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Second Edition Cycling News, Friday, April 11, 2014

Date published:
April 11, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • Mixed opinions in peloton on Wiggins’ Paris-Roubaix hopes

    Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) at the start of Scheldeprijs
    Article published:
    April 11, 2014, 11:32 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Phinney, Pozzato and Hayman weigh up Sky rider’s prospects

    When Bradley Wiggins lines up in Compiègne’s Place du Général de Gaulle for the start of Paris-Roubaix on Sunday morning, he will become the first past Tour de France winner to do so since Greg LeMond in 1992.

    It’s tempting to say that this is a consequence of the increasing specialization in cycling that took place in the 1990s, when the distinction between classics riders and stage racers became ever more defined, but the reality is that Paris-Roubaix turned into a race for specialists sooner than any other.

    Bernard Hinault’s famous 1981 victory is the last time a Tour winner has also gone on to land Paris-Roubaix, and in the past half a century only three other men have worn yellow in Paris and triumphed on the Roubaix velodrome – Felice Gimondi, Jan Janssen and Eddy Merckx. Indeed, Sean Kelly – who won in 1984 and 1986, and later took the Vuelta a España in 1988 – is the last man to inscribe both a major stage race and the Queen of the Classics on his palmarès.

    Ironically, then, considering LeMond’s own reputation as the pioneer when it came to the big names picking and choosing their targets, by the time he rode to 9th place at Roubaix in 1992, it had already been established as a event apart, where stage racers, by and large, dared not to tread.

    Against that backdrop, it’s no surprise that Wiggins’ decision to make a target of Paris-Roubaix this spring has elicited such intense interest, and it’s easy to understand why doubts have been cast on his prospects. Reigning champion Fabian Cancellara was among the first to air such reservations, noting in February that “with Tour de France weight you’re not going to go anywhere,” although he would later add diplomatically that “everyone is welcome...

  • inCycle video: Sep Vanmarcke's dream of winning Paris-Roubaix

    Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) can't hide his dissapointement
    Article published:
    April 11, 2014, 16:06 BST
    Cycling News

    Belgian hopes to break dominance of Boonen and Cancellara

    While it may be hard for some to look beyond a Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) win in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix one rider with aspirations of adding his name the illustrious roll of honour at the race is Sep Vanmarcke (Team Belkin).

    A classics specialist already, he has racked up podium places in Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, finishing behind Cancellara on both occasions. After being nipped at the line in last year’s Hell of the North, he returns once more to do battle with Cancellara, the unforgiving pavé, and of course the rest of the racing field.

    Often quiet and unassuming, Vanmarcke modesty hides a raw hunger for success. His career trajectory has seen the Belgian break onto the scene with a win in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad before a switch to Belkin at the start of 2013. Despite crashes in last year's spring campaign, Vanmarcke put in one of the most impressive rides during the cobbled season, with second place in the Roubaix velodrome.

    And while his win tally remains relatively low, he still lines up one of Cancellara’s main rivals for Sunday.

    It’s his dream to win Paris-Roubaix, and in this video with inCycle the Belkin leader talks about his chances of success and why Paris-Roubaix holds such a special place in his heart. The short interview gives a fine insight into the highs and lows of professional bike racing, the demands riders put on themselves and why they put everything on the line for that chance to taste victory.

    Vanmarcke also talks about his ambition to ride this year's Tour de France. This year's race see the race head into Belgium for a stint on the cobbles of Roubaix.

    Click here to subscribe to the...

  • Boonen: It would be stupid to focus only on Cancellara at Paris-Roubaix

    Tom Boonen at the pre-Paris-Roubaix press conference
    Article published:
    April 11, 2014, 17:20 BST
    Barry Ryan

    “I’ve still beaten him more than he’s beaten me”

    A week is a long time in politics, so the adage goes, but there is little scope for spin in the unforgiving climate of the cobbled classics: in recent seasons, the truth has had a habit of remaining unchanged from one Sunday to the next. Yet even though Tom Boonen was short on condition at the Tour of Flanders, he remains optimistic that he can be at his best at Paris-Roubaix this weekend.

    “It was the first final I did above 6 hours,” Boonen said at a press conference in Kortrijk on Friday. “I was pretty good for 230 kilometres, I really felt able to win the race but in the last 30-40 minutes, I felt the condition was really not good enough. But still I made it ok to the end, and the extra week and race will help me to achieve my best level.”

