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Second Edition Cycling News, Monday, January 20, 2014

Date published:
January 20, 2014, 0:00 GMT
  • Evans defends Alessandro Ballan's explanation for ban

    Cadel Evans (Team BMC) in action
    Article published:
    January 20, 2014, 4:49 GMT
    By:
    Aaron S. Lee

    Former Tour de France winner backs teammate

    In a semi-private press conference in Adelaide during the Tour Down Under’s rest day, BMC captain and former Tour de France winner Cadel Evans was quick to share his thoughts over ex-teammate Alessandro Ballan, who had his BMC Racing team contract torn up after receiving a two-year ban by the Italian Olympic Committee anti-doping tribunal.

    "I don’t know all the details," Evans told limited media sources including Cyclingnews. "The only thing it appears to me is that [cycling] must be the only profession in the world where looking after your health and trying to be healthy can ruin your career and all but ruin your life."

    Ballan’s lawyers assert that he had undergone ozone therapy to treat cytomegalovirus, a genus of the herpes virus, but not a performance-enhancing blood transfusion. "As far as I understand he was trying to treat his health," said Evans, who has battled his own health issues over the past two years. “Having had a virus, I understand. You have to be healthy and that’s not whether you are a bike rider or not, it’s us as humans. The most important thing in our life is our health."

    Evans, who after a solid second-place showing at the Australian men’s National Road Race Championship earlier in the month, looks to be in the best form since his 2011 win at the Tour, says that rest is what helped him turn his condition around.

    Ballan, the 2008 UCI world road champion, was found guilty of violating article 2.2 of the WADA code and is banned until 16 January, 2016. The 34-year-old’s doping infractions were...

  • Jonathan Cantwell chasing stage wins at Tour Down Under

    Jonathan Cantwell (BikeBug) looked after his team-mate, Ewan throughout the race
    Article published:
    January 20, 2014, 5:30 GMT
    By:
    Zeb Woodpower

    Drapac out to "shock" WorldTour teams

    Having placed eight in the People's Choice Classic, Jonathan Cantwell is looking to end the Tour Down Under with at least one stage win. With riders also capable of marking a mark in the overall on his Drapac team, Cantwell told Cyclingnews that the Pro-Continental outfit was out to show the peloton that they have earned their wild card entry to the race.

    "One of the most satisfying things is the Australian support here. The fans are really absorbing us, which is what we want. With the Drapac team we are going to shock some guys here this week. I can guarantee you that," Cantwell said.

    "We have some guys here who can finish high up in contention for the overall and if I can get some stages, we'll be a happy team."

    Cantwell was caught up in the crash that ended the Tour Down Under for Giovanni Visconti and also Chris ‘CJ' Sutton as he ended the race on a spare bike. "Unfortunately just in that last corner before the finish there were a couple of nasty crashes there actually. With 15 laps to go, I got caught in a crash. I didn't go down to hard but some guys ploughed into me from behind.

    "I broke my bar and did a little bit of damage to the top of my foot so now I have a lot of haematobia damage at the moment which made me a bit hesitant for those corners as it took away the nerves that I normally have. It was a little bit difficult to get maximum performance out of myself and my leg was already inflamed and swollen."

    Despite the inclusion of Menglers Hill on Stage 1, Cantwell is optimistic for his chances to come away with a good result. "I did the stage last year and actually finished third. I'm a little bit...

  • Kittel praises team for People’s Choice Classic victory, targets stage four next

    Marcel Kittel celebrates his victory
    Article published:
    January 20, 2014, 8:05 GMT
    By:
    Aaron S. Lee

    German sprinter says Tour Down Under is perfect race to start season

    German sprinter Marcel Kittel narrowly took out round one against compatriot Andre Greipe at the People's Choice Classic in what is certain to be the first of many showdowns during the 2014 UCI WorldTour season. The People’s Choice Classic, a 25-lap, 50-kilomtere criterium to open the weeklong Tour Down Under in Adelaide, South Australia was just another notch on Kittel's proverbial belt. The 25-year-old from Arnstadt is quickly gaining a reputation of slaying giants.

    Last year, Kittel garnered global attention and admiration by winning four stages at the Tour de France and ending Mark Cavendish’s stranglehold over the Champs-Élysées. Kittel’s victory squashed the Manx Missiles’ chances of a fifth-straight win in Paris. On Sunday, Kittel squared off against the Tour Down Under’s winningest stage rider and came out on top, and told Cyclingnews that he owes it all to the efforts of his team – Giant-Shimano.

    "I am really proud of how it all worked out for the team," he said. "After a few laps I knew directly that I had a good feeling for the course, and that the team was dialled in. In the end it was really great teamwork."

