- Article published:
- April 18, 2011, 01:26
- Stephen Farrand
Australian looking for more results in the Ardennes week
Simon Gerrans had a disappointing Ardennes campaign in his first season with Team Sky last year but proved he can be an Ardennes classic contender with third place at the Amstel Gold Race behind Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha).
He didn't have the kick to go with Gilbert on the Cauberg as he stormed after Rodriguez and then on to the finish line but finished well to take third ahead of Jacob Fuglsang (Leopard Trek), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank). He was rightly pleased with his performance.
"I'm really pleased with this third place. Two years ago I was really competitive in these races. Last year I didn't have a really great classics campaign but I'm really wrapped to be back up there at the top end of the race," he said after the press conference.
"It was quite difficult coming to these races last year and not being competitive after some mishaps leading up to them. But the team backed me in this race again and this is a really for my team, not only Team Sky but also my little team back in Monaco of my coach, my trainer and my wife."
Gerrans has had a low profile start to the season as Team Sky focused on the cobbled classics and so chose a conservative race strategy.
"I waited for the selection, then put it on the line and tried to do the best I could on the Cauberg," he explained.
"I just went as hard as I could from the bottom and perhaps had a little bit longer effort in my legs than the other guys. Rodriguez got a really good jump on us; Philippe went after him and the straight past. I tried to kick with Philippe, but then maintained it and took it all the way to the finish line."
Impressed with Gilbert
Gerrans often trains with Philippe Gilbert in Monaco and their families spend time together away from races. He knew he would be make a strong attack on the Cauberg and was in the right place to go with him but didn't have the power to respond.
"It was an incredible ride that he did today. When he had to do some work himself in the final kilometres I thought it might make it difficult for him in the finale and that it was coming together nicely for me," Gerrans said.
"I thought that if I stayed right on his hip and right with him when he kicked, then I could go with him. But then he unleashed that acceleration that he has and it blew everyone away. It was an impressive ride," Gerrans said.
Up there in Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Team Sky will strengthen their team for Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Gerrans is convinced this will further help his chance of success later in the week. He was sixth in Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2009 and eighth in Fleche-Wallonne.
"We're bringing in a few different guys for Fleche and Liege. We've got Rigoberto Uran and Thomas Lökvist and this was Steve Cummings' first Amstel Gold Race but he's done Fleche and Liege before. So I think we'll have a stronger team for the next few races," he reasoned.
"I think I can be competitive in Fleche and Liege too. In the last few years, my best results have come in Liege and so I'm feeling good and hope to be up there again."
- Article published:
- April 18, 2011, 03:16
- Daniel Benson
UCI set to meet with teams Monday
UCI president Pat McQuaid has warned 'certain team bosses' that their plans to set up a breakaway league are doomed unless they gain favour from Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), RCS and other race major organisers. McQuaid, who has two-and-a-half years left on his second term as president has also suggested that he may stand for re-election in 2013.
"It's not a great concern," he told Cyclingnews when asked about the prospect of a breakaway league being formed and being run directly against the UCI.
"These leagues work well in North America with sports like baseball but that's in an entity of its own. Cycling has unity in that is has 175 federations associated to the UCI. We're the world governing body recognised by the IOC and international framework. That's extremely important."
Last month Cyclingnews reported that up to 11 teams had considered breaking away from the UCI and it appears McQuaid will address the matter on Monday in a meeting in Brussels between the UCI, current ProTeams, Continental teams and teams looking for ProTeam status in 2012, including GreenEdge.
"It's all very well for the managers of certain teams at the top level to think they can create a different league or a series amongst themselves for their own personal gain and ambitions and think they can go in a different direction but it's not as simple as that," said McQuaid.
When asked to clarify which teams were leading the breakaway faction, McQuaid refused to name any of the parties involved, although he had previously linked Radioshack's Johan Bruyneel to the league.
"I don't want to say but I'm aware of certain team managers. I think they've lost a little common sense as to what their role is. In cycling we have the UCI, the governing body, organisers and you've got teams. What's happened here is that some team managers have got a little bit too ambitions and they want to be in the role of manager and or organiser of events. It doesn't work, it's crazy."
"Team managers, their role is to organise their teams and rider to compete in events and win events. They're a small group of people but it doesn't work. I don't see how it can succeed."
