- Article published:
- February 19, 2013, 10:09
- Cycling News
Italian race replaces Giro del Lazio
Italian race organisers RCS have presented their new race, the Roma Maxima, which replaces Giro del Lazio on the calendar.
The Giro del Lazio was last run in October 2008 after it was postponed from its original March slot in the calendar. However after a five year absence RCS has confirmed that the new incarnation of the race will take place on March 3.
The race will start from the Roman Forum before heading towards the official start to the racing on the Via Appia Antica, part of the Appian Way, the “Queen of the Long Roads”.
After that, the 180 kilometre race will move towards the Castelli Romani through Rocca Massima, Rocca Priora, Campi di Annibale, Albano Laziale and Cappuccini, finally finishing in the spectacular setting of the Roman Forum on Via dei Fori Imperiali, in the shadow of the Coliseum.
The race takes place a day after another one of RCS’ flagship events, Strade Bianche.
“We received 140 proposals from 22 countries, including Italy, UK, USA, Portugal, France, Canada and Holland," an RCS statement read in connection to the event’s new name.
“The winning project combines a strongly evocative name with an elegant and aggressive logo. The name “Roma Maxima” shows the magnificence of Rome and the image of the city to the world, reflecting values that are easily recognised abroad from the cycling community and beyond.”
RCS Sport Operating Director, Mauro Vegni added, “The Giro del Lazio has always been a jewel in the crown of this region and of international cycling. For many reasons it hasn’t been raced since 2008, but we never forgot it. We put a lot of thought into re-branding, as is shown by the new name and logo.”
- Article published:
- February 19, 2013, 10:27
- Cycling News
Dutch champion steps up as Boonen builds towards April
After demonstrating his early-season form with an impressive shift in the service of Mark Cavendish at the Tour of Qatar, Niki Terpstra will be given the opportunity to ride in a leadership role for Omega Pharma-QuickStep at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday.
Although Tom Boonen will also be in action, he is short of racing miles after an elbow infection saw him make a belated start to the season, and directeur sportif Wilfried Peeters explained that Terpstra and Sylvain Chavanel would instead spearhead the Omega Pharma-QuickStep challenge.
“It’s giving other riders a chance to show what they can do,” Peeters told Het Nieuwsblad. “Niki Terpstra will have a free role, and with Sylvain Chavanel there too, we will certainly have a team that should be able to get a result at Omloop.”
The Dutch champion Terpstra has just completed the Tour of Oman and he was particularly prominent in the previous week’s Tour of Qatar, where he helped marshal Cavendish to four stage wins and final overall victory. Winner of Dwars Door Vlaanderen last year, Terpstra is looking to continue his progress this spring.
“Niki was very good for the past two weeks but that goes for the whole team,” Peeters said. “Niki has already proved that he can finish it off in races like this, such as last year at Dwars Door Vlaanderen. And that was without Tom Boonen.”
Peeters pointed to Lars Boom (Blanco), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) as the danger men for Saturday, and said that Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s tactic would be straightforward – “Just get as many riders as possible in the final.”
As for Boonen’s prospects, Peeters reiterated what the rider told reporters on his return from Oman at the weekend, insisting that “riding is a victory in itself, but he may be able to help his teammates.”
- Article published:
- February 19, 2013, 11:25
- Alasdair Fotheringham
Rare piece of good sponsorship news for Spanish cycling
Pro-Continental squad, Caja Rural, has announced that it will have a second sponsor, the bank’s insurance company, to add the team’s jersey. As of Thursday 21st February, the team will be known as Caja Rural-Seguros RGA.
Seguros RGA already had a one-off sponsorship for the team during the 2012 Vuelta a España, but has now decided to back the team throughout the year.
The news come shortly after Spain’s other Pro-Continental team, Andalusia, was forced to announce that it would be unable to continue in 2013 after running into financial trouble when one key sponsor defaulted on payments last year.
Spain now has just three teams in the top two categories - Movistar, Euskaltel-Euskadi and Caja Rural - and in the country’s ongoing recession, sponsorship is proving increasingly hard to come by. Whilst no question marks hung over Caja Rural’s future, Seguros RGA’s involvement gives the team an added level of financial security.
A professional team since 2010, Caja Rural are still angling for an Vuelta invite for 2013. However, their strong performance in the Vuelta last year, with Seville-born climber Antonio Piedra winning a stage on one of Spain’s most prestigious summit finishes, the Lagos de Covadonga, makes it almost certain the team will once again be part of the line-up of Spain’s top stage race next August.