    Kittel says that while Greipel’s Lotto-Belisol squad has undoubtedly developed one of the peloton’s best lead-out trains, arguably on par with Cavendish’s 2012 Sky Pro Cycling team and his HTC squads from 2008-2011, he believes his Giant-Shimano is quickly becoming one of the cycling’s most dangerous sprint trains.

    "Not every rider is good at doing a lead out, he said. "You need a certain mentality and experience. You need an eye for where you have to be and how the race works. Every year we are taking very important steps and improving our lead-out train, and I think the highlight was definitely last year...

  • Garmin-Sharp seeks overall success at Tour de San Luis

    Garmin-Sharp in their new kit
    Article published:
    January 20, 2014, 8:34 GMT
    By:
    Peter Hymas

    Farrar on form for trio of sprint stages

    While no team at the Tour de San Luis has as many new riders making their debut as Garmin-Sharp, with four of their six starters racing the first time for the US-based WorldTour squad, that in no way equates to any diminished expectations for the team in Argentina.

    Garmin-Sharp is anchored at the Tour de San Luis by two team veterans, Tom Danielson and Tyler Farrar, with the quartet of Janier Acevedo, Ben King, Phillip Gaimon and Nathan Brown each making their team debut. King, the US pro road champion in 2010, arrives at Garmin-Sharp with two years of WorldTour team experience at RadioShack, while Acevedo, Brown and Gaimon are each making their WorldTour team debut as well having only raced for Continental teams previously.

    Acevedo's WorldTour team debut has been eagerly anticipated as the Colombian had a breakthrough season last year in the USA while racing for the Jamis-Hagens Berman team. Acevedo went head-to-head with WorldTour talent to finish on the final podium at two of the USA's trio of premier stage races - Tour of California and the Tour of Utah - and narrowly missed a hat trick of final podiums with fourth overall at Colorado's USA Pro Challenge. Acevedo also won stages in both California and Colorado and spent a stint in the leader's jersey in California as well.

    Garmin-Sharp team director Chann McRae expects Acevedo to pick up where he left off in 2013 as the squad enters the Tour de San Luis with a two-pronged GC threat in Acevedo and Danielson. With three mountain finishes and a 19.2km time trial on tap during the seven-day Argentinean race, it provides a stern early season general classification test.

    "We definitely don't want to go away from here without either Janier or Tommy D on the podium," McRae told...

  • Rodriguez to avoid Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour of the Basque Country?

    Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) will start his 2014 season at the Tour de San Luis
    Article published:
    January 20, 2014, 10:27 GMT
    By:
    Cycling News

    Report: WorldTour leader may switch week-long stage races for altitude training

    Spanish website Biciciclismo has reported that Katusha leader and 2013 WorldTour winner Joaquim Rodriguez may well skip Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of the Basque Country this year and spend more time training at altitude on the Canary Islands instead.

    Currently racing at the Tour of San Luis in Argentina, Rodriguez has said on several occasions that his three key objectives this season will be Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which he finished second last year, the Giro d’Italia, in which he was runner-up in 2012 and the Vuelta a España, where he finished third and fourth in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

    Rodriguez has been a regular participant at Tirreno-Adriatico, too, with some notable successes. Last year he won a stage and finished fifth, and previously he has had two wins on the Monte Lupone summit finish, often the hardest single day in the 'Race of Two Seas'. He has not featured quite so prominently in the Tour of the Basque Country, not racing last year for example, but he has been a big factor in the past. He finished second overall and won two stages in 2012, and also won stages in 2011 and 2010.

    Should Biciciclismo’s report be confirmed, Rodriguez’s only race between the Tour of Oman and the Ardennes Classics will now be the Volta a Catalunya, his home race and with two long training camps on Mount Teide either side of Catalunya, he will start the Giro d’Italia with just 27 days of racing in his legs.

    The other effect of a shorter race program is that it would be more difficult for Rodriguez to defend his WorldTour title. Last year, when he did not race Pais Vasco, either, Rodriguez secured 58 points of his final total of 607 at...

  • Rohan Dennis puts Road Nationals pain behind him

    Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp)
    Article published:
    January 20, 2014, 12:11 GMT
    By:
    Aaron S. Lee

    Garmin-Sharp rider still aiming for Tour Down Under win

    When Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp) hit the deck at the 13-kilometre mark in the individual time trial at the Australian National Championships, months of hard work crashed with him. The 23-year-old found himself on the ground still in the tucked position and with hands still firmly planted on the aero bars after a rogue wind sideswiped the Adelaide native and ended his bid for a time trial national championship.

