Although he led Astana to a top ten place in last year’s Tour de FranceJakob Fuglsang says he is fully behind Vincenzo Nibali’s challenge for overall honours in this year’s race.
The Italian won a superb Giro d’Italia in 2013 and returns to the Tour after a year-long absence. His last result in the Tour came in 2012, when he finished a distant third behind Team Sky’s duo of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.
This season Fuglsang will target more individual stages, rather than three-week Tours, but he is likely to be one of Nibali’s most important riders in the mountains should the Italian go toe-to-toe with the Tour’s defending champion Chris Froome.
In this exclusive video for Cyclingnews Fuglsang outlines his aims for the season and his predictions for the Tour.
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The Colombian won the classification at last year’s Giro d'Italia, but has been working hard as he aims to wear the same colour on the podium on the Champs Élysées.
"My main objective is the Tour de France,” he told the website El Colombiano. "I have been carefully lowering my weight, improving my pace and building the kilometres. I want to fight for the young rider’s title at the Tour."
Last year's winner was Betancur’s compatriot Nairo Quintana, who will be riding the Giro this year. Betancur is one of several Colombians to have jumped into the top level of cycling with gusto. He made his WorldTour debut last season with AG2R-La Mondiale and immediately began to find success.
At the classics he outsprinted Dan Martin to take the podium at Flèche Wallonne. Four days later he was pipped to the podium at Liège-Bastogne-Liège by Alejandro Valverde. His Classics form carried into the Giro, where he came close to a stage win. Radio confusion meant he incorrectly believed he had claimed glory on stage nine, unaware that Maxim Belkov had crossed the line 44 seconds earlier. The embarrassment was dulled slightly by the winning of the young rider's classification
Betancur began his 2014 season at the Tour de San Luis in January, finishing in a lowly 111th. Things improved at the Tour Méditerranéen, where he helped his teammate...
“We will review my calendar a little bit,” he told the Italian radio show Ulitmo Chilometro. “I hope to return to the peloton in late March. At this point I do not know if I can take part in the Giro, partly because Movistar wants to win with (Nairo) Quintana and the team has to be in top form.”
The Italian was one of two Movistar riders forced to leave Australia early. José Joaquin Rojas broke his wrist on the opening stage of the Tour Down Under. Visconti had to undergo surgery after his crash, spending a week in hospital as he recovered. He says that the hardest part was making it back to Europe with his swollen leg.
Visconti has suffered mentally with the setbacks that cycling has handed him. In 2012 he was caught up in an investigation into Dr Michele Ferrari and was later banned for his links with the notorious doctor. The investigation seemed to take it’s toll on the Italian, as he struggled with his demons.
Sky rider hoping to be back to training in two weeks
Philip Deignan (Sky) will have to delay his return to racing in Europe for a little while longer after he broke his right collarbone in a training crash, in Monaco.
Deignan was set to ride at the Ruta del Sol, which starts on Wednesday, but has had to pull out. The 30-year-old has left his base in Monaco to head to Ireland while he recovers.
"The medical team have taken a good look at it and we've decided not to have surgery, so I'm back home in Donegal now getting ready to go again," Deignan told the Team Sky website.
This is the second time in five months that he has suffered from a broken collarbone. At last year's Tour of Britain, he fell and injured his left side. Despite the setback, Deignan remains positive that he can be back to racing soon enough. "My collarbone's a lot more mobile than the last time this happened so I'm hoping I’ll be back on the bike sooner rather than later," he explained.
It is expected that the Irishman will be able to use the home trainer in the next couple of weeks.
"It's frustrating more than anything else when something like this happens. I was happy with the way things went at the Tour Down Under and I was looking to continue building my form at the Ruta del Sol. It's not the end of the world though, it could have been a lot worse, so I'm trying to look at it in a positive way."
Deignan returned to the WorldTour with team Sky this year after two years of racing in America with the UnitedHealthcare. During his time at the team Deignan suffered from a number of health issues, which was put down to a reoccurring viral infection. He managed...
Giant downhiller Oscar Saiz drills road riders on technique
Giant-Shimano WorldTour and development team riders recently spent two days working on their technique and skills with Giant's downhill expert Oscar Saiz.
Team trainer Adriaan Helmantel, who was on hand for the practice sessions, spoke about what went on. "Oscar came to train with the team at our new training base in Cambrills, Spain to work on the riders' descending and cornering skills. Even though some of our riders are already very good at this, they all found it to be a very helpful and interesting few days, doing some different training than what they are used to."
