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First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Date published:
April 17, 2013, 03:00
  • Fuglsang in tune for Flèche Wallonne

    A focused Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)
    Article published:
    April 16, 2013, 19:23
    Jane Aubrey

    Tour de France the main focus for Dane's season

    Singularly focused, Jakob Fuglsang showed promising signs on Sunday at Amstel Gold Race that his best may not be too far away. The Astana recruit was one of five men in the distinctive aqua kit in contention on the final lap leading to the finish, with the 28-year-old eventually finishing 17th at 25 seconds, having been dedicated to the defending champion Enrico Gasparotto.

    "We didn't get enough out of it in the end compared to how strong we actually were as a team," Fuglsang told Cyclingnews.

    A season that has so far been stop-start is finally starting to come together for the Danish rider who is targeting a top-10 GC performance at this year's Tour de France. Sixth overall at Ruta Del Sol, Fuglsang couldn't carry that momentum through to Paris-Nice, crashed, and then like much of the peloton, got sick. Catalunya and then Pais Vasco proved a bit of a battle and he never really felt as if his form was heading in the right direction. At Valkenburg, that changed.

    "Sunday was nice and there was a different feeling in the body that now I can, the body works."

    At La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, following his support role for Gasparotto and before he's likely to be at the services of Vincenzo Nibali or defending champion Maxim Iglinskiy on Sunday at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Fuglsang is ready to leave it all out on the road.

    "I will for sure try if the legs are there," he confirmed, but with a caveat. "I will go from the distance instead if I get the green light," not wanting the 205km race to be decided only on 1300 metres of racing on the Mur de Huy.

    "We're one of the stronger teams and we have to try something from distance. We don't have an explosive guy like Gilbert who is the obvious one. Rodriguez if he starts. There will be maybe other guys like Uran or Henao. Sky will maybe have someone. Otherwise it's pretty open I think for the podium."

    All for the Tour

    In his press conference following the win at Amstel Gold Race, Roman Kreuziger (Saxo - Tinkoff) made mention of that fact that he believed while at Astana he did not receive the support he needed, and with it the confidence required to deliver the results desired by both himself and the team. Fuglsang is relieved to say that his experience, following a tumultuous exit from RadioShack, has been a long way from what Krueziger felt aggrieved by.

    "I actually feel that I have that support," he told Cyclingnews. "But that's also why in the end if they ask me to work for somebody else in the team I'll give 100 per cent back. It puts something in the bank for later. You cannot always take, take, take. You have to give back. Gaspa is normally going to be there in the Tour for me and the Classics are really important for him so for me it's a good opportunity to give something back."

    That confidence is also evident in the way that the team is supporting Fuglsang's tilt at the Tour de France. He's finished 50th overall in both Tours he's competed in (2010, 2011) but the reason for his optimism comes primarily from his result in the Vuelta a España in 2011, where he finished 11th overall.

    "I was tired in the end and lost a little bit there but it's what's given me the hope, the belief that I can actually do it," Fuglsang said.

    The 100th edition of the Tour de France will be in essence, a test for the Dane but he's doggedly determined - "If we prepare as we've planned I believe in it."

    After the Ardennes, Fuglsang will race only the Dauphine before the Tour, heading to Tenerife and the Sierra Nevada instead. It's the same training over racing, less is more approach used by Team Sky - something he laughs at when the comparison is noted - but not a new one, given it's what he did in the lead up to last year's Giro d'Italia, although the start was not forthcoming. Fuglsang explained that with the focus on Nibali's campaign at the Giro, the pressure on him from management ‘is more or less off". By the same token, other members within the Astana Tour squad will get their chances when it comes to individual stages.

    "For me to start with it will be GC," he said. "I will try to go for top 10. That's my goal and my objective but I have to see as the race moves on if it's realistic.

    "It's not up to us to create the race; we're there to hang on for as long as possible. We're not there to win the Tour, that's not our approach."

