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First Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Date published:
March 16, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Péraud’s successful switch could mean a Tour start

    Jean-Christophe Peraud celebrates after taking the French TT title.
    Article published:
    March 15, 2010, 8:40 GMT
    Jean-François Quénet

    Former mountain biker the latest to shine on the road

    Olympic silver medallist Jean-Christophe Péraud's decision to switch from mountain biking has reaped rewards, as the Frenchman scored his first UCI world calendar points by finishing ninth overall at Paris-Nice.

    Péraud took second at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and some may have questioned his decision to become a road professional at the age of 33; Omega Pharma-Lotto hired him as a replacement for another former mountain biker, Cadel Evans, citing his time trial national title - won ahead of Sylvain Chavanel - as proof of his pedigree on the road.

    Believed to be an even better climber than a time triallist, he was disappointed not to make the top-10 at the uphill finish in Mende during the week-long race. "I was hoping to be more efficient," he noted as an indication of his high ambitions despite Paris-Nice being his first race at the ProTour level.

    When Thomas Voeckler dropped from the top of the general classification due to a flat tyre in stage five, Péraud became the first Frenchman overall. "I was more focused on making the top-10 that being the first Frenchman," he explained. He took both honours however, remaining high in the standings after the final stage at the expense of Peter Sagan and David Millar, who lost time.

    "He has the capacities to do well and he shows them," quipped Omega Pharma-Lotto's directeur sportif Hendrik Redant. "He's got real talent and he's going very well uphill. He also fits quickly in the group although he comes from a sport of individualists [mountain biking].

    "His progress is spectacular as we can see he already recovers better from his efforts at Paris-Nice than at the Volta ao Algarve. It's totally new to him to race for eight days in a row instead of one, and six hours a day instead of three."

    Redant didn't hide the fact that Péraud is now very likely to take part in the Tour de France this year. "The possibility is very high," said the Belgian....

  • Skil-Shimano and Vacansoleil racing for wild card invitations

    Several Skil Shimano riders
    Article published:
    March 15, 2010, 10:38 GMT
    Cycling News

    Dutch teams hope to impress for Tour de France participation

    Vacansoleil and Skil-Shimano were racing for more than good results in Paris-Nice. The two Dutch Professional Continental teams were hoping to impress the race organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), in hope of wildcard invitations to another race organised by the group, the Tour de France. That race opens in the Netherlands this year.

    Neither team was able to take a stage win, but both brought in top ten finishes in the early stages. The overall rankings at the end of the race showed that Skil-Shimano's highest finisher was Thierry Hupond in 44th, while Johnny Hoogerland in 82nd was the best for Vacansoleil.

    Instead of stage wins, the Dutch teams looked to prove themselves in breakaways, which they did throughout the race. Both teams were represented in the day's escapes on days one, two and four. Skil carried the honours on stages three and six.

    Team manager Iwan Spekenbrink was pleased with his Skil-Shimano riders' performance. “It was an important race for us, and our riders were in good physical shape and really wanted to ride,” he said on the team's website.

    “All of our riders attacked in almost every stage and showed a high level of performance,” he added. We hoped, of course, that it would result in a stage win, but unfortunately we didn’t succeed.”

    Spekenbrink concluded that although the team came to the race without a rider for the overall, “we have done well to show our depth. We are one step further than last year.”

    So far this season, his team has one victory, with a total of four podium placings. Robert Wagner has brought in a stage win in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen, and a runners-up spot, while Dominique Cornu and Tom Veelers providing each have a third-place stage finish.

    Vacansoleil may not have done as well in Paris-Nice, but has otherwise had an outstanding season. Wouter Mol was the overall winner of the Tour of Qatar, and...

  • Gilbert to lead Omega Pharma-Lotto at Milan-Sanremo

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma - Lotto)
    Article published:
    March 15, 2010, 11:18 GMT
    Susan Westemeyer

    Belgian completes steady build-up at Paris-Nice

    Philippe Gilbert will lead Omega Pharma-Lotto in Milan-Sanremo, with the Belgian team confirming its eight-man roster for the race, which will take place in Italy on Saturday.

    He will be supported by fellow Belgians Jurgen Roelandts, Greg Van Avermaet, Staf Scheirlinckx and Olivier Kaisen, as well as Dutchman Michiel Elijzen, Frenchman Mickael Delage, and German Sebastian Lang.

    Gilbert finished third at Milan-Sanremo in 2008, behind Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas). Last year, Van Avermaet finished highest for the team, in 13th place, while Gilbert was 23rd, both in the same time, two seconds behind winner Mark Cavendish (Columbia-HTC).

    Gilbert finished last season strongly, winning one-day events Coppa Sabatini, Paris-Tours, Giro del Piemonte, and Giro de Lombardia in October. His top finish so far this year has been seventh overall in the Tour of Qatar, with a fifth place finish in the race's second stage. He continued his build up to the major 2010 Classics at Paris-Nice last week.

