The Spaniard crashed after crossing the line in the prologue but has since bounced back and sits comfortably in the top ten overall.
Although he lacks the speed to challenge the likes of Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo), Flecha is one of the most experienced riders in the bunch and knows how to read a race – skills he’s demonstrated perfectly on the flat, windy conditions in Qatar.
Flecha is using the race as part of his build-up for the Classics where he will help to leads Sky’s challenge.
Riccardo Riccò is making a gradual recovery in hospital in Italy but will soon be questioned by Italian police as the investigation into possible blood doping gathers pace.
The Italian Olympic Committee has already opened an investigation that could lead to a life-time ban for the Vacansoleil rider, while Italian police want to know if and how other people were involved. Police will want to confirm the confession of blood doping Riccò allegedly made to a doctor when he was rushed to hospital early on Sunday morning. Doping is illegal in Italy and carries a possible jail sentence of between three months and three years.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Riccò may have transfused his own blood as he prepared to target the Tour Méditerranéen that begins today in the south of France. The race ends with the steep climb to the summit of Mont Faron on Sunday.
Gazzetta reveal that Riccò visited the Centro Mapei on Friday and underwent a mass-haemoglobin test as part of an independent anti-doping screening programme Riccò accepted when he agreed to work the late Professor Aldo Sassi. Gazzetta spoke to sports doctor Andrea Morelli who claimed that the test was normal. The Italian sports newspaper suggests that Riccò could have transfused a quantity of blood on Saturday and explains how poor conservation of extracted blood or an infection can spark septicaemia, kidney blockage and a high temperature.
According to Riccò’s father his temperature touched 41C when he was rushed to hospital and rapid treatment by the doctors managed to save his life.
Red blood cells have to be constantly stored at a temperature...
"Certainly I was feeling better yesterday morning but these things happen," Visconti told Cyclingnews in Al Wakra ahead of stage two. "It's the kind of fall that could compromise your season, but fortunately it was ok."
Visconti explained that his fall came just as the peloton was breathing down the necks of the escapees. "I turned when I heard one of breakaway companions call me from behind to say that the break was finished, and I hit a bump and came down," he said.
Like many of his peers, Visconti is in Qatar to prepare for objectives later in the spring, and the Sicilian is pleased with his progress to date.
"Every day I'm here, it's with the objective of getting good training in," he said. "I'm not a rider suited to these kinds of races. The main objective is to do a lot of work and in spite of the fall, I'm able to do that."
Visconti has finished top of the UCI Europe Tour rankings for the past two seasons as his Farnese Vini-Neri squad has been reliant on invitations to the world's biggest races. Last year the team was disappointed to miss out on a Giro d'Italia place, but this time around, Luca Scinto's team has earned berths in the corsa rosa and a number of other high profile races in the first half of the season.
"The aim is to honour all the races we've been invited to," Visconti said. "As for the Giro, I'll go there with the general objective of winning stages, although it's a pity the one to Sicily [which finishes atop Mount Etna] is probably too difficult for...
The routes for the first three stages of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California were revealed today, with the sixth edition of the American stage race set to start off with a bang.
The eight-day event's opening stage, a 118.7-mile clockwise loop around Lake Tahoe, breaks new ground as it's the first time the Amgen Tour of California opens with a challenging road race as well as the first foray outside of California in race history.
Whereas the first four editions of the Amgen Tour of California opened with prologue time trials and last year's initial stage was a sprint-friendly route won by Mark Cavendish, this year's opening salvo starting in South Lake Tahoe takes place at altitude (the entire stage is above 6,200') and features three KOMs, the last of which to Brockway Summit is a 1,000' ascent to the stage's highest point of 7,200', prior to a quick descent to the finish at Northstar at Tahoe Resort in North Lake Tahoe.
Stage two, stretching 133.2 miles from Squaw Valley to the state capital of Sacramento, will provide the first opportunity for the sprinters to showcase their finishing speed. Well before the fast men make their expected kick to the finish line, the peloton will take in a bit of American history in the opening miles. The riders begin their day in Squaw Valley, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, and will proceed north to the town of Truckee and then west past the infamous Donner’s Pass, where pioneers met their doom in the winter months of 1846. At 7,100’, this will be the only KOM of stage 2.
From here it will be a more than 7,000’ of descending to the State's Capitol, which resides at a lowly 25' above sea level. The route will pass through Nevada City, California, the start city of last year's race, and after working its way west for several miles, the peloton will turn south and head to Sacramento, where the riders will conclude with two circuit laps capped off with a finish at the State...
The Australian had three teammates in the front group that formed in the windy conditions that hit Wednesday's stage, and he took possession of the gold jersey after previous holder Tom Boonen (Quick Step) punctured in the finale.
"At the team meeting last night, we had a look at the wind on the internet for the rest of the week," Haussler said after his stage win. "We knew that today was pretty much the final day to do something, so we treated it as a one-day race.
