Australian rider Ben Day remains on top of the National Racing Calendar (NRC) standings following last weekend's Dana Point Grand Prix, while Ina Teutenberg tops the women's rankings despite returning to Europe for the latest World Cup rounds in Belgium and Holland.
Day may top the men's rankings but it was another Australian, Jonathan Cantwell, who secured victory in Sunday's criterium. He managed to avoid the many crashes in the finale to record his first American win in 2010 ahead of Alejandro and Anibal Borrajo (Jamis/Sutter Home p/b Colavita).
In the men's team standings, Jelly Belly p/b Kenda managed to maintain its lead, ahead of the powerful Fly V Australia squad, which boasts both Day and Cantwell on its roster.
The Dana Point GP was the second of 25 NRC events, with the Sunny King Criterium, the next round for 2010, to be held this Saturday in Anniston, AL.
BMC Racing Team’s Karsten Kroon has been a consistent performer at De Brabantse Pijl - La Flèche Brabançonne, having finished in the top five on four occasions in the last half-decade. The Dutch rider will lead his squad at the race again this year, however he’ll be using the event mainly as preparation for the Amstel Gold Race.
Team director sportif John Lelangue expects this year’s race to be a lottery, thanks to changes made to the 200 kilometre race’s route.
“I don’t know what to expect, but it’s always a kind of race where a little break gets going and there is a selection,” Lelangue said. “I think this will be good preparation for Karsten for the Amstel Gold Race.”
BMC Racing Team’s roster for tomorrow’s semi-Classic features a notable North American flavour. In addition to being directed by Michael Sayers, the squad will feature four riders from the United States of America: Chad Beyer, Brent Bookwalter, Jeff Louder and John Murphy.
Kroon will be one of just three European riders on the team’s roster, with the Dutch rider joinged by Norway’s Alexander Kristoff and Swiss rider Simon Zahner.
Alberto Contador has admitted that this year's Tour de France will be a different proposition without seven-time champion Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel in the Astana team.
And while Armstrong will return to the Tour on July 3 as leader of the RadioShack outfit, the 27-year-old Spaniard and one-time Armstrong teammate believes that Andy Schleck will pose the biggest threat to his superiority in the season's biggest race. "In my rivals I see a lot of strength. Andy Schleck tested me a lot in the mountains last year and this [rival], with more experience, could be the one to maybe put in difficulty," he told Spanish news agency EuropaPress.
The star attraction at the presentation of the 'Mountain Wolf', a range of electric mountain bikes, Contador stated that the 2010 Tour will "change a lot" for him without the presence of Armstrong and Bruyneel, leaving him as Astana's sole leader for the event. "Last year there were several strengths [within the team] and we would see who was better positioned in general [classification]," he said.
When it emerged last July that Contador was in fact the strongest of the squad's overall contenders, a silent feud developed within the Astana team that only became vocal soon after the Tour finished on July 26. Armstrong and Bruyneel quickly established the RadioShack outfit and will line up in Rotterdam on July 3 as fierce rivals.
Contador has begun the year in fine fashion, winning the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice, while Armstrong and Schleck have both endured a chequered start to the season, the latter experiencing knee problems while the American has been forced to change his Spring racing schedule on several occasions.
Astana's number one also admitted the not riding the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, where he was defending champion, made him feel a little "homesick" but the decision not to race in light of his Tour preparations "was for the best".
The Italian Professional Cyclists Association (ACCPI) has labelled BMC Racing Team's sideling of Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio unfair, given neither rider has been accused of any wrongdoing.
The Professional Continental team suspended the two riders last Friday pending the outcome of the Mantova police investigation, an anti-doping inquiry currently being held in Italy; ACCPI secretary Federico Maria Scaglia questioned who would be responsible for the damage to a rider's career if they've done no wrong.
"There is still no specific accusation. All we know is that there is an investigation that will take six more months before it's finished," Scaglia told Reuters. "The prosecutor himself said that those under investigation will not necessarily be accused of anything. So suspending the riders now seems an imprudent and unfair act to us.
"If they come out clean, who will pay back the damage to their image and the loss of racing?" he added.
The anti-doping investigation doesn't involve BMC Racing Team itself, instead centres around coach Guido Nigrelli and former Lampre riders. There have been no accusations of wrongdoing made against either Ballan or Santambrogio, and Scaglia fears the rider's precautionary sidelining only further damages the sport's credibility.
"It seemed to me that the team acted in this way to avoid having any problems," added Scaglia. "Cycling has lost credibility because of riders who have committed doping offenses, but if we carry on like this we'll lose more credibility as there are no certainties here."
BMC Racing Team president Jim Ochowicz was quick to highlight the team wasn't handing the pair a guilty verdict by sidelining them from competition when making the announcement. "This should not be seen as pre-determination of guilt in connection with the Italian investigation," he said. "Both will have to personally address the accusations."
