- Article published:
- May 1, 2012, 15:00
- Cycling News
Astana rider wary of Basso in final week
Roman Kreuziger (Astana) took to the Alps on Monday to reconnoitre the finale of stage 14 to Cervinia, as he completes his fine-tuning for the Giro d’Italia. He rode the final 70 kilometres of the stage, including the climbs of the Col de Joux and the haul to the finish at Cervinia.
While much of the pre-race focus is on the troika of stages in the Dolomites in the final week, culminating in the summit finish atop the mighty Stelvio on the penultimate day, Astana manager Giuseppe Martinelli warned that the stage to Cervinia could provide the first major shake-up of the general classification.
“The elevation profile does not do justice to the difficulties of the final kilometres, particularly the incredibly tough climb to the finish in Cervinia,” Martinelli said. “This stage could have a major impact on the general classification, since if a rider is not quite at 100% he could fall significantly behind.”
Cervinia last featured in the Giro in 1997, as eventual overall winner Ivan Gotti soloed to victory to divest Pavel Tonkov of the pink jersey with one week still to race. On that occasion, the final climb was preceded by the Col Saint Pantaleon, the site of Gotti’s initial acceleration.
The Astana squad has enjoyed a strong run of results in recent weeks, including surprise victories at Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, while Kreuziger himself has been hugely consistent in his approach to the Giro, with top 6 finishes in Tirreno-Adriatico, the Giro del Trentino and the Tour de Romandie.
“We have a very strong and confident team for the Giro d’Italia,” Martinelli said. “Roman showed some good signs [in Romandie], with his sixth place in the general classification and especially by coming fifth in the final time trial, where he was only beaten by specialists.”
Like so many of the strongest performers thus far this season, a reduced racing weight has been a notable feature of Kreuziger’s approach to the Giro. “You can see the veins on my stomach,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport. “We’re there, at 67.5kg.”
Kreuziger, who will turn 26 on Sunday, lines up at the Giro among the favourites for overall victory, although he insists that he is looking only to build upon his 5th place finish of twelve months ago. “I’m aiming for the podium,” he said.
The Czech looked comfortable at the Tour de Romandie, where he was aggressive on the final road stage and then limited his losses to 40 seconds to Bradley Wiggins in the final time trial. “I paid a little bit for the fact that I had a sinus infection at Trentino and I had to take care of it with antibiotics, but it was a pity that there wasn’t a real summit finish in the race,” he said.
Kreuziger has identified his former Liquigas teammate Ivan Basso as one of the men to watch, particularly in the final week, although he was more circumspect about Frank Schleck’s chances. “I know Ivan, and in the final week, he’ll become very dangerous, whereas I’m sceptical about Schleck,” he said.
- Article published:
- May 1, 2012, 17:55
- Cycling News
Lampre rider to receive 2011 maglia rosa on Thursday
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) will be formally recognised as the winner of the 2011 Giro d’Italia when he is presented with the maglia rosa by race director Michele Acquarone in Herning on Thursday, but the Italian said that the fact that the ceremony is so belated will do nothing to dampen his motivation for this year’s race.
Scarponi stood on the second step of the podium in Milan last June, but he inherits the pink jersey and Trofeo Senza Fine after Alberto Contador was stripped of his title by a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in February of this year. The Spaniard raced last year’s Giro while waiting to hear if he would face sanction for his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France.
“It will be a welcome recognition, a reward for the fine Giro d’Italia I rode last year, but I would like to feel the emotion of conquering the maglia rosa on the road. This will be the real motivation of the 2012 Giro for me,” Scarponi said.
Twelve months ago, Scarponi approached the Giro on a high after a string of notable displays throughout the spring, including at Milan-San Remo, the Volta a Catalunya and the Giro del Trentino. This time around, however, his build-up to May has been rather more low-key.
Scarponi is still without a win in 2012, and he coughed up over twelve minutes on each of the mountain stages at the Giro del Trentino, over the Punta Veleno to Brenzone and on the Passo Pordoi. 8th place at the following Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège allayed lingering concerns about his condition, however, and he is upbeat about his chances at the Giro.
