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First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Date published:
April 11, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • Rolland on the mend

    Pierre Rolland (Europcar) with the spoils of victory.
    Article published:
    April 10, 2012, 10:01 BST
    Cycling News

    No more knee problems for Europcar climber

    Pierre Rolland is back to racing after having overcome a knee injury that prevented him racing in Paris-Nice earlier this Spring. The best young rider of the 2011 Tour de France had to rest for a while to heal a lesion to cartilage in his patella when he banged his right knee against his stem during the Tour du Haut Var. The Frenchman returned to racing at the Circuit de la Sarthe last week, and continues his amended racing schedule at Paris-Camembert, a French Cup one-day event taking place on April 10.

    "As regards my knee, the problem is definitely solved," Rolland told L'Equipe on the eve of the race. "I don't feel any pain anymore. That was my big satisfaction last week at Sarthe: in the evenings, after 200 kilometres, I felt no pain anymore."

    After having begun his season on a high with a stage victory at Étoile de Bèsseges, the Europcar climber has to re-build his form. "I didn't push too hard during training in order not to trigger pain. Now, I'll be able to do some specific training sets on the rollers. I realised I lost quite a lot of power."

    Moreover, Rolland was weakened by a viral infection caught from a teammate at the Circuit de la Sarthe. "I wanted to come back fast but it backlashed: I was vulnerable and I caught a virus. But my form is coming back solwly," he added.

    With still three months to go until the start of this year's Tour de France, Rolland has plenty of time to catch up on his setback. This month, his racing schedule continues with the Giro del Trentino (April 17-20) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (April 22).

  • Gilbert and Van Avermaet to co-lead for BMC at Brabantse Pijl

    Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
    Article published:
    April 10, 2012, 11:19 BST
    Cycling News

    Defending champion Gilbert "getting better"

    On the eve of last year's Brabantse Pijl - or Flèche Barabançonne in French - Philippe Gilbert already had three victories to his name and was about to achieve a legendary quadruple by taking the Brabantse Pijl as well as all three Ardennes Classics that come after it. This season however, the Belgian is struggling to come up to form following several health issues: a virus, then a tooth infection and a crash at Milan-San Remo.

    Still, his BMC team are hopeful that the Belgian will return to his former level and has lined him up as co-leader with Greg Van Avermaet for the 2012 Brabantse Pijl, taking place on Wednesday this week. "We have two guys who can make really good results before attacking the three big WorldTour classics in the Netherlands and Belgium," said BMC directeur sportif John Lelangue. "Philippe is also getting better after his problems the past couple of weeks."

    Even though he must be feeling down after such a bad start into the new season, the Belgian national champion did not show it. "I am looking to just keep improving," Gilbert said. "Our team is riding well, which makes it a lot easier," he said.

    The defending champion and his teammate will be up against the likes of Andy Schleck (RadioShack), Oscar Freire (Katusha), Peter Sagan (Liquigas), Lars Boom and Luis Léon Sanchez (both Rabobank) on Wednesday, before confronting Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) at the Ardennes Classics. Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Tom Boonen, the Belgian national hero of 2012 following last year's legendary rise of Gilbert, will also try his might at Amstel Gold Race next Sunday, for the very first time in his career.

  • De Vlaeminck: Boonen's Paris-Roubaix rivals were "third rate"

    Tom Boonen joins compatriot Roger De Vlaeminck as the only four-time Paris-Roubaix champions.
    Article published:
    April 10, 2012, 13:03 BST
    Cycling News

    Absence of Cancellara made things straightforward

    Tom Boonen made history in spectacular fashion on Sunday at Paris-Roubaix, dropping the field with 52km to race and soloing to victory. It meant that he became the first man to achieve the Tour of Flanders/Paris-Roubaix double twice, and when he crossed the line at the velodrome in Roubaix in front he did so for the fourth time - equalling Roger de Vlaeminck's all-time record of race wins there.

    Belgium's De Vlaeminck is a compatriot of Boonen and won Paris-Roubaix in 1972, 1974, 1975 and 1977, and in an interview with Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, he stated that Boonen's win on Sunday, which captivated all who saw it, was made easy by the absence through injury of his big rival Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) and the under-performance of the rest of the field.

