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First Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Date published:
April 03, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • Boonen takes over WorldTour rankings

    Winning smile: Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep)
    Article published:
    April 02, 2012, 16:12 BST
    Cycling News

    Liquigas leads team classification, Belgium claims top spot in nations ranking

    Following his impressive third victory of the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has taken over the leadership in the WorldTour rankings. Just nine days after he took a record breaking fifth win in the E-3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, and a week after his third victory in Gent-Wevelgem, the Belgian gathered enough points to relegate Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) to second.

    Seventh in the UCI's top league after the E-3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke and fourth after Gent-Wevelgem, Boonen's score increased to 266 points with his Tour of Flanders victory, while Gerrans, who held the lead first after winning the Tour Down Under and again after his fine victory in Milano-San Remo, remained at 210. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) dropped from second to third with 182 points.

    However, Nibali's advantage over his talented young teammate Peter Sagan, a hugely impressive fifth in Sunday's race, amounts only to three points. Sagan's latest top result enables him to move up the ranks from sixth to fourth, with 179 points.

    Between Nibali's score and the upcoming Sagan, the Italian Liquigas-Cannondale squad has also gained enough points to oust British Sky ProCycling from the top spot of the teams ranking. Boonen's Omega Pharma-QuickStep team is now third overall, three places higher than a week ago. Two former leaders of the ranking, GreenEdge and RadioShack-Nissan have dropped to fourth and fifth spots, respectively.

    However, the difference between Liquigas-Cannondale and fifth placed RadioShack-Nissan is a mere 61 points, making the battle for supremacy in the ranking undecided. But the teams will not have to wait long to...

  • Ochowicz pleased with BMC's Tour of Flanders performance

    Alessandro Ballan (BMC)
    Article published:
    April 02, 2012, 18:00 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Gilbert encouraged for upcoming Ardennes Classics

    With one of the most robust and star-studded teams in the Tour of Flanders Jim Ochowicz hoped that his BMC team would feature heavily in the race. The team certainly needed a morale boosting result after a spring campaign plagued by disappointment.

    At the finish of Flanders, Ochowicz could muse over a ‘mission accomplished' moment - a first step in the right direction but with more battles still to come. With Alessandro Ballan and Greg Van Avermaet the team secured third and fourth places in the race. There was even a glimmer of hope for Philippe Gilbert who featured in the race until the final set of climbs on the last lap.

    "I think all-in-all, that it was a good race," Ochowicz told Cyclingnews.

    "We were in all the moves today and the whole team and the group as a whole rode well, which was encouraging for us. Obviously it was one objective for us to get the whole group riding together. Today it worked well and the results were more than satisfactory from where we were before today."

    Ballan's ride will have been especially pleasing. The 2007 Tour of Flanders winner was the most aggressive rider in the race, attacking on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont and dragging Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) and Tom Boonen (Omega-Pharma QuickStep) with him.

    The trio held off the pack but it was Ballan, through gritted teeth, and with his straight-arm position that attacked repeatedly in the closing stages. With the weakest sprint he had little choice, but on each occasion Boonen matched him pedal stroke for pedal stroke.

    "Ballan was the most aggressive and when you're with...

  • UCI allows Saxo Bank to remain in WorldTour

    The Saxo Bank team, led by Alberto Contador
    Article published:
    April 02, 2012, 18:28 BST
    Cycling News

    Licence Commission will not punish team for Contador's ban

    The UCI announced today that its Licence Commission has allowed Saxo Bank to remain in the WorldTour, rejecting the UCI's request to withdraw its license which was granted before Alberto Contador was banned for two years and stripped of his 2011 results.

    Saxo Bank was called to appear before the commission in February after Contador lost an appeal by the UCI to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on February 6 and was banned for a 2010 Tour de France doping positive.

    Because Contador had accumulated more than two-thirds of the Saxo Bank team's points toward the license that was awarded on November 18, 2011 and he was stripped of those results with the CAS decision, the team no longer had sufficient sporting points to justify its place in the WorldTour.

