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First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Date published:
March 27, 2013, 03:00
  • Reimer: I’m really appreciative of my second chance

    Ferekalsi Debesay Abrha and Martin Reimer (MTN - Qhubeka) take a turn on the front
    Article published:
    March 26, 2013, 13:10
    Cycling News

    Former German champion on his comeback with MTN-Qhubeka

    After a year out of the sport selling office supplies online, Martin Reimer is back in the saddle and enjoy every minute of it.

    The former German road race champion left the sport at the age 24, after two years at the Cervelo Test Team and a one-year stint at Skil-Shimano. After eight months without touching a bike, the MTN-Qhubeka team offered him the chance to return for the 2013 season.

    Now older and wiser, Reimer lined up for the Three Days of De Panne with renewed vigour and appreciation for his second chance in the professional ranks.

    “I’m back. I worked the normal life with eight-hour days but now I’m back in cycling and I’m really appreciative of my second chance and I’m grateful to the team. I’ve been happy with my comeback. In the first few races it was just a case of seeing how long I could ride in the peloton but now it’s to protect Gerald [Ciolek] and maybe lead him out. I also think I’ll get my own chances in the rest of the year,” he told Cyclingnews at the start of the first stage of the Belgian race.

    “I didn’t ride a bike for eight months but I did a lot of other sports,” he said, admitting that he put on a few extra kilos during his sabbatical.

    “When I left Argos I thought that was it, and that I was done. Then the guys from MTN came to me and they thought I was good enough to make a come back. After Argos I was mentally empty and it was hard just to get on the bike. I didn’t get many offers either and at the time I wanted to see what normal life was like. I didn’t like it.”

    With a one-year deal to fulfill, Reimer is looking forward to a racing calendar that will include a number of WorldTour events and with the squad on a high after Ciolek’s win in Milan-San Remo, he is glad to be simply be part of the peloton again.

    “Being a cyclist is one of the hardest jobs in the world but it’s also one of the nicest. You see many different countries and there are so many good people in the sport. You go to a bike race and it gives you a great feeling with all the fans around as well.”

    “I’d like to carry on after this year but I have to prove myself as well.”

  • Evans confident about leading BMC at the Tour de France

    Cadel Evans at the start
    Article published:
    March 26, 2013, 15:41
    Cycling News

    Australian building gradually after 2012 virus

    Cadel Evans is confident he will lead the BMC Racing Team at this year's Tour de France despite a quiet start to the season.

    Evans finished seventh in the 2012 Tour de France, discovering afterwards that he had been hampered by a virus. He ended his season in August and has made a cautious return to racing.

    Teammate Tejay van Garderen finished fifth and won the best young rider white jersey at the Tour de France. He finished third overall at the Critérium International behind the dominant Team Sky duo of Chris Froome and Ritchie Porte. Evans was a distant 51st, more than 15 minutes down. He admitted he had a poor time trial in his blog and confirmed that he worked as a domestique for van Garderen during the final stage.

    Evans became the first Australian to win the Tour de France in 2011. He was 34 at the time and turned 36 on February 14. He is convinced he is not past his best and that experience is vital when it comes to winning the Tour de France.

    "There is some short-term memory from the media, I had a virus last year and I still was seventh in the Tour de France," the 36-year-old told the Reuters news agency.

    "Of course on paper, Tejay was better than me but people seem to forget what I have done on the Tour de France in the six years preceding 2012."

    "If I'm not sick and everything goes according to plan, yes (I will be team leader). Like I said there seems to be a short-term memory thing in the media, I did actually win the Tour once before. That does sort of prove that I can do it."

    Evans has opted for a controlled comeback after his virus problem and is convinced it is the best way to build-up for the Tour de France.

    "I had a virus last year and it changes everything at this point compared to 2011," he said. "I haven't won any races yet (this year) so in that regard I'm behind but it's a slow and steady progress towards the Tour."

    "They (Team Sky) seem to be very, very well prepared for the early part of the season with two whole teams of strong climbers and in the mountains at least they can dictate their own terms. Normally, putting guys at such a high level in the early season means you're going to pay for it later in the year, that would be the normal case - time will tell in that regard."

    "For now they are going to be hard to beat, they're the guys to beat."

