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Second Edition Cycling News, Friday, March 29, 2013

Date published:
March 29, 2013, 0:00 GMT
  • Argos-Shimano hoping to show improvement at Flanders

    John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano)
    Article published:
    March 29, 2013, 11:04 GMT
    Cycling News

    Degenkolb wants role in the finale

    Yet to make an impact this cobbled classics season, Argos-Shimano is looking to show improvement this Sunday at the Tour of Flanders. Sports manager Marc Reef said that he had seen gains made over the last week and believes it will be evident out on the road.

    The team will focus their efforts on John Degenkolb, a former third place-finisher in the U23 Ronde. The German sprinter finished in 65th place in both E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, having gone into Milan-San Remo with thigh muscle pain and earning a top-20 finish.

    "I'm looking forward to the weekend," Degenkolb said. "I am aware that I haven't yet shown what I'm capable of and that I still need to get into perfect shape, but I'm convinced that I can do that this week with the right training. If I'm in perfect shape I can play a role in the finale. The most important thing is positioning during this race. I will need all the help of my teammates to start the climbs with the first 10 guys.

    "We will see how my form is soon enough, as these typical Belgian climbs will only let the strongest men win," he continued. "If you are in perfect shape you can make a difference on these climbs; if you are not that good, you will suffer the whole day. You will have a lot of pain and every hill will be horrible."

    A non-starter in Gent-Wevelgem and a non-finisher at E3 Harelbeke having recently returned from a fractured collarbone, Koen de Kort will be a team leader for the Dutch outfit.

    "I have just finished a couple of training sessions to get into top shape," he said. "The last races went OK but not how they should have. This week I prepared in Spain, doing some important training, so I'm fully motivated and ready to support John, who I have a lot of faith in."

    The Argos-Shimano line up for the Tour of Flanders: Nikias Arndt, Bert de Backer, Will...

  • Pozzato optimistic about Flanders chances

    Filippo Pozzato didn't seem to enjoy the cold weather
    Article published:
    March 29, 2013, 12:34 GMT
    Cycling News

    Italian on Sagan and Armstrong

    Filippo Pozzato (Lampre Merida) has sounded an optimistic note about his chances at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday and expressed the hope that his sub-par showing at Milan-San Remo was due to the extreme weather conditions.

    Pozzato was well-placed on the Poggio when the decisive move went clear two but was unable to follow and finished the race in 33rd place, and he subsequently failed to make an impact at E3 Harelbeke or Gent-Wevelgem last weekend.

    “The condition is good, it’s where I wanted it to be,” Pozzato told La Stampa. “It’s true that Milan-San Remo didn’t go the way I thought it would. I had to use up a lot of energy between the Cipressa and the Poggio and I was missing something in the end. That can happen when it’s very cold, and often the values are falsified a bit.”

    Last year, Pozzato came agonisingly close to winning De Ronde, losing out to Tom Boonen in the sprint in Oudenaarde, but said that he had no regrets about taking his chances in the sprint instead of attacking the Belgian in the finale.

    “I have only one recrimination – I should have launched the sprint earlier because Tom suffers in long sprints,” Pozzato said. “For the rest, I’d do the same as I did a year ago. I sparked the move and then in the end, I was confident because I’d beaten Boonen before in a sprint at Harelbeke.”

    Like most, Pozzato views Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) as the outright favourites for victory on Sunday, although he warned that Sagan’s tactical acumen still needs to be sharpened.

    “At Milan-San Remo he was the strongest, even though he lost to Ciolek. He’s a fuoriclasse, but winning...

  • Paris-Corrèze will not take place in 2013

    Bert De Waele (Landbouwkrediet) celebrates his victory in the final stage of Paris-Correze.
    Article published:
    March 29, 2013, 13:50 GMT
    Cycling News

    Fignon's creation suffers from budget cuts

    A creation of former Tour de France champion Laurent Fignon stands to vanish from the European calendar as the Paris-Corrèze organisers announced the race's demise today.

    According to La Montagne, the two-day, UCI 2.1 stage race which Fignon founded in 2001 is suffering from a lack of funds after a grant from the general council was reduced and no other sponsor has been found.

    All of the preparations for the race had been completed, said the organizer Max Mamers, but the funds were not in place and the race had to be called off. The UCI has removed the race from its European Tour calendar.

