American women’s team Tibco-To the Top is hoping to capitalise on a strong European campaign to date at the Tour de l’Aude, which starts in France on Friday. The team’s general classification hopes rest in the hands of Australian Open Road Champion Ruth Corset, who is hoping to emulate the success of team owner Linda Jackson who won the French race in 1997.
Corset narrowly missed out on the podium at Italy’s Trofeo Alfredo Binda, finishing in fourth. The team’s European directeur sportif Chris Georgas believes the Tibco team will be very competitive at the biggest tour on the women’s calendar.
“We have a very strong six-rider team for the Tour,” said Georgas. “After the spring classics in April, Team Tibco earned a lot of respect on the European circuit through its hard racing and desire to be a factor in every race.
“We had a lot of good finishes in the World Cups and UCI 1.1 races,” he added. “We have riders who can contend for stage wins every day, and we’re well-suited to pursue the overall title as well.”
Corset has the support of compatriot Emma Mackie and New Zealand’s Joanne Kiesanowski. They will be joined by three Americans on the team’s roster in Amanda and Brooke Miller and Rebecca Much.
Grand Tours are always a prime showcase for new bikes and components and this year's Giro d'Italia has faithfully upheld that tradition with fresh products spotted from SRAM, Vittoria, and O,symetric.
Nearly all of Astana's Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 road bikes were fitted with compact 110mm BCD cranks across the board – but not compact chainrings. SRAM has provided the riders with special team-only 'BlackBox' rings with standard-sized 53/39T ratios and extra-beefy construction to squelch flex.
SRAM road sports manager Alex Wassmann says that these particular rings won't eventually be offered to the public, though, saying they were only produced as part of a development process for new consumer-market 110mm BCD size options.
"We'd been playing with different setups for ramps and shifting efficiency over the past couple of years," he said. "We'd settled on the 52/36 configuration for commercial purposes. These rings were part of that process, but we felt the larger 53t size crossed the line for front derailleur capacity in getting ideal shift performance in the consumer market."
Astana team leader Alexandre Vinokourov was the lone holdout with standard BCD Specialized rings mounted on his carbon crankarms. But in addition, his Specialized S-Works Shiv was also spotted with an ultralight all-aluminum cassette mounted just prior to stage 4's team time trial.
The perforated dome-like construction resembles that of SRAM's off-road XX cassette but European road sponsorship manager Jason Phillips adamantly denies that it's a SRAM product. Upon closer inspection, the tooth profiles admittedly don't match anything else in the company catalog and perhaps it's just as well since Vinokourov didn't end up using it during the race, anyway.
We're still working to identify the exact make and model as we've already ruled out the usual suspects such as current models from KCNC, Token, Recon, Tiso, and Sampson Sports....
Rider, director say maglia rosa hopes lay in the mountains
Australia’s Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) is waiting for the Giro d’Italia to reach the mountain stages before judging the time he’s lost on general classification's impact on his maglia rosa ambitions. With his Swiss squad not fielding as strong a time trial line-up as his general classification rivals, the UCI World Road Champion shed more than a minute on yesterday’s team time trial stage four.
“Now I look forward to a slightly more 'normal' Giro, whatever that is,” Evans wrote on cadelevans.com.au after the stage. “Until we get to the more selective stages, we won't know if my minute or so behind some of the other contenders will be of importance.”
Despite losing time Evans believes his Swiss Professional Continental squad performed as well as could be expected, given its composition. His thoughts were re-iterated by BMC Racing Team director sportif John Lelangue.
"With the team we have here and in those conditions, the guys were really working hard to make it happen," Lelangue said. "Liquigas made a really good time, but there are a lot of mountains still to come."
BMC Racing Team finished the team time trial mid-field, 12th from the 22 teams that started. The 1:21 minutes it finished behind Liquigas added to the 25 seconds Evans already trailed Ivan Basso after being held up in a crash near the end of the previous stage. Italy’s Basso is the highest general classification rider in second place, 1:46 minutes ahead of Evans.
Today’s fifth stage is expected to be one for the sprinters before the race starts to get bumpy on the sixth stage, a 172 kilometre journey from Fidenza to Marina di Carrara. Like the sixth stage the seventh should further shake out the overall classification, before the general classification riders get their first chance to show their cards on the 189 kilometre stage that finishes atop Monte Terminillo.
Many small climbs in three-day northern France race
Astana and RadioShack have announced their line-ups for the Tour de Picardie. The 64th edition of the race, to be held May 14 to 16, covers 541 kilometres through the Picardie region in northern France.
David de la Fuente will lead Astana. The Spanish climber will be supported by Australian sprinters Allan and Scott Davis, as well as Valery Dmitriev, Benjamin Noval, Yevgeniy Nepomniadhshiy, Bolat Raimbekov, and Mirko Selvaggi.
RadioShack will be represented by Fumiyuki Beppu, Sam Bewley, Daryl Impey, Gregory Rast, Sébastien Rosseler, Bjørn Selander, Gert Steegmans and Tomas Vaitkus
The opening stage features four climbs, with the last coming only 8km before the finish. Stage two also has four climbs, including one up to the finish line. The four climbs in the final stage all come in the first half, so a mass sprint finish can be expected.
Last year's edition was won by Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil.
