- Article published:
- February 28, 2011, 09:54
- Cycling News
Looks to become one of the eldest to win the race
Cadel Evans is looking to become the oldest man since 1923 to win the Tour de France, and BMC Racing Team sport director John Lelangue is giving him an easy run-up to the race. But not because of his “advanced” age of 34. “I would do the same for a guy if he was 28.”
The plan is for Evans to have only 32 to 35 days of racing in his legs by the time he starts the Tour on July 2. "The start of the season is a really light program so he's fresh when he gets to the Tour de France,” Lelangue told Australian newspaper The Advertiser.
"The most important thing is he comes to the Tour de France with a lot of energy."
Evans turned 34 on Valentine's Day. The oldest winner of the Tour was Firmin Lambot, who won it at age 36 in 1922. The next year Henri Pellisar won at the age of 34 years and six months. In comparison, Lance Armstrong (2005) and Carlos Sastre (2008) were both 33 when they won.
Lelangue does not see Evans as slowing down in old age. “He's like a good bottle of wine. Cadel is always motivated and in perfect shape, so expect to see him at this level for a couple of years.”
After attending the team training camp in January, Evans has trained on his own at his home in Switzerland. His first race will be this week, the Giro di Friuli in Italy on March 3. He will then take on such races as the Tour of Catalunya and the Tour de Romandie, before altitude training in May and the Criterium du Dauphine in June.
Evans will be supported by a number of new teammates this year, including Amael Moinard and Ivan Santaromita in the mountains, and Manuel Quinziato and Greg Van Avermaet. The 2009 World Champion will “always be surrounded by a really strong team,” Lelangue said.
Veteran American George Hincapie will also be there for his Australian teammate. Hincapie will first focus on the Spring Classics, but afterwards “all my focus will go into helping Cadel at least make the podium of the Tour de France," he told SBS.
"I think Cadel has a great shot this year. Last year he was fit from January to October. I'm excited to see him start up a bit later this year and really focusing on the Tour de France which will allow him to arrive fresh and 100 per cent fit."
- Article published:
- February 28, 2011, 10:11
- Barry Ryan
Italian welcomes Contador's return
While Ivan Basso’s (Liquigas-Cannondale) season will be judged largely on his performance at the Tour de France, the Italian has started his campaign on a positive note. After a strong showing at the Trofeo Laigueglia last week, Basso took victory at Sunday’s GP di Lugano, the first time in a decade that he has won in February.
“[The last time] was 14 February 2001,” Basso told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I won a stage of the Tour Méditerranéen on Mont Faron.”
Basso was a young professional with Giancarlo Ferretti’s Fasso Bortolo outfit at the time, and a lot of water has passed under the bridge in the intervening ten years. While he counts two Giri d’Italia on his palmares, Basso also served a suspension in 2007 and 2008 for what he termed as “attempted doping,” when his links with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes' blood doping programme were uncovered during Operacion Puerto.
The Italian is adamant, however, that his victory in last year’s Giro marked a turning point in his career and he indirectly credits it for his strong opening to this season. He also admitted that after a quiet start twelve months ago, he was keen to be competitive from the off in 2011.
“Winning the Giro in 2010 was fundamental in giving me back awareness,” he explained. “And then the birth of my third child was the icing on the cake.
“I just wanted to be sharper in the spring because I didn’t like how I was going this time last year. I’m not saying that a champion should always be able to win, but he should always be convincing. I need to be in the thick of the racing, a protagonist.”
Indeed, the entire Liquigas-Cannondale team have collectively been among the most impressive performers of the season so far. Peter Sagan was indomitable at the Giro di Sardegna, where Vincenzo Nibali and Daniel Oss were also prominent at the head of the peloton. Basso puts their good form down to a recent two-week training camp in Tenerife.
“The two weeks at Teide were very important,” Basso said. “All of Liquigas is in great form.”
Next up on Basso’s agenda are Tirreno-Adriatico, the Volta a Catalunya and the Tour of the Basque Country. He has earmarked Catalunya’s summit finish at Andorra as one of the most important test sites of his spring preparation, as it offers him a chance to measure himself against Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) in what he calls their “first, true and anticipated duel.”
Contador recently returned to competitive action without sanction in spite of testing positive for Clenbuterol at the Tour de France. The Spaniard’s comeback has been hugely contentious and prompted widespread questioning of the Spanish Federation’s disciplinary procedures, but Basso has nonetheless declared himself pleased that Contador is back in the fold.
