Broken thumb most recent misfortune for Omega Pharma-Quickstep
The Omega Pharma-QuickStep team is another man down after sprint specialist Gert Steegmans broke his thumb in a training crash.
The Belgian was set to help Mark Cavendish in the Volta ao Algarve starting tomorrow, but will now be replaced by Frantisek Rabon.
“I was riding back towards Monaco after training and simulating some sprints. In a split second, I ended up on the ground,” Steegmans said. “Right away I could tell there was something wrong with my right hand. So I went to the hospital, and they diagnosed a fracture to my thumb. Fortunately, I was wearing winter gloves and so I avoided further complications."
It is only the most recent setback for the Belgian squad. Nikolas Maes is still recuperating from a broken collarbone, Gianluca Brambilla is ill and Tom Boonen suffered training setbacks due to an intestinal infection last fall and a septic wound on his elbow in January. The Belgian champion is currently getting up to speed in the Tour of Oman, but refuses to discuss the infection which could have led to his arm being amputated had the infection not been treated promptly.
“Thank you everyone for the support,” Boonen said on Twitter. “If there is any news to report on my elbow and my form level I will do this as soon as possible. In the meantime please do not ask me about it, there are other things in life than my elbow :) thanks!”
In true Twitter fashion, an account was quickly created under the nomiker “Tom Boonen’s Elbow” and responded, “Please address all enquiries about the elbow of @tomboonen1 to me. Dank u.”
It isn't every rider who can do back-to-back grand tours and still manage to crack the top-10 in the general classification of the second one, but Blanco's Laurens ten Dam is one of the special few. At 32, the Dutch rider now takes a calm approach to his early season training, laying down massive numbers of base kilometers in camps such as the one his team undertook in Andalucía.
In this video, ten Dam talks about what kind of training he does. "I'm a guy who trains a lot. I do a lot of kilometers and I like to do long training riders, but I think my body can handle it," he said.
"Experience is a nice thing. At 32 I know I'm a good cyclist. I don't have to be scared, one bad day here is not a bad season. If I feel one day not good, I laugh about it and the next day will be better. You know your capabilities and you do the things you have to do."
With age comes the physical and mental toughness needed to get through big blocks of training and racing, and one day more or less on the bike doesn't make a big difference.
"For example last year I did the Tour de France, 21 days of racing in 23 days, and then I did 10 days of criteriums - so I did 31 races in 33 days. And I still got 8th in the GC of the Vuelta which started two weeks later."
The featherweight pure climber from the south of Italy is hoping that the big-name overall contenders such as Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), will all mark each other closely, giving him the chance to steal an advantage and win.
"It would be great to win my first race in Ag2r-La Mondiale colours. The team's already won a stage at the recent Etoile des Bessèges thanks to Samuel Dumoulin, but another win would be good for our morale too," he told Cyclingnews in Oman.
"We've got several options because Rinaldo (Nocentini) is going well and is well placed overall. I'll have the freedom to attack, perhaps even early on the climb, and he'll ride with the aim of defending his overall position. Let's see what the other riders come up with tactics-wise."
Pozzovivo has spent all his career riding for the Italian team managed by Bruno and Roberto Reverberi, which was last year known as Colnago-CSF Inox and Ceramica Panaria in previous incarnations. He has consistently been one of the best climbers in Italy but stepped up a level by winning a stage at the Giro d'Italia and finishing eighth overall in 2012. An overall victory at the Giro del Trentino also boosted his UCI points total and made him a tempting target for Ag2r-La Mondiale, which was desperate to stay in the WorldTour for 2013.
Jacques Rogge, the president of the IOC has shown support for UCI president Pat McQuaid and has made a call for the war of words between WADA and UCI to be resolved. Rogge’s confidence in McQuaid comes shortly following the inclusion of cycling in the list of 25 "core sports" to be recommended for the 2020 Olympic Games.
"We have confidence in Mr (Pat) McQuaid as president of UCI," said Rogge to Reuters.
"There is an ongoing discussion with WADA and UCI. We call on both parties to reconciliate and find a solution to this crisis together."
McQuaid has come under serious scrutiny in the aftermath of USADA’s Reasoned Decision document, which resulted in the lifetime ban of Lance Armstrong along with his seven Tour de France titles being stripped. Numerous former teammates were also implicated in the case and were subsequently handed suspensions for their involvement.
