- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 12:50
- Kirsten Frattini
Argentine eyes world title in Copenhagen
Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank-SunGard) is a five-time stage winner of the Amgen Tour of California and he is in pursuit of a sixth win this week. The Argentine sprinter is one of the faster riders in the peloton, eyeing the top spot on the podium in stages two, five and eight.
"I think I'm ready for the sprints here," Haedo told Cyclingnews. "I'm struggling a little with the altitude here in Lake Tahoe because it's not too normal for me. But besides that, as soon as we get back to sea level, I can look for the stage two as a possible win."
Haedo won two stages in the 2006 edition while racing for the US-based team Toyota United. He went on to win another two stages during the 2007 edition where he secured the event's overall points classification while racing his first season with CSC. He also won one stage in 2008.
This year, he returns with a strong team that includes his brother and occasional lead-out man Lucas Sebastian, who recently recovered from a knee injury sustained following a crash in Paris-Nice earlier this year.
The team will be looking to deliver Haedo to a stage win during the stage two that is scheduled to begin in Squaw Valley, weather permitting, and end on the streets of Sacramento. Winter storms lead to the opening stage being cancelled and race organizers will announce any delays or course revisions to stage two a few hours prior to the start.
Other opportunities for a bunch sprint could present itself during stage five from Seaside to Paso Robles and the stage eight finale in Thousand Oaks. "There is also the stage in Paso Robles that is probably a good one and maybe the last stage because there are climbs but they are not that big," Haedo said.
The field has a number of quality sprinters including UCI World Road Champion Thor Hushovd (Garmin-Cervelo), Greg Henderson and Ben Swift (Sky ProCycling) and Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) among others.
"I'm ready to sprint against the guys that are here," Haedo said. "It is no problem. I've raced against these sprinters before and we will see who is in the best shape at the moment, it is hard to say."
Last year, Haedo captured wins in Mumbai Cyclothon, Rund um Koln, Volta a Catalunya and Criterium du Dauphine. This year he took a stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico. His primary focus is on the UCI World Championships held in September in Copenhagen, Denmark.
"My main goal, if I have to say, will be the World Championships," Haedo said. "I'm not saying that I am going to win it, but like last year, I want to do everything right. It is also good to have a big goal like that at the end of the year to put all your energy into."
"Last year I tried to do everything right for the World Championships to see how a proper preparation for the world championship was," he added. "It worked pretty good for me because I only got dropped with a half lap to go. I can use the same system for this year. The course will be flat this year, maybe one little uphill, but nothing like it was in Australia, which was harder than anyone expected."
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 13:40
- Cycling News
Organiser forced to reshuffle route due to bad weather conditions
The organisers of the Amgen Tour of California have announced a drastic modification to the start of stage two of the event, due to the winter weather and road conditions that already caused the cancellation of stage one on Sunday. Originally scheduled to start in Squaw Valley, race officials calculated that the best way to ensure a complete course for the second stage was to move the official start to Nevada City, and to add two laps to the final circuit in Sacramento.
Following the start from Broad Street in Nevada City at 12.15pm - a time that has also been modified - the riders will travel approximately 61 miles to Sacramento, picking up the original stage two route. The peloton should enter Sacramento at approximately 3pm and complete three circuit laps before finishing in front of the Capitol Building between 3.30 and 3.45pm. The race's original schedule called for only one complete circuit, but due to the modified course, the additional two circuits were added.
"Thanks to the quick action taken by Duane Strawser, Nevada City's 2010 local organizing committee chairman, we were able to make this location change, allowing us a great and practical location to lead off today's race," said Andrew Messick, president of the organising AEG Sports.
Messick regretted that the original route had to be amended but vowed that the event would return to the splendid scenery of Lake Tahoe.
"We owe a debt of gratitude to Andy Chapman, Carol Chaplin and everyone in Squaw Valley, who worked tirelessly to create what would have been an exceptional stage two start and hope that we will have an opportunity to bring the Amgen Tour of California to the city in a future year."
