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First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, April 24, 2014

Date published:
April 24, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • Gilbert rues costly error in finale of Flèche Wallonne

    Phil Gilbert (BMC Racing Team)
    Article published:
    April 23, 2014, 17:15 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Top favourite takes tenth on Mur de Huy

    A single error, but a costly one left top favourite Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) out of the running in the finale of Flèche Wallonne.

    After his victory in Brabantse Pijl and again at Amstel Gold Race, Gilbert was the top favourite for a repeat of his 2011 victory, and a third win in the space of a week. However, as the former world champion told reporters just after the line, taking the victory was all but impossible after he found himself badly positioned at the foot of the Mur de Huy.

    “It was very fast and very tough, with lots of attacks and action and you had to be well placed. I wasn’t very well placed and that was a mistake and you pay a high price for that here,” Gilbert said.

    “It was very hard to make up the positions. I was hoping they’d started the climb too fast. I accelerated near the top and I passed five or six riders, but no more than that.”

    The change in the race route, Gilbert said, made for a “much faster course in general. The lack of climbs and very open roads early on made it a lot quicker I think.” There was also virtually no wind, dry weather, which as Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) pointed out, made for a perfect day’s racing.

    Asked by a radio reporter what BMC’s plan for the race had been, Gilbert paused for a moment before answering “to try to win.” This was not just stating the obvious: BMC had worked hard, alongside Katusha, in the first three quarters of the course to ensure their star was in the right position at the foot of the Mur.

    However, the final, crucial part of the plan went askew. On Sunday at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, though, Gilbert may well put that right - and if he does so, then...

  • Dan Martin comes close at Flèche Wallonne

    Dan Martin on the podium
    Article published:
    April 23, 2014, 17:49 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Irishman beaten into second place by Valverde

    After abandoning Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, Dan Martin’s ride in Flèche Wallonne became integral to his chances of success in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Another flare-up to that right knee and his Ardennes campaign would have been in the balance but the rider, who has been in a relaxed state of mind all week, claimed a creditable second place on Wednesday with only Alejandro Valverde able to out-sprint him up the Mur de Huy.

    It’s incredible how quickly a season can turn around. Ahead of the race, Martin had no results to speak of but in the build-up to the Ardennes he calmly pointed to the solid training base he had accumulated in the lead-up to his first objectives of the campaign. And then on the 1.3 kilometre the slopes of the Mur de Huy, he looked comfortable and calm, dancing away from all but Valverde.

    “They say that you have to learn how to race up that climb and every year I seem to get a little bit better,” Martin said in his post race press conference when a journalist pointed out that he had finished sixth, fourth and now second in this race over the past three seasons.

    “Every year I seem to get better and better but this year was a different race. It was really fast from the bottom of the climb. Usually there’s a little bit of looking at each other but it was just flat out the whole way up. Alejandro was the strongest today. With a hundred meters to go I did think that I might have it but he blew passed and left me for dead.”

    The knee injury that looked to threaten his spring has seemingly disappeared. After crossing the line and steadying himself, Martin chose to refrain from talking to the press and instead wait for each of his

  • Valverde ends Ardennes drought with second Flèche Wallonne victory

    Alejandro Valverde celebrates
    Article published:
    April 23, 2014, 19:34 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Third Spanish win on Mur de Huy in three years

    Six years after he took Liège-Bastogne-Liège for a second time by outsprinting Davide Rebellin and the Schleck brothers, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has once again triumphed in an Ardennes Classic, this time with a late charge on the Mur de Huy in Flèche Wallonne.

    What was a long overdue fourth win in an Ardennes Classic for the 33-year-old, though, also extends Spain's run of victories at Flèche Wallonne to three after Joaquim Rodriguez's triumph in 2012 and Dani Moreno's win in 2013, and takes Spain's total of wins in the last 11 years to five. At this rate, rather like the Alpe d’Huez being nicknamed the 'Dutch mountain', Huy could end up being re-named the "Spanish Mur."

    "I was feeling really determined to do well here because I've been missing out on an Ardennes victory for a long time," said Valverde, who has now taken eight wins this season.

