- Article published:
- January 6, 23:03
- Jean-François Quénet
No track world title defence in 2014
Australia's Michael Hepburn won't compete at the track world championship in Cali, Colombia between February 26 to March 2, preferring to get precious experience in the Classics with Orica-GreenEdge than further rainbow stripes and medals.
The 22-year-old Australian has won at least one rainbow jersey a year since he won the individual pursuit as a Junior in Moscow in 2009. But he won't defend his 2013 individual and team pursuit titles.
"The track is all about the Olympics," Hepburn told Cyclingnews at the Mitchelton Bay Classic Series.
"I'll focus 100% on the road this year. I've been a pro for two years but the track has taken a lot of time from my road racing. I've had successful World's but February is an important month for building a road season and I've been lacking consistency in the past two years."
Hepburn appeared fit and motivated ahead of the Australian championship where he will target a medal in the time trial event in Ballarat on Wednesday.
"I'm in a good condition but not at 100% yet," the powerful Queenslander said. He won the road title on the same course in his first race as an U23 four years ago at the age of just 18.
Tour of Qatar season debut
Rather than track duties for his country, Hepburn has the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman on his agenda after a team training camp with Orica-GreenEdge.
"I've always started my road seasons in March or April. This year I'll be doing the Classics in Belgium. I'm still young and these races take a lot of time to be good at but that’s an area I want to explore," he explained.
"I also intend to improve in time trials and we've got a lot of great sprinters in the team, so with Caleb [Ewan] coming as well [after the 2014 U23 road world championship], a lot of lead out will be needed."
2014 will a turning point in the history of the Orica-GreenEdge team as young guns like Hepburn are expected to full fill the shoes of Robbie McEwen, Stuart O’Grady, Baden Cooke and Allan Davis, who formed the core of the Australian WorldTour team two years ago.
"The team is totally different from what it was," Hepburn, who was one of the very first signings by team manager Shayne Bannan in 2011, pointed out.
"It's also quite different from the other teams. I think we have eight riders who aren't 23 yet. It's a really young group. A few spots have to be filled. I'll be doing more races this year and hopefully the results for the team will follow. I'd love to win a race but at this point, if my job for the team is done well and if I improve in a lot of areas during the season, it’ll be a good year for me."
- Article published:
- January 7, 00:15
- Cycling News
First outfit from Craft for Australian squad
Orica-GreenEdge and Orica-AIS unveiled their 2014 race kits at The Prince in St. Kilda on Tuesday. The men's and women's teams will debut the clothing, made in collaboration with Craft, the team's official race and casual wear partner, at the Cycling Australia Road National Championships from Wednesday.
"We're really pleased with the new kit and look forward to putting it into action at the Nationals this week and when we kick start our third season in the WorldTour at the Santos Tour Down Under," said Orica-GreenEdge General Manager Shayne Bannan. "We're excited to start a new season with a brand new look."
This will be first season that team kit and casual clothing will be provided by Craft as Santini was the initial clothing manufacturer for the team.
Simon Clarke was one of the GreenEdge riders to model the jersey and told Cyclingnews about the new kit. “Craft is definitely a step up for us. They have a great mentality of innovation and marginal gains and at the level we race at, marginal gains are so important. If we can get a little extra out of our performance in clothing and equipment it all goes toward the results we are trying to achieve," Clarke said.
"It's been a great collaboration with Craft to date," Bannan said. "We've already been able to benefit from their experience in developing state of the art technical clothing. This type of partnership is crucial for a team at this level. We're also pleased to have Craft as a casual clothing partner. This is great for both the riders and staff who work and ride in all sorts of weather conditions during the season."
2012 Australian national champion told Cyclingnews that the new kit would make the team stand out from their rival teams. "As a first impression I really like it. I think the colour schemes are a bit simpler that what we’ve had in the past and I think that will stand out really well in the peloton," he said.
"I haven’t worn it on the bike yet so we will see how it goes by the end of the week [at the Road Nationals].”
Craft Sport Marketing Manager Daniel Högling echoed Bannan's sentiments. He considers the long-term partnership between Craft and Australia's top rated teams as mutually advantageous.
"We're really happy to be the clothing partner for the ORICA-GreenEdge family," said Högling. "It's a partnership that focuses our ambition to develop a great looking and exceptionally fast cycling kit. We want the team to have the access to the best clothing on the market, and we want them to win races wearing our kit."