“I started the season with the intention of reaching top condition later in comparison to last year, so I wasn’t as sharp as I was in 2011 in races like Tirreno-Adriatico,” Scarponi said. “Still, I was hoping that I’d be a bit more advanced in the month of April, I won’t hide that, but that nice performance at Liège-Bastogne- Liège has given me a lot of conviction.
“It’s never easy to be at the front of the race at La Doyenne. You can only do that if your legs are good, so I can say that I took a important sign about my condition from the Belgian race.”
Scarponi publicly toyed with the idea of lining up at the Tour de France earlier in the year, before formally throwing his hat into the ring for the Giro in mid April. His announcement came just days after Damiano Cunego intimated to Cyclingnews that he, too, would forsake the Tour for the Giro, but Scarponi is adamant that the two leaders can co-exist in the same team. Cunego underlined his form with victory on the opening road stage in Trentino.
“I saw Damiano ride very well in the last races, so he will certainly be an important element of the team,” said Scarponi. “I welcome the presence of a quality athlete like Cunego at my side. With the right collaboration and with clear objectives, we can fight united together to be protagonists.”
While the redoubtable final week of the Giro is the focus of much of the pre-race anticipation, Scarponi was reluctant to nominate a key stage and instead pointed to the old truism that a three-week race must be approached one day at a time.
“Of course, I’ve analysed the map and the details of the Giro, but I prefer to concentrate on one thing at a time, without looking too far ahead,” he said. “It’s for this reason that for now my attention is focused on the Danish stages. It’s a start not to be taken lightly, given that the wind could play some nasty tricks on us.”
- Article published:
- May 1, 2012, 18:02
Tour winner and CCP board member ready to implement unpopular changes
It's almost 25 years since Ireland's Stephen Roche raced to glory in the 1987 Tour de France, part of a memorable Triple Crown year that also took in the Giro d'Italia and the UCI Road World Championships. Retirement came six years later and after initially filling his time with various projects, he is now helping to shape professional cycling's future as one of several UCI backed representatives on the board of the Professional Cycling Council (CCP).
Instigating change is a difficult process according to Roche, and it's a constant battle to keep everyone - sponsors, teams, riders, fans and media - happy. But it's the riders themselves that seem to be the main focus of Roche's revolutionary ambitions.
"There were never any rules before, so there weren't any arguments," he said in an interview with BikeRadar. "Now the UCI is putting rules in place, it's upsetting people, but it's only upsetting them because they're not used to being told what to do. Every new rule will always upset someone.
"Looking back, I was totally against helmets. I was the guy back in the early '90s saying to [former UCI president] Hein Verbruggen, 'It's lovely you making these golden rules when you’re sat in your air conditioned office in Geneva'. Riders do rear up against certain rules but in 10 years time, they might understand why they were made. Punish a kid the first time and they’ll despise you for it, but at the same time it's for their own good.
"We're trying to upgrade the image of cycling," he said. "Cycling's not just about men in Lycra turning pedals, it's about the performance, public, television, newspapers, sponsors, everybody. Cyclists today believe it's only about themselves when in fact, if they haven't got sponsors, if they haven't got the public behind them, there's no reason to have guys riding bikes."
Roche's main bugbears are team cars helping riders back onto their bikes after toilet breaks or mechanical problems; riders unzipping their jerseys; and the use of team radios. All three issues are firmly on Roche's agenda for change.
"At crashes, riders fall and spend five minutes on the ground straightening up their shirt and tie and making sure everything is okay before getting back on the bike again," he says. "You should be getting back on as fast as possible and then realise your shoulder is broken. They aren’t getting back on straight away, they’re waiting because they know there's a car to tow them back on. Its not ethically right, it’s a form of cheating and it confuses the public."
The unzipped jerseys?
