A month after returning to cycling with MTN-Qhubeka, Linus Gerdemann made his first appearance on the European circuit at the Mallorca Challenge.
Gerdemann has spent the last year out of the sport, after he found himself without a contract when his RadioShack-Nissan team chose not to offer him one.
The German chose to take a sabbatical and is now raring to get the main part of his season under way. I still have the experience and I’m excited about it,” Gerdemann told Cyclingnews ahead of the Trofeo Muro in Mallorca. “I’m looking forward to race again, especially Europe. We’ll see how it goes, but so far it’s felt quite good.”
After hearing good things from his friend Gerald Ciolek, Gerdemann chose to restart his career with MTN-Qhubeka. The South African squad have been going from strength to strength over the last few years and hoped that they may earn a wildcard at the Giro d’Italia. However, race organisers went for a predominantly Italian selection, leaving the team to look later in the season to get their first grand tour start.
The decision not to include the team meant Gerdemann had to quickly reassess his goals for the season. “I thought that my goal would be May, with the Giro, but we’re not racing the Giro,” he explains.
“So for me, personally, Tirreno-Adriatico and Sanremo are nice races. Now I have to peak a little earlier, we’ll see how it goes, but these are interesting races for me.”
Stephen Roche will be inducted into the Giro d’Italia hall of fame later this month. The ceremony will be held near at Causeway Hotel in Northern Ireland.
Roche was the winner of the 1987 Giro d’Italia, a year that saw him take victory at the Tour de France and the World Championships. His win, however, was a controversial one.
The build-up to the race had touted the 1987 edition as a face-off between defending champion Roberto Visentini and Giambattista Baronchelli. The Irishman was at the race as a dual leader, but, ultimately, to support his teammate Visentini.
Visentini told Roche that if he supported him at his home race, then he would be happy to return the favour at the Tour de France. However Roche heard that the Italian had booked a holiday in July and had no intention of living up to his promise. That was the end of discussions for Roche, who decided to go it alone. Thus ensued an inter-team battle.
The tifosi’s reaction to Roche’s decision wasn’t muted and the Irishman nearly left the race for fear of being attacked. Roche crowned the three weeks off with victory in the final time trial and won the general classification by 3’40” over Robert Millar. Visentini failed to finish after breaking his collarbone on the penultimate day.
Roche is only the third rider to be inducted into the race’s Hall of Fame, which was introduced in 2012. Eddy Merckx - the only other rider to win the Giro, Tour and Worlds in the same year - was the first member, with three-time winner Felice Gimondi being awarded the honour last year.
Over the years, stages at the Tour of Qatar have often seemed to follow a set pattern: Omega Pharma-QuickStep fillet the peloton by forcing an echelon every time the crosswinds allow it, and then at day's end, Tom Boonen polishes off the survivors in a group sprint.
For the second time this week and the 22nd time in his career, Boonen did just that on stage 4 to Mesaieed, edging out André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) by an inch in the tightest of sprints at the end of the fastest of stages – the average speed was a searing 56.8 kilometres per hour.
"We never tried to really split the group today, we just tried to control as much as possible with the eight of us. We succeeded and then in the last 50 kilometres, we were going for the sprint, full speed," Boonen said with remarkable understatement of a day that had seen QuickStep – with help, it should be noted, from Lotto-Belisol and Belkin – impose an infernal tempo at the head of the bunch.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep have dictated terms and conditions in Qatar all week. Niki Tersptra won the opening stage and holds the overall lead, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck wears the white jersey of best young rider, while Boonen, Stijn Vandenbergh and Andy Fenn are also all camped in the top ten.
One wonders what kind of margin of improvement Omega Pharma-QuickStep's impressive ensemble has between now and the Tour of Flanders on April 6, but Boonen stressed that the Tour of Qatar was something of an early-season goal for the team. They are unlikely to race with the same abandon at Paris-Nice, for instance, as they taper towards the Classics.
The German crossed the finish line shoulder to shoulder with Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) in Mesaieed, and while the latter's exultant shout seemed to suggest that he had just edged the win, Greipel preferred to await the verdict of the race jury before reacting.
After wheeling to halt, Greipel's first action was to peel off his shoes and socks, and then pour water over his feet, weary from a frenetic afternoon of racing that saw the bunch career through the desert at an average speed of some 56.8kph. He then sat pensively outside the Lotto-Belisol team car and waited for the white smoke from the commissaires, while around him, his teammates swapped war stories about the day's wicked pace.
Five minutes later, Lotto directeur sportif Bart Leysen arrived on the scene and delivered the news from the photo finish conclave with a rueful shake of the head: Boonen had beaten Greipel by the width of a rim.
"Sorry guys," Greipel said quietly to his teammates as he began to change out of his kit, safe in the knowledge that his presence would not be required on the podium. "Ah, you fucking idiot!" Marcel Sieberg shouted with mock anger, glad to break the tension and keen to lift his sprinter's spirits.
A small group of reporters had by now gathered at the Lotto car, and drew closer for Greipel's take on proceedings. "You should go and talk to QuickStep - they won," he said. True, but while the winners write history, they don't...
The USA Crits series will kick off its eighth season this year, and the Delray Beach Twilight in Florida will be the first of 11-races on the 2014 calendar, taking place on March 22.
There will be $30,000 up for grabs in overall prize money between the men's and women's fields. The overall individual and team classifications winners will be crowned at the finale, the Gateway Cup in St. Louis, Missouri on August 31.
