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Second Edition Cycling News, Monday, April 7, 2014

Date published:
April 07, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • Stybar learns about the monuments at Tour of Flanders

    Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) on the attack
    Article published:
    April 07, 2014, 8:19 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé/Zeb Woodpower

    Cross world champion looks forward to Paris-Roubaix

    Prior to 98th edition of the Tour of Flanders, Omega Pharma-QuickStep was seen as the team to beat. While the riders may have put up a fight, they ultimately ended the race empty handed. However for Zdenek Stybar the race was an important lesson.

    The cyclo-cross world champion's best result in a road race monument is his sixth place at last year's Paris-Roubaix. Seventh at this year's Milan-San Remo was evidence of Stybar's improvement in the long and hard races and with four riders in the lead group of fourteen riders, another top-ten finish was on the cards. However Stybar was forced to play a minor role in Omega Pharma-Quick Step's team games and finished 18th, 1:25 behind Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing).

    "We were the strongest team until the Oude Kwaremont. That doesn't buy us anything. Only winning matters. No mistakes were made but the others were better. We rode well all race long but couldn't make the difference," team manager Patrick Lefevere said after the race.

    Team leader Tom Boonen was unable to go with Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) when the duo turned the screws on the Oude Kwaremont in what proved to be the winning move of the day. Stybar and teammate  Niki Terpstra also missed the decisive attack. Cancellara and Vanmarcke went on to catch Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Stybar's teammate Stijn Vandenbergh and sprint for victory, while behind the other riders struggled to organise a serious chase.

    "It's always a bit of a lottery and you never really know how it will develop as a race," Stybar explained to Cyclingnews after the race.

    "Now I'm really tired but at the end, I was still pretty good on the Paterberg next to Niki [Terpsta]...

  • Contador targets overall success at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco

    Alberto Contador (Tinkoff - Saxo) on the attack
    Article published:
    April 07, 2014, 11:39 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Spaniard faces Valverde and van Garderen

    Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) is hoping to continue his successful spring stage race campaign at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) this week and land another psychological blow on his Tour de France rivals.

    Chris Froome and Richie Porte (Team Sky) have opted to focus on their training and 2013 winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is in Colombia preparing for the Giro d'Italia but Contador will face competition from Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Bauke Mollema and Robert Gesink (Belkin), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).

    The six-day race begins with a hilly stage around Ordizia, inland from San Sebastian and ends on Saturday with 26km time trial around Markina. Every stage includes several climbs, with stage four ending with the tough climb to Arrate in the heart of the Basque Country.

    Contador won the Tour of Basque Country in 2008 and 2009. He has ridden three stage races this season, finishing second to Kwiatkowski at the Volta Algarve and second to Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) at the Volta a Catalunya. He won Tirreno-Adriatico, with back to back stage victories on the mountain stages indicating he was back to his best form. A good result would also boost Contador's lead in the individual standing of the UCI WorldTour rankings.

    The Tour of Basque Country is his third goal of the early season before taking a break and preparing for the Tour de France. Contador has indicated he will not ride the Ardennes Classics.

    "I really want to do well, even if Catalunya was difficult and I've had a slight cold since then,' he told L'Equipe.

    "The Tour of the Basque Country is a great race with a high level of rivals. But I'm motivated and want to do my very best."

    Contador will have the...

  • Vansummeren riding again after Flanders crash

    Defending champion Johan Vansummeren finished in 9th place.
    Article published:
    April 07, 2014, 13:56 BST
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    Team unaware of potential legal proceedings

    Yesterday’s Tour of Flanders was one of the most exciting races we’ve had so far this year, but it was overshadowed by the large amount of crashes. One crash in particular saw Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) hit an elderly spectator.

    Cyclingnews spoke to Garmin-Sharp directeur sportif Geert van Bondt this morning, who said that Vansummeren is making a slow but steady recovery, but was unable to shed any light on the lady’s condition. “He went for a short ride this morning, only for an hour or so. It is not good to lock yourself at home. It was good for him to get out of the house. His legs are ok, he only has some bruising. It is just his neck that is sore,” he explained.

    “He is more concerned with the accident and how the lady is doing. We are seeing it in the news. If we had a number then we would contact her family to see how she is doing, but we can only follow it on the news.”