    "More than revenge for Sunday [where he was squeezed off the podium at Amstel Gold Race by a late charge by Jelle Vanendert] I just wanted that win. Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was a lot stronger on Sunday in Amstel, so I wanted to try my luck here.

    "I didn't want to get blocked in and I started the climb really, really close to the front. In the last 300 metres I was getting a bit close to the barriers and I was almost blocked in, but as soon as I saw there was a bit of a gap, I accelerated and I dropped everyone else."

    Seventh in Flèche Wallonne 2013 and 46th in 2012 – when he was suffering from uneven form throughout the Ardennes on returning from suspension – Valverde's best period in the midweek hilly classic dates from early on in his career, when he took first in 2006 and second in 2007. With two...

  • Armitstead remains World Cup leader after Flèche Wallonne

    Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans)
    Article published:
    April 23, 2014, 20:39 BST
    Daniel Benson

    British champion finishes on the podium

    Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team) finished second in the La Flèche Wallonne World Cup in Belgium to strengthen her position at the top of the women's World Cup standings. The British road champion climbed the Mur de Huy one second slower than race winner Pauline Ferrand Prevot (Rabo Liv Women's Cycling Team) with Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products) sealing third in a gripping finish to the fourth round of the competition.

    Armitstead is yet to finish off the podium in the World Cup and the result is her third consecutive second place in the competition.

    "My whole game plan was to hide as long as possible because the race is so tough," Armitstead told Cyclingnews once she had composed herself after a lung-busting effort on the final climb.

    "Especially for someone like me when this isn't exactly my favourite sort of course. On the final climb I didn't want to be on the front but people kept coming up behind me and I tried to match their accelerations all the time."

    The bunch came into the climb with Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda) holding the lead. "Linda was just there and I made the classic mistake and went a bit too early. I'm happy with the result though because I didn't think I could do anything today."

    "I gave it everything in the last 200 meters. It was so painful and I'd say it's the most painful climb in women's cycling."

    Armitstead closest rival coming into...

  • Tour of Alberta announces official stage start and finish cities

    2014 Tour of Alberta logo
    Article published:
    April 23, 2014, 21:06 BST
    Cycling News

    Garmin-Sharp’s Rohan Dennis returns to defend his overall title

    Organizers of the Tour of Alberta have released the official route details of this year's edition that is scheduled to run 850 km from south to north between September 2-7 in the Canadian province of Alberta. WorldTour team Garmin-Sharp has confirmed its attendance with the event's defending champion Rohan Dennis.

    This year's UCI 2.1 race will begin with a prologue on September 2 in Calgary, the finishing city of last year's inaugural race. Stage 1 will host a new circuit race in Lethbridge followed by a point-to-point road race during Stage 2 that starts in Innisfail, a new host city, and concludes in Redeer. Stage 3 will start in Wetaskiwin, also a new host city, and conclude in Edmonton, where the event will remain for the final two stages. The penultimate Stage 4 will host a road race from Edmonton to Strathcona County. The six-day race will then conclude on September 7 with the Stage 5 circuit race in downtown Edmonton.

    "The commitment by our host communities is special," said Duane Vienneau, the Tour of Alberta's executive director. "They are true partners in every sense of the word. Through their commitment, we will be able to stage a second and successful race."

    The event's specific stage routes and distances will be announced soon.

    The race is expected to attracted many of the top teams in the world. It is positioned after the USA Pro Challenge from August 18-24 in Colorado and ahead of the Grands Prix Cyclistes de Québec and Montréal held on September 12 and 14 in the province of Quebec.

    Garmin-Sharp will line up with a strong team at the starting prologue in Calgary with Dennis and Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal, the 2012 Giro d'Italia winner. Belkin Pro Cycling has also confirmed its...

  • Zardini reveals his climbing talents at the Giro del Trentino

    Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) opens a bottle of champaign in celebration of his Stage 2 victory
    Article published:
    April 23, 2014, 22:20 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Young Bardiani-CSF rider beats the big names on the mountain stage

    When the race radio crackled and announced that Edoardo Zardini of Bardiani-CSF had attack alone six kilometres from the finish of stage two of the Giro del Trentino, few expected him to hold off the likes of Cadel Evans (BMC), Michele Scarponi (Astana) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale).