There are three new stops on the USA Crits calendar: Tampa, Florida will host the Gasparilla Criterium on March 29, the Winston Salem Cycling Classic (April 19) follows the Charlotte criterium (April 12), and the Gastown Grand Prix, a fixture of the BC Superweek in Vancouver, joins the series on July 9.
The races join well established USA Crits races: the Athens Twilight (April 26), the Glencoe Grand Prix (May 31), the Andersen/Banducci Twilight in Boise (July 12), Iron Hill on August 2 and the Chris Thater Memorial on August 23.
2014 USA CRITS Championship Series March 22: Delray Beach Twilight, Delray Beach, Florida March 29: Gasparilla Criterium, Tampa, Florida April 12: Novant Health Invitational Criterium, Charlotte, North Carolina April 19: Winston-Salem Cycling Classic, Winston-Salem, North Carolina April 26: Athens Twilight Criterium, Athens, Georgia May 31: Glencoe Grand Prix, Glencoe, Illinois July 9: Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix, Vancouver, BC, Canada July 12: Andersen/Banducci Twilight Criterium, Boise, Idaho August 2: Iron Hill Twilight Criterium, West Chester, Pennsylvania August 23: Chris Thater Memorial, Binghamton, New York August 31: USA CRITS FINALS, Gateway Cup, St. Louis, Missouri
Samuel Sánchez will target races in France and Italy to begin his tenure with BMC as he builds for his first goal of the 2014 season, Vuelta Ciclista Al Pais Vasco, in his home country. Having met with Team Sporting Manager Allan Peiper and Sport Director Yvon Ledanois at the team's service course in Belgium, Sánchez’s early racing program was mapped out.
Sánchez will line up at two French races, Classic Sud Ardèche (March 1) and the Drôme Classic (March 2) before starting Strade Bianche (March 8) and Roma Maxima (March 9) in Italy the following weekend.
"These races will give me confidence for racing and allow to me to get to know my teammates and how things work around the team at the races," Sánchez said. "After those races, I will remain in Tuscany with several teammates for a week-long training camp. I think that's the best way to prepare for my Spanish debut in Volta Ciclista A Catalunya.
"That will be a good test before my first goal of the season, Vuelta Ciclista Al Pais Vasco, where I would like to win another stage to add to the seven I have already won."
Sánchez is also a former overall winner of Pais Vasco after he triumphed in the race back in 2012.
After building form and condition along with gaining a better understanding of how BMC operates in races, Peiper said Sánchez will figure prominently in the BMC Racing Team's racing program in April and May.
"Sammy will bring extra depth to our squad for the assault on the Ardennes classics and our bid to win the Giro d'Italia," Peiper said. "His experience, race intelligence and ability to climb will be of paramount importance in the critical phases of these events where he will support Philippe...
Austrian confident Wiggins can slot in to Sky's classics team
Sky's 2013 classics campaign was instantly written off as a failure within moments of the end of Paris-Roubaix and the team's novel preparation was immediately dismissed as a fad. Such is the hyper-reality of an era of snap judgments.
Ten months on, as he builds towards this season's classics, Bernhard Eisel can only smile as he remembers the reaction to Sky's performance on the cobbles last year. Certainly, the classics unit's return did not match that of their stage racing squad, but as Eisel pointed out, ultimately only one team came away content from last year's Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"I heard so many guys saying we had a bad classics campaign, but who didn't? Cancellara won both and that's what counts," Eisel told Cyclingnews. "If you don't win Flanders or Roubaix, then you had a shit classics campaign. That's what it boils down to in the end."
Winner of Gent-Wevelgem in 2010, Eisel knows of the value of the earlier cobbled races in the arc of an individual rider's career, but for the major teams, he believes that the all-engrossing spectacles of De Ronde and Paris-Roubaix completely eclipse everything else in March and April.
"If you win Waregem, Harelbeke or Gent-Wevelgem, for a rider that's a big result, because for him that could mean he has a contract for the next four to six years because teams know he has the potential to be up there," Eisel said. "The media just slaughters you if you don't win them [Flanders and Roubaix] but Fabian won both of them, so what should we do? Fire the rest and just pay him?"
The focus on Sky's tilt at the classics is set to be even more intense in 2014, as Bradley Wiggins prepares for his first start at Paris-Roubaix since joining the team. Given that Sky already boasts...
Australian set to become stagiaire with Orica-GreenEdge later this year
For fans of Australian cycling, the name Caleb Ewan has had tongues wagging for several years with the prodigious young talent racking up wins in juniors and under-23’s as well as putting in impressive rides such as his fourth place at last year's U23 road race world championships.
Ewan made his WorldTour debut at the Tour Down Under last month and immediately impressed with third place in the opening People's Choice Classic criterium behind Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol). While that was his best performance of the race, Ewan is wiser and stronger for the experience and learnt invaluable lessons from racing against two of the world’s fastest sprinters.
Ewan is his own harshest critic and while most 19-year-old's would be happy racing against some of the WorldTour's best riders, he explained to Cyclingnews that a stage win was his goal.
"I also expected it to be hard, but I hoped that I'd be up there in more stages but they ended up being a bit too hard. If I was in really good form, I might have been able to get over a few of the climbs but I just wasn't up for it at the time. It was a hard tour compared to what it used to be, with the crash on the second stage as well, that put me out a bit as well."
Having enjoyed a small break from racing, Ewan has had time to reflect on his summer of racing and his achievements.
"The main thing was for it to be a good learning experience and that's exactly what it was. A few days there were crosswinds and I was caught in bad position coming into the climbs and now I know that you have to be there during the whole race.
"Once you let yourself relax a bit, you find yourself at the back and it can be all over