Team Sky sprinter set for Grand Tour debut at the Giro d'Italia
Russell Downing was one of the most successful riders at Team Sky in 2010, winning four races and playing a key role in the success of several teammates throughout the season.
In this video interview Downing talks to Cyclingnews about his long quest to secure a place with a major ProTeam and how overall victory at the 2009 Tour of Ireland finally convinced the Team Sky management of his ability.
He immediately proved his worth in 2010 by winning four races, including a sprint stage at the Criterium International and overall victory at the Tour de Wallonie in Belgium. Downing was the first British rider to win a race for Team Sky when he beat Michael Albasini and Pierrick Fedrigo for his Criterium International stage win.
Downing is 32 but still feels fresh while having 10 years experience of racing as a professional.
He reveals he is set to ride the Ardennes Classics in April and then ride the Giro d’Italia –the first Grand Tour of his career.
Kiwi to auction points jersey, hopes to earn yellow tomorrow
Greg Henderson delivered Team Sky's fifth victory of the year at the second stage of Paris-Nice with the help of teammate Geraint Thomas. With the victory, Henderson took over the lead of the points competition at Paris-Nice and the 34-year-old New Zealander will auction the green jersey to raise money for those affected by the recent earthquake in Christchurch. As he wants more than a stage win, Henderson will also target the yellow jersey at the end of stage 3.
"It was quite a nervous day all day," said Henderson, who won stage 1 of Paris-Nice last year. "I stayed out of trouble as much as I could. My last man Geraint Thomas led me out beside the Columbia (HTC-Highroad, ed.) team. He went full with 500 metres to go and took me till 250.
"It might not have been seen on TV but the final straight line was a slight uphill drag. I won the sprint comfortably. I'm very happy to win, I'm very happy for the team. The beauty of Team Sky is the honesty in the team. We're all mates. When we win, we're all wrecked."
Team Sky's directeur sportif Sean Yates was full of praise for Thomas as he stated: "He's almost the best lead-out man in the world."
Henderson was also effusive about Thomas's lead-out ability. "The beauty about G is that he's got an ability to keep you out of the wind and to deliver the sprint. He doesn't have to hide in the wind until the sprint. Coming from the track, he has the ability to push a lot of wind."
The time bonus earned by Henderson for winning stage 2 moved him into second place on general classification, four seconds behind race leader Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM). Regarding the potential of taking the yellow jersey at the...
Team Type 1 was considered for one of the 23 places
Angelo Zomegnan, the director of the Giro d'Italia, dismissed suggestions that a peloton of 207 riders will make this year's race more dangerous.
He also explained the selection of the 23 teams, admitting he has little influence on which ProTeams he can and cannot invite but confirmed that the US-registered Team Type 1 Professional Continental squad had been considered for a place.
RCS Sport made a surprise announcement that 23 teams of nine riders have been invited to this year's Giro d'Italia, after being given permission by the UCI to exceed the 200 rider limit.
"There is a lot of debate about road safety at the moment but we've always paid huge attention to rider safety at the Giro and in all the races we organise," Zomegnan told Cyclingnews.
"Three years ago we introduced an extra race doctor that reaches the finish before the peloton in case there is a crash during the sprint. Our ambulances are also fitted with special equipment so that emergency crews can carry out blood tests before they arrive in hospital. The designated hospitals always have an operating room ready for emergency surgery."
Under a bilateral agreement with the UCI, race organisers have accepted that all of this year's 18 ProTeams have the right and obligation to ride all the World Tour races.
UCI to decide on Vacansoleil-DCM
There was some speculation that Vacansoleil-DCM might not be invited to the Giro d'Italia because of its problems with Riccardo Riccò and Ezequiel Mosquera. Zomegnan has refused to invite certain teams in the past but has backed down from playing what he described as a "policing role"...
Cyclingnews takes a look at the women who have dominated the headlines
To coincide with International Women's Day, Cyclingnews celebrates the achievements of females who have dominiated their fields in season 2011.
If there's one person assured of a gold medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games it seems to be this phenomenal athlete. Hammer looks to have the women's omnium title, a new event for the XXX Olympiad, wrapped up.
Hammer wrapped up an impressive omnium series with third in the final event, the 500m time trial. That was her lowest position. Over the two days of competition she won the flying lap, elimination race, 3km individual pursuit and 10km scratch race, a runner-up finish in the 20km points race and third place in the 500m time trial. Hammer took out the endurance event with 9 points, next best was Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands, second with 38 and Malgorzata Wojtyra of Poland third with 42.
"Everyone's going to get better because it's a new event," she said. "Everyone's learning."
"For me, the pursuiting comes naturally but the sprint events are something else," Hammer said. "With my physical make-up the 500m is the most difficult for me. Riding that, and seeing the world record on the board, you think: god, I'm putting this event to shame!
"But I'm having a great amount of fun... But it's still tough: backing up the events, being consistent, and the mental aspect to the omnium is huge."
2009 Paris-Nice champion flats in race finale but doesn't lose time
Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) suffered a flat tyre late in stage 2 of Paris-Nice, but luckily the incident didn't jeopardize his chances to win the overall title for the second time. The 27-year-old Spaniard had a fright, however, when he flatted in the finale as the teams of the sprinters had the peloton racing full-bore towards the finish in Amilly.
The Spaniard pulled to the side of the road just inside of three kilometres to go sign where his team car swapped out the rear wheel.