The following teams will ride the 2.1 ranked race: Landbouwkrediet, Topsport Vlaanderen, Mercator, Caisse d'Epargne, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Team RadioShack, AG2R-La Mondiale, Française des Jeux, BBox Bouygues Telecom, Cofidis, Saur-Sojasun, Big Mat-Auber 93, Brittany, Roubiax Lille-Métropole, Sky Team, Astana, Skil-Shimano, and Vacansoleil.
Cervélo saves Spaniard's race with solid performance
Overall contender at the Giro d'Italia, Carlos Sastre, said he was pleased with the efforts of his team in yesterday's stage four team time trial from Savigliano to Cuneo.
Having endured a tough few days in the opening stages of this year's race, Sastre emerged from yesterday's 33km test against the clock in good shape, with Cervélo finishing the sixth fastest, putting the Spaniard 2:13 seconds behind stage winner Vincenzo Nibali on general classification.
Some may argue that Sastre, who won two mountain stages of last year's Giro in emphatic fashion en route to finishing fourth overall (which became third with the suspension of Danilo Di Luca later in 2009), has given himself too much work to do after the race's first week. The experienced Grand Tour rider isn't panicking however, preferring to focus on the positives of the day's ride.
"The team did a wonderful team time trial today," said Sastre. "The course was a really hard one, with the straight uphill. It was windy on the side and also at the back. The guys showed today they were so strong, they were really fantastic."
An important part of that performance was Lithuanian national time trial champion Ignatas Konovalovas, who could be seen taking big turns on the front to propel the team to its time of 37:15, 38 seconds adrift of Liquigas' time.
Konovalovas won the time trial in Rome on the final day of last year's Giro - which like yesterday's stage was wet - and used that experience plus his proven TT skills to take on a leadership role over the 33km.
"It was a good ride, it looks like everybody is happy now. My legs were really good today," said Konovalovas. "We started normally, not too fast, not too slow. The first part looked very easy, you take a pull on the front, then you're on the wheel.
"Then the last 15km was very hard all the time. In the middle, we also had a huge downpour of rain. The corners were slippery, I could feel it."
Riders will climb 2,323 metres to Kaiser Franz Josef Höhe
The Tour of Austria will feature a mountaintop finish at the famous Grossglockner. The race always includes the climb but this is only the second time a stage will end there.
The tour's fourth stage on July 7 will end at the Kaiser Franz Josef Höhe at 2,323 metres above sea level. The Grossglockner itself goes up to 3,798 metres and is Austria's highest mountain.
In addition the race will approach the climb from a different side than usual. “We haven't ridden to the top of the tour on the “Heiligenblut” side for a long time now,” said tour director Ursula Riha. The last time a stage ended at the Kaiser Franz Josef Höhe was in 1990, for a mountain time trial.
The first rider in the mountain ranking earns the title Glocknerkönig (King of the Glockner). Ivan Basso won the title in 2001. Since 2006, the title has gone to Bernhard Kohl, Christian Pfannberger, Gerrit Glomser, and Koos Moerenhout.
Stage eight will then start from Bleiburg. The remaining stages will be presented on June 7, “with a surprise guest,” Riha said.
Looks to finish high while supporting Cavendish and Rogers
Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) will embark on the biggest race of his professional career at the Amgen Tour of California (May 16-23) and the first year pro isn’t daunted by the challenge ahead.
Van Garderen, 21, has raced a full programme in his first year, with impressive results in the Volta ao Algarve and the Tour of Turkey, where he finished second overall. However unlike those two races, the Tour of California is a race he has targeted since the start of the year and he’ll aim to support Mark Cavendish in the sprints as well as help propel Mick Rogers to the overall win.
“California is a big one for me personally and for the team. My form is good. I’ve had a bit of time off and I think the rest will have done me good. I think I can aim pretty high at this race,” he told Cyclingnews.
“Rogers and Cavendish are the two goals for the team. If we can get stage wins for Cavendish and a high GC for Rogers I’ll just help out where I can. If I help out Rogers on the climbs I can, through natural selection, move up. Rogers has shown some good form and I think he has a good shot at winning this and I can protect him on the climbs.”
Van Garderen and his HTC-Columbia teammates have spent the last few days riding reconnaissance in the Napa Valley ahead of the eight-day stage race. On Tuesday they rode part of stage two to Santa Rosa, which climbs up Trinity Road. Van Garderen believes that with such an aggressive route it will be hard for the favourites to control affairs.
“Bonny Doon, Big Bear and the time trial in Los Angeles; those are the days we’re looking at. Every day is dangerous for breaks to stay away and every stage will be hard to control. It looks like there’s a lot of flat run-ins but it’ll be very stressful and anything can happen like it did at the Tours of Georgia and Missouri a few years ago.”
Lucas Euser, the 26-year-old Team SpiderTech powered by Planet Energy rider, takes Cyclingnews on a training ride around his hometown of Napa, California.
The Knoxville/Berryessa Loop offers a little taste of everything. From rolling past world class vineyards, to quiet country roads. From a 1,000 foot climb through a redwood forest, to a descent where it’s easy to spin out a 53 x 11. This route follows many of the same roads as Stage 2 of the 2010 Tour of California.
But this ride has more meaning to Euser than just another beautiful route. After a potentially career ending injury in Spain last year, Euser returned home to Napa, California and regained his strength while training with many of his local mentors on the roads of his youth. Now with renewed fight and a deeper appreciation for his abilities, he tackles this challenging route with the clear goal of regaining the form that brought him to the European peloton.