"You can see their Christmas present from their wives hanging round their neck, but nobody's getting any value out of it," Roche said. "If you don’t stop it now, they’ll have no jerseys on shortly. They talk about heat, about not being able to breathe. Bullshit. Footballers, every time they score a goal, pull their jersey off, but it was banned because it didn't look nice. Why do we tolerate it in cycling?"
Race radios are the other blight on the sport that Roche would like to see the back of. The guys who've always been able to rely on them, the ones who don't know any different, he says, are the ones who disagree. He craves the good old days where riders would look at their road manual and compare it to maps to look for gradients on a climb or crucial points on a stage, rather than being drip-fed the information from the sanctuary of the team bus.
"They say they need them to communicate with each other, but why? Can’t you put your hand up and call your friend over? Talk to him – you don’t need a radio to do that. I’m all for modern tech but there are certain things that should be left aside or bike riders will just become robots.
"They’ve been looked upon as zombies, no brains, for years, and all the credit for tactics has been given to the team managers in the car," he said. "I wouldn’t have liked to have had people thinking all my results and tactical skills had come from the car behind."
- Article published:
- May 1, 2012, 20:00
- Neil Browne
Continental team hopes to translate success into sponsorship
Just hours prior to the start of the Terrapin Twilight criterium in Athens, Georgia, Cyclingnews casually asked the Team Mountain Khakis-SmartStop rider/manager Adam Myerson how he was feeling. He replied that he was feeling quite amorous – a good indicator according to him that his form, as well as the team's, was good.
With two back to back victories in the USA CRITS series, Athens Terrapin Twilight and Historic Roswell Criterium, Myerson's squad is starting to click.
In previous years the team's budget had forced it to limit their racing campaign to mostly the East coast. But this year team owners Pat Raines and Jaime Bennett were able to step the team up.
"We hope that our return to professional status will allow us to be taken as seriously as we think we should, and be able to secure more sponsorship," said Myerson last November to Cyclingnews.
And due to the team's limited resources Myerson was the first to admit that in the past their race strategy reflected that. "We observe, participate, but make sure it doesn't get away from us. We look for opportunities." But those who were at this past weekend's USA CRITS series noticed a whole different approach.
"The first month of the season I had hoped the team would have picked up where they left off last year and they wouldn't need me out there with them at all," explained Myerson just after Luke Keough's victory in Athens. "With the reduced roster of only six riders (new rule stipulating that each team can only enter up to six riders in a National Criterium Calendar event) it was an opportunity for me to take a little bit of time after the cyclo-cross season to get into shape and give some of the other guys a chance."
And in the beginning of the season the squad did just that, taking a win in the Delray Beach Criterium in Florida with Ben Zawacki. But after that Myerson said the team was slipping back into bad habits. Myerson points to the Presbyterian Invitational Criterium in Charlotte, North Carolina. The riders were no longer part of the breaks and were reactive rather than proactive.
As a result, he pulled himself off the bench and suited up for the Sunny King Criterium. "I pulled some people because I needed to straighten things out. The guys forgot that it is six equal guys and we're trying to win the race and keep ourselves from being vulnerable," said Myerson.
With Myerson added to the Sunny King criterium roster the team was aggressive and was featured in the breaks. However, their designated sprinter Luke Keough just didn't have the legs that night and he finished fifth. Despite this, Myserson was pleased with certain aspects of that result.
"We are aggressive and all five guys are committed to Luke. We go into moves all day long so we can line it up for him in the finish because we believe he is, at 20 years old, the fastest guy in America."
Myerson credits the team's turnabout due to the leadership he needed to provide in those races.
"The guys were lacking the leadership, someone to answer to, and to reinforce the basic core principles and style. All six guys deserved to be there, but I had to pull someone because they weren't getting it done without supervision."
At the Terrapin Twilight Criterium in Athens, Georgia that aggressive style returned. The result was a tight victory over Kenda/5 Hour Energy's John Murphy.
This attacking attitude was again evident in the following day's criterium in Roswell, Georgia.
