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First Edition Cycling News, Thursday, May 15, 2014

Date published:
May 15, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • Duarte in better shape than last year at Giro d'Italia

    Fabio Duarte (Colombia) in action at Settimana Lombarda.
    Article published:
    May 14, 2014, 17:45 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Mountain specialist takes on GC role for Colombia

    For the third year running, former under 23 world champion Fabio Duarte (Colombia) is back at the Giro d'Italia and - after last year’s collective spectacular performance by the Colombians - Duarte knows that the bar is steadily rising for his nation at the Giro. He hopes, needless to say, to continue that tendency.

    In 2013, Rigoberto Urán netted Colombia’s first ever podium finish in the Giro d’Italia, as well as taking a mountain top stage win, whilst compatriot Carlos Alberto Betancur (AG2R La Mondiale) was crowned as the Giro’s best young rider.

    Second himself last year at Tre Cime di Lavaredo’s blizzard-struck mountain top finish behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Duarte says that with better form than in 2013, as well as greater experience, he is looking for his first stage win in the Giro this year.

    “I think the level of Colombian cycling is improving again in general this year and that’s also true for my team,” Duarte told Cyclingnews. “My preparation for this year’s race is much better and I am sure I can perform well.”

    After Colombia took 18th in the opening team time trial - arguably the stage which favoured the Pro Continental squad the least in the entire race - overall Duarte is now lying 1:37 back on Giro leader Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge).

    “My big goals are the GC and to try and take some stages: the Zoncolan [stage 20] and the Montecampione [stage 15], which is the closest to our European base, are the ones that I’d really like to get.”

    “Generally the first week is my worst and the third week is my best in a Grand Tour. Last year I got fifth in the Galibier as well as...

  • Video: Damiani assesses Evans’ Giro d’Italia chances

    Cadel Evans (BMC Racing)
    Article published:
    May 14, 2014, 18:04 BST
    Cycling News

    Australian moves into third on stage 5

    In building his season around the Giro d’Italia, Cadel Evans (BMC) is looking to settle an account opened in 2002. Twelve years ago, in his very first grand tour appearance, the Australian rode into the pink jersey at Corvara only to lose 17 minutes on the road to Folgaria the following day.

    Roberto Damiani – currently a directeur sportif at UnitedHealthcare – was in the team car for Mapei at that Giro. The Italian squad had started the race with Stefano Garzelli as the designated leader and when he left after returning a positive test for probenicid, it seemed as though their overall hopes had disappeared.

    Evans, however, stood up to the plate in the final week, and divested Jens Heppner of the maglia rosa on the tappone to Corvara. Just five days from the finish in Milan, the then 25-year-old was on the brink of a surprise success, only to crack dramatically the following day and finish the race in 14th place overall.

    "It was the first Giro for Cadel and after Garzelli left, he took the responsibility," Damiani told Cyclingnews. "He was a little bit tired because it was a long season. Near the end, he took the pink jersey but the day after we saw the inexperience and youth of Cadel."

    To Damiani's mind, Evans' collapse was not, however, due to any tactical error, but simply because he had never been faced with the physical demands of a three-week tour before that Giro. "It wasn't a big error. A lot of people said that he didn't eat properly and blah, blah, blah but really in the end it was only because he was tired and he was young," he said.

    Evans has come close at the Giro since – he finished 5th in 2010 and 3rd last year – but this season is the first time that he has built his entire season...

  • Craddock aiming for Tour of California podium

    Lawson Craddock
    Article published:
    May 14, 2014, 19:03 BST
    Pat Malach

    Young Giant-Shimano rider sizzles on Mt. Diablo

    After coming in third during the Tour of California's third stage, which finished at the top of Mt. Diablo, Lawson Craddock said Tuesday that he's shooting for an overall podium result.

    “I think after today it has definitely become more of a reality,” Craddock said. “I just have to stay safe these next couple of days and try and be up there on [the stage 6 finish atop] Mountain High.”

    During the 2013 stage that ended on Mt. Diablo, the 16km climb that features pitches of 17 per cent near the top, the then-21-year-old Craddock turned heads with an impressive seventh-place finish, just 32 seconds behind winner Leopold König. Now riding for Giant-Shimano, the neo-pro said he's been targeting the stage since finding out his team would be at the race.

