Frenchman becomes Classics contender after impressive showings
Following his victory of the Brabantse Pijl last Wednesday, and an eighth placing at the Tour of Flanders two weeks ago, Thomas Voeckler has again proved that he has become a true Classics contender by finishing fifth at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. The Europcar rider was amongst the strongest men on the final climb of the Cauberg and now looks forward to racing Liège-Bastogne-Liège next weekend.
"I'm not overjoyed but I'm satisfied with my race," the Europcar rider told L'Equipe. "I was a little effected by Cunego's crash on the Cauberg. I didn't lose a lot of speed as I was able to pass him on the right, but I lost the slipstream of the first riders."
Even if a higher placing was possible, Voeckler was still happy with his first top five result at the Classic, which was the best result of a Frenchman since Laurent Roux's fifth placing in 1999. With nine kilometres to go, the 32-year-old attacked together with Peter Sagan (Liquigas), who later finished third. "To stand a chance, we should have been more than two, though. And then, with the headwind and thinking of the difficult finish, I didn't want to give everything. I held myself back, I raced a little against my nature," Voeckler admitted.
But this turned out to be a wise decision as the last attacker, Oscar Freire (Katusha), inevitably faded against the pressure of chasing riders. In the end, the victory was decided amongst the freshest and fastest riders in the run to the finish line. "At the foot of the Cauberg, I knew what I had to do: wait for the end of the climb to...
Despite not having taken part in the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has maintained his first placing in the UCI WorldTour rankings. The Belgian, winner of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix amongst other wins in 2012, has a considerable lead on his rivals: 366 points. Peter Sagan (Liquigas), who finished third at Amstel and therefore added 50 points to his tally, moved up to second place and now has 229 points. The podium is rounded out by Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) with 222 points.
Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge), previously second-placed with 210 points, is now in fourth place.
In the team rankings, Boonen's Omega Pharma-QuickStep outfit also remains on top with 547 points. Second and third spots have been traded with Liquigas passing Katusha by a narrow margin of only four points. Undoubtedly the two squads will be fighting for these placings in the races to come.
The same goes for the nations ranking. Spain maintains its lead with 771 points, while Italy and Belgium, second and third, are spearated by only five points.
The Eneco Tour gets underway the next day in Holland and runs for seven stages, culminating in a finale on August 12 that takes in the Muur van Geraardsbergen, the iconic and historic climb that was controversially left out of the revamped Tour of Flanders course earlier this month. Contador and his management team clearly see the race as ideal preparation for his big late summer targets - the Clásica de San Sebastián (August 14) and the Vuelta a España (August 18 to September 9).
"I think the team is interested in the fact that he [Contador] can compete immediately in a stage race and use it as a springboard to San Sebastian and the Vuelta," said Saxo Bank sporting director Tristan Hoffman. "With a team time trial and the individual stages the organization of this year's Eneco Tour will suit his plans well."
Contador will miss this year's Giro d'Italia, Tour de France and London Olympics as a result of the sanction and he was also stripped of his 2010 Tour de France victory. The Spaniard's comeback to racing will be one of the most eagerly-awaited of recent times and is bound to be one of the most fascinating sub-plots of the latter part of the season.
Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) has been provisionally suspended after returning an adverse analytical finding for EPO in an out-of-competition test taken on March 22.
The UCI announced the news in a communiqué on Monday afternoon. Galimzyanov has the right to request the analysis of his B sample, but remains suspended until a panel convened by the Russian Cycling Federation sits to hear his case.
Galimzyanov, who was aiming to be part of the Russian selection at the London 2012 Olympics, had a mixed start to the campaign. After going close to stage victory at the Tours of Qatar and Oman, he raced sparingly in March, citing illness. He was omitted from the Katusha team for Paris-Nice and also withdrew from the Three Days of West Flanders in March after the prologue.
The 25-year-old Galimzyanov then went on to take his first victory of the season on stage one of the Circuit de la Sarthe in April, less than two weeks after returning the positive test for EPO. He crashed out of the race the following day.
Hailing from Yekaterinburg in the Ural region of Russia, Galimzyanov raced for the Premier (later Katusha) continental team before stepping up to the ProTour ranks in 2009. He made his first major impact at the highest level last season, winning Paris-Brussels and the final stage of the Tour of Beijing.
Spaniard tested himself on Cauberg ahead of 2012 Worlds
Oscar Freire's kamikaze Amstel Gold Race attack with seven kilometres to go up the final Cauberg climb may have been destined to fail, but the Katusha rider has indicated that it was also meant to be a test in view of the Worlds to be held in the province of Limburg later this year. The three-time world champion concluded that a fourth rainbow jersey in Holland was possible, and that if he won, he'd continue to race in 2013.
"What a hell of a climb this Cauberg is," Freire told Het Nieuwsblad. "The last 200 meters I literally died on the bike."
The good news is that the finish line of the World Championship course will be located 1.8km further away than the Amstel Gold Race finish. "The lesson of this Amstel is that I can become a World Champion here for a fourth time. If I do, then I'll continue to race one more year," the 36-year-old added.
