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Second Edition Cycling News, Monday, February 27, 2012

Date published:
February 27, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Sørensen targeting Ardennes improvement

    Chris Anker Sörensen (Saxo Bank Sungard)
    Article published:
    February 27, 2012, 4:14 GMT
    Cycling News

    Dane to peak later in season after delayed recovery from Israel crash

    Chris Anker Sørensen (Saxo Bank) is only just beginning to get his season back on track after a crash in the team's pre-season training camp in Israel, and subsequent bout of flu kept the Dane off the bike for more than a month. Now recovered, the 26-year-old has his eyes set toward rediscovering his racing legs in time for the Ardennes classics in April.

    "I'm now back on par with the rest of the boys but I just have to face the fact that I'll peak a little later than first planned," said Sørensen. "The crash was one thing, but the flu really drained me of energy and made me cough like a 'sea lion', now I'm hoping to be back to my best for Catalunya."

    There is arguably extra pressure on Sorensen to step up this year after the suspension of team leader Alberto Contador, which has left Saxo Bank scrambling to make up a gulf in the team's balance of valuable UCI points.

    Sorensen finished 12th overall in last year's Vuelta a Espana and is considered by team manager Bjarne Riis as a strong prospect for the team's ambitions come April, May, June and July. The climber added that he hoped the later start to the season would be beneficial to his hunt for success in La Fleche Wallone, or Liege-Bastogne-Liege in two months time.

    "Liege-Bastogne-Liege is a big ambition of mine this spring. I hope to be able to better the sixth place from last year's edition of the race. I know it's going to be difficult in an extremely high quality field but when I've been able to do it before, there's a good chance I can do it again."

    After the Ardennes, Sørensen will skip the Giro, before building for a bid at the Danish national championships in his hometown of Hammel before the Tour de France.

  • Veteran Eeckhout goes down fighting at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

    Niko Eeckhout (An Post - Sean Kelly)
    Article published:
    February 27, 2012, 9:34 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    "Rambo" keeps firing his guns

    Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne saw Niko Eeckhout (An Post-Sean Kelly), the grand old man of the peloton at the age of 41, feature off the front of the peloton for a long time and he only threw in the towel in the final kilometers. The experienced Belgian always knew that the breakaway wouldn’t stay away but “Rambo” preferred to go down fighting rather than ride for an anonymous top 10 result behind eventual winner Mark Cavendish (Sky Procycling).

    “You know that if Cavendish comes here his team will ride,” Eeckhout explained afterwards. “Greipel wanted a bunch sprint too so there was no chance we would make it to the finish. You have to choose. I could wait for the sprint and maybe finish seventh but then I don’t think that would gain any attention. Somehow they saw the race live in Ireland and the chief of the postal company already texted us with congratulations.”

    Many riders want to feature in the early breakaway but somehow Eeckhout often manages to sneak along if the eventual group goes the distance. “You’ve got to know the tricks,” Eeckhout said after taking a shower in the team’s bus, minuscule in comparison to the huge trucks of the WorldTour teams.

    “We rode away at the turning point of the race in Ninove when the peloton hesitated briefly. Before that it was very fast and with the tailwind you know it’s hard to get away. It’s always like that in these races but experience helped me to go at the right moment.”

    In contrast to other teams, the An Post-Sean Kelly team wasn’t able to ride in exotic locations in February, and instead raced short and soaked stages in the Étoile de Bèsseges. “I’m happy...

  • German national team selected by horoscope?

    Jan UIlrich raced under Germany coach Peter Weibel
    Article published:
    February 27, 2012, 10:54 GMT
    Cycling News

    Former trainer says he consulted an astrologer for eight years

    The German national team from was written in the stars under former national trainer Peter Weibel. Weibel consulted an astrologer to help pick the team, he said.

    Michael Waidmann of Bremen was the one who read horoscopes for Weibel from 1998 to 2005. “This man was a phenomena,” Weibel told Focus magazine, according to the SID news agency. “At first I was doubtful, but he helped me to sort riders according to their ability and character.”

    The astrologist “predicted everything exactly: health problems, the chances of crashes, performance breakdowns, the probability of using addictive drugs, rider's possibilities.”

    Few of the riders involved over the years - and they included the likes of Jan UIlrich - knew about the astrological help, but some who did also consulted him personally, Weibel said.

    Weibel had worked for the Bund Deutsche Radfahrer from 1972 until he was suspended in 2007, under suspicion of having supplied doping products to amateur riders in the 1980s and 1990s.

  • Gallery: Through the lens at Het Nieuwsblad with Jered Gruber

    Flecha (Team Sky) is at home on the cobbles
    Article published:
    February 27, 2012, 11:30 GMT
    Cycling News

    A highlight reel from Satuday's action

    Late last year, American photographer Jered Gruber and his wife Ashley provided some of the best images we've seen with their highlights of the year, and they're back again for 2012, set to cover a number of European races and events.

    This weekend the pair shot at the first bike race since Lombardia last year, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, chasing both the men's and women's field over sections of cobbles and a series of climbs.

    Starting out at the Haaghoek section of cobbles Jered then positioned himself on the Molenberg, to bring us some of the best shots from the race action.

    You can also see a full selection of the Gruber's work here.

  • Cozza quits NetApp contract due to health problems

    Steven Cozza (Team NetApp)
    Article published:
    February 27, 2012, 12:46 GMT
    Cycling News

    American doubtful about ever returning to peloton

    Steven Cozza has quit his contract with Team NetApp, citing health problems. The American said he did not know if he would ever return to professional cycling.