    “I think this course last year was kind of my breakout ride,” he said. “It really showed that I could climb uphill, so I had this date circled, and the team did just a perfect job all day. It was a hot day, so they were keeping everyone hydrated and refueled. It was up to me to repay them, and I'm really glad I could.”

    With another year of development and experience to fall back on, Craddock waited until the very end of the climb to make his move rather than jumping away from the lead group early, like he did in his previous attempt at the stage finish in 2013.

    “I made the mistake of going too early last year and really fading hard on the last steep pitch,” he said. “This year was the opposite, I kind of stuck with the group and tried to save my energy, and then when you make that curve and can see the finish line, I felt no pain in my legs. I shifted down a couple and just stood up. I don't think I looked very...

  • Matthews holds onto Giro d'Italia lead after ferocious uphill fight

    Race leader Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge)
    Article published:
    May 14, 2014, 19:33 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Orica-GreenEdge rider sixth on Viggiano climb

    Giro d’Italia leader Michael Matthews had made a pre-race target of the uphill finish on stage 5 at Viggiano, and although finally the Australian had to settle for sixth, he nonetheless remains in the maglia rosa.

    Matthews Orica-GreenEdge team had a hard day pulling back a very dangerous 11-man move containing Sky’s Ben Swift, who was 29 seconds behind Matthews before the stage, and then they then tried to keep the Australian in a good position at the front of the pack for as long as possible on the two final ascents to Viggiano.

    The final outcome was that Matthews finished sixth and remains in the lead for a fourth straight stage, with teammate Pieter Weening, himself a former Giro leader, in second overall, 14 seconds back. Matthews is also at the head of the Best Young Rider competition.

    "This stage definitely proved that we really deserved this jersey for the first few days of the Giro," Matthews told reporters afterwards.

    "Today was the big goal for me, and to keep the jersey, to be able to have a good crack in the finale and deliver me in the right position after keeping up a really solid tempo all day shows what an amazing job my team has done. It was pretty nice to be there."

    How long will he and Orica-GreenEdge try to "keep the pink ball rolling?" as Matthews succinctly put it? "My goal from the start was to keep it until tomorrow [the stage finish to Monte Cassino] and then re-assess. Tonight we’ll have a good look at how things stand."

    "The next few stages are pretty key to keeping the maglia rosa, it’s been a good trip so far, and we’ll try to keep the pink ball rolling."

    The final climb, he...

  • Ulissi lands first Italian stage win of Giro d’Italia

    Diego Ulissi on the podium
    Article published:
    May 14, 2014, 20:10 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Tuscan credits burgeoning self-belief

    Post-race press conferences have been rather perfunctory affairs for the opening days of this Giro d’Italia but the running time was generously extended when Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) landed Italy’s first win of the race in Viggiano at the end of stage 5. With extra column inches to fill, the home media simply kept asking questions and a delighted Ulissi could probably have talked all night

    Ulissi had been earmarked as one of the outstanding favourites beforehand given his victories on similar uphill finales at Milan-Turin and the Giro dell’Emilia at the tail end of last season. In the final kilometre, he showed poise that belied his 24 years to time his effort to perfection, and came past Julian Arredondo (Trek) and Cadel Evans (BMC) within sight of the line.

    "It’s an important win because it’s the first Italian one of this Giro and it’s important because I beat some champions on a hard finale at the end of a tough day in the wind and rain," said Ulissi, who was caught behind a crash ahead of the penultimate climb with 17 kilometres remaining, but entered the final haul to the line safely placed near the front of the bunch.

    "Katusha did great forcing in the final kilometre but I stayed in fifth wheel because I didn’t want to get exposed to the wind too early. I was behind [Nairo] Quintana, but when he couldn’t hold the wheel, I had to come around him. [Przemyslaw Niemiec] helped to move me up and then I took [pink jersey] Michael Matthews’ wheel before unleashing my sprint."

    For the local media, the decline and fall of Italian cycling from its 1990s heyday is an ongoing concern, and it was inevitable that Ulissi would be asked...

  • Evans shows his strength on Giro d'Italia stage 5

    Cadel Evans (BMC)
    Article published:
    May 14, 2014, 21:32 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    BMC Racing leader confirms solid condition in Viggiano

    Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) made it more than clear on Wednesday’s first uphill stage of the Giro d’Italia that he is a top candidate for overall victory in Trieste on June 1st after claiming a strong second place in the small group sprint for the win at Viggiano.

