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First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, April 19, 2012

Date published:
April 19, 2012, 11:00
  • Chris Horner working for Schleck in Flèche Wallonne

    Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan)
    Article published:
    April 18, 2012, 16:44
    Kenny Pryde

    American rues team captain's puncture

    Chris Horner, looking surprisingly fresh after finishing 42nd at 43 seconds from the winner of the Flèche Wallonne, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), was as happy as he could be with his day’s work.

    "Our plan was to make the race as hard as possible, along with other teams, because we knew that if Rodriguez got to the bottom of the Mur with the lead group then he was going to be hard to beat. A short, steep climb like that suits the sort of rider he is, he’s very punchy," Horner explained outside the RadioShack-Nissan bus.

    And, of the RadioShack-Nissan riders, the plan was to put Frank Schleck in as good a position as possible and isolate Rodriguez. Alas, the best-laid plans of mice, men and race teams rarely work out and Schleck punctured his rear wheel with 10km to go. It could have been worse, he could have punctured even closer to the finish, but it was far from ideal.

    "I was riding beside Frank when he punctured and I asked him if he wanted my wheel, but he said no, he would wait for the mechanic, which, to be honest, is often the best thing to do – at least the mechanic knows how to put a wheel in quickly and how to do the wheel skewer up properly," laughed Horner. "And of course I could have swapped bikes with Frank too, but that wouldn’t have worked out that well, considering the size difference, although it might have made a funny picture."

    From that point of the race on, it was clear that Schleck wasn’t going to be in a position to win the race and that Horner, logically, would be able to ride his own race. "Well, yes, but the plan for us was to try to make the race as hard as possible, to soften up Rodriguez and his team. I had accelerated the second time up the Mur, just to raise the tempo a little, to test things out and see who was going to react and who was looking good. But when I did that, just about everybody looked good!"

    In the end, a group of around 45 riders hit the Mur, chasing down Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) and Lars-Peter Nordhaug (Sky) who had broken clear with 8km to go, ‘enjoying’ a maximum lead of 12 seconds. They were eaten on the Mur inside the final kilometer.

    "Even when we got to the foot of the final climb, it wasn’t a forgone conclusion that Rodriguez was going to win, it was so slippery in the run in that you never know, someone can crash, or you can get caught up behind a crash and in the finale, if someone misses a gear you can get stuck behind someone who has stalled. I remember one year I started at the back of the group in the final climb and I ended up seventh I think, so you can make your way forward and finish in the top 10, but you aren’t going to win from way back, not even Rodriguez."

    Overall Horner seemed content with his ride and, looking ahead to Liege-Bastogne-Liege, he was optimistic. "I’m getting better, that’s for sure, because I was a little sick after racing in Spain. I was better than at Amstel which was just ugly!" Next stop? "I’m having a day off tomorrow!" Which seems fair enough.

  • Cinque Terre roads unusable for Giro d'Italia

    Ivan Basso (Liquigas) tackles a climb on the Cinque Terre time trial on his way to an 11th place finish.
    Article published:
    April 18, 2012, 18:07
    Cycling News

    Route of stage 12 altered due to October landslide

    The route of stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia has been altered as the coastal road through the spectacular Cinque Terre remains unusable following the severe landslides which struck the area on October 25 last year.

    The stage, which runs from Seravezza to Sestri Levante, was originally slated to take in the Cinque Terre after passing through La Spezia, but local authorities have confirmed that the road from La Spezia to Levanto will not be fit for action on May 17.

    Instead of winding over the third category climb of Biasa en route to the coast, therefore, the race will stick to an inland route on exiting La Spezia and will take in the climb of La Foce (Cat. 4). The peloton will rejoin the original route shortly before the climb of Valico Guaitarola (Cat. 3), while the rolling finale over the Valico la Mola and Tassani climbs into Sestri Levante remains unchanged. The stage will now total 155km rather than the original 162.

