- Article published:
- December 21, 2012, 10:31
- Peter Hymas
Three-time world champion closes remarkable career
A storied 15-year professional cycling career came to a conclusion on September 23, 2012 as 36-year-old Spaniard Oscar Freire crossed the finish line in 10th place at the elite men's road world championships in Valkenburg, The Netherlands. The savvy, speedy Spaniard was vying for an unprecedented fourth world championship and a spot even higher in the pantheon of cycling legends, but it was not to be in Freire's final day in the professional peloton.
Cyclingnews readers, however, voted Oscar Freire the 2012 legend of cycling with 7,141 votes (25.34%), topping Kristin Armstrong (5,612 votes/19.91%) and Victoria Pendleton (3,305 votes/11.73%) for top honours.
It was apropos that Freire's curtain call would take place at the world championships. In Freire's first year as a professional, 1998, he quietly notched a 17th place finish the last time Valkenburg hosted the world championships and the next year's Worlds in Verona, Italy, likely saved the Spaniard's career from oblivion.
Freire was nearing the end of a two-year contract with Spanish team Vitalicio Seguros and on the start line of the world championships he had not yet found a team for 2000. Beset by injuries, Freire only raced 11 times in 1999 and was a late addition to the Spanish Worlds squad. Soon to be famous for generating remarkable fitness in short periods of time, Freire trained for six weeks prior to Worlds, either alone or behind a scooter, on a circuit near his home in Torrelvega, Spain, resembling the Verona parcours.
Rounding the final turn at Worlds, Freire would catch his eight breakaway companions by surprise, including such luminaries in the pro peloton as Jan Ullrich, Frank Vandenbroucke, Francesco Casagrande and 1998 world champion Oscar Camenzind, and rode alone over the final 400 meters to be crowned an unlikely world champion.
While Freire would win two more world titles, in 2001 and 2004, and flirt with adding an unprecedented fourth world championship throughout the rest of his career, he told Cyclingnews prior to this year's world championships, "Iâ€™ll be remembered for the Worlds but thatâ€™s not the only victory I have in my palmares."
In a career fraught with injury Freire managed to win at least one race in each of the 15 years he raced as a professional. Following two season on Spain's Vitalicio Seguros squad Freire would never race for a Spanish team again, spending three years at Mapei (2000-2002), the bulk of his career at Rabobank (2003-2011) and concluding his presence in the pro peloton with Team Katusha (2012).
Freire was the atypical Spaniard who made his mark in Europe's one-day races, parlaying his toughness, tactical nous and fast finishing kick into victories at Milan-San Remo (2004, 2007, 2010), Gent-Wevelgem (2008), Paris-Tours (2010), Brabantse Pijl (2005, 2006, 2007) and Vattenfall Cyclassics (2006).
In Grand Tours Freire won four stages at the Tour de France as well as the points classification (2008). In his native Spain he claimed seven Vuelta a EspaÃ±a stage wins plus wore the leader's jersey early in the 2007 edition.
Freire won stages at Tirreno-Adriatico (plus the overall in 2005), Vuelta a AndalucÃa (plus the overall in 2007), Vuelta al PaÃs Vasco, Tour de Romandie, Tour Down Under and the Tour de Suisse (where in stage 7 at the 2006 edition he famously bunny-hopped a median to drop his breakaway companions in the finale and win the stage).
In a year with another Armstrong dominating the sport's headlines for ignominious reasons, Kristin Armstrong capped a return from retirement to defend her 2008 Olympic time trial gold medal with a repeat performance at this past summer's London Games. The 38-year-old American beat reigning time trial world champion Judith Arndt by 15.47 seconds and Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya by 22.53 seconds to secure victory and Olympic glory in the final race of her career.
Kristin Armstrong had her own trials and tribulations in 2012, however, as she broke her collarbone in the opening stage of her hometown Exergy Tour on May 24, but nonetheless secured one of the US's two start spots in the Olympic time trial based on her stellar results both against the clock and in road races to that point.
Armstrong transitioned from triathlon to cycling at the age of 27 in 2001 and in addition to her two Olympic gold medals she earned two time trial world championships (2006, 2009), two US road championships (2004, 2006), three US time trial titles (2005, 2006, 2007) plus numerous stage and overall victories on both the roads of the USA and Europe.
Armstrong temporarily retired in 2009 to start a family, but returned to racing in 2011 with the goal to defend her Olympic time trial gold medal. Armstrong's son Lucas joined her on the podium in London following her victory.
Victoria Pendleton, too, concluded her career at the 2012 London Olympics where she won gold in the keirin but controversial decisions prevented her from winning additional golds in the team sprint and individual sprint. Her British team set a new world record in the team sprint qualifying but were disqualified in the semi-final round for a missed exchange. In her final event of the Olympics, Pendleton earned silver in the individual sprint to Anna Meares in which she was relegated in their first sprint of the gold medal round.
