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First Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Date published:
February 28, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Vinokourov looking to help young riders this year

    Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana)
    Article published:
    February 27, 2012, 17:04 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Astana captain may pass up Olympics in favour of the “new generation”

    Alexander Vinokourov has opened his final season as a pro at the Tour of Langkawi, but not as captain. Still recovering his form after his horrifying accident in last summer's Tour de France, the Astana rider is now ready “to pass the baton to a new generation.”

    Vinokourov broke his femur on the ninth stage of the Tour, when he crashed into a ravine and was stopped by tree. He considered retiring at the time, but then decided to come back, but not for himself.  Had he retired in July, "the team would not have had enough points for the WorldTour" status in 2012, he told the Astana fans website, according to biciciclismo.com.

    While he is listed as the Astana team captain in Langkawi, he is playing a support role. “Even though I'm training well, I'm not competitive after the injury,” he said. He will thus “support runners such as Alexander Dyachenko, Dimitriy Gruzdev or whoever is doing well in the mountains.”

    His main priority in 2012 is to "support young cyclists." The 38-year-old said that he felt that he “could carry on working until forty-five, like Jan Kirsipuu, but I want to pass the baton to a new generation."

    For this, his final season, the Kazakh said that "if all goes well, I'll go to the Giro and the Tour de France after that. It is the ideal race to finish my career." The London 2012 Olympics are questionable, though. He might be there, “but Kazakhstan has only two spots. I don't want to take the place of another rider who can do better, because there will be eight or...

  • Saxo Bank riders under pressure to bring in results

    Stage winner Nicki Sörensen (Team Saxo Bank) on the podium.
    Article published:
    February 27, 2012, 20:41 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Danish team fighting to maintain WorldTour licence

    Bjarne Riis and Team Saxo Bank are up before the UCI licencing commission Monday, leaving the team's riders a bit nervous about the future. The lack of team captain Alberto Contador puts the pressure on the other riders to help maintain the team's WorldTour status.

    “I would be lying if I said that the meeting of the UCI licence commission is not something we talk about,” Nicki Sørensen told sporten.dk.

    The commission is considering whether Saxo Bank should maintain its WorldTour status in light of the loss of Alberto Contador's points. The Spaniard contributed more than two-thirds of the team's points in 2011, points which he has now lost after having all his season results disqualified.

    Sørensen admitted that he was shocked when Contador was given a two-year suspension for doping. “I had probably expected that the signals we got from similar cases with findings of clenbuterol by athletes would lead to an acquittal. For a team like ours, it is of course of tremendous importance to be without a rider like him.”

    The pressure is now on the other riders to bring in results. Sørensen cited a recent training camp in Spain as “an investment in the coming months.”

    The Dane continued, “Without Alberto on the team, there are many riders who must take a step up the ladder, but they are coming.”

    Looking at his teammates, he named a few names. “A rider like Dani Navarro could do well. Nick Nuyens is apparently completely without stress and on the way to the form he had in Flanders last year, and I think that Chris Anker [Sørensen] could...

  • French coach recruited from UCI by Terengganu team to bring cycling culture to Asia

    Sébastien Duclos talks to one of this Terengganu team members
    Article published:
    February 27, 2012, 23:17 GMT
    By:
    Jean-François Quénet

    Sébastien Duclos sees huge potential for Malaysian continental team

    As Harrif Salleh was presented on stage after finishing third of stage 4 at the UCI 2.HC Le Tour de Langkawi in Muar behind sprint aces Andrea Guardini and Jacobe Keough, the Malaysian continental team backed by the state of Terengganu reached their first goal in the country's most important race.

    "We knew that Harrif had the potential for such a good result but we had to help him build his confidence and get rid of his inferiority complex towards [Malaysia's cycling super star] Anuar Manan," explained newly-appointed French coach, Sébastien Duclos.

    The Terengganu team didn't replace Manan after his transfer to ProContinental outfit Champion System but made a smart move in hiring a world class coach to begin the second season of its existence. Duclos has earned respect in the industry for being an assistant of head coach Michel Thèze at the world cycling centre in Aigle, Switzerland. During his five years at the UCI, he worked with up and coming champions like track sprinter Guo Shang from China, Vuelta a Espana runner-up Chris Froome from Kenya (before he took up British citizenship), 2008 U23 world champion Fabio Duarte from Colombia and GreenEdge African recruit Daniel Teklehaimanot from Eritrea. He helped setting up the African continental centre of Potchefstroom in South Africa before being assigned by the UCI to Asian duties.

