- Article published:
- April 26, 2010, 20:10
- Kirsten Frattini
TT bike ban and major course changes are on the menu
The Nature Valley Grand Prix has made several drastic changes to its six-stage event this year, including a restriction to normal road bikes for the time trial and several course revisions.
The shifts are expected to change the overall tactics of the race while making it fair for all participants in the event, which is set to take place from June 16-20 around the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota
Executive Director David LaPorte said the Nature Valley Grand Prix has opted to invoke a new USA Cycling rule that allows race organizers to specify that "massed-start legal" bicycles are required for time trials. The rule will be enforced for the 9.6 km St. Paul Riverfront time trial on June 16.
"The decision was made partly to simplify logistics for the teams and partly out of fairness," LaPorte said in a recent press release. "We have a time cut in the time trial to ensure that no one loafs to stay fresh for the criterium that night. But in the past, we have had some strong riders cut primarily because they did not have time trial bikes. We have also had some riders in the past who haven't competed because of the expense of bringing two bikes, particularly with the outrageous charges the airlines are imposing."
The Nature Valley Grand Prix will work with USA Cycling officials to spell out the specific restrictions regarding aero equipment (wheels, helmets, etc.), which will ultimately appear in the race bible.
LaPorte said he will poll all women's and men's teams after the race – as he has done in previous years – to get an idea of whether the new rule should be retained for 2011.
The opening time trial is among the toughest for its flat and fast start along Lilydale Road followed by a steep finale up the Ohio Street hill to the finish line. Last year's winners of the event were current UCI World Time Trial Champion, Kristin Armstrong and Tom Zirbel, each won their respective events using a time trial bike.
"Personally, I don't understand why they would do that because the race is on the NRC calendar and it's a big race, one of the biggest races in America," said time trial specialist Phil Zajicek of the Fly V Australia team. "All the biggest Pro teams in America are racing there. I don't think there has been an issue in the past of riders not having the proper equipment for the Pro men's field."
"I think without the time trial bike there will be a lot bigger time gaps," he added. "I think you'll see some guys who aren't necessarily time trial specialist be on a little more even playing ground and some guys do better than they would have otherwise."
Last year's overall race was won by Rory Sutherland of the UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis team, then called OUCH. His squad's directeur, Mike Tamayo voiced his concerns regarding the time trial bike ban by stating that, "I think it's absurd. It's a time trial and therefore you should be allowed to use time trial bikes. It's another opposing of rules that is not needed. Teams have always had time trial bikes there."
"If your concern is that having time trial bikes puts a big gap in the race and doesn't make it exciting, last year's race was won in the last three laps of the final stage between Tom Zirbel and Rory Sutherland, both of whom had time trial bikes," he added. "So, if you are looking for nail-biting situations, how much more nail-biting can you get than that?"
Danny Van Haute, director of the Jelly Belly Cycling p/b Kenda professional men's team, said the decision to prohibit time trial bikes will level the playing field. "Not everyone can buy time trial equipment and if the pro teams have this equipment, it's not fair to the riders who don't," he said. "I'll bet the results will be the same with time trial bikes as they would be without."
On the women's side, US National Time Trial Champion Jessica Phillips (Colavita-Baci p/b Cooking Light) believes the time trial bike is a decisive piece of equipment for this particular course, however, she is understanding of the organization's reason for excluding the piece of aerodynamic equipment.
"My feeling is that any time trial where we get to use time trial bikes is always nice, and we have Nationals right after so that would be a good prep," Phillips said. "I think the time trial bike makes the race and obviously you come into the hill faster if you are on a time trial bike."
"But, the bottom line is that it is completely understandable," she added. "It is really hard, even impossible, for women that aren't on big teams to get that kind of equipment let alone travel with it. I don't think it's that big of a deal really, it's understandable."
