Tour of Utah first stop for Australian U23 and Oceania TT champion
Reigning Australian U23 national time trial and Oceania champion Damien Howson will step up to the professional ranks this season after the announcement of a multi-year deal with the Australian WorldTour squad Orica GreenEdge. Howson will step into the team as a stagiaire for the Tour of Utah in August after spending the 2013 season with the Jayco-AIS World Tour Academy where he took out the prologue at the Thüringen-Rundfahrt.
Howson has showed tremendous progression this season, having won the U23 national TT and finishing second in the road race, the 20-year-old received the call up for the Santos Tour Down Under where he raced for the Australian National Team. Another title at the Oceania championships followed by a couple of wins in Europe along with multiple placings including third-overall at Thüringen-Rundfahrt has earned the young rider a place in Australia’s only ProTeam.
"Damien has shown strong progression within our national program," said Orica GreenEdge sports director Matt White. "We've seen obvious improvements from him first with Jayco-AIS last year and then this year with the Jayco-AIS WorldTour Academy. He's ready to turn professional, and we're ready to support his development."
It’s a "dream come true" for last year’s bronze medallist in the U23 TT at the UCI Road World Championships. Stepping into a stagiaire role for the rest of the season is ideal for the South Australian who had already signaled his intentions to return to the World’s as a espoir in an attempt to claim the world TT title.
"Many riders dream of racing in Europe, turning professional, riding in the WorldTour and eventually getting to do races the biggest races in the world like the Tour de France. After eight years of riding a bike, I'm on my way," said Howson in a team statement.
A strong all-rounder Howson, like many young professionals, has his eye on becoming a contender in the grand tours. However, he understands that stepping into the professional ranks will be a learning experience and is willing to be patient while his new squad guide him into the upper echelon of the sport.
"I hope to develop into an overall contender," said Howson. "My goal is to one day turn into a Grand Tour contender. Obviously I know there are a lot of small steps to take before that. I hope to focus on the small tours in my first two years with ORICA-GreenEDGE.
"I've steadily improved over the last few years. I've been able to deliver some big results this year, which has been pleasing. I've learned a lot about racing with the national team, and I'll learn even more racing with ORICA-GreenEDGE. I hope that I'm able to use my strengths and knowledge to help the team while they help me."
Second insurance company suit goes forward on statute of limitations decision
Lance Armstrong can be subjected to a lawsuit from a second insurance company seeking to recoup bonuses paid to the Texan during his Tour de France reign.
According to the Associated Press, Travis County judge Darlene Byrne denied a request to dismiss a $3 million suit from Acceptance Insurance Holdings, which was contracted to pay Armstrong's bonuses for his now-disqualified victories in the 1999, 2000 and 2001 Tours de France.
Armstrong's attorneys argued that any statute of limitations on breach of contract or fraud expired in 2011, but AIH argued that the timing only started when Armstrong publicly admitted to doping in January of this year.
With that ruling, Mark Kincaid, the attorney for AIH said he will move to question Armstrong under oath.
"Lance Armstrong would be the number one witness," Kincaid said to AP.
The case of AIH is similar to that of SCA Promotions with one exception: SCA Promotions went after Armstrong in 2005 after allegations of doping were levelled against him by journalist David Walsh and his L.A. Confidentiel author Pierre Ballester, and the two sides settled out of court.
While it is still to be decided whether the settlement can be undone, a point which Armstrong's attorneys argue is not possible under Texas law, the suit from AIH has no such issues.
"That's an obstacle they have to overcome that we don't," Kincaid said.
Zero tolerance towards dopers but perhaps not past, says former Tour winner
Stephen Roche expects Alberto Contador to bank his Tour de France bid on one major attack and says that even if Chris Froome escapes without enduring a bad day, he is still capable of losing the race.
"Champions don't die and Alberto is one of the riders that I have a lot of respect for his race intelligence and his tactics," Roche told Cyclingnews on Wednesday.
"Alberto knows his terrain and it's the mountains and he has two stages where he can do it: l'Alpe d'Huez and Ventoux. He'll get one shot but he has to make sure it's the right one. He has to take the opportunity when he sees it."