    A statement from organisers RCS Sport said that the race “had hoped to follow the planned route as a sign of solidarity with the local people who have suffered so much. The new stage route visits much of the area hit by the landslides but only touches the Cinque Terre.”

    Liguria and coastal areas of northern Tuscany were the zones worst-affected by the torrential rain that struck northern Italy on October 25 last, triggering wide scale flooding and landslides.

    On the day that the race passes through the area, a delegation from RCS Sport will re-open a children’s playground in Brugnato, rebuilt using funds raised by a number of charity events run by the race organisers.

    The roads of the Cinque Terre last featured at the Giro during the centenary edition in 2009, when eventual winner Denis Menchov powered to victory in a 60 kilometre time trial.

    In its statement on Wednesday, RCS promised that the Giro would return to the area “in the near future.”

  • Rodriguez celebrates Flèche Wallonne victory

    Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) steps up onto the Fleche Wallonne podium
    Article published:
    April 18, 2012, 20:15
    Kenny Pryde

    Spaniard would have traded all his second places for this win

    Joaquim Rodriguez finally won his Classic. After two second places in the Fleche Wallonne, a runner-up slot in both the Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Katusha rider bagged his Classic. And he did it as a hot favourite and after his team took the race by the scruff of the neck.

    "I've waited for this day for a long time. I know I'm Spanish and Spanish riders are not supposed to be Classics riders. We have a reputation for the big Tours, not the Northern Classics, but I have always loved the Ardennes races more," said the 33-year-old Rodriguez after exiting the post-race doping control. "This win means a lot to me. I would have swapped all my second places, all those runner-up positions for one win in the Ardennes because they are so important to me."

    Ironically - or was it - he had launched his winning attack at the same steep left hand corner as 2011 winner Phillip Gilbert (BMC). Had he realised at the time? "Yes, I did. I attacked there but I still wasn't entirely sure because I suspected it was maybe a bit too far from the line, so I had my doubts. In the end I just went for it and, with 50 meters to go, I gave it everything I had again. I realised that Gilbert had attacked there because it really was the best place to attack."

    And, speaking of Gilbert, who finished third, did he reckon that his form was as good as Gilbert's was in 2011? "I don't know about that. Last year Phil was too strong to be beaten and this year for sure he isn't at the same level as he was last Spring when he really was untouchable. But he is coming back, you can see that from the Amstel Gold result and you could see that today in the race."

    "It was a hard race today, and RadioShack-Nissan made life difficult but I'm not sure it could have been much harder! The first hour was like riding Paris - Tours it was so fast. It was windy, wet, there were crashes and echelons - it was chaos. Did I expect it to be harder? No thanks, that was hard enough," said Rodriguez, laughing.

    But the race and the focus were on Rodriguez, and he was pleased to have gotten the eternal runner-up monkey off his back. Was his switch to Katusha from Caisse d'Epargne where he played second fiddle to Alejandro Valverde a liberation? Or did he feel pressure because it was clear for all to see that Katusha put all its Fleche eggs into his basket.

    "I always lacked a little something earlier on in my career to win one of the big Classics, and the team change helped with that. But I've been in the top five rankings in the world too. Who knows, if Gilbert hadn't been around in such great form, then maybe I would have won a Classic by now?"

    Inevitably, the question of the recent positive (EPO) test announced by his Katusha teammate Denis Galimzyanov was raised. What would he say to the doubters? "He did what he did but it's already in the past. It's finished. It shows that we are catching the cheats and that we should all be happy," said Rodriguez without emotion. The message and tone was, "Let's move on, shall we?"

    Moving on, Cyclingnews asked him if he would have a crack at the overall classification of the Giro d'Italia, Rodriguez said, "No, one thing at a time and the first thing is to do a good ride on Sunday at Liege."

