- Article published:
- September 6, 2011, 16:18
- Barry Ryan
Demonstrations mar opening stage
The inaugural Giro di Padania got off to a turbulent start on Tuesday, when protesters attempted to block the race at Mondovì. The incident followed an earlier demonstration at the start in Paesana, while road signs related to the race had been removed overnight.
La Repubblica and Gazzetta dello Sport report that protesters from the Rifondazione Comunista party and trade union movement CGIL (Italian General Confederation of Labour) sat on the road at Mondovì to halt the race’s passage. The route of the race had already been diverted from the centre of the town in order to reduce the possibility of it being interrupted by protests.
The demonstrators were protesting the Lega Nord political party’s close involvement in the organisation of the race, as well as the recent austerity measures passed by the Italian government, of which Lega Nord is a coalition partner. A nationwide general strike called by the CGIL also took place on Tuesday.
When the race arrived in Mondovì, the three early breakaways Federico Rocchetti (De Rosa Flaminia), Simone Campagnaro (D'Angelo & Antenucci) and Pawel Bernas (Poland) succeeded in passing unhindered, but the main peloton was briefly halted by the protest. Gazzetta dello Sport said that “strong words” and even some pushes were exchanged between riders and protesters.
Police broke up the demonstration shortly afterwards, although La Repubblica reports that a policeman was struck by a race car and taken to hospital.
The stage continued unimpeded thereafter, with Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox) taking victory in the sprint ahead of Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) in Laigueglia.
A backdrop of protest
The Giro di Padania has attracted a considerable degree of controversy in Italy since it was launched at the beginning of the summer. “Padania” is not a regional entity, but rather a name coined by the Lega Nord to refer to a section of northern Italy, from the Po valley northwards, which it hopes will gain autonomy from the south of the country.
Lega Nord senator Michelino Davico is heavily involved in the organisation of the Giro di Padania, and the leader’s jersey is green, the colour of the Lega Nord party.
The race start in Paesana was also an implicitly symbolic one – the Piedmontese town is close to the source of the Po, where every September the Lega Nord holds a ceremony that sees a vial of water drawn from the river and then brought across northern Italy to Venice, where it is poured into the lagoon. The Giro di Padania finishes in Montecchio Maggiore near Venice on Saturday.
Rifondazione Comunista secretary Paolo Ferrero, who was among the protesters at Mondovì on Tuesday, wrote to Italian president Giorgio Napolitano to call for the race’s cancellation last week. He noted that “Padania exists only in the propaganda and secessionist proposals of the Lega Nord” and decried the political overtones of the race.
Italian champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli), who was born in Turin but grew up in Sicily, is among those taking part in the race. Before the start, he told Tuttosport that he was focused on the race itself rather than the furor surrounding it.
“I’m not making a political statement, but I say to those who govern us to let racism and intransigence aside. North or South don’t exist except on a map,” Visconti said. “I was born in Turin and I’ve lived in Palermo. From my Sicily, I then moved to Tuscany, where I found a second family in order to be a rider. I’m deeply Italian, and I’m proud of it.”
- Article published:
- September 6, 2011, 18:30
- Stephen Farrand
Saxo Bank sprinter the first Argentinean to win at the Vuelta
Juan Jose Haedo swapped smiles and slaps on the back with Saxo Bank-SunGard team manager Bjarne Riis as they headed back to the team bus in Haro, both happy that the sprinter had avoided the confusion in the final roundabout and become the first Argentinean rider to ever win a stage at the Vuelta.
Haedo has always been a quick thinking sprinter and while others went the wrong way, hesitated or were blocked by the confusion, he was first out of the roundabout, just three hundred metres from the finish, and sprinted to the line to win comfortably ahead of Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) and Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek).
"I was the luckiest one but I think it's part of the game. I was at the right place at the right moment and had the right legs. I'm really happy," he told Cyclingnews before explaining the dynamic of the hectic sprint.
"I was sitting fourth wheel and then just before the roundabout, everyone braked really hard. I had my wheel on the left of the rider in front and so just hit the roundabout clear. I didn't really know what happened but came out of the roundabout with a gap. I then put my head down and went for it."
Like all the sprinters, Haedo had been suffering through the many mountain stages in the Vuelta in hope of having a shot at the end of the stage to Haro.
"I've been preparing well since the end of June for this and the world championships. Now the win has come, it's great for me. I'm really happy. I've been fighting for a big win and now I've got it," he said.
