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First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Date published:
February 24, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Backstedt predicts mixed bag from Classics condenders

    Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas-Bianchi)
    Article published:
    February 23, 2010, 17:34 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    2004 Roubaix Champion says Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne ideal preparation for Flanders

    Former Paris-Roubaix Champion Magnus Backstedt says he expects the "usual suspects" to feature when the 2010 Classics season gets underway with the Belgian semi-classics Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne this weekend.

    "The first weekend's always difficult to predict. A number of the really top Classics riders generally aren't going really well as their focus is on the later Spring races," Backstedt told Cyclingnews on Tuesday.

    The Swede nominated a number of pedigreed Classics riders as his favourites for this weekend but warned that, like his own career, some big name riders will be several weeks away from peak form. He cited fellow Paris-Roubaix Champion Fabian Cancellara, who will forgo the weekend's racing, as an example of Classic contenders in the latter category.

    "I expect the usual suspects, [Philippe] Gilbert, [Stuart] O'Grady, [Filippo] Pozzato to be up there. Personally, I was always focussed on the second Sunday in April [Paris-Roubaix] and guys like Cancellara are still building form for the bigger races to come."

    One of the top stars who will be taking part is Tom Boonen. Though beset by personal problems for most of last season, Boonen did triumph at Kuurne for the second time in his career last February. Since 2002, the Belgian has never left the Omloop/Kuurne weekend without a top-ten performance in at least one of the two events. Backstedt sees no reason for this imposing record to continue.

    "I think he's got his head together. He was looking fit and prepared in Qatar. Racing in Belgium is obviously very important for him. For some reason, he generally does well in one race and not so well in the other over the weekend, so if he doesn't go well [at Het Nieuwsblad] he'll probably go well on Sunday in Kuurne."

    With a nervous bunch lining up to tackle the first cobbles of the new season, the traditional Belgian season openers often prove treacherous, with crashes common....

  • Quick Step recons weekend's rough courses

    It gets pretty steep on the Muur.
    Article published:
    February 23, 2010, 20:23 GMT
    Cycling News

    The harsh winter has degraded road surfaces

    The Quick Step team set out to preview the courses for this weekend's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad only to find the harsh winter which Europe has endured this year has deteriorated the road surfaces.

    Team director Wilfried Peeters wasn't worried that sprinter Tom Boonen and Sylvain Chavanel chose to skip the reconnaissance ride, saying that he will be able to warn them about the potholes over the race radio on Saturday.

    Stijn Devolder was one of the team's leaders who took part in the "tradition" despite some cold, wet weather. Devolder is part of a three-man attack squad that Quick Step has ready to tackle the Spring Classics. The former Belgian champion warned that his condition is not yet at its peak, but he feels it's better than at this point last year.

    "I try not to peak too early," he said in a press conference. "My peak is in April because of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix."

    Those looking to Devolder to perform in this weekend's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad or Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne may be disappointed. He said the course is perhaps not selective enough and a bit too short. He will look to the Three Days of De Panne as his final preparation for the Tour of Flanders, skipping Gent-Wevelgem in favour of the E3 Prijs.

    The two-time Ronde van Vlaanderen champion fought off rumours that he's tired of playing second fiddle to the likes of Boonen and is seeking to leave the Belgian powerhouse team.

    "The rumours are simply incorrect," Devolder said. "I'm very happy with the team I'm on."

    Quick Step for Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, Stijn Devolder, Kevin De Weert, Nikolas Maes, Kevin Hulsmans, Jurgen Van de Walle, Maarten Wynants.

    Quick Step for Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne: Tom Boonen, Sylvain Chavanel, Stijn Devolder, Kurt Hovelijnck, Iljo Keisse, Jurgen Van de Walle, Wouter Weylandt, Maarten Wynants.

  • Sun Tour expected to get February slot

    Tour winner Brad Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) with the trophy of the 2009 Jayco Herald Sun Tour in Carlton.
    Article published:
    February 24, 2010, 0:39 GMT
    Greg Johnson

    No tour to be held in 2010

    It seems the Jayco Herald Sun Tour will get its February slot after all, with Cycling Australia filling the Melbourne race’s traditional October position when firming up its National Road Series dates this week. The move means no event will be staged this year; instead it will take place shortly after Adelaide’s Tour Down Under – Australia’s only ProTour race – in early February.

    The Sun Tour has been contested in its October slot since 1952, but Cycling Australia will reportedly announce the date change today. The February move has allowed a reshuffle of the National Road Series calendar, with the Tour de Perth, Melbourne-Warrnambool, Grafton-Inverell and Shipwreck Coast Classic all now taking place in October.

    The decision comes despite International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid saying such a move was unlikely while visiting TDU in January. “I don’t want two races fighting for position,” McQuaid told Cyclingnews in January. “It doesn’t make sense that we should end up in a situation where two races are fighting each other because they’d both lose in the end.”