  • Flèche Wallonne victory big for USA women's Olympic hopes

    Evelyn Stevens (Specialized - lululemon) wins ahead of Marianne Vos (Rabo Women)
    Article published:
    April 18, 2012, 21:01
    Laura Weislo

    Evelyn Stevens nets points haul toward maximum spots

    With the clock ticking down on the qualification of spots for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, the victory of American Evelyn Stevens in La Flèche Wallonne Feminine today was an important points haul for the USA.

    Jim Miller, USA Cycling's Vice President of Athletics, said the 100 points awarded to Stevens for today's win was "huge on a number of fronts".

    At the beginning of the year, the country faced an uphill battle to get into the top five nations in the UCI's rankings, a designation which would net the team four places instead of just three in the Olympic road race. Heading into the season seventh behind Great Britain and Russia, the women on the US national team and the professional Americans on trade teams were given one directive: score points.

    "All of the girls know the points are important," Miller told Cyclingnews. "We've been keeping a running spreadsheet for a year and a half. It's why we've been sending teams to the far ends of the earth - we started the season in New Zealand and raced in El Salvador - the whole point of this spring was to get points."

    With strong performances by Stevens, who also won the Women's Tour of New Zealand, Kristin Armstrong (second in the Tour of Flanders World Cup), Megan Guarnier (seventh in Flèche Wallonne, third in the Ronde van Gelderland), Amber Neben and Carmen McNellis, the USA surpassed Russia and is closing in on Great Britain.

    While the UCI has not updated the rankings since March 25 as of today, by Miller's calculations, the USA is within 80-100 points of taking over fifth in the nations rankings.

    "For Great Britain and Russia to get zero points today is as important as Evie's win," Miller said. He will now look to the North American UCI races to help push the USA over the top.

    "We're having a hard time getting a team together for China," he said of the UCI 2.1 Tour of Chongming Island and Chongming World Cup. The races come at a time when the women's trade teams are focusing on the SRAM Tour of the Gila, but the Chrono Gatineau time trial in Canada (ranked UCI 1.1) and the women's Exergy Tour (UCI 2.1) in Idaho will be key for the USA women.

    "It was important that the Exergy Tour is ranked 2.1, because the points are double that of a 2.2 race," Miller said, not denying that USA Cycling had a role in raising the status.

    "It's not anything the other countries don't do. El Salvador and Russia always host a number of UCI races in an Olympic year, but you won't see them hold any UCI races in a non-Olympic year."

    Once the rankings are closed on May 31, Miller said that USA Cycling's next step is to select the lucky riders to fill the roster. That announcement comes June 15th, and will be based "on a history of international performance".

    With two spots in the road race already decided by the riders chosen to fill the USA's time trial squad for London, either one or two riders will be selected in June to join them.

    "Our next step is to ensure that the riders who make the Olympic team have the optimal preparation, whether that comes from their trade teams or the national team."

    Following the Olympic Games, the USA will then focus on selecting riders for the UCI Road World Championships.

    Olympic games
  • Schlecks frustrated at La Flèche Wallonne

    Frank Schleck (RadioShack - Nissan)
    Article published:
    April 18, 2012, 22:07
    Kenny Pryde

    Andy laments other teams' tactics, Fränk flats in finale

    Warmly wrapped up outside the RadioShack-Nissan team bus after La Flèche Wallonne, neither of the Schleck brothers was particularly happy. And they didn't have much cause to be either. When the more in-form Fränk suffered a rear wheel puncture with 10km to go, the whole team realised that his race was as good as run.

    His brother Andy seemed more upset than anything else and, almost inevitably, he was less than pleased with the way the rest of the teams rode. "Why does nobody attack?" said Andy Schleck. "Why does everyone ride for second place, eh? Because, if you don't attack and [Joaquim] Rodriguez gets to the bottom of the Mur in the front group that's what you will be racing for, second place.

    "I don't understand the attitude. If Frank hadn't punctured then I'm sure he would have been in the top 10 and maybe even top five."