"It's the first Grand Tour win for an Argentinean and so I get the honour of being the first to do it. I've always wanted to win a Grand Tour stage because it's means that bit more than other wins."
- Article published:
- September 6, 2011, 19:20
- Stephen Farrand
Riders angry about a roundabout and the deviation 300 metres from the finish
The sprinters have hauled themselves through two weeks of tough mountains and testing terrain at the Vuelta a Espana in the hope of winning the flat stage to Haro. But in a split second their chances were ruined just three hundred metres from the line by panic in the peloton as riders were unsure about going left or right at a roundabout.
It seems the Leopard Trek lead out train mistakenly went right at the roundabout, instinctively following an official motorbike instead of the race route to the left that led to the finish line. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) was well positioned until he was forced to slam on the brakes and dive left in the panic, while only a few lucky riders able to go left and have a clear sprint to the line.
Both Heinrich Haussler (Garmin-Cervelo) and Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) were convinced they were about to win the stage but were left fuming after being caught up in the confusion.
"It's ridiculous. What the hell are we? Robots?" Haussler told Cyclingnews.
"I thought today's was going to be like the Vuelta used to be: a flat stage with a breakaway, a last hour at full gas and then a fast sprint. Instead we hit a roundabout at 70km/h virtually in sight of the finish. That's crazy. The whole Vuelta has been crazy. Why can't we have a normal finish?"
Haussler admitted he did not really know what happened in the high-speed confusion.
"I think I was on Petacchi's wheel but then riders suddenly started braking and sitting up. I braked too, but coming from the back there wasn't much I could do. I had to dive to the left to avoid crashing."
Daniele Bennati initially vented his disappointment via Twitter. He was desperate to win a stage to cement his leadership role in the Italian team for the world championships and boost morale at Leopard Trek after the confirmation of the merger with RadioShack in 2012.
"I didn't do anything wrong but paid a huge price," he said. "It's crazy that we had raced on a straight road for 200km and then there was a roundabout at 300 metres from the line.
"Unfortunately (Robert) Wagner went to the right because he was fooled by the motorbike in front of him. I knew I had to go left but there was little time to react when it happened."
"I really wanted to win and felt I could have done, I was perfectly placed. I wanted it for me, for my Leopard Trek teammates and for my teammates in the Italian national team. I wanted to prove that I'm on form."
With more mountain finishes and hilly stages to come in the next few days, the sprinters will now have to wait until the final stage to Madrid on Sunday for another chance at victory.
- Article published:
- September 6, 2011, 20:34
- Stephen Farrand
Leopard Trek rider avoids commenting about the RadioShack merger
Fabian Cancellara had a shower on the Leopard Trek team bus and then headed to Bilbao airport for a flight home to Switzerland after Tuesday's sixteenth stage of the Vuelta, as his thoughts turned to his final preparation or the world championships.
Cancellara confirmed to Cyclingnews that he will target both the time trial and the road this year in Copenhagen. He is convinced the suffering and hard work he has endured day after day at the Vuelta will give him the perfect base for a shot at two world titles.
"I think I've done the work I needed to do and so I'm heading home happy, knowing I'm on track for the world championships," Cancellara from the front seat of the Leopard Trek team car.
"I rode the Tour de France and pretty soon after came here to the Vuelta. It's been a really hard race. The first week was especially tough with the heat but then I bounced back in the second week and rode well. I'm happy with what I've done.
"I was dedicated to help Daniele Bennati in the sprints and Jakob [Fuglsang] and Maxime [Monfort], our duo for the GC. In order to be fresh in Copenhagen, I need to take some rest now and then pick up training again. I'm heading home to finish things off."
Cancellara will target a fifth world time trial in Copenhagen after winning time trial titles in 2007, 2007, 2009 and 2010. He is also chasing a different rainbow jersey in the rainbow. The largely flat course perhaps suits the sprinters better but Cancellara seems to know he has a chance of victory if he can produce a late attack.
Facing a 266km road race, Cancellara said he needs to now get some long rides in to top off his preparation for Copenhagen.
"At the Vuelta we didn't actually race a lot of kilometres and we never went over five hours. That's something I can work on at home and I can also do speed work behind a motorbike and other specific training."
Targeting a major time trial and then a road race will also be a vital test for the London 2012 Olympics where Cancellara will represent Switzerland in both events.
