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First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, March 1, 2012

Date published:
March 01, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Wildcards revealed for La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    2011's Flèche Wallonne goes to a Walloon, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).
    Article published:
    February 29, 2012, 16:54 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    ASO announces fields for key spring classics

    Race organisers ASO have announced the wildcard entries for two of its biggest spring races, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. In addition to the 18 ProTour Teams, who all receive compulsory invites, seven other teams have been given wildcard invitations to both Belgian events.

    The two famous races take place just four days apart this April. Both are always keenly contested, and they attract quality fields and thousands of spectators. Last year, home favourite Philippe Gilbert won both events as part of a quadruple that also took in the Amstel Gold Race and Brabantse Pijl.

    Wildcard entries - La Flèche Wallonne (April 18, 2012): Accent Jobs-Willems Verandas; Colombia-Coldeportes; Landbouwkrediet; Project 1T4I; Saur-Sojasun; Team Type1-Sanofi; Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator

    Wildcard entries - Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 22, 2012): Accent Jobs-Willems Verandas; Team Europcar; Landbouwkrediet; Project 1T4I; Saur-Sojasun; Team Type1-Sanofi; Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator

  • Kolobnev cleared in Tour de France doping case

    Russian champion Alexandre Kolobnev (Katusha).
    Article published:
    February 29, 2012, 17:53 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Russian Cycling Federation's decision not to ban him is upheld by CAS

    Russian rider Alexandr Kolobnev, formerly of Katusha, has been acquitted of systematic doping by the Court of Arbitration for Sport today after the court upheld the decision of the Russian Cycling Federation not to ban him for a positive test at the 2011 Tour de France.

    Kolobnev tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide, which can be used as a masking agent, but claimed that it showed up in his system as a result of medication for a vascular disease that he has suffered from for 15 years. The Russian authorities decided to warn him and fine him 1500 Swiss francs rather than ban him, but that decision was appealed to CAS by the UCI, who requested a two-year ban and a fine of 350,000 Euros.

    Ultimately, the CAS panel found in favour of Kolobnev, having been satisfied that the medication in question was recommended by his doctor and is available over the counter in Russia.

    "The CAS panel was satisfied that the use of the product was justified for medical reasons totally unrelated to sport performance: the product, recommended by Kolobnev's doctor in 2009, had been actually indicated to supplement the treatment of the vascular disease affecting the athlete and not to help and athlete recover from physical effort or better prepare for a sporting performance," said the CAS report on the case.

    Kolobnev parted ways with Katusha last year, at the end of a turbulent season that also saw him accused of selling victory at the 2010 Liege-Bastoge-Liege to Alexandre Vinokourov, when Swiss magazine L'Illustre printed an email exchange between the pair. The 30-year-old, who won silver at the 2007 Worlds and was awarded bronze for the 2008 Olympics in...

  • Keough: lead-outs the key to beating Guardini

    Jake Keough will have no problem handling himself in the sprints this season.
    Article published:
    February 29, 2012, 20:00 GMT
    By:
    Jane Aubrey

    Sprint showdown resumes in Langkawi

    UnitedHealthcare sprinter Jake Keough believes it is only a matter of time before he gets one up on Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), who has dominated the first half of Le Tour de Langkawi, to claim three stages.

    Keough, runner-up on the US National Racing Calendar standings for 2011, has not been too far off the mark with second placings on stages 2 and 4. For all but two members of the UnitedHealthcare team in Langkawi (Hilton Clarke and Karl Menzies), the Malaysian race is their second stop of the season, following on from the Tour de San Luis in late January.

    "Our main goals here were to win stages and to work on our lead-out," Eric Greene, UnitedHealthcare director, told Cyclingnews on Wednesday.

    After two days for the climbers, including the queen stage to Genting on Wednesday, the race returns to a battle of the fast men, with four sprint stages to close out the race. While the ProConti outfit's primary objective has been stage wins, an added bonus is that heading into stage 7, Keough is also just four points off Guardini in the points classification, with bonuses picked up on intermediates on stage 5.