"It was inside three kilometres to go, so it wasn't a problem for me to be given the same time as the stage winner," Sanchez told Cyclingnews. Sanchez finished the stage in 168th place, 1:01 off the time of winner Greg Henderson (Sky), but the race officials credited him with the same time as the main peloton per the rule governing incidents occurring with the final three kilometres of stage races, thus negating any potential time loss on the day.
"He's a good professional," said race commissaire Giuseppe Baldi. "We cannot be inside a bunch of 175 riders to check who punctures where, so what counts for us is the place where a rider signal the incident to us."
With defending champion Alberto Contador absent from Paris-Nice, Sanchez, the 2010 runner-up, has been assigned number one for his bib number and the 2009 Paris-Nice champion is seeking a second overall victory in the UCI WorldTour event.
"I think I have good form, I feel good," Sanchez said in Amilly. "I believe my main adversaries for the overall win to be Tony Martin, Alexandre Vinokourov and Tejay Van Garderen. Pretty much, the riders who were strong at the Tour of Algarve will be strong here as well."
Slovakian not in contention for Paris-Nice overall win
Peter Sagan's fourth and fifth placings during the first two stages of Paris-Nice have come as a nice surprise for the Liquigas-Cannondale management after his heavy crash a week ago at the Classica Sarda, where he placed third
Having won three stages and the overall classification at the Giro di Sardegna, Sagan came down heavily during the Classica Sarda and wasn't holding high hopes for his performance at the 'Race to the Sun'.
The 21-year-old Slovak didn't mention it but his directeur sportif Stefano Zanatta told Cyclingnews in Amilly: "After the crash on Sunday, he got five stitches on his hip. He couldn't train and lost five days of important work, that's why he doesn't have the condition to win the overall classification here at Paris-Nice... but if he comes up with a stage win, it's enough."
In fact, Sagan didn't start Paris-Nice with the best morale, although one year ago he was the revelation of the event when he won two stages. "I don't know if I'm a better rider this year," he said in Houdan. "I'm not very inspired by the course of Paris-Nice. I don't think the long time trial is good for me."
His best chance of winning a stage was probably on the opening day. "But we never caught the breakaway, so it was the end of my hopes of a win," he explained.
"The uphill finish of stage one was pretty good for him," Zanatta explained. "He still tries to sprint on the flat finishes against pure sprinters who are very strong. It's a good sign. How well he can time trial on Friday is still unknown to all of us but there are other opportunities for a stage win, which is our only goal for Paris-Nice."
Kreuziger and Kiserlovski reunited for Grand Tour campaign
Former Liquigas riders Robert Kiserlovski and Roman Kreuziger are reunited under the colours of Astana at Paris-Nice where team boss Alexandre Vinokourov has given them the green light to race for GC while the Kazakh himself is adamant that he would just be happy with a stage win.
With domestiques of the calibre of Andriy Grivko, Rémy Di Gregorio, Dimitriy Fofonov, Frederik Kessiakoff and Tomas Vaitkus, Astana is tipped by many observers as the strongest team at the 'race to the sun'.
"Yeah, I think so too", Kiserlovski told Cyclingnews on the start line of stage 2 in Monfort-L'Amaury. "Probably all the best riders of Astana at the moment are here at Paris-Nice. I hope we have all we need for winning."
For Kirserlovski and Kreuziger, Paris-Nice is only the second race of the season. Kiserlovski finished seventh of the Tour of Sardegna and the Classica Sarda while Kreuziger came 20th at the Tour of Algarve with a top 10 finish in the queen stage.
"I'm very happy with my start", said the Croatian who was the third man of Liquigas in the top ten overall of the Giro d'Italia last year (10th) while riding his first Grand Tour at the service of Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali.
"My early seasons sensations are pretty good", echoed the Czech. "But I'll have to be at my best for the Giro d'Italia."
Both "RK's" from Astana are on the same program, which includes Giro and Vuelta. They're both born in 1986 and have in common to be tall and skinny with great skills for climbing. They also have the same agent, Giovanni Lombardi. They kind of look like twins. "Twins, I don't know but we're friends for sure",...
Team turns full attention to Amgen Tour of California after no Giro invite
Pro Continental Team Type 1-Sanofi Aventis did not receive the invitation it was hoping for to participate in this year's Giro d'Italia and will now focus solely on its goal of winning the Amgen Tour of California held from May 15-22. Team co-founder Phil Southerland will apply for an upgrade to UCI ProTeam status in order to ensure a place in next year's Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.
"We were hoping that the Giro d'Italia would give us an opportunity to show our talent as a team so that we could get the invitation to the Tour de France in 2012," Southerland told Cyclingnews. "Now we are just putting all our eggs into applying for a ProTeam license so that we automatically get the invitations to all the major races."
"On one hand, it is frustrating not to be at the Giro d'Italia this year but on the other hand, should we get the ProTeam license, it will be very reassuring to know our entire calendar for next year this November, at least for the major cycling events," he said. "We will have to make some additions to the team both on a management side and riders. We will be looking for riders who are interested in competing in the big races. From an infrastructure perspective we are ready to make that jump."
Giro d'Italia organizers, RCS Sport, recently announced the participation of the 18 ProTeams along with five Professional Continental teams that are either Italy-registered or have Italian sponsors, Acqua & Sapone, Androni Giocatoli, Colnago-CSF, Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli and Geox-TMC. The UCI allowed race organizers to extend the 200 rider limit and invite one additional team in light of Italy's 150th anniversary as a unified country.
"We are a little disappointed but not surprised because we knew that...