"Small advantages can make a big difference, and we will constantly pursue those advantages as we work closely with the team," Högling continued. "It's also important to us that the riders and staff look great and feel good – on and off the bike. With the new kit, I think we're off to a solid start."
- Article published:
- January 7, 01:36
- Cycling News
New riders and sponsors for the team in search of more success
In just two years African Wildlife Safaris Cycling Team (AWSCT) has grown from a concept to one of the best equipped and performing cycling teams in Australia’s domestic competition. 2014 is looking to be the biggest season yet for AWSCT who are set to take on the full National Road Series (NRS) calendar and potentially more as the team is awaiting confirmation of its application to register as a UCI Continental Team.
Success would allow the team to compete in the Jayco Herald-Sun Tour and other UCI 2.1 events this year. Driven by a charter to develop young riders and to contribute to society beyond racing, a longer racing calendar, strengthened roster and new committed industry partners is hoped to provide the opportunities for achieving these aims.
"It's with committed and passionate backers like African Wildlife Safaris CEO Stephen Cameron and progressive cycling industry heavyweights that cycling in Australia can thrive and strive to produce the next generation of professional racers," team manager and co-founder Steven Waite said.
The 13-man 2014 AWSCT roster includes eight riders from 2013, Jeremy Cameron, Rhys Gillett, Jarryd Jones, Daniel Nelson, Zachary Quinn, James Rendall, Tyler Spurrell and Darcy Woolley. The five new signings for the team, Trevor Spencer, Jason Spencer, Nathan Elliot, Shaun O'Callaghan and Kyle Thompson, all join with the aim to build on the family-like bond and efficiency amongst the team which culminated in success in 2013.
Over 50 global candidates applied for a 2014 berth, a sign of the progression of the NRS and the developing status of the AWSCT.
Sports Director Joel Pearson welcomed the new signings as complementing the existing roster while adding depth and quality. "Jason and Trevor Spencer are proven race winners and both have an attacking style of racing and GC potential. Nathan Elliot is a quiet guy who has one of the biggest engines going around proven in the recent Grafton-Inverell where he finished in third place," Pearson said.
"Shaun O'Callaghan joined us as a result of our end of year training and selection camp and despite his quiet manner will turn some heads this year. These four will complement Rhys Gillett who has proven in 2013 he can win on the NRS circuit, building a very competitive climbing GC team."
Confirming AWSCT's commitment to the development of young riders is the addition of final signing, talented 18-year-old Kyle Thompson ensuring that over 60% of the roster are under 23-years-of-age.
AWSCT continues its commitment to safety with naming sponsor African Wildlife Safaris extending its long relationship with charity partner, The Amy Gillett Foundation, to ensure a safe environment for all cyclists.
Having ridden on Giant bicycles in 2013, AWSCT has also announced new a partnership with Cannondale Bicycles who are returning domestically to sponsorship after a three year absence.
Team bikes for 2014 will feature the best in SRAM group sets, Enve Composites wheels, CeramicSpeed bearings, PowerTap GPS computers, Lezyne accessories, Fi’zi:k saddles and, Fi’zi:k components due to heavy sponsorship from leading cycling industry organisation Monza Imports Australia.
CylceOps trainers, Drift Innovations Professional HD Action Camera and Fi’zi:k shoes have also joined the sponsor list for 2014 while Sportful Custom Cycle Clothing, Powerbar and Musashi continue their support of the team.
The team kicked off 2014 at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic in Geelong and will next be seen at Cycling Australia National Road Championships in Ballarat. The full racing schedule for 2014 will depend on its application for a UCI Continental licence.
- Article published:
- January 7, 01:59
- Cycling News
FDJ and Astana also confirm riders for season opener
Three more rosters have been confirmed for the 2014 Santos Tour Down Under with Tinkoff-Saxo, FDJ.fr and Astana announcing their teams for the first WorldTour race of the year. Danish dual Grand Tour stage winner Nicki Sorensen will headline the seven-man Tinkoff-Saxo roster in his fourth appearance at the race. The Tour Down Under will be the debut for Tinkoff-Saxo who were previously known as Saxo-Tinkoff.
Tour Down Under Race Director Mike Turtur said cycling fans can expect a strong performance from the Danish team."Tinkoff-Saxo is bringing an exciting roster to the Tour Down Under and Australia will be well represented with Jay McCarthy and Rory Sutherland," Turtur said.
"Aussie cyclists are always the crowd favourites here in Adelaide so it is fantastic to see McCarthy and Sutherland returning to the race."