The 32-year-old enjoyed a remarkable career on the track as she earned a record six individual sprint world championships (2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012). She also won two team sprint world titles (2007, 2008) plus a keirin world championship (2007). In addition to her gold and silver medals earned in London, Pendleton won the individual sprint gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Additionally, Pendleton was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2009 New Year Honours.
2012 legend of cycling voting
1. Oscar Freire: (30.49%)
2. Kristin Armstrong: (23.96%)
3. Victoria Pendleton: (14.11%)
4. Travis Tygart: (10.15%)
5. Judith Arndt (7.26%)
6. David Moncoutie: (6.57%)
7. Fiorenzo Magni: (6.45%)
8. Daphny van den Brand: (1.01%)
28,185 votes cast
- reader poll
- Article published:
- December 21, 2012, 11:54
- Cycling News
RadioShack-Nissan rider with “as many races as possible”
Andy Schleck wants to ride as many races as possible in his build-up to the Tour de France, starting with the Tour Down Under and ending with the Tour de Suisse. “A busy schedule, but it is what I want,” he said.
He told Wielerrevue.nl that he has asked to ride as many races as possible in the early part of the season. “I think it's important for me that I have as many races in my legs when I go the start of the Classics,” he said.
The RadioShack-Nissan rider will open his season at the Tour Down Under for the first time, to be followed by the Tour of the Mediterranean, Tour du Haut Var, GP Nobili, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Criterium International and the Tour of the Basque Country.
From there, he will probably head to the Tour of California and wrap up his preparations with the Tour de Suisse, before heading to the start of the Tour de France in Corsica.
“A busy schedule, but it is what I want,” he said. “I am very motivated to show that I am still a good rider. I want to show it again. Attacks, maybe win a race. That's why I told the team, give me as many races as possible!
“Of course, the first races are tricky, because last year I've missed so much. But what motivates me is that I want to win again.”
A crash in the time trial at the Criterium du Dauphine early last June left him with a fracture in his pelvis. Not only was he forced to miss the Tour de France, Olympic Games and the World championships, he did not return to racing at all until Binche-Tournai-Binche, some four months later.
- Tour de France 2013
- Article published:
- December 21, 2012, 13:50
- Cycling News
Frenchman hangs up wheels after 15 seasons in the peloton
Jimmy Casper has announced his retirement after failing to secure a contract for the 2013 season. The veteran French sprinter spent the past year at Ag2r-La Mondiale but was unable to add to his total of 61 career victories.
“Given that no team offered me a contract for 2013, I see I am forced to bring an end to my career as a professional cyclist,” Casper said, according to AFP. “I want to thank all of my teams for all these great moments of life, emotion, sharing and human experience – and for these victories.”
After turning professional with La Française des Jeux in 1998, Casper made his first waves the following season when he sprang from relative obscurity to beat Erik Zabel on four occasions at the Tour of Germany.
Casper struggled to confirm that early promise at Marc Madiot’s team but a 2004 switch to Cofidis heralded the most consistently successful spell of his career, crowned by victory on the opening stage of the 2006 Tour de France in Strasbourg.
While that was Casper’s only win at La Grande Boucle, he was a regular fixture in bunch sprints at the Tour and also in the autobus, finishing as lanterne rouge on two occasions, in 2001 and 2004, as well as second-last overall in 2006.
Coupled with sparring partner Jimmy Engoulvent, Casper went on to enjoy three solid seasons in the Saur-Sojasun set-up, winning Paris-Camembert in 2009 and a stage of the Tour of Oman in 2010. The 34-year-old Casper is now hoping to continue his involvement in cycling in a coaching role.
“I hope to succeed in my re-adaptation in this cycling environment, which I love and which has given me so much,” he said.
- Article published:
- December 21, 2012, 15:22
- Daniel Simms
I just try and entertain people a little bit, says German
The votes are in, the results have been counted and Jens Voigt (RadioShack Nissan) has been voted your favourite professional rider on twitter in the Cyclingnews Reader poll, 2012.
The jolly German secured the title with a total of the 32 per cent of the vote with 2011 winner Mark Cavendish in second place with 20 per cent. David Millar finished a distant third with 18 per cent.
Voigt, 41, told Cyclingnews that he was honoured to pick up the award.
"First of all thanks for voting for me," he told Cyclingnews during a recent RadioShack team camp.
"Hopefully you didn't just vote for me because I put out the biggest amount of tweets. Hopefully you liked the contents and the quality of it. Actually I tried to give a whole view into my life, not just the hours I ride and the Watts and the calories I've burned.