    "I hope Cancellara participates next year, then we see a different race," de Vlaeminck said. "I knew beforehand that he [Boonen] would be next to me [on the list of all-time career victories]. Tom can not help it that this time he had no opposition. They were not second, but third-rate riders.

    "Take Pozzato: if you want to win, your task for the last hundred kilometers is to stick within an inch of Boonen's wheel. The competition provided ​​him with no obstacles and they probably couldn't have done any better than they did. For the Belgian fans, it was fantastic, but for the average, foreign cycling fans there was nothing to be seen, which is a sad affair. When he [Boonen] was twenty meters ahead, I already knew the outcome."

    Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) claimed after his win on Sunday and his remarkable run of form this spring, which has...

  • Barta looks ahead to Giro d'Italia

    Team NetApp's Jan Barta wins the Rund um Koln
    Article published:
    April 10, 2012, 15:04 BST
    Cycling News

    NetApp "deserves" Giro wildcard, rider stands up to criticism

    The name of Czech rider Jan Barta may not ring any bells for a lot of cycling fans, but this could soon change. The NetApp rider has just scored his third win of the season by taking a cold and wet Rund um Köln on Easter Monday, following his win in the Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali final time trial and his subsequent overall victory at the Italian stage race.

    In an outstanding effort, the 27-year-old Barta broke away from the lead group 40 kilometres from the finish and soloed to the victory. As a time trial specialist, he was happy that his strategy paid off. "When you are alone against the clock, everything depends on you and on nothing else. You fight against yourself, against time, against the wind. And I like that," Barta told Velochrono.

    In January, German Professional Continental squad NetApp received a wildcard invitation to the Giro d'Italia, and since then, the Czech rider hasn't stopped thinking about the Italian Grand Tour. "It's the second greatest race in the world," he noted. "Just to say that feels... special. I'm not afraid of disappointing. After the races we competed in last year, notably the Tour de Suisse, our programme has improved and our team has made progress."

    Indeed, Barta and his NetApp team not only gained experience in Switzerland last year, but also at the Tour of Britain, where the Czech rider finished third in the general classification. And the team also has a point to prove at the Giro d'Italia, whose organisers preferred it to Marcel Kittel's Team Argos or even to Acqua & Sapone, which includes former Giro winners Stefano...

  • Surgery not required for Leukemans

     Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil)
    Article published:
    April 10, 2012, 18:52 BST
    Cycling News

    Vacansoleil-DCM rider will still miss Ardennes Classics

    Bjorn Leukemans (Vacansoleil-DCM) has been ruled out of the three forthcoming Ardennes Classics following his crash at the Tour of Flanders, but has received a boost with the news that the injury to his knee isn't as serious as first feared and will not require surgery.

    Missing the Ardennes races will be a bitter blow for the 34-year-old Belgian as he showed excellent form last year at Amstel Gold (seventh) and Leige-Bastogne-Liege (ninth). But as he stated on his personal website today, things could have been much worse.

    “The specialist gave my knee a comprehensive examination," Leukemans said. "He came to the conclusion that surgery is not necessary because no tear to the meniscus was found. The cartilage in the knee was strained by the sudden stop at the foot of the famous Paterberg, hence the fluid that was building up during training efforts.

    “The opinion of the specialist is that I can now start to build my training up easily, starting with an hour a day. In the circumstances, this is the best news I could get… If the recovery goes smoothly, I can minimize the damage. It’s as yet impossible to say when I can return to competition.”

  • Tour de France exclusion leads Bretagne Schuller president to resign

    Race winner Renaud Dion (Bretagne - Schuller) is congratulated by team manager Joel Blevin.
    Article published:
    April 10, 2012, 20:19 BST
    Cycling News

    Joël Blévin takes responsibility for "failure"

    The failure to secure an invitation to the Tour de France has led the Bretagne Schuller team's president, Joël Blévin, to resign.

