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Second Edition Cycling News, Friday, March 23, 2012

Date published:
March 23, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Startline gallery: E3 Harelbeke

    Eyes on the prize: Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) can lay down a marker at E3 Harelbeke.
    Article published:
    March 23, 2012, 12:35 GMT
    Cycling News

    Boonen and Cancellara do battle on the cobbles

    E3 Harelbeke has proved a most reliable indicator of form lines ahead of the Tour of Flanders in recent seasons, and all of the principal contenders for De Ronde were on the start line on Friday as the race makes its debut in the WorldTour.

    Winner for the past two years, Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) is the favourite to triumph once again this time around, particularly given his recent exploits in Italy. However, in spite of his undoubted power, the Swiss rider found himself pipped at the line at Milan-San Remo, and there is no shortage of willing challengers in a high-class field in Harelbeke.

    Leading the line is the Omega Pharma-QuickStep team of Tom Boonen. The Belgian has been a remarkably consistent performer on the cobbles for the past two seasons, and flanked by Dwars Door Vlaanderen winner Niki Terpstra and Sylvain Chavanel, Boonen seems well-placed to renew his enduring rivalry with Cancellara.

    Philippe Gilbert and his BMC squad are still chasing their first victory of the season, but with Thor Hushovd, Alessandro Ballan and Greg Van Avermaet in their ranks, they should have a significant say in the finale here. Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) are some of the other danger men.

    There were raucous cheers too for the young Belgian talent Sep Vanmarcke (Garmin-Barracuda) as he went to sign on. Cancellara may be the man to beat, but home hopes are certainly not lacking at Harelbeke.

  • Video: Breschel and Kroon on E3 Harelbeke

    Matti Breschel (Rabobank)
    Article published:
    March 23, 2012, 13:18 GMT
    Cycling News

    Former Saxo Bank teammates motivated for the challenge

    Two riders with a wealth of experience in the cobbled classics are Matti Breschel (Rabobank) and Karsten Kroon (Saxo Bank), and the two former teammates are out to perform strongly at E3 Harelbeke.

    Breschel opted to skip Dwars Door Vlaanderen, a race he won in 2010, in order to focus his energies on the two WorldTour races this weekend, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem.

    “There are going to be two really hard races now and it would be difficult to do Dwars Door Vlaanderen full gas and still be 100% for this and Wevelgem,” he said.

    With 13 hellingen on the menu on Friday, positioning will be of the essence, particularly on the first climb, the Muur Van Geraardsbergen shortly before the midway point.

    “You’re going to have to be on the front on Geraardsbergen. Maybe you’re not going to win the race but you can lose the race there,” he warned. “It’s always important to stay in the front on these Belgian races.”

    Karsten Kroon returns to Saxo Bank after two crash-afflicted seasons with BMC, and the Dutchman is pleased to back under the management of Bjarne Riis, with home he enjoyed the best years of his career between 2006 and 2009.

    “From the 30 original riders on Saxo Bank when I left three years ago, only seven are left so it’s a totally different group but the mentality and the staff are still the same,” Kroon said.

    He leads the Saxo Bank team in the absence of Tour of Flanders champion Nick Nuyens, who misses the classics after fracturing...

  • Brailsford: Wiggins and Cavendish must prioritise

    So much of Sky's ambitions for 2012 rest on Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish
    Article published:
    March 23, 2012, 15:25 GMT
    Cycling News

    Taking on too much in the summer would be a "recipe for failure"

    Both men have spent the last few months insisting that they can compete effectively in both the Tour de France and the London 2012 Olympic Games and that neither event is more important than the other - but now it appears that orders from above will see Team GB and Team Sky colleagues Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish having to prioritise their training and their targets over the coming weeks and months.

    The man charged with guiding the two British stars at professional and international level, David Brailsford, has stated that spreading yourself too thinly is a "recipe for failure" and that his riders must identify their main targets for the crucial month of July, which takes in both the Tour and the men's Olympic road race.