    The injuries sustained in the crash left Dennis battered and bruised, and they were a deciding factor in his withdrawal on lap 12 of the men’s national road race four days later.

    “It was just so out of the blue,” Dennis told Cyclingnews. “I was very disappointed. I was in a very good position to take that gold and knew I had the form to make that happen. After something like that you start questioning ‘Why me?’”

    Dennis believes in hindsight that perhaps the best option following the fall would have been to withdraw from the road race completely to focus on recovery and the start of the 2014 season.

    “In retrospect I should have pulled out before the race,” he said. “I was feeling really good for the first three or four laps, but from then it was pretty much downhill. I was doing my body more harm than good and my body said ‘no more’ so I called it quits.

    “There is no reward for the hardest person out here, and finishing with no skin,” he continued. “So I decided to pack it up, go home and try to recover for the TDU.”

    Now more than a week since the crash and still showing the signs of the fall, Dennis is slowly putting the mental anguish behind him. With the physical pain subsiding, he is quietly taking aim at the Tour Down...

  • Belkin ready for more success in 2014

    Bauke Mollema and Laurens ten Dams smile for the camera
    Article published:
    January 20, 2014, 12:58 GMT
    By:
    Stephen Farrand

    Dutch team reveals its goals during team presentation

    The Belkin team held its official presentation in the Netherlands, broadcast live online, on Monday morning, confirming that the Tour de France, the cobbled Classics and the Tour of California will again be the Dutch team's major goals in 2014.

    The riders showed off the team's green and black jersey and answered questions from online viewers on stage, with Robert Gesink and the other riders in Australia for the Tour Down Under linking up with the presentation via internet.

    Belkin won 39 races in 2013 and impressed at the Tour de France, with Bauke Mollema and Laurens ten Dam shining at the Tour de France. Mollema went onto finish sixth overall after taking second at the Tour de Suisse.

    The team has added three riders to its roster for 2014, with Lars Boom and Sep Vanmarcke again the leaders for the cobbled Classics. Team manager Richard Plugge reaffirmed the team's goals for 2014 and laid out plans for growth and development after securing Belkin as a title sponsor in time for last year's Tour de France. The team will ride Bianchi bikes in 2014, with Santini on board as the new clothing sponsor.

    "2013 it was a year of mixed emotions. In the early season, without a sponsor, we were down more or less in the gutter, but then Belkin came along in the summer and we were flying high," Plugge explained.

    "It was a breakthrough moment. We presented a sponsor from outside the sport and the bright lights of that good moment gave us momentum for the Tour de France. We had a lot of highlights during the season; we had good team energy, got good results with 39 wins and we created a platform for growth, as a team and as a company.

    "We will focus on the WorldTour [in 2014], it's the most important; we'll focus the Spring Classics with Lars (Boom) and Sep...

  • Berhane becomes first African winner of Tropicale Amissa Bongo

    Natnael Berhane (Europcar) took the spoils at Tropicale Amissa Bongo.
    Article published:
    January 20, 2014, 13:39 GMT
    By:
    Barry Ryan

    Eritrean beats Luis Leon Sanchez in Gabon

    Natnael Berhane (Europcar) became the first African rider to win the Tropicale Amissa Bongo stage race when he edged out Luis Leon Sanchez (Caja Rural-RGA Seguros) on the final stage in Libreville on Sunday.

    The Eritrean entered the final day in third place overall, four seconds down on Sanchez, but with three intermediate sprints on the menu, the race was delicately poised as it reached its endgame. The Europcar squad managed to keep the peloton intact for two of the three sprints, while Berhane did the rest, picking up six bonus seconds to Sanchez’s one. While Fréderique Robert (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) won the stage, Berhane took overall honours, just one second ahead of the experienced Sanchez.

    “It’s a real joy. I found it hard to believe that it would be possible to beat a rider like Luis Leon Sanchez, who has such a great palmarès. But in the end, I got there, and that means that I’m starting to make a place for myself with the pros,” Berhane said afterwards.

    Berhane is part of a talented generation of Eritrean riders that also includes Daniel Teklehaimanot, formerly of Orica-GreenEdge and now at MTN-Qhubeka. African road champion in 2011 and 2012, Berhane made the move to Europe last season with Jean-René Bernaudeau’s Europcar squad.

    The highlight of Berhane’s year came at the Tour of Turkey, where he won a stage and finished second overall behind Mustafa Sayar, a result that may yet be upgraded to first place due Sayar’s positive test for EPO at last season’s Tour of Algeria.

    “I want to thank my teammates who did enormous work for me today,” Berhane told