- Article published:
- March 21, 2012, 17:26
- Daniel Benson
Belgian team realistic about Classics after loss of Gilbert
You can only work with the tools at your disposal and Lotto-Belisol's manager Marc Sergeant's body language said exactly that at the end of Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday. Their highest placed finisher, Jens Debusschere, crossed the line in 24th place and although Sergeant admitted that this was not a full-strength line-up, he said that his team were building to the future.
It's a stark contrast to 2011, when Philippe Gilbert who pulled out 25 wins in a scintillating season that ran from January through to October.
"We didn't expect a lot coming into the race. Lets just say that's a story you'll hear a lot from us in the next few races," Sergeant told Cyclingnews at the finish in Waregem.
Depsite Gilbert's move to BMC, Lotto by no means has a weak squad, with Andre Greipel and Greg Henderson forming a useful alliance in bunch sprints. However, with the duo resting after Milan-San Remo and Jürgen Roelandts continuing his rehabilitation after a serious crash at the Tour Down Under, Sergeant has limited options at his disposal.
"We've missed Jürgen a few times already this season and today was a race for him. We didn't have a lot of opportunities for other races. For next weekend we can set up a good team around Andre at Gent-Wevelgem but I'm a little bit afraid for Friday at E3 [Prijs Vlaanderen]."
Sergeant's practical stance is coupled with a stern belief that despite a lack of results he is building a strong base of riders for the future of his team and Belgian cycling. He pointed to Jens Debusschere as just one of the team's up-and-coming riders.
"The rest of the squad is made up of young riders and learning at these races isn't an easy task. It's an investment in the future but it's not one that pays in the short-term. We need some time now and if there's one positive it's that we can ride without pressure.
"Jens was almost there today, just a few riders back from the break, and was missing the last ten meters. We've got some talent in this team but it's young."
Any team this decade would struggle to fill the vacuum Gilbert left at the end of last season, such was his dominance and strike rate in 2010 and 2011, but his presence on the team led to more than just a safety net of results for Lotto, and Sergeant added that some riders have struggled.
"Last year things looked a lot easier than they were. Now we have to get the riders to think about their own chances, while last time it was all about working to get Gilbert into position. Now they need to figure it out for themselves, where they need to be but I'm sure that we'll develop some really good riders here."
- Article published:
- March 21, 2012, 18:20
- Barry Ryan
Frenchman and Omega Pharma-QuickStep tune up for Flanders
Omega Pharma-QuickStep may have racked up 19 victories in such faraway outposts as Argentina, Qatar and Oman since the turn of the year, but the team’s bread and butter will always be the cobbles of Belgium. With the Tour of Flanders just 10 days away, therefore, it was no surprise to see Sylvain Chavanel to the fore at Dwars Door Vlaanderen on Wednesday.
The French champion expertly policed the chasers as his teammate Niki Terpstra soloed to victory in Waregem, and then duly helped himself to second place. After missing out on Milan-San Remo due to illness, Chavanel declared himself pleased with his Belgian workout.
"I think I took the right decision not to ride Milan-San Remo and take care of my bronchitis," Chavanel said afterwards. "I wasn’t quite 100%, but from talking in the peloton I could see that there were quite a few riders in the peloton who were ill."
The correctness of his choice became clear at Dwars door Vlaanderen, when, alert to the danger when a 13-man move forged clear without any Omega Pharma-QuickStep representation midway through the race, Chavanel all but glided across the gap in the company of Terpstra shortly before the cobbles at Haarghoek.
With the Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg forming the grand finale of the Tour of Flanders this year, Chavanel was understandably keen to test his legs when the leaders hit the climbs with 35km to go. He strung out the group with a long, steady acceleration from the base of the climb before Terpstra shot clear shortly before the summit, with Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) for company.
"I wanted to ride the Kwaremont in front, and then halfway up it Niki made the acceleration. At that point he was a little bit stronger than me, so he took the initiative to attack," Chavanel said.
Terpstra soon freed himself of Wallays’ company and began to eat up the road in front of him, while Chavanel marshalled the chasers behind.
"I was a bit worried that he might have gone too far from the line because there was the Paterberg to come afterwards too, so I just controlled Maarten Wynants behind as he was the strongest of that group. When he accelerated on the Paterberg and I went with him."
Chavanel continued in the same vein when the likes of Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda), Koen De Kort (Project 1t4i) and Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) bridged across to the chasers, and in the closing kilometres he was sharp enough to clip off the front in the company of De Kort to take second place behind Terpstra.