It has been speculated that any potential breakaway would need the cooperation and support of the major race stakeholders if it were to succeed. For example, ASO, who organise the Tour de France, Dauphine a selection of the one-day races and who have a share in the Vuelta. They strengthened their own relationship with the North America's biggest race, The Amgen Tour of California, earlier this year, signing a two year deal that involves television rights.
"You could say it depends on where ASO stand but also RCS and a number of organisers," said McQuaid.
"They may go outside the UCI with a number of events but if they go out with one then they're leaving behind others. Unless they take ASO, RCS and number of other organisers from the UCI they're doomed."
The breakaway league is just one element that McQuaid has faced difficulties over. In recent months he has been besieged by opposition against the UCI's stance on banning radios, as well as the governing body's handling of Alberto Contador's positive test for clenbuterol. The UCI have also threatened Floyd Landis with legal action and has faced a backlash for introducing the 'UCI approved stickers'.
Despite all these elements, McQuaid hinted that he may stand again as president once his term runs out in September, 2013. He became president in 2005, beating Spain candidate Gregorio Moreno and built his campaign on a platform of globalising cycling with the backing of the outgoing president Hein Verbruggen.
"It's too early to speculate what's going to happen in the next two-and-half-years and I have enough on my plate in the sport trying to deal with various issues in the sport, the breakaway league, doping, teams, without even thinking what I'm going to do in two years time," he told Cyclingnews.
"But for me my objectives, aims and ambitions are to globalise the sport and get rid of doping and they're not something I can see being achieved in another two years so chances are that I will stand again."
Under the UCI constitution a president may serve for an unlimited amount of time if he or she continues to receive the majority of votes at the quad-annual election (a part of the 'UCI congress' usually held at the world championships).
McQuaid's 'global' strategy suggests that his current support base should remain, at least for the foreseeable future as he brings cycling to China, India and deeper into North America.
Any election is based on a majority from 42 votes attributed to delegates from the five regional federations: Africa has seven delegates, America: nine, Asia: nine, Europe: 14, and Oceania three.
"I just concentrate on my job and the way I want to bring on the sport. If someone else thinks they can do it differently or better, that's up to them.
"Globalising cycling does give me a good base but my objectives are to develop the sport around the world. I work on a daily basis with Africa, America, and Asia to develop it. That's got nothing to do with whether they would vote for me or not."
- Article published:
- April 18, 2011, 03:42
- Brecht Decaluwé
Belgian RadioShack man makes the most of opportunity
Ben Hermans was in the lead group that fought for the victory in the Amstel Gold Race after taking advantage of a leadership role at RadioShack for the Dutch race. The 24 year-old Belgian has impressed in recent races and grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
"The team offered me a free role for this race and I'm happy that I could make use of it," Hermans said.
When asked about how he witnessed the attacks that decided the race Hermans laughed that he had been too busy suffering to see very much.
"I didn't see much really, except for asphalt," he said. "I hit the Cauberg in eighth position. I still felt strength in my legs and wanted to sprint for it. Then I saw how Rodriguez attacked and I realized that the top-five was out of reach. I went flat out to crack the top-ten."
The talented Belgian was happy with eighth place at Amstel Gold Race.
"I was really pleased that I made it over the Eyserbosweg," Hermans said of the decisive climb after 240km of racing. "On the Keutenberg I was able to keep up more or less easily. Then I knew I would be in the group until the finish."
Hermans is a man from Hasselt, in the Belgian Limburg region, close to Valkenberg and the Cauberg climb where he rode so well. He grabbed his first professional win this season in the Trofeo Inca and is one of the young riders at RadioShack that is already starting to impress. He is a name to remember.
- Article published:
- April 18, 2011, 08:21
- Cycling News
Australian climber looking for new team after Omega Pharma dismissal
After having been released by his Omega Pharma-Lotto team, Matt Lloyd has announced that he is looking for another squad to return to racing. Without commenting on the circumstances which led to his contract termination - with the two parties still negotiating - the Australian climber said he wanted to overcome his recent setbacks.
"I will be back," Lloyd told the AAP. "There's no way I could even think about leaving the sport - it's part of my life, it's what I do.
