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First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, March 25, 2010

Date published:
March 25, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Shirley sure of Redlands aims

    Neil Shirley (Kelly Benefit Strategies) looking comfortable going into the climb.
    Article published:
    March 24, 2010, 19:07 GMT
    Les Clarke

    'Home' race a season highlight for Kelly Benefit Strategies

    In his second season with Kelly Benefit Strategies, Neil Shirley says that the team's tailored approach to 2010 could pay dividends in this weekend's Redlands Bicycle Classic.

    The 31-year-old, who spent three years with the Jittery Joe's outfit, began the season with the Tour de Langkawi and recently finished 13th overall at the San Dimas Stage Race, ahead of riders such as Jason Donald, talented youngster Alex Howes and Australian climber Jai Crawford.

    Shirley's good form can be attributed to starting the season in the tough conditions prevalent in Malaysia, where he said his legs felt better each day of the week-long event.

    He said that Langkawi allowed him to get "a jump on the season coming into some of my bigger goals", one of which is Redlands. "I'd like to have a good ride at Redlands Classic," he said. "Langkawi will align me to have a decent ride there. It's kind of a home race for me - I'm from southern California."

    Kelly Benefit Strategies made its first foray in Asian racing last season, riding the Tour of Thailand, and Shirley is anticipating another trip to the south east Asian nation. "From there [Redlands] we go back to the Tour of Thailand. We won the overall there last year and team classification, so we have ambitions to go back and ride well again," he explained.

    It's then onto the team's biggest race of the year - the Tour of California - where he'll be up against some of the best riders in Europe and the cream of America's elite. While he won't be aiming for general classification heroics, Shirley knows where he can take his chances.

    "I love being a breakaway-type rider; I've done that in the past in the Tour de Georgia. On some of the climbing days, if I can get up the road and go after a KOM jersey... that would be a huge accomplishment," he said.

    "As the race gets closer we'll see who has form - I can see Andy [Bajadali] being the GC kind of guy and we'll see what he can do on days...

  • FFWD to offer lighter aero wheel

    Quick Step rider Carlos Barredo tests out FFWD's redesigned THREE three-spoke aero front wheel.
    Article published:
    March 25, 2010, 8:03 GMT
    James Huang

    Speedier three-spoke from Dutch company

    Dutch wheel company (and Quick Step team sponsor) FFWD has announced an update to its three-spoke aero front wheel. The 80mm-deep tubular-only carbon fiber rim is paired with three 80mm-deep NACA-profile spokes that reportedly reduce aerodynamic drag relative to the old version's nominally symmetrical spokes. Weight has also dropped 100g to 750g.

    The new THREE will accompany the current FIVE and will provide another choice for well-to-do riders looking to fine-tune their equipment selection.

    "The advantage of the THREE over the FIVE, which is also available as a road wheel in 2010, is the weight," said FFWD's Rik van Putten. "Besides that the THREE is less affected by stronger side winds compared to the FIVE."

    Suggested retail price for the new FFWD THREE is €899.

  • Ochowicz: BMC’s Evans a Giro contender

    Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team)
    Article published:
    March 25, 2010, 8:24 GMT
    Greg Johnson

    Professional Continental team pleased with Grand Tour graduation

    While International Cycling Union (UCI) World Road Champion Cadel Evans has been cautious on his Giro d’Italia hopes before seeing the full course, BMC Racing Team president Jim Ochowicz believes the Australian is a general classification contender. Ochowicz’s comments follow this week’s announcement the Professional Continental team would contest May’s Giro, the team’s first Grand Tour.

    “With Cadel, we have one of the contenders for the Giro within our own ranks, so that’s going to be fun to move through the race and see how it develops over the three weeks,” Ochowicz said.

    Evans took some time to scout some of the race’s stages earlier this week, including the 178 kilometre stage from Bormio to Passa del Tonale. The conditions, however, were somewhat different to those he’ll encounter come May, with three centimetres of snow on one of the descents making matters tricky.

    “I’m looking forward to the interesting stages, such as the Strade Bianche, Plan de Corones and Zoncolan,” Evans said. “Whether they suit me or not, I don’t know. We’ll find out when we get there.”

    While looking forward to the team’s first Grand Tour, BMC Racing Team’s sport director John Lelangue was under no illusions about the challenge that lay ahead. Lelangue revealed the team had already completed reconnaissance of four stages before having its selection confirmed this week.