“I’m happy that Alberto will also be there, he’s a rider that I admire a lot,” Basso said. “At the 2010 Tour he gave me a KO in the first round. I’m ready to begin again. Certainly Contador is Contador, and when he attacks it hurts, but this time I won’t start beaten."
- Article published:
- February 28, 2011, 12:38
- Barry Ryan
Frenchman will not curb attacking instincts
Yoann Offredo (FDJ) has admitted that in spite of his fine fourth place at Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, he still harbours doubts about his ability to be in the mix with the best riders come April.
The Frenchman showed sustained flashes of his potential in the Classics last year, including a fine display at Milan-San Remo, and he explained that he puts himself under considerable pressure to perform at the sport’s major rendezvous.
“I was so nervous [before the start of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad], that I was on the point of crying,” Offredo told L’Équipe. “In all the big objectives that I give myself, I have the impression of playing for my life, of having a knife against my throat.
“It’ll be the same at the start of Milan-San Remo, I’m going to s**t myself.”
In spite of his confident showings on the bike, the 24-year-old Offredo is seemingly plagued by uncertainties off of it, and he confessed that his high finish on Saturday has done little to allay his fears.
“I’ve so little confidence in myself that I can’t enjoy this fourth place,” he explained. “I read and hear everywhere that Nieuwsblad isn’t the Tour of Flanders, that the best riders don’t take it full-on, that the rain and the cold created unpredictable racing conditions. All of these comments end up making me doubt and think that deep down maybe I benefited from favourable circumstances.”
Offredo is nonetheless aware that with his growing string of impressive performances in big races, he is earning his place at cycling’s top table.
“Last year, I gave Hushovd a push at the foot of the Taaienberg, thinking that I would gain his sympathy, but the big riders never give you anything,” he said. “It’s by pedalling that you gain respect, by treating them as equals. And I think that now I have won my place near them.”
Offredo also explained that curbing his attacking instincts in the finale of the Omloop would not have seen him improve on his final placing of fourth behind winner Sebastiaan Langeweld (Rabobank). The Frenchman was very aggressive in the final 50km of the Flemish race but insisted that riding to conserve energy would not have altered the final outcome.
“I could have avoided accelerating on the Taaienberg but that’s where Boonen had set the race alight last year and I thought that he’d do the same thing,” Offredo said. “So I joined him to get into the race, to free myself of my own tension. I don’t think I’d win by being more cautious. If I didn’t attack on the Mate, I would have stayed with Gilbert. All told, I prefer to follow my instincts and be a player in a race rather than let it happen to me.”
Offredo is also one of the few riders to publicly admit that he would be as happy to race without a radio earpiece, provided that race organisers can offer guarantees on the safety of their events.
“We’re in a period where races are boring, stereotypical, even on television, with breaks being systematically brought back four kilometres from the line,” he said. “So I don’t want earpieces to kill cycling.
“The organisers need to ensure good conditions in terms of security and information, and give cycling back its uncertainty and give it back to the opportunists, like Gilbert, and like me.”
- Article published:
- February 28, 2011, 13:32
- Cycling News
Australian coming back from head injuries from January crash
Amber Halliday is still recovering from a race crash which left her in critical condition. The Australian has recently made a major step forward in her recovery and expects to be released from hospital in a few more weeks.
The 31-year-old crashed on January 18 in the Rendition Homes-Santos Women's Cup race in Adelaide. She touched wheels with another rider and lost consciousness when she hit her head. She suffered from bleeding and bruising of the brain as well as facial fractures.
Even though she regained consciousness from her coma, she was not really aware of everything that has gone on in the last five weeks. But last week she turned the corner and is now aware again.
"I feel like it's taken me this long to wake up," she told Adelaidenow.au. "I've been fully conscious for a while, but I feel like I've only woken up in the last few days.
"It changes every day, how clear everything is. I don't get that drunk feeling like I used to. I just used to feel like I was drunk all the time or tipsy. I slurred my speech, stumbled and couldn't remember things, which still happens a little.
"I thought I was dreaming up until about a week ago, and it was only because I noticed that I was waking up in the same spot, that I thought `maybe this is real'."
Halliday has only the vaguest memories of the day of the crash, and none of the crash itself.
She is now in the midst of extensive therapy, and is convinced she will again be healthy. "I still lack confidence, but I have more faith that in the end I'll get there," she said. "I'll be what I used to be. Maybe not elite athlete Amber but I'll get back to full health which is the most important thing."
