Second overall bodes well for Belgian races this weekend
Edvald Boasson Hagen was slightly disappointed to finish second at the Tour of Oman for a second consecutive year, but his consistency and multitude of cycling talents stood out during the six-day race, despite it being his first race of the 2011 season.
The 23-year-old Norwegian finished more than a minute down on Robert Gesink (Rabobank) but finished in the top five on five stages. Three of those placing were in sprint finishes, and he was also second on the very tough uphill finish won by Gesink and then fifth in the hilly time trial despite being buzzed by a helicopter. Not surprisingly Boasson Hagen dominated the points competition and took the green jersey.
"I'm satisfied with my race and with second overall. And the team is working well together too," he told Cyclingnews.
It's hard to say if I'm going better this year than last year because it was my first race of the season. I was on really good form last year but was also pretty consistent this year. That's not bad."
Cobbled Classics contender
Boasson Hagen rarely reveals his inner thoughts to the media but will head to Belgium for this weekend's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with the confidence he can be a contender.
He may lack the experience of the racing multiple seasons on the cobbles but has the strength and finishing speed to get a result. He will also form an excellent combination of raw youth and intelligent experience with Juan Antonio Flecha, who won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last year.
The Achilles tendon problem that forced Boasson Hagen to miss most of the cobbled Classics last year is a distant memory and this spring he could fully confirm the Classics talent he first...
Northern French community builds indoor velodrome and bids for Tour
Lille Métropole, the urban community grouping cities such as Lille, Roubaix and Tourcoing, announced its bid to host the Tour de France start in 2014. Community mayor Martine Aubry announced the news at the official ceremony to lay the foundation stone of a new indoor velodrome in Roubaix.
"This is great news," an excited region native Cédric Vasseur told La Voix des Sports. Lille hosted a Tour de France start once before, in 1994, which in 2014 will be 20 years ago. But the region is standing against other strong candidates such as Barcelona in Spain and Florence in Italy.
"But I think that Lille has a definite advantage with respect to Barcelona and Florence, because we don't represent an unrealistic challenge," Vasseur said.
Tour organiser Amaury Sports Organisation will be looking closely at all applicants before making its decision, even though some say that the approximate route of the 2014 event is already inked on paper.
But even if the region is not awarded the honour of a Grand Départ, it could be the showplace for other massive cycling events as the foundations for the new Roubaix indoor velodrome have been laid. The 250m-long track, located right beside the famous outdoor velodrome where the finish line of Paris-Roubaix is located, will be ready in time for 2012 London Olympics with a very special plan.
Indeed, authorities are hoping to make the new site the back-up training venue for the Olympic track cycling events in the summer of 2012. But more than that, the site with an estimated cost of 25 million Euro will also include a BMX track and be used by professional cyclists and amateurs alike, to make Roubaix the first address for cycling in France.
"The idea is to satisfy the needs of top level athletes as well as those of leisure cyclists," said Arnaud Tournant, multiple world and Olympic champion and now the...
Garmin-Cervelo building gradually for the Ardennes Classics
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Cervelo) finished fifth overall in the Tour of Oman, confirming he is ahead of schedule with his early season training and ready to target a series of short stage races in Spain before the Ardennes classics, his first big goal before the Tour de France.
Vande Velde arrived in Oman looking lean but unsure of his form after only riding two races at the Challenge. He left with six intense days of racing in his suntanned legs, knowing he has a solid platform of fitness to build on in the coming weeks.
The 34-year-old American finished fifth overall in Oman, 2:04 behind winner Robert Gesink (Rabobank). Other results confirmed just how well Vande Velde performed. He finished one place ahead of last year's winner Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) and several more ahead of stage race rivals Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and Jakob Fuglsang (Leopard Trek).
"I'm way ahead of where I was this time last year and that takes a lot pressure off," Vande Velde told Cyclingnews with a broad smile that indicated his doubts about his future in the peloton after crashingss in last year's Tour de France are now a distant memory.
"It's been great riding here. It's been sunny and warm, and I rode what I thought I could do this week, if not even a little bit better. I'm happy."
"I don't think I could have gone much faster with the shape I have right now," he admitted talking specifically about Saturday's decisive 18.5km hilly time trial stage. "It was hard and I don't want to go that hard and that deep for a while again."
Aiming for the Ardennes
Vande Velde will soon be back in action as he follows a programme of races that will allow him to target victory and help him...
Team recons Amgen Tour of California's Mount Baldy
Jelly Belly p/b Kenda united at an eventful week-long training camp that included its traditional US Navy SEALs team bonding sessions last week in San Marcos, California. The 13-man roster learned the importance of the official naval special warfare motto, 'no man left behind,' relying on each other as they were forced into the cold waters off the Pacific Coast.
"I encourage most teams to try Navy SEALs training because it is great for team building," said directeur sportif Danny Van Haute. "They do a lot of exercises that carry over to the bike. They concentrate on being a team and communication. All the stuff they did at the camp they can do the same on the bike, thinking-wise. They were in the water a lot. It was a great experience and I encourage all teams to do it."
Van Haute has brought his team to the Navy SEALs base for the previous four training camps as a method of teaching his riders on-and off-bike communication skills. Ken Hanson is one of seven new additions to the team who recalled his first experience on the naval base.