Contador currently lies in fourth places, 3:54 down on Froome after the stage 11 time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel say the Sky leader increase his lead in the race.
"Saxo and Bjarne Riis are very good at judging a race and making the most of an opportunity. Bjarne wants to win, Contador wants to win and they're a very strong team," added Roche.
Froome has looked imperious thus far, the only question marks surrounding his team and whether the Sky leader can see out a maiden grand tour victory.
"I don't see Froome having a bad day but even if he has a good day he can be beaten on tactics as we saw the other day in the mountains. Maybe what happened the other day will fuel the ambitions of other riders."
Zero tolerance but possible protectionism
Last week Roche told Dutch website Nusport that a zero tolerance policy towards dopers should be enforced for the future and that cycling should no longer try and look towards the cheats of the past. Interestingly Roche has always denied doping, despite links and references to him in the Conconi files that pointed to EPO use in 1993, towards the end of his career.
"Riders today should not be paying for the riders of the past," Roche told Cyclingnews.
"What happened in the past happened but you cannot keep talking about the past because at some stage you've got to say stop. What happened, happened in a very bad period but anything that happens tomorrow, if you're caught you should be out of the sport."
Asked by Cyclingnews to deliberate on the period in which he raced, considering the backdrop of doping, Roche said his era was "brilliant. The best era that ever existed," before adding, "why do we always talk about this, isn't there much better things to be talking about than dragging it up? Here we are talking about zero tolerance. Why am I saying zero tolerance, you've got to move on. Here I am going into detail and we keep talking about it. We've got to go and look forward, not look behind and talk about what happened yesterday. We can make things better."
Cyclingnews then posed whether a stance based upon only looking forward, rather than back was merely a ploy based on protectionism of an era that has faced little scrutiny. The 1987 Tour, Giro and World champion sidestepped the question:
"Questions are asked everyday and I do pity the riders of today because every time someone looks at them and asks them a question they're looked at as being guilty of something without even appreciating what they're doing and I think that's really unfair."
"You journalists keep talking about it and while you journalists keep talking about it we're not going to go forward. Why you journalists think it's 'in' or cool to talk about it or think that the readers want to read about it, we're never going to get out of it. The people on the street here love cycling, they don't want to hear about doping. They've heard so much about it the last few years they want to move on."
Finally, Roche was asked if doping in the news was all down to the media.
"No it's everyone's fault because if there was no one doping there would be nothing to talk about. But, ok, lets not bring up the past, lets leave it there, lets move on and talk about the good things."
Mont Ventoux to offer next big GC shake up, says BMC captain
In classic Cadel Evans style, the 2011 Tour de France winner continues to slowly chip away at the deficit to some of his fellow general classification rivals. Posting a time far from the top of the day’s standings, a full 2:30 behind Tony Martin (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) and admitting he was far from his best, the Australian managed to move up two places to 14th overall.
"My time wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything particularly special," said Evans on his team site in response to 21st on the day which saw Froome gain another 2:18 on the 36-year-old Australian.
"Looking toward Paris and the end of the race, it would have been ideal to take back more time on some of the rivals ahead of me, but I didn't have it in the legs today to do better. From here, I hope to improve myself for the next set of mountains and the next time trial and keep moving ahead on the GC," he added.
The next big test for Evans and the remaining GC hopefuls will come at the weekend when the peloton will faces the iconic Mont Ventoux. The race’s longest stage offers only one real test along the 242.5km route but the 20km final ascent will be another important marker for Evans and his eventual position amongst the overall contenders.
"Hopefully, we can recover and rest up a bit because Saturday, the Lyon stage is not going to be easy and, on Sunday, Mount Ventoux is going to be the next really big shake up of the GC contenders."
Realistic in his rider’s unlikely chance of winning the overall or stepping onto the podium, BMC team manager Jim Ochowicz says there is still much to race for - with Evans sitting a little over one minute from the top-10 - and whilst Froome may has a strong hold of the maillot jaune with nearest rivals Valverde and Bauke Mollema (Belkin) 3:25 and 3:37 behind respectively, last year’s second overall cannot be declared the winner of the Centenary edition just yet.