The women's race is a valuable event on the Women's Prestige Cycling Series. The series started at the Redlands Bicycle Classic and will resume at the Tour of the Gila next week. The Nature Valley Grand Prix marks round three and the series will conclude at the Cascade Cycling Classic.
"I'm really happy that David LaPorte puts on a big race and puts so much effort and energy into the women's race," Phillips said. "Women's racing is hard because you want to have teams and be professional but at the same time you want to have bigger fields."
"I'm always so happy when people year after year keep putting on great races especially for women," she added. "There are not that many fully supported women's teams, so if you are on a smaller team or trying to make it onto a bigger team, it is really hard without a time trial bike and even if you have one it is really hard to travel with it for just one day. I think in order to grow women's cycling, it's fine to make that rule."
Team Vera Bradley Foundation Director Lisa Hunt said it is disappointing for her team's bicycle sponsor not to be able to showcase its time trial bikes. "However, in the interest of being fair and equitable for all parties involved, I support the decision," she said. "Clearly, our strongest time trial riders will be strong on a road bike or a time trial bike. So it's not like we are at a disadvantage."
Course changes keep Nature Valley Grand Prix fresh and exciting
Course-wise, the Downtown Saint Paul Criterium is moving from Lowertown to the heart of the entertainment district, according to LaPorte. Last year's criterium winners were Sebastian Haedo and Kristy Broun.
"Once five o'clock in the evening rolls around everything shuts down and we never really had too many spectators," Tamayo said. "My understanding is that the race has been moved to a certain part of town that has more night life. There should be more of a turn out as far as spectators and crowds go and that makes complete sense to me."
Another major change saw the elimination of the Mankato Road Race, replaced by the new Menomonie Road Race to be held over the border in Wisconsin. The former location traditionally ran as stage five of the six-stage event. It was flat and notoriously windy road race that ended with a steep climb through the neighborhood of Mankato. Last year, Sebastian Haedo and Kristin Armstrong in their respective fields in Mankato.
"The big one from a sports perspective is that the Saturday road race is moving into Wisconsin," LaPorte said. "The previous race out of Mankato, Minnesota, was pancake flat for the first 80 miles with a brutal hill on the finishing circuit, but the race was almost done by then. The Menomonie Road Race will have major hills throughout the course. It'll totally change the math."
- Article published:
- April 26, 2010, 20:36
- Kirsten Frattini
North American teams' results bode well for upcoming Amgen Tour of California
North American-based Continental teams SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy and Team Type 1 travelled south to the Vuelta Mexico Telmex last week and neither came back empty handed.
The eight-stage race concluded in Mexico City on Sunday with Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing) as the overall race winner.
Team Type 1's sprinter Aldo Ino Iiesic kicked off the opening stage at the Veracruz 110-kilometre circuit race with a win and wore the early leader's jersey. His teammate Davide Frattini rode into a decisive front group split in the mountains and sprinted to a third place during stage four's Orizaba-Tlaxcala, a 220km road race.
All-rounder Valeriey Kobzarenko moved into third place in the overall classification, briefly, before falling off the leader's pace. Iiesic nabbed another podium with a third place in the eighth and final stage, a 100-kilometre circuit race in Mexico City.
The squad capped off a successful stage race by winning the overall team classification.
"I would say we missed a podium in GC, but racing is racing and I know some guys are slightly tired after Tour of Morocco and there were super hard stages here at Tour of Mexico," said directeur sportif Vassili Davidenko. "After three stage wins and podium places at the Tour of Morocco, another UCI 2.2 event, I knew we were going to do well in Mexico."
"I was confident in the guys," he said. "I think we have a great team and as a result, five UCI wins so far, and I just got a text from the US that Ken Hanson won the Roswell criterium. This team was built right. We should be ready, we are all looking forward to the Amgen Tour of California, we should have an all-round team, and I believe we will be very competitive."
Canada's sole Continental team, SpiderTech p/b Planet Energy put forth an equally strong performance capturing two stage wins. The squad's directeur sportif Steve Bauer was pleased with his team's effort during the Vuelta Mexico Telmex. "We have met our objectives. We came to win stages and we have that success."