"I suppose I benefited from the presence of Niki up front to race on the wheels a little bit in the finale," smiled Chavanel, who was Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s designated leader before the start.
"I would really like to win a race in the French champion’s jersey but the team’s aim is to win as many races as possible and it’s clear we’re on a positive spiral since the start of the season."
Building towards Flanders
In spite of his second place at the Tour of Flanders in 2011, not to mention a string of fine displays on the cobbles dating back to his time at Cofidis, Chavanel remains something of an outsider for victory at De Ronde. As if to underline that status, he is set to race significantly more in the next ten days than some of the more touted contenders. Unlike his teammate Tom Boonen or Fabian Cancellara, for instance, Chavanel will ride the Three Days of the Panne next week.
"I’ve always done these races," said Chavanel, sipping on a glass of beer in the press room in Waregem. "Competition is what gets me going and I don’t worry about others. Next week there are plenty of others who won’t do De Panne, but so be it. I’m doing the programme that’s worked for me in the past few years."
But is he not concerned that so many of the stars weren’t on the start line in Roeselare on Wednesday morning, and certainly won’t spend most of next week being buffeted by North Sea winds at De Panne?
"I’m not worried about others. The stars can too what they want…" Chavanel shrugged.
Although Chavanel will forgo Gent-Wevelgem at the weekend, he does line up at E3 Harelbeke on Friday, even though he was reluctant to be placed among the favourites for victory.
"I’m still an outsider. I’m a good rider but I’m not the strongest in the peloton," he said. "There’s only one name that comes to mind as favourite and that’s Cancellara."
With Chavanel lining up alongside Boonen, Terpstra and Gert Steegmans, the battle between the collective might of Omega Pharma-QuickStep and the individual force of Fabian Cancellara may yet prove to be the defining theme of the classics campaign, beginning at Harelbeke.
"It’ll be a team game for us on Friday," Chavanel said. "Having more than one card to play is always a good thing."
- Article published:
- March 21, 2012, 20:20
- Daniel Benson
Sky sprinter decries careless action by other riders
Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) crashed in the final 15 kilometres of Dwars door Vlaanderen after a bidon was caught up in his front wheel. Despite no serious injuries his team confirmed to Cyclingnews that they would take no risks, with a hospital exam a possibility for Thursday. Cavendish crossed the line in 58th position and in the safety of the bunch.
"With 15 to go I had a bidon in my front wheel," Cavendish told reporters at the finish. "It was a Katusha bidon launched in the middle of the peloton."
Cavendish later posted bitter comments on his Twitter account, describing the event. "200km on Belgium's worst roads. All OK. 15km from finish, peloton's riding easy & a dickhead throws a bottle in my front wheel. Crashed hard.
"Said it before: EVERYONE involved in a bike race should take a written & practical test to get licence..."
Team Sky came into the race with a below strength team, fielding 6 riders from a possible 8 slots but team director Steven de Jongh said that the race proved to be a good experience for the younger members of the team, Luke Rowe and Salvatore Puccio.
On the team’s website, de Jongh added: "The two young guys did a really good race. And while the team didn’t get in the breakaway they were riding really well as a unit which was one of the things we'd asked of them."
- Article published:
- March 21, 2012, 20:58
- Barry Ryan
Dutchman takes third place in Waregem
Koen De Kort (Project 1t4i) has hailed his third place finish at Dwars Door Vlaanderen as the best result of his career. The Dutchman finished third behind Omega Pharma-QuickStep duo Niki Terpstra and Sylvain Chavanel after an aggressive display on the run-in to the finish at Waregem.
"It's the first time for me on the podium of a pretty big race like this so it feels very special," De Kort told Cyclingnews after descending from the podium. "I felt confident beforehand but I didn't really expect to be top three, even though I knew it was possible. It's definitely the biggest result of my career so far."
With an eight-man break including Terpstra and Chavanel already over a minute up the road as the race entered its decisive phase, De Kort's hopes of a high finish appeared already over, but he succeeded in bridging across with a counter move that also featured Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) and Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia).
"We weren't going to be able to wait for very long but I knew that if went on the Kwaremont or just afterwards it would have been possible to bridge across," De Kort said. "That's what we did, on the Paterberg we went across. We had a pretty good group there and when we got to the breakaway."
By that point Terpstra had motored clear alone, but De Kort set about attacking the chase group in a bid to seal a podium place. "It was over for the win, but we were still riding for second and I was fully focused on that," he said.
