- Article published:
- May 16, 2013, 00:10
- Laura Weislo
Flecha hopes to remain with Dutch squad
A sponsor announcing it is not to continue is news that no team ever wants to hear, especially mid-season, but after losing DCM and Vacansoleil, the Dutch squad of Juan Antonio Flecha is hoping to keep the team together. The goal is to land a new sponsor before the Tour de France is over and the transfer negotiations begin on August 1.
At the Tour of California, team director Hilaire Van Der Schueren told Cyclingnews that general manager Daan Luijkx has some irons in the fire, and he's confident the team will continue.
"Our manager Mr. Luijkx has been looking for new sponsors since the start of the season. We knew about DCM at the beginning of the year, Vacanasoleil committed at the beginning for five years, possibly seven, but after five years they received what they needed."
Van Der Scheuren wouldn't say that the rumors linking the team's riders to doping contributed to the sponsors' decision, but did say that hiring Riccardo Ricco back in 2010 was a bad idea.
"We thought that he had learned, that he was thinking about his child and his partner, and at the time we were a Professional Continental team and it was important for us to have a big name rider for the wild card invitations. We know now that this was a mistake."
Regarding the team's decision to place Jose Rujano on inactive status after his name came up in association with a doping investigation in Italy, Van Der Scheuren said that choice was made to avoid problems with the Giro d'Italia race organisation, and that he is sure there is no substance to the rumors.
"The decision was made my Mr. Luijkx, and was made after consultation with the UCI and many other contacts. We are sure there is nothing. We sent lawyers to Italy to see what was happening, and there was nothing."
Regarding the alleged links between Flecha and Operación Puerto, Van Der Scheuren was dismissive. "There are rumors, but there are a lot of rumors. When there were rumors four years ago (regarding riders linked to Operación Puerto), Flecha was not on the list."
Van Der Scheuren said that the riders want to stay together with the team, and that sentiment was echoed by both Flecha and young Dutch riders Lieuwe Westra and Wesley Kreder, both of whom are racing in the Tour of California and are more focused on getting results than worrying about sponsorship.
"The team has the aim of continuing, and our team managers are already working on sponsorships. We are focused on our rides and our races. It's a good team structure and they will work something out," Flecha said.
The Spaniard moved to Vacansoleil from Team Sky in order to have more of a free reign in races and enjoys the team's approach to racing. "I was wanting to have more freedom in certain races, especially after the Classics. Maybe not as a captain but to have a different way of racing. Sky is always focused on the GC and on going for one guy in the Grand Tours and other races. Here it's different. You saw the first day [at Tour of California], and yesterday, we were going on the attack and taking different opportunities. We don't have big guys for winning the GC like Team Sky. It's different racing, I'm enjoying it a lot."
When asked if there was more pressure to get results in order to look good to prospective supporters, Van Der Scheuren replied, "We always have pressure. Every day we want to win, it's not because of the sponsorship situation, they will pay us through the end of the year and we hope we can do a lot for them because they gave a lot for the past five years."
Westra, who wore the Tour of California's green points jersey and won the opening stage in Escondido told Cyclingnews that he thinks the chances are good that the team will continue, and is motivated to continue to race aggressively for the team.
"All I can do is race and get results, the rest is out of our hands," Westra said.
As a first-year rider in the WorldTour and for Vacansoleil, Kreder said he is still committed to fulfilling his two-year contract, but said that even though Blanco is also seeking sponsorship, he's not too concerned.
"It's difficult in this time with the money and cycling, but that happens some times, that's cycling. There is always big support for cycling in the Netherlands, that hasn't changed."
- Article published:
- May 16, 2013, 01:28
- Barry Ryan
Canadian continues at Giro d'Italia day by day
After 10 days of batting away questions about his chances of final overall victory at the Giro d'Italia, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) now finds himself discussing his possibilities of simply continuing the race all the way to the finish in Brescia. Proof, as if it were needed, of the old adage that there is more heartbreak than happiness in cycling.
