full enforcement in 2014."

    USA Cycling said the change came after it had engaged in dialogue with the UCI. "Notwithstanding the fact that rule 1.2.019 has been enforced in Europe for many years, it is clear strict enforcement in the US and other countries will have unintended and undesirable consequences," said Steve Johnson, USA Cycling President & CEO.

    "USA Cycling listened to the views expressed by the cycling community in America, and these issues were fully represented in discussions with the UCI. We would like to thank the UCI for its willingness to suspend enforcement of the rule globally to allow time for productive dialogue with all stakeholders to find a workable solution for the future."

    The immediate relief was palpable among mountain bikers posting on the internet after the news, but many realized that the suspension of the enforcement of the rules is only a temporary reprieve, and without further change, the community will face the same issue again in 2014.

    One affected promoter Mike McCormack, who puts on the Breck Epic mountain bike stage race posted on Facebook, "We've yet to hear a valid reason why the rule even needs to be in place, or why a more nuanced version can't be written in its place. It's extortion...except they're killing themselves, their rider numbers and their own promoters in the process. We will NOT be dictated to by the UCI or USAC. Now, in 2014 or ever."

    "99% of the riding community, the bike industry and the event promotion community are unified in their displeasure with the rule, yet the ivory tower in Aigle still maintains its position as the ultimate arbiter of what's right for all of cycling."

    Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Trek Factory Racing), one of the riders who has been publicly outspoken against Rule 1.2.019, said on Facebook, "I'll credit the UCI for being reasonable, but ending the press release with a veiled threat to 'prepare for the rule's full enforcement in 2014' doesn't really address the underlying issue. See you in 8 months."