    “It’s going to be a very difficult race,” Lelangue said. “All the big champions have been there and all the big champions have won it. So going to the Giro with the world champion with the objective to be competitive and try to do our best to be on the podium with Cadel and have a strong team with him is a big satisfaction for the team.

    “It’s one of our main objectives of the season,” he added. “Without even...

  • Matthews could continue Liberazione tradition

    Michael Matthews (Team Jayco - Skins) is presented with his trophy for the stage win
    Article published:
    March 25, 2010, 8:32 GMT
    Les Clarke

    Talented Australian aims to go one better this year

    The 65th edition of the Gran Premio Liberazione will be presented tomorrow in Rome, Italy, and while the event is a celebration of the nation's freedom, it boasts an Australian flavour that has been cultured recently.

    Australians have enjoyed plenty of success in the race during the past five years. Team Sky rider Chris Sutton won it in 2005 (beating Riccardo Riccò) while HTC-Columbia professional Matthew Goss took the title the following season and ISD-Neri rider Simon Clarke finished third in 2007.

    The likes of Mario Cipollini, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Steve Bauer and Gianni Bugno also feature on the race's palmares and each of these four went on to successful professional careers. It's proven to be part of the breeding ground for the next generation of stars, and the progression of last year's winner, Sacha Modolo, is another example of this trend.

    Last season young Australian Michael Matthews took second behind Modolo, who recently finished fourth in Milan-San Remo riding for Colnago - CSF Inox. Whilst Matthews won't be joining the pro ranks yet, spending at least another season in the Jayco-Skins Under 23 development outfit, he has already shown his form thus far in 2010 and it bodes well for April's GP Liberazione.

    The 19-year-old from Canberra won two stages of the Tour de Langkawi earlier this month, and explained that he discovered an improved sprinting ability throughout the week-long race. And while Jayco-Skins team manager Brian Stephens said Matthews is known as a time trial rider rather than a sprinter, his form in the fast finishes must be encouraging.

    And he's aware of the recent history at the race held on Anzac Day, a national holiday in his home country. "I heard that after I got second in it last year," he said. "I sort of let the team done a bit because those guys [Sutton and Goss] had won it and I got second; this year I'll try and get the win in it, for sure."

    He needn't worry about...

  • Schleck says he's a Classics favourite despite setbacks

    Andy Schleck gets ready for his season debut
    Article published:
    March 25, 2010, 9:00 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Andy wants Amstel title, will help brother Frank at Liège

    Despite pulling out of the Volta Catalunya through illness Andy Schleck believes he can still be a force in the Classics this spring. The Luxembourg rider finished second in last year’s Tour de France and won Liège-Bastogne-Liège with a terrific attack, however he has had his 2010 season wrecked by crashes, injury and now illness.

    He looked to be returning to form during last week’s Milan-San Remo, but according to Schleck, that was when a stomach bug first surfaced. “I had it from Milan-San Remo. Stuart O’Grady was sick the day before and then I was struck down,” he told Cyclingnews.

    “First I felt okay but then on the night before I pulled out of Catalunya I was just up all night vomiting.”

    Schleck returned to his family in Luxembourg on Wednesday and will stay there until the next race on his schedule, Vuelta a Pais Vasco. It will be his last chance to rack up valuable racing miles before the Classics, where he’ll look to help his brother Frank win Liège, before aiming his sights on winning Amstel Gold Race for the first time in his career.

    “I’m feeling a lot better now. I took some medicine from the doctor and I’m okay,” he said. “I was really looking forward to racing all of Catalunya and racing with Frank again but there’s nothing I can do.”

    Before competing in Vuelta a Pais Vasco Schleck will train at home. “I can be in top form at the Classics, of course I can. It would have been better if I’d done Catalunya instead of training at home but it’s happened now and I need to go home and train even harder. I’m still a favourite and I’ll be there with Frank in the Classics.”

    Schleck’s bad luck started before the turn of the year when he was hit by a car. Although he left the scene of the accident with just a broken bike he picked up his first injury in January....

  • Stannard sets his sights on Paris-Roubaix

    Ian Stannard (Team Sky)
    Article published:
    March 25, 2010, 9:33 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Sky rider ready to serve his Classics' apprenticeship

    Ian Stannard says the Spring Classics will remain a central focus of his professional career as he works towards his ultimate goal of one day winning Paris-Roubaix.

    Stannard, 22, survived atrocious conditions to finish third at last month's Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. It was the first Belgian podium result of his professional career and he told Cyclingnews the achievement has only fuelled his passion for northern Europe's one-day monuments.