"I've tried to let fans be part of my life. As you can image with six kids, my mother in law living with me and the cat and the dog there's always something going on. I just try and entertain people a little bit. I like to be amongst the people and share a large part of my life. For me it's good because in the end the fans are really important and the feedback you get is really true and honest."
||Jens Voigt: @thejensie
||Mark Cavendish: @MarkCavendish
||David Millar: @millarmind
||Fabian Cancellara: @f_cancellara
||Taylor Phinney: @taylorphinney
||Adam Myerson: @AdamMyerson
||Michael Creed: @Michael_Creed
||Marco Pinotti: @marcopinotti
||Bridie O'Donnell: @Bridie_OD
||Danny Pate: @TheDPate
- Article published:
- December 21, 2012, 15:56
- Cycling News
Men's and women's cycling to have prize money parity
The UCI has today announced that starting in 2013 the majority of men's and women's world championships will share equal prize money.
Beginning with the cyclo-cross Worlds in Louisville on February 2 and 3, all disciplines, with the exception of the road team time trial, will have parity.
UCI President Pat McQuaid welcomed the decision, saying no distinction should be made between the achievements of men and women: "The Management Committee’s approval is a simple but very important step forward in our effort to guarantee a healthy and fair future for our sport."
- Article published:
- December 21, 2012, 16:38
- Cycling News
Joint sponsor leaves team
Nissan has confirmed that it will cease its joint sponsor venture of the RadioShack Nissan team with immediate affect. It was reported on Thursday that the car manufacturing giant would pull back from the sport but comply with its financial commitments to the cycling team through 2013, when their deal was contractually due to finish.Today Nissan confirmed that they would honor their financial obligations with the team but that their jersey and team sponsorship would cease immediately.
Nissan renewed its co-title sponsorship with the team of Flavio Becca in 2011 through the 2013 season, but after a hugely damaging year for the team and cycling as a whole, Nissan has pulled out.
The team were heavily tied to USADA’s investigation into Lance Armstrong (a former rider of the team) and the US Postal team. RadioShack’s Johan Bruyneel was forced to leave the team, while Frank Schleck failed a drug test during this year’s Tour de France.
Coupled with a lack of results, David Reuter, the vice-president of Nissan Americas, told the Guardian, "Nissan and the management team of RadioShack-Nissan-Trek cycling have reached an agreement that provides for Nissan's immediate withdrawal as a sponsor of the team, while enabling the team to continue competing in the upcoming 2013 season.”
The move follows a similar play from Rabobank, the Dutch bank that had financed a professional cycling team since 1996. However they pulled out of the sport immediately after the USADA case against Armstrong was finalised. They too decided to financially support a squad for 2013 but their name will not appear on the team’s jersey.
- Article published:
- December 21, 2012, 18:19
- Alasdair Fotheringham
Horrillo and Minguez to meet with federation president next week
Spanish Cycling Federation president José Luís Lopez Cerron has denied reports that he has selected former sports director Javier Minguez to be the federation's new road coach.
The spot fell vacant after coach José Luiz De Santos quit this winter to go and work for as director in Alberto Contador's new under 23 team, but López Cerron says that newspaper reports that Minguez will get the job, with former pro. Pedro Horrillo as his new second-in-command, looking after women's cycling and junior categories, have jumped the gun.
"We've agreed to meet up face to face some day next week and discuss it but that's as far as it goes," López Cerron told Cyclingnews.
"I've talked to both of them, but only by phone and briefly, and I've asked a number of top riders whether they would approve of that particular choice. But nothing's decided yet and it's not a priority."
After a brief career as a pro, Minguez is well known as one of Spain's top directors in the 1980s and 1990s, winning two Vueltas - with Faustino Ruperez and Alvaro Pino - and directing teams of the calibre of Zor, Amaya, Banesto and Vitalicio before turning, in 2001, to commentating on cycling for various radio stations. In latter two teams, curiously enough, López Cerron was his second in command.
López Cerron praised Minguez ability as a director and said, "He can read races really well, which is extremely important in a one-day Classic. But as for becoming new road trainer, right now I don't even know if he's available for the job."
- Article published:
- December 21, 2012, 19:15
- Barry Ryan
Dutchman on the transition from Rabobank to Blanco
2012 was a mixed year for Bauke Mollema. On the one hand, a crash-blighted Tour de France meant that he was unable to build on his fourth-place finish at the previous year’s Vuelta a España, but that setback was tempered in part by the Dutchman’s progress in the Classics.
A top-10 finisher in Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Lombardy, Mollema was active at the business end of the one-day races best-suited to his talents, even if one senses that did not compensate for the distress of being forced to abandon the Tour due to injury.