"With this race, anything is possible," said Ochowicz. "This is like the halfway point. We're getting into the second phase. There are so many more mountains ahead in the last week of this race that maybe people haven't taken into consideration yet in their mathematical equations. We think that the race is far from over. Certainly for us, it's a lot more difficult to think about winning in Paris. But I wouldn't say Froome is the definite winner yet."
Garmin rider slips a few GC spots in time trial stage
For Dan Martin, the Tour de France is a series of one-day races, and it's a mantra that he has been asked to repeat in two languages ever since his stage victory at Bagnères-de-Bigorre alerted the large swathes of the host media to his fluent French, honed during his apprenticeship as an amateur at VC La Pomme in Marseille.
Martin slipped from eighth to 13th place overall after he finished 3:36 down in Wednesday's stage 11 time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel, but the Irishman was unconcerned when he wheeled to a halt past the finish, explaining first to France Télévisions and then a wider media scrum that he is taking the race day by day.
"It wasn't really the best course for me, but I did the best I could out there," Martin said. "I rode as hard as I could for the whole way. I've got a lot to learn as far as pacing goes in time trialling and I struggled a little bit in the headwind in the last few kilometres, but I think everybody's the same.
"I probably started a little bit too hard but I wanted to use the first part of the parcours to try and not lose too much time. My legs weren't great today, but that's normal after 11 days of racing. I'm happy - I did my best, so I have to be happy."
The ability to place performances in their proper perspective within seconds of crossing the finish line is a rarity, least of all in the heightened atmosphere of the Tour de France, but Martin patiently explained why he is not putting the cart before the horse when it comes to the general classification.
"It's not my goal to finish in the top five: my goal is just to take every day as it comes and now I've got 10 more one-day races to come," Martin said.
It was put to the Garmin-Sharp man that this Tour was something akin to a learning experience but, in reality, lessons have already been absorbed via trial and error through his career to date, not least at his illness-hit Tour debut last year. At 26 years of age, and with four Grand Tours already under his belt, Martin is rider approaching his prime rather than a wide-eyed dilettante.
"I just found that the best way of riding the Grand Tours is to take it one day at a time. I found out last year that treating it all as whole doesn't work for me," Martin said. "In the 2011 Vuelta [when he won stage and finished 13th overall in Madrid], I treated it as 21 one-day races and that's how I'm approaching this race. I won one of those this year."
The next one-day race to his liking, so to speak, awaits atop Mont Ventoux on Sunday. Until then, it seems, the handful of seconds that now separate Martin from the top ten overall will not weigh heavily on his mind. "Every day I look at the parcours and see what the deal is and then in Paris, we'll find out where I am in the end," he said.
We're almost halfway through the second week of the Tour de France and Cofidis is one of several teams yet to hit the mark so far. The French team has been without a stage victory in their home race since 2008.
New recruit Daniel Navarro is hoping to break that run in the mountains this weekend. "It would make me very excited to win a stage," the Spaniard told Cycling News HD. "I haven't marked any objectives in stone, it would make me very excited to win a stage."
This weekend sees the first of two iconic stages, with the riders tackling the Mont Ventoux. While remaining coy about his chances, Navarro believes it's a stage where he can do well. "It is a climb that I can see suiting my characteristics, so I will try to stay with the best," he said.
"Unfortunately I don't know Mont Ventoux, but I've been told it is a long and hard climb. I think this will be a decisive day."
Navarro is riding his first Grand Tour without Alberto Contador since the 2007 Tour de France – when they rode for separate teams. In years gone by the Spaniard could be seen leading Contador though the mountains at the big races. Most recently Navarro helped Contador at the 2012 Vuelta a España. He decided to split with his long time teammate and move to Cofidis.
Since making the move, the Spaniard has taken a win at the Vuelta a Murcia and top 10 placings at the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Vuelta a Andalucía. "I think that the changes have gone very well," said Navarro. "The most important thing is that I am very happy with how things have started this season."