    "We were alerted to this problem of budget for some time," Mamers said. "We are not surprised by the reduction in the grant, we had been warned. But in past years I have found other partners, but it was impossible to cover a further decline."

    Now the race, which was founded by Fignon who has since died of cancer, may follow him to eternity.

    "I ​​am very pessimistic [about the future]," Mamers said. "We took a number of years to create and to establish it.

    "In general cycling is seeing more deaths than births. When we started it people already thought we were crazy because no new international event was created for 35 years."

    The race has had a number of high profile champions: Thor Hushovd (2001), Baden Cooke (2002), Philippe Gilbert (2004) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (2007) won the Paris-Corrèze. Egoitz García (Cofidis) may stand as the event's final champion from 2012.

  • Cascade Classic joins 10th Women's Prestige Cycling Series

    Jade Wilcoxson (Optum) drives the women's break up the final climb.
    Article published:
    March 29, 2013, 15:05 GMT
    Pat Malach

    Series kicks of in Redlands Classic

    The Women's Prestige Cycling Series will set off for its 10th run through the US domestic circuit when the Redlands Bicycle Classic begins the National Race Calendar April 4-7.

    The women's series, which also includes the Nature Valley Grand Prix in June and the Cascade Cycling Classic in July, honors the top overall rider, best young rider, best sprinter and top team throughout all three races.

    TIBCO to the Top's Megan Guarnier, who also won the 2012 national road race championship and later signed with Rabobank for 2013, took the series' top individual jersey last season. Guarnier's TIBCO teammate Lindsay Myers won the best young rider's jersey, while Optum Pro Cycling-Kelly Benefit Strategies won the team title and placed 2012 revelation Jade Wilcoxson in the sprinter's jersey.

    "It's great to have that consistent support for the women," Wilcoxson told Cyclingnews this week after returning from a European trip with the USA Cycling national team. "Anything we can do to highlight women's racing and generate some excitement for women's racing is for the better. Sot it's great that they've generated the sponsorship to come back for 10 years in a row."

    The series first took place in 2004 after riders and team managers expressed a desire for a focused national series that didn't share the spotlight with the men. The Nature Valley Grand Prix has been a part of the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series from its inception, while the Redlands Bicycle Classic has taken part in the series since its second year. This year will mark the Cascade Cycling Classic's fifth year with the series. The July race in Oregon presents the final series jerseys along with the Nicole Reinhart Trophy, which goes to the women's overall winner of that race.

    "We were thrilled and honored when the Bend Memorial Clinic Cascade Cycling Classic was chosen as the grand finale event for the Women's Prestige Cycling Series," said Cascade race director...

  • Hoste facing payment of 300,000 euros in doping case

    Bitter ending for Leif Hoste (Discovery Channel).
    Article published:
    March 29, 2013, 17:10 GMT
    Cycling News

    Belgian could have to pay equivalent of annual salary plus expenses if found guilty

    If Leif Hoste is found to have violated anti-doping regulations, then he may face a fine of up 300,000 euro, the Belgian cycling federation has said. He could also be given a two-year suspension.

    The UCI announced in January that he was under investigation for violating the Biological Passport programme. Hoste, 35, announced his retirement in December, citing chronic back problems.

    "The suspect blood values are most likely due to banned substances. And it is quite unlikely that they can be attributed to other causes,” Jaak Fransen, the cycling federation's prosecutor, told Het Nieuwsblad.

    Although retired, Hoste would also face suspension. “I cannot do otherwise than, in accordance with international law, ask for a 24-month suspension,” Fransen said.

    But that would not be all, as he would also be expected to pay a fine equivalent to a year's salary, plus other expenses. According to Fransen, the fine wold be 297,500 euro, plus court costs, passport programme costs, and the costs for analysing his blood samples, which is estimated to bring the total to a minimum of 300,000 Euros.

    He would also lose all his results from July 2008 to December 2010, which would include fourth and sixth-place finishes in Paris-Roubaix.

    Hoste was not worried, saying “It's okay, I have every confidence in my lawyers.” His hearing is scheduled for June 13.

    His attorney, Johnny Maeschalck, indicated he had grounds to challenge the doping charges. “We have some surprising findings. The biological passport is a perfect instrument, providing it is used correctly. The UCI is very selective in the samples they chose.”