An updated course map for today's stage will be posted on the official race website later this morning.
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 14:24
- Cycling News
Rabobank rider gained confidence in Roubaix, remains with Rabobank
Lars Boom of the Rabobank squad is looking forward to the second part of the cycling season, starting for him at the Amgen Tour of California. The former cyclo-cross world champion took a break from racing after the Spring Classics and is now building up his form again in view of the Dutch championships in June.
Boom spent the past week in California, training for the stage race. "I rode around San Francisco, I even went over the Golden Gate bridge. The weather was awesome. Together with my girlfriend, we really enjoyed this wonderful scenery," the 25-year-old said on the Rabobank team website.
Along with other riders, the 2011 Dutch cyclo-cross champion regretted that stage one around Lake Tahoe was cancelled, but looked forward to the next stages where he wants to get back into the rhythm of racing. "After the Spring Classics, I took some rest and then started to increase my training intensity again three weeks ago. This week, I just want to be part of the race and see what happens.
"We have a good squad here, and I want to contribute to that. On Monday [stage two], the finish is in Sacramento, it's important for Rabobank. We want to bring Oscar Freire or Michael Matthews in a good position there."
Building up for his national championships, Boom doesn't know whether he'll race the Tour de France yet, but was looking very much forward to the second part of the season as his spring campaign has given him further confidence. He finished ninth in Gent-Wevelgem, and 12th in Paris-Roubaix.
"I look back at the spring feeling satisfied. I've made another huge step. Perhaps not yet in terms of results, but in terms of how I felt. In Roubaix for example, I was going well, but shortly after the Arenberg forest I punctured. I could have done much better there, I felt really strong that day. It gave me a lot of confidence for the future."
Boom confirmed that he will be staying with the Rabobank squad for another three years. "I feel very good in the team, and the management gives me a lot of trust. I am perhaps entering the most important part of my career, and it makes me feel that I can tackle it from a basis that I know well," he said.
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 17:52
- Barry Ryan
Venezuelan turns back the clock on Etna
Perhaps the widest smile atop Mount Etna on Sunday belonged to Androni Giocattoli manager Gianni Savio, as his charge José Rujano was the man to put up the most robust challenge to Alberto Contador's dominance on stage 9 of the Giro d'Italia.
"I'm really happy," Savio told Cyclingnews at the finish area. "I'm proud that he resisted a great champion like Contador. Our team did a great race, and above all I'm happy for José Rujano."
Rujano finished in 3rd place at the 2005 Giro when under Savio's stewardship, but has achieved precious little on the world stage since, drifting from team to team and without ever rediscovering the magic formula from his days at the then-Selle Italia squad. Against such a backdrop, Savio was only too keen to depict the Venezuelan's revival on Etna as that of a prodigal son returned to the fold.
"I discovered him when he was an unknown in a pueblo in the Andes and I brought him to Italy," Savio said, recounting the tale of when Gianni met José. "In three years, along with Marco Bellini, we helped him to grow. We brought him on, and he managed to finish on the podium of the Giro d'Italia."
In the wake of that startling performance at the Giro, however, things began to go sour, as Rujano angled for a move to pastures ProTour. He departed Savio's squad midway through 2006 to head up Quick Step's Grand Tour challenge, but it only marked the beginning of what seemed a terminal decline.
"He was badly-advised," Savio said diplomatically. "But time is a galantuomo, a gentleman, a great judge. We took José Rujano on again [ahead of the 2011 season - ed]. We took on a rider who had left us, who hadn't done anything because he was lost. He changed team a lot, big teams, like Quick Step, Unibet, Caisse d'Epargne and he never had results. Now he's back with us, and today he showed he's a rider again."
But how is it that Rujano's best results have come while riding for Gianni Savio's team? Savio didn't bat an eyelid as he responded, and put Rujano's return to form down to his environment.