    While it acknowledged that Team Saxo Bank "does not reach UCI WorldTour level", the Licence Commission nonetheless ruled today "that the special circumstances of the case, including as outlined above, did not in themselves justify the withdrawal of the licence granted on 18 November", according to a UCI press release.

    The team's licence expires at the end of this year, and it will be held to the usual standard of sporting criteria as well as ethical, financial and administrative factors in determining whether it will continue as a UCI ProTeam in 2013.

    Saxo Bank owner Bjarne Riis was relieved and happy with the decision. "We very much think this is the right decision given the whole situation that caused the reevaluation of our license," Riis said.

    "Now we very much look forward to putting all our energy, effort and focus back on running the team and racing again,...

  • Haussler blames off-season for Classics failures

    Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Barracuda)
    Article published:
    April 02, 2012, 19:49 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Australian "just wants to be good again"

    Heinrich Haussler, the Australian who had a storming Classics campaign in 2009, is closing in on a third straight spring of disappointment in 2012. The 28-year-old finished second in both the Tour of Flanders and Milan-San Remo in 2009 but those performances have been replaced by three years of injury, illness and a lack of competitive form.

    In 2010 Haussler was ruled out of the Classics after picking up a serious knee injury. A year later he used the Classics to test his recovery but despite a seventh place finish in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke the Australian was found wanting in the biggest one-day races, something he attributed to his long lay-off due to his injury.

    This year Haussler looked to have put his problems behind him with a string of results at the Tour Down Under, before finishing 4th in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

    However he was found out in Milan-San Remo and this year's E3 but a solid result in the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, where he finished 30th, has given him some hope.

    "Today was hard. I felt a lot better today than in the last races where I felt tired. I went home straight after Harelbeke and took it easy and freshened up. Today I felt a lot, lot better," he told Cyclingnews after finishing the Tour of Flanders.

    Asked why he was distanced by the leaders so easily in San Remo and E3, he said: "I just didn't have the power. As soon as they'd go hard my legs were blocked. I'm still not on that level where I'd like to be. Today was 100 times better than those races."

    The question remains as to why Haussler has struggled this season. If last year he was hampered by a lack...

  • Cavendish will not defend Scheldeprijs title

    World champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) at the start
    Article published:
    April 02, 2012, 20:37 BST
    Cycling News

    Three-time winner expecting first child

    Mark Cavendish (Sky), a three-time Scheldeprijs winner and the defending champion, will not start the 2012 edition on Wednesday due to the imminent birth of his first child. Cavendish and girlfriend Peta Todd are expecting their daughter to be born on April 5, one day after Scheldeprijs takes place.

    "I know every dad probably says this but I don't think there's going to be a baby more loved than this one," Cavendish told The Guardian. "Her room's ready. Her stuff's ready. Her mum's ready. I'm more than ready. She's due on 5 April and I've got three-and-a-half weeks at home so it works out perfect. It's already changed me. It's made me more motivated than ever."

    The 2007 edition of Scheldeprijs was the first race Cavendish won as a professional. He repeated as champion in 2008 and won the Belgian semi-classic for a third time in 2011.

    In lieu of Cavendish, Team Sky will rally around Chris Sutton for the expected field sprint finale. The Australian will be supported by teammates Bernhard Eisel, Juan Antonio Flecha, Mathew Hayman, Jeremy Hunt and Christian Knees.

    Cavendish is expected to return to competition at the Tour de Romandie, April 24-29.

  • Gaimon takes unlikely path to NRC lead

    Phil Gaimon (Kenda/5 Hour Energy) before the rains got heavy.
    Article published:
    April 02, 2012, 22:32 BST
    Pat Malach

    American finds success after up and down career

    Kenda/5-Hour Energy team leader Phil Gaimon, perhaps equally as well known for his quick wit as he is for his speed on the bike, took an indirect path to the top of the USA Cycling National Race Calendar standings.

    The 26-year-old, who climbed to the top of the rankings following an impressive overall win at the series-opening Redlands Bicycle Classic, shot into the pro peloton after the 2005 season, when he moved from category 5 novice to Continental professional in the span of about 10 months. But unlike many athletes who bring fitness to cycling from other sports, Gaimon's background in competition was limited to computer games.