The Cofidis rider beat his former leader, ahead of the Tour, at the Critérium du Dauphiné. Navarro is relishing the chance to battle Contador once again. "To race in a team with him taught me what it is like to lead and thank you to him also for what I learned from him. Now it is a challenge to be able to face Alberto."
So far, Contador is winning the battle has the better of his former teammate, with the Saxo-Tinkoff rider lying in fourth after the time trial. Navarro currently sits in 25th, 14:50 down, the top Cofidis rider in the GC.
Cycling News HD For the full interview with Daniel Navarro, download this week's issue of Cycling News HD. This week's issue has all of the latest from the Tour de France, with stunning photography and in depth analysis. We also take a look forward at the key Mont Ventoux stage, this weekend, and other key stages of the Tour. Tony Martin speaks to us about recovering from his stage one crash and his ambitions for the remainder of the Tour.
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Having recently released his warts and all book featuring both the highlights and low lights of his career, titled 'Domestique', Charly Wegelius has some perspective on the often cathartic process.
"After a while I think I realised that it was a story that was worth telling," Wegelius tells Cyclingnews in this video.
Domestic charts his journey from Vendee U in France to Mapei, De Nardi and Liquigas in Italy, a difficult two years with Lotto, through to his final season with then-UCI Continental outfit UnitedHealthcare in 2011.
The book makes no apologies as it dismisses the often-romanticised notion of the role of the domestique in professional cycling and Wegelius says that he hopes that it sheds some light on the day-to-day, race-to-race rigour of the job.
Now a directeur sportif with Garmin Sharp, Wegelius tells Cyclingnews that he "never imaged" feeling as passionate as he does now for the sport, given the low ebb he was at in 2011.
Watch the video below for more from Charly Wegelius.
Contrasting styles in young rider classification contest
In an echo of one the Giro d'Italia's most entertaining sub-plots, the battle for the white jersey at the Tour de France looks set to involve a Colombian and a Pole, with Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) firmly in place atop the standings in the best young rider classification.
In Italy in May, it was Quintana's fellow countryman Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) who eventually won out, as his punchier climbing saw him edge a close contest with Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff). The contrast in styles is less nuanced at the Tour and more of a confrontation between two opposing schools, as the rouleur Kwiatkowski is pitched against the pure climber Quintana.
When Quintana danced away on the Porte de Pailhères on Saturday's opening mountain stage, it looked as if he was about to take a decisive hold of the white jersey. Kwiatkowski rode well to limit his losses, however, and he regained the lead with a fine fifth place finish in the stage 11 time trial to Mont-Saint-Michel, 1:31 down on teammate Tony Martin.
"I think I did a pretty good TT and I'm happy with my improvement and my progression in the TT," Kwiatkowski said afterwards. "I pushed from the beginning and I was looking for my speed all the time. I was going 55kph a lot of the time, so it was a fast course."
That performance was enough to catapult Kwiatkowski to seventh place overall and also saw him leapfrog Quintana in the young rider classification after the Colombian finished 3:28 down on the stage. The gap between the two is now just 34 seconds. However, even with another time trial to come in the final week, Kwiatkowski was under no illusions about his chances of fending off Quintana's inevitable advance in the Alps.
"For sure, I should lose it in the last week because Quintana climbs better than me," said Kwiatowski, who downplayed his own prospects. "We will see. I don't have any pressure. I want to improve in the climbs but we'll just have to see how it goes in the third week. it would be nice to stay with the best but it's going to be hard too."
Quintana was pleased simply to have what he called "probably the worst day of the Tour" behind him and did not seem unduly concerned at having yielded possession of the maillot blanc to Kwiatowski. "I lost the white jersey but I hope I can get it back in some mountain stage and keep it to the end," he said. "Kwiatkowski is going to be a tough opponent but there are substantial stages left that suit me well."
The Colombian has slipped to eighth in general classification, more than five minutes off the yellow jersey of Chris Froome and almost two off a podium place. "I didn't do a dream time trial but the result was still good, and I didn't lose too much time to the men around me on GC," he said. "The wind made the day a bit more complicated for me because it suited bigger riders who can produce more power."