"I think - modestly - that I'm a good psychologist," Savio said. "I come from football. I think that a great manager in the professional ranks isn't one who teaches the players how to play, because the players already know how to play.
"You teach young players how to play, but the important thing for a professional manager is to create a good atmosphere in the dressing room. That is, to put the rider into the psycho-physical condition to be able to express himself and that's the important thing for José Rujano. I think we have a structure that gives us a very united group."
After former rider Luca Di Angeli levelled grave accusations against Savio's team on the eve of the Giro, the Androni Giocattoli manager is doubtless enjoying some positive attention for his squad, and he believes Rujano can sparkle further in the Dolomites.
"For José Rujano, this Giro is absolutely open," he said. "Even if he's six minutes down now, I think he can make up some of that. Our aim is to have a rider in the top ten and I think we can do that."
- Article published:
- May 16, 2011, 21:38
- Kirsten Frattini
UnitedHealthcare sprinter ready to take on the best
Robert Förster is confident in his ability to bring UnitedHealthcare a bunch sprint victory at the Amgen Tour of California.
The German fast-man is hoping to win the predicted stage two sprint on the finishing circuits in Sacramento.
“I’m here for sprinting and I think that we have two of three chances at a stage win this week,” Förster told Cyclingnews. “There are a lot of big riders here with [Oscar] Freire and [Thor] Hushovd but I have beaten them in Europe last year. When I have good legs then I can beat them, it’s no problem.”
Some likely sprint stages include stage three in Modesto, stages five in Paso Robles and stage eight in Thousand Oaks. Other notable sprinters include Daniel Oss (Liquigas-Cannondale), Greg Henderson and Ben Swift (Sky ProCycling), Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank-SunGard) and Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad).
“The first stage would have been good for me because it was hilly and a good way to open the legs. I haven’t raced in ten days and it was important that I have one stage before the first sprint stage. It helps to open the legs a little bit."
Förster is a respected sprinter amongst the peloton. He has established himself in the international scene for over a decade racing for teams Nurnberger, Gerolsteiner and Milram. He has won bunch sprints at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana, Circuit de la Sarthe, Denmark Rundt, Tour of Turkey, Deutschland Tour and the Volta ao Algarve.
Förster brought his new US-based Professional Continental team its first season victory at the Tour de Langkawi. He went on to achieve early season success, with two top 10 finishes at the Clasica de Almeria and Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia, and a recent stage win at the Vuelta a Asturias.
“We were based in Europe last month with a lot of racing over there and now all the riders are ready to go,” Förster said. “I came to the race four days prior to the start and stayed in Sacramento. My legs are good for the first sprint.”
“We did do some good races in Europe and it was good to build the fitness but they were not for sprinting,” he added. “We did a lot of racing in Spain, Italy and Portugal which is a lot of up and down and it was good for the body and good for the base. I think it will be better now because we have a lot more sprinting to come and the Amgen Tour of California is only the beginning.
UnitedHealthcare placed a large emphasis on the overall classification with Rory Sutherland. However, Forster does have some support in the sprints with lead-out riders Karl Menzies and Andrew Pinfold.
“I have Menzies and Pinfold here,” Förster said. “We have not ridden too often together in the past and I think that is a little bit of a problem, but, the boys are professionals and they have good legs so I think we will be fine together.”
Förster was not impressed with the foul winter weather conditions that caused the cancellation of stage one and the shortened and revised route for stage two heading into Sacramento. The stage was originally scheduled to begin in Squaw Valley but was moved out of the High Sierra Mountains to Nevada City.
“I raced here in 2007 and it was very, very bad,” Förster said. “It was raining and very cold and after the race I said to my directeur that I would never be back in California in February.”
- Article published:
- May 17, 2011, 00:56
- Jean-François Quénet
Garmin-Cervélo keen to prove that a Frenchman can make the top 10
Christophe Le Mével was not exactly tipped for being third on GC on the first rest day of the Giro d'Italia but consistency in team time trial, transition stages and uphill finishes put him in an ideal position.