Always at the front, Mountain Khakis had gone from a team that covered moves to making moves – shown by Zawacki taking the win in a late breakaway.
With a full calendar with several races overlapping each other, Myerson is relying on teammate Neil Bezdek, who he calls his "co-captain", to be the leader when the squad is split.
"He's one of the older guys at 28, most of the others are between 20 and 24, so he's a little more mature, responsible and well organized. He's the guy I will count on to hold down the fort, from a logistic standpoint, when I'm not around."
With Speed Week almost completed you can be assured that Team Mountain Khakis will continue to be aggressive at races in the future.
"I know these guys can win races. I'm not pedaling their bikes for them," said Myerson. "I'm teaching them to race bikes in a certain style and they got a little off-track and I'm putting them back and the past three races we've gotten results from it."
- Article published:
- May 1, 2012, 22:56
- Daniel Benson
Giro d’Italia race organisers look set to sign historic deal
Sharing television rights between race organisers and cycling’s elite teams could be within touching distance. Cyclingnews understands that a deal between Italy’s RCS and the sport’s major teams is close to agreement.
RCS Sport organises a portfolio of Italy’s grandest races, including the Giro d’Italia, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and the Giro di Lombardia. A deal would be a historic moment in cycling, as traditionally race organisers pocket all television rights, selling their broadcast rights on potentially global scales.
Last year a number of team managers openly discussed revenue sharing opportunities with organisers in a bid to stabilise their sponsor’s investments and the teams in general. The possible deal would see teams earn a percentage of RCS Sport’s television revenue, a move that contrasts to ASO, the organisers of the Tour de France, who retain all rights.
Such a move from RCS Sport would enable them attract teams’ most high profile riders in the knowledge that teams would be only too happy to supply their stars in order to gain financial rewards. The higher the profile of the riders, the higher the potential would be for advertising rates and television revenues.
Cyclingnews contacted Jonathan Vaughters from Slipstream Sports, the president of the AIGCP. Vaughters has been a keen advocate for sharing television revenues in the past and has been a key stakeholder in the potential partnership with RC Sport. While keen to stress that a deal was not signed, Vaughters did disclose that RCS Sport had been positive and forward thinking in their desire to create a stronger platform for teams and race organisers.
"I’m very pleased with the negotiations with RCS and hope to have a deal that’s mutually beneficial at some time in the near future. I’ve been really happy with how RCS and Michele Acquarone has treated the teams. We’re really excited about the possibility of this partnership."
- Giro d'Italia
- Article published:
- May 2, 2012, 01:00
- Cycling News
Genesys' Earle held at bay by just four seconds
BikeNZ - PureBlack Racing's Michael Torckler won the Tour of Borneo, holding out Genesys Wealth Adviser's Nathan Earle by just four seconds to retain the yellow jersey on Tuesday's final stage.
Torckler, 25, delivered a mammoth five-day performance, assisted by a determined and committed display from his teammates who ensured the yellow jersey, and orange points jersey, remained under lock and key for the entire tour.
The tour started with an unprecedented 'blackwash' of the podium after a 1,2,3 finish (Torckler, Louis Crosby, Roman van Uden) by BikeNZ - PureBlack Racing.
"I definitely came here knowing I was in excellent form, and with a drive to win the tour," said Michael, "I just didn't expect that it would happen from day one."
BikeNZ - PureBlack Racing Director Sportif, John Harris said the result of the tour is an outstanding testament to the team of five's commitment to secure Torckler the win.
"Everyone has played their roles perfectly, we could not have dreamed for a better result. With Shem [Rodger] withdrawing halfway due to sickness, and Jimmy [Williamson] picking up a puncture in the final stage, the team have stood up and delivered." said Harris.
Torckler has continued his rich vein of form this season after being out of the sport for a year recovering from a broken kneecap. His Boreo victory followed comprehensive wins at both the Taupo Cycle Classic, and the K2 Cycle Classic for this fast rising young all-rounder.
