- Article published:
- September 7, 2011, 15:45
- Cycling News
Priority is to recruit foreign rider
In spite of the stirring displays of Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland at the Tour de France, Europcar manager Jean-René Bernaudeau has been looking for an additional leader for his team in 2012.
“We want to find a leader,” Bernaudeau told L’Équipe. “Not in the sense of a charismatic leader like Thomas Voeckler, but still, a rider who is capable of moving the team on, finishing off the work and winning the races in which we want to figure in the future.”
Earlier in the summer, Bernaudeau spoke publicly of his desire to sign world champion Thor Hushovd and to bring Sylvain Chavanel back to the set-up where he began his career. Hushovd was snapped up by BMC, however, while Chavanel has opted to continue with Quick Step.
“We really wanted to be able to attract Hushovd to our team,” Bernaudeau admitted. “He’s a very experienced rider, who would have been capable of bringing a new dimension to Team Europcar and allowing us to shine a little more in the classics like Paris-Roubaix or even the Tour of Flanders.
“Hushovd joined BMC and Chavanel extended. They made their choice and we can’t do anything about that. We also have a certain budget and we can’t just recruit at any price. Our aim is to find riders who are capable of integrating into the team.”
Registered as a Pro Continental squad in 2011, Bernaudeau feels that Europcar is worth a slot in the WorldTour for next season, but he pointed out that being part of cycling’s elite division wasn’t his sole aim.
“The WorldTour isn’t an end in itself, it’s simply the consequence of results,” Bernaudeau said. “I’m not necessarily interested in looking for riders with points to validate our candidature. We’ve had a very fine 2011 season, I don’t see why we would go and turn the team upside down after that!”
With RadioShack and Leopard Trek set to merge and HTC-Highroad disbanding at the end of the season, a number of top-level foreign riders will be searching for a team in the coming weeks, and Bernaudeau is keeping abreast of the situation.
“We’re going to keep an eye on that,” Bernaudeau said. “One thing that is certain for now is that, even without knowing who exactly, our priority is to recruit a foreigner.”
- Article published:
- September 7, 2011, 19:27
- Stephen Farrand
Team Sky rider thought he had cracked Cobo
Chris Froome (Team Sky) failed to distance Juan Jose Cobo (Geox-TMC) on the Peña Cabarga climb on stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana but he was the hero of the day after his do-or-die attack in the final kilometre and deserved to take his first grand tour stage win.
Froome thought he'd cracked Cobo at one point but the Spaniard came back up to him to hold onto his red race leader's jersey.
"It was close. I thought I had him there for a second but he came back on me," Froome said.
"I thought I'd got him off but then I saw a shadow hovering around me in the last 100 metres or so. But I didn’t hold anything back so I've no regrets. The team has done a fantastic job in the last two and half weeks and we can't be happier."
Froome won a stage at the Giro del Capo in 2009 while riding for Barloworld but considers his Vuelta stage win as his first major professional victory. His father and brother were at the summit finish to see him win.
"I'm really happy to win my first race. It's a special day," he said.
"It's always been my dream to ride a Grand Tour and go for the general classification. I just didn’t think it'd happen so soon. It's a dream come true."
He revealed that Team Sky studied the video footage of the same finish form last year's Vuelta, won by Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha). Seeing the steepness of the final kilometre made him wait before launching his one big attack.
"It was quite an eventful last two kilometres…" he said. "We watched the finish from last year and so we knew the last kilometre was very decisive, when either someone’s going to be on their limit or try and make difference."
"With 800 metres to go, I tried to jump, got an initial gap and thought I'd held him off but in the last 100 metres he came back again. When I thought Cobo had got the stage, I just managed to get past him for the win."
Only 13 seconds behind in the GC
Froome took a 20 second time bonus for winning the stage and finished a second ahead of Cobo. That means he is just 13 seconds down in the overall classification. He knows it will be difficult to dislodge Cobo on the remaining stages of the Vuelta but he refused to accept defeat.
"We're still not in Madrid yet, so it's all to go for," he said.
"I've not thought about the days ahead but for sure I'll keep fighting all the way to Madrid. And taking time bonuses is probably the only way to do that."