"Today when I came back from training at my hotel, a reporter from La Gazzetta dello Sport was waiting for me because, he said, I had been underestimated at the beginning of the Giro," Le Mével told Cyclingnews in Vasto Marina after the transfer from Sicily to the Adriatic coast.
It has remained unseen but the Frenchman wasn't feeling well in the past two stages. "Probably because of the dust, my bronchial tubes made me suffer," he said. "I found it hard to breathe during stage 8 but I managed to make the top 10. I was pushing myself to ride near the front of the bunch before the sprint because I wanted to avoid a split and I even thought that a split could make me get the pink jersey."
Stage 8 to Tropea was Le Mével's last chance to lead the overall classification of the Giro. After missing out on time bonuses on two occasions (stage 3 and stage 5), he was left five seconds behind Pieter Weening when the Dutchman was in pink.
"Against Alberto Contador on Etna, there was nothing to do," the Breton rider explained. "I was right on his wheel when he attacked with 7km to go. I think he was on the big ring and it was the steepest part of the climb. It was really impressive. No one could go with him. I couldn't, for sure!
"I've looked at my Garmin files and I was missing ten watts compared to what I can normally do in the climbs. I did my best for hiding behind the other guys and staying protected from the wind, otherwise I could have lost three minutes and I was only a few seconds down at the end, so it was another positive result but after so much suffering."
Le Mével looked a happy man when talking in the lobby of his hotel in Vasto Marina. "I've already recovered from my sickness, it's behind me," he said. "I feel great now and the bunch of guys I have around me in this team is fantastic. I have no regret to have missed out on the pink jersey because I did everything I could and the guys have seen that I rode flat out for David Millar to get this jersey on stage 3. In the team time trial, I had done maybe 5% of the work and he had done 50%, so he deserved this jersey much more than me at that point of the race. Everyone at Garmin-Cervélo knows that I'm a team player and I can feel they want to help me defend a good position on GC now. We want to prove that a Frenchman can do it."
After riding for a few years at Crédit Agricole for Thor Hushovd following an injury that sidelined him for almost a year in 2004, Le Mével finished 10th with Française des Jeux at the 2009 Tour de France.
"Some people say I did it because of a breakaway before the Alps but the time I gained that day compensated what I lost in the team time trial," he recalled. "Had I not made that breakaway, I would have finished eleventh instead of tenth, but the 10th being Mikel Astarloza who has been disqualified, I would have ended up 10th anyway. Now I can see the margin of improvement there is in a Grand Tour with being part of a group that performs in a team time trial when there is one."
The points' classification of the Giro d'Italia after nine stages also highlights his personal consistency: he's third behind Contador and Alessandro Petacchi.
- Article published:
- May 17, 2011, 02:23
- Laura Weislo
Start moved to Nevada City after wintry night
The Amgen Tour of California got underway a day late and almost 100km short with a weather-altered start for stage two. After the first stage at Lake Tahoe was cancelled due to unexpected winter weather, the start of the second day was also impacted by the rare May storm, and moved down from the ski resort at Squaw Valley to last year's start town of Nevada City.
Race organiser AEG made the call after a significant snowfall coated the roads on Saturday, making the planned traverse of the 2134m high Donner’s Pass impracticable.
The change dropped the overall distance from 214.4km to 120km for the day, and eliminated the sole mountain sprint and the two planned intermediate sprint bonuses, but the 1200m drop in elevation meant the conditions were significantly improved for the race.
"We started looking at alternatives to the Squaw Valley start late yesterday afternoon. As we started moving our finish crews to Sacramento, we were notified that Donner's Pass was on chain control," said AEG's Andrew Messick, indicating that cars were required to use chains on their tyres for traction because of the snowy conditions.
"We had some delays getting the crews to Sacramento and that is when we decided that we had to seriously contemplate options that Donner's Pass would remain closed.
