Sastre claims stages will be the toughest he's ever experienced
Forty major mountain climbs feature in this year's Giro d'Italia and Team Geox-TMC used the past weekend to take a trial run on the climbs in the major Dolomite stages, between the provinces of Veneto, Friuli and Trentino.
"We saw how hard and epic this upcoming Italian Giro may well turn out to be," Carlos Sastre surmised.
"We all know how hard the Zoncolan is, but I think the Crostis will also be gruelling; it's an all new climb that I wasn't familiar with, and I really wanted to see it before the Giro," said 2009 winner Menchov. "It's extremely challenging but the real problem will be coming off it on the steep, technical downhill, on a narrow road with ruined asphalt. We're going to have to be very careful. It's going to be a problem to feed, drink and recuperate energy on this downhill before attacking the Zoncolan."
On Saturday afternoon the team then went to scope out the Grossglockner climb in Austria. The 13.6km climb starts gently but then ramps up all the way to the finish with a final two kilometres at 10.7 per cent.
Last year Hesjedal finished twelfth in Liège-Bastogne-Liège after a taking second place at the Amstel Gold Race and ninth at Fleche-Wallonne. This year he struggled to be competitive in the Ardennes Classics after stomach problems wrecked his ride in the Amstel Gold Race and the unusually high pollen count in Belgium caused him further problems.
The Canadian admitted to Cyclingnews that the heat and race distance took its toll during Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"It was hard. I felt good on the Roche aux Faucons even if it was really hard. But then the lights went out on the Saint-Nicolas. I came off and just had nothing on that last bit," he said.
"It's kind of frustrating but that's bike racing. It's tough. I felt good and think it was more of a fuelling thing, little things that you get right and sometimes you don't. But you can only eat and drink so much out there."
Suspended Dutch rider could return with Garmin-Cervélo’s development team
Jonathan Vaughters has confirmed to Cyclingnews that he is in the process of testing Thomas Dekker with a view to possibly signing him to Garmin-Cervélo’s development team, although no contract has yet been discussed between the two parties.
“He still has not completed all the physiological testing I’ve asked,” Vaughters told Cyclingnews.
“Until he does that, I don’t have a full enough picture to decide anything. We have an open door policy for guys that are ready to be part of the solution in a productive way.
“If Thomas is successful in showing he has the physiological capability of competing clean, then we would consider testing him on the Continental team.”
The American team already has a full roster on their ProTeam squad but a move to its Continental outfit Chipotle Development Team would give Dekker a transition period back into the professional ranks. However, for the time being Vaughters is clear that Dekker must satisfy his stringent testing before he can be given a chance.
“I’ve asked Thomas to complete a series of tests that cross correlate red blood cell count, off score, haemoglobin, haematocrit with power output, lactate clearance and oxygen uptake. This helps to determine his body’s ability to complete clean,” Vaughters said.
“However the series is not complete and therefore I can’t say one way or another. So, no, there is no agreement.”
Verdict to be reached in the Clenbuterol case before the end of June
The Court of Arbitration for Sport has announced that it will deliver its final verdict on the Clenbuterol doping case involving Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard) before the end of June. This should ensure that Contador will know whether he will be banned or not some days before the start of this year’s Tour on July 2.
Contador rode four of the race’s key stages with his teammates Dani Navarro and Jesús Hernández, who will both be part of Saxo Bank’s line-up focused on helping the Spaniard toward a second Giro d'Italia triumph. Contador was particularly awestruck by the stage to Monte Zoncolan, regarded by many of the toughest climb in professional cycling. But it was new Giro ascent Monte Crostis, which precedes the Zoncolan that day, that Contador admitted "makes me afraid".
Speaking to Marca, Contador revealed that he had previously seen "nothing similar" to Monte Crostis. That verdict was delivered despite the fact that Contador and his colleagues could not make it to the summit because of thick snow. Rising to 1982m, the ascent of Monte Crostis climbs 1417m in just 14km at average of 10.1 percent. Sections of up to 18 percent should favour Contador and similarly strong climbers. The final 2.5km of the climb are on dirt road, which could be a complicating factor.
"Let's hope that it doesn’t snow because if it does, the climb won’t be open," said Contador. "It's an amazing place, for a barbecue that is," he added with more than a hint of irony.
The Italian crashed hard early in the stage from Martigny to Leysin, breaking four ribs and fracturing his clavicle in several places - a break which will require surgery to repair.
The team announced today he would be out of competition from four to six weeks.
"This is bad news as is any crash," said Team Manager Kim Andersen. "But this one is particularly bad news for us because Daniele was in great shape, and he would have been our main card to play in the Giro d'Italia for stage wins. He was really looking forward to the race."
Bennati has shown fine form this season, taking second in Gent-Wevelgem and winning three stages of the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The team was intending to focus on stage wins with Bennati as its goal for the Giro, but will now have to come up with a new strategy for the race, which starts on May 7.
"We still have to determine how to reshape the roster for the Giro now that Daniele is out," said Andersen. "I'm confident that we will find a way to turn this misfortune into an opportunity to approach the stages in a different way. We have no other choice"