"It was the last stage where we could make up some time on GC, and we ended up getting the stage win, the yellow jersey and the points jersey, so it all went really well."
Haussler won a very tight sprint against the in-form Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) on Tuesday, but he enjoyed a more comfortable margin of victory on stage two. Like the previous day, however, Haussler admitted that he was able to benefit from another team's lead-out to time his closing effort to perfection.
"Bernie Eisel from HTC did a lead-out for pretty much all the sprinters," he said. "Every single guy in that group today was really strong. There was a lot of tactics and everyone was looking at one another.
"There was a full on headwind and Bernie went pretty early and then the others went pretty early and I was just left with a gap in the sprint so I went past. Today was just all about timing."
Haussler was sympathetic to Boonen's plight, but is now firmly focused on defending his overall lead. Now lying 14th at 3:31, the Belgian is out of the running for...
Declaring that eliminating race radios “is not an option,” Rabobank technical director Erik Breukink called for the International Cycling Union (UCI) to sit down and discuss the issue with the teams, which are united against the ban.
"Communication through the ears should continue,” Breukink said on the team's website. "The danger to the riders and the tactical aspect of the team leaders seem to me to make abolition not an option.
“We must also think ahead and not go back in time. Proper use of modern communications would not hurt the sport.”
There was a protest against the ban in the first race of the Challenge Mallorca on Sunday. Riders showed up at the Trofeo Palma wearing their radios, disrupting the start. Ultimately the riders were allowed to keep their radios, but the race jury said there would be no official final classification for the race.
Breukink called that protest a success. "The teams have shown they are united and all on the same wavelength. Out of respect to the organizer, we have limited the action to one day. We now hope for an agreement with the UCI.
"It seems to me only logical that the UCI respond to the invitation of the teams to discuss the subject. The teams are unanimously and categorically opposed to a ban."
Luca Paolini has expressed his relief at returning to the highest level of the sport with Katusha. The Italian last rode at ProTour level in 2007 with Liquigas, where he was implicated in the Operazione Athena doping investigation. He spent the past three seasons at Acqua&Sapone, and was part of Paolo Bettini's Italian team at the 2010 world championships in Geelong.
"It was very important for me to get back into a ProTeam," Paolini told Cyclingnews. "It means that I can again ride the races that I like, such as the Tour of Flanders,Paris-Roubaix and Amstel. It means a lot to me to do those races."
Paolini made his debut in his new colours in Sunday's Tour of Qatar prologue. The flat roads and high winds that characterise the country mean that the race has developed into an important pre-Classics testing ground over the course of its ten-year history, and Paolini felt that even the opening 2.5km time trial served a dry run of sorts for April.
"It was a difficult course because you had to handle the bike well," he said. "And then all those little cobbles and the wind made it even harder to control things. It was a strange kind of test as it was so short and there was so much wind. Plus on your first day back racing, you need to get accustomed to the effort again."
While Paolini and his Katusha teammates will be looking to grab an early win in Qatar, his main objective from the race will be to build form for the Classics.
"Above all I want to see where I am in my preparation in regard to other riders," he said. "Here there are a lot of very strong riders that you can compare yourself against, it's a good testing ground. Of course I'd also like to help a teammate win a stage or maybe have a go myself."
The UCI announced today the creation of a World Cycling Tour for amateur racers, a series of up to 15 qualifying events leading up to age group world championships.
The UCI World Cycling Tour (UWCT) confirmed seven events so far leading up to the UWCT "finals", the age group world championships for amateurs in Liège, Belgium on September 10-11, 2011.
Provincial Commissioner for Sport, Christophe Lacroix, revealed a tentative plan for a circuit of around 100km, incorporating the famed climbs of Liège-Bastogne-Liège such as the Côte de Wanne, Rosier and Vecquée, and likely ending with local circuits in Stavelot.
"It's no coincidence that the UWCT and the UCI WorldTour (former ProTour) have such similar names," explained UCI president Pat McQuaid. "We want the amateur cyclist who is devoted to the sport to have a taste of high level racing, and ultimately race for a World Champion title. The UWCT is how we are going to take amateur cycling to the next level. We are really looking forward to the opening of the series."
The first qualifying event will take place in Perth, Australia on April 14 and 16, followed by the Gran Fondo New York on May 8, the Gran Fondo Eddy Merckx in Portugal on May 15. Events in Slovenia, Belgium, Colorado (USA) and Switzerland have also been confirmed.
All qualifying events will be raced over a course of between 100 and 180 km. Organisers have the opportunity to opt for either a one-loop stage or a smaller circuit to be covered several times. The start may be given en masse or by age group. Time trial events will also take place in some qualifiers, covering distances between 20 and 40 km.
Confirmed UWCT events for 2011:
14 and 16 April: Perth (Australia) 8 May: Gran Fondo New York (USA) 15 May: Gran Fondo Eddy Merckx - Village Palmela (Portugal) 12 June: Marathon Franja BTC (Slovenia) 18 June: Gran Fondo Eddy...