- Article published:
- February 19, 2013, 12:29
- Cycling News
Lotto Belisol looking for Belgian's breakthrough year
Jürgen Roelandts is looking forward to the spring races this year, having missed them last year after suffering serious injuries in a crash in the 2012 Tour Down Under. He will lead the Lotto Belisol team on Saturday at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and his team hopes that a win there wold be the start of a breakthrough year for the Belgian.
Roelandts suffered a fractured cervical vertebra in the first stage of last year's Australia race, and recovery and complications kept him out of racing for four months. He ended the season with a fractured collarbone and this year at the TDU he broke a finger, but has been able to keep on riding.
Although the finger presents minor problems, he is still anticipating doing well in Saturday's Belgian spring opener. “I am very motivated, I have trained and I've done everything to be good,” he told sporza.be.
"There are few opportunities in the spring, so I hope that everything will now fall in place,” he said. “If I don't have a bad day or bad luck, I will be there in the final.”
The 27-year-old has already shown his good form this year, having won the closing stage of the Tour de Med earlier this month.
Sport Director Herman Frison took his team over the Omloop course on Monday, and is pulling hard for Roelandts. “Jürgen deserves to win once. He has worked hard and has been doing well for a while.
“I hope this will be a breakthrough year. You have to work hard to get there and I think that Jürgen has done that the past two years. He has the talent and I am sure he will do beautiful things with it.”
There is no particular pressure on Saturday, though, as the team already has 11 wins and the season is still young. “We are off to a a very good start to the year, better than in previous years. We are on a roll and hopefully we will be able to continue it through the opening weekend.”
As Frison noted, “The opening weekend is always important for Belgian teams, the season actually only begins on Saturday.”
- Article published:
- February 19, 2013, 13:33
- Cycling News
Saiz had the ok from Spanish government agency for Synacthen
Former ONCE and Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saiz, currently standing trial for crimes against public health, has been exonerated of suspicions that he was illicitly in possession of a medical product, when he was arrested by police during the Operacion Puerto investigation in May 2006.
According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Maria de los Angeles Dal-Re, a former sub-director of the Spanish govenments’s Medicine and Health Products Agency, said that she authorized the use of a number of medical products by Liberty Seguros in March 2006, incuding the corticoid Synacthen - not for sale in Spain - which Saiz was carrying when he was arrested. She also said he was authorized to take it with him to the Tour de France.
Dal-Re said that she recognised that it was not normal to have requests for these medicines, but that there would have been a procedure in place to check they were for correct use before any authorization was given.
Saiz’ possession of Synacthen when arrested was central to the accusations made against the former Liberty Seguros manager.
Amongst those testifying on Tuesday is Tyler Hamilton, who will declare by video conference from the USA. Hamilton has already identified Fuentes in his autobiography and in declarations to the US Anti-Doping Agency as the man behind his blood transfusions in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Hamilton tested positive twice during this era for blood transfusions, once after the 2004 Olympics (although it was never confirmed because the B sample was tarnished) and again in the Vuelta a Espana that same year. Given a positive test for transfusions was not possible when the blood belongs to the original donor, there is speculation that the positives could indicate Fuentes' chain of custody of the bags used by Hamilton at this period was ineffective and that the bags between two different ‘clients’ of the Spanish doctor were accidentally swapped over, provoking the positives.
Another important witness set to testify on Tuesday is Jordi Segura, the head of Barcelona’s anti-doping lab, who should hopefully confirm details on the whereabouts of at least some of the 214 blood bags that were seized during the police raids. 173 bags are understood to be in the Barcelona lab, something which Segura may confirm, and eight of them contained traces of EPO. However, Segura will not be required to identify to whom the blood originally belonged, just the codes and dates on each bag.
- Article published:
- February 19, 2013, 15:08
- Cycling News
Katusha confirmed for Tour, Paris-Nice and Critérium du Dauphiné
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has announced that there will only be three wildcard invitations on offer for this year’s race following the belated admission of Katusha to the WorldTour.
Katusha was originally omitted from the UCI WorldTour in December of last year but successfully appealed the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. On Monday, the UCI confirmed that it would not relegate another team to make room for Katusha and that the WorldTour will thus be made up of 19 teams in 2013.
Speaking to AFP on Tuesday, Prudhomme said that ASO would now issue three wildcard invitations to the Tour de France rather than the usual four, thus keeping the field at 198 riders and 22 teams. “Given that the invitations haven’t been made yet, there will only be 22 teams at the Tour de France,” Prudhomme said.
ASO has already issued its wildcard invitations for Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné, however, and had opted to overlook Katusha. Prudhomme explained that Katusha would now be allowed to take part in both races, with the field of each race being expanded to 23 teams.
“We couldn’t leave a team on the side of the road,” said Prudhomme.