The Katusha leader has returned to be competitive this season, achieving a number of top placings on top of two victories: seventh in Milan-San Remo, second in the GP E3, fourth in Gent-Wevelgem, second in the Brabantse Pijl and now fourth again at Amstel Gold Race. After spending nine seasons at Rabobank, Freire thanked his new Katusha team for continuing to trust him.
"I feel good and healthy. What's more, at Katusha I get the confidence I need to prepare for races at my own rhythm," he said.
Another podium spot, but no victory for Liquigas rider
After his early season victories as well as his very promising fourth place in Milan-San Remo, Peter Sagan was bound to score at the Spring Classics in Belgium but the Liquigas-Cannondale fast man again had to be content with a podium placing at Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. The Slovakian rider blamed a badly-timed sprint for his loss against Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) and Jelle Vandenert (Lotto-Belisol).
"If I had attacked just two seconds later, I would have finished in front of everyone. I faded only in the last metres. What a shame," Sagan said on his team website. "I always race to win and to see the victory slip away in the last few metres makes me angry. On the other hand, the podium at Amstel Gold Race is a very good result."
Sagan did not know when exactly to launch his final attack on the Cauberg. "The race finale was very difficult to interpret," he said. "There were a lot of riders and I had to observe many rivals."
The Slovakian was always well-positioned, marking any attacks on the ultimate climb of the Cauberg. "At the start of the climb there it was still a big group and when Gilbert attacked I didn't think twice," he said. "With hindsight, I should have had more patience but after 250 kilometres your lucidity is what it is. But everything counts as experience for the future: today, I became aware that this is a Classic that I can win."
For now, Sagan has added this result to his already impressive list of top placings this spring which includes fourth places at Milan-San Remo and at the Tour of Flanders as well as a second placing in Gent-Wevelgem. His teammate Vincenzo Nibali, who finished seven minutes down, has just come back from a training camp at altitude and hoped that he will be more successful at the upcoming...
Seventeen teams representing nine countries for inaugural tour
Race organizers have named the 17 teams to compete in the 2012 Exergy Tour, which will take place May 24-28. With UCI and NRC teams comprised of several former, current and future national, world and Olympic champions, the teams represent nine countries, five of the top 11 teams in the world, and an international line-up for athletes vying to make their respective Olympic teams in 2012.
The 17 elite teams include Diadora - Pasta Zara with the reigning World Champion, Giorgia Bronzini; Specialized - lululemon, currently ranked #2 in the world and with a roster currently listing Clara Hughes, Amber Neben, Evelyn Stevens and Ina Teutenberg; Exergy Twenty12 with Idaho native, former World Champion and 2008 Olympic Time Trial Gold Medalist Kristin Armstrong; and the Faren Honda Team with 2008 Olympic Road Race Gold Medalist Nicole Cooke.
Team Tibco-To The Top brings six of the top 10 riders in the USA National rankings to their its with Lauren Hall, Megan Guarnier, Lindsay Myers, Amanda Miller, Jennifer Purcell and Jennifer Wheeler. ABUS Nutrixxion looks to bring a strong squad in the sprints led by Daniela Gass and Belinda Goss; and Now and Novartis for MS lists three-time Irish time trial national champion, Olivia Dillon and 2011 US road national champion Robin Farina currently on their roster.
Team Optum presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies continues the rich cycling tradition established by its presenting sponsor in this, its inaugural year in women's cycling, and a roster on which six of the team’s 12 riders are Olympic long team members who have their sights set on the road race in London.
Leading the efforts of Colavita/espnW Pro Cycling will be team...
Cadel Evans will not participate in Flèche-Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday while he continues his recovery from a sinus infection, the BMC Racing Team announced on Monday.
BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer Max Testa said Evans, a past winner of Flèche-Wallonne, was motivated to play a supporting role in the two races. But after withdrawing from Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, the decision was made for the defending Tour de France champion to return home to help speed his recovery.
"Cadel has the Tour of Romandie coming in one week and with this infection, we don't want to take any risks," Dr. Testa said. "The weather won't be helpful - it's going to be rainy and cold here - so it was probably the best decision we could make in the interest of the health of the rider."
Directeur Sportif John Lelangue said Evans' absence does not affect the team's approach to either race. "We still have a good field around Philippe Gilbert, who finished sixth Sunday at Amstel Gold Race and Greg Van Avermaet to make two good Ardennes races," Lelangue said.
"Cadel was coming here with the objective to help them. That was always the plan. We know his main objective is in a few months in July. Therefore he has to make a good Tour of Romandie. It will be a good test in real stage race conditions - with a time trial, prologue and mountain stages."
BMC Racing Team Flèche-Wallonne Roster (April 18) Brent Bookwalter, Philippe Gilbert, Martin Kohler, Klaas Lodewyck, Mauro Santambrogio, Michael Schär, Greg Van Avermaet, Tejay van Garderen