    With that in mind, when it comes to the all-important time trials, his markers won't be podium favourites Alberto Contador (Saxo - Tinkoff) or Bradley Wiggins (Sky).

    "My big competitors they will be maybe Tejay Van Garderen, Peter Velits, Navarro from Cofidis and there will be some other guys. I normally do a better time trial than a guy like him or Quintana from Movistar if he's going," Fuglsang reasoned.

    Relaxed? Yes. But it's a mood that Fuglsang is revelling in having spent some of the early years of his road career under Bjarne Riis. Though important for his development at the time, Fuglsang believes that it's time to be taking control of his own destiny, something he had firmly in mind when signing a three-year-deal with Astana; he didn't want to have to be starting over again after two years having spent the first trying to find his feet.

    "It's good for me to be in a team where I actually have to think a little bit and say: what is it that I want," Fuglsang explained. "Maybe I have to take a training camp for myself or take a decision that I want to do something but at least I can choose what I want to do and it puts me in a situation where I have to think about what I want and what will make me better. For me now, it's a good position to be in and a good thing for me that I have to think and I'm not like a robot where I just follow, and follow, and follow."

  • Report: Sanchez appeal to UCI about Blanco

    Stage nine winner Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank) on the podium.
    Article published:
    April 16, 2013, 20:18
    Cycling News

    Blanco say they have “no idea” about alleged appeal

    A member of Team Blanco’s management says the team has “no idea” about reports in Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday concerning an alleged appeal by their rider Luis León Sanchez to the UCI apparently claiming that the team have impeded his right to work.

    Sánchez was placed on non-active status in February when the news over his alleged links to Operación Puerto – which Sánchez denies – broke. One of Rabobank’s most successful riders, his last race was last September.

    Asked if the Spaniard was suspended, Blanco sports director Frans Maassen told Cyclingnews on Tuesday that was not the case. “No... just that the team say that maybe [there is] something not good.”

    “I think in any other team he would be out. But I cannot make any decisions, it’s difficult. He is a really good rider.”

    Maassen agreed that the situation was unusual, that it was hard to see what the outcome would be and that the case has dragged on for longer than usual. “It has already been a long time now. And nothing is happening, so I don’t know.”

    Asked if something might happen once a verdict concerning Operacion Puerto – to which Sánchez has allegedly been linked – came out, Maassen said: “I don’t know anything about this, I cannot make a decision, you have to talk to another director about this.”

    Blanco announced Sanchez’s suspension on February 2, saying that “until there is clarity about the outcome of the investigation is Luis Leon Sanchez is not included in a selection of Blanco."

    Speaking to Cyclingnews later that month, Blanco general manager Richard Plugge said that he had remained in email contact with Luis Leon Sanchez and that the team was investigating his alleged links to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes “very thoroughly.”

  • Follow Flèche Wallonne start-to-finish live on Cyclingnews Wednesday

    Kisses to the crowd as Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) wins the Fleche Wallonne
    Article published:
    April 16, 2013, 21:04
    Cycling News

    Also full live coverage Sunday for Liège-Bastogne-Liège

    Follow the final two Ardennes Classics live from the start shot until the exciting finish. Cyclingnews will again provide live start-to-finish coverage of Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday, April 17, and Liège - Bastogne - Liège on Sunday, April 21.

    In addition, Cyclingnews' staff is on the scene to interview riders both before and after the races, and get photos of the teams preparing for the race.

    Flèche Wallonne kicks off at 11:50 am CET on Wednesday, with our live coverage starting a little earlier. The race then wends 205 kilometers from Binche to Huy, taking in 12 climbs. The fame and feared Mur de Huy, with a gradient up to 9.3% will be tackled three times, including for the finish.

    Liège - Bastogne - Liège gets off to an earlier start, at 10:15 am CET on Sunday.  After starting in downtown Liège, the course runs 261.5km through the Belgian countryside, with 11 climbs, before finishing in Ans at about 5 pm, CET.