Hesjedal had begun the defence of his Giro title in impressive fashion by firing the opening salvoes in the fight for pink on the sinuous road to Marina di Ascea last week, but his forces gradually ebbed away as the days ticked by. A brace of disappointing showings over the weekend in the Saltara time trial and in the rain of Florence pre-figured what was to come when hostilities resumed after the rest day.
On the first summit finish to Altopiano di Montasio, Hesjedal surrendered over 20 minutes and all hopes of retaining his Giro title, his leaden pedal strokes a lifetime removed from his vim in southern Italy. In spite of that disappointment, and concerns regarding the undiagnosed cause of his sudden loss of power, Hesjedal opted to take the start of stage 11.
With tired legs aplenty in the peloton and with the general classification contenders happy to let a large break drift up the road, Hesjedal had few problems in holding the wheels on the Sella Ciampigotto but he was distanced when the road climbed towards the finish near the dam at Vajont. A tired and drawn Hesjedal rolled in almost eight minutes behind the pink jersey group but stopped to talk to reporters before riding back down the climb to his team bus.
"I was just happy to finish today and I'll take that for what it is today and look forward after that," Hesjedal said softly, when asked if he was planning to stay in the race until Brescia or cut his losses and look to recuperate in time for the Tour de France.
Speaking to reporters before the stage, Hesjedal had explained that his problems only manifested themselves when he was forced to ride at full pelt. There were few conclusions to be drawn on his condition, then, from stage 11, where the peloton was happy to maintain a sedate pace for most of the afternoon.
"I don't know," Hesjedal said. "I think you can hear my voice is gone. Today was the most regular, easy day of the race so it was easy to follow. I never had to go into the red but it was a nice day out there."
Rather than talk about his own labours, Hesjedal was happier to pay tribute to his teammate Ramunas Navardauskas, who helped to put a positive slant on Garmin-Sharp's Giro by claiming victory in Vajont. "Today it was all about representing the team and going for it. Everyone has a free card now to go for the race," Hesjedal said. "Ramunas is incredible. Give him an opportunity and he makes good on it. It's not surprising at all.
"I was happy to help him today. I got the guys bottles after 50k full on at the start today and handed Ramunas a bottle when he was fourth wheel from the front just trying to get in the break. It eventually went and it was just him up there, so it was a beautiful way to win."
Hesjedal's dismay at the finish in Altopiano di Montasio on Tuesday was palpable, just as his fatigue was obvious at the end of stage 11. It thus remains to be seen whether the Canadian will indeed continue to Brescia but he was keen to stress that he was part of a bigger project.
"It's not about me, it's about the team and the organisation and everyone who's been working so hard," Hesjedal said. "This kind of event is not easy by any means especially coming in here after winning the event last year with all those expectations and the pressure that everyone puts on themselves."
- Article published:
- May 16, 2013, 02:48
- Laura Weislo
Australian continues race after stage 2 crash
After his dramatic stage 2 crash, Saxo-Tinkoff's Australian sprinter Jonathan Cantwell had decided not to start the next stage of the 2013 Tour of California. Sporting bruised ribs, missing large patches of skin on his left side and wrapped up like a mummy, he had resigned himself to abandoning his goals and going home, even as his team bus pulled into Palmdale for the start.
Fast forward four hours and Saxo-Tinkoff hit the front of the peloton and who was on the lead-out train but the mummy himself, Cantwell.
What came over him that he felt compelled to start the race in his condition?
"I have no idea what got into me. I just love racing," he told Cyclingnews. "I think for me in particular, the Tour of California this year was one of my biggest objectives. I've been training so hard and really looking forward to doing this race. To pull out after stage 2 was something I would never think about. I couldn't comprehend not finishing the race."
During the two hour transfer from Palm Springs he was even on the phone with the team's logistics manager, trying to get a flight home to Monaco from Los Angeles, but they had no luck. Once the bus pulled into the start town and the team began getting ready to race, he just couldn't help himself.