    McQuaid held concerns the Sun Tour would have ambitions of attempting to poach Tour Down Under’s ProTour license. Despite McQuaid’s reservations Sun Tour organiser TLSports continued its negotiations with the national federation.

    Continental team Drapac-Porsche described the expected date change as a great opportunity. Team manager Sarah Richardson said while either date was fine for the Australian team, it should increase the number of international teams able to contest the event.

    “I think it’s a great opportunity seeing you’ve got the Tour Down Under taking place as well, so you’ve got those international teams out in Australia. For Drapac-Porsche the timing isn’t really an issue, we’re quiet flexible.”

  • Drapac-Porsche has big ambitions for Langkawi return

    Peter McDonald (Drapac Porsche) battled hard but lost the yellow jersey today
    Article published:
    February 24, 2010, 0:54 GMT
    Greg Johnson

    Sights set on stage, overall success

    Australia's Drapac-Porsche will contest Malaysia's Tour de Langkawi for the second time next week, and the Melbourne-based squad is setting its sights high for the 2.HC race. The team will send some of its top climbers to the event, including former Australian Open Road Champion Peter McDonald.

    The Continental squad will be up against former Giro d'Italia stage winner and renowned climber José Rujano (ISD-Neri) and Tour Down Under stage winner Manuel Cardoso (Footon-Servetto) at the event. Despite the presence of such riders, Drapac-Porsche team manager Sarah Richardson believes the team can wear the race's leader jersey once more.

    "I think we'll be looking at stage wins with the hope of possibly getting the yellow jersey," said Richardson. "If you look at the riders we're sending, they're predominately our hill climbers so we should be up there and in contention.

    "Lachlan Norris has been going really well in a lot of the mountain bike races recently, he is currently leading the national series and finished second at the Otway Odyssey," she added. "We've got quite a few riders in good form to tackle the mountain climbs at the Tour of Langkawi."

    The squad will also feature a Malaysian rider in its roster in the form of Adiq Othman. Richardson expects Othman's presence in the team's roster will make it a favourite amongst locals.

    "He's been over there for three weeks already training for the event," said Richardson. "Having a Malaysian rider in the team is quiet beneficial. Having a local rider in the team helps boost our profile at the event."

    Langkawi won't be the only Asian race Drapac-Porsche contests in March. It will send a second squad of younger riders - Tom Palmer, Joe Lewis, Michael Phelan and Angus Morton - to the OCBC Cycle Singapore Criterium, which was won last year by David Pell.

    Drapac-Porsche Tour de Langkawi roster: Adiq Othman, Peter McDonald, Stuart Shaw, Lachie...

  • Rodriguez takes a rest from Tirreno

    Joaquím Rodríguez (Spain) took the bronze medal.
    Article published:
    February 24, 2010, 1:19 GMT
    Cycling News

    Paris-Nice the alternative for Spanish star

    Katusha recruit Joaquim Rodriguez will skip Italian stage race Tirreno-Adriatico, instead taking part in Paris-Nice, which starts with a prologue in Montfort L'Amaury on March 7.

    "This year we have not included riding this Italian race [Tirreno-Adriatico] and, together with the team, we decided to change my schedule and do Paris-Nice," said Rodriguez.

    Rodriguez fell during pre-season training in Calpe, Spain and feared the ramifications would spoil his form early in the year. Whilst he's not competing at the race where he has taken two stage wins during the past two editions, his comments indicate that he's on track for the Spring.

    "In total I rode three days in Mallorca and the entire Volta ao Algarve, with the good result reflecting all the work I've done. It was pretty scary, because after the injury in Calpe I thought the misery would be great," he said.

    'Purito', as he's known in Spain, took third in the road race at last year's UCI World Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland. He joined Russian ProTour squad Katusha in a bid for greater leadership roles during the Spring Classics.

    He'll now train in Tenerife until March 4 in preparation for the 'Race to the Sun'. "I did this last year and it went very well. I want to train at altitude to get the form and try to ride a good Paris-Nice," he added.

  • Cycling Australia confirms Jayco Herald Sun Tour move

    A street ahead of the rest: Englishman Brad Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) was a class above the rest and a deserved winner of the 2009 Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
    Article published:
    February 24, 2010, 2:11 GMT
    Cycling News

    Governing body looking to redevelop Oceania road calendar

    Cycling Australia has confirmed the Jayco Herald Sun Tour will move to February 2011, as reported earlier on Cyclingnews. The governing body will submit the dates to the International Cycling Union for its 2011 calendar, with the race’s 58th edition set to take place from February 8-13.

    Cycling Australia CEO Graham Fredericks said the Board considered three main elements when considering the TL Sports’ request while meeting at the weekend.