The Tinkoff-Saxo team competing at the 2014 Santos Tour Down Under, led by manager Guidi Fabrizio, includes: Nicki Sorensen, Jay McCarthy, Michael Andersen, Nicolay Trusov, Christopher Juul Jensen, Michael Kolar and Rory Sutherland.
FDJ.fr pinning hopes on Veikkanen
Finnish national road race champion, Jussi Veikkanen, returns to Adelaide with FDJ.fr hoping to improve upon his tenth place overall in 2013. Veikkanen will be a strong contender for the Ochre Jersey and Turtur believes he will have good support from his experienced French teammates.
"FDJ.fr always bring a competitive team to the Tour Down Under and this the year their focus will be on supporting Veikkanen in his bid for the Ochre Jersey," Turtur said.
FDJ.fr will make their ninth appearance at the Tour Down Under in 2014. Yvon Madiot will lead the team from the car throughout the race which includes the following riders: William Bonnet, Arnaud Corteille, Kenny Elissonde, Pierre-Henri Lecuisinier, Anthony Roux, Geoffrey Soupe and Jussi Veikkanen.
Westra to lead Astana
Dutch National Time Trial Champion Lieuwe Westra will make his debut for Astana in his first appearance at the Tour Down Under. The winner of stage one at the 2013 Amgen Tour of California, Westra will be backed by his Kazakh team and Turtur said the team will be looking for a good result to kick off the 2014 season.
"Astana is bringing a solid roster to Adelaide and Lieuwe Westra is an experienced addition to the seven-man team," Turtur said. "Westra had a brilliant season with the stage win at the Amgen Tour of California before going on to win the time trial at the Dutch National Championships.
"As the first WorldTour event of the season the Santos Tour Down Under is an important race for all teams and with the calibre of cyclists we are attracting, it is getting bigger and better every year," said Turtur.
Astana Director Sportif, Stefano Zanini will manage the team once again at the Santos Tour Down Under. "We are coming to the Tour Down Under with Gavazzi and Gasparotto to work for stages, and we are pleased to bring Dutch National time trial champion Lieuwe Westra to Australia for his first race in Astana kit."
The roster announced today also includes 2012 Amstel Gold Race winner Enrico Gasparotto and Tour of Beijing stage winner Francesco Gavazzi as well as fellow Italians Valerio Agnoli and Jacopo Guarnieri.
The Astana team competing at the 2014 Santos Tour Down Under led by manager Stefano Zanini includes: Enrico Gasparotto, Andriy Grivko, Francesco Gavazzi, Lieuwe Westra, Evan Huffman, Valerio Agnoli and Jacopo Guarnieri.
- Article published:
- January 7, 10:43
- Alasdair Fotheringham
Valverde: “There’s talk of a crisis, but other riders will come through"
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has played down fears that Spain’s big drop in representation in the 2014 UCI WorldTour will lead to one of cycling’s top nations suffering a large scale decrease in its relevance in the sport.
Compared with 2013, Spain has dropped from 55 to 33 riders in the WorldTour, the most significant decrease for any nation, while the average age of Spanish WorldTour pros is 30.5, the highest of any country. Valverde, Alberto Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez are all in their thirties, as is Samuel Sanchez, the former Olympic road-race winner who is yet to find a team for 2014.
Speaking to sports daily AS, Valverde pointed out that the “disappearance of Euskaltel-Euskadi has left a lot of riders out of the WorldTour,” but predicted a new wave of Spanish riders would soon begin to make their mark.
“There’s talk of a crisis, but we should expect more new riders to come through. I’ve been lucky enough to belong to a generation of Spanish riders that will be very hard to see again [in terms of their success].
“But there are new riders, coming through. Like Rubén Fernández, winner of the  Tour de L’Avenir. I hope Movistar sign him.”
While Euskaltel-Euskadi’s disappearance has hit Spanish cycling hard, leaving Movistar as the only WorldTour team, the delay in the arrival of the new Fernando Alonso-backed squad from 2014 to 2015 has also had an impact.
However, it remains to be seen whether the Formula 1 star’s new cycling squad, which presumably will have a large percentage of Spanish riders, actually starts life in the WorldTour or as a ProContinental squad. Meanwhile Spain will have to rely on Valverde – who used the AS interview to point out he has yet to decide if he races the Tour or not – and its other more veteran stars.
Internationally, France now rules the WorldTour roost in terms of representation, with 78 riders compared to 53 in 2013, thanks in no small part to Europcar’s promotion to the top flight. Italy has the second most WorldTour riders (down three to 65), followed by Belgium (down seven to 47). Of the top ten nations, only France and Great Britain – with 16 riders, one more pro than in 2013 – have increased their WorldTour representation.