Nathan Earle (Genesys Wealth Advisers) finished second to Torckler in the final general classification, and he also emerged the winner of the mountains classification, having won the mountain stage from Sepilok to Kundasang on Monday. Genesys also emerged the overall teams classification winners, having registered victories in three out of the five stages, two through Earle in stage two and four, while stage three was won by Anthony Giacoppo.
Ukranian Volodymyr Zagorodniy won the final stage of the Tour of Borneo after succeeding with a breakaway that began early in the stage that descended from Kundasang into Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of Sabah.
The Suren Uzbekistan Team rider registered his team's first win on the UCI Asia Tour this season after he beat Plan B's Luke Joyce and Genesys Wealth Advisers' Blake Hose to the finish line as the trio split from an initial breakaway group of 11 riders.
The breakaway group included Genesys Wealth Advisers' Jonathan Lovelock and they managed to open up a gap of more than five minutes on the main peloton as they entered Kota Kinabalu, which would have put Lovelock into the overall lead
- Article published:
- May 2, 2012, 03:00
- Cycling News
Sergeant pleased with Lotto Belisol line-up
With Gianni Meersman having recovered from knee pain, which ruled him out of Fleche Wallonne or Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Lotto Belisol has confirmed its line-up for the 95th edition of the Giro d'Italia.
There are no changed to the roster which was hinted at a fortnight ago and manager Marc Sergeant believes that his is a team with a "clearly defined purpose" for the Grand Tour which gets underway on Saturday in Herning, Denmark.
"I personally went to the presentation and meeting and it was was immediately clear that a number of stages fit Gianni Meersman like a glove, with a steep finish," he said. "Gianni has been working up to the Giro and knows how to pick his races."
Bart de Clercq takes on the Giro for the second year-running, having won stage 7 in 2011 as a neo pro, going on to finish 26th overall. De Clercq spent last week working on his time trialing.
Sergeant said that while Francis De Greef and De Clearcq are important members of the Lotto Belisol team with a proven track record, it's important not to put the pair under too much pressure.
"We can't make the mistake of pushing them towards the top 10, but a place in the top 20 is realistic," he admitted. "In this way it might be possible for one of them to slip away in an escape from the peloton, and lift their rankings."
Adam Hansen has recovered from his crash on stage 6 at the Tour of Turkey where he was lucky to escape a serious shoulder injury.
Neo pros Dennis Vanendert, Brian Bulgac and Gaetan Bille are all making their Grand Tour debut with Sergeant saying that the Giro will be a "journey of discovery" while for Lark Bak, the 2012 Giro holds special significance with the Danish grand depart.
"After he broke his hand [at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad], he did everything to get fit in time and in Romandie he just missed the mountains jersey, for which he had gained a lot of points in a long escape," said Sergeant.
Lotto Belisol team for the Giro d'Italia: Lars Bak, Gaetan Bille, Bulgac Brian, Bart De Clercq, Francis De Greef, Adam Hansen, Olivier Kaisen, Gianni Meersman, Dennis Vanendert.
- Giro d'Italia
- Article published:
- May 2, 2012, 06:25
- Laura Weislo
Jersey zips, drafting and radios not the most pressing problems
Irish cycling legend Stephen Roche may be part of the guiding body which helps to set the sport's rules, but his recent suggestions for "upgrading the image of cycling" were met with firm disagreement from the boss of his nephew Dan Martin, Garmin-Barracuda manager Jonathan Vaughters.
Speaking to Cyclingnews, Vaughters made it clear that personally, he is a big fan of Roche, winner of the 1987 Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, pointing toward the Irishman's heroic performance in the Tour as one of his own inspirations for taking up the sport. Yet as the president of the teams association AIGCP and a man who has unflinchingly gone head-to-head with the UCI over its rule to ban race radios, Vaughters said "I will have to respectfully disagree with the points Roche makes."
In an interview with BikeRadar, Roche said that he and his fellow members of the CCP (Pro Cycling Council), the advisory board that helps decide the UCI's rule making, were trying to help cycling's image, and named three things he would like to see eliminated: riders drafting on team cars to regain the peloton after a crash or mechanical, unzipped jerseys and race radios.