Martin Gilbert was the first to capture a podium place when he sprinted to third in the opening stage. His teammate Francois Paresien won stage two's Veracruz to Xalapa, 108-kilometre road race. Flavio De Luna captured the second stage win for his team when he won stage five's Tlaxcala-Cuautla 175-kilometre road race.
"I am not surprised we have posted great results this year with 12 UCI stage wins to date," Bauer said. "We have worked hard and the team is coming together well as a group. We are excited about Flavio de Luna's stage win. We made the correct tactical plan with Bruno Langlois attacking first, opening the chance for Flavio's solo counter attack at two kilometres to go. We caught 17 other riders in the break with their pants down. Our success has come from superb teamwork and rider sacrifice such as what Bruno did for Flavio in the closing kilometers of stage five."
Two of Bauer's riders are currently injured with Ryan Roth nursing a knee injury and Keven Lacombe, who departed Mexico early with gastroenteritis. Despite being short handed, Bauer is confident that his team is well-equipped to handle to tough racing ahead at the Amgen Tour of California set to begin on May 16 in Nevada City.
"I am confident we have done all we can for our racing program to have our team fit and our guys are going well. If we miss these boys for the Amgen Tour of California that will hurt our power. In such a small team we need all our boys 100 percent healthy. If we can go in with our men healthy, then I am confident."
- Article published:
- April 26, 2010, 21:36
- Cycling News
Quick Step rider out for eight weeks
Quick Step rider Sylvain Chavanel was diagnosed with a fracture at the base of his skull as a result of a crash in Liège - Bastogne - Liège, the team announced today. The Frenchman was lucky to escape any damage to his motor or sensory skills, but will be off the bike for eight weeks as a result of the injury.
"As a precautionary measure Chavanel will remain under observation at the Montegnee Hospital today and tomorrow, Tuesday, April 27th 2010, he will be flown to the local Châtellerault Hospital in France where he will be close to home and reunited with his family after further checks," said spokesman Alessandro Tegner.
“I’d like to thank all the medical and paramedic staff that assisted me after the fall, and the people who are actually looking after me in Hospital," said Chavanel in a statement. "This fall is the latest setback in what has been a period of bad luck for me. I’m frustrated but at the same time I feel like I’ve been lucky. The consequences of the fall could have been much worse.
"Now I just have to take it easy and concentrate on getting better, without rushing. Everyone knows my personality and the constructive way in which I confront challenges. A big thank you also goes out to all those who have been close to me in these hours, starting with my team and including all those who sent me even a simple message of support.”
- Article published:
- April 26, 2010, 21:57
- Cycling News
Dr. Kay supports positive social change
OUCH Sports Medical Center signed on as the new title sponsor of the Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling Team, which will now operate under the team name OUCH-Bahati Foundation Pro Cycling Team, effective Sunday.
"Cycling has once again given me a golden opportunity to work with the best athletes in the world. Moreover, our sponsorship of the professional cycling team will be a great addition to our involvement with the Bahati Foundation's youth track cycling program that I will direct at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California this summer." said Dr. Brent Kay of OUCH Sports Medical Center.
OUCH and the Bahati Foundation are partnering to use cycling to promote a positive message worldwide. In supporting the Bahati Foundation, OUCH Sports Medical center looks toward social change in many underserved areas throughout the United States.
"As a Southern California native, I am proud to support the development of the youth of South Central Los Angeles," said Dr. Brent Kay. "We are all aware of the difficulties our inner city kids face in this great nation, but I am confident in our ability to provide a pathway to leadership for them through their community, academics, and athletics."
"It's fantastic to know that OUCH Sports Medical Center and Dr. Kay are clearly supportive of every aspect of what this program stands for. The OUCH-Bahati Foundation program will only grow throughout the years and with more corporate partners coming to support this program, it gives us the momentum to see a very lasting positive impression on the sport." said Steve Owens, Manager and Technical Advisor to the team.