The 27-year-old suffered serious injuries twice this winter, once in December, when he was hit by a car in Australia and then again in February near his European home in Italy. The setbacks and difficult rehabilitation may have been part of what caused his difficulties with the team. "I've obviously gone through a stage in January and February that was difficult, with various injuries," he said, without giving further details on what occured.
Lloyd won the climber's jersey at last year's Giro d'Italia and was supposed to make his return at the Volta a Catalunya in March, but did not take the start the Spanish race. He rode the Vuelta al Pais Vasco but did not start the final time trial and the team terminated his contract just after.
Despite his problems, Lloyd was confident that he will find a new team soon.
"I'm eager to make sure the physical condition continues to develop in a really good way and make sure when I come back I'm the same, if not stronger than I was before," he said.
- Article published:
- April 18, 2011, 09:46
- Cycling News
Team leader Gesink had cramps in the finale
"There was nothing we could do against him," said Oscar Freire after he had crossed the line in sixth position at Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, which saw a spectacular Philippe Gilbert repeat his 2010 victory. The Belgian took matters into his own hands in the race finale and overpowered late escapee Andy Schleck (Leopard Trek) on the final climb of the Cauberg, leaving Rabobank riders in awe of his superiority.
"I've not seen this kind of supremacy very often," Freire told Sportwereld. The Spanish sprinter tried his best on the uphill finish but could not prevent his squad's defeat, the tenth since a Rabobank rider last won the only Spring Classic in the Netherlands.
Yet the team was in an excellent position, with four riders remaining in the top group chasing Schleck. Apart from Freire, there was also Rabobank's top climber Robert Gesink, who it was hoped would do well on the Cauberg. However, the Dutchman cramped on the penultimate climb and ultimately finished ninth.
"I felt good, but when I wanted to get it on on the Keutenberg my legs cramped all over. What a shame, as it looked good for us with four guys in the first group. But on the Cauberg all of us were so knackered that we couldn't set up a proper sprint. I just couldn't do any better," Gesink told the Telegraaf.
Rabobank's directeur sportif Erik Dekker, who was Rabobank's last winner of the Amstel Gold Race back in 2001, defended his team strategy not to chase behind Schleck and let the race favourite do the work instead. "We weren't going to take Gilbert there in an armchair," Dekker commented.
"When Gesink gave in on the Keutenberg, I started to realise what was happening. Every attack was suicide, just like the Schleck's. We hoped that Freire could do something in the sprint." But it was not to be.
- Article published:
- April 18, 2011, 10:03
- Cycling News
Sicilian continues Giro d'Italia build-up after Etna camp
Fresh from a two-week training camp on the slopes of Mount Etna, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) returns to racing at the Giro del Trentino on Tuesday as he continues his build-up to the Giro d’Italia.
Nibali has not raced since Milan-San Remo, where he launched an impressive attack on the Poggio before finishing 8th on the Lungomare Italo Calvino. The Sicilian is now understandably keen to gauge his form after his spell at altitude.
“I have a great desire to get back to racing,” Nibali said, according to Tuttobiciweb. “I am an athlete who loves competition, a challenge, and the Giro del Trentino will be an excellent test location.”
The four-day Giro del Trentino begins on Tuesday with a flat 13.4km time trial before heading into the mountains, and it includes summit finishes at Fai della Paganella and Madonna di Campiglio.
Nibali trained in Sicily in recent weeks in the company of seven of his Liquigas-Cannondale teammates. It was his second spell at altitude this season, after a camp on Teide, Tenerife in February.
“On Etna I worked a lot and I worked hard,” he said. “I can say that I am more than satisfied with the condition that I ended up with.”
Nibali will face a number of his Giro d’Italia rivals in Trentino, including Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD), who was also training on Etna recently, where he had his room searched by Italian police.
Roman Kreuziger (Astana) and Andreas Klöden (RadioShack) are among the other riders tipped to challenge for top honours in Trentino, and while Nibali’s main objective is to build form ahead of the Giro d’Italia, he will not pass up on victory in the mountainous race if the opportunity arises.
“Three weeks separate me from the start of the Giro d’Italia and the objective is to fine-tune my form and get into the rhythm of racing,” Nibali said. “From Tuesday, I will concentrate on that, and if it’s possible to get a result, well, I won’t pull back.”