Praise from Wiggins
Bradley Wiggins again praised Froome for his performance in a Twitter message. Wiggins suggested that the crowd on the climb – mainly fired up fans of Cobo, who lives nearby – had threatened Froome, but congratulated him, writing: "Chris Froome going from strength to strength, Superb. And all that after people shouting at him, "you win we kill you", unbelievable."
Froome also praised Wiggins, saying: "It’s easy to look back afterwards and say if you did this or if you did that maybe differently. That’s the way it’s going to be. I've learned so much riding for Bradley and think I probably wouldn’t be in this position if wasn’t for him."
- Article published:
- September 7, 2011, 20:31
- Stephen Farrand
Cantabrian regrets not studying the climb to the finish
Juan Jose Cobo (Geox-TMC) lives just 30km from the summit finish in Peña Cabarga but admitted that not studying the climb before the race almost cost him the lead in the Vuelta a España.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) managed to gap the Spaniard during the very steep final kilometre of the Vuelta's 17th stage and Cobo almost cracked. Somehow he dug deep, was encouraged to fight back by the emotional local cycling fans, and managed to close the gap on the Kenyan-born Briton. Froome went on to win the stage and Cobo finished in second place, one second behind him.
"I seriously thought I'd lost the Vuelta," Cobo said afterward. "I live close by but I made a big mistake by not coming to check out the finish of this stage beforehand.
"Froome's attack was really strong and when he went, I wasn't able to follow him. I couldn't go on and so decided to ease up a little and recover. I managed to gradually pull him back and get on his wheel."
Fans of the Bison
Hundred of Cobo fans traveled from his home town of Cabezón de la Sal, Cantabria, to cheer him on, many dressed as bison or 'Bisonte', the nickname given to the Geox-TMC rider because of his stocky but strong build.
"If it hadn't been for all this support, I'd have lost the lead for sure," Cobo said, reinforcing his status as a national, or at least Cantabrian hero, at the 2011 Vuelta.
- Article published:
- September 7, 2011, 21:18
- Jane Aubrey
Sponsors, motivations building a team with longevity
Financial security is increasingly hard to come by in professional cycling and it took one of Australia's wealthiest men, Gerry Ryan, to bankroll the GreenEdge project which will find out in November if it will be a part of the ProTour in 2012.
Ryan is the man behind Jayco Caravans, Global Creatures which is the production company of Walking With Dinosaurs, and part-owner of 2010 Melbourne Cup winner Americain and is reported to be worth A$180 million. He spoke to Cyclingnews about his involvement with GreenEdge.
Cyclingnews: Are you happy with how everything has so far unfolded with the GreenEdge bid?
Ryan: I am. In terms of when we set out and sat down and looked at the vision for the team and put a business plan into place. First of all we had to get the right management team to run it. Shayne has been going along and recruiting Neil Stephens and others along the way, there's more to be announced in the next month. The team's in place, some of them are still employed with other organisations and are required to complete their time there. So we've got management in place, all of our riders are signed up – we're just allowing others to finish their races with their teams and we're due to head into a training camp in October.
Cyclingnews: What are your motivations for getting involved in the sport at this level of investment given your past backing of races and teams in Australia?
Ryan: I've been involved in cycling for 20 years and in terms of sponsorship, it's a natural progression for Australia to have an Australian team – which has probably been a dream for a lot of Australians including Shayne Bannan and Charlie Walsh and I could rattle off another half a dozen or at least 100 names. It's just circumstances and time that Shayne and I came together and we thought that it was right that we took that opportunity.
Cyclingnews: Who approached whom?
Ryan: I approached Shayne. I had worked with Shayne through the Jayco-AIS sponsorship program and I knew of his ambitions along with a couple of other people that were trying to put some teams together and I looked at the best option and that was starting from scratch.
Cyclingnews: It's an interesting time within the ProTour given the demise of HTC-Highroad and the Leopard Trek, RadioShack merger where both entities have had big investors on board – does the current climate make you nervous given you're bankrolling GreenEdge?
Ryan: I'm underwriting the project. We have got [technical] sponsors already on board and a couple of potential major sponsors that we are working with. But I didn't go into this not knowing about the substantial financial involvement if we didn't bring some sponsors in. We've got the bank guarantees put in place for the UCI so I'm reasonably confident that we can get a major or a couple of good supporting sponsors to cover the differences.
Cyclingnews: Has the urgency to go and find a naming-rights sponsor increased over the past few months?
