Success in first UCI-sanctioned edition paves the way for race expansion
The Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah wrapped up its first year as a UCI sanctioned event, and the general consensus of the top-level field and the race committee was that it was a smashing success, both in sporting terms and organisation.
With RadioShack's Levi Leipheimer taking the overall win and the Gobernacion de Antioquia team animating the race throughout the week, Tour of Utah president Steve Miller said the race exceeded his own expectations.
"If we could have scripted this from the outset - the way it played out, the way the stages were won, the winners of the jerseys ... and handed it to a screenwriter they'd have torn it up and said to write something realistic. It was beyond our wildest dreams, we were really happy with it."
Miller's organisation took over the race in 2006 and, after a year of hiatus, set forth with a long-term plan to bring the race into the UCI calendar in five years. However, he said that when the USA Pro Cycling Challenge popped up this year and was UCI-sanctioned from the outset, they had to accelerate their timetable.
"We're comfortable where we're at, we feel like we've got a well-oiled machine right now," Miller said. "We're fairly new to the cycling world, but we're ready to learn and we've got a solid team put in place. We feel like we've executed our plan very well this year."
Billing itself as the toughest stage race in America, the Tour of Utah didn't disappoint in the degree of difficulty, as the rate of attrition jumped up to 25 percent on the final stage, but Miller didn't think the race was too hard. "It's not new to this event," he...
Russian out of retirement and racing with his brother
Team Type 1-Sanofi's twin brothers Alexandre and Vladimir Efimkin are competing at the Tour of Utah, their first stage race together since the latter came out of retirement and joined the team this summer. The UCI Professional Continental team is hoping the pair of climbers will perform well in the mountainous terrain during both the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge from August 22-28 in Colorado.
"I will be at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge next," Vladimir Efimkin said. "Tour of Utah was my first race back since retiring last year. I have been training hard and it is going very well. But mileage in training is different from race mileage. The first race here was very hard. Some days went well and some days I did not. I would like to win a stage at either race, if possible. It is fun to race with my brother again."
Vladimir Efimkin's contract with Team Type 1-Sanofi started on August 1 and the Tour of Utah was his first competition of the season. His overall performance left something to be desired, however, he was using the mountainous stage race as an opener for the following USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
"My body gave me some surprises, some days I went very well and others I didn't," Efimkin said. "It was the first race. This race told me how I am doing, my legs my body told me how I was going. Maybe I will be stronger in Colorado and it depends on how the other riders are going. It will be another hard stage race."
Efimkin retired from bike racing at the end of 2010 to spend more time with his family and build a real estate and home renovation business in Sacramento,...
Leopard Trek remains atop team standings, Spain remains top nation
Cadel Evans (BMC) remains in the lead of the UCI WorldTour standings after the conclusion of its most recent event, the Eneco Tour, but Belgian superstar Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) has narrowed the gap considerably since the Tour de France and now only trails the Australian by six points.
While Evans has only toed the start line in post-Tour de France criteriums and hasn't added to his tally of 574 points, Gilbert has continued his run of form, most recently in the Eneco Tour where he picked up 86 points, 80 for second place overall and six for a stage win.
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) remains in third place overall with 471 points.
The rankings of the top 20 riders remains relatively unchanged, with Eneco Tour winner Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) making the only significant leap at the top of the standings as he moved from 54th to 17th.
Leopard Trek continues to occupy the position of best-ranked team with 949 points while BMC remains in second, 75 points back. Philippe Gilbert's success has moved Omega Pharma-Lotto into third overall at 845 points and HTC-Highroad drops one position to fourth.
The top five positions in the nation rankings remain unchanged as Spain continues its position atop the standings ahead of Italy, Australia, Belgium and Germany respectively.
The Dutch ProTour squad Vacansoleil-DCM announced today it has extended the contract of Thomas De Gendt through the end of the 2013 season. The 24-year-old Belgian, in his first year with the team, already had a contract through the end of the 2012 season but has extended his stint with the team for an additional year.
The 2011 season has been a breakout year for the Belgian in his first year at the ProTour level where De Gendt won a stage in both Paris-Nice and the Tour of Switzerland. In other events, De Gendt also claimed one stage win plus second overall in France's Circuit de Lorraine.
De Gendt showed promise in the final week of the Tour de France, the Belgian's first Grand Tour, with a 6th place finish on the stage finishing on Alpe d'Huez followed by a 4th place finish in the penultimate stage time trial.
"When De Gendt signed with us we knew he had a big potential," said team manager Daan Luijkx. "However, the things De Gendt showed so far was beyond expectation. He is young and test results and the last stages in the Tour show he doesn't know his limits yet.
