Team hoping to end 2012 on a high after difficult year
RadioShack-Nissan is the latest ProTour team to reveal its squad for the 2012 Vuelta a España, which gets underway in Pamplona on Saturday. The team hopes to challenge for high positions in the overall general classification as well as stage victories in the mountains and in the sprints.
The team has endured a difficult 2012, with injuries, doping scandals and financial problems generating lots of negative press and having an adverse effect on its results. Winning the team classification at the Tour de France was a recent high point, and sporting director Jose Azevedo hopes that the squad his is taking to Spain is well equipped to do well over the next three weeks, right up to the finish in Madrid on September 9.
"We bring a diverse team to the start," Azevado said. "(Maxime) Monfort, (Linus) Gerdemann and (Tiago) Machado are our three GC riders and we will try to bring them in the best possible position to defend their overall ambitions. Maxime is very motivated for the Vuelta and with his sixth place overall in 2011, he proved to be a strong Grand Tour racer.
"He took a large break after the Tour [de France], in order to be fresh both physically and mentally. With 11 altitude finishes, the route will suit Tiago Machado very well too. The Vuelta has been his goal for the whole season and he is confident.
"Our three GC riders will be surrounded by a nice group of helpers. Those five riders will at times be allowed to defend their chances as well and fight for stage wins. Especially Jan Bakelants is an expert at that. He has been very close to victory in every Grand Tour he has ridden.
"In theory, six out of the 21 stages can conclude in a bunch sprint. Our Italian sprinter Daniele Bennati has...
Ben Swift (Team Sky) may have suffered the disappointment of missing out on the Great Britain Olympic track squad when it was announced in June, but the 24-year-old Englishman has been preparing meticulously for the Vuelta a España, which gets underway in Pamplona on Saturday.
Swift raced the Giro d'Italia in 2009 in the colours of Katusha, and was selected for the 2011 Tour de France following his transfer to Sky. This will be his first attempt at the Vuelta and his is hoping to notch his first stage win in a Grand Tour sometime over the next three-and-a-bit weeks.
Away from his track exploits, in which he won the scratch race at the world championships in Melbourne in April, Swift has enjoyed success on the road this season. He won two stages at the Tour of Poland in July and also topped the points classification. He warmed up for the Vuelta, where he will be the main sprinter in a strong Sky line up, by helping teammate Sergio Henao secure second place overall at the Vuelta a Burgos earlier this month.
“I’m feeling really good,” he told the Team Sky official website. “I was able to show people what I could do in the sprints in Poland, and Burgos was great preparation for the Vuelta. I’ve done a lot of work on my climbing over the last month and found in both those races I was a lot fresher getting over those climbs.
“That should open up more opportunities for me because although there are only three days nailed on for the sprinters, I’ve identified about nine or 10 other stages where I think I could still be up there at the end."
Thomas Dekker will make his long awaited return to three-week racing. The Dutch rider served a two-year suspension for EPO use but returned to the sport this year. The Vuelta will mark his first Grand Tour since competing in the 2007 Tour de France for Rabobank.
"We have a strong line-up for the Vuelta and Andrew Talansky is our leader. No doubt, the competition will be tough with so many teams sending hugely talented squads, but we are focused and we know what Andrew is capeable of. This is a team with a lot of depth and we look forward to the race getting underway," Jonathan Vaughters told Cyclingnews.
The rest of the American team includes specialist climber Tom Peterson, who rode as support for Ryder Hesjedal at the Giro d'Italia. Koldo and the Kreder brothers, Raymond and Michel make up the rest of the nine-man team.
Guarnier best overall in final standings from US series
Team Tibco's Megan Guarnier was declared winner of the 2012 Women's Prestige Series, a triumvirate of stage races on the USA calendar which includes the Redlands Classic, Nature Valley Grand Prix and Cascade Classic. Guarnier won the overall in Redlands, and was third in Cascade.
Tibco also won the best young rider's classification with Lindsay Myers, while the Optum Pro Cycling team topped the other classifications: best team and best sprinter.
Neo-pro Jade Wilkoxson (Optum) was the winner of the sprint classification overall and that competition at the Cascade Classic, and also claimed third overall in USA Cycling's National Racing Calendar individual standings.
"It's been a whirlwind season," said Wilcoxson. "The Nature Valley Grand Prix was my first big race, so I didn't know what to expect when I joined Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefits Strategies. I certainly didn't expect to win the Series sprint jersey or two NRC stage races [Joe Martin and Elk Grove - ed], much less finish third on the National Racing Calendar."
The UCI today announced the preliminary figures for viewership of the 2012 Olympic Games cycling events, citing the "Bradley Wiggins effect" as a reason for unusually large audiences. After Wiggins won the Tour de France, home fans flocked to the London-Surrey road race course or watched on television in the millions to witness the British team competing for the gold medal.