    Omega Pharma-Lotto Sport Director Herman Frison said Gilbert, who was one of large number of riders to withdraw from the French race's final stage on Sunday, had been content to use the seven-stage event to hone his form for his upcoming Spring objectives.

    "Philippe Gilbert, our other man who could perform something, hasn't done so, due to the fact that the first part of his season ends only after Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He was better not to consume much power [here at Paris-Nice]," said Frison, according to

  • Bernaudeau delighted with Bbox’s Paris-Nice

    William Bonnet grabs a win for Bbox Bouygues Telecom
    Article published:
    March 15, 2010, 12:45 GMT
    Peter Cossins

    Voeckler unlucky as French squad demonstrate depth

    Bbox Bouygues Telecom team boss Jean-René Bernaudeau says he was "a bit disappointed" with an in-form Thomas Voeckler's bad luck in the 2010 Paris-Nice, but has expressed his immense satisfaction with the team's success throughout the race.

    Bernaudeau’s disappointment stemmed not from his riders’ efforts, with which he said he was "hugely satisfied", but mostly from the ill-fortune that once again dogged Bbox leader Thomas Voeckler. The 30-year-old Frenchman crashed out of the 2009 'race to the sun' with a broken collarbone, and although nothing anywhere near that drastic befell him last week, his results barely told the story of how good his form was.

    Fifth and first non-Spaniard at the summit finish in Mende on stage four, Voeckler’s hopes of a finish high in the top-10 disappeared the day after when he punctured 25 kilometres from the finish. Unfortunately for the Bbox leader, the incident occurred just as the yellow jersey group was being forced along by Ag2R-La Mondiale in strong cross-winds. Voeckler never saw the front group again.

    On Saturday, he was the most persistent aggressor behind eventual stage-winner Xavier Tondo. And on Sunday's final stage into Nice, still in a rich vein of form, Voeckler tried his hand again by attacking with Cofidis’s Amael Moinard. Like Tondo the day before, the two Frenchmen managed to hold off counter-attacks from the yellow jersey group behind, only for Voeckler to misjudge the sprint and effectively lead Moinard out for the stage victory.

    "The gap between Thomas and the peloton didn’t amount to much and it was for that reason that he decided to launch the sprint from a long way out. Clearly, Moinard profited from that. It’s a real pity but I congratulate Moinard. I think Thomas was the strongest, but that’s racing," said Bernaudeau, who went on to praise his team’s efforts during Paris-Nice.

    "It’s been a beautiful week....

  • Boonen leads Quick Step in Milan-San Remo

    Tom Boonen (Quick Step) celebrates his win.
    Article published:
    March 15, 2010, 15:37 GMT
    Cycling News

    Belgian a top favourite for Saturday's Classicissima

    Tom Boonen will lead Quick Step in Milan-San Remo this Saturday. The former World Champion goes into the race as a top favourite.

    Boonen, 29, goes into the race with four victories so far this year. Most recently he won stage two of Tirreno-Adriatico, which was surprisingly his first win ever in Italy.

    He will be supported by Carlos Barredo, Sylvain Chavanel, Dries Devenyns, Jerome Pineau, Matteo Tosatto, Marco Velo and Maarten Wynants. Davide Bramati will serve as Directeur Sportif.

    Boonen's best finish in the race was in 2007, when he finished third, behind Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Allan Davis (Discovery Channel).

    The previous year, Boonen finished just off the podium, in fourth. But it was a big day for Quick Step, as Filippo Pozzato outsprinted Milram's Alessandro Petacchi and Luca Paolini of Liquigas.

    Tosatto was also on that 2006 team, finishing 104th, as was Bramati, 92nd.

    Boonen hopes that his recent win in Tirreno-Adriatico will be an omen for his performance on Saturday. That was his first win in Italy in his nine-year pro career. “I've actually not raced that much in Italy,” he said. “I've done eight San Remos and this is my third time at Tirreno. That's not many chances to win in Italy.”

  • Leon Sanchez leads latest world rankings

    Spanish armada: Luis Leon Sanchez (2nd overall, Caisse d'Epargne), Alberto Contador (1st, Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (3rd, Caisse d'Epargne)
    Article published:
    March 15, 2010, 17:15 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Caisse d'Epargne top team, Spain strongest nation

    Luis Leon Sanchez may have missed out on a second Paris-Nice title, but the Caisse d'Epargne rider's third place finish has seen him move to the top of the International Cycling Union's (UCI) individual rider rankings, released on Monday.

    Sanchez has traded places with André Greipel (HTC-Columbia) at the top of the rankings, which are based on the two World Calendar events so far contested – the Tour Down Under and Paris-Nice. The man that finished at the top of the Paris-Nice podium, Alberto Contador (Astana), is the highest new entry to the list, in third.