"I just got motivated I suppose. I saw everyone, I saw the start line and the crowd... and we have such a good spirit on the team, when everyone's on the bus and they're getting ready and their numbers are pinned on, and with me being a sprinter... I just got the urge. I put my cycling shoes on and went for a small ride around the car park, and if I was able to do that, then I was going to take the start line."
It wasn't too long ago that Cantwell was dominating the US criterium circuit. He got his start here with Jittery Joe's in 2008, and then with Fly V Australia. He was picked up by Saxo-Tinkoff in 2012, but is glad to be back for the first time since 2011 and that also helped to inspire him to get to the start line.
"I love racing in America, and to come back here and see a lot of the people I know and race against a lot of the guys I used to race against, it's been pretty cool. That's another reason why I wanted to do well. I'm happy to be here, I'm loving it."
Additionally, in the back of his mind is a desire to get results to ensure he will be renewed with the team or picked up by another top squad.
"It's starting to get into that time when you are thinking about next year and teams and resigning contracts. I've had a really good race program this year with doing a lot of the Classics, I've done a relatively good job for the team and I think they're happy with me. I really wanted to deliver some good results in California, which would go in my favor."
A result may not come, however. On stage 3 he finished 16th, and on the morning of stage 4 he was feeling a little bit worse for the wear.
"I'm a bit worse than yesterday, to be honest," he said in Santa Clarita. "I'm on struggle street at the moment, I'm just going to take it day by day. We have a really good team here, Michael [Rogers] is fourth overall. Even if I get one more stage and support him as much as possible, that's what I'll do."
For now he will keep soldiering on, being wary of well-intentioned people who want to provide comfort by putting an arm around his wounded shoulder. "It's kind of funny, as soon as somebody knows you're injured, they always feel sympathetic and they have the urge to touch you - I'm seriously missing a lot of skin. So I need a sign on my back that says 'do not touch me'."
- Article published:
- May 16, 2013, 03:36
- Cycling News
Prolific sprinter looking for win number 100 in Treviso
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) is on the brink of his 100th stage victory and with that in mind, took Cyclingnews through three of his favourite wins of the 99 garnered so far.
Cavendish has already claimed two stage wins at the Giro d'Italia and with Thursday's 12th stage to Treviso, the fast men of the peloton are expected to go toe-to-toe following a fast downhill, flat final 30km run to the line.
Unsurprisingly, his World Championship victory in 2011 makes the list of his best but for the other two, you'll need to watch this exclusive Cyclingnews video.
Sprinting requires quick-thinking and Cavendish reveals that "old people's puzzles" are just one of the methods he uses to keep his brain active.
- Article published:
- May 16, 2013, 04:54
- Cycling News
Race Appeal points and time bonuses on offer
This year's Tour of Poland will be used as a testing ground for the UCI to introduce a new classification to the WorldTour with the aim of creating more excitement during the race.
Bonus points will be available for riders over predetermined sprints or KOMs under the "Race Appeal" banner with time bonuses also up for grabs. In another bid to create more attacking competition throughout each stage, teams will be made up of just six riders, as opposed to the usual eight that's allowed, with this news confirmed by Cyclingnews earlier this year with the experiment for team size also talking place at the Eneco Tour.
"This contest will add extra spice to each day of racing," explained UCI President Pat McQuaid in a press release. "The riders will have added motivation at certain points throughout the day, and the spectators will be treated to some exciting and spectacular competitions."
The Professional Cycling Council approved the move in February and if its trial in Poland is a success the UCI is hoping to have the new classification introduced at other WorldTour events in 2014.
"The Tour de Pologne has always been aware of new trends and open to innovation," said Czeslaw Lang, director of the stage race. "This is why with great enthusiasm and interest we embrace all those solutions which, as in this case, can contribute to rendering the race even more spectacular and exciting, with the aim of attracting increasing numbers of people - not only experts but especially the general public, to the splendid world of cycling."
The 2013 Tour of Poland runs July 27 - August 3.