McQuaid and UCI have been put under the spotlight in the months following USADA’s release with accusations of cover-ups and bribes taking place during Armstrong’s reign.
Spaniard ready for Thursday's showdown on Green Mountain
Alberto Contador (Team Saxo Bank) lost several precious seconds on stage two of the Tour of Oman on Tuesday but moved quickly to take them back and show he is on form on Wednesday by distancing his overall rivals on the testing and aggressively-raced finale to the edge of the Wadi Dayqah Dam.
Contador could do little to stop Peter Sagan (Team Cannondale) winning his second consecutive stage but had the speed and acceleration to mix it with classics riders with the calibre of Greg Van Avermaert and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team). He gained some time on all his rivals and struck a psychological blow just 24 hours before the showdown on the 5.5km long Jabal al Akhdhar (Green Mountain) climb.
Contador spent several minutes recovering from his hard effort at the top of the climb and then stopped to explain how the day's racing had unfolded. Little had happened for most of the 190km stage but the smaller twisting roads in the final 25km and then the short climb to the finish at the height of the Wadi Dayqah Dam were raced intensely.
"It was a very long, interminable day, with many hours in the saddle. Most of it was very calm with a headwind most of the day but then when it hotted up, the same guys as ever were up in front," he explained.
"Considering this is the Tour of Oman, there are a lot of nervous riders and a lot of tension."
Contador tested his form on stage two with a late attack over the top of the last climb. The move didn’t come off but he seems to have found his devastating change of pace. The 13.5% gradient in the final two kilometres of the Green Mountain climb might require more strength and a long burst of anaerobic activity rather than a change of pace. But Contador seems confident he can take fight for the stage victory and so overall success as a natural...
Team management obviously felt the best way to prepare for the 196.5km race was to spend time familiarising the weekend's eight-man squad with the harsh European climate around the streets of Lucca, Italy. It was also an opportunity for the riders to strengthen their relationships before embarking on a big spring campaign.
"This race is a nice way to start our season with it starting at the sea and it usually has a great atmosphere and a lot of big names on the start list," director sportif Jens Zemke on the team site. "The pressure is low for us, but the motivation is high. For half of the team it will be the first time they race with big teams and some famous stars, which were their idols growing up. Some teams, the media and the crowd will be surprised when they see how professional our setup is and I think we'll bring some new colour to the cycling peloton."
"It (the medal) will not be re-attributed," IOC vice-president Thomas Bach told the AFP news agency.
The gold medal was won by Viatcheslav Ekimov (Russia) and silver by Germany's Jan Ullrich. The fourth place rider was Abraham Olano of Spain.
The IOC took its action in January based on the lifetime ban issued against Armstrong by the USADA and the UCI for his participation in doping during his career.
“Following the recent decisions of USADA and the UCI regarding the competitive cycling results of Lance Armstrong, the IOC has disqualified Armstrong from the events in which he competed at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, namely, the men’s individual road race, where he finished 13th, and the men’s individual time trial, where he finished 3rd and was awarded with a bronze medal and a certificate,” the IOC said in January.
Armstrong has also been stripped of all titles he won since August 1998, including the seven Tours de France. Organizers for that race have also said that there will be no winners for those races.
Garmin-Sharp rider still recovering from hip fracture complications
Nick Nuyens is ready to return to his beloved Spring Classics but is still recovering from complications arising from his fractured hip. Now with Garmin-Sharp, the Belgian said that he plans to be 100 per cent again for the Tour of Flanders.
In 2012, whilst with Team Saxo Bank, he crashed in the opening stage of Paris-Nice. He finished the stage but was later diagnosed with a fractured right hip, which kept him out of competition for two months. Nuyens returned to a full programme, including the Tour de France, but continued to have pains.
“In September I had to have a scan,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “It turned out that the bones hadn't healed. The two pieces were 1.5cm apart. And I rode the Tour .... and not even that badly!”
His form had been good, but “I rode with half a leg.” He had surgery to re-assemble the bone, “but they had to cut through the muscle. And you can't restore that in two months.”
One difficulty he now faces, he said, is that “there is a difference in strength between my left and my right legs. The problem is that last year I learned to compensate with the left. I really had to think to even pedal hard with my right leg. It wasn't easy, but subconsciously you save yourself that way.”