    Contador finished the 2009 rankings as UCI's world number one.

    Sanchez's Caisse d'Epargne teammate Alejandro Valverde moved from 11th to fourth after finishing in second at Paris-Nice.

    While results at Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo will soon alter the rankings, Sanchez indicated on Monday that he will look to retain top spot with a strong performance at the Tour of Cataluña later this month.

    "I am happy because it means that I've been doing a great job in the early part of the season and it is also a reward for all the effort to prepare for this year in the best possible way," Sanchez said.

    "It's only the beginning of the year and that ranking will change with the next races. It means that I'll have to fight hard to remain in the lead. I'll try to recover very well and present myself in good shape for the Tour of Cataluña so that I can keep on leading [the World Rankings]."

    Sanchez and Valverde's participation at the Tour Down Under and podium success at Paris-Nice has also their squad jump to the top of the team standings where they replace HTC-Columbia. The US squad has moved back to third behind Katusha, who retained second position.

    The Spanish stranglehold on the Paris-Nice podium has seen the European country replace Australia at the top of the national rankings. Spain has more than double the points of...

  • Armstrong confirmed for Milan-San Remo

    Lance Armstrong (Team RadioShack) during the Tour of Murcia's second stage.
    Article published:
    March 15, 2010, 19:27 GMT
    Cycling News

    American returns to Italian classic for ninth time

    Lance Armstrong will be part of the 200-rider peloton competing in Saturday's Milan-San Remo, race organizer RCS Sport announced today. The 38-year-old Texan confirmed to RCS Sport director Angelo Zomegnan Sunday evening that he would be part of Team RadioShack's roster for the 101st edition of the Italian classic.

    It will be the second start in as many years for Armstrong, who finished in 125th in 2009. Armstrong also rode the Giro d'Italia, another RCS Sport event, for the first time in his career last year as preparation for his return to the Tour de France.

    Relations cooled between Armstrong and Zomegnan following the 2009 Giro's ninth stage in Milan where the peloton neutralised the stage in protest of what they claimed to be a dangerous circuit. Several riders acknowledged that the American was behind the move and Zomegnan expressed his anger at "older riders" for leading the protest, but Zomegnan stopped short of naming Armstrong specifically. Armstrong maintained a media boycott throughout the rest of the Giro d'Italia.

    Armstrong will be making his ninth Milan-San Remo appearance, with his best result being an 11th place finish in 1996 before being diagnosed with cancer and subsequent comeback as a stage racer. This year, however, the seven-time Tour winner will skip the Giro d'Italia in favour of the Tour of California which for the first time runs concurrently with the Italian Grand Tour after a date change from February to May.

    Milan-San Remo will be Armstrong's second European race of the season having already made his continental debut earlier this month in Spain's Tour of Murcia where he finished seventh overall. Armstrong recently spent a week in South Africa with teammate Daryl Impey culminating with the pair competing in the Cape Argus ride on March 14.

    Armstrong will be joined by teammates Daryl Impey, Markel Irizar Aranburu, Geoffroy Lequatre, Dmitriy Muravyev, Grégory Rast and Sébastien...

  • Jonker to direct Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans

    2004 winner Pat Jonker gets the adulation of the crowd
    Article published:
    March 16, 2010, 9:10 GMT
    Greg Johnson

    Tour Down Under winner to guide Australian domestic squad

    Former Rabobank professional Patrick Jonker has joined the new Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans Australian domestic squad as sport director. The team, which will be officially launched in Brisbane tonight, has been launched to replace Fly V Australia in domestic races while the Continental outfit focuses on US and European events this season.

    Chris White, owner of both teams’ holding company Pegasus Racing, said Jonker’s knowledge of stage racing is complementary to the existing skill set within the squad’s sport director ranks. While both teams will work closely together, Jonker’s primary responsibility will be the feeder team for 2010.

    “The appeal to me of wanting to hire Pat was his experience in the sport: previous winner of the Tour Down Under, 12th at the 1996 Tour de France, an esteemed and lengthy professional career carved out largely on his own,” White told Cyclingnews.

    “He brings significant general classification technical and tactical know how to our program. He’s just a great fit for our growing program, where we’ll be able to use his skills and he’s going to add value in a big way.”

    The sport director role with Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans isn’t Jonker’s first, with the South Australian resident holding the same job at the Savings and Loans Continental squad last season. The majority of the Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans riders are in their late teens and it’s hoped some will graduate to the organisation’s top squad in coming years.

    “Pat’s got 11 or 12 guys that we’re going to mould into the next crop of professional riders and create career paths for them by vertically integrating both squads,” said White.

    Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans roster for 2010: Michael Freiberg, Pat Shaw, Scott Law, Ben Dyball, James Hepburn, Peter Thomson, Cameron Peterson, Mitchell Pearson, Andrew Roe, James...