"Our American Tour de France Champions have inspired us all with their heroic efforts; from Greg LeMond's dramatic first victory and subsequent comeback from a shotgun wound, to Lance Armstrong's unbelievable record-breaking seven wins following his battle with cancer, to Floyd Landis' greatest athletic comeback of all time with a severely arthritic hip," said Dr. Kay. The OUCH clinic, which specializes in treating conditions like osteoarthritis, performed the hip resurfacing procedure Landis underwent after the 2006 Tour de France.
"This is America; this is who we are; and the story continues. This is the inspiration that fuels my passion for the Foundation. Again I want to thank those that have inspired me to even greater leadership roles. I am very proud of the work AEG Sports and Andrew Messick have done in developing the Tour of California into a premier international sporting event. Showcasing our great state and Nation through competitive cycling is a phenomenal achievement."
"We look forward to the day when we can represent the State of California with our world-class Southern California-based professional cycling team and prove that we are one of the best teams in the world. Until then we will just keep winning and giving back."
In 2009, OUCH sponsored a pro team, the Ouch Presented By Maxxis, which included riders like Floyd Landis, Karl Menzies, Rory Sutherland and Bobby Lea.
- Article published:
- April 27, 2010, 06:10
- Brecht Decaluwé
So close but so far for Russian squad in the Ardennes
Despite valiant performances in Amstel Gold Race, Fléche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Russian squad Katusha came away from the Ardennes empty-handed, with Alexandr Kolobnev and Joaquin Rodriguez taking podium places in Liège and Fléche respectively.
Jef Braeckevelt is the experienced and charismatic Belgian directeur sportif of the Katusha team, and told Cyclingnews that he was disappointed but proud of his team's performance during the races in the Ardennes and Limburg region.
"Both riders gave all they had but Vinokourov is one of the strongest riders around," he said. "On Saturday we saw him and I remember telling André [Andrei Tchmill] that he looked really sharp."
Kolobnev hit out in the finale of the Amstel Gold Race and tried his luck again in Liège, only to be thwarted by none other than Alexandre Vinokourov. The Astana veteran had too much over the final kilometre and outmuscled his Russian breakaway companion to take the win.
"After the Côte de Saint-Nicolas the gap was only 20 seconds so they didn't have time to hesitate. If they would've been caught back you don't have anything; I'd rather finished second," said Braeckevelt of Kolobnev's tactics.
Last season the team came away from the trio of Classics with a win, after Serguei Ivanov put in a dazzling performance at the Amstel Gold Race. That wasn't to be in 2010 but Braeckevelt remained upbeat, however.
"I'm happy with our recent performances. We showed that we're one of the strongest teams for the Amstel Gold Race and the Ardennes, but we didn't win.
"Kolobnev was caught back in the last kilometre during the [Amstel] Gold Race and during Flèche so I hoped that three times would be lucky but it wasn't to be," Braeckevelt added.
- Article published:
- April 27, 2010, 10:33
- Stephen Farrand
Spaniard could go for Giro-Tour double
Giro d'Italia race director Angelo Zomegnan has confirmed that Alberto Contador will ride the Giro d'Italia in 2011, with the Spaniard possibly trying to emulate Miguel Indurain and win both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in the same season.
This year's Giro begins in Amsterdam in just 11 days but Zomegnan revealed that he reached a deal with Contador at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Last year Zomegnan convinced Lance Armstrong to ride the centenary edition of the Giro d'Italia but faces serious competition this year from the Amgen Tour of California following its date change from February to May.
Ivan Basso, Alexandre Vinokourov, Carlos Sastre, Christian Vande Velde and world champion Cadel Evans will all ride the Giro d'Italia, but Armstrong has opted to ride in California. Fabian Cancellara, Mark Cavendish and Tom Boonen will also ride in the USA in May.