"The Navy SEAL training was incredibly difficult," said Hanson. "It was a great team building exercise to develop communication verbally and non-verbally. I remember one specific drill where we had to synchronize sit ups on the sand as a team. The hard thing was the guy counting and shouting the timing for the drills was out of hearing range."
"I remember quickly establishing eye contact with Brad Huff in the middle of the group to coordinate the timing of my group," he said. "We had to do this while holding a heavy sand-filled tube on our chest for the sit ups. The three-hour session really bonded us as one unit which carried over to looking out for each other throughout camp."
The 2011 roster includes returning riders Bernard Van Ulden, Sean Mazich, Jeremy Powers, Brad Huff, Will Dickeson and Sergio Hernandez, along with new recruits Alastar Loutit, Nic Hamilton, Emerson Oronte, Carson...
Jelly Belly p/b Kenda directeur sportif Danny Van Haute recently had a chance to take his riders up Mount Baldy and has predicted that the Amgen Tour of California's stage seven, which takes in the climb, will be "epic".
Between sponsor visits, media training and naval base sessions, the team's riders managed to include a trip up the intimidating Californian climb to sample what's in store during the race's penultimate stage.
"The climb starts on the same time trial course as the San Dimas Stage Race, up Glendora, and after 4.8 miles the route passes the town of Mount Baldy - that's where the climb starts to get really hard," Van Haute explained.
"Going into Mount Baldy is not easy and the climb continues for a total of 26 miles. It is going to be a hard stage, epic."
Starting in the college town of Claremont, the course for stage seven heads immediately uphill for eight miles to the village of Baldy for the first KOM before looping back up Glendora Ridge Road for another mile of climbing. A 12-mile respite precedes a technical descent to the San Gabriel Reservoir and down into Glendora for the only sprint of the day.
The race then sends riders up the Glendora Mountain Road climb, which has been the time trial stage of the San Dimas Stage Race for nearly a decade, but for the first time since fires and erosion closed the upper portion in 2004, the full length of the 8.5 mile climb will be used in competition.
The climbing doesn't stop there, as riders face another 12 miles of gradual uphill before reaching Baldy Village for the second time. Once the riders turn onto Baldy Road, they hit three steep miles of ascending which is just a warm-up for the final push to the line.
The final 2.5 miles punishes the riders with 10 torturous switchbacks with grades so steep it will seem more like the Monte Zoncolan than Alpe d'Huez.
The race's first ever high mountain finish brings the level of difficulty up to...
Leopard Trek still without a win after three races in 2011
After a solid two weeks of racing at the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman, Fabian Cancellara believes the early season kilometres will hold him in good stead for Classics season come April.
The Swiss rider spoke to Cyclingnews in Oman where he finished four seconds off Rabobank's Lars Boom in the prologue individual time trial on a course that featured cobbles, technical corners and strong winds.
Cancellara and his new team Leopard Trek are without a win for season 2011 and he seemed disappointed given what the 29-year-old deemed as "many chances".
"I'm trying to find the condition to get the best out of my body," Cancellara told Cyclingnews. "Where that will come, where I will have my peak, I can't predict. I'm working on it to get it for these weekends in Belgium."
Matti Breschel is ready to take on the Spring Classics, only 24 hours after despairing of his participation. The pain in his knee is nothing serious, he has been told, and the Rabobank rider can still hope to ride the cobbled Classics.
"It's going okay. I've already been on the bike today and noticed nothing of it," Breschel told sporten.tv2.dk.
Breschel underwent surgery on his left knee during the off-season, and returned to racing last week at the Tour of the Algarve. He had to abandon on the third stage due to knee pain.
However, he changed his tune dramatically after the examination.
"The doctor knows my history and knows my problems, and he said it was nothing serious and it was not something I should be afraid of. The knee just needs some time and it was perhaps just too early to start racing now."
The 26-year-old came to Rabobank to lead the team in the Classics, but has now scaled back his ambitions. “Fortunately there is still time yet to recover. I don't think I am in super form, but I have to take it a little at a time.”
"I'm not thinking so much that I want to win them. I'd like to race them, but I also need to get ready now. It would be slightly silly to try to do too much and then have a relapse."
Sicilian back in action after Tenerife training camp
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) begins his season on Tuesday at the Giro di Sardegna. The Sicilian has explained that he deliberately delayed his return to competition in order to recuperate from an exhausting 2010 campaign in which he won the Vuelta a España and finished third at the Giro d’Italia
Nibali’s first outing last year came in January’s Tour de San Luis and he raced all the way through to the Tour of Lombardy in October in a season that saw him pin on a race number on no fewer than 81 occasions.
“It’s the first time [I’ve started my season so late],” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “But the other years I’d also finished racing earlier. We decided to started later in order to help me recover better and to prepare better.”
Ahead of his seasonal debut, Nibali recently spent two weeks at a Liquigas-Cannondale training camp in Tenerife. Although he claims to be unsure of the precise mileage he has clocked up this winter, Nibali is confident that his preparation is on track.
“I don’t know how many kilometres I’ve done, I haven’t looked,” Nibali said. “But between training alone and at camps, including the one in Tenerife, I feel I’m where I should be. It’s true that I have a few kilos more and a few watts less in respect to the Vuelta, but that’s normal and as predicted. Everything is under control.”
Liquigas-Cannondale’s other leader Ivan Basso has already begun his campaign and impressed in Saturday’s Trofeo Laigueglia, and Nibali admitted that he too is keen to get back into...