    It is unclear how the incident happened, but TV images show Vansummeren riding into shot and colliding with the woman at high speed. There were unnerving scenes as they lay in the middle of the road and both fan and rider were rushed to hospital, where the woman was reportedly put into an induced coma - although these reports are unconfirmed. There were worries that Vansummeren may have suffered a serious eye injury, however, he escaped with some cuts and bruises only.

    For Vansummeren, the mental after effects have been worse than the physical, and the team are reluctant to press him for the details. “When he came back to the bus, I spoke to him for about five minutes. He was very emotional so I didn’t really talk to him about how or why the accident...

  • Vanmarcke rues missed opportunity at Flanders

    Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) collects his second podium finish in a Monument
    Article published:
    April 07, 2014, 15:40 BST
    Cycling News

    Belkin rider still happy with podium finish

    Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) added yet another top-five result to his 2014 at the Tour of Flanders. The Belgian finished third behind Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Greg van Avermaet (BMC) in the final sprint.

    Vanmarcke wasn’t about to sit on the wheels of the bigger names and hope for the best, and he put in several big attacks in the final 30km before bridging over to the two leaders. However, he suffered for his efforts and had to hold tight while his body gave it back in kind. The result is his best by far at de Ronde and while he is delighted, there is an element of disappointment that comes with it.

    “In the last kilometres, I was having cramps and I said to myself, ‘I have to finish on the podium,’” Vanmarcke said at the finish. “I decided to go on safe. I even closed a gap myself as otherwise I knew I could end up fourth. I'm happy with my third place, but now, slowly, a sense of disillusionment hits me. If I had started the sprint earlier, you never know what could have happened.”

    It wasn’t the easiest of days for Vanmarcke and his dreams of Flanders glory could have been over before they started. He was one of the many who crashed in the early stages of the race, hitting the ground hard and looked like he could be out of the race. The Belgian soldiered on and made it back into peloton, but the after effect of the incident stuck with him.

    “I fell right on my neck and was suffering for quite a while. I also wasted some power returning to the peloton, but the...

  • Pozzato lacking change of pace at Tour of Flanders

    Peter Sagan and Filippo Pozzato cross the line
    Article published:
    April 07, 2014, 16:38 BST
    Cycling News

    Italian never in contention for win

    At several points during the Tour of Flanders, Filippo Pozzato’s race seemed over only for the Italian to fight his way back up to the front group, but the final ascent of the Paterberg finally put paid to any lingering hopes he had harboured of a victory in Oudenaarde.

    The Lampre-Merida man had entered the race without any significant results this season, but speaking during the week, he had been optimistic about his chances of battling it out for the win. Instead, there was disappointment for Pozzato, who rolled across the line in 17th place, 1:25 down on winner Fabian Cancellara (Trek).

    “My sensations were good but I didn’t have the change of rhythm I needed,” Pozzato said shortly after crossing the line. “That’s what makes the difference between the champions and normal riders.”

    Two years ago, Pozzato led the race over the Paterberg, and his forcing was such that it almost dropped Tom Boonen, who beat him into second place in the sprint in Oudenaarde. This time around, Pozzato was already on the back foot by that point. Distanced by the leaders with 40 kilometres to go, he had bridged back up to the front just ahead of the Kwaremont, only to go backwards once again on the penultimate climb.

    “Yet on the Paterberg in the finale, I was still convinced in my head that I was coming back on but I started having cramps and I couldn’t get out of the saddle,” Pozzato said. “I tried to hang on in there after that because you never know how this race will pan out. It finishes on the line, not 20 kilometres before that.”

    On the long run-in to Oudenaarde, Pozzato succeeded in catching a group featuring Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), John Degenkolb...

  • Porte to skip the Giro d'Italia

    Richie Porte (Sky).
    Article published:
    April 07, 2014, 17:52 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Australian to focus on the Tour de France after difficult spring

    Team Sky has announced that Richie Porte will not ride the Giro d'Italia and will instead back Chris Froome at Liege-Bastogne-Liege before preparing for the Tour de France by riding the Tour de Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine.

    The British squad has yet to name its Giro d'Italia roster but seems to have lowered its hopes of overall success to safeguard the strength of its team for the Tour de France. Italy's Dario Cataldo or Kanstantsin Siutsou now look likely to lead Team Sky in Italy in May.