    Boonen missed Milan-San Remo after his partner suffered a miscarriage and has been playing catch-up in his preparations for the classics ever since, but he believes that he has benefited from his outing in Flanders last Sunday. Certainly, his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team seems in need of its leader.

    QuickStep have landed victories at Dwars door Vlaanderen and the Three Days of De Panne in the past three weeks, and had more riders than anyone else in the finale at the Tour of Flanders. Without an on-form Boonen, however, they can sometimes seem rudderless or without a focal point.

    “Maybe it comes as a surprise but winning classics is not easy, eh? You can have the best team in the world but it’s not a guarantee you’ll win a classic,” said Boonen, who downplayed the idea that the team was overly reliant on him to score major victories.

    He made light, too, of the pressure on his shoulders to deliver a classic victory. For all his protestations in February that his Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne triumph had relieved him of pressure for the...

  • Chris Horner injured in training crash in Italy

    Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida)
    Article published:
    April 11, 2014, 19:35 BST
    Cycling News

    Broken ribs, punctured lung from crash near Lake Como

    American Chris Horner sustained serious injuries in a crash while training near Lake Como, Italy today. The Lampre-Merida team announced that the rider may have been hit by a car, but circumstances around the wreck were unclear. Horner was transported to a nearby hospital in Lecco, and was diagnosed with a punctured lung, broken ribs and a cut to his head which required stitches.

    Fortunately for the 42-year-old, it appears he escaped without a concussion. Horner had already suffered a severe concussion from a crash on stage 7 of the 2011 Tour de France. He finished the stage dazed and confused, 12 minutes down, but left the race the next morning. Weeks later, he developed a blood clot in his lung.

    One of the oldest riders in the professional peloton, Horner joined Lampre-Merida for the season as a late signing, despite having just added the Vuelta a España overall victory to his palmares last year, as few teams were keen to take the risk on an older rider at his salary grade.

    He pulled out of Tirreno-Adriatico with tendinitis in March, and then dropped out of the Volta a Catalunya as the injury worsened.

    Last season, Horner spent the better part of the year out with a knee injury, but bounced back at the Tour of Utah with a stage win and second place overall before going on to win the Tour of Spain.

  • Cancellara without Devolder for Paris-Roubaix

    Stijn Devolder (Trek)
    Article published:
    April 11, 2014, 20:00 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Trek loses important lieutenant to Tour of Flanders injuries

    The Trek Factory Racing team from top favourite Fabian Cancellara for Paris-Roubaix received a blow on Friday when they decided not to let Stijn Devolder take the start in Sunday’s race. Sports directors Dirk Demol and Luca Guercilena felt that the Belgian champion was still suffering too much from the injuries sustained in two heavy crashes in last Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, and is not fit enough to race. Devolder will be replaced by Dutch rider Boy van Poppel.

    “If I would take the decision on my own of course I would take the start. Sometimes people behind you have to take decisions. Sometimes you can’t think clear in these situations. Of course in the recon I suffered like a pig. If it would be like this on Sunday I would do it also but we would not know how the result would be. For me it’s very hard not to take the start,” Devolder said in the team hotel on Friday afternoon.

    “For me it was a very hard moment when Luca and Dirk came to talk with me this afternoon, telling me they took the decision not to let me start on Sunday. For me the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix are the two most important races of the year of course. I lived towards next Sunday already for months, but because of the hard crash in the Tour of Flanders I can’t take the start and that’s very hard for me.”

    After doing a reconnaissance ride on the cobbles on Thursday it was obvious for sports director Dirk Demol that he had to protect Devolder from himself and take him out of the team. Devolder sustained serious injuries on his left side and some damage on his right side after smashing into Klaas Lodewyck (BMC) during the Tour of Flanders.

    “It’s Luca and me who take the decision not to let him...

  • Stybar plays down his own chances at Paris-Roubaix

    Fabian Cancellara (Trek) leads Zdenek Stybar (OPQS) on the Koppenberg
    Article published:
    April 11, 2014, 21:06 BST
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    Czech rider still looking to learn and work for Omega Pharma-Quickstep

    After his performance in his debut Paris-Roubaix last year, it his hard to look past Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) as one of the favourites for the title this time around.