  • Can Lefevere find the key to unlock Flanders success?

    Sylvain Chavanel and Niki Terpstra are two of Omega Pharma's main contenders for Flanders
    Article published:
    March 29, 2013, 18:10 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Omega Pharma-Quickstep looking for first Classic win of 2013

    Tom Boonen was running late and as Patrick Lefevere nervously shuffled in his seat at the Omega Pharma - Quickstep press conference in Nazareth it was clear that the Belgian manager needed help, both to get through the team’s press conference but also on Sunday for the Tour of Flanders.

    Cue the entrance of Sylvain Chavanel and Niki Terstpra who although have not a single major Classic between them, perhaps hold the key to rescuing Omega Pharma’s Classics campaign.

    "Last year it was clear that Boonen was the leader," Lefevere offered up almost apologetically as his star rider struggled to get through the Belgian rush hour.

    "He was winning all the races. I don't want to go through what Tom when through earlier this year - we're hoping that with the team he will 100 per cent on Sunday. But it’s clear that this situation isn't the same as last year."

    Twelve months ago QuickStep and Levefere could do no wrong, and every tactic turned to gold with a clean sweep from Dwars Door Vlaanderen until the finish line of the Roubaix track. They were the invincibles of the Classics.

    With Boonen rushing back to full fitness after a difficult start to the year and a crash at Gent-Wevelgem, Lefevere has issued Chavanel and Terpstra with chance to share leadership, at least publicly as he tries to keep rivals guessing as the full extent of Boonen’s knee problems.

    At 34, Chavanel has never had a better chance to lead, while Terpstra was a solid 6th in last year’s Ronde.

    "Even the last few days since San Remo, Sylvain has...

  • Gallery: The sun shines on Tour of Flanders reconnaissance

    Lampre-Merida squeezes between the verges on the Koppenberg's narrowest point
    Article published:
    March 29, 2013, 18:55 GMT
    Cycling News

    March goes out like a lamb for De Ronde

    After weeks of battling ice and snow, the organisers of the Northern European classics can breathe a sigh of relief, because the forecast for Sunday's Tour of Flanders is at least clear if not warm.

    The riders were still bundled up as they braved single digit temperatures on Thursday and Friday to preview the famed cobbled climbs of the Tour of Flanders: one of the most notable is the steeply pitched Koppenberg. While it comes only once in the race, it appears at a critical point in the 256.2km odyssey.

    The rough berg comes with 64km to go, not long after the first trips up the Oude Kwarement on Paterberg. It gets steeper near the end of its 600m length, kicking up to a brutal 22% grade before levelling off. In a peloton of 200 riders, positioning is all important on the approach to this climb, as it also narrows to barely the width of the team cars that squeeze through. There are verges on each side, leaving little room to get around any crashes.

    It is for this reason that the Koppenberg is one of the spots where the pros can be found training in the days leading up to De Ronde. In this gallery you can get a sense of the steepness, the irregular nature of the cobbles, and the beautiful fact that any amateur cyclist can test him or herself against the best in the world on the good Friday before the race.

  • Ballan to return to racing within three months

    Third place-getter, Alessandro Ballan (BMC)
    Article published:
    March 29, 2013, 20:30 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Italian training after horror crash

    After a horrendous crash towards the tail end of last year Alessandro Ballan is back on the bike and looking forward to a comeback in the next two to three months.

    In December the former world champion crashed at a training camp. He broke a femur and rib and had to undergo several operations, one of which led to the removal of his spleen, while Gazzetta reported that he also suffered internal bleeding and could have lost a kidney.

    This weekend he has taken a short break from his training to join his BMC teammates at the Tour of Flanders, a race he finished on the podium in last year.

    "I feel better. Now I ride, not too much but just two three hours on the bike. To be honest I’m really happy to be here with my team. It’s really good motivation for me and I hope also for my team," he told Cyclingnews.

    Sporting a scar on his left leg, as well as a 40 stitch scar down the centre of his chest, the Italian said he is returning to full fitness.

    "I think it will be another two and a half months before racing. I’ll start with some easy races. I don't know where but it will be about taking things day. I feel good. My left leg is normal now and I feel as good as I did before the crash."