After a pair of tentative moves, De Kort slipped clear with Chavanel for company, and the French champion collaborated once it became apparent that Terpstra had enough in hand to take the win.
"[Chavanel] kept bridging across and he wouldn't swap a turn, so I was kind of afraid he was going to do that again," De Kort explained. "But when we looked back we had a fair gap and I think he assessed the situation and thought that he might as well ride with me and get second or third, and I'm glad that he did."
Although Chavanel held off De Kort in the sprint for second place, the Dutchman was pleased with a performance and result that augurs well for the coming weeks. Fresh off the back of John Degenkolb's fine 5th place finish at Milan-San Remo, De Kort is looking forward to being in the mix as far as the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
"I felt really good already when I helped John in San Remo. He got a great result there and I got 19th myself, so I felt pretty good. All that was missing was a podium result in a big classic. Hopefully I continue this into Flanders and Roubaix."
- Article published:
- March 21, 2012, 21:58
- Brecht Decaluwé
Dutch rider goes it alone in Belgium
On Wednesday afternoon 27 year-old Dutch rider Niki Tersptra (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) captured one of the nicest wins in his career at the Belgian semi-classic Dwars door Vlaanderen.
With a tactical move on top of the Oude Kwaremont Terpstra left a breakaway group behind together with Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator). Soon after that Terpstra stormed forward again on the Paterberg and he left the Wallays behind. After completing a 30 km solo ride he rolled across the finish line in sunny Waregem with nearly a minute on teammate Sylvain Chavanel who was best of the rest.
It was his first win since the 2010 Sparkassen Giro in a year in which he also took the Dutch road title.
"Winning the national championships was really nice because you get to wear that special jersey a whole year long. This is a really nice win too. I hope this is the beginning of much more," Tersptra said.
The winner of the 2011 Dwars door Vlaanderen - Nick Nuyens - went on to win the Tour of Flanders, but Terpstra didn't see a parallel for himself this year. "That's another level with stronger teams which include all their team leaders. There's a man like Fabian Cancellara and we'll have Tom Boonen for our team.
"If I want to stand a chance then I don't have to wait and see. I have to race flat out because otherwise I feel like I didn't get the most out of it. If I look at my wins they're often captured after an early attack. That it is often a waste of energy? True, but many people will have said that too when I attacked in the Ronde van Vlaanderen street," Terpstra said.
It hasn't been a perfect early season for Terpstra, who took ill before the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but after a hard training block and improvements during Tirreno-Adriatico, he took to the start in Milano-San Remo in service of Boonen. "I stayed with Tom, but due to that crash things went the wrong way. We ended up riding 300 km for nothing. It was a nice training ride," Terpstra laughed. "Then I felt that I was alright and today I went full gas."
Having his teammate Sylvain Chavanel in the breakaway with him was a big benefit, as the other riders watched the French champion more closely, allowing Terpstra to do what he does best. "Sylvain rode really hard over the Oude Kwaremont and then I thought we had to go flat out because the others were more of a stumbling-block than a stimulus to us. I attacked and thought Sylvain would come but luckily he didn't," Terpstra smiled.
Once up front there were still 30 km to go over hilly terrain and Terpstra had his doubts on a successful conclusion. He faced the disadvantage of a headwind for nearly half his time alone at the front of the race, but from Wortegem-Petegem [16 km to go] until the finish there was a tailwind.
"When checking the bike computer I figured that if they would ride harder than I did - around 50 km/h - they would have to be really strong. Every 10km you hear what the gap is but you don't know what's going on. I had to get a minute as soon as possible and at least hold it or extend it. Once it would drop below that the group would smell blood," Terpstra said.
Three months ago, Terpstra had a different experience while speeding through this part of Belgium. When driving to the team presentation in Vilvoorde back in January, he stopped by the Belgian police for speeding. He lost his driving license and completed the final kilometers to Vilvoorde on his bike.
In Waregem today, the Belgian police stopped him again, but this time around they put him on a podium.
- Article published:
- March 21, 2012, 22:42
- Cycling News
GreenEdge "especially distraught" for Kiwi, says Stephens
Julian Dean (GreenEdge) is facing an uncertain future after he crashed into a parked car on Stage 3 of the Volta a Catalunya on Wednesday, breaking his leg.
The stage race was Dean's first back following a fractured shoulder suffered at the GreenEdge training camp in the Australian Alps in early December. The 36-year-old had been due to return to racing at the Tour of Sardinia which was cancelled.