    "The sprint competition's never really been our focus," admitted Greene. "If he [Keough] gets on the podium with that, it's a plus."

    For Keough, the opportunity on Tuesday to close the gap on Guardini was too good to pass up.

    "We raced for the first two hours; there was no breakaway that went early," he told Cyclingnews. "We had a few opportunities to go for a couple of the sprints. For me it's more important just to do a few sprints and to get the speed going. I haven't raced since Argentina three weeks ago...

  • French teams announce Paris-Nice rosters

    Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)
    Article published:
    February 29, 2012, 22:50 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    AG2R, FDJ, Saur-Sojasun, Cofidis, Europcar ready to race on home soil

    After kicking off the season in Australia at the Tour Down Under, the WorldTour returns to Europe for its first event on the continent, Paris-Nice, and five teams from the host nation of France all look to figure in the mix.

    The Pro Continental Team Europcar squad was expecting to have a two-pronged attack at Paris-Nice via last year's Tour de France heroes Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland, but the team announced today that the knee injury sustained by Rolland at the Tour de Haut Var will keep the Tour's best young rider off the roster. Rolland, who has claimed the only victory for Europcar thus far this season, will be replaced by Vincent Jérôme.

    The team still has plenty of potential to leave its mark at Paris-Nice, with Voeckler returning to the race after winning two stages in last year's edition.

    Team Europcar for Paris-Nice: Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn), Giovanni Bernaudeau (Fra), Sébastien Chavanel (Fra), Damien Gaudin (Fra), Vincent Jérôme (Fra), Davide Malacarne (Ita), Alexandre Pichot (Fra), Thomas Voeckler (Fra)

    AG2R-La Mondiale is one of two French ProTour squads and the team will have two strong overall options at Paris-Nice via its leaders Jean-Christophe Peraud and Nicolas Roche. Peraud, who turned pro in 2010 at the age of 32, has had solid performances in each of his previous two Paris-Nice rides. Peraud finished 8th overall in

  • Chest problems scuttle Lapthorne's Langkawi chances

    Darren Lapthorne (Drapac Cycling) in the tour leader's yellow jersey during stage six.
    Article published:
    March 01, 2012, 0:14 GMT
    By:
    Alex Hinds

    Australian to be monitored, Drapac now focused on stage wins

    Darren Lapthorne (Drapac) suffered severe chest pains on yesterday’s queen stage of the Tour de Langkawi, and despite a determined effort to limit his losses and stay in contention, in the end, the mountain, and his ailments got the better of him.

    "Unfortunately Darren woke up Wednesday morning with chest pains and was not feeling 100 per cent which, after being checked by the race doctor was diagnosed as a muscular issue and is now being treated," team manager Jonathan Breekveldt told Cyclingnews.

    Drapac have been getting closer to an elusive overall victory at the Tour de Langkawi, with Mitch Docker’s top 10 result in 2008 the start of a boon for the team in the Malaysian stage race. The team has worn the yellow jersey in five of their last six appearances.

    The display of form Lapthorne had shown on the opening stage time trial in Putrajaya, and on the hilly finish to Pandan Indah on Tuesday had the team confident that the Australian, who is normally a strong climber, could potentially win the overall.

    "Even with the injury, the team began the stage with the goal of putting Darren in the best possible position to defend his lead," said Breekveldt.

    "We controlled the race perfectly to the base of the climb … Darren made the final selection of seven riders but when he pushed his body the chest injury became more apparent and left him unable to compete with the leaders.

    "It was a disappointing day for the team but we had been on the podium...

  • Riders' association defends Offredo

    Yoann Offredo (FDJ)
    Article published:
    March 01, 2012, 3:27 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    CPA calls on UCI to re-examine suspension

    The professional riders association (CPA, Coureurs Professionnels Associés) has issued a statement calling on the UCI to re-examine the suspension of French athlete Yoann Offredo for missing anti-doping controls.

    Offredo was given a one-year ban for failing three times in 18 months to properly update his whereabouts, resulting in the missed anti-doping controls.

    Unlike his fellow Frenchman, Gregory Baugé, who was given a retroactive ban with the loss of his world championship titles, the FDJ-BigMat rider was given a one-year suspension for this season.