- Article published:
- May 16, 2013, 07:30
- Cycling News
Belgian's time in Monaco in question
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) is being investigated for tax evasion according to a report in Belgian newspaper De Tijd.
According to the report, the case is currently in the hands of special tax investigators, who are looking into whether Boonen has overstepped the mark in terms of his "tax optimisation" - that beingt as a former resident of the well-known tax haven of Monaco, he allegedly did not declare enough of his income to Belgian authorities. Boonen resided in Monaco from September 2005 until early last year when he returned to Belgium.
Boonen's manager, Paul De Geyter did not respond to the newspaper's queries but Omega Pharma-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere was able to confirm that authorities had previously requested documents regarding Monaco-based cyclists from the team, including Boonen and Gert Steegmans.
"That happened in the aftermath of the tax case against Paolo Bettini," he explained. "But I remember that all documents are requested in 2009 and then I heard nothing more."
Bettini was accused of falsely claiming that his primary residence was in Monaco and was investigated by Italian authorities. Mario Cipollini was acquitted of charges of tax fraud by the Court of Appeal in Florence, reversing an earlier decision which could have seen him imprisoned for 22 months after he failed to declare his income to the Italian treasury.
- Article published:
- May 16, 2013, 09:00
- Barry Ryan
No margin for error against Cavendish, says French champion
Racing against Mark Cavendish is an unforgiving business, as his peers have discovered on 99 occasions in his professional career to date, but Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) is one of a host of sprinters hoping to deny the Manxman the 100th victory of his career on stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia to Treviso on Thursday.
After finishing 3rd behind Cavendish on day one in Naples, Bouhanni was nudged off his lead-out train in the finale at Margherita di Savoia on stage 6, and in spite of unleashing a vicious sprint in the closing 200 metres, he had to settle for 4th place while Cavendish claimed another win. Bouhanni is all too aware that on this form there is precious little margin for error against the Omega Pharma-QuickStep man.
"No, you can't afford to get anything wrong," Bouhanni told Cyclingnews. "In my sprints up to now, I've made a few small errors or got myself a bit boxed in during the final sprint. But voilà, that's the key. You can't make any mistakes if you want to beat him in the sprint."
How, then, does one go about beating Cavendish in Treviso on Thursday afternoon? The happy few who do manage to reach the Promised Land and beat the Manxman in a straight sprint tend to stress the importance of anticipating Cavendish in the finishing straight. Bouhanni, however, is sceptical about focusing exclusively on one rival in the finale.
"Yes, people talk about anticipating him but really I just want to do the best sprint I can," he said. "I don't look at what the others are doing. Above all, I just focus on doing my own sprint and see where that takes me."
Remaining aloof and concentrating purely on one's own effort is quite a challenge amid the tumult and furore of the closing kilometres of a Giro sprint finish, however, and that chaos has been exacerbated this year given that sprint finishes are at a premium.
Stages 1 and 6 are the only to date that have been contested by a full complement of sprinters and that has jarred nerves still further among the sprinting community, with Mattia Gavazzi (Androni-Venezuela) and Robert Hunter (Garmin-Sharp) clashing after the finish in Margherita di Savoia.
"Yeah, it's a battle in every sprint but it's a grand tour and that's just how things are," said Bouhanni, who made his bow at this level in last year's Vuelta a España. "Everybody wants to be up front but that's just what you expect and you get on with it. And on top of that, there are very few opportunities for the sprinters this year, which plays a part in it too.
"The two days since the rest day have been hard, but Thursday is a stage that should finish in a sprint so that's a motivation to get through the hard days. I just want to get through the days in the mountains as best I can and by saving as much energy as I can."
One of the few clear-cut chances beyond Treviso comes on the final stage in Brescia, but Bouhanni was coy about his chances of still being in the Giro come May 26, particularly given that he also has designs on a Tour de France debut in 2013. For now, his focus is purely a short-term one.
"I don't know, we'll see day by day," Bouhanni said. "For now, I'm just thinking about Thursday."