- Article published:
- January 7, 12:36
- Cycling News
One day removed from race schedule
The Tour Méditerranéen organisers have announced the 20 teams that will take part in this year’s race.
Defending champions IAM cycling will return to the race. Thomas Löfkvist finished on the same time as AG2R’s Jean-Christophe Peraud, but was awarded victory after he finished ahead of the Frenchman on the final stage.
AG2R-La Mondiale will also be present on the start line, with six other WorldTour teams. French teams, FDJ and Europcar will line-up alongside BMC, Argos-Shimano, Trek Factory Racing and Katusha. The number of WorldTour teams has dropped from eleven last year and nine the year before that.
In addition to IAM, there will be seven more Pro Continental teams. Cofidis, Bretagne-Séché Environment, CCC Polsat, Androni Giocattoli and Colombia make their return to the event. With Bardiani CSF and Caja Rural making their debut in the race.
The drop in top-level teams means that there is more space for the Continental teams, of which there is five. Raleigh, Wallonie Bruxelles and Roubaix-Lille Metropole get the nod with La Pomme Marseille and Big-Mat Auber 93.
This year’s race begins a week later and with one day less than last year on February 13, in Angles sur Mer and finishes on the 16th, in Toulon. There will still be five stages with a 63km open road stage and a time trial on the penultimate day. The finish on Mont Faron has been moved to the final day, leaving it all to play for in the general classification.
Tour Méditerranéen 2014 stages:
Stage 1 – Thursday 13 February: Argeles sur Mer – Montagnac, 196.3km
Stage 2 – Friday 14 February: Cadolive – Rousset, 170.6km
Stage 3 – Saturday 15 February: Lambesc – St Remy de Provence, 63km
Stage 4 – Saturday 15 February: St Remy de Provence - St Remy de Provence (ITT), 18.2km
Stage 5 – Sunday 16 February: Bendol – Toulon (Mont Faron), 192.7km
- Article published:
- January 7, 13:17
- Stephen Farrand
Former world champion explains why he resigned as Italian coach
Paolo Bettini is in Madrid on Tuesday, ready to begin a new chapter of his career in professional cycling. After a successful racing career that included two world titles and a haul of major Classic victories, followed by four years as Italian national coach, Bettini is expected to be given a key role in the creation of Fernando Alonso's new team, which will debut in 2015.
Bettini has refused to give away any details on the new project but is expected to become a team manager, responsible for the technical and performance aspects of the team. It seems Alonso was impressed with the way Bettini ran the Italian national team and offered the Tuscan an opportunity that was too good to turn down.
"It all happened really quickly. We'd talked a little bit but it all happened and came to life between December and Christmas. It felt like a great train was passing by and so I decided to jump on it," Bettini tells Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview.
Bettini will be 40 on April 1 and six years after retiring from racing, he feels ready to make a comeback to day-to-day life at the top level.
"I've always made important decision about my career after speaking to my family," Bettini explained.
"I'm going to be very busy and I’ll be back on the road but after plenty of time at home, my wife and I agreed it was time to do something new. I'll be 40 in the spring and the idea that I'm getting 'old' in some way made me want to get going again and take on a new challenge.
"I feel like I'm making a comeback in the peloton in some kind of way or preparing for a new world championships. We'll be starting from scratch and building something special. It's an innovative, ambitious project. That's what convinced me to accept the role, to roll up my sleeves and jump back into the world of professional cycling full time."
A new era for professional cycling
Bettini feels professional cycling is on the cusp of a new era. An era that is somehow shaking off the doping problems of the past and attracting new sponsors, new team owners and managers, and, more importantly, new fans and new cyclists.
"It's good that there's the new Alonso project, that a businessman like Oleg Tinkov has bought Bjarne Riis' team, that Sky has invested so well and so heavily in cycling. We've also got new leadership at the UCI. Cycling is in a good place as the global economy recovers," he points out.
"If people and companies are getting on board and still love cycling despite everything that has happened, it proves that cycling will always be strong and confirms that the worst is behind us. I think the sport will grow rapidly in the future."
Learning from the mistakes of the past
Bettini raced as a professional from 1997 to 2008, winning major Classics and world titles almost every season between 2000 and 2008. He was never linked to any major doping scandals but raced during one of the darkest decades of the sport.
