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First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Date published:
March 17, 2010, 0:00 GMT
  • Contador to face Armstrong in Criterium International

    Race leader Alberto Contador (Astana) remains in yellow for another day.
    Article published:
    March 16, 2010, 16:52 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Spaniard changes race programme after Paris-Nice win

    Alberto Contador (Astana) has announced two key changes to his race programme for the next few weeks following his overall victory at Paris-Nice.

    Contador had initially planned to ride the Volta a Catalunya (March 22-28) and then the Vuelta a Pais Vasco (April 5-10) but has now decided to cut his number of race days. He will now ride Criterium International (March 27 and 28) and the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon (April 14-18).

    The changes mean he will face Tour de France rival and former teammate Lance Armstrong at the Criterium International. It will be the first time the two have raced against each other since their acrimonious split last season.

    Contador also confirmed he will ride Fleche-Wallonne (April 21) and Liège - Bastogne - Liège (April 25).

    "I’ve had very good results in the first two races, my preparation is proceeding well, so we decided to change the calendar, to seek a less tiring race programme for me and for my team,” Contador said in a statement.

    “Criterium really suits my racing characteristics and I’m also want to ride it because it prestigious race. The Vuelta a Castilla y Leon is a special race for me and this year’s change of dates helps me before going to the Classics, where I especially hope to gain experience. I'm excited to ride them because they’re special, but I know that there are riders who have a better chance of winning.”

    “I’m sacrificing Catalonia and the Tour of the Basque Country because my preparation is going very well and do not want to risk doing too much. Now I'll also have the opportunity to meet other team riders that will be in the Tour team, like Vinokourov”.

    The Astana team also announced that it will not ride this year’s Paris-Roubaix. The team relinquished its place, claiming it does not have specialist riders, although it promised to ride the French cobbled classic in 2011.

  • Cavendish crashes on Tirreno's final stage

    Mark Cavendish (Team HTC - Columbia)
    Article published:
    March 16, 2010, 17:58 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Holm says HTC-Columbia's sprint star will be ready for Milan-San Remo

    HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish suffered cuts and bruises in a crash during the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, but will take his place on the start line at Milan-San Remo on Saturday.

    Cavendish came down on a corner after a touch of wheels with eight kilometres to go on the final stage of the Italian race. He suffered cuts and bruises in the crash, but was able to remount and finished the stage behind the peloton.

    HTC-Columbia Director Sportif Brian Holm indicated that he doesn't expect the incident to affect Cavendish. "He's got bruises. He's hurt, as you'd expect after crashing at 60km/h," Holm told Cyclingnews, "but he's not made of chocolate. I'm sure he'll be fine."

    The crash is the latest hiccup in Cavendish's 2010 season. Dental issues caused the 24-year-old to delay his season start, with Tirreno-Adriatico just his third race appearance of the year.

    In spite of his frustrating lead up to his Milan-San Remo title defence this weekend, Holm predicted Cavendish will nevertheless be in a position to defy expectations, as he did so emphatically last year.

    "[I think his chances are] more or less the same as last year," he said. "He surprised everyone last year and in some ways it looked too easy. We know it's going to be difficult, but we'll give it a try.

    "I do truly believe he can do it again."

    Holm also hosed-down any suggestion that Cavendish had written off his chances of repeat success in the event.

    "He wants it, otherwise he wouldn't start."

  • Boonen: Bennati best bet for San Remo glory

    Tom Boonen (Quick Step) makes his way through a media scrum
    Article published:
    March 17, 2010, 6:49 GMT
    Cycling News

    Belgian bluff or honest appraisal of Italian's chances?

    With Milan-San Remo just several days away, perennial favourite Tom Boonen is tipping Daniele Bennati to become the first Italian rider to win the event since Filippo Pozzato in 2006.

    The 29-year-old from Arezzo took stage two at last month's Tour of Oman and was in the hunt for overall honours. He maintained that form, winning the third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico the day after Boonen had secured his first stage victory in the event with a win in Montecatini Terme.

    And the Belgian has good reason to be aware of Bennati's form - he finished behind the Italian during both of those early season victories. "Daniele Bennati is the main favourite for me," Boonen told Sporza overnight.

    "Maybe not the most likely name, but he is good at riding hard, like his Liquigas team," he added. "Perhaps Liquigas will ride with the same tactics as us [Quick Step]: a long, hard race and a sprint with a depleted group in San Remo."