"We put the call into Nevada City shortly after midnight. It is a place we know well and a place that historically has a deep passion for cycling. They promised us to be ready by six, and sure enough, when we arrived at six, the roads were blocked and volunteers were in place. I don't want to know what they had to do to be prepared for us today."
The morning ran smoothly thanks to the work of Nevada City and its organising committee head and Vice Mayor, Duane Strawser, who were tasked with making the change from hosting a mid-race intermediate sprint to holding the stage start.
Flag in hand, marshalling an intersection leading to team parking before the start, Strawser seemed quite happy with how things had turned out.
"This was actually kind of a pleasure, because this is just six-hours notice and you just kind of make it happen, it wasn't six months of planning like we had last year.
"Basically it was calling our police department and public works and once they were notified, it just happened. I came down at two in the morning and moved the barricades on my own and blocked off downtown so cars wouldn't park there until the appropriate departments could come and shut it down."
Strawser said they had to move a few cars, but were able to find most of the owners and have them move the vehicles without problems, and indeed as the race pulled in with its team cars, buses, race caravan, motorcycles and marshall vans there was parking set up and the race went off without a hitch.
Thousands of fans lined the streets well before the riders got underway in a huge turnout for a tiny town of only 3000 residents.
"I think people know about the city from the Nevada City Classic, 51-years-old and one of the oldest criteriums in the country - people have been up here over and over. We put word out fast and furious to get the word out and welcome people up here."
Strawser's passion for the sport dates back to a race career in the 1980s, and his love for Nevada City comes from the 50-year-old race which he competed in several times.
He liked the town so much he decided to move here, and after opening up the Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop with his wife, they took over running the Nevada City Classic. From there, hosting the Amgen Tour of California was a natural extension.
"I landed on the city council a few years ago, and it just fit in to make these events happen for the betterment of the town."
- Article published:
- May 17, 2011, 03:52
- Kirsten Frattini
Canadian eyes bunch sprint victory this week
Keven Lacombe (SpiderTech p/b C10) secured a respectable fourth place in the bunch sprint at the Amgen Tour of California's second stage that finished on the streets of Sacramento. The Canadian fast-man acknowledged the high quality sprinters in attendance but is aiming for a stage win nonetheless.
"There's some very fast guys here and it's never easy to win a race, you have to be the fastest that day and there are a lot of things that you can't control," Lacombe told Cyclingnews. "It's going to be really, really hard but I think we are better than the years before and we are looking for a stage win."
Lacombe relied on teammates Martin Gilbert and Zach Bell to bring him into an optimal sprint position during the three short finishing circuits in Sacramento. Lacombe boldly initiated the sprint, however, he was passed by Ben Swift (Sky ProCycling) who won the stage ahead of Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) in second and Matt Goss (HTC-Highroad) in third.
"We tried to control the front because that is so much easier - with the rain and all the corners it was really dangerous," Lacombe said. "I think it really helped me to be fresh for the end. Actually it's a team effort, and at the end I tried to do my best, but the last 50 metres I got passed by three guys. We still have a lot of stages to do, so we will try to do the same and maybe it will work."
SpiderTech p/b C10 was granted a status upgrade as Canada's first UCI Professional Continental team. Its riders, including Lacombe, spent the majority of the winter and early spring competing on the European circuit. Lacombe achieved ample success with top ten placings at Ronde van Drenthe, Circuit de la Sarthe and Nokere Koerse
"We had a pretty nice beginning of the season in Europe," Lacombe said. "We showed that we can race at that level and this was our first year as Pro Continental status. I think we showed good things and it looks like we are prepared for the Amgen Tour of California."
"One thing that we are really focused on is to have good performances during the sprint stages here," he added. "Me and Martin Gilbert and Zach Bell were really looking forward to more of those days. We will see what happens because there are things that we can't always control, but if we have a chance then we are going to take it."
Lacombe could have three more opportunities to sprint. Bunch sprints are predicted during stage three in Modesto, stage five in Paso Robles and stage eight in Thousand Oaks.