  • Sagan ends Cavendish’s sprint hopes on stage 1 of De Panne

    Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma Quickstep)
    Article published:
    March 26, 2013, 17:46
    Daniel Benson

    Chavanel and Terpstra still in the GC game

    The first day of the Three Days of De Panne is often a difficult stage to control and so it was proven: Mark Cavendish was left empty handed after he and his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team succumbed to the power of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) in Zottegem

    Omega Pharma-QuickStep came into the stage with three clear aims: Tom Boonen needed miles ahead of the Tour of Flanders, Sylvain Chavanel had hopes of defending his 2012 title and Mark Cavendish was looking for his first individual win since the Tour of Oman.

    However, Cavendish was unable to make the split with Sagan attacked for the final time on the run into Zottegem. The Slovakian champion went on to pull away a group containing Chavanel and Niki Terpstra and then take the stage win and race lead.

    "It wasn't necessarily a difficult day, it was more a difficult day to control," Cavendish said as he sat on the steps of the Omega team bus.

    "The wind wasn't really in a direction that could make a difference but it was a difficult direction to ride in, with mostly a headwind.

    "We had two guys up there at the end and we were active the whole day. That guy [Sagan] is pretty unbeatable right now though. He’s one of a generation and he’s super, super good. He’s making us all look like juniors."

    Though missing the stage win, the team came away with a few promising moments: Boonen slightly eased the nerves of his team with a show of strength in the Flanders hills, while Chavanel’s overall hopes remain on course. The Frenchman’s closest rival for the overall could well be his teammate Terpstra, who finished in the same time. The final day’s time trial is likely to decide the overall title.

    Cavendish has shown his form in De Panne in the past. In 2008 and 2009 he won back-to-back stages, and on both occasions they were the second and third stages of the race. Omega Pharma-QuickStep are the most complete team in the race, and throughout stage 1 they controlled much of the action, with Boonen reeling in a dangerous move from Gaudin, and Chavanel always in the thick of the action. Luck wasn't on their side at times as both Nikolas Maes and Iljo Keisse suffered untimely punctures.

    However, the team simply had no answer for Sagan’s aggression, and at times he appeared to be playing with the opposition.

    "It should be a sprint tomorrow and we'll see what happens," Cavendish said, adding that "the form is good and I'm really happy. I was going well in San Remo and physically I went well on Sunday so my form is good.

    "We wanted to do something on the GC here and if it came back for a sprint then we'd ride for a sprint, but today wasn't a day we could control for a that. It was always going to break up."

  • Westra still believes in chances to win De Panne

    Lieuwe Westra enters his fifth year with the Vacansoleil squad
    Article published:
    March 26, 2013, 18:40
    Daniel Benson

    Vacansoleil captain saving his legs for final time trial

    Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team) has refused to rule out victory in the Three Days of De Panne despite finishing nine seconds down on two of his major rivals.

    The Vacansoleil-DCM leader, who has finished second overall in the last two editions of the race, finished stage 1 in 42nd place, nine seconds down on Peter Sagan, who now leads Westra by 19 seconds on general classification with the stage winner's time bonus factored in. However, the most crucial time gaps involved 2012 winner Sylvain Chavanel and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate Niki Terpstra, who both finished in the same group as Sagan. Neither Chavanel nor Terpstra earned any time bonuses on the stage and both remain nine seconds ahead of Westra on general classification.

    Sagan initiated the winning move in the final kilometres of the stage to Zottegem, pulling a group of nine riders with him. Westra attempted an initial counter attack on the run into the finish but was ultimately unsuccessful.

    "The beginning of the stage was good for me but the last 10 kilometres things weren't as good. I tried to come across to the leaders in the final but the legs weren't that good, not with the weather," Westra told Cyclingnews at the finish.

    Westra's consistency in previous editions of De Panne has been down to his tactical knowledge as well as his ability to compete with the best riders in the final stage time trial. With two sprint stages to come the 30-year-old will sit tight in the peloton as both Chavanel and Terpstra work for Mark Cavendish in the sprints.

    Asked if he thought the overall had slipped through his fingers, Westra replied:

    "No, no. I think I lost maybe 8 to 10 seconds so for a time trial of 15km that's nothing. Chavanel is the favourite now and he's in good shape but for me 8 to 10 seconds isn't a problem. When I have a good day then anything is possible. Today wasn't so good though. For tomorrow I'll save my strength in the peloton and save myself for the time trial."