Although her brain functions are improving, she still has physical problems. Her whole left side is weak, and she needs further surgery on her left side. The biggest problem is her left eye. She has been unable to open it since the accident due to nerve damage and it may be another year before she is able to do so.
- Article published:
- February 28, 2011, 14:11
- Pete Cossins
‘El Bufalo’ set to roam again in Colombia with Botero
Just five months after confirming his retirement from the sport at the end-of-season criterium in his home city of Valencia, José Enrique Gutiérrez is back in training and set to return to racing with the Colombian Gobernación de Antioquía team.
Gutiérrez, who finished second in the 2006 Giro d’Italia riding for Phonak, but then saw his career peter out after he was severely compromised in the Operación Puerto blood doping investigation, was contacted late last year by the Colombian team’s manager, Santiago Botero. The two men spent five seasons racing together at Kelme and then another two at Phonak.
Speaking to Spanish newspaper Meta2Mil, the 36-year-old Gutiérrez admitted that he had keen to return to the sport, but as a director rather than a rider. But in mid-December he got a call from Botero asking him to come to Colombia to act as mentor to the young riders on the Antioquía squad alongside another ex-Kelme rider, Oscar Sevilla.
“Botero told me that he had signed Sergio Luis Henao, winner of the 2010 Tour of Colombia, and that they wanted to repeat that success in 2011. They needed a rider alongside him with lots of experience to help him through the good and bad moments,” said Gutiérrez, nicknamed ‘El Búfalo’ due to his solid and powerful build.
“At first I told him that I couldn’t accept, that I hadn’t trained during 2010 and I didn’t fancy spending the whole year in Colombia because I’ve got a family and it would be difficult for me to be so far from home for so long. But he made me a good offer and told me that they would need me only for certain specific races.”
Gutiérrez said that the difficult economic situation in Spain had played part in his decision to take up the offer. “It’s not easy to earn a good salary currently. I’ve been leading spinning classes in a gym for three to five hours a day, and this has enabled me to maintain muscle tone. But from a financial point of view it doesn’t compare with what a pro cyclist earns.”
Gutiérrez headed to Colombia last week (February 22) for the team’s presentation. He’s not expecting to shine after more than a year out of racing and in Colombia’s high altitudes, but says he happy to be back. “I’ve been out of racing for a year and that’s shown me how tough it is outside the sport, so I’m determined to take advantage of this opportunity.”
- Article published:
- February 28, 2011, 16:17
- Barry Ryan
Quick Step leader glad to have Belgium's opening weekend behind him
Tom Boonen (Quick Step) has lamented that he was a marked man in both the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, but reiterated that he would rather win in April than in February.
“It mustn’t be forgotten that our true objectives are later in the year,” Boonen told La Dernière Heure. “But it’s always the same thing. If I move a finger, I have half the peloton on my back watching me, while lads like Langevald or Flecha can escape without even really attacking, just by accelerating a little.”
Ultimately, however, Boonen was philosophical about the close attention he received from his peers and explained that getting used to racing on the cobbles again is more important than winning on the opening weekend of the Belgian season.
“It’s my lot and I have to accept it,” he said. “This first false step in Belgium won’t stop me from sleeping. I always have the same sensation during this Belgian overture. I’m happy to take part in it, to get a feel again for the kind of race that I like. But at the same time, I’m always happy when this weekend is behind me.”
Boonen made a surprise attack in the finale of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne rather than playing his hand in the sprint, while he was one of the main aggressors on the Taaienberg during Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but suffered from a relative lack of collaborators.
“I thought my acceleration on the Taaienberg would provoke a reaction from some riders and cause a first selection,” Boonen said. “But nobody followed up and I soon understood that there was no point in persisting.”
Boonen’s next major rendezvous will come at Tirreno-Adriatico (March 9-15), as he fine-tunes his preparation for Milan-San Remo.
- Article published:
- February 28, 2011, 20:23
- Barry Ryan
Norwegian glad to avoid Oude Kwaremont chaos
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) enjoyed a switch in roles in the finale of Sunday’s Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. So often the beneficiary of a Team Sky lead-out, the talented Norwegian instead opened the sprint for his teammate Chris Sutton, as he realised he lacked the sharpness to take the win himself after his exertions in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad the previous day.