"Following Hoogerland, Poels, Ruijgh, Westra, Feillu and Marcato this is again a rider of the team core which extends his contract until the end of 2013. We want to build our team on this group in the coming years."
"I am happy with the confidence the team shows and look forward to grow within this team," said De...
Every national federation was expecting the UCI World rankings published by August 15. That was indeed the deadline to know how many riders can compose a national team in the Road World Championships, from 19 to 25 September in Copenhagen.
The official teams selections will now be available August 17, but according to Cyclingnews' calculations, three major countries will have more riders in the World Champs than last year: Great Britain, France and Luxembourg.
Therefore British Cycling will have eight riders in the Elite men category. That's much better than last year in Geelong, when Cavendish was supported by two team-mates, Millar and Jeremy Hunt.
Like Great Britain, Luxembourg is also on the way up. And like Great Britain, the Schlecks' country could have reached nine representatives, given its place in the nations’ top 10 (7th). But only Frank and Andy are ranked...
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) continued his almost faultless season on Monday, taking out the Belgian national time trial title in Tervuren. Gilbert’s time of 46:51 was 10 seconds faster than next best Ben Hermans (RadioShack) and impressively outshone specialists such as Dominique Cornu (Topsport Vlaanderen - Mercator) and Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM).
"It was very hard to reverse the situation facing Boasson Hagen, who fully deserved his victory," Gilbert said on L’Avenir.net. "I felt I was not going to win the race and in the end, I come out with a stage victory and second place that in itself which is hardly disappointing!"
"[I think] the choice to save my strength on the final day Eneco was clearly a good choice for the Belgian championship."
Gilbert has never been a noted time trialist but has improved significantly against the clock in 2011. He finished 2nd in the opening time trial of the Tour of Belgium, and took 8th and 25th respectively in the prologue and time trial at Eneco. The difference on Monday however may well have been getting to the course a day in advance for reconnaissance.
"I had taken care to get there Sunday night, which enabled me to scout out the route three times in the morning and find the problem-corners. I knew if I rode the first half of the course well I could gain time in the latter...
Nathan Haas has amassed a 250-point lead on his rivals over the opening five rounds of the National Road Series, the latest being the Geelong Tour where the 22-year-old claimed his fourth overall victory of the season. Together with his Genesys teammate Steele Von Hoff, who claimed two stage wins to boost his tally to 10 for the Series, the pair is proving to be the formidable combination in domestic racing in 2011.
Rival team director sportif, Pat Jonker from Jayco-2XU was frank about the abilities of Haas and Von Hoff following the Geelong Tour.
"Nathan and Steele – these guys are really world class," he told Cyclingnews. "They're amazing bike riders that will soon be professional I would say."
Both have only recently turned their attention to full-time racing and are admittedly slightly older than most riders hoping to make it as a European professional. With his results coming thick and fast, Von Hoff admits that the "quicker" his rise up the ranks can happen "the better", especially give he will turn 24 in December.
"I'd always wanted to go and do it but it was more of a dream but now that I'm getting the results it's looking like it's about to become a reality," he explained. "I didn't expect to be getting the results that I'm getting but it's a tribute to the team and how strong we're riding at the moment, together."
Haas told Cyclingnews that while his transition is potentially not as simple as his teammate, he's not put off by the challenge.
"I know without even needed to be told that I'm not even close to where I need to be in all of my qualities to be an all round rider," he admitted. "I'm a jack of all trades but master of none. In cycling you're fulfilling a job and I still need to find my domain. For me it's going to take a little bit longer than what it might for Steele to progress but at the same time I'm really...
“I know [Quick Step manager] Patrick Lefevere very well and I was very impressed when we talked about the projects he has for the team,” Holm said. “I have to say thanks for the trust he placed in me I'm very proud to join the team and I'll do my best to help the team reach the best possible results."
Holm is no stranger to Belgian cycling, having lived in the country during his own racing career, which culminated with a five-year spell at Telekom in the 1990s.
“I lived in Belgium for 13 years," he explained. "Belgium is like a second home for me.”
Quick Step will be joined in sponsorship by Omega Pharma in 2012, and the revamped squad has been active in the transfer market. They have already signed Peter and Martin Velits from HTC-Highroad, and Patrick Lefevere wasted no time in securing Holm to a two-year contract as soon as he became available.
"I've known Brian for a long time," Lefevere said. "He always did a good job with all the teams he worked for. He is the type of person who is capable of motivating a group. Thanks to his knowledge he can contribute to the team's improvement in the future."