Ryan: No. It certainly has been on our agenda. GreenEdge is the brand. We want a major sponsor to come in and partner us in joint-naming so there's a process because how can you say to a sponsor 'we want X amount' when we don't have a ProTour licence? So, it is a difficult one, but one that we know we can get through without having that major sponsor sewn up.
Cyclingnews: So are you saying that you won't be announcing any naming rights sponsors until it is confirmed that GreenEdge has secured a ProTour licence?
Ryan: We're talking to one major sponsor now, if they do go ahead, it won't be subject to the ProTour licence. If we don't get the ProTour licence, our points are such that we should be sitting around about 12th so I'm confident that we would be asked to some of the major cycling events next year.
Cyclingnews: Is it a priority for that Australian branding to carry through to the naming rights sponsor?
Ryan: No. In fact we're talking to a couple of international companies. We're an Australian team, based in Italy with probably international sponsors. Because at the end of the day, we're talking about being global and that's the way we've got to think.
Cyclingnews: Will the GreenEdge model that we see heading into 2012, with that Australian backbone and identity be the same GreenEdge that will exist five years from now, or will it need to evolve beyond that to stay both relevant and competitive?
Ryan: We've got to be competitive – that's number one. But this is never going to be an Australian team 100 per cent. We're saying 70 per cent Australians but we need to have a balanced team, we need to have riders from different countries, part of the world where we have the interest and can create the interest.
Cyclingnews: But obviously the Australian backbone is a very important part of the GreenEdge make up, right?
Ryan: It is in terms of the culture. From the management, we're certainly not 100 per cent Australian in the management, but what we will do is try and get the best people which fit into the culture of the organisation and the vision that we have for it.
Cyclingnews: Are you able to confirm the consistent reports that Brian Nygaard is joining GreenEdge?
Ryan: I can't say. That's not my field. If anyone can, it's Shayne because that's his field. I'm looking after the commercial side. I don't get involved in riders and the appointment of staff. The cycling side is his. The commercial side in terms of sponsors, merchandise is mine and [son] Andrew's.
[Ed - Cyclingnews put this question to Shayne Bannan one week prior to this conversation, but he categorically denied it.]
Cyclingnews: Are wealthy solo investors getting a bad or unfair rap in cycling at the moment with the collapse of Leopard Trek?
Ryan: I don't concern myself with what people think. I'll just go on my track record on where I'm at. People go into these things for different reasons and different motivations. I've been involved in a lot of sports and business ventures and I put people into management positions and allow them to run the businesses. So I don't think I'm having a dabble. I'm not running the team – Shayne is running the cycling team, my son Andrew is running the commercial side and I just sit in the background and let them get on with what they've got to do... and give them some advice every now and then.
Cyclingnews: Everyone needs that.
Ryan: They do. I call myself the helicopter. I just hover around above and when I need to land I'll land and say my piece.
Cyclingnews: As a co-creator of this venture, is there a business model for you in terms of teams that you think have gone about things in the right way?
Ryan: You look at every team. I travel the world benchmarking ourselves in different industries that I'm involved in. In the shows that I produce, we look to Hollywood, we look to what other shows are around. If it's caravans, we were in Germany recently. When you come to teams, we look at trying to benchmark ourselves on their structures. I've read the book on Sky, we've spent a lot of time in the last year with Shane Sutton, getting the pros and cons. We've looked at the Garmin model – we've looked everywhere. I've also looked at the Melbourne Storm in terms of the culture, their winning culture.
Cyclingnews: Do you think there is a need for a salary cap in cycling?
Ryan: If you look at football teams, the clubs with the most money have won the most premierships – that's a fact of life. The lower clubs might snag one every now and then but it's a free market and you can't restrict people from earning what's rightfully theirs.
Cyclingnews: Given that is the case, how do you see GreenEdge performing, particularly in its first year?
Ryan: What we want to do is be competitive. If you look at the list, and the ages of some of our riders we're looking two, three, four years out. If we can be competitive, do the Classics, hopefully snag a stage win in the Giro or the Tour de France if we get there but there are no high expectations. What we want to do is make sure we develop the culture number one. Number two develop the riders and thirdly, be competitive.
Cyclingnews: As someone who has been very closely involved with cycling for a long time in this country, is there a recruitment that you're particularly pleased with?