    “For too long now I have been struggling with colitis,” he said in a statement issued by the team on Monday at midday. “I am getting better at managing it but at this point it is not improving fast enough for me to continue at this professional level in the sport of cycling.”

    Looking forward, he said: “As for my future in cycling, my body will have to decide this. For my future off the bike I still don't know. Only time will tell if you ever hear about me in the sport of cycling again.”

    “I love the sport of cycling so to only be able to perform at 50% of my best because of my health has been very frustrating. I miss the rider I used to be – the aggressive one attacking nonstop throughout the race. Therefore, I have made a really tough decision to change my focus away from racing. I have to get my body and my health right – that’s all that counts. But in the end I can be proud because I know I gave it my best until the end.”

    Cozza rode a limited schedule with no results for much of 2011, his first year with NetApp, due to his health problems.  After a reduced spring, he came back only briefly in the summer.

    “Team NetApp has been very supportive and I am so happy that they have reached such a high level of success in such a short time. I wish so much that I was able to give more to the team. I will miss all the guys and wish them the very best this season” he said.

    Team manager...

  • No fractures for Bak in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad crash

    Cancellara and Lars Bak on the last lap of the velodrome
    Article published:
    February 27, 2012, 13:59 GMT
    Cycling News

    Lotto Belisol rider expects to be back for Paris-Nice next Sunday

    Lars Bak did not suffer any fractures in his crash Saturday at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and expects to be back on his bike again next weekend for Paris-Nice. The Lotto-Belisol rider got the good news Sunday at a Luxembourg hospital.

    After Saturday's crash, he received four stitches in his elbow and thought the worst was over. He started Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday, but the pain in his left wrist proved to be too much.

    Bak returned to his home in Luxembourg and x-rays showed that he had not broken anything. “It is good news. The doctor told me that the pain will most likely subside within a few days, so I am hopeful about Paris-Nice on Sunday,” he told

    “Both my hand and elbow were x-rayed the length and breadth, and the doctor at the hospital fortunately found that I had not broken anything. Two of the major muscles in the hand have received a severe blow, and it has caused an accumulation of fluid. This is what causes the pain and the doctor said it can actually do more harm than if there was a fracture.”

    He will take it easy on the hand the next few days, keeping it iced to bring down the swelling. “I can train on the home trainer, so I am counting on the fact that I will be ready for Sunday,” Bak said.

  • Men's pro cycling bucks economic trends

    UCI President Pat McQuaid
    Article published:
    February 27, 2012, 15:13 GMT
    Cycling News

    Budgets, sponsorship money and salaries all significantly higher

    Men's professional cycling is in good economic health, the UCI has announced. The total budget for men's pro teams has increased by 36.5% since 2009, with salaries taking an equal jump.

    “This result shows that cycling is in a healthy position and resisting the effects of the current global economic downturn,” the UCI said in a statement concerning a report from auditors Ernst & Young.

    “In 2009, the total budget for the 39 professional men`s teams was 235 million euros. In 2012, there are 40 professional teams (18 UCI ProTeams and 22 UCI Professional Continental Teams) with a total budget of 321 million euros, according to the Ernst & Young report on the economic situation of the professional peloton. This represents an increase of 36.5%.”

    Sponsor investment is on the rise as well. “In 2012, there are 61 principal sponsors for the 40 professional teams, providing 73% of the teams’ revenue. This figure increases to 95% when grouped with the remaining sponsors.”

    The riders also benefitted directly from the good financial climate, with average salaries going from  190,000 Euros in 2009 to 264,000 Euros in 2012.

    UCI President Pat McQuaid was pleased with the upswing. “It is very pleasing to see that the men`s professional cycling is prospering in these difficult times. Most of the cyclists within the professional peloton can live very well, or at least comfortably, on their salaries thanks to the support of sponsors who invest in this sport. These sponsors are attracted by the extremely good visibility cycling provides them throughout the year.”

  • Guardini closing in on Langkawi record

    The great Guardini: Young Italian sprinter Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini) won't stop at three stage wins as no-one can get near him for now
    Article published:
    February 27, 2012, 16:02 GMT
    Jean-François Quénet

    Italian just one behind the all-time stage mark

    It took a while to Andrea Guardini to come up with his first win of his second pro season, but he now looks unstoppable as he claimed his third victory in a row at Le Tour de Langkawi in Muar. It came at the end of a thrilling finale with the four men breakaway being caught only in the last 100 metres of racing.

    “This is the nicest win of my career because it has required a lot of sweating and suffering,” he said after the race. “With 30 kilometres to go and a five-minute deficit to the breakaway, we still believed that a bunch sprint finish was possible when everyone else seemed to think that it was game over. We decided to do the whole work no matter what and I thank Astana for their contribution to the chase. [Alexandre] Vinokourov has demonstrated once again today that he is a lord of cycling. He didn’t only ask his team-mates to chase but he went to the front himself as well. All the other teams not represented in the breakaway only rode this stage for placing, not for winning.”

    Europcar’s Kevin Reza was the last man caught with the finishing line in sight. He still made the top 10 (8th) while Terengganu’s Shinichi Fukushima finished 15th and New Zealand’s Louis Crosby 18th. “With 30km to go, we calculated that we needed to regain ten seconds per kilometer and we respected this plan with an absolute precision,” said Guardini, whose Farnese Vini-Selle Italia team was reduced to five riders after the retirement of Rafael Andriato in the aftermath of his stage two crash. He explained the reason for the enormous margin he won with: “I’ve expressed my rage in the final straight. This victory was coming from so far out that I wasn’t just happy to win. I wanted to win it big time...