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First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Date published:
April 18, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • Mancebo reclaims spot atop US NRC rankings

    Megan Guarnier (Tibco) and Jessica Glasbergen (Specialized-DPD) leading the group of six
    Article published:
    April 17, 2012, 18:42 BST
    Pat Malach

    Standings for NRC and NCC shift after Battenkill, Presbyterian races

    Two races last weekend caused big ripples in both the USA Cycling National Race Calendar and the National Criterium Calendar standings.

    Competitive Cyclist's Francisco Mancebo, the 2011 NRC overall winner, reclaimed his spot atop the NRC rankings with a well-earned victory at Sunday's Tour of the Battenkill, the second race of the series. The day before in North Carolina, UnitedHealthcare's Hilton Clarke added to his NCC lead at the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium, while Primal-Map My Ride's Nicky Wangsgard took the women's lead with her first NCC win.

    Mancebo survives brutal Battenkill for NRC lead

    Mancebo's win at Battenkill, where well over half the field did not finish, boosted him to a nine-point advantage over previous leader Phil Gaimon (Kenda/5-Hour Energy), who won the series-opening Redlands Bicycle Classic but suffered a mechanical in the closing kilometers Sunday and was the last rider to finish. Bissell Pro Cycling's Paddy Bevin did not race Sunday but is third overall based on the strength of his three stage wins and second-place GC finish at Redlands. Mancebo was third in the NRC standings before Sunday's race.

    In the team competiton, Bevin's Bissell squad, which won this compeition last year, moved into first place with 390 points after placing riders in third and seventh Sunday. Optum-Kelly Benenfit Strategies claimed the second and fourth spots at Battenkill to move into second overall with 358 points, while previous leader Kenda/5-Hour Energy slipped to third, just three points behind Optum.

    The NRC women did not race at Battenkill, and the standings remain unchanged. Redlands winner Megan Guarnier (Tibco-To the Top), who recently placed third at Ronde van Gelderland in the Netherlands, continues to lead the...

  • Gilbert: I'm not 100 per cent yet

    Philippe Gilbert (BMC) put in a solid performance in Amstel but didn't have the form from 12 months ago
    Article published:
    April 17, 2012, 20:15 BST
    Cycling News

    Belgian looks ahead to Flèche Wallonne

    After a disappointing start to his BMC career, Philippe Gilbert showed fleeting signs of his former self with a ferocious acceleration on the slopes of the Cauberg in the finale of Amstel Gold Race at the weekend. Though he eventually faded to finish sixth, Gilbert admitted that his confidence has been boosted ahead of Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne.

    "I'm satisfied, the fact that I had a respectable result is good for my morale and helps me recover a little faster," Gilbert said. "I knew my condition would come back one day and I’m happy to be better, it's much easier.”

    Even so, Gilbert admitted that he was still not at the same level that carried him to victory at Amstel, Flèche and Liège-Bastogne-Liège 12 months ago.

    “I’m not yet 100 per cent, but I can sense that it’s coming along. At this level you have to be at your best and you pay for any little thing that’s lacking,” he said. “My condition has been getting better day after day for a few weeks, so time is on my side, it’s my biggest ally.”

    Gilbert listed his dauphin of last year, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), among the men to watch on the slopes of the Mur de Huy on Wednesday. “I think that Katusha in general [will be favourite], because they have many cards to play, like Oscar Freire and Joaquim Rodriguez,” he said. “They have a very strong team here, so for me they’re the favourites, especially with this type of finish.”

    Gilbert and his BMC team climbed the Mur de Huy twice on Tuesday as part of their reconnaissance of the route of Flèche Wallonne, which sees the Côte d’Amay and the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet added to the finale...

  • Romain Bardet makes an impression in Amstel Gold Race

    Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale)
    Article published:
    April 17, 2012, 22:15 BST
    Kenny Pryde

    French neo-pro impresses with breakaway

    It's rare that one of the five "monumental" Classics throws up a surprise winner – although there can be disappointments – but there are always "performances" that catch the eye in the Classics. A combination of training, enthusiasm, opportunism and the proverbial day of 'grace' can throw up the odd unexpected name doing unexpected things.