"I was originally going to just ride the time trial but I've realised I can't miss the world championships," he said. "It'll also be an important test for the London Olympics next year."
RadioShack-Nissan-Trek in 2012
The announcement of the of the creation of the RadioShack-Nissan-Trek team for 2012 has left many people at Leopard Trek in shock and the mood was sombre at the start and finish of the Vuelta stage to Haro.
Cancellara has been confirmed as part of the powerful line-up of the new super team and will be one of its big stars. However it is unclear what support he will have for the cobbled classics.
He is never shy of speaking his mind to the media but preferred to avoid going into detail on the possible consequences of the merger and the surprise decision by team owner Flavio Becca to join forces with Johan Bruyneel and his RadioShack team.
"I don't want to think about it now," Cancellara said. "We don't know a lot about it at the moment. Some decisions have been made but for now I'm focusing on the world championships."
- Article published:
- September 6, 2011, 21:50
- Cycling News
New RadioShack team will have "nothing American"
Speaking to reporters from RTL Télé Luxembourg, Leopard Trek team owner Flavio Becca confirmed today that the current team manager Bryan Nygaard will be leaving the team immediately.
Nygaard is rumored to be joining the new GreenEdge team as its press agent now that Leopard Trek and RadioShack have announced that the latter's sponsors and some riders and staff will move to Becca's team and the American squad will cease to exist.
While many in the cycling world have called the changes to Leopard Trek and RadioShack a merger, Becca spoke as if his team has taken over the American squad. He insisted that the team will be Luxembourgish and that Leopard, the company that owns the current Leopard Trek team, will continue as license holders.
"The name Leopard will be kept. The company will continue to be based in Luxembourg and will operate from Luxembourg," Becca said.
Despite the acquisition of general manager Johan Bruyneel and title sponsors RadioShack and Nissan in addition to Trek, Becca said, "I can confirm that there is nothing American in this team, apart from the two sponsors."
The license holders of the soon-to-be-former RadioShack operation, CSE Pro Cycling LLC, will continue running the team's marketing operations, but Becca said that CSE "wasn't interested in continuing" as license holders.
"We knew that they would not ask for another license on the 1st of January 2012. Therefore, we first saw the opportunity to take a new sponsor on board and secondly to put together a stronger team.
CSE is owned by Bart Knaggs and Bill Stapleton, formerly of Tailwind Sports, the owners of the Discovery Channel team and long-time partners with Lance Armstrong, which gave up on the sponsorship hunt in 2007 leaving that organisation to history.
Some of the riders of the American RadioShack team have been confirmed with the new organisation: Chris Horner, Andreas Klöden, Matthew Busche, Jani Brajkovic, Nelson Oliveira and Robert Wagner, Jesse Sergent and Ben King, but combined with the Leopard Trek riders still under contract, Becca said the spots are limited.
"The rules of the UCI state that you can have 30 cyclists in one team. Two of them have to be neo-pro," Becca said. Of the 25 riders on the roster, five had one-year contracts. Becca said he could hire the remaining 10 spots right away, but did not comment on the transfers from the American team.
With eight transfers already confirmed by RadioShack, that leaves just the two neo-pro spots if all of the Leopard Trek riders currently under contract for 2012 remain.
"I seized this opportunity to make out of the current Leopard structure an even stronger team for the future," Becca said. "I am very satisfied,"
- Article published:
- September 6, 2011, 22:23
- Daniel Benson
First step towards long-term goal of Chinese WorldTour team
China will have its own national team in the Tour of Beijing later this month. The first Chinese WorldTour event takes place between October 5-9, with five stages in and around the Chinese capital. Although there have been threats to boycott the event, Cyclingnews understands that negotiations between the UCI and the WorldTour teams are progressing in a positive direction.
However, the inclusion of a Chinese national team is a milestone for the nation's cycling development and a key stepping stone in the long path to eventually creating a Chinese-backed WorldTour team.
"With my European point of view it might take five to ten years until we see a Chinese WorldTour team," Alain Rumpf, head of the UCI's Global Cycling Promotion (GCP), told Cyclingnews. "If you look at what Australia has done and where they were 20 years ago - they have just won the Tour and they'll have a top team next year. China is different, it might be faster. They delivered an incredible Olympics even though it was the first time they put on an event of that magnitude. There's certainly a potential there from a sporting and commercial point of view."