    Evans might not have been able to net the top spot on the stage. But apart from gaining himself a useful six seconds in bonuses, his surging acceleration at the finish confirms that there is no risk as yet of any erosion of the form that earned the BMC Racing leader victory in the Giro del Trentino last month.

    Evans's third place in the Giro d’Italia last year was already ample proof that the 2011 Tour de France winner had not forgotten what it takes to shine in the Italian Grand Tour - the race where he first took a lead in a Grand Tour, way back in 2002. Then on Wednesday’s taxing stage, Evans demonstrated yet again that he continues to have a firm hold on the fraught and frantic racing that is so much a part of every Giro d’Italia.

    “It was quite a long day and also really varying conditions, which is typical of the Giro,” Evans said. “It was pretty warm by the coast where we started and then you come up into the mountains it got wetter and very cold which is hard to adapt to.”

    “The cross-winds were present for the best part of the day, too, and there were technical downhills as well, so you had to stay concentrated and it was quite difficult.”

    The final kilometre, he said, “was a little bit chaotic, the last 16 kilometres in fact was a little bit of a blur with the wet weather. The road was very slippery, that was my main concern.

  • Swift goes on the offensive at Giro d’Italia

    Ben Swift (Team Sky) was close to the win
    Article published:
    May 14, 2014, 22:40 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Points jersey a possible target for Sky man

    Ben Swift was expected to be among the protagonists of stage 5 of the Giro d’Italia to Viggiano, and the Team Sky rider duly delivered, even if it was with a surprise turn in the early break rather than as a player in the sprint finish.

    On a day that saw the race buffeted by winds from the Ionian Sea as it trekked across southern Italy, Swift was part of an intriguing 11-man move that formed just over 20 kilometres into stage, with fellow fast men Elia Viviani (Cannondale) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) also aboard.

    That trio enjoyed a keenly-contested intermediate sprint at Montalbano Jonico after 70 kilometres, where Swift took the decision ahead of Viviani and Farrar, and the Englishman’s decision not to relent immediately afterwards was an understandable one. As the best-placed rider in a break with a lead of five minutes, Swift was now in the virtual overall lead.

    With the Orica-GreenEdge team of maglia rosa Michael Matthews the only chasers on the front of the bunch, it briefly appeared as though Swift might relieve him of that jersey, but the break’s gap began to tumble in the final 50 kilometres – a combination of reduced collaboration up front, and the added impetus of Katusha and BMC to the chase effort behind.

    "I thought maybe we would stay away until the last lap or the last climb but once we started messing around in the group I never thought it was going to stick. We always knew it was going to come back," Swift told Cyclingnews on crossing the line almost twelve minutes down on winner Diego Ulissi, having been caught with 23 kilometres remaining.

    A faller on the previous day’s contentious, rain-slicked finale in Bari,...

  • Orica-GreenEdge building toward being Grand Tour contenders

    Team Orica GreenEdge in perfect formation.
    Article published:
    May 15, 2014, 1:30 BST
    Aaron S. Lee

    Australian team may have already have a diamond in the rough, says Sunderland

    Australia first UCI WorldTour cycling team, Orica-GreenEdge, has been on a winning streak as of late, with Simon Gerrans' Liège–Bastogne–Liège victory, Michael Albasini's three stage wins at the Tour de Romandie, neo-pro Adam Yates win at the Tour of Turkey, and with the Orica-AIS women's team getting into the mix with an opening stage win and second overall at the inaugural Women's Tour of Britain last week.

    On Friday in Belfast, the squad recorded an opening stage team time trial win to start the Giro d'Italia, and gift birthday boy Svein Tuft the fabled Maglia Rosa, before he himself passed it on to teammate Michael Matthews on stage two. 

    "Success breeds success because winning is contagious, especially in a team sport like cycling," Scott Sunderland told Cyclingnews. "Once the riders realise they are all a part of the team, working hard to achieve great results and they start believing in themselves, then lookout. Even the women's team is doing a great job with results and adding more positive energy into the mix."

    According to Sunderland, a ex-pro and former directeur sportif for Bjarne Riis' CSC during Carlos Sastre's 2008 Tour victory as well as manager and DS for Sky (2009-2010), the difference in GreenEdge's increased success is the...