    "Coaching Guo Shang at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha where she claimed two gold medals opened my eyes to the enormous potential of cycling in Asia," Duclos told Cyclingnews. As the Thai cycling federation asked Pat McQuaid to provide with a coach in order to prepare for the South East Asian Games in Laos in 2009, the UCI asked the Frenchman to take the temporary job but his tenure was extended after the two gold medals delivered by the women in road racing. "Thai cyclists improved quickly", Duclos noted. "It was...

  • BikeNZ open to changes to nationals format

    James Williamson (Pure Black Racing) wins the Elite Men’s race.
    Article published:
    February 28, 2012, 1:08 GMT
    By:
    Alex Hinds

    Organisation says 'ideal' situation would be for separated under 23 and elite men's road races

    New Zealand's national cycling federation BikeNZ has said it would consider changes to the format of the national championships, and particularly the road races, if the events could boast increased numbers. The elite and under 23 men's road race are currently not run separately because of insufficient partipants to make the running of two races worthwhile.

    "A separate under 23 race would be preferred if we could assure numbers," said BikeNZ Sport Manager Ross Bartlett to Cyclingnews.

    The 2012 championships saw the combined road race won by an under 23 rider, Michael Vink, in a course record time. Vink finished finished six seconds ahead of James Williamson, who as first elite rider was awarded the national title. Neither Vink nor Bartlett saw problems with this situation at the time as the rules are comminciated well in advance of the race start.

    "Under 23s would only be eligible for the elite title if there was no under 23 title at all," said Bartlett. "Once the under 23 title is registered with the UCI, all riders on an under 23 licence are ineligible for the elite title. They can upgrade to an elite licence, but cannot then revert back to U23 – so once they’re racing elite, that’s that. Put simply you can only win the grade for which you are licenced, and you cannot 'downgrade' your age once you have elected to step up."

    The event has similarities to the controversy that followed the 2006 Australian men's road race when Will Walker and Wesley Sulzberger finished ahead of Russel Van Hout, but were ineligible for the elite jersey. Walker was dismayed...

  • Genting Highlands means it's showtime for Crawford at Langkawi

    Too old to ride: Tasmanian Jai Crawford (Giant Asia) is unable to ride in the tour; Crawford isn't registered with the UCI and failed in his attempt to officials to allow him to race
    Article published:
    February 28, 2012, 3:13 GMT
    By:
    Jane Aubrey

    Australian climber chasing high result on GC

    Quite possibly one of the most gifted yet largely unsung talents of his generation, Jai Crawford's return to Le Tour de Langkawi this week in Malaysia marks another attempt at a breakthrough he's long desired.

    Crawford, racing for RTS-Racing (the carbon manufacturers acquired Giant-Kenda for the 2012 season) at least has a start in this year's Asian Tour opener having been informed before the opening stage in 2011 that he was ineligible to depart due to a registration issue.

    Speaking to Cyclingnews on the eve of the 2012 event, Crawford said it would be a positive just to get his back number on for the opening 20.3 kilometre time trial on Friday.

    "I've seen a lot of stuff happen in this sport, so you never know," he chuckled, showing he had not lost his sense of humour despite what must seem like an endless run of setbacks.

    After four stages, Crawford sits 3:05 back on the yellow jersey of David Zabriskie (Garmin-Barracuda) – a deficit that's well within his striking distance given the reshuffle that will take place on Wednesday's likely-decisive 6th stage to the Genting Highlands.

    The long and steep climb to the stage finish at 1679m is one that suits Crawford, who for the last five seasons has been mostly plying his trade on the Asian circuit – and shown his considerable tenacity on the peaks. Such performances have led to top five overall placings not only at Le Tour de Langkawi (2007, 2009), but also Jelajah Malaysia (2009), Tour de Korea (2009), Tour of East Java (2007), Tour of Japan (2008), Tour of Siam (2007) and Tour of the Philippines (2011). In 2010, riding for Fly V Australia, Crawford claimed the biggest win of his career, prevailing in an all-out battle against Levi Leipheimer for the finish line on the fifth and final stage of the Tour of...