    See also: start list for Flèche Wallonne men and women.

  • Stevens will not defend Flèche Wallonne title

    On the podium - winner, Evelyn Stevens (Specialized - lululemon)
    Article published:
    April 16, 2013, 21:53
    Laura Weislo

    American still recovering from March crash

    The women's peloton will toe the start line for the Flèche Wallonne World Cup round without the number 1 dossard amongst its ranks. Defending champion Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) last year stunned the world's top rider, Marianne Vos, by out-sprinting her to the line at the top of the Mur de Huy, but will not take part this year as she is still recovering from injuries sustained in a crash last month.

    Stevens crashed on a high-speed descent during the Classica Citta di Padova on March 16 and suffered lacerations to her face and broken teeth.

    Specialized-lululemon team manager Kristy Scrymgeour explained that Stevens needs a bit more time before she resumes racing. "Evie's doing pretty well and almost ready to get back to racing but we thought she needed a little bit more time," Scrymgeour told Cyclingnews on Tuesday.

    "She's disappointed not to be able to start Flèche Wallonne but there is a lot of racing still to come this season and I'm pretty sure she'll be back stronger when she starts racing over the next couple of weeks."

    Vos will start the third World Cup round with a 39-point lead in the series over Ellen van Dijk (Specialized-lululemon), while Emma Johansson (Orica-AIS) is in third.

  • Vos under less pressure for Flèche Wallonne

    A smiling Marianne Vos (Rabo Women), winner of the first World Cup of 2013
    Article published:
    April 16, 2013, 23:05
    Jane Aubrey

    Four-time winner taking different approach this year

    A different build up to La Flèche Wallonne has four-time winner Marianne Vos (Rabo Women) unsure of her form heading into the World Cup race on Wednesday.

    Vos has not raced on the road since winning the Tour of Flanders, instead concentrating on her mountain bike with an eye to getting the balance right given her planned dual focus for the 2016 Rio de Janiero Olympic Games. It's not about being bored with the road, it's about adding to her motivation, she says. It's a thrill.

    "Normally I should have done last week's Energiewacht Tour ... so that's going to be a different feeling," the reigning World Champion told Cyclingnews on Tuesday at the team presentation in Huy. "I don't think it affects me that much but on Thursday I leave to the Sea Otter Classic so with the travelling and the different schedule it's something different but I want to try it for the coming years also."

    Vos admits that she arrives for the battle up the Mur de Huy with "less pressure" following her much-longed-for victory at the Tour of Flanders earlier this month. More than anything, Vos explained, adding The Ronde to her palmares was a relief.

    "Of course it's good for your confidence but it was more the main goal for this month," she said. "In the classics that was my main focus because after winning Flèche four times I really wanted to add that one badly."

    In 2012, Vos was on the verge of a third-consecutive win at La Flèche Wallonne when Evelyn Stevens (Specialized - lululemon) outsprinted the Dutchwoman on the last rise heading to the finish line.

    It's not a loss that is driving the 25-year-old upon her return however.

    "Getting second is not too bad of course but for me, being a four-time winner, you don't want to get second," Vos admitted. "I don't want to make up for last year I just want to go for the win. We have a strong team; we have more cards to play and I hope we can use that tomorrow."

    Vos holds a 39-point lead over nearest rival Eleonora Van Dijk (Specialized - lululemon) with another 15 points back to Emma Johansson (Orica - AIS) after three World Cup rounds. Admitting that points certainly play a role in tactics for the race, Vos said that regardless, it is about getting across the line first and perhaps claiming a fifth Flèche Wallonne title.

    "For tomorrow for the team, the win and the race is more important than the World Cup lead."

    At 1300 metres, the Mur is as long as it is intense, with an average gradient of 9.3 percent on the ascent. It's a climb that Vos knows as well as any and yet, so challenging is it that it makes it almost impossible for her to pinpoint an exact spot where Flèche can be won or lost, other than the finish line.