    "Kuurne was a big step for me and the direction I want to be going," said Stannard, at his team's hotel in Kortrijk, Belgium. "I'm only 22 and I've got a lot to learn. I've got guys like my sports director Scott Sunderland, [Juan Antonio] Flecha, Mat Hayman and Kurt [Asle Arvesen] on the team and you learn a lot from them. I'm just trying to take all the advice and watch how these guys ride.

    "I'm slowly getting more strength and being in a better organised team you're learning and learning, " he added. "Hopefully in a few years I can put it to my advantage."

    Stannard was speaking after what he described as a "tough day" at Dwars door Vlaanderen. The Briton finished 94th, in the midst of a peloton that finished more than four minutes down on race winner Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank). Despite being disappointed with his relatively lowly result, Stannard was positive about the lessons learnt.

    "Once we hit the Knokteberg I went backwards there and lost a couple of positions. I recovered a bit, which is a good sign. I'm disappointed I couldn't do more, but that's bike racing," he said.

    "It's to be expected really. I did a little bit too much [early], then I was stressing about the climbs and I did a little too much in the wind there. But I know what I did wrong and I know what to do for next time; it's all a learning process at the moment."

    The acceleration of Stannard's Classics education owes a lot to his position on the Sky roster. Respective seasons with...

  • Beloki training for New York Marathon

    Former-professional Joseba Beloki
    Article published:
    March 25, 2010, 10:00 GMT
    Peter Cossins

    Basque never tempted by cycling return

    Three-time Tour de France podium finisher Joseba Beloki looks set to be the latest former professional rider to run in the New York Marathon. Following in the footsteps of ex-professionals such as Lance Armstrong and Michael Boogerd, the 36-year-old Basque told El Diario Vasco that he has started training for the 26.2-mile challenge with former world marathon champion Martín Fiz.

    “I’ve started training for the New York Marathon, which takes place in November,” admitted Beloki. “I go out with Martín Fiz, or it would perhaps be better to say that I go out with him as far as I can. It will be the first marathon I’ve taken part in.”

    Beloki has stayed extremely busy with a number of business ventures since his racing career fizzled out following the exclusion of the Liberty Seguros team from the 2006 Tour de France. He now acts as a training consultant to the Cafés Baqué team and writes for Spanish magazine Ciclismo a Fondo and works for Basque radio. He has also kept up with his bike training to some extent, and has been involved in organizing a cyclo-sportive bearing his name that will take place around his home city of Vitoria on May 29.

    Beloki, who still follows the professional scene closely as a result of his media work, said that he had never considered coming back to racing as his former rival Armstrong has. “Everything has a place in life and racing’s place in mine passed some time ago,” he said.

  • Boonen to ride Tour of California

    Belgian champion Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
    Article published:
    March 25, 2010, 10:19 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Quick Step manager Lefevere confirms star's schedule up to Tour de France

    Tom Boonen will ride the Amgen Tour of California this year, after his Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere confirmed his participation in the American stage race. Boonen will race for stage wins, aiming to repeat his stage win from 2008, when he beat Heinrich Haussler and Mario Cipollini to the line during a stage between Santa Rosa and Sacramento.

    Boonen is scheduled to race a full Classics campaign this Spring, continuing with Gent-Wevelgem this weekend, but will compete in the US-based raced for the third time in a row in May (16-23).

    “I’m glad we’re doing to the Tour of California. Tom likes to do that race,” Lefevere told Cyclingnews.

    Quick Step and US bike manufacturer Specialized cut ties at the end of last season, but Lefevere still believes that the team’s remaining and new sponsors are still attracted to racing in America, even if it means spreading the team thinly across a number of races.

    “For the sponsors the Tour of California is an interesting prospect. We’ll have a team in Belgium, Giro and California and it’s a lot of work so we have to figure out who is doing what, but Tom Boonen is someone who is motivated to do races that he likes.

    “With just two ProTour teams in the Tour of Belgium, everyone is expecting him to win if he goes there, but now he can go to California, win a stage like he did a few years ago and everyone will be happy. He’s very motivated to do the race but we have a few details to iron out first.”

    After the Tour of California Boonen will return to Europe before focussing on the the Tour de France. Last year he pulled out of the race having had a torrid time in the sprints, however Lefevere is keen on his leader to appear at the Tour again. “Of course, a rider like Tom Boonen has to do the Tour.”