Servais Knaven has announced that he will end his professional racing career on August 15 of this year, his 17th season as a pro cyclist. The 39-year-old will swap his racing bike for a seat in the Milram team car as assistant directeur sportif.
Knaven announced his retirement on Dutch television, saying the Profwielerronde van Etten-Leur would be his last race.
“For me, it was always important that I could decide myself when the end should be. Our manager Gerry van Gerwen left it entirely up to me,” he said.
The Dutch rider did not want to stop after his record-setting 16th Paris-Roubaix. “As my last race I will ride the criterium in Etten-Leur. That is not far away from my home, and many of my fans and friends live in this area,” Knaven continued. He won that race in 2007.
Knaven turned pro in 1994 with TVM. Over the years he has ridden for Farm Frites, Domo, Quick Step, T-Mobile, Columbia and Milram. Knaven, whose full name is Henricus Theordorus Josephus Knaven, won Paris-Roubaix in 2001 and a stage of the Tour de France in 2003.
Quick Step rider could also miss Amstel after Paris-Roubaix crash
Stijn Devolder has been ruled out of Wednesday's Brabantse Pijl, and most likely also out of the upcoming Amstel Gold Race due to knee injuries suffered at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.
“[On Sunday night] I could hardly walk. And actually it was no different Monday,” the Quick Step rider told sportwereld.be. “My left leg is swollen from top to bottom. There is also blood in the joint. I must have done something serious. My right knee is also swollen. But compared to the other one, it is peanuts.”
Despite his injuries the 30-year-old went out for a one-hour training ride on Monday. However, things weren't any better on the bike. “Every bump in the road gave a sharp, shooting pain.”
Quick Step's team doctor has ordered complete rest and he will now miss Brabantse Pijl. Devolder also expressed his concern about his chances of starting Amstel Gold Race, on April 18.
“I hope I can resume training after one to three days. I don't reckon on riding Amstel Gold Race,” he said.
He still expects to be able to ride Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 25
Philippe Gilbert will head to the Ardennes Classics this week hoping to bring in Omega Pharma-Lotto's first win of the season. “It's time to harvest,” he said. “I'm ready.”
The 27-year-old will have four chances over the next fortnight at: Brabantse Pijl (April 14), Amstel Gold Race (April 18), Flèche Wallone (April 21) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 26).
His team has come in for much criticism from the Belgian media for its weak showing to date in 2010, “But that does not create any more pressure,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws. “Rather, it motivates me even more.”
“If I win, I will achieve something special and get some nice publicity for the team. If not, then the team and leader will again be showered with criticism.”
Gilbert is cautious about his chances of success at Wednesday's Brabantse Pijl, saying that for this race, “I've tempered my ambitions. I must be realistic; the course suits me a little less [than the other Ardennes Classics], although the re-designed finale increases my chances.”
Although he is still looking for that elusive first season victory both for himself and the team, Gilbert has big plans for this season. He want to close out 2010 as the number-one ranked rider.
“Last year I was close," he said. "I certainly want to achieve it one time in my career. That is a goal in itself.”
Danish champion raises the prospect of Cancellara treble
Matti Breschel has been ruled out of this weekend's Amstel Gold Race due to tendonitis in his knee. The problem flared up at the Scheldeprijs race last Wednesday and forced him abandon Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. The Danish national Champion has now turned his attention towards recovering it time to make the Saxo Bank roster for the Tour de France.
After his withdrawal from Paris-Roubaix, Breschel underwent scans in Belgium, where a full diagnosis of the injury was made. Breschel was unlucky to miss out on his first Tour appearance last season and had expressed some concern over the injury's potential impact on his schedule in the lead up to this year's Tour.
"Doctors say it can take anything from three days to two weeks to get over it," Breschel told sportken.dk in an story published on Tuesday morning. "Initially it means that I probably won't start in the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, although I have not spoken to Bjarne [Riis] about it. But in a longer perspective, it could affect my preparations for this year's Tour de France."
Saxo Bank Press Officer Allan Jørgensen confirmed to Cyclingnews on Tuesday that Breschel will take a week of complete rest and will miss Amstel Gold Race. However, with two-and-a-half months to go before the start of the Tour de France in Rotterdam. Breschel is confident he will be in a position to contend for one of the nine Tour spots on offer.
"He has to take a week off the bike," said Jørgensen. "He's got a lot of fluid in his knee and it's still quite inflamed. He has to leave his bike alone for a week, but he's looking forward to the Tour de France now."
Breschel acknowledged to sportken.dk that even with his injury, there would have been little hope of him winning Paris-Roubaix against his teammate and race-winner, Fabian Cancellara. He also pointed to the prospect of the Swiss achieving an historic treble at Amstel on Sunday.