    "My parents are both college professors," said Gaimon, who was born in Georgia. "I played computer games in high school, and I was kind of fat. So I started riding when I was a senior in high school because I didn't want to go to college fat. I lost like 45 pounds that year, and then I went to college and joined the cycling club just to make some friends."

    Gaimon did more than just make cycling friends at college in Florida, he thrived in the local scene and quickly earned the attention of the VMG team that eventually morphed into the Holowesko (and now Chipotle) development team of Slipstream Sports. But when VMG signed a deal to partner with the USA Cycling Development Program in 2006, Gaimon was left in the lurch and went back to the elite amateur level with the New York-based U25 Sakonnet team. In 2008 he rode for Fiordifrutta, an amateur team from New England.

    Gaimon's results over those two seasons got the attention of Jelly Belly's Danny Van Haute, and the then-23-year-old signed a one-year deal with the oldest Continental team in the U.S.

    "I had some...

  • Opportunity knocks for Rowney with Specialized-lululemon

    Loren Rowney wins Honda Hybrid Women’s Tour.
    Article published:
    April 03, 2012, 2:27 BST
    Jane Aubrey

    Twenty-three year-old looming as another option for Olympic selectors

    When Loren Rowney won the 2011 Honda Hybrid Women's Tour, it led to her signing her first pro contract with Specialized-lululemon. Not a bad jump for someone who had been racing the Australian National Road Series, finishing the season ranked second behind Grace Sulzberger. Now, having won Stage 2 of the Redlands Bicycle Classic last month and in the top-10 overall, Rowney is again headed for bigger and better things.

    The results in the US had followed from a strong performance at the Women's Tour of New Zealand in February, where Rowney took out Stage 2, finished 3rd on Stage 3 and 5th on Stage 5, as well as a stage win at the Jayco Bay Cycling Classic over the Australian summer.

    "I've had pretty good form for the past year," Rowney admitted to Cyclingnews. "Consistency I think is the word, which is good, you always try to do something in every race that you go in to but obviously coming to the States and racing with the team, I wasn't going to be a team leader so I didn't think the opportunity to win a race would happen so soon.

    "It was a bit unexpected," the 23-year-old said of her results at Redlands. "Going into the race, because there was only four of us with Amber [Neben] really tired after El Salvador, Ronny [Lauke, team DS] said to Amber, Katie [Colclough] and myself that this was a chance to show ourselves which we won't get that many opportunities to do because generally, we'll be riding for someone else. If you see an opportunity, go for it."

  • Report: Ashenden resigns from UCI’s biological passport panel

    Dr Michael Ashenden
    Article published:
    April 03, 2012, 15:15 BST
    Jane Aubrey

    UPDATE: Response from UCI regarding Ashenden

    Dr. Michael Ashenden has resigned from his position as an independent member of the UCI's panel of experts that reviews the blood passport data of professional cyclists.

    The report, by BBC Mundo, quotes Ashenden as saying: "that the passport still has shortcomings and will not accept a new confidentiality clause he believes is an attempt to prevent him to express his doubts."

    Last year, Ashenden told Cyclingnews that he had "noticed a significant gap between tests in some of the profiles" that he had reviewed. "It's definitely not in every single profile, but enough to have left an impression on me," he told Cyclingnews.

    "What I can’t answer is why those gaps are present," Ashenden continued. "Perhaps the UCI are pursuing a targeting strategy that I'm not aware of, but leaving big gaps doesn’t make any sense to me."

    The UCI issued a press release today in response to Ashenden's comments in which the organisation thanked him for his contributions to the Biological Passport Program, but sought to clarify statements regarding anti-doping processes and the relationship between external experts and the UCI they consider "misleading and incorrect".

    "The UCI clarifies that there is no 'UCI panel of experts that reviews blood passport data of professional cyclists' any more," said the UCI statement. "In compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency Athlete Biological Passport Operating Guidelines released on January 2012 the Athlete Passport Management Unit (APMU) coordinates all blood passport results evaluation directly with external independent experts. The UCI is not involved in any way in this part of the process."

    Regarding comments about gaps in tests for some biological passport profiles, the UCI stated it had "