    Defending champion Mark Cavendish crashed during yesterday's final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico and while the likes of former San Remo kings Mario Cipollini and Erik Zabel haven't written off the HTC-Columbia rider, his chances may have been hampered by the accident.

    "I'd also have Cavendish in the reckoning [for the win], though he still must improve a bit," said Boonen, adding that he'd obviously prefer the race to end in a sprint, which usually proves the most likely eventuality.

    "Sanremo is a classic sprint, as simple as that. It is an extremely difficult sprint; it's hard, very hard. This contest remains a major challenge in my career," continued the Belgian star, who has never won the race and will line up for his ninth edition of 'la Classicisima' on Saturday.

    While Boonen took his third Paris-Roubaix title last year and hopes to go one better this season, he knows it will come at the cost of his chances in Milan-San Remo. He needs to save some condition for next month but admits that...

  • Hoste to miss Nokere Koerse

    Leif Hoste (Omega Pharma Lotto)
    Article published:
    March 17, 2010, 7:02 GMT
    Cycling News

    Omega Pharma-Lotto will take seven-man squad

    Leif Hoste will miss today's Nokere Koerse after complaining of continued back pain following a training ride on Monday. A fall in Tirreno-Adriatico has proven troublesome for the Omega Pharma-Lotto rider and his squad will therefore compete with seven members in Nokere.

    According to Belgian news agency Belga, Hoste will postpone his planned comeback to Dwars door Vlaanderen on March 24 despite indications prior to Monday that suggested the Classics star was on the mend.

    "It appeared as though it was improving, but eventually Leif Hoste experienced more pain in his back after a training ride on Monday," said Omega Pharma directeur sportif Hendrik Redant.

    "It is better to keep him out of some races and certainly don't force [a return]," added Redant. Dwars door Vlaanderen will probably be his first competition after his retirement in Tirreno-Adriatico.

    "We must race in Nokere with seven riders because it was too short a time frame to call anyone else [to ride], " he explained.

    Meanwhile, defending champion Graeme Brown (Rabobank) will return to the Nokere Koerse in an attempt to make it two successive victories. The Australian began his season at January's Bay Classics before heading to the Tour Down Under and then returning to European competition.

  • Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans launched in Brisbane

    Rhys Gillett relaxes with two of his teammates in their 2XU clothing, while they wait for the presentation to start.
    Article published:
    March 17, 2010, 7:30 GMT
    Greg Johnson

    Full National Road Series, Scody Cup on the cards

    New Australian domestic squad Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans was launched last night at Brisbane BMW’s showroom. Australian sportscaster Mike Tomalaris was the evening’s host, introducing the team’s 13 riders and management.

    Sport director Patrick Jonker is relishing the opportunity to mentor such a young group of riders. "I am looking forward to working with such a young and talented squad,” he said. “My role is not only to lead the team ensuring success but to mentor the riders. The mentoring role is one that I will relish."

    Team owner Chris White told Cyclingnews the new squad will contest both Cycling Australia’s National Road Series and Caribou Publications’ Scody Cup. That will see the team contest races like Melbourne to Warrnambool, Tour of Tasmania, Tour of the Murray River and the Tour of Geelong.

    “Having a team of Australia's brightest young stars provides us with not only a deep talent pool but also an opportunity to mentor and develop the riders as individual athletes,” said White. ”We see the Virgin Blue RBS Morgans team as being very successful and at the same time a breeding ground for Australia's next professional cyclists.”

    Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans will act as a development team for Continental squad Fly V Australia, both owned by Pegasus Racing. Having contested Australian domestic races for the past two seasons, Fly V Australia will focus its efforts on racing abroad this year with the new team taking its place in the domestic scene.

    Virgin Blue-RBS Morgans roster for 2010: Michael Freiberg, Pat Shaw, Scott Law, Ben Dyball, James Hepburn, Peter Thomson, Cameron Peterson, Mitchell Pearson, Andrew Roe, James Mowatt, Rhys Gillett and Chris Pryor.

  • BMC to recon Milan-San Remo finale

    Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team)
    Article published:
    March 17, 2010, 10:04 GMT
    Richard Tyler

    Ballan, Hincapie, Burghardt, Kroon to lead in Italy

    BMC Racing Team will ride the final third of the Milan-San Remo course this week as they prepare for their debut start in the Italian Classic on Saturday.