Ryan: I'm so pleased with all of them. We've really only missed out on one rider that we didn't get, but we ended up picking up Stuey O'Grady which we didn't think we'd get. Robbie, Simon Gerrans – quality people to have in an organisation when you're starting to develop a culture is critical.
Cyclingnews: Was Richie Porte that rider you missed out on?
Ryan: Richie already had prior commitments elsewhere.
Cyclingnews: Just taking a look at some of your other big investments, is cycling more akin to horse racing or Walking with Dinosaurs?
Ryan: Put it this way. We're not out to try and make money. We're out to be a sustainable financial model.
- Article published:
- September 7, 2011, 23:20
- Cycling News
Defense requests meeting with CONI anti-doping prosecutor
At the request of his defense team, Riccardo Riccò will have a hearing with the anti-doping prosecutor of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on September 14 to discuss the conclusion of the investigation into the rider's alleged botched blood transfusion.
Riccò is facing a life ban from the sport in addition to a three-year prison sentence for his second doping offense.
As reported on Monday, an investigation into Riccò's sudden kidney failure in February concluded that the near-fatal illness was caused by an attempted blood transfusion.
Earlier this year reports stated that Riccò admitted upon arrival at the hospital to self-administering a blood transfusion, but he later denied having made these statements, asserting that he was unconscious when he arrived.
However, his medical records stated that Riccò was conscious when he was admitted, and medical experts agreed upon examining the records that the Italian's illness showed hallmarks of an infection caused by the infusion of improperly stored blood.
If Riccò is found guilty of violating the World Anti-Doping Agency's code, which prohibits blood transfusions, it would be his second anti-doping violation after his 2008 positive for the blood boosting hormone CERA.
He is currently under provisional suspension and has thus been unable to race for the Meridiana-Kamen team, which hired him in June.
- Article published:
- September 8, 2011, 04:29
- Cycling News
Miguel Mínguez's participation now in doubt
Something about Canadian roads and riders from the Euskaltel-Euskadi team just don’t seem to mix. For the second year running several riders from the team have been involved in a crash while out training for the upcoming Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec, according to a report in Het Nieuwsblad. Six riders went down, including team captain Samuel Sanchez, who was at a loss to explain the incident.
"A rider, lost concentration, must’ve touched a wheel, and went down," said Sanchez at the team hotel in Quebec. "I think it caught us off guard because [suddenly everyone] else was down. It’s [obviously] a really poor outcome of the training session."
Though the team has released no official information, Miguel Mínguez is reported to have been the most seriously injured and his participation for the September 9 race is now in doubt.
"Last year there were eight riders who went to the ground, this time there with six, it’s not ideal," said Sanchez. "Unfortunately [Mínguez] went down hardest and I would say he is unlikely to start on Friday."
The Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec is the first of two WorldTour races taking place in Canada over the weekend, taking riders around a hilly 201.6 kilometre route around Quebec City.
- Article published:
- September 8, 2011, 05:49
- Stephen Farrand
Irishman enjoyed going on the attack on Peña Cabarga
Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervélo) again went on the attack on the mountain finish at Peña Cabarga as he chased a second stage win at the Vuelta a España.
This time his move did not come off and he was caught midway up the climb concluding the 17th stage. However, he had the legs to stay close to Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Juan Jose Cobo (Geox-TMC) and finished fourth at 24 seconds.
As he waited to be called into anti-doping, Martin admitted he had initially felt disappointed with the result but quickly began to see the positive aspects of his performance.
"When I first finished I thought I'd made an error in attacking so early but in hindsight, with how Cobo and Froome are going, I knew I had to at least try and beat them," he told Cyclingnews.
"Fourth on the stage is a good result. If I hadn't attacked, I might have finished third but that's no real big difference. I tried to win the stage and that's the important thing.
"I had good legs all day and the team did a great job protecting me. I was confident I could do something and I'm glad I did. What a beautiful climb. It was stunning. I enjoyed racing up that."
Martin moved up to 14th overall and is now 7:22 behind Cobo. He confessed he is not really interested in a good GC placing in Madrid. But he does want to try and win more stages before the end of the Vuelta on Sunday.
"For now Grand Tours are about winning stages for me. I've got one and tried hard today," he said. "Unfortunately we're running out of options and there are no more real mountain finishes before Madrid.