Cambrills proved perfect for the team's training, with a good mixture of quiet, flat, hilly and mountainous roads, good strength and conditioning facilities and comfortable weather.
"The first day, the riders did some easy cornering exercises that Oscar assessed in order to see what level each of the riders was at," said Helmantel. "In the evening, Oscar then gave a presentation to the riders highlighting exactly the benefits of being better at descending were - saving time and energy being the key, but also reducing stress."
The following day, the riders went out onto the road to work on some practical drills. "Oscar got the guys to come down a 1km descent with several corners and hairpin bents, and coached them through how best to attack the descent - what lines to take, where to brake and where to let the bike take you," said Helmantel. "Some guys did some one-on-one training here with Oscar talking them through the descent through an ear piece. The experienced gained by the riders is invaluable and will only serve to help them in race situations and this kind of technical training is something we will regularly integrate into our training."
Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin, one of the participating riders, said, "It's always good...
Chris Froome's hugely successful 2013 season began with an impressive victory at the Tour of Oman and he appeared lean and keen to challenge for a second successful victory when he sat down with the media on the eve of the race.
Froome will wear dossard number one when the Tour of Oman kicks of on Tuesday. Last year the six-day race marked the start of his meticulous development for the Tour de France. This year he starts as the Tour winner with far less pressure on his shoulders and far more experience of racing and winning important stage races.
He faced questions about his form, his rivals, the pressures of being a Tour de France winner, and also about doping, the Cycling Independent Reform Commission investigation. The questions would have irritated many riders and some of his Team Sky teammates but Froome answered them all with his usual aplomb.
"Its different this year in the sense that I don't have the same pressure that I had last year. I'm not here feeling that I have to win this as build up to the Tour," he explained calmly.
"There's less pressure because I'm not here to gain experience as a leader. I did already last year. It was critical last year but this year I feel more relaxed but I'm still motivated."
"I've done some really good training and the race will tell how good that has been. I feel like I'm in good condition. I'm looking forward to racing again now. I've done a lot of training and its good to put it to use now."
Froome travelled directly from South Africa to Oman and acknowledged that he has the advantage of having trained in the heat in recent weeks. He has clocked up some intense workout under the watchful eye of coach Tim Kerrison and with teammate Kanstantsin Siutsou but is unsure how his form will compare to the likes of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), who have raced both the Tour of San Luis and the Dubai Tour.
Tinkoff-Saxo leader changes up start to season, launches U23 team
Waiting for a plane to take him to his first race of the season, as he talks to Cyclingnews it emerges that Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) has one major goal in 2014: to add victories to consistency. And if he could take one win from the early part of the season, that would be Tirreno-Adriatico.
His racing season starts in the Volta ao Algarve on Wednesday, which he has won in 2009 and 2010, and continues with Tirreno-Adriatico, the Volta a Catalunya and the Vuelta al País Vasco. "If you asked me which one I preferred to win, I would have to say Tirreno-Adriatico, because it's not in my palmares yet," Contador, third in the 'Race of Two Seas' last year, comments. "The other three are already there."
"You work for wins, and I hope this year is better than the last. I am very motivated and very keen to get going. I've been able to prepare my season better than in 2013, getting a good base and I hope that works out on the road, too."
As the Madrid-born rider says, there have already been two changes for Contador in 2014 : starting later and starting closer to home. Contador has missed out on the Tour of San Luis in January, a race he rode in 2013 and 2012. And rather than repeat his journey to the Tour of Oman, where he finished second in 2013, he has gone back to his roots, as it were, by making his season debut in the Tour of the Algarve in Portugal.
As the 31-year-old says, "the Algarve is a race I know well. The individual time trial [which tends to decide the race] is shorter than other years and it won't produce enormous differences, and the summit finish is not that tough. Combine the two, and that means more riders have more possibilities."
Can he win it? "It's a race I've always done well in, but...
In our occasional series on "what is in the suitcase" of our professional cyclists, Cyclingnews corners Garmin-Sharp's Alex Howes to rifle through his bag and see what secrets it might hold.
The American brings a few comfort items from home, including chewing gum (because Spain does not have "very nice gum"), and important personal care items ("because cleanliness is next to godliness") and an envelope ("in case I need to mail something to somebody who is not here").
Find out what Howes has on his belt, why he won a silver trophy (which he now must fit in the suitcase), and a bonus installment of "what's in your thermos".