    The CPA asked for a meeting with the UCI to discuss "the devastating consequences that this kind of sentence could cause for the racer's career".

    It said that Offredo's own team was responsible for one of the missed tests by putting him in a race for which he was not originally scheduled, noting that as a UCI event, it was possible for them to pull him for a control at the race.

    "Of course this is not to minimize or avoid compliance with a regulation deemed appropriate and necessary, and certainly made for all, useful in the fight against doping. A struggle in which the CPA and its members have always associated with conviction," the statement read.

    However, CPA chairman Gianni Bugno feels that the punishment is out of proportion when compared with that of riders who actually test positive.

    "Although it seems very difficult to reopen the case of the unfortunate Yoann Offredo with the aim to scale down the heavy sentence, the CPA finds it necessary to meet as soon as possible with the UCI to discuss, challenge and change some settings especially of that regulation," Bugno explained in the statement....

  • Belletti happy with preparation at Italian Olympic camp

    Manuel Belletti (AG2R La Mondiale) finished 9th on the stage
    Article published:
    March 01, 2012, 5:30 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    AG2R rider hoping to perform in Tirreno

    An outsider for a spot on the Italian Olympic team come London in 5 months time, Manuel Belletti (AG2R) says that though he's not confident about his chances for selection, he's happy to at least be in Paolo Bettini's thoughts. Belletti is currently in Tuscany for an official Olympic testing and bonding camp along with 18 other riders on the long-list for Games selection.

    "I am pleased to be here again with the national team set-up, it's nice to have an affirmation of faith from Paolo Bettini," said Belletti. "Last year the retreat we had in Sicily was a nice way to do some 'different' training - a bit of a unique build-up and approach to some of my early objectives. I think camps like this are great to bring the team together as well. Something that's important in an Olympic year."

    The 26-year-old enjoyed a successful 2011 with Colnago-CSF in which he picked up four victories, and raised his profile enough to earn a ride in the WorldTour with AG2R. He started his year in Australia at the Tour Down Under picking up three top 10 stage finishes in an impressive showing for the Italian. His form has built steadily since and was a respectable 13th in the Belgian semi-classic Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. Belletti says that Tirreno-Adriatico is his first big goal of the year, and he hopes to post a win or two soon to help press his chances for the Olympics.

    "Physically I'm fine and I've been getting better everyday. I'm hoping that I can do something next week at the Tirreno-Adriatico, I think it suits me really well but I guess we'll see. After that I'm...

  • Is Ballan BMC's best hope at Strade Bianche?

    Alessandro Ballan (BMC)
    Article published:
    March 01, 2012, 7:19 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Gilbert not feeling pressure to defend 2011 title

    Despite the high expectation on BMC Racing Team's all-star line-up for Saturday's Strade Bianchi, the outfit's star signing and defending champion Philippe Gilbert is nonchalant about his own chances.

    Gilbert's will be well supported in the form of teammates George Hincapie in his first European race of the year, Alessandro Ballan and Greg Van Avermaet as well as Tour de France winner Cadel Evans.

    The testing 190km race route starts in Giaole in Chianti and ends in the spectacular Piazza del Campo in the centre of Siena that hosts the annual Palio horse race. There are eight hilly sections of dirt roads for a total of 57.2km of racing on the Strade Bianche of Tuscany. The final sections of dirt roads usually split the peloton before the climb to the centre of Siena and the downhill sprint to the finish.

    Gilbert said he is feeling no pressure as the defending champion. "I will start this race with motivation because it's a nice race," the Belgian national champion said.

    "My feeling was not great last weekend like last year at the same moment. But there's still no stress for me. The season is long and my goals will come later."

    On the opening classics weekend of the 2012 season, Gilbert posted 31st in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad following from his 15th place overall at the Tour du Haut Var.

    BMC Racing Team Assistant Director Fabio Baldato said the team is anxious to perform well on Saturday.

    "I know Alessandro [Ballan - runner-up in both 2011 and 2008] is especially in good shape and motivated," he said.