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First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, January 16, 2014

Date published:
January 16, 2014, 0:00 GMT
  • Gallery: Tinkoff-Saxo in pre-season training

    Alberto Contador in training in Gran Canaria with his Tinkoff-Saxo team.
    Article published:
    January 16, 2014, 5:08 GMT
    Cycling News

    Contador, Kreuziger and Roche on the road in Gran Canaria

    The name and kit may have undergone alterations, and Bjarne Riis may no longer be the team owner, but it was business as usual for the Tinkoff-Saxo riders on their pre-season training camp in Gran Canaria, as Alberto Contador and his teammates put the finishing touches to their preparations for 2014.

    Unlike in recent seasons, when he has started racing in January at the Tour de San Luis, Contador’s campaign begins a little later, at the Volta ao Algarve, and he was happy to take advantage of the fine weather to log significant training miles during his stint in the Canary Islands.

    Contador’s primary target in 2014 is July’s Tour de France, where Roman Kreuziger, 5th overall last season, will be his chief lieutenant. The Czech rider will expect to shine again at the Ardennes classics in April, and he already appears close to his racing weight.

    Tinkoff-Saxo’s Giro d’Italia challenge will be led by Rafal Majka and Nicolas Roche, who both delivered the best stage racing performances of their careers last season. Roche’s preparation has been beset by injury in recent weeks, but he was back on the bike in Gran Canaria and confident that he will be ready for the big rendezvous in May.

    And in spite of his sale of the team’s WorldTour licence to Oleg Tinkov and the ongoing investigation into his activities by the Danish Anti-Doping Agency, Bjarne Riis maintains a hands-on role in the management of the squad, telling Cyclingnews that he wants the team to challenge for major honours in 2014. “Hopefully we win a little bit more than last year and then build it up the year after that,” he said. “It’s important to win. We need to win and be strong.”



  • Kwiatkowski eyes improvements with Tour de France in focus

    Polish champion Michal Kwiatkowski
    Article published:
    January 16, 2014, 10:16 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Omega rider ready to step up after breakthrough 2013

    Marginal gains may be a phrase coined and repeated by Team Sky but they’re exactly what Michal Kwiatkowski is looking for as he readies himself for the 2014 road season.

    The 23-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough season last year with several impressive riders including 11th place in his debut Tour de France. He was in fact consistent throughout the season, having led the Tour de San Luis in January before winning a stage as part of Omega Pharma’s team time trial squad at Tirreno-Adriatico and netting fourth overall for himself.

    Two surprise top five places in the Ardennes followed before his Tour ride was bookended with another TTT win at the Worlds.

    “First things first, and I want to make a little bit more progress from last year,” Kwiatkowski confidently told Cyclingnews at his team’s recent training camp.

    “I have some great memories from last season and I believe in myself even more now so the ambitions are to ride well at Tirreno, be in the best shape possible for the Ardennes and then I’d like to ride the Tour again.”

    Despite only taking one individual win last year – the Polish national road race – Kwiatkowski is well aware that his consistency in both disciplines and longevity throughout the season mark him out as a rider with immense potential. His climbing can still be erratic, as he showed in Argentina last season, but his rate of improvement, as the Tour de France demonstrated, illustrated how far he’d come even in a few short months.

    “My strength is that I can be good everywhere,” he told Cyclingnews.

    “I don’t really have weak points and that’s good if I have GC in major races on my mind. That’s good because if you look at the Tour for example, we’re going to ride on the cobbles and I’m pretty good at that. I know I still need to work on things and improve my...

  • Pozzato feels he can beat Cancellara and Boonen

    Only Filippo Pozzato can judge you
    Article published:
    January 16, 2014, 10:59 GMT
    Cycling News

    Italian trains in California ahead of new season

    Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) has vowed to improve on his lacklustre showing in last season’s spring classics, admitting that he has “no excuses” if he doesn’t perform this April. Currently training in California, the Italian maintains that he can compete with – and beat – his former teammates Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen on the cobbles in 2014.

    “I’m working very well, but I don’t want to make big declarations. I have to go well on the bike and not in my words,” Pozzato told Gazzetta dello Sport.

    “In 2013, I put on a very bad show, and that won’t happen again. I’d have to have a broken leg to go worse than that again. In those two races [the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix], I have to be in front and in contention, I simply don’t have any excuses. Cancellara and Boonen have shown a lot more than me these past few years, but I feel I can beat them.”

    Now 32, Pozzato has just one monument classic on his palmarès – the 2006 Milan-San Remo – as well as second place finishes at the Tour of Flanders (2012) and Paris-Roubaix (2009). While the cobbled classics will again be the centrepiece of his spring campaign, the man from Sandrigo reckons he will still be competitive at Milan-San Remo, in spite of the addition of the climb of the Pompeiana in the finale.