    "It's always a question until you get up there," Vos told Cyclingnews. "Last year I had to close a gap on the Côte de Bousalle, the climb before the Mur de Huy and it was pretty good and we were in a nice break. Clara Hughes did the lead out for Evelyn Stevens and I was there in the last corner and 150 metres to go. Normally that's the point where I can push and I can make it to the finish. Last year I tried the same but 150 metres on such a hard long climb is seriously long. And Stevens was really strong last year so it depends on how the race goes and how fresh everybody is. You have to anticipate the moment."

  • Neylan psyched for aggressive La Flèche Wallonne

    Australian Rachel Neylan (Hitec Products) took a silver medal at the 2012 Road World's
    Article published:
    April 16, 2013, 23:47
    Jane Aubrey

    Hitec Products UCK bring depth and talented squad to Ardennes classic

    World Championship silver medallist Rachel Neylan (Hitec Products UCK) is steadily working her way into the season after a disrupted start to what she had hoped to have been one of the biggest years of her career.

    La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday however, is cause for a smile to return to the Australian's face.

    "I'm excited," Neylan told Cyclingnews at the team presentation in Huy on Tuesday buoyed by the memory of her 2010 debut when she was riding for the national team. "On a good day I've got the capacity to be up there - I like steep climbs. I love this race and I think it's going to be really aggressive and really hard."

    Following her top-10 performance at the Cycling Australia Road National Championships, Neylan embraced the European winter and a tough training camp having signed on with the Norwegian-based Hitec outfit. Perhaps it was too much too soon, but a knee injury eventuated and it's meant that Neylan has raced just a handful of times this season.

    "I probably bit off a little bit more than I could chew and I didn't really understand the limitations of training in winter in Europe," she explained.

    "Pulsed with a huge amount of motivation after worlds last year, I just wanted to come into a new season and new team and really hit it with a lot of force. I have a tendency to overdo things," she admitted.

    The racing Neylan's done in recent weeks has probably come a bit earlier than she'd anticipated but while supporting teammates Elisa Longo Borghini and Chloe Hosking, the 31-year-old is using the spring for conditioning while maintaining a team focus.

    "I'll just hit the re-set button in May," she said.

    "I'm definitely getting back on track. It's one thing to get back on your bike and then recover and be riding pain free but the next step is to be able to race. And there's a big, big, big distance between those - you have to crawl before you can walk. It's nothing I'm not accustomed to. I'm used to managing injuries and comebacks," Neylan explained with a rollercoaster few seasons already behind her.

    Next, Neylan will head to Tenerife for an altitude training camp before resuming racing at the top level at a few events in Spain before hopefully being back to her best at Giro del Trentino Alto Adige - Südtirol and then the Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile.

    While frustrated, it's been the team environment at Hitec which is making things just that little bit easier.

    "At the base of it is the fact that we have 11 really fantastic women and a really nice spread of depth, talent and girls of really genuine character," she explained. "The Norwegians just have a really nice, calm, accepting, compassionate friendly demeanour about them. It helps when you have a happy environment. It helps everyone to perform so we've just been feeding off each other and it's just a pleasure to race with them all."

    World championships
  • Gang Xu flies the flag for Champion System in Trentino

    Gang Xu (Champion System) crosses the line in 8th place after spending the day in the breakaway at Trentino
    Article published:
    April 17, 2013, 00:48
    Stephen Farrand

    Chinese national champion goes on the attack

    Chinese national road race champion Gang Xu ensured the Champion System team was in the breakaway during the first stage of the Giro del Trentino and then swapped his red national champion's jersey for the cream coloured most aggressive rider's jersey.

    Xu finished last of the eight breakaway riders but earned his 15 minutes of fame by being the first to attack at the start of the 128.5km stage. He suffered on the late climb and could not stay with eventual winner Maxime Bouet but was happy to be in the action.