    For his race, it was clear that he was there to make life as hard as possible for the Katusha team. "I attacked to make the race hard and I was hoping that others would come up to me," said Andy Schleck. "After that I was a little bit in the red, so to speak, and I suffered a bit in the final. Plus I decided to wait for Fränk after he punctured to get him back to the front again but we knew after the puncture that my race was run.

    "Our form in the team isn't that bad – there's nothing you can do about a puncture so close to the finish is there? It's just bad luck and, since the start of this season, bad luck is all we have had (recalling Fabian Cancellara's collarbone breaking crash in the Tour of Flanders).

    "The main thing is though that we know we'll be there in the finale of Liège this Sunday, we'll be there," said a determined Andy Schleck.

    And, if the unlucky puncture wasn't enough, RadioShack-Nissan rider Ben Hermans crashed out early in the race, grazing his knee, elbow and hip. He pulled out of the race but, if he's fit enough and his knee is OK, he'll be on the start line for Liège-Bastogne-Liège this Sunday. If not, the Schleck brothers will have one less teammate to make life difficult for the rest of the bunch as the team had no plans to draft in a late replacement. More bad luck…

  • Could another positive doping case push Holczer to leave Katusha?

    Team manager, Hans-Michael Holczer
    Article published:
    April 18, 2012, 23:12
    Daniel Benson

    Former Gerolsteiner boss talks doping

    Back in January at Katusha's training camp the team's new boss Hans-Michael Holczer told Cyclingnews that if two or three riders tested positive on a team it would be time to walk away. Since Denis Galimzyanov tested positive for EPO in an out of competition test, announced earlier this week, will he consider backing out of cycling? 

    Holczer has experience with riders testing positive: his Gerolsteiner squad disbanded at the end of 2008 after its sponsor pulled out and three riders tested positive in five months.

    "I never said that I was leaving cycling, I said that at the point where I have two positive riders it was time for me to go. For all the years I said to my colleagues, you're responsible for what happens in your team and if something happens in my team then I have to go," he told Cyclingnews.

    "In a similar situation if two riders or three riders [are positive] in five months you really have to think if you're the right man in this job because you are responsible for what happens in your team, even if you can't control it."

    While Galimzyanov and Katusha were keen to stress that he had acted alone in using EPO, it still leaves Holczer in an awkward position. If another rider tests positive, even it's through his own foolishness rather than anything systematic, will Holczer walk away?

    Cyclingnews asked the German for an update on his January comments but his press officer only confirmed by saying "he answered your question already."

    At the team's January camp, Katusha spirits appeared to be high. The Andrei Tchmil presence had been moved on, new riders had been brought in to replace a few notable non-performers, and the team was on bikes they all deemed as better than their previous steeds. Plenty of the backroom staff had been replaced too, with Torsten Schmidt, Erik Zabel and Valerio Piva among the new faces.

    "I'm back in cycling and to be honest it's been rather quick," Holczer confessed in January.

    "There were times in Germany when I wasn't trying that hard to find a sponsor and I'd sit there and think that was it. But things have gone the other way. I was introduced to the ITERA management, I held a presentation and then there was an offer to take the team on. That was a surprise and this is a situation that I couldn't have created. On one hand I had a nice normal life but on the other hand I missed cycling. To say no was impossible and for the rest of my life I would have regretted passing up the opportunity. So I took it."

    It's now been almost 8 months, and today Joaquim Rodriguez papered over the cracks created by Galimzyanov with a win in Flèche Wallonne, but many questions remain unanswered, most importantly surrounding Galimzyanov's individual choice to cheat and how he obtained the means to do so.

    Holczer may not know the answers to that, but he's dealt with this type of story before. Bernhard Kohl, Davide Rebellin and Stefan Schumacher all tested positive under Holczer's wing at Gerolsteiner in 2008.

    "It's not my job to judge the past," he said in January.