    “I’ve already seen the Pompeiana several times,” he said. “It will change things a lot. There won’t be any let up in the last 45 minutes, but I don’t think that it will eliminate me from contention.”

    Pozzato begins his 2014 season at the...

  • Bernaudeau: We reached the WorldTour without selling our souls

    Team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau
    Article published:
    January 16, 2014, 11:48 GMT
    Cycling News

    Europcar manager confident Voeckler will return quickly

    Ahead of Europcar’s WorldTour debut at the Tour Down Under next week, manager Jean-René Bernaudeau has spoken of his pride at achieving top flight status with his existing roster rather than by deliberately signing new riders replete with UCI points.

    The French squad is the only new addition to the WorldTour ranks in 2014 and was, indeed, the only new applicant for a berth. Europcar’s accession was eased still further following the demise of the Vacansoleil-DCM and Euskaltel-Euskadi teams at the end of last season.

    “What makes me most proud is that we’re in the WorldTour thanks to my lads and not because of points picked up by buying this or that rider from the outside,” Bernaudeau told L’Équipe. “We’ve reached this level without enormous financial means and, above all, we’re there without having sold our soul.”

    Bernaudeau’s team was one of the founder members of the WorldTour (then ProTour) in 2005, when it was sponsored by Bouygues Telecom, but the Vendée-based squad dropped down to Pro Continental level following the 2009 season. Bernaudeau’s men have remained at that level since Europcar came on board as title sponsor in 2011, and the car hire company extended its commitment to the team last autumn before promotion to the WorldTour was assured.

    “I know our values and it’s on those foundations that we signed our contract with Europcar even before we were accepted into the WorldTour,” Bernaudeau said. “I’ll never go signing big-name riders to strengthen my group because unlike certain teams, we make our own champions ourselves, not with our cheque book. They grow with...

  • Wildcards announced for E3 Harelbeke

    Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack) moves into top gear during E3
    Article published:
    January 16, 2014, 12:47 GMT
    Cycling News

    MTN-Qhubeka and UnitedHealthcare among invited teams

    The wildcards for the 2014 edition of E3 Harelbeke have been announced, with MTN-Qhubeka and UnitedHealthcare among the seven teams invited to Belgium’s first WorldTour race of the season, which takes place on March 28.

    MTN-Qhubeka and UnitedHealthcare are joined by Belgian squads Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, as well as IAM Cycling, Cofidis and Androni-Venezuela.

    MTN-Qhubeka will be hoping that the invitation to E3 Harelbeke is a sign of things to come for the remainder of the spring. The South African team claimed a surprise victory at last year’s Milan-San Remo through Gerald Ciolek, but had not been invited to the WorldTour events on the cobbles in the weeks that followed.

    IAM Cycling’s invitation comes as no surprise considering the presence of Heinrich Haussler and new signing Sylvain Chavanel in its roster, while Androni-Venezuela’s hopes were doubtless helped by the signings of Johnny Hoogerland, Kenny van Hummel and Marco Bandiera from the now-defunct Vacansoleil-DCM.

    E3 Harelbeke once again takes place on a Friday in 2014, while Gent-Wevelgem follows two days later on March 30. Last season, Fabian Cancellara soloed to victory in Harelbeke ahead of Peter Sagan, a result that repeated itself at the Tour of Flanders a week later.

    The two final climbs of the Tour of Flanders, the Kwaremont and Paterberg, both feature in the closing 36 kilometres of E3 Harelbeke, albeit in reverse order. The final of the race’s 15 climbs remains the Tiegemberg, which comes 17 kilometres from the finish in Harelbeke.

    The wildcard invitations for the Giro d'Italia, Milan-San Remo, Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour of Lombardy are expected to be announced by RCS Sport on Thursday or Friday.

  • Bardiani-CSF, Colombia and YellowFluo handed Giro d'Italia wildcard invitations

    The CSF Bardiani team works together
    Article published:
    January 16, 2014, 13:35 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Same three invitees as in 2013

    Bardiani-CSF, Colombia and YellowFluo-Neri Sottoli have been awarded wildcard invitations to the 2014 Giro d’Italia, organisers RCS Sport announced on Thursday. The three teams join Coppa Italia winners Androni-Venezuela and the 18 WorldTour teams on the start line of the Giro, which gets underway in Belfast on May 9.

    All three teams were invited to last year’s Giro, but the return of Luca Scinto’s YellowFluo-Neri Sottoli team is perhaps something of a surprise. Their presence under the Vini Fantini-Selle Italia banner at last year’s race was marred by positive tests for EPO from Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio.