    The team have pegged their hopes on an aggressive race strategy, naming Alessandro Ballan, George Hincapie, Marcus Burghardt and Karsten Kroon as their leaders for the race.

    "It can be a selective race or it can be one for the sprinters," said BMC Sports Director John Lelangue. "This is a race that you really have to learn, so we will do a reconnaissance of the last 80 kilometres so we’re ready for the final climbs and the last 10 kilometres of downhill off the Poggio."

    Of the four riders BMC have named as leaders for the race, only Hincapie and Kroon took part in the event last year, while members of their former teams. Hincapie formed part of defending champion Mark Cavendish's HTC-Columbia squad, while Kroon was the best placed Saxo Bank finisher, in 14th place.

    Ballan's eighth place in the 2006 Milan-San Remo is the best previous result of the quartet and he will head into the 2010 event as one of the outsiders likely to attack on the Cipressa or the Poggio climbs. Burghardt's participation will be just the second of his seven year professional career.

    US riders Brent Bookwalter and Jeff Louder will form part of the roster, with Swiss Michael Schär and Danilo Wyss rounding out the eight-man line-up.

  • Boasson Hagen to lead Team Sky at Milan-San Remo

    Team Sky in full flight
    Article published:
    March 17, 2010, 10:43 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Flecha and Henderson to start, give British team options

    Team Sky has made a late change to its line-up for Saturday's Milan-San Remo, as the British team prepares to make their first appearance in one of cycling's five monumental Classics.

    Sky's combination for Milan-San Remo bears close resemblance to the squad that helped Edvald Boasson Hagen win the final stage of Tirreno-Adriatico on Tuesday. The talented Norwegian will be the team's leader, but the presence of an on-form Juan Antonio Flecha and Paris-Nice stage winner Greg Henderson gives Team Sky a variety of options for the difficult-to-predict San Remo finale.

    Also in the nine-rider line-up are hard working domestiques Michael Barry, Mat Hayman and Ian Stannard, plus Thomas Löfkvist and Chris Sutton.

    Welshman Geraint Thomas was pencilled in to replace Kurt-Asle Arvesen in the team as the Norwegian continues to recover after breaking his collarbone in Qatar. However senior Directeur Sportif Scott Sunderland has confirmed that Henderson will now take his place. Thomas is still on the official race entry list but now has more time to train for the cobbled Classics and will ride Gent-Wevelgem on March 28.

    "Greg's going to drop in for Kurt and he should be good to go after participating in Paris-Nice," said Sunderland on the team's official website.

    "Geraint's been working hard but he's not quite where he needs to be at the moment, so he's going to do a little bit of extra work this week to make sure he's properly ready for the Classics taking place after Milan-San Remo.

    "We're going to that [Milan-San Remo] with a really strong team though, and it should certainly be interesting on Saturday."

    Morale in the British team is high after Tirreno-Adriatico. The riders will stay in Italy and focus on recovering for Saturday's race. Other teams have traveled to San Remo to study the finale of the route but Team Sky, like HTC-Columbia, wisely did that before Tirreno-Adriatico.

    Michael Barry helped Mark...

  • Bryne Grand Prix added to UCI women's calendar

    Norway's neighbor Sweden hosts the Open de Suède Vargarda World Cup.
    Article published:
    March 17, 2010, 13:01 GMT
    Cycling News

    Norway steps in with one-day race

    A new UCI race for women has been added to the international calendar. The Bryne Grand Prix, set to take place in Norway on August 21, 2010, will be the first UCI-sanctioned women's race to take place in that country in 20 years.

    The country also launched its first UCI women's team this year, Team Hitec Products, making two major milestones for women's cycling in Norway, but the ambitions do not stop there.

    "The ambition of the organisation committee of the Bryne Grand Prix is to reach to the World Cup-level for women in the future," said Karl Lima, manager of Team Hitec Products. "The organiser, Bryne CK would like to express our appreciation to the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the Norwegian Cycling Union (NCF). Without the combined powers of all parties involved the birth of the Bryne Grand Prix would not have been possible."

    The race will take place outside Bryne, which is just south of Stavanger on the Norwegian west coast.  The circuit will consist of a 22km loop covered 6 times in the UCI 1.2 classified event. The date currently overlaps with the GP de Plouay-Bretagne World Cup.