    The Team Sky and Team GB supremo is arguably the most influential figure in British cycling, having masterminded Team GB's record medal haul at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and founding and developing Team Sky into a Pro Tour team feared by the rest of the peloton. The signing of Cavendish in the winter to line-up alongside Wiggins in Team Sky colours was a major coup and the team's start to the season has been a good one.

    Wiggins underlined his credentials for a sustained challenge for yellow at this year's Tour by winning Paris-Nice earlier in this month, with bookmakers now making him second favourite behind 2011 winner Cadel Evans to make history and become Britain's first winner of cycling's flagship event.

    World champion Cavendish has already secured several wins for his new team and has designs on...

  • WADA chief praises cycling for blood testing

    The riders' blood samples are taken
    Article published:
    March 23, 2012, 17:44 GMT
    Cycling News

    Fahey calls for more HGH testing in all sports

    The World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey has praised cycling for taking the initiative to incorporate more blood testing in its anti-doping regime, and has called on the other Olympic sports to follow cycling's example.

    In an interview with Bloomberg News, Fahey decried the low number of blood tests in sport worldwide, noting that in 2010, out of some quarter of a million controls taken, only about 5,000 were blood samples. The rest were urine, which is less intrusive to collect and cheaper to transport and process.

    However, blood testing is the only way to detect some performance enhancing drugs such as human growth hormone (HGH).

    "What we're seeing happening is another disappointment to us," Fahey said. "Sports generally are not spending enough on anti-doping agencies and not putting enough blood testing forward. That being the case, I suspect HGH cheats are getting away with it. What is an effective and robust program? It's a hell of a lot more than 2 percent of the samples being blood samples. It's probably got to be 15 percent, or maybe 20 percent blood samples to be effective."

    WADA's goal is to make sure blood samples make up at least 10 per cent of all controls, but so far only cycling has come close.

    "Cycling had a very bad record going back ten years or so ago," Fahey said. "They have at least stopped denying the problem, and worked with a program to deal with the problem."

    In 2011, the UCI collected nearly a third of its 13,057 doping controls as blood samples, but the article did not note the percentage of blood samples taken strictly for the biological passport or how many were actually tested for HGH.

    To date, there has only been one HGH positive in cycling, that of Patrick Sinkewitz, although other athletes have either been punished for trafficking in the drug or admitted to using it.

  • Millar breaks collarbone at E3 Harelbeke

    David Millar (Garmin-Barracuda) crashed out of the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke and sustained a broken collarbone.
    Article published:
    March 23, 2012, 18:30 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Briton's Classics campaign is over

    David Millar's Classics campaign is over after the Garmin-Barracuda rider crashed and broke his right collarbone in E3 Harelbeke. It's the second time the Brit has sustained a clavicle break, having crashed out of the 2009 edition of Paris-Nice with the same injury on the same side.

    "I got out of the car at the crash and I saw David. It looked like his shoulders were at different angles," Garmin-Barracuda's team director Allan Peiper told Cyclingnews at the finish of the race.

    "I asked him what he thought, and he said he thought it was broken.

    "I don't know how bad the break is. It may mend by itself it may need an operation. All those things come into the equation. The Classics could be over in that sense so it means moving onto the next objective for David and shuffling the team a little bit."

    More to follow

  • Eisel happy with podium in E3 Harelbeke

    Bernhard Eisel (Sky)
    Article published:
    March 23, 2012, 19:19 GMT
    Cycling News

    Ready to ride for Cavendish in Gent-Wevelgem

    A fortnight ago, it looked as if Bernhard Eisel's Classics season was already over. A knee injury picked up in Tirreno-Adriatico threatened to put an end to Eisel's spring but after constant therapy from the Sky's physiotherapist, he was able to start E3. And he paid the team back with third place in the final sprint in Harelbeke.

    Like fellow podium placers Tom Boonen and Oscar Freire, Eisel was a constant presence near the head of the race. His primary job was to ensure that teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen was well placed going into the Taaienberg. With that task fulfilled and with a bunch sprint becoming a strong possibility towards the end of the race, Eisel was able to concentrate on his own chances.