    In a statement on Thursday, RCS Sport acknowledged that it had made a conscious decision to promote Italian cycling by inviting YellowFluo and Bardiani to the exclusion of international applicants such as MTN-Qhubeka (South Africa), UnitedHealthcare (USA) or IAM Cycling (Switzerland).

    “The choices made […] were dictated by the opportunity – at this historic moment – to sustain the Italian cycling movement, without ever losing sight of international development,” said the RCS Sport statement, which also stressed that "All four teams with wildcards for the 2014 Giro d’Italia are members of the MPCC (Movement for Credible Cycling).”

    RCS Sport also unveiled the wildcard invitations to its other WorldTour events on Thursday, in keeping with its recent policy of announcing the line-up of its races before the beginning of the season.

    MTN-Qhubeka received some measure of consolation by securing invitations to Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo, which Gerald Ciolek won last year, but the South African squad will be disappointed to miss out on a grand tour debut.

    The IAM Cycling team of Sylvain Chavanel has been invited to Milan-San Remo, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Lombardy.

    Wildcard invitations to RCS Sport's 2014...

  • MTN-Qhubeka still aiming for Grand Tour after Giro exclusion

    Gerald Ciolek rode the perfect race to win Milan – San Remo
    Article published:
    January 16, 2014, 15:42 GMT
    Cycling News

    Team's 'Get Africa to the Giro' campaign not successful

    At its team presentation in Johannesburg, South Africa, the MTN-Qhubeka squad's rallying cry was "get Africa to the Giro". However, when RCS Sport announced the wildcards for its races today, MTN-Qhubeka was absent from the Giro d'Italia roster - passed over for three Italian teams: Androni Giocattoli, Bardiani CSF and Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo, and Colombia.

    The African team was invited to Milan-Sanremo, of course, as defending champion Gerald Ciolek remains with the team, and to Tirreno-Adriatico, but not to Il Lombardia.

    The team issued a statement saying, "We'd like to thank everyone for supporting us in our efforts to get there. Our supporters have been amazing", and "congratulations to Androni Giocattoli, Bardiani CSF, Colombia and Yellow Fluo on their Giro wildcards."

    MTN-Qhubeka had a patron in former RCS Sport manager Michele Acquarone, who was impressed by the Qhubeka organisation's efforts to improve the lives of African children with bicycles. But Acquarone was removed from his position in the wake of a financial scandal in the parent organisation, and the new administration stated in the teams announcement that its choices were "dictated by the opportunity ... to support the Italian cycling movement", putting Acquarone's vision of internationalizing the race on the back burner.

    With an unprecedented number of African riders - 10 South Africans, five Eritreans, one each from Ethiopia, Rwanda and Algeria, in addition to its seven Europeans, the team is the first majority-African team to seek a Grand Tour berth, and it is not giving up on that ambition.

    "Our aim is still to get to a Grand Tour this year and in the meantime we've got a fantastic WorldTour calendar, including Tirreno-driatico and Milan - San Remo and some other major ones we'll announce in the future," the team said.

    Only a...

  • Scinto grateful for YellowFluo's Giro d'Italia wildcard invitation

    Article published:
    January 16, 2014, 16:15 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Team to publish blood profiles online following 2013 positives

    YellowFluo-Neri Sottoli manager Luca Scinto has defended his team’s wildcard invitation to the 2014 Giro d’Italia, insisting that it is a different entity to the Vini Fantini-Selle Italia squad that had two positive tests for EPO at last year’s race.

    Danilo Di Luca was expelled from the Giro during the final week after it emerged that he had returned a positive sample in an out-of-competition test days before the race began, while Mauro Santambrogio, a stage winner at Bardonecchia, also later tested positive for EPO.

    The positive tests saw Vini Fantini withdraw from sponsoring Scinto’s team to set up a new Continental team under the management of former directeur sportif Stefano Giuliani, while it was late into the autumn before Scinto and general manager Angelo Citracca secured the survival of their team into 2014.

    Against that backdrop, it seemed improbable that YellowFluo-Neri Sottoli would receive a wildcard invitation to the Giro, although it was rumoured that RCS Sport would look to safeguard the interests of Italian cycling with its invitations for 2014. On Thursday, YellowFluo was duly named as one of the wildcards along with Bardiani-CSF, Colombia and Coppa Italia winners Androni-Venezuela, while MTN-Qhubeka and IAM Cycling missed out.

    “I’m very happy, I’m just very, very happy,” Scinto told Cyclingnews minutes after learning of his team’s invitation.

    Asked if it was a surprise, considering their two positive tests at last year’s Giro, Scinto said: “I don’t want to talk about last year, where...