“It’s nice to give something back,” Boasson Hagen told procycling.no. “Sutton and the rest of the team have worked for me so many times before. It’s great that he got the win.”
Sky’s black jerseys were prominent on the run-in to Kuurne, as they massed on the front to shut down a dangerous move from Tom Boonen (Quick Step). In the finishing straight, it was then up to Boasson Hagen to marshal his teammate Sutton to victory.
“Ian Stannard and Juan Antonio Flecha drove for about a kilometre each before I took over,” Boasson Hagen explained. “I opened the sprint with 500 metres left and led out until 150 metres from the line. Sutton took over in the final metres and it was great to take the lead in such a controlled sprint.”
While the finale ran smoothly for Sky and Boasson Hagen, the Norwegian admitted that he was fortunate to avoid the crash that marked the race’s passage over the Oude Kwaremont. He managed to avoid that carnage that ended the aspirations of a number of riders, including Stijn Devolder (Vacansoleil).
“I was the last one who came through unscathed, before the whole road was blocked,” Boasson Hagen. “There were riders everywhere. I was really lucky because when I turned around it was hectic behind me. I’d think about half the field was caught up in it.”
Boasson Hagen’s next competitive outing will come at Tirreno-Adriatico, as he builds towards Milan-San Remo. After a solid second place at the Tour of Oman, he is confident that he can convert his form into victories in the weeks ahead.
“I feel good in terms of where we are in the season,” he said. “I have a fairly free role on the team, so if I see a chance, I take it. It’s about finding the right moment.”
- Article published:
- February 28, 2011, 23:35
- Kirsten Frattini
UCI Continental team to announce co-title sponsor this week
US-based UCI Continental team Kenda p/b Geargrinder kicked off its season at a training camp held in the warm and sunny south-east climate of Clermont, Florida. Ben Day, the team's newest addition, led a 17-man roster through some 600 miles of training during the nine-day camp that concluded on Sunday.
"The camp was to unite the roster and to get the guys to bond a little bit," said the team's general manager, Chad Thompson. "We wanted to see where our weaker areas and our stronger areas were so that we could work on those before our big start at the Amgen Tour of California.
"We also distributed equipment and got the guys fitted on their bikes," he continued. "We had lots of team bonding; every night was a team dinner and every morning we had a team breakfast. The camp was way more organised then we thought it would be and we were really pleased with it."
Thompson and directeur sportif Frankie Andreu originally planned to bring the team to Dahlonega in Georgia or Greenville in North Carolina. However, they decided against taking the riders where weather can be unpredictable in late winter, and instead opted to go south to the Sunshine State.
"We were running away from the snow," Thompson said. "No matter where we chose the forecast was looking horrible because of this really cold winter that we've been having. Camp is not about being in the cold.
"The guys are supposed to be able to get out and ride their bikes and get some miles in. Clermont was not hilly but it was rolling so the guys got a little bit of climbing efforts in, in particularly on a climb called Sugar Loaf Mountain Road. They spent a lot of time on the bike."
The Kenda p/b Geargrinder roster includes Day, Isaac Howe, Roman Kilun, Bobby Sweeting, Shawn Milne, Chad Hartley, Chris Monteleone, Geoff Godsey, Jake Rytlewski, Jim Stemper, Jonny Sundt, Luca Damiani, Pat Lemieux, Phil Gaimon, Rob White, Scottie Weiss, Spencer Gaddy and Gregg Brandt.
"I didn't really know the riders that well before I came to camp but it has been a great week and I've met a lot of great personalities," said Day. "There are some very dedicated and motivated cyclists on this team. It has been a really great week with a mix of training and team building activities.
"It's been a really positive week for the team and the momentum has grown all the way into camp. I think there will be more and more good news as the season goes on."
Kenda p/b Geargrinder recently received its first-ever invitation to compete in the Amgen Tour of California. Just one week later, Thompson secured a place for Day, who was left without a team after Pegasus Sports plans abruptly folded. The team is also set to announce a new co-title sponsor later this week.
"What a grouping of three weeks, it was incredible," Thompson said. "Everyone was preparing for the team to take a little step forward but we ended up making a huge jump forward. None of us were expecting to take this massive leap from a mid-ranked Continental team to what we think is one of the best teams in the US."
The main focus of the season will be contesting the Amgen Tour of California, Tour de Beauce, Tour of Utah and the Quiznos Pro Challenge along with a possible start at the Herald Sun Tour.