Wednesday's accident took place just 10 kilometres into the shortened queen stage. Dean was swerving to avoid riders who had crashed ahead of him on the slippery road, following horrific weather conditions in the Pyrenees, when he collided with a parked car.
"We are especially distraught about this loss," GreenEdge sports director Neil Stephens explained on the team website. "From a sporting perspective, it's terrible to lose a rider to a crash. From a personal perspective, we really feel for him. He has a lot of bad luck this year, and Catalunya was his first race back after a previous injury.
"The race took a really nervous start because of a hard climb in the opening kilometres. We went around a slippery right-hand corner, and some guys crashed in front of Julian. In an attempt to avoid them, Julian swerved and he hit a parked car."
Dean was transported by ambulance from Barcelona to his Valencia base, accompanied by GreenEdge sports director Vittorio Algeri.
"I have spoken to him and what I do know is that it's a severe break, it's going to need an operation which will possibly be plates, and therefore three to six months," Dean's wife Carole told Fairfax Media.
"Three months being the very happy end of the scale and six being crap, so basically it's the season."
The sprint veteran was eyeing a fifth Olympic Games in London and an eighth Tour de France.
"He's pretty tenacious and he doesn't sit on his bum and do nothing," Carole Dean continued. "He pushes his body through rehab, so it might be four months if we're lucky.
"The best case scenario I can think of is that he'll be ready to start the Tour of Spain. That might be a good starting point, but certainly the Giro and the Tour are out."
Dean signed a one-year deal with GreenEdge at the end of 2011, non-committal to his cycling future beyond 2012, saying "I am just looking one year at a time, and there are no specific plans to race in 2013. But you never say 'never'."
- Article published:
- March 22, 2012, 00:13
- Cycling News
First 11 teams selected to start on Memorial Day weekend race
The first 11 teams competing in the inaugural Exergy Tour, the only UCI 2.1 ranked race for ladies in North America this year, have been announced.
The five-day stage race will start and finish in Boise, taking place May 24-28. It will be one of the last opportunities to provide international ranking points crucial to qualifying for the London Olympic Games.
Teams will travel to Idaho from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, and across the United States to compete in the event.
"With a field comprised of several former, current and future national, world and Olympic Champions, we expect the competition level to rival the classic European races and to set a new standard for the highest level of ladies professional bike racing in North America," said Heather Hill,
Marketing, Communications and Events director. "The Exergy Tour will also be an opportunity for many young, up and coming riders to work with their teammates and prove themselves against the best in the world."
ABUS-Nutrixxion, Canadian National Team, Exergy Twenty12, Faren Honda, Forno D'Asolo Colavita, GreenEdge-AIS, Specialized-lululemon, TIBCO to the Top, Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley are the first UCI Pro Teams to be named with NRC Pro Teams NOW and Novartis for MS Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies also set to start.
"Having won one of my first big races in Idaho, I was thrilled to hear about the new Exergy Tour, said Clara Hughes from Specialized-lululemon. "I love Idaho - the landscape, the people, the energy they've given to the world of female cycling. What a gift to our sport that Exergy has brought with this race. I can't wait for May!"
Another four teams are expected to be named by April 14.
- Article published:
- March 22, 2012, 01:15
- Cycling News
Dates announced for 15th running of Australian WorldTour opener
South Australian Tourism Minister, Gail Gago has announced that the 2013 Santos Tour Down Under will be held from Tuesday, January 22 to Sunday, January 27 with the traditional warm-up criterium, the Down Under Classic taking place on Sunday, January 20.
"Fifteen years is a great milestone for the Tour, which has now established itself as the first race on the international cycling calendar and as a leading event on the world stage," Gago said in a press release which announced that the 2012 event once again added a significant boost to the local economy.
The route for the 2013 event will be released in July.
The 2012 Santos Tour Down Under was the first since 2008 without the presence of Lance Armstrong who used the Australian race to launch his comeback to the sport in 2009. Australia's Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) won the event from Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan). It was the second time Gerrans had prevailed in the race, having previously taken honours in 2006 riding for AG2R Prévoyance.
According to the government press release, the 2012 event generated $42.2 million in economic activity and attracted 760,600 spectators, including 36,100 interstate and international visitors.
"Before he [Armstrong] first rode the Tour, the event generated around $17 million for the state's economy," Gago explained. "In 2012, without his participation for the first time in three years, the event generated more than $42 million.
"The Santos Tour Down Under benefited hugely from the participation of Lance Armstrong and it's a testament to the event's reputation and the wonderful experience it gives visitors that the level of interest has largely been maintained without his involvement."