    "I was cramping in the last 600 meters but with 20 kilometres to go, I put Ian Stannard on the front and I said to the boys 'come on let's not let this one go, let's keep working'," Eisel told Cyclingnews at the finish.

    At the time, Sylvain Chavanel (Omega-Pharma QuickStep) and Dmitriy Muravyev (Astana) were clear and racing towards the win. However with Sky and Liquigas chasing, the complexion of the race changed.

    "We just had to bring back Chavanel, and then we'd have QuickStep riding with us," Eisel said.

    "If I didn't have cramps, then maybe I could have held Boonen's wheel in the sprint but I couldn't get the full power on the pedals but I'm absolutely happy because until Wednesday I didn't know if I'd race today. At one point it looked like my entire Classics season was over."

    "I had knee problems but our physio did a fantastic job so I have to thank him and the team. When...

  • Video: Boonen passes his Monuments exam

    Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) wins the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke
    Article published:
    March 23, 2012, 20:35 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Record fifth win in E3-Prijs Harelbeke for Belgian star

    With a record-breaking fifth win at the semi-Classic E3-Prijs Harelbeke, it's clear that popular Belgian rider Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quickstep)  is ready for the upcoming two Monuments, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

    "This is my exam," Boonen said, and the 31-year-old Belgian clearly passed it. Shortly after capturing a hard-fought victory, a seemingly fresh Boonen talked with the press and explained that the win offers him some peace of mind going into the next important races. "I'm building up toward this time of the year. If you have won a race, it takes away the pressure a bit. I like a big win before Flanders. I am very happy," Boonen said.

    Surpassing an illustrious name like Rik Van Looy with his fifth Harelbeke victory clearly made Boonen a proud man on Friday afternoon in sunny Harelbeke. "This has always been a special race for me. I've been on the podium here in the last seven years. After winning four times in a row, everybody waited for number five to come. I'm a happy man. It's my first little record," Boonen said at the post-race press conference.

    "I don't know what it is with me and Harelbeke. It's just an important race on the calendar."

    That calendar caused a lot of problems for the Belgian race, which was always organized on the Saturday one week before the Tour of Flanders. Last year, the UCI moved Gent-Wevelgem to the Sunday of the same weekend of Harelbeke which resulted in a weaker starting field for the E3-Prijs Harelbeke. Boonen was one of the riders who skipped Harelbeke in order to score in Gent-Wevelgem, also...

  • Gatto and Pozzato sparkle at E3 Harelbeke

    Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini - Selle Italia)
    Article published:
    March 23, 2012, 22:20 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Farnese Vini-Selle Italia on the offensive

    Filippo Pozzato may have offered further signs of his remarkable recovery from injury and the team may have been the principal animators of the race, but there was a palpable air of regret in the Farnese Vini-Selle Italia camp after the finish of E3 Harelbeke.

    Oscar Gatto had been one of three riders from the squad (alongside Luca Ascani and Kevin Hulsmans) to infiltrate the day's early break, before soloing clear confidently on the Paterberg. Later joined by the in-form Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Dmitriy Muravyev (Astana) at the front, the trio had a thirty-second lead entering the final 30km to go when a puncture removed Gatto from contention.

    The spoils eventually fell to Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) in a sizeable group sprint, but there was definite air of what might have been outside the team bus, as directeur sportif Luca Scinto inspected the rim Gatto had broken in his frustration as he waited for a wheel change on the side of the road.

    "If Gatto hadn't punctured, the race would have been completely different. He would have fought out the finish with Chavanel and the lad from Astana. I think they definitely would have got to the finish," Scinto told Cyclingnews. "Gatto had slowed up to wait for them, and then when he punctured, those two pulled away."

    His team leader Pozzato was in agreement, although he acknowledged that Fabian Cancellara's (RadioShack-Nissan) puncture on the Kwaremont had also altered the complexion of the race amongst the chasers, and contributed to a more sizeable group than normal disputing the flat run-in to Harelbeke.

    "I think that if Cancellara and Gatto hadn't punctured, the race would have changed completely," Pozzato said. "It's a...