    There would have been precisely zero people who would have put 21-year-old French new professional Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) close to the front group in the Amstel Gold Race, far less finishing in the top 30 (at a mere 30 seconds from the winner, Astana's Enrico Gasparotto). And more impressive still was the fact that the youngster had been in the early break, then stayed clear with fellow "neo" pro Alex Howes of Garmin Barracuda until he was finally caught, the last man standing, after 208km off the front. That would have been good enough in itself, but it was also the longest race of his pro racing career which kicked off at the Grand Prix La Marseillaise at the end of January.

    That he still had the legs to go with the leading group and stay with them until the final sort-out on the Cauberg deserves some kind of recognition.

    But, according to French journalist Jean-Luc Gatellier of L'Equipe, he's not quite come out of nowhere. "He was one of the best amateurs in the French national team last year, he won a stage in the Tour de l'Avenir and finished 12th overall and be won the points jersey, so he's not a total unknown."

    Nevertheless, to have ridden so well in his first Ardennes Classic was impressive stuff. After the race Bardet said, "I surprised myself a little, because I had never raced over that distance, but I felt really good and I never really felt like I was really pushing myself...

  • Gesink to lead Rabobank at Amgen Tour of California

    Gesink after his '08 stage win.
    Article published:
    April 17, 2012, 22:45 BST
    Cycling News

    Dutch rider looking forward to challenging course

    Rabobank will return once more to the Amgen Tour of California, this time with climber Robert Gesink at the helm. The Dutch climber skipped the past two editions, but in each of his three prior participations, Gesink won the best young rider's jersey (2007, 2008 and 2009) and won stage 3 in San Jose in 2008.

    Gesink will travel to the USA in May along with a strong supporting team that will include Laurens Ten Dam, Maarten Tjallingii and Bram Tankink for the climbs, Luis Leon Sanchez, Michael Matthews and Graeme Brown for the flatter stages and young rider Wilco Kelderman.

    The eight-day UCI 2.HC race starts on May 13 in Santa Rosa, and concludes in Los Angeles on May 20. Gesink is looking forward to a course that includes two summit finishes - Big Bear and Mt. Baldy - and a new time trial in Bakersfield.

    "It is a beautiful and challenging course, big crowds, fun and enthusiastic people, who make for a very special atmosphere. I'm very happy. It is an excellent choice for me personally and also for the sponsor's US interests."

    The inclusion of the American race is a departure from his training plan in the previous two years, where Gesink prepared for the Tour de France in the Tour de Suisse or Critérium du Dauphiné and took time out to train in May after the Ardennes Classics.

    "I would go to Switzerland after the Classics, but eventually we decided the day after Liege-Bastogne-Liege travel to California. A few days rest and then do I get a two-week altitude training. Then the Tour of California before the leaving.

    Gesink thinks the increased difficulty of the course makes it better preparation for the Tour de France. "The Tour of California is gaining status and is a little harder every year. It has become a really tough race. It's a nice to combine the race...

  • Vanendert: Flèche Wallonne is more than just the Mur

    Jelle Vanendert (left) was Philippe Gilbert's right hand man in the 2011 Amstel Gold Race
    Article published:
    April 18, 2012, 10:44 BST
    Cycling News

    Belgian on altered finale

    Flèche Wallonne may traditionally boil down to a shoot-out between the puncheurs on the third and final climb of the Mur de Huy, but Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) has warned that the altered finale could see the race break up beforehand.

    Last year, the peloton tackled just one climb – the Côte d’Ereffe – between the penultimate and final ascensions of the Mur de Huy, but this time around the Côte d’Amay and Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet come in rapid succession before a shorter run-in to the finish.

    “It’s not just the Mur de Huy,” Vanendert said according to “The redesigned finale could culminate in a different race. It’s not so much the Côte d’Amay that worries me as the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet, which is new and very narrow. The approach to the Mur has been changed too, so you’ll need to pay attention and I will need to make use of the other guys on the team.”

    Vanendert finished 6th on the Mur de Huy last season after working in the service of winner Philippe Gilbert. With Gilbert now at BMC, Vanendert is enjoying a leadership role in the Ardennes classics, and he acknowledged that he is among the favourites for victory following his second place finish at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.

    “I can’t deny that there is a lot of expectation, just as there will be for Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” he said. “I’m confident. I’m stronger than last...

  • Porte eyes Romandie audition for Tour de France

    Richie Porte (Team Sky) took the overall in Algarve
    Article published:
    April 18, 2012, 11:41 BST
    Cycling News

    Team Sky newcomer hoping to continue progress next week

    With Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish set to line up together in Team Sky colours for the first time, anticipation for next week's Tour of Romandie is high. Yet for their teammate Richie Porte, the race has ulterior significance: he is hoping to use it as a springboard to launch himself into Team Sky's plans for the 2012 Tour de France.