    Westra has started the season strongly, although he has lacked the level he reached in 2012. So far this season he has finished third overall in the Volta ao Algarve and eight in Paris-Nice.

    "I'm happy with my level. I was top ten in Paris-Nice and on the podium Algarve and Besseges was good for me too. I'm happy with my condition."

  • Gallery: The best of E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem

    Peter Sagan (Cannondale) moves to the front to challenge the leaders
    Article published:
    March 26, 2013, 19:40
    Cycling News

    Gruber images from the Belgian semi-classics

    Fabian Cancellara romped away to his third win in four years in E3 Harelbeke with a demonstration as complete as either of his Flanders or Roubaix wins in 2010. The RadioShack rider attacked on Oude Kwaremont with all of 35 kilometres to go, arriving in Harelbeke with more than a minute on his closest rivals.

    In Gent-Wevelgem, Peter Sagan finally found the right combination of talent and tactics to win his first major race on Belgian soil.

    Both wins set Cancellara and Sagan up as the major favourites for Sunday's Tour of Flanders, and while the attention slowly turns to the second Monument of the season Jered and Ashley Gruber provide a look back at E3 and Gent-Wevelgem with some of the best photos on the web.

    The couple spends the Classics season on the road, and after Milan-San Remo travelled to Belgium where they are based for the coming weeks and have sifted through their best images to provide Cyclingnews with this fantastic gallery.

  • Belgian trains will stop for Tour of Flanders

    Tom Boonen, Juan Antonio Flecha and Alessandro Ballan were held up in their pursuit by a train in Paris-Roubaix in 2006
    Article published:
    March 26, 2013, 23:00
    Cycling News

    Riders will not have to worry about disqualification at crossings

    The riders in the Tour of Flanders will no longer have to worry about the results being skewed by trains holding up the race at any of the many level crossings that pepper the route: the Belgian train operator Infrabel said today that it would hold the trains for the race, rather than the other way around.

    "In tiny Flanders it is nearly impossible to organise a race without crossing the tracks," Infrabel spokesman Thomas Baeken told Het Laatste Nieuws. "The Tour of Flanders has eight level crossings. You shouldn't have to worry about a train upsetting the race in the final 50 kilometers."

    The decision will avoid a situation last encountered in 2006 at Paris-Roubaix, when Peter Van Petegem, Vladimir Gusev and Leif Hoste were all disqualified after they ignored the flashing lights warning of an arriving train, and crossed the tracks to chase after eventual race winner Fabian Cancellara with 10km left to race. Other riders including Tom Boonen who slipped through the closed crossing arms after the train had passed were not disqualified, igniting controversy.

    Baeken said that holding up the trains for the race would cause minimal delays of only a few minutes, and any damage to their reputation, "would be much greater if one of our trains sabotaged the Tour of Flanders."

    Ronde van Vlaanderen
  • Howard gets a kick out of cobbled classics fight

    Leigh Howard (Orica GreenEdge) wins the sprint in Trofeo Playa de Muro
    Article published:
    March 27, 2013, 00:45
    Jane Aubrey

    Young Orica GreenEdge sprinter keen for De Panne test

    Leigh Howard (Orica GreenEdge) didn't grow up aspiring to tackle the cobbled classics of Belgium and so the results so far acquired in his first campaign of his four-year professional career have come as somewhat of a surprise.

    "San Remo's the one classic that I do want to win and think I can win one day," he revealed to Cyclingnews. "It's my style of racing but in saying that, now that I'm getting a taste of the Belgian-style classics, I'm enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would."

    Howard's results at Dwars Door Vlaanderen where he was 26th and at Gent-Wevelgem where he was 25th might not look much on paper apart from consistent however, it's when you consider his inexperience that the race eventualities comes into their own. Had it not been for some bad luck at Dwars Door Vlaanderen as he hit the Oude Kwaremont with another rider dropping their chain just ahead, forcing the Australian off-road and bringing his momentum to a grinding halt, Howard believed the result could have been better. Missing the split at Gent-Wevelgem proved costly otherwise, Howard had been attentive at the front of the race. It's that constant battle for position, that Howard is finding that he's enjoying but as a rider who tends to take a fairly analytical approach to racing, there's more to it than that.