    "In arriving at this decision the Board addressed three key objectives, firstly to protect the achievements of the Santos Tour Down Under; secondly to protect the integrity of Australian track cycling, namely the Australian Track Championships and thirdly to retain the Jayco Herald Sun Tour on the UCI calendar and restore the event to its previous stature and profile," said Fredericks.

    "Cycling is a growth sport in Australia both in terms of participation and profile and on the world stage Australia is a cycling success story," Fredericks added. "Both the Santos Tour Down Under and the Jayco Herald Sun Tour have been major contributors to this success as has the crucial investment by corporate partners as well as Federal, State and Local governments."

    The calendar change now requires the International Cycling Union’s endorsement to take effect. Once approved, the Jayco Herald Sun Tour will take place one week after the Australian Track Championships, which are scheduled for February 1-6. The Santos Tour Down Under is expected to be scheduled for 18 to 23 January.

    Knowing that a date change alone will not secure the race’s future, Fredricks said the Cycling Australia board plans on redeveloping the Oceania road calendar. "Therefore the Board has identified the redevelopment of the Oceania road calendar from mid-February through to April each year as a key priority," he...

  • Giro is Sastre's first objective in 2010

    Spaniard Carlos Sastre (Cervélo)
    Article published:
    February 24, 2010, 9:30 GMT
    Cycling News

    Former Tour de France champion makes 'masochistic' decision

    Carlos Sastre has described his decision to ride this year's edition of the Giro d'Italia in addition to the Tour de France as 'masochistic' but is relishing the challenge of another assault on Italy's national tour.

    Speaking in a video chat where fans asked questions through Facebook and Twitter, the 2008 Tour de France champion explained that his experience in the 2009 Giro prompted him to return to the race. Last year he finished third overall following the suspension of runner-up Danilo Di Luca.

    "Last year left me feeling good and I wanted to start like this in 2010," said Sastre. "I think the Giro is the most dramatic race and therefore this year I have opted for it again."

    Whilst Sastre went into last year's Tour de France as the title holder, he faded in the final week of the race to finish 17th overall in Paris. He refuted suggestions that his Giro effort - which earned him two stage wins - hurt his campaign in July.

    "This year I will do what I did last year. There were people who said I had gone too well in the Giro which took its toll in the Tour, but I think they are two completely different competitions, which have nothing to do [with each other]," said Sastre.

    "I think I'm a little masochistic, I like to be hit twice with the same stone and I want to try [to ride both races]," he added.

    The 34-year-old Madrileño believes he can capitalise on his performance in last year's Giro and earn another podium spot because the course for this year's edition "benefits climbers, so there's the motivation and desire to do something important," he explained.

    "Without thinking too much about the Tour, I am aware that the Giro is my first goal of the year," continued Sastre. "I'm preparing well and want to get in the condition necessary for a race of this category."

    Sastre stressed that his focus is primarily on the Giro for the time being but said that there are elements to each of the...

  • Nuyens: Omloop has no one key point

    Nick Nuyens (Rabobank)
    Article published:
    February 24, 2010, 9:48 GMT
    Susan Westemeyer

    Former winner says race can be decided anywhere

    The key to winning the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is that there is no key, according to Rabobank's Nick Nuyens. There is no one place where the race is won or lost. “I don't think a key exists,” he explained. “It is a small race, and the whole race is important. Any moment can be the most important one.

    “There are so many little climbs and cobbles, so many important points,” he told Cyclingnews. “The race can be decided anywhere.”

    The Belgian riding for a Dutch ProTour team should know. He has had top finishes in the race, finishing fourth in 2007, second in 2008 and winning it in 2005. Can he make it to the podium again this year? “Yeah, why not? Why not. I've been on the podium twice, once on the top step. Once you have won it, you want to come back and take it again.”

    Nuyens is heading up the Dutch squad in the first Belgian race of the season. “I am one of the team captains," he said. "I'm in a good shape. I feel good, that is the most important thing.”

    If Nuyens himself doesn't win, he sees two fellow Belgians as top favourites. “Like every year, Boonen,” he tipped. Although Quick Step's Tom Boonen has never won the race, “this year he has proved he is really good”. Another pick is Philippe Gilbert of Omega Pharma-Lotto, who won the race in 2006 and 2008.

    Another possibility is Edvald Boasson Hagen of Team Sky. “Although it is his first time there, it is a good race for him," he said. "Maybe Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo TestTeam) too. He was good in Qatar, but had knee problems in Algarve.”

    However, the weather may be a factor in Saturday's race, he added. The single-digit temperatures won't make that much difference, but the continuous rain will make the many cobblestone sections tricky.

    “As long as it is not freezing and there is no snow, it is ok, I think,” he said....