Alonso has talked of his team being built on a foundation of transparency and zero tolerance to doping. It is unclear if the team will take a rigid stance like Team Sky and insist riders and staff sign a letter declaring they were never involved in doping. Bettini prefers to look to the future and defends the right of the likes of Bjarne Riis and David Millar to stay in the spot and play a positive role rather than be ostracized.
"We've got to look to the future but also learn from the mistakes of past. I think cycling is doing that. I don’t know what kind of Truth and Reconciliation process will be done by the UCI but we've got to move forward," he said.
"It's difficult to find a perfectly fair solution because each case is complex and different in many ways.
“Riis confessed to doping and offered to give back his yellow jersey. That was a big step for him. He's a team manager now and has built a great team over the years. Millar confessed, served his ban and is back racing and is a great advocate for the sport. I think they're both doing their best for the good of cycling now. Why shouldn't they both be allowed to play a role in building a better cycling?"
Bettini is not sure if Lance Armstrong should also be given similar treatment, however.
"It's difficult to judge Lance but perhaps his situation is more complex," Bettini said. "I don’t want to judge his case. We never raced much together but he was very arrogant in the peloton. I don’t want to say anything else because it’s a complex subject and it's out of our control."
No regrets as Italian coach
Bettini has quickly been replaced by Davide Cassani as the Italian national coach, with just a brief statement from the Italian president Renato Di Rocco thanking him for his four years in charge of the Azzurri.
With a new project capturing his attention, he has no interest in criticising Di Rocco, despite rumours of tension between them and the lack of a long-term strategy for the Italian national teams.
"I've got to thank the Italian Federation and the Italian president Renato Di Rocco. They trusted me after the tragic death of Franco Ballerini and gave me a chance," Bettini said, turning the other cheek.
"I've learnt a lot while working with the Italian Federation. It's not easy to manage a team that doesn't exist for the rest of the season. I tried to do my best even if the results perhaps don’t reflect the good work we did. I could have done better in certain moments but we went close to winning medals several times with Pozzato in 2010, with Pinotti in the time trial in 2012, and in 2013 at home in Florence.
There was a lot of pressure on us but we had a really united team and if Nibali and Paolini hadn't crashed, things would have been very different."
The woes of Italian cycling
Bettini has abandoned Italian cycling for a more international project with Alonso. Many of the best Italian riders and staff have already made similar moves, leaving Italian cycling poorer than ever before. One of cycling's great nations now lacks the vision and funding to compete successfully in the WorldTour.
"Italian cycling is suffering financially but it's not only a financial problem. It's about plans and projects not being activated and implemented," Bettini said.
"Unfortunately some of the traditionally strong cycling nations have sat on their laurels and the success of the past. The new cycling countries like Great Britain, Australia and the others have overtaken us. We've known and talked about the problem for five or six years but we still haven't done anything. That's why other nations have overtaken us. We're perhaps slowly changing now but we've got a lot of catching up to do."
Bettini revealed that he tried to do his bit but has now thrown in the towel, giving up the prestigious but frustrating role of Italian national coach to play a key role in Alonso new team.
"Last March I presented a four-year project for Italian cycling that covered the Rio 2016 Olympics. I knew that money was tight in the Federation but it was based on ideas rather than big budgets," he explained with a hint of sarcasm and satisfied irony.
"I expected that I'd be offered a four year-contract to carry out the plan. It didn’t happen and I was given a one-year contract. Now I can only thank the Italian Federation, because if I'd been under contract perhaps I wouldn't have been able to accept the huge chance I've been given now."
- Article published:
- January 7, 14:50
- Barry Ryan
Italian on Lampre impasse and landing on his feet at Astana
A year ago, his reputation was so toxic that he was barred from participating in the Lampre-Merida team’s official photo shoot, but on Wednesday, Michele Scarponi will take centre stage in Brescia as the 2014 Astana team is presented to the world. It’s a funny old game, cycling.
After serving a three-month ban in late 2012 for his links to Dr. Michele Ferrari, Lampre continued to withhold Scarponi from racing and training camps once the 2013 season began, at the apparent behest of new bike supplier Merida.
Scarponi insisted that his relationship with Ferrari had been limited to just two days of testing in September 2010, although when handing down his sanction, the Italian Olympic Committee made a point of stressing that it would revisit the case if further details were to emerge from the ongoing Padova-based doping inquiry.