    Yet the little Italian, in only his second season as a professional with Bardiani-CSF had the courage and speed to do just that and confirm that Italian cycling has a new generation of young riders keen to emerge.

    By winning alone after the 15km climb to San Giacomo di Brentonico, Zardini showed his talents as a pure climber. It was his first professional victory, not far from his home in Verona and with his parents watching him at the finish. He was in tears after crossing the line.

    "I did it! I did it!" he shouted before going to explain exactly how he did it in the stage winner's press conference in the hotel perched above the finish line.

    "I felt great today and went for it but it's hard to really understand what I've done," he said.

    "I'm not fast in a sprint and so I've never won much even if I'd had some good results. This is my first pro win and to manage to beat some big name riders is incredible. It'll take me some time to realise what I've done."

    "I knew I had to drop everyone to win but knew I'd have to be 110% to do it. Fortunately I felt great today and went on the attack with my teammate Pirazzi and two others, then I went alone with about six kilometres to go."

    Zardini explained that he hails from Verona and was inspired by the success of local hero Damiano Cunego in the 2004 Giro d'Italia. He was just 14 at the time and had only just started racing. Now he is 24 and his victory has secured him a ride in the Giro d'Italia.

    He rode the Giro d'Italia last year as a...

  • Cycling Australia's response to UCI non-sanction of Rogers

    Cycling Australia
    Article published:
    April 23, 2014, 23:40 BST
    Cycling News

    National body supports WADA and UCI decision

    With Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) to face no further sanction for a positive clenbuterol test, which was recorded after his 2013 Japan Cup victory, other than the annulment of the win, Cycling Australia (CA) have responded to the findings with support for the decision by the UCI.

    In a press release from CA, CEO Adrian Anderson responded to the UCI's announcement on Wednesday.

    "CA is pleased that Michael has been given the chance to prove his innocence via the UCI appeal process," said Anderson. "We support the findings of WADA and the UCI regarding sanctioning and look forward to seeing him now return to competition."

    When Rogers A-sample result was made public, CA announced that they would "support the maximum sanctions under the WADA code if he is found guilty of doping" but would also "support WADA, ASADA and the applicable National Federation in whatever action they deem appropriate."

    The UCI press release which cleared Rogers to return to racing stated that: "Upon careful analysis of Mr Rogers' explanations and the accompanying technical reports the UCI found that that there was a significant probability that the presence of clenbuterol may have resulted from the consumption of contaminated meat from China – where he had taken part in a race before travelling to Japan," in a statement issued by the UCI on Wednesday.

    "As a result, the UCI has proceeded with the automatic disqualification of Mr Rogers' results...

  • Aru on form at the Giro del Trentino

    Fabio Aru (Astana) leads the young rider classification
    Article published:
    April 24, 2014, 2:00 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Young Astana rider expected to impress at the Giro d'Italia

    Fabio Aru (Astana) began the Giro del Trentino with just nine days of racing in his legs but his sixth place on the mountain finish to San Giacomo di Brentonico, 26 seconds behind stage winner Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) and only seven seconds behind new race leader Cadel Evans (BMC), indicated he is an overall contender and a name to watch for at the Giro d'Italia.

    The 23-year-old Sardinian finished 42nd in the 2013 Giro d'Italia but impressed until being struck by a stomach virus. He recovered to finish fifth on the final mountain stage in the snow at Tre Cime di Lavaredo, ahead of Evans and Michele Scarponi. As an Under 23 rider he won the mountainous Giro della Valle in 2011 and 2012 and was second in the GiroBio stage race behind the USA's Joe Dombrowski, who now rides for Team Sky.

    Aru made his professional debut with Astana as a stagiaire in August 2012 at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and finished second behind Rory Sutherland on stage six.

    "It was a fast finale to the stage and Zardini got away from us. But I'm still up there and haven't given up on doing something overall," he told Cyclingnews before climbing on the podium to pull on the best young rider's white jersey.

    "It was the big effort I've made after training at altitude but it I think it went pretty well. It kind of showed that we've worked well in training and now we can only hope things will go even better in the rest of this race and at the Giro...