While Team GB was ultimately unsuccessful in winning with Mark Cavendish - he never made the front group from which gold medal winner Alexandre Vinokourov emerged - it was estimated that nearly half of the total audience in his home country was watching the finish of the men's road race live: the number of people viewing the event reached a peak of 5.7 million on the BBC's regular channels.
In addition, users of the BBC's "red button" service, which allowed viewers access to multiple sports on 24 additional live channels, peaked at 1.4 million viewers, while a total of 17 million tuned into the cycling channel for at least 15 minutes.
When Wiggins secured his gold medal in the time trial, there were 6.2 million viewers tuned into BBC1 with an additional 648,000 viewing via the "red button".
Internet streaming added another 729,000 viewers - second only to tennis - and 531,000 more watched the men's road race.
No data was announced for the women's road race or time trial by the UCI.
Walker, a silver medallist in the under 23 road race at the 2005 UCI World Championships in Spain, made a premature exit from the sport in 2009 due to tachycardia, and earlier this year announced he was returning to racing with the Melbourne-based Continental outfit.
In his second race of the Australian National Road Series, the Tour of Gippsland earlier this month, Walker won the eighth stage en-route to the overall victory.
Doubled up on the side of the road on Wednesday on the afternoon stage two, Walker was distressed. He got back on his bike and waved off teammates who went to the back of the bunch to assist and it was then announced that he would not continue.
According to a press release sent out late on Wednesday evening by Drapac, Walker "experienced a light episode of tachycardia... a condition he is known to suffer from, and chose to retire from the race and seek medical attention."
Walker was then sent to the Portland Hospital for observation and tests.
"He returned a clean bill of health and was later discharged," the release continued.
Today, Walker will return to Melbourne for further medical consultation.
"William made the right decision to retire from the race and return to Melbourne for further assessment," said team manager Jonathan Breekveldt. "The health and wellbeing of our riders is paramount and Will has the full support of the team and its resources to return him to full...
Competitive team heading to Spain without pressure
At the beginning of the year Lotto Belisol’s sports director Mark Sergeant discussed the team’s major goal for the year: to win a stage in each of the grand tours. The Belgian-based team has so far lived up to management’s expectations with Lars Bak winning at the Giro d’Italia and André Greipel taking three stages at the Tour de France.
Sergeant discussed some of the riders roles ahead of the start in Pamplona on Saturday and outlined a number of key members for the race. It’s a very different team that was taken to the Tour however, the team is heading to Spain with the same goals taken to each grand tour - albeit with a little less pressure.
"Before the start of the season one of our goals was to win a stage in each of the three grand tours. In the Giro Lars Bak succeeded and in the Tour, we grabbed three victories with André Greipel," Sergeant said on the the Lotto team site.
Coming into the final grand tour of the year, Sergeant has stated that the nine-man team has been specifically chosen to round-out the year on a high and win a fourth grand tour stage of the season. As recently announced, Van Den Broeck will lead the team’s general classification ambitions but it may take until the final week before his ability to contend with the very best is revealed.
"Jurgen Van den Broeck leads our troops, though he’s starting this race in different condition to the Tour. Jurgen prepared meticulously for the Tour and this has not been possible for the Vuelta, both physically and mentally. He will contend for a stage win and if it appears that after two weeks he remains in the general...
Team boss on 2013 roster, sponsors and remaining races
Orica-GreenEdge last night indicated that the team will carry a full roster of 30 riders for their second season in the professional ranks, with the signing of Michael Matthews from Rabobank.
For 2011, the Australian team rode with 29 riders with Robbie McEwen retiring at the Tour of California and Matt Wilson due to retire following the Vattenfall Cyclassics later this week. Sam Bewley replaced McEwen and there has been talk for a number of weeks now that the team would announce new riders for 2013.
It's an added twist considering a recent interview in the Australian Financial Review by team owner Gerry Ryan where the businessman said that the team would carry a roster of 28 for next season, with three riders set to leave the team.
Speaking to Cyclingnews shortly before the announcement that Matthews had signed a "multiple-year-deal" with GreenEdge, general manager Shayne Bannan said the 21-year-old is an amazing talent.
"We saw that when he was under 23 world champion in Geelong," he said. "Then we saw it in his first WorldTour event in 2011 where he won the Stirling stage at the Tour Down Under. He is a great talent and Rabobank has done a great job with him - giving him a really diverse race program and we believe he's one of the big potentials for the future."
When it came to rumours that the team was also chasing the signature of Sky's Michael Rogers, Bannan was dismissive.
"As much as he would be a great asset, I think he's pretty happy at Sky," he explained. I would think they would be pretty keen to keep him. As we saw at the Tour de France...