Europcar, Cofidis, Sojasun and IAM Cycling have been handed wildcard places for Paris-Nice, while Europcar, Cofidis, Bretagne-Séché and Team NetApp-Endura have been invited to the Critérium du Dauphiné.
With only three wildcard berths now on offer, competition for invitations to the Tour de France is set to become even more keenly contested.
Last year, ASO handed three of its four wildcard places to French teams (Cofidis, Saur-Sojasun and Europcar), while Argos-Shimano took the fourth. Argos-Shimano automatically qualifies as a WorldTour team this time around but the three French squads are among the teams again in the hunt for a wildcard berth in 2013.
- Article published:
- February 19, 2013, 17:01
- Pat Malach
Optum rider motivated for better season after two broken hands in 2012
A handful of factors have contributed to Chad Haga's current spot on the Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies professional cycling team: natural talent and hard work combined with an unfortunate family circumstance that changed his parents' attitude about his desire to forgo a well-paying job after college and pursue his cycling dream.
The 24-year-old, second-year pro started racing for the Texas A&M collegiate team in 2006 when he was still a 17-year-old junior. He rode for the Aggies' team through his senior year in 2010 and then picked up with the Austin-based Super Squadra amateur club that year as well. He joined the Rio Grande domestic elite squad out of Colorado in 2011 and signed with Jonas Carney's UCI Continental Kelly Benefit Strategies team in August of that same year.
But a career in professional cycling was never part of the plan while Haga was attending college in Texas, where he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree in the summer of 2010. His parents had supported his cycling hobby while he was in school, but they were less certain about pursuing the sport professionally.
"There's not a whole lot of money in it," Haga said of racing domestically at the Continental level. "And with my engineering degree, I could have made $60,000 straight out of school. It's a much more comfortable lifestyle, but I wouldn't have been as happy."
About that same time, Haga's father was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. The 50-year-old non-smoker - with zero risk factors for the disease - and his family were stunned by the news. Haga said his father is currently doing well and is being treated with a promising new drug, but the original diagnosis shifted his family's outlook about a lot of things, including Haga's own cycling aspirations.
"My dad spent 25 years working at his desk job in the hopes that when he retired he cold do what he wanted, and now he's not guaranteed that," Haga said. "So pursue your passions, and don't pass up any opportunities."
With his family's blessing, Haga pursued his cycling opportunities with the the Rio Grande team in 2011. He finished seventh at the his first-ever National Race Calendar time trial at the SRAM Tour of the Gila behind established pros like Jeremy Vennel, Francisco Mancebo, Luis Amaran, Ben Day and Tom Zirbel.
He followed that result by winning the prologue time trial at the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic and holding the race lead through the final road race. He rode to a strong sixth-place finish at the Joe Martin Stage Race and finished 13th overall at the Nature Valley Grand Prix. He competed with Rio Grande for the final time at the Cascade Cycling Classic in July and signed with Kelly Benefit Strategies after the race.
"We saw that he had a lot of talent and a lot of upside," said Jonas Carney, performance director of Kelly Benefit Strategies in 2011, now Optum Pro Cycling.
Haga immediately rewarded Carney's contract with a third-place finish at the Tour of Elk Grove and rode another handful of races with the team to close out the season. Then Haga put in a lot of hard work over the off season in order to start his first full professional campaign well-prepared. A tangle during a VIP ride in training camp in California scuffed him up a bit, but he rode to a fourth-place finish at the Merco Cycling Classic time trial in early March and finished the race ninth overall.
He headed to Uruguay next with a small squad to contest the 10-day South American UCI race. Although most of the team contracted some level of stomach bug - Haga included - Optum's Ken Hanson won three stages and Zirbel finished second overall. Haga hit the podium with a third-place finish during stage six of the UCI Tour of Guatemala in May while another Optum squad competed in the Amgen Tour of California.
After a slow start, Haga's potential form had just started revealing itself when disaster struck during stage 2 of the Tour de Beauce in early June.
"I had a big downhill crash when someone went down in front of me," Haga said.
The crash tore up Haga's knee, and he required more than a month to heal and prepare for his comeback at the Cascade Cycling Classic in mid-July. Haga made the absolute most of his first race back in the saddle, taking out the win at the prologue time trial in front of 2011 Cascade overall winner Francisco Mancebo.
"It's been a rough year so far between sickness, injury and fatigue," Haga told Cyclingnews at the time. "But I'm coming back."
That comeback was short-lived, however. While wearing his first yellow jersey in an NRC event, Haga hit the deck hard in a big pileup during the fast downhill start of the stage 1 McKenzie Pass Road Race.
"I think it was the third year in a row that there was a giant pileup at the start of that stage," Haga said. "So the whole field was expecting it and was kind of nervous. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy; we caused it because we were nervous."