    "Richie was always going to ride the Tour de France this year but this now means that he can fully focus on being in the best possible shape without having the added challenge of having to ride the Giro as well," Team Sky’s Head of Performance Support, Tim Kerrison, said in a statement on the Team Sky website.

    "He played an invaluable role in our Tour wins in 2012 and 2013 and we want him to do the same again this year. We’re always reviewing our line-ups and looking how we can best support our riders and give ourselves the best possible chance for success.”

    There was no comment from Porte or information regarding his current health after his withdrawal from Tirreno-Adriatico.

    Wiggins to return to the Giro del Trentino

    Team Sky revealed Porte's changed objective as part of a series of roster announcements for April. The British team confirmed that Bradley Wiggins will ride Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, with the same team that took part in the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, including Geraint...

  • Cavendish to miss Scheldeprijs

    Mark Cavendish didn't have the legs after a long wet day in the saddle
    Article published:
    April 07, 2014, 20:50 BST
    Cycling News

    Manxman yet to choose between the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of California

    Omega Pharma-QuickStep has confirmed that Mark Cavendish will not ride Wednesday's Scheldeprijs race. Instead, the Tour of Turkey (April 27 to May 4) is now likely to be his next race before he rides either the Giro d'Italia (May 9 to June 1) or the Amgen Tour of California (May 11 to 18).

    Tom Boonen will lead Omega Pharma-QuickStep in Cavendish's absence, with Andrew Fenn, Alessandro Petacchi, Mark Renshaw and Gert Steegmans all possible alternatives for the usual sprint finish at Scheldeprijs.

    Cavendish has won Scheldeprijs three times. It was his first-ever professional victory in 2007, and he won it again in 2008 and 2011.

    "I am sad to miss a race that is very close to my heart, my first win as a professional," Cavendish said in a statement from the team.

    "But it wouldn't be fair to the race and for my team if I couldn't arrive and perform at my best. With a team built around me, I wouldn't feel right in asking my teammates to sacrifice themselves if I'm not in condition to perform."

    Following speculation by team manager Patrick Lefevere about Cavendish's race programme, Omega Pharma-QuickStep said the rest of his spring and early summer race programme will be decided next week.

    Cavendish has opted for an easier race programme this season, with the goal of being at his very best for the first stage of the Tour de France to Harrogate in Britain. Last year, he won five stages at the Giro d'Italia and won the points jersey but was not at his best in July and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) dominated the sprints, winning four stages.

    So far this season, Cavendish has won a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico and the Volta ao Algarve. He last raced at Milan-San Remo, finishing fifth in the sprint after fighting to survive the climbs of the Cipressa and the Poggio in...

  • Kristoff not strong enough at Tour of Flanders

    Alexander Kristoff (Katusha)
    Article published:
    April 07, 2014, 23:15 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé & Sadhbh O'Shea

    Katusha rider didn't have the legs to follow Cancellara

    Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) looked like he could be on for his second consecutive monument victory at the Tour of Flanders, as he tracked down the leading group. It wasn’t to be, the Milan-San Remo winner eventually crossed the line in fifth place.

    As the four leaders played cat and mouse, heading into the sprint, a looming Kristoff could be seen in the background. They were tantalisingly close for the Norwegian and his sprint capabilities made him almost certain of crossing the line first, if he could just make it across the gap. However, he ran out of road and finished eight seconds back on the winner Fabian Cancellara.

    “I know I’m good at the long races and if it was longer, maybe I could have been better,” a disappointed Kristoff told Cyclingnews at the finish.

    “They were a little bit too strong for me on the Kwaremont but I tried to bridge up a little bit at Paterberg but I went over alone and I saw Terpstra was on the way up to me so I waited for him so we could try together and we worked together. I think we were actually coming closer but not fast enough,” said Kristoff.

    This year’s event is Kristoff’s third attempt at the elite race. The Katusha rider finished fourth in last year’s event, after winning the bunch sprint behind the escapees. He has been a strong and promising performer in the peloton for a few years now, as a multiple time national champion and his bronze medal at the Olympic Games in 2012.

    Kristoff had a faltering start to this season and missed out on a number of sprint opportunities, but he surpassed all expectations when he won at Milan-San Remo two weeks ago. Unlike many of the riders, he’s been in Belgium since the day after that victory preparing for the race. He came into Sunday’s races...