Contador won the 2008 Giro d'Italia but opted to focus on the Tour de France in 2009 and will do the same this season. He hinted before Liege-Bastogne-Liege that he would like to target the Giro-Tour double. Indurain did the Giro and Tour double in 1992 and 1993.
"With the right build-up and training, I think you can ride two Grand Tours and try and win both of them. I'm going to try. Either the Giro and the Tour, or the Tour and the Vuelta," Contador said on Friday.
The 2011 Giro d'Italia will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy and is likely to start in Sicily and end in Turin. In 2012 the race could start in Washington, DC, with four days in North America before a trans-Atlantic transfer to Italy.
- Article published:
- April 27, 2010, 11:03
- Susan Westemeyer
Co-owner Andy Rihs criticises Frei after positive EPO test
The BMC Racing Team has stepped up a level in 2010 signing world champion Cadel Evans, George Hincapie and Alessandro Ballan. Now co-owner Andy Rihs has revealed the team hopes to be obtain ProTour status in 2011.
BMC is classified as a Professional Continental team this year and Rihs sees the ProTour as the next step for the ambitious team.
“With one of the largest budgets in the peloton, we need to be in it,” Rihs told the Swiss newspaper Le Matin. “Moreover, we will not delay filing our application to be part of the 2011 season.”
The team is registered in the USA, but Rihs and the BMC bike company are both Swiss. The businessman and cycling enthusiast is looking forward to the first Swiss race of the season, the Tour de Romandie, which starts on Tuesday evening.
The race is “a celebration of cycling! There’s a family atmosphere where everyone is rubbing shoulders with great champions,” Rihs said. “The general public never misses this opportunity. And they're right, so much so that I'll be there all week.”
Rihs' previous cycling experience was with Team Phonak but the team was struck by a series of doping problems. Before Paris-Roubaix the BMC team suspended former world champion Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio, after they were caught up in a police investigation in Italy. Last week the UCI suspended BMC rider Thomas Frei, announcing he had tested positive for EPO on the same day Cadel Evans won Fleche Wallonne.
“Thomas made a huge mistake,” Rihs said frankly. “Doping has become very individual. But with the very good checks done by the Swiss Olympic Committee, he had no chance of getting away with it. In his place, I would not even request the analysis of sample B and I’d just say I’m sorry.”
- Article published:
- April 27, 2010, 12:24
- Cycling News
Three riders observed throwing away food wrappings and bottles
A Belgian environmental group has filed a criminal complaint against three riders for throwing away their rubbish and bidons during last week's Flèche Wallonne.
The charges were filed in the court at Namur by La Coalition Nature. It said that it saw Benjamin Gourgue (Landbouwkrediet), Christopher Froome (Sky) and Blel Kadri (Ag2R) throwing away various packages, according to the Belgian website actu24.be
La Coalition Nature claims the riders have criminally violated Walloonian law, which says, "Any person who holds waste is required to provide or make the management conditions to limit the negative effects on water, air, soil, flora, fauna, to avoid inconvenience in general, without adversely affecting the environment or to human health."
Froome admitted to Cyclingnews that had heard that he may face charges: “It’s funny that they’ve singled out three riders and not the whole peloton. I can see their point and can only apologise but it’s difficult to find a solution to the problem,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I respect the environment and we’re starting to use bio-degradable bottles at Team Sky but perhaps the race organisers should come up with some kind of solution such as drop points for rubbish.”
Landbouwkrediet team manager Gerard Bulens wasn't too concerned. "I understand that we must think about the environment. And like all other teams, we ask our riders to be alert and keep the packaging in their pockets.”
As for water bottles, Bulens said he would be surprised to see any left along the way after a race. The bottles are highly prized souvenirs for fans. “There are serious collectors,” he said. “A cycle race is an exceptional event. I am agree that we should think about the environment, but we must not get caught up in the ridiculous. "