At present, only a handful of Chinese riders compete within the European peleton so the majority of the national team for the Tour of Beijing will be hand-selected by the national federation from the home crop of talent. Those selected will travel to Aigle, Switzerland to train at the UCI's headquarters in the coming weeks. Still, Rumpf, who as part of the GCP has helped to organise the Tour of Beijing, believes that the riders selected will be good enough to compete at the WorldTour level.
"If you look at the ranking they're not high but they're not racing abroad a lot. At the moment the most important event for them isn't the Olympics but the China Games, which is the national sports games where every province fights for glory and medals. So each province has their own team and they train for that instead of racing abroad. The next games are in 2013.
"They're skilled enough to race because they've been riding and racing for years. They're professional and have been identified as promising kids and trained accordingly."
Moreover, Rumpf underlined his trust in the race organisation and their assessment. "The Chinese organisation is confident to enter a team so they think that they will be at the right level, otherwise I don't think they would have done it," he added. "The race isn't of a high difficulty with one mountain stage, while the rest isn't that difficult. If this was the Dauphiné, then yes, I would be concerned, but the Tour of Beijing is a little bit different and you have to start somewhere."
While the progress of one batch of riders may be short-term, the long-term goals are impressive. As well talent improvement, the biggest opportunity lies in commercial revenues, both for the sport's governing body but also sponsorship deals for teams.
"We're very keen on having this programme and cooperation with the Chinese cycling organisation because for us it's not just a race, but a platform for the whole sport. We want to take this opportunity to help Chinese cycling and eventually in a couple of years I'm confident that we'll have Chinese riders racing in the WorldTour," Rumpf explained.
- Article published:
- September 7, 2011, 00:46
- Cycling News
Spaniard riding for pride and points jersey as Madrid looms
A serious crash in the final 15 kilometres of stage 16 of the Vuelta a España cost Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) over 11 minutes, shattering any hopes the Spaniard may have still had of a high overall finish in Madrid.
Flanked by teammates Alberto Losada Alguacil, Juan Horrach Rippoll and Aliaksandr Kuchynski, Rodriguez was a sorry sight at the finish in Haro, as he nursed an apparent fractured arm. He missed the podium presentation as well as media obligations to go directly to the local hospital in Lograño for treatment and scans.
"He’s got a bad injury on a shoulder and one of his arms is very painful," Horrach reported at the end of the stage. "We hope that nothing is broken and that he’ll be all right tomorrow. He’s important for the spectacle."
Though he has been diagnosed with 'contusions to the lumbar region of his back, as well as minor damage to a ligament in his wrist', the good news for the Rodriguez is that he has been cleared of any breaks, and will be able to start tomorrow's stage to Peña Cabarga.
Rodriguez, was a pre-race favourite to take the red jersey in Madrid, however after conceding 5:24 in the time trial in Salamanca, and more time today he now sits in 24th overall, more than 16 minutes behind race leader Juan Jose Cobo.
The Spaniard still leads the points classification, though with only one more uphill finish to go in this year's race, Peter Sagan currently 15 points behind Rodriguez, may have the edge.
- Article published:
- September 7, 2011, 03:43
- Cycling News
BMC veteran believes courses "well-suited" to his strengths
George Hincapie (BMC) is quietly confident that he can feature at this weekend's WorldTour events in Québec City and Montréal on the back of a late-season resurgence in form.
A consistent though unrewarded ride at the Tour of Utah was followed by a stage win and fifth overall in Colorado against some of the world's best riders. With the parcours of the upcoming races well-suited to Hincapie, the American was unsurprisingly bullish about his chances in Canada.
"I came out of the Utah and Colorado block of races in really good shape," Hincapie said.
"Hopefully, I can take advantage of that this weekend. Last year, I was coming off an injury, so I was only 70 per cent. But I thought if I was good they would suit my capabilities. I think Montréal is harder. There's more overall climbing. But they're both tough."
The 38-year-old has enjoyed an impressive season with BMC after opting to defer his retirement back in March. Hincapie was a crucial teammate to Cadel Evans at the Tour de France, and though he won't be in Copenhagen with the American national team, he will be looking to finish his season on a high.
Hincapie will be supported in Canada by among others, Brent Bookwalter and Jeff Louder, who team director Michael Sayers also believes to be in top form.
"Those guys are riding well, as is Amaël Moinard," Sayers said. "It's the same approach as last year. We have to try and get someone in the breakaway and at the end we have a few cards to play."
The Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec takes place on September 9, with the second event in Montréal taking place two days later.