    The 27-year-old Australian, who signed for Sky from Team Saxo Bank during the off-season, has already started to justify his transfer by winning the Volta ao Algarve in mid-February, finishing two places ahead of Wiggins in the process. That success has given him extra hunger and additional belief as he prepares to work for his two high-profile teammates in Switzerland next week. Another good showing there and the man from Tasmania's claims for a spot in Sky's Tour de France squad would be deafening.

    "That's the biggest goal for me, to make that [Sky Tour de France] team," Porte told the Sydney Morning Herald. "It is probably one of the best teams in the world, and it is going to be a hard team to break in to. I guess Sky are investing in me to put me into that team."

    Wiggins and Porte's blossoming professional relationship gathered pace in early spring at Paris-Nice last March, where Porte helped Wiggins become only the second Briton to win the Race to the Sun. The early signs are good and Porte is hopeful that this may swing selection in his favour come the summer.

    "I get along well with Brad," he said. "We race a lot together. I guess that is what they are shaping me and Chris Froome into ......

  • Nibali hopes to blow off cobwebs at Flèche Wallonne

    Article published:
    April 18, 2012, 12:54 BST
    Cycling News

    Italian struggled with changes in tempo at Amstel Gold Race

    Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) lines up at Flèche Wallonne hoping to make more of an impact than he did at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, where he finished in a lowly 104th, seven minutes down on winner Enrico Gasparotto (Astana).

    It was Nibali’s first race since Milan-San Remo four weeks previously, and after spending much of the intervening period in a training camp on Tenerife at Mount Teide, he admitted that he had some difficulties in adjusting again to race rhythm. Nibali had enjoyed a fine start to the season, including overall victory at Tirreno-Adriatico.

    “On Sunday I didn’t succeed in being as competitive as I would have liked, but it was certainly a useful work-out to readapt after the training camp at altitude,” Nibali said.

    Nibali’s primary target this week is Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he finished in a solid 8th place twelve months ago, but he will look to fine-tune his condition at Flèche Wallonne.

    “My hope for Wednesday is to be sharper and to be able to cope with the changes in rhythm with greater ease, especially on the Mur de Huy,” he said.

    In spite of the alterations to the course for this year, Nibali expects the final haul up the storied Mur to prove decisive once again. The Sicilian, whose best showing at Flèche Wallonne is his 12th place of 2010, explained that positioning and nous are every bit as important as raw power on the 1.3 kilometre climb.

    “It’s the point where you need to make the difference, and not just with the legs,” he said. “You need to have the clarity of mind to move at the right time, to understand the...

  • Saxo Bank to challenge UCI points ruling on riders returning from suspensions

    Bjarne Riis and Alberto Contador are all smiles after the jump
    Article published:
    April 18, 2012, 14:29 BST
    Cycling News

    Team counting on Contador's haul to retain WorldTour licence

    Bjarne Riis does not agree with the UCI's rule that any points brought in by a rider returning from a doping-related suspension will not count for his team for two years. The Saxo Bank owner indicated he would challenge that rule in relation to Alberto Contador's expected return to the team in August.

    “Under no circumstances can we accept this rule. It is as if Lionel Messi returned to play for Barcelona after a suspension and scored goals, but his goals would not count,” Riis told

    Contador had contributed more than two-thirds of the team's points last year, before his two-year suspension was announced. The team lost those points, but the UCI's licencing commission decided to allow Saxo Bank to retain its WorldTour licence nevertheless.

    "If we have as expensive a man as Alberto on the payroll, we must be able to use him to fulfill our ambitions, one of which in particular is to be a part of the WorldTour.”

    Contador's contract with the team was nullified when he was suspended, and he has the option to sign with any team when the suspension is over. However, both he and Saxo Bank have indicated he will return to the Danish outfit.

    "We are currently engaged in a thorough investigation of how we should proceed. I know about the UCI's stance, and now it's up to us to demonstrate that it is not right. It is a purely legal battle, and we don't just take it for granted, but I can't say much more right now. "

    The team is currently last in the UCI's point list, in 18th place with 32 points. Seventeenth-ranked FDJ-Big Mat has 72 points, while leading team...