While Nibali is set to lead Liquigas-Cannondale at May’s Giro d’Italia, the squad has yet to formally rule out the possibility that Ivan Basso might participate in a support role. The 2010 maglia rosa is expected to take part in the traditional final pre-Giro test, the Tour de Romandie.
- Article published:
- April 18, 2011, 11:14
- Cycling News
Galbusera declines to comment on specifics of Mantova investigation
The head of Lampre has confirmed that his company will not cease its sponsorship of Lampre-ISD in spite of the team’s implication in the recently-concluded Mantova-based doping investigation.
Last week Tuttobiciweb.it reported that 13 past and present Lampre riders and staff could face charges following an investigation into the activities of pharmacist Guido Nigrelli, but Lampre head Mario Galbusera has reiterated his support for cycling.
“We love cycling,” Galbusera told Gazzetta dello Sport. “This is the sentiment that guides us. And then, there’s so much passion. Problems can happen. They are confronted and resolved so that you can start again better.”
Galbusera, who is also honorary president of the Lampre-ISD team, declined to comment on the specifics of the Mantova investigation, which is thought to be centred on alleged doping practices that took place in 2008 and 2009. Following the conclusion of the inquiry, 32 people are said to be facing charges, although the parties concerned have yet to receive formal notification.
“I can’t [comment on it]. I don’t know all the facts, I’m not aware of anything,” Galbusera said. “As soon as things are clear, we will evaluate case by case with extreme attention.”
According to recent reports in Gazzetta dello Sport, Lampre manager Giuseppe Saronni is to step down from his role if charges against him are formalised, with Roberto Damiani likely to replace him.
It is also understood that the team would then be built around young talents such as Diego Ulissi and Adriano Malori, who have not been implicated in the Mantova investigation. Damiani is currently directeur sportif at Omega Pharma-Lotto and a consultant at the Mapei Centre, where he works with some of Lampre’s young riders.
While Galbusera was reluctant to confirm the rumoured changes in management, labelling Saronni as being “a friend, indeed more than that,” he outlined that the team was already looking to rejuvenate its line-up.
“Every decision will be taken in agreement with Beppe [Saronni],” he said. “As for the idea of starting again with the youngsters, that was already put into place. It should have been [late Italian national team manager Franco] Ballerini who took care of that…”
Along with Liquigas-Cannondale, Lampre are one of just two Italian teams in the WorldTour, and Italian cycling is enduring a difficult period on and off the road. While the Mantova and Padova investigations cast a shadow over a number of riders on the eve of the Giro d’Italia, there has been little solace to be had from race results either.
Damiano Cunego, who is among the Lampre riders named in the Mantova investigation according to Tuttobiciweb.it, was the best-placed Italian at Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race, finishing a distant fifteenth. Cunego’s win in the 2008 Tour of Lombardy remains Italy’s last classic victory.
- Article published:
- April 18, 2011, 12:25
- Cycling News
Belgian must treat heart arrythmia with operation
Mario Aerts has decided to undergo a heart operation in the middle of the cycling season. The Omega Pharma-Lotto rider has been struggling with cardiac arrythmia for years, but now the problem has become worse.
"I have had problems with my heartbeat for more than ten years already, but the doctors said it was nothing abnormal," Aerts told news agency Belga. "So I never worried about it."
Recently, however, the 36-year-old noticed that his cardiac arrythmia had increased recently. "When I sprinted up a hill, it got worse. It was more often, too, which started to make me nervous. Doctors in Leuven told me that I could continue racing, but if I fainted I should report it immediately. Well, I don't want to faint on my bike when I'm riding at 60 km/h! I'm 36, and I don't want to take any risks anymore at this point in my career, which is why I'm going to undergo surgery."
The plan is to insert electrodes to his heart to see whether a heart nerve might be over-active. If this is the case, the nerve will be cauterized and the problem solved.
The surgery is scheduled for May 24, but Aerts wants to get it done even earlier in the faint hope of still being able to participate in the Tour de France as a helper for Jurgen Van Den Broeck. If everything goes well, he'll be able to take to the bike again one week after the operation.
"[Doing] the Tour is going to be difficult, even if I can start riding again in May. I haven't been racing since the beginning of March, so it's not going to be easy to get back in top shape. If I don't make it, then it'll of course be a shame for Jurgen Van Den Broeck. I'm his roommate, and we've already been planning all the training camps towards the Tour."