In spite of that apparent sword of Damocles, however, an agreement was eventually brokered with Lampre that saw Scarponi return to action by late February. He would go on to finish the Giro d’Italia in 4th place overall, represent Italy at the world championships and, by year’s end, secure a deal with Astana that will see him lead their squad at the Giro and flank Vincenzo Nibali at the Tour de France.
“Let’s say that it was quite a cold winter, but when I sat down and spoke with the management, we resolved everything,” Scarponi told Cyclingnews recently of the impasse at Lampre at the beginning of 2013.
“It was one of those moments. Once I got back racing, there was no problem at all with the team, and I just looked to do my season as normal. Then my contract was expiring at the end of the year, so I decided to change teams.”
A decade before USADA’s Lance Armstrong investigation, the Italian Cycling Federation had already banned Michele Ferrari for life in 2002 and prohibited its riders from frequenting him. Along with Filippo Pozzato and Giovanni Visconti, Scarponi was one of three riders to be handed a three-month ban in 2012 for availing of Ferrari’s services, but he maintains that their working relationship was limited to just one test on the Monzuno climb near Bologna in September, 2010, when he raced for Androni Giocattoli.
“I don’t like having to talk about these things all the time. Clearly, from my point of view, it was extremely unfair because I only saw him once for a test. To say that I ‘frequented’ him is a bit much. I was given a suspension, I accepted it and basta. It ended there,” said Scarponi, who did little to hide his displeasure at revisiting the matter.
“You’re still asking these questions and it’s something from the past. I repeat: my story was blown out of proportion and I suffered the consequences. For this reason, I don’t even like talking about it. I saw him once, if that, and I paid for it with a three-month suspension. Enough. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”
Scarponi’s insistence that he was not trained by Ferrari over an extended period of time is not supported by the police phone tap quoted by Gazzetta dello Sport in October 2012, however, in which the two appear to speak in considerable - and damning - detail about his 2010 preparation.
Even if one takes Scarponi at his word, it is still immensely difficult to comprehend why a rider who had already served a suspension for blood doping under the supervision of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes would then turn to Michele Ferrari, of all people, for supposedly routine physiological testing.
“I understand the question. Do I have to answer this? I'm thinking about how to respond,” Scarponi said. After a pause, he added: “I never thought that going to see him one time would have brought all of this on top of me. I didn’t think I’d done such a serious thing. Clearly if I could go back, I wouldn’t do it.”
Asked if he felt it was unfair that only three riders (as well as the retired Leonardo Bertagnolli, already suspended for biological passport violations) had been slapped on the wrist for their links to Ferrari, Scarponi said: “I think it’s unfair that you keep asking me these questions. Honestly. I saw him once and this is a new adventure. I think I’ve put it all behind me and basta.”
Scarponi was speaking at his first full training camp with his new team, where, perhaps ironically, his role will be all the more prominent following the collapse of the proposed transfer of Franco Pellizotti from Androni-Venezuela due to Astana’s adherence to Movement for Credible Cycling policy. Signed primarily to support Nibali at the Tour, Scarponi is also set to lead the line at the Giro alongside Fabio Aru.
“It won’t be easy to do both things, but I do think it’s possible to ride the Giro for a good overall finish and then go on to help Vincenzo at the Tour,” Scarponi said of his dual role.
Scarponi has ridden only two Tours during his career and only once (2012) has he raced both the Giro and Tour in the same season. Combining the two in 2014 will pose a conundrum. “It’s never simple. There’s no magic formula, let me put it that way,” he said.
“I’ll look to find an excellent state of form for the Giro. In June, I’ll try to recover my strength a bit and then go to train at altitude with the Tour team. I think that just being in a new team and having a new role at the Tour de France will motivate me a lot.”
Scarponi begins his 2014 campaign with Nibali in Argentina later this month at the Tour de San Luis, and his pre-Giro programme will include the Ruta del Sol, Tirreno-Adriatico and Giro del Trentino. “The level will be very high at the Giro and it’s not going to be easy,” he said. “But then, I’ve been up there with the best of them at the Giro for years, and it’s a race that always gives me a rush of adrenalin when I line up.”
At 34 years of age, Scarponi now has twelve years as a professional behind him, which include 18 months of combined suspensions from Operacion Puerto and his Ferrari links. This time last year, Scarponi's days in the peloton seemed numbered, but after landing on his feet at Astana, the Filottrano native has no plans to call time on his career for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t know. I’ve signed for a year with Astana, with Vinokourov’s team,” he said. “I’ll give everything to repay their faith in me. I hope I can show up to the level of the team and maybe stay on for a few more years.”