  • Hushovd content with BMC's Roubaix reconnaissance

    Thor Hushovd (BMC) was dropped from the breakaway.
    Article published:
    February 28, 2012, 5:33 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Former world champion still getting used to new equipment

    BMC is leaving no stone unturned as it ramps up for its assault on the cobbled classics in March and April. The team conducted routine equipment testing and course reconnaissance on the roads of this year's Paris-Roubaix to put themselves in the best position for a successful spring.

    Former world road champion Thor Hushovd rode a combined total of more than 200 kilometers over the two days, fine tuning his set-up for the race, including tyre pressure, bar height, and various wheel sets.

    "For me, I was here to find out what I need and what the mechanics can make better for the Roubaix," Hushovd said. "I'm really happy and confident with all the testing we’ve done, and think we’ll be more than prepared come April."

    Hushovd counts among his four top 10 finishes at Paris-Roubaix a runner-up in 2010 and third place in 2009. The Norwegian was among the favourites for last year’s race but was heavily marked by his rivals, freeing up then teammate Johan Vansummeren to take the win.

    With BMC stacked with talent for the Grand Tours and Ardennes, Hushovd has placed even more emphasis on success on the cobblestones.

    John Lelangue added that it was also critical to get the testing done before the parcours become more crowded when spring racing gets fully underway.

  • Serpa continues sequence of Langkawi success

    Jose Serpa on the podium
    Article published:
    February 28, 2012, 10:43 GMT
    By:
    Jean-François Quénet

    Colombian now turns his attentions to Genting Highlands

    As he outsprinted new race leader Darren Lapthorne at the end of stage 5 in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Pandan Indah, José Serpa (Androni-Venezuela) remembered that his first victory at Le Tour de Langkawi also happened on a flat stage finish in Kuala Selangor only a few days after signing his first professional contract with Gianni Savio. “The day after, I won again but in totally different conditions at the top of Genting Highlands,” the 32-year-old Colombian recalled. “I hope to do it again tomorrow.”

    “I was in a chasing group and I saw the opportunity to jump on to the lone leader [Lapthorne],” Serpa explained. “It makes me very happy because it’s my first victory since I became a father of two last year. People know me as a climber but many forget that my background is actually the one of a track rider. That’s why I can be quite fast on such a flat finish. This is my seventh win in Malaysia.”

    Of these seven wins, three were collected at the top of Genting Highlands, where he is unbeaten so far (he won in 2006, 2007 and 2009 but the gruelling climb wasn’t on the route of the 2008 edition), three on the flat, as he also won solo with one kilometer to go from a breakaway group in stage 6 to Kuala Rompin on the East Coast in 2008. The seventh win is his overall title in 2009. He hadn’t returned to Le Tour de Langkawi since and he only did so this year because the Italian races where he performed last year (2nd in the Giro di Sardegna and winner of the Giro del Friuli) were cancelled, so his race program changed.

    Wednesday’s stage 6 to Genting Highlands will surprisingly put side by side for the first time the two most...

  • Voeckler: nine out of ten riders don't like me

    Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)
    Article published:
    February 28, 2012, 11:39 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Frenchman on jealousy and suspicion

    Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) may be the darling of the French public after his exploits at the Tour de France, but he has admitted that his riding style has won him few friends in the peloton over the years.

    The Frenchman made his first major impact in the summer of 2004, when victory at the national championships was followed by a lengthy spell in the yellow jersey at the Tour de France. While his pugnacious displays earned accolades aplenty in the home media, Voeckler soon detected a palpable degree of resentment among some of his peers.

    “For the last few years, I’ve been the most popular French rider, sort of the darling, and at the same time, nine riders out of ten in the peloton don’t like me,” Voeckler told L’Équipe. “I understood that very early on, from 2005. The previous year, I had worn the yellow jersey for ten days on the Tour de France, but they felt that from a sporting point of view, I didn’t merit all that interest.”

    In the years immediately after that initial breakthrough, Voeckler found that his aggressive brand of riding had put a number of noses out of joint in the peloton.

    “One day on the 2006 Tour, Tom Boonen, who was reigning world champion, was near the front, slowing things a little,” Voeckler said. “At the moment I launched my attack, he hit me hard on the back. I stopped, he yelled at me and I said to him: ‘You can shout if you like, but don’t touch me.’ I was the small French guy he could hit because I’m thirty centimetres smaller than him.

    “Whatever your palmares, nobody has the right to do that to a...