    "I arrived in Austria yesterday after some races in Belgium and so my form's pretty good. In the team meeting my manager told me to go in the break and I said: 'Ok, no problem', I was happy to go for it. As soon as the race started, I went!" Xu told Cyclingnews.

    Gang Xu has been a professional rider for two years with Champion System. He won the Chinese national title last October, his fourth national title after also winning titles in 2007, 2008 and 2009. He rode the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman in February and has raced in Belgium and France since then, often suffering on the cobbles and in the echelons and failing to finish.

    "The level is very high in Europe, the races are very fast," he said. "In northern Europe it's very wind and very cold. But fortunately last week there was no wind and so I did better."

    The Giro del Trentino marks the end of Xu's spring campaign. Next on his race calendar is the Tour of California.

    "I'm going home to Shanghai after this race to get a Visa so that I can ride the Tour of California. That's a big race for us, I can't wait. It'll be nice to race in the USA."

  • Team Sky celebrate their Trentino team time trial victory

    Bradley Wiggins and Sky celebrate on the Giro del Trentino podium.
    Article published:
    April 17, 2013, 01:48
    Stephen Farrand

    Wiggins well placed as the mountain stages loom

    Team Sky celebrated victory in the Giro del Trentino team time trial with a champagne fight on the podium that left most of them soaked to the skin but happy to have won yet another race.

    The celebrations were a rare moment of emotion, a glimpse of the riders with their guard down, after a near perfect ride in the 14.1km team time trial around Lienz. Team Sky stopped the clock in a time of 15:20, a super fast average speed of 55.174km/h.

    Bradley Wiggins was happy to let his teammates cross the line ahead of him but he did some huge turns on the front, especially in the final part of the course, keeping the pace high for long spells but without breaking up the team.

    Wiggins admitted that he was not happy with how he felt on the bike but was pleased with the result.

    "I was dreadful today. I almost climbed off this morning so it's nice to finish the race with a win," he said, perhaps indicating his form is very good but that the antibiotics for his saddle sore have affected him. The truth may be revealed during Wednesday's first mountain stage and on the 14km climb to the finish in Vetriolo Terme.

    "It was a good test for us for the team time trial at the Giro d'Italia," Wiggins said.

    "It's important we don’t lose time there, that's the big goal. We wanted to limit our losses, so to win is great. I wouldn't say it's a surprise but there is so much that can go wrong and to get it right like that and win is a bonus."

    Cataldo ready for the mountains

    Dario Cataldo is Italian national champion and showed his tricolore stripes on his Team Sky skin suit during the team time trial.

    He will play a vital role helping Wiggins in the Giro d'Italia and is ready to help Wiggins in the three mountain stages of the Giro del Trentino.

    "We expected to do a good ride. Much of this team will ride the Giro and so it's a good test for everything. Now we're ready for the mountains. They'll also be a test and to get the legs ready for the Giro," Cataldo said.

    While Wiggins opted to train in Mallorca, Cataldo was at altitude in Tenerife with most of his Giro d'Italia teammates before the Giro del Trentino.

    "It was a hard work, a big block of work," he said. "We thought we'd pay for it a bit here and so we were a little bit worried for the TTT. Now things should go better."

    Team Sky opted not to control the race during the morning road stage and so Wiggins, Cataldo, Siutsou, Kennaugh, Knees and Zandio are 6:03 behind new race leader Josef Cerny (CCC Polsat) and the other seven riders who were in the morning breakaway.

    Cataldo did not seem worried about the time gap.

    "The GC will change, the mountains are hard," he said bluntly. "It's a big gap but we known that the guys who paid for it this morning, will pay for it on the climbs."

    "Brad seems to be in great form and he's very motivated. We'll see what happens tomorrow. We'll try and do something, but just like the other teams doing GC."

    Giro d'Italia