    The team was almost four years into the partnership with automotive sponsor Michel Schuller, having moved from Continental status to the UCI's Professional Continental ranks in 2011 with an aim at participating in all five French races on the UCI's WorldTour calendar.

    While it was included in Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix and the GP Plouay in 2011, the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de France still eluded the ambitious squad.

    This year, the alarm bells rang for the team when it failed to gain an invitation to Paris-Nice, and last week's non-invitation to the Tour de France was a blow for Blévin. The four wild cards for the 2012 Tour de France went to the Dutch team Argos-Shimano and French teams Europcar, Cofidis and Saur Sojasun.

    "We thought with our athletes' good results this season we would achieve a wild card ... Unfortunately it was not so. I take responsibility for this failure, and therefore I present my resignation," Blévin wrote in a letter to the team's directors (Bretagne Cyclisme) and Breizh Vélo.

    The cycling association's executive board called upon Blévin to continue to manage the team's daily affairs until the end of June, when it can pull together a new strategy "based on future decisions and commitments from its partners and sponsors".

    "The Management agrees to make contact quickly with its partners...

  • 2012 Exergy Tour route released

    The inaugural Exergy Tour stages
    Article published:
    April 10, 2012, 22:10 BST
    Cycling News

    Challenges in store for sprinters, climbers and time trial specialists

    Organizers announced the for the inaugural five-day Exergy Tour ladies' stage race, taking place May 24-28, 2012 in Southwestern Idaho. The race will visit six host cities over the US Memorial Day holiday weekend.

    Host cities were selected to minimize transfers for the benefit of the athletes, and spectators and volunteers, who will always be within easy driving distance each day.

    "We want the route to be a postcard for the state of Idaho and the Treasure Valley," said Heather Hill, Marketing, Communications and Events director. "Idaho isn't just mountains, it isn't just downtown Boise, or lake and river front Canyon County, or small farm communities, it is a mix of all of these and the people that call them home. We have been welcomed by all of these people and plan to show their communities to the world."

    Medalist Sports is overseeing the competition and technical production of the Exergy Tour. Medalist is also the event management arm for the Amgen Tour of California, USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado and the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

    "We tried to create a course that was competitive, but that didn't favor any one type of rider," said Jeff Corbett, Technical Director, Medalist Sports. "We wanted a race that had something for sprinters, something for time trial specialists, and something for climbers. I think we have found that mix, and created a course that showcases all skill sets."

    A total of 17 of the top ladies pro cycling teams from nine countries around the world are scheduled to compete in the inaugural race. Countries represented by these teams include Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Taiwan, Ukraine and the United States.

    "The Exergy Tour will be an opportunity for spectators...

  • First teams announced for 2012 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah

    The peloton rolls through the Utah backcountry at the Tour of Utah.
    Article published:
    April 11, 2012, 2:32 BST
    Cycling News

    Five UCI ProTour teams confirmed

    Eight of the 16 expected pro teams to compete at the 2012 Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah have today been announced for the six-day stage race set to kick off Tuesday, August 7th.

    Five UCI ProTour teams are among the first to confirm their attendance including: Liquigas-Cannondale, RadioShack-Nissan, BMC, Rabobank and Garmin-Barracuda. UCI Pro Continental outfit Argos-Shimano will also be on the start line in Ogden, while Colombian team EPM-UNE and Competitive Cyclist have also confirmed.

    "We now have international teams requesting invitations to compete in Utah, and this is great for our fans and our sponsors. The level of competition improves each year, making the Tour of Utah a true showcase for international cycling here in the United States," said Steve Miller, president of the Tour of Utah.

    Last year the Tour of Utah, with its position on the race calendar just after the Tour de France and prior to the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado, attracted a strong field which included BMC, Garmin-Cervelo (now Garmin-Barracuda), RadioShack, HTC-Highroad, Liquigas-Cannondale, along with America's domestic squads. Defending Tour of Utah champion Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) won the 2011 race, but the animators were the Colombian Gobernacion de Antioquia-Indeportes Antiquia team.

    The 2012 edition of the race will begin just 10 days after the men's road race at the London Olympic Games.