“I think you can look at my season in two ways,” Mollema told Cyclingnews. “The Classics went really well. Ok, I was always between fifth and 10th but before 2012, I never did the top 10 in a big Classic so I made a lot of progression in the Classics and I’m really happy with that.
“But then the stage races and especially the Tour were disappointing. I was third in the Basque Country and that was a nice result in April but the Tour and the Vuelta were not what I hoped for.”
A stricken Mollema abandoned the Tour on stage 11 to La Toussuire, and after spending 10 days off the bike on his return home and welcoming the arrival of his first child in August, the 26-year-old from Groningen was well shy of his top form when the Vuelta came around, finishing 28th after riding in support of Robert Gesink. “That was disappointing but at least I know what the reasons were,” he said.
For 2013 then, Mollema will look to dream it up all over again in the colours of Blanco Pro Cycling, and once more, he will try to combine a concerted push towards the Ardennes classics with his Tour de France build-up.
“I think you can do both and maybe for next year, I’ll try to be good in Tirreno-Adriatico first,” he said. “The difference there is normally made on the short climbs so you can compare that with the Classics. Then after the Classics, I can start doing longer intervals in training to prepare for the Tour.”
Mollema admits that it is all but impossible to match the explosiveness of riders such as Joaquim Rodriguez and Philippe Gilbert on the Mur de Huy at Flèche Wallonne. Not surprisingly, he is hoping that Amstel Gold Race opts to move its finish line from its current location atop the Cauberg to the point 1.5km over the summit where the world championships road race finished last September.
“For me, it would be better and for the rest of our team, too. The race would be more open if they put the finish at the same spot as the world championships. I think the last 10 kilometres of the race would be less closed and that gives a chance to get away in a group. As for Liège, well it’s really a case of waiting for the last 20 kilometres and then if you’re good, you can try something.”
Tour de France
At the Tour de France, meanwhile, Mollema will be Blanco’s leader alongside Robert Gesink, who will have the exertions of the Giro d’Italia in his legs, and he is confident that there will be no clash of interests between the two maturing Dutch talents. “I think it’s good to have some sort of competition in a team because that way, you can make each other stronger and also you can just help each other in the race,” he said. “Last year at the Vuelta, I was helping Robert in the last ten days. Maybe next year, it can be the other way around.”
Wisely, Mollema is reluctant to put a number on what would constitute a successful Tour, joking ruefully that “first you need to pass the first week and that was hard with the crashes last year.”
“I just want to finish as high as possible – maybe it’s 10th, maybe it’s sixth, maybe it’s 15th, I don’t know,” he continued. “I’ll try to go full for the general but also look for a chance for a stage win. Maybe one day if I feel good, I can take a risk and go for a stage. If it goes badly, ok I might lose an extra minute, but I want to try it anyway.”
Remarkably, the Netherlands hasn’t produced a stage winner since Pieter Weening pipped Andreas Klöden in Colmar in 2005, but with a double climb of the “Dutch mountain” of l’Alpe d’Huez two days before the finish next July, Mollema grins when asked where he would like to break that particular hoodoo: “If I could choose one stage to win, it would be that one. It’s about time a Dutch rider won a stage.”
While the Dutch fans on the hallowed twenty-one hairpins will doubtless continue to be draped in various shades of orange, their flagship team undergoes a significant makeover in 2013 following Rabobank’s decision to withdraw from sponsorship. While the Dutch bank will finance the squad until the end of the year, the onus is on Mollema et al to attract a new title sponsor to ensure the team’s survival into 2014.
“The management has to find a sponsor, which isn’t easy in these times,” Mollema said. “But we riders need to play our part and try and get as many results as possible. And it’s not just the results that matter, but also our values and who we are.”
Of course, it was a question of values that saw Rabobank make its surprise decision to withdraw from sponsorship in October; namely the questionable values of the team itself and cycling as a whole during much of its 17-year presence in the professional peloton.
The nadir for Rabobank perhaps came with the Michael Rasmussen affair of 2007, which kick-started a gradual overhaul of the team’s management structure. There is a sense, then, that the likes of Mollema, Gesink, Wilco Kelderman and Steven Kruijswijk – all products of Rabobank’s Continental team – have been made to pay for the sins of the past, even if Mollema admits he can understand Rabobanks’s rationale.
“They said it was not like they didn’t trust us but that they didn’t trust the whole international world of cycling,” Mollema said. “As a big sponsor, I can understand that if there’s always negative publicity in your sport that, after 17 years in cycling, you decide to stop.
“But as a rider from the current era, I would have understood better if they had stopped after Rasmussen or during that period. Sure, there has been a lot of negative publicity with Armstrong but Rasmussen was more negative for the team itself, and in the last few years a lot of things had already changed on the team and cycling has become a lot cleaner than before. So I have mixed feelings.”