"Lots of breakaways will probably go clear and make it to the finish in the next few days, so that will make it difficult for me. But my legs are still good even if we're deep into the third week. But that's what this Vuelta is all about for me: learning and getting stronger."
- Article published:
- September 8, 2011, 10:06
- Susan Westemeyer
UCI and sponsor surprised, personnel comment on future
Johan Bruyneel is looking forward to helping Andy Schleck win the Tour de France. The Belgian said that will be one of his main goals at RadioShack-Nissan-Trek in the coming season, while admitting that the team is having some growing pains at the moment.
It was announced earlier this week that RadioShack and Leopard Trek will join forces to ride as one team next season.
He “very much looks forward” to working not only with current RadioShack riders but also with current Leopard riders, including Fabian Cancellara, Fränk Schleck, Jakob Fuglsang, Maxime Monfort and Daniele Bennati, Bruyneel wrote on his website.
The biggest challenge, however, would seem to be Andy Schleck, “obviously one of the most talented riders in cycling and it is my goal to help him achieve the goal of winning the Tour de France. As with every rider, there are always improvements to be made and I think with these adjustments and the team we will put together, Andy will have his best chance yet of standing on the top step in Paris.”
The final details of the structure of the new team are still being worked out, and Bruyneel acknowledged that “the information (sometimes not completely accurate) finds its way into the press, which has caused us to announce this new venture a bit earlier than we originally planned.” The final team roster will be announced by September 15.
UCI apparently not informed
The International Cycling Union issued a stiffly-worded announcement Wednesday evening concerning the new 2012 team, and indicated that it had not been informed beforehand of the changes. The UCI said that it “is aware of the information published in the media concerning the project”, and added that “the UCI has also learned from the same sources of the intention of the CSE Pro Cycling LLC – financial managers of the American team RadioShack – to give up the UCI WorldTour licence that it had been granted for the 2010-2013 period.
"The UCI is currently evaluating the information received and is not available to comment further at this time.”
Leopard sponsor questions deal
The UCI was not the only one who appeared to have been taken by surprise. One of Leopard Trek's sponsors is Mercedes-Benz Luxembourg, which was taken aback by the arrival of its rival Nissan as new sponsor.
In a statement issued this week, the auto company said that it was surprised to see the Leopard press release which said that RadioShack and Nissan would be two top sponsors of the team as of 2012. Mercedes-Benz Luxembourg notes that it has "a valid contract with Leopard SA through the end of 2013. The consequence of the latest decision by Leopard SA must now be discussed by the contract partners."
Flavio Becca, the financier behind the team, saw the situation differently. “We have a contract with Mercedes which can be cancelled at any time under various circumstances,” he told Wort.lu. “We will be equipped by Nissan as of 2012. I want to thank Mercedes-Benz Luxembourg and also Enovo [a further sponsor -ed.]. They believed in us and I think we gave them a lot of visibility.”
Personnel comings and goings
RadioShack had 30 riders this season, and Leopard has 25. The new team may have no more than 30, so it is obvious that changes will be made. Several riders have already announced new teams for the coming season, but others fear for their jobs.
Becca made it clear that the new team would consist largely of current Leopard riders. He indicated that of the 25 riders now on the team, the five whose contracts expire the end of the year would leave. “That reduces the number of our riders to 20. If you do the maths, you can see that we can take on 10 new riders.”
Those five riders are Jens Voigt, Martin Pedersen, Bruno Pires, Thomas Rohregger and Stuart O'Grady. The latter has already announced that he will ride for the new GreenEdge team next year.
Two of the RadioShack riders who will be with the team next year are Markel Irizar and Haimar Zubeldia. Irizar last Saturday signed a new two-year contract with Bruyneel, telling biciciclismo.com, “I'm in, but you have to remember the people who stay outside and that the current situation is not good for cycling.”
Zubeldia echoed those sentiments, saying “We're in but is a pity that some are left out.”
Becca has said that Sports Director Kim Andersen is welcome to stay on with the team, with Andersen telling the Danish newspapers Ekstra Bladet, “I assume that I will continue.”
He added, “it is clear that things are changing and when everything is in place, I will consider whether I am interested in being part of the set-up that comes out of it.” He said that he particularly would like to continue to work with the Schlecks and Fuglsang.