Haga remounted and rejoined the bunch, but he immediately knew there was a problem.
"I knew something was wrong with my hands," he said. "I was hoping it was just a sprain and a jammed thumb, so I toughed out the stage just so I could maybe try and race the time trial the next day."
Although the pain in both hands prevented him from eating or drinking throughout the rest of the three-hour stage that climbed over McKenzie Pass and finished with another climb to the Three Creeks Snow Park, Haga toughed it out after getting some free medical advice from a teammate.
"Mike Creed asked me how I was feeling," Haga remembered. "I said, 'Well, my thumb and my wrist hurt but maybe it's not too bad.' So Creed asks me if I can move it, and I say, 'Well, yeah kind of.' So he tells me that if I can move it it's fine. And I'm like, 'I don't know, man, it hurts pretty bad.'"
It turned out Haga had broken a bone in his left wrist and another in the thumb on his right hand.
"I needed surgery on both," he said. "Estimated recovery was 12 weeks, so the season was over, and everything I had looked forward to up to that point was scratched off the list. So it was pretty heartbreaking to go from season and career high the day before to season over."
Haga missed out on a chance to race in the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado and a possible trip with the team to the UCI team time trial world championships. It was a hard pill to swallow. But the missed racing opportunities weren't even his biggest worry: Haga is also a classically trained pianist with an impressive pedigree of concerts.
"I was definitely thinking that my mom was going to kill me if I just screwed up my hands and my ability to play," he said, adding that he's since made a full recovery. "Titanium-enhanced even. I've got a screw in my wrist now."
One thing Haga didn't have to worry about was his spot on the Optum roster for 2013. Despite the team's having cut two spots from the 2012 roster from 19 to 17 riders, Carney said, Haga knew early on he would return this season.
"There was no hesitation with Chad," Carney said. "I think I talked with him the day he broke his hands at Cascade and said, 'You have nothing to worry about, we're bringing you back next year. We'll take care of you.' He's just a super, super good kid with a lot of ability, and he really belongs in our program. We're proud to have him. He had my guarantee that he'd be with the team well before we were even signing contracts with guys."
Carney said that if Haga can stay healthy and stay off the ground he can achieve consistently top results and compete for overall wins with the best in the country this season - and possibly on the international stage in the near future.
"He's a huge talent that a lot of people aren't familiar with," Carney said. "From what I've seen it's just a matter of him staying healthy and injury free. I see him as being a major GC threat for us, especially in anything with a time trial. He's right there with [Scott] Zwizanski and Zirbel in the time trial when we do them. He's a huge threat and he climbs really well, too."
Haga had a rough introduction to pro cycling last year, and the ascent to where he'd like to be in the domestic peloton has been delayed. But he's aware of that fact - it drives him - and he's preparing once again to put every ounce of talent, skill and training into making the most of this opportunity to pursue his passion.
"All of that has served as motivation this year," he said. "I can't take anything for granted, I know that now. I had a rough enough year last year, so I took my time off and used it for much-needed rest and worked on my diet. I'm a little lighter this year, and it's paying off with my climbing already. I focused on training when I could so I can come into this year stronger, and I'm ready for that to pay off."
- Article published:
- February 19, 2013, 18:00
- Cycling News
Saiz lawyers waive Contador's appearance
Alberto Contador will not be required to testify before the judge in the Operacion Puerto trial on Friday, as previously scheduled. The Saxo-Tinkoff rider was due to appear as a defense witness for his former directeur sportif Manolo Saiz, but the attorneys for Saiz waived their request.
Saiz is on trial for crimes against public health along with Eufemiano Fuentes, who ran a Madrid clinic that facilitated blood doping. Contador was scheduled to testify alongside Marcos Serrano and Angel Vicioso on Friday.
According to EFE, the attorneys for Saiz had already established what they had hoped to get from Contador. Ignacio Arroyo told reporters after today's session that he had not spoken to Contador's attorneys, but decided to waive his testimony because "the evidence we sought to establish with him has already been established."
Saiz was found in possession of large sums of money and medical products when detained as part of Operacion Puerto in 2006, while he was directing Liberty Seguros.
Maria de los Angeles Dal-Re, the former sub-director of the Spanish government's Medicine and Health Products Agency, testified today in the trial that she authorised Saiz to carry the products to the Tour de France.
The judge Julia Patricia Santamaria also announced today that the court has been unable to locate Vicioso to appear for his scheduled time on Friday. Vicioso's testimony was postponed from February 12 because he was suffering from back pain. The judge added that if the rider did not make himself available voluntarily that she would send security forces to bring him to court.