    "They say that from kilometre zero right through to the finish you have to fight for position," he explained. "I find that in a sense that's true but there's one decisive point in a race where it really splits up and if you're in good position then, the fighting becomes a lot easier and it comes down more to the legs. That's the part that I enjoy a lot more."

    A definitive sprinter, this time of year is exposing Howard to a style of racing that he doesn't encounter any other time. Given in previous seasons Howard had just wrapped up track world championship campaigns, where he claimed two rainbow jerseys with Cameron Meyer in the Madison, the timing had never been right to take on the cobbled classics. And so Howard put his hand up for this year's races, with the aim of banking experience for the seasons ahead.

    "I thought I wouldn't quite have the strength and the endurance but it hasn't seemed to be an issue," he admitted. "I've certainly had good legs."

    A podium at the Tour of San Luis, followed by two race wins in Mallorca, and then another podium at Paris-Nice is proof that Howard's efforts to really step up and be counted in a team that boasts more than a few fast men are paying off. Training in the hills has taken a backseat; more time has been spent behind the motorbike. It's given Howard an extra "10 to 15 revs" and finding top speed comes a lot more naturally.

    "When I look at the training I've been doing it's almost the opposite - it's very specific to my sprinting and not so much the classics style, long endurance kilometres," the 23-year-old explained. "It's a mix of just having extra power on the shorter climbs as well as just maturing, getting older. This is my fourth year professional so I'm getting a few years under my belt now so they're slowly building up in the legs.

    "I've been sprinting a lot better. Last year was difficult - I only won one race [at the Tour of Britain, ahead of Cavendish - ed.] but I spent a lot of the year helping out teammates in the lead out which was fine by me, but it's good this year that I've got a bit more responsibility and I've been given the opportunity straight away from Argentina and Mallorca and I was already winning races."

    This week, Howard is racing the Three Days of De Panne and with targets like the Tour of Turkey and the Tour of California just over the horizon, he's keen to get an indication of just where he's at in relation to some of the best sprinters in the world.

    "When you look at the field it's basically every sprinter that's going to be at the Tour de France," he said. "If I can pull a result in the next two or three days then it shows that I'm certainly where I need to be as far as my sprinting ability goes."

    spring classic
    Tour de France
  • 2014 Santos Tour Down Under dates announced

    Old Willunga Hill is becoming a hugely popular spot for the Santos Tour Down Under
    Article published:
    March 27, 2013, 02:45
    Cycling News

    Australian WorldTour season opener proves more popular than ever

    The dates for the 2014 edition of the Santos Tour Down Under have been announced with the third Sunday of January set to kick-off the opening WorldTour round of the New Year.

    The race which continues to see marked growth in attendance rates from both the world's best riders and spectators will run from 19-26 January with an expected return of the traditional criterium and six-stage format set to draw in the crowds once again.

    Route details will be announced later in the year however, many can expect Adelaide City to host the warm-up criterium on 19 January before the peloton take a day of rest before commencing the six-day race on the following Tuesday.

    Adelaide City will likely conclude the week's race on Sunday 26 January with the familiar city circuit providing a fitting and suspense-filled finale to the race in 2013.

    Tourism Minister Leon Bignell noted the increased numbers of interstate and international visitors who travelled to Adelaide specifically for the event while South Australia experienced an economic impact of $43.6 million.

    "The event attracted more than 760,400 people to Adelaide and regional South Australia across eight days, including 40,000 interstate and international visitors who travelled here specifically for the event," said Bignell.

    This year's edition saw the rising talent of Tom-Jelte Slagter who took out the overall title riding for the revitalised Rabobank team, which raced for the first time under the Blanco name and colours, while the sprint stages were dominated by Lotto Belisol's number-one sprinter André Greipel - who took his 100th professional victory in the final stage around Adelaide.

    Orica GreenEdge were of course unable to successfully defend the title won in 2012, a feat achieved by Simon Gerrans but the local team was consoled with a win atop the queen stage to Willunga Hill.

    Specific details of the stages are expected to be announced in the coming months.