"It seems like we have so many more important issues to focus on in pro cycling," Vaughters told Cyclingnews. "I'm concerned with the image of the sport too - the first and foremost is to make sure doping is finally eradicated. You can't keep harping on that, but when you're down to the level of unzipped jersey and sock height [another UCI regulation], maybe we have enough energy to focus on some larger scale projects.
"We don't need to be overregulating things that don't affect the core outcome or safety of races. [On banning unzipped jerseys] If I had ever heard this complaint form a sponsor I'd take it as a serious point, but I haven't ever heard that, so it comes down to an aesthetic - some people don't like it. I can see a team making an individual policy if the sponsor wanted that, but it's making a rule just to make a rule."
On the topic of banning drafting, Vaughters was adamant. "Crashes, punctures - they happen with regularity, but using a caravan, as it doesn't affect the outcome of the race... as long as you're just helping to give a rider a fair shot of getting back into the race, I have no problem with that.
"Because of the unique nature of cycling and drafting, if you're out of the draft you can't get back in - it can't be compared with other sports. You can't call a time out if someone gets hurt or has a puncture. Because we can't, we have to be able to adjust for those mishaps on the fly, and one way we can do that is to allow riders to use the caravan."
Roche made the point that fans might see riders drafting on team cars and view that as cheating, but Vaughters disagrees. "It's up to the television announcers and the media to educate the fans on this, and I don't think it's that difficult a concept to grasp."
The argument is similar to Vaughters' opinion on radios, which he feels improve the safety for riders and help to eliminate some of the randomness in road cycling which can yield results which some might call unpredictable, but which he thinks can yield winners that might not be the best riders, just the most lucky.
His opinion on race radios well known, having already waged a heated battle to prevent the ban from reaching the WorldTour races, Vaughters went on to suggest other issues the CCP might tackle.
"For example, with Volta Catalunya they had a blizzard roll in and there was a big battle over whether the stage should go ahead. There should be firmly established rules based on weather conditions that would cancel a race. Then the sponsors, race organisers everyone would understand it. Now it's just arbitrary."
With the world celebrating International Workers Day on May 1 and raising the issue of employees rights, Vaughters would like to see more care given to the treatment of retiring riders with the establishment of a more substantial pension fund, and to see the sport as a whole become more forward-thinking.
"One issue with doping is the riders have such a limited career, and they're scrambling to get as much out of it as they can while it lasts. We have to respect the retiring athletes to have something substantial through a riders' union that can get them through some of the hard patches that are going to come after retirement. The sport owes that to the athletes involved."
Such improvements can come in the future with an overhaul of the monetary system currently governing the sport, which is why Vaughters is working with race organiser RCS Sport to negotiate revenue sharing of television rights with the teams.
"All these [improvements] cost money, it's easy to say we should do them, but if the professional arm of cycling were run in a more business-directed sense, all of these things would become possible.
"Right now everyone lives in a temporary world where licenses are year-to-year and we're beating each other over the head for the points so we can get in [the WorldTour] next year. There's no continuity, so everyone's worrying about what they need right now, not looking five or six years down the road. That's horrible for athletes who have devoted themselves since they were 14, only to get a sport that has a non-stable employment environment because nobody wants to make a long term commitment."
However beneficial the ideas might seem, Vaughters sees the riders as being at a numerical disadvantage on the CCP. "The CCP is a 13-person advisory board. Seven of the nominees are from the UCI or represent the UCI. Roger Legeay is one, Stephen Roche is one. Of the other six - two represent the teams, two represent the riders and two are from the race organisers. Even if the teams, riders and race organisers all agree we can still be outvoted."
While Vaughters may be the most vocal critic of the UCI's rules, a recent no-confidence vote on the UCI's leadership from the AIGCP indicates he is not alone in disagreeing with the direction the governing body seems to be taking the sport.