    Stybar looked like a sure thing for the podium last year, if not victory, before he was foiled by a fan’s camera. Despite his previous performance, Stybar is far coyer on his prospects than most. "I don’t think I am between the favourites. I just hope that I can get there in a good position and to stay with the favourites and make as good as possible result," he told reporters at the Omega Pharma-QuickStep press conference, ahead of Paris-Roubaix. "I never really like to talk about winning. As I said, it’s only the second time for me, but I really believe as a team that we can win the race."

    QuickStep will have a battle on their hands with the likes of Fabian Cancellara, Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke all in flying form, plus a whole host of realistic contenders for the top three spots. "I think, for sure, on paper that we can do it but it’s always difficult to finalise it and to make it. I think that Tom will be better than on Sunday, so I think that he will be there in the final," said Stybar.

    Stybar didn’t join teammates Tom Boonen and Stijn Vandenbergh at Scheldeprijs choosing to skip the mid-week race after a tough Tour of Flanders last Sunday. He had previously said that Flanders was his preferred choice of the two cobbled monuments, but could only manage 18th on the day. Vandenbergh, who finished fourth, was the team’s best performer at...

  • Creed transforms SmartStop with stage race success

    Mike Creed and Eric Marcotte have a talk before leaving on the ride.
    Article published:
    April 11, 2014, 21:43 BST
    Pat Malach

    "We're team SmartStop and we came to race"

    Team SmartStop made its 2014 US debut last week at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, taking a stage win and spending two days in yellow on its way to staking a spot as one of the top teams in the domestic peloton. The results were a validation of sorts after an off-season that was spent transitioning from a focus on criteriums to an all-out stage racing outfit.

    After the race, first-year director Michael Creed celebrated the team's success by posting a message for the rest for the peloton on Twitter. “To all the riders, teams and races who turned their nose up at us,” Creed wrote, “let me repeat myself. Hi, we're team SmartStop and we came to race.”

    The team has been racing in its new configuration since February, when it traveled to the Vuelta Independencia Nacional in the Dominican Republic. The team took three stage wins with Jure Kocjan and Eric Marcotte, and rider Rob Britton finished second overall.

    The UCI 2.2 race was the first indication that Creed had assembled a squad that could compete with the very best of American Continental teams. SmartStop followed it up with a trip to Vuelta Mexico, where fellow US Continental teams 5-hour Energy/Kenda, Jamis-Hagens Berman and Optum Pro Cycling were also competing. Although SmartStop came away from that race without any wins [Kocjan's runner-up effort on stage 4 was the team's best result], the aggressive style of riding engendered even more respect.

    “I was very pleased to see the way SmartStop raced,” said Jamis-Hagens Berman director Sebastian Alexandre. “They really stepped out, and Mike Creed put a good team together. It will be nice to have another team to compete against here in the US. It was very nice to see them running well there.”

    The attacking style of racing, a reflection of Creed's own fondness for breakaways as a competitor,...

  • Cancellara wants to write history with fourth Paris-Roubaix win

    Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) floats along the cobbles
    Article published:
    April 11, 2014, 21:53 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Defending champion pushes pressure to winless riders and teams

    After capturing his third win in the Tour of Flanders and equalling the race record last Sunday, it’s obvious that Fabian Cancellara is the top favourite to come level with the four wins from Tom Boonen and Roger De Vlaeminck in Paris-Roubaix next Sunday. The Swiss rider played down the expectations during a press conference on Friday afternoon, moving the pressure towards riders who failed to grab a win so far in this year’s Spring Classics season.

    Cancellara said he just wanted a war on cobbles and have a sunny bike ride in France. Shortly after learning about the absence from teammate Stijn Devolder in the team selection, a seemingly relaxed Cancellara claimed he didn’t worry whether or not he received a five star rating from the bookmakers.

    “I’m not favourite number one. Like in Flanders there’s lot of other favourites and riders riding in good condition. Things will be changed this year. The race is open for everyone. If I get five stars or not, it’s not my decision. There’s a lot more riders with five stars to me, but they’re under more pressure because they haven’t won. There’s Kristoff, Sagan and Terpstra, they’ve won the recent races we went through. The rest haven’t won. The campaign of the Classics finishes on the velodrome and that’s why there’s still a lot of people are hungry. I’m hungry as well and that’s why, let’s go and have a great meet,” Cancellara said.

    Last year Tom Boonen had the chance to get a record-equalling fourth win in Roubaix, but this year both Cancellara and Boonen have a chance to reach that goal. Cancellara can also become the first rider who has managed three double wins in Flanders and Roubaix. Boonen pulled it off...