    "One thing I learnt. You can't control it [doping] away, not even in your team."

    "You can't stop it and can't guarantee that it won't happen, and I've always said that. I will not put my hand in the fire for anybody. You can work against it but you have to learn to live with. That's not accepting or legalising it or turning away but you have to learn that it's realistic that it happens. That's what I learnt."

    "If you had 3 guys in five months then I think it would be time to go but you have to see the situation and if I come to the conclusion that there might be something I would maybe go but that's not my main focus at the moment. I'm more concerned about building up a team and I'm pretty confident that after the biological passport we are on a really good way."

    Holzcer is correct in that doping in sport – not just cycling - will always exist and that shying away from it isn't a practical solution. But Katusha are not immune from doping stories, Christian Pfannberger and Antonio Colom both tested positive in recent years and last year the team were subject to pre-Giro raids which resulted in complete medical records being handed over to authorities.

    Holczer may have been unable to control what happened in Germany with Gerolsteiner, and he can't be blamed for Katusha's previous problems, but under his watch the team are already a third, or perhaps half-way to seeing him potentially walk away. Again.

  • Martin and Cancellara recovering from crash injuries at different rates

    Article published:
    April 19, 2012, 09:19
    Cycling News

    German back on the bike, Swiss still having problems

    Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara are both recovering from serious injuries suffered in crashes this spring, with their recuperations going at a slow rate. Reigning world time trial champion Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) is on the bike again, in a way “that has nothing to do with training”. Four-time world time trial champion Cancellara of RadioShack-Nissan is facing slower progress than expected.

    Cancellara crashed in the feed zone during  the Tour of Flanders, breaking his collarbone in four places. He underwent successful surgery on it, and as recently as last Sunday was on the rollers training again. 

    On Wednesday, however, he reported that things didn't look so good. “No rollers and no training. Sad day beacause strange feeling on the shoulder but the collarbone is ok. It is on the good way,” he Tweeted.

    “The crash made more damage on the shoulder then we were thinking. The muscle, nerves, tendonitis and ligaments are now in treatment with physio.”

    It is not known when he might return to racing, although he had previously announced he would participate in the Bayern Rundfahrt, May 22-27.

    Martin suffered multiple facial fractures as well as fractures to his shoulder blade and upper arm. No surgery was needed and he was back on the bike only a week after being hit by a car whilst training. On Tuesday he took an easy ride on the bike path for half an hour and upped that to one hour on Wednesday. “That has nothing to do with training. It is simply good to sit on the bike again and to enjoy the small steps of my recuperation,” he wrote on his website.

    “I don't want to overdo it. I will concentrate on the healing and give my body all the time it needs. My top priority is to get well again.”

    His return to racing has not yet been set. “When the doctors say I can increase the intensity, I will do that. But I won't decide that for myself.”

  • Tech: Limited edition BMC impec Automobili Lamborghini

    BMC impec Automobili Lamborghini Edition
    Article published:
    April 19, 2012, 09:48
    Cycling News

    Only 30 produced, €20K each

    BMC have given their flagship impec road bike the supercar treatment, partnering with Lamborghini to produce the BMC impec Automobili Lamborghini Edition.

    The bike is a standard BMC impec carbon frame fitted with Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electronic shifting and unbranded carbon wheels. The Lamborghini connection is brought in via the logo on the headtube, handmade suede saddle and handlebars, and airbrushed Lamborghini Argos Orange seat tube detail - the same colour as the Aventador LP 700-4.

    The BMC impec Automobili Lamborghini Edition is currently on display at the Brian&Barry store in Milan, Italy. Only 30 of these bikes will be sold by the Swiss manufacturer, and you can snaffle one up for a mere €20,000. Just pop down to your local Lamborghini dealer to order one, which you can pick up from selected BMC stores in June this year.

    As to the obvious question: why launch a bike so expensive? Read James Huang's $10,000 bikes - what's the point article for some enlightenment.