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Second Edition Cycling News, Monday, March 24, 2014

Date published:
March 24, 2014, 0:00 GMT
  • IAM Cycling wet and cold at Milan-San Remo

    Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) at the start
    Article published:
    March 24, 2014, 5:00 GMT
    Cycling News

    Sylvain Chavanel best placed rider for Swiss team

    IAM Cycling entered Milan-San Remo with two big cards to play in 2009 runner-up Heinrich Haussler and Sylvain Chavanel although the Swiss team found the wet and cold conditions detrimental to a successful day at the office.

    Several of the team’s strongest riders had been sick over the past week and with the in-form Stefan Denifl also in the squad, the Pro-Continental team had numerous options on the table although the adverse weather tested the team beyond its limits.

    Haussler, who was 11th in the snow and cold of 2013, found himself trailing behind and struggling with the cold.

    "I just didn't have anything. It was just so cold. I usually handle the cold pretty well, but since Qatar I've been racing in the heat, so I just couldn't handle the temperature swing to being so cold. It just wasn't possible for me," Haussler said.

    The best placed IAM Cycling rider was Chavanel who was 21st but was "chilled to the bone" and couldn't match the speed of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) who skipped away for the win.

    "Today it rained only once. Shortly after the start, and from there to the end. Sometimes we even made an acquaintance with hail. And that was not a pleasant encounter. In my opinion, today's version of Milan-San Remo was even harder than the 2013 edition.”

    The cold was made worse for Chavanel when he was made to wait for more clothing to keep warm.

    "When I asked for a rain jacket to protect me from the cold, I had to wait for 20 minutes which felt like a long...

  • BMC animate final sprint at Milan-San Remo

    Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) at the finish of Milan-San Remo
    Article published:
    March 24, 2014, 6:00 GMT
    Cycling News

    Gilbert unable to match Kristoff after 294km

    For BMC Racing Team it was another monument without a victory but there were strong showings by Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet who figured in the bunch sprint that decided Milan-San Remo.

    With the two famed climbs, the Cipressa (5.6 km) and the Poggio (3.7 km) in the final kilometres of the race, the possibility of a bunch sprint became a reality as a bunch of 25-riders made it to San Remo together and it was Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) who prevailed.

    The light showers and chilly conditions at the start line quickly turned into steady rain and windy conditions with intermittent hail at times although there were no sign of snow which forced last year's race to be shortened.

    As Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Team) attacked midway up the Cipressa, he looked around for companions but found none so it was no surprise the charging peloton overtook him on the lower slopes of the Poggio.

    On the twisting descent into San Remo,Van Avermaet and Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF) built a small gap with Van Avermaet even putting in an attack as the road began to flatten out but both riders were swept up with 2.5km to go.

    "I think we did a pretty good race. It was a hard race with the wind and the cold. But everyone did their job well. Phil and I were in the perfect position on the Cipressa and the Poggio. But it was not enough to drop some sprinters. The group was pretty big at the end" Van Avermaet said who was 25th.

    Gilbert led through the final left-right turn with about 500 meters left before Van Avermaet launched his own sprint but both BMC riders were overtaken by Kristoff while Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) and Ben Swift (Team Sky) rounded out the podium.

    "It was an...

  • Swift savours third place on Milan-San Remo debut

    Ben Swift (Sky) was second on the day
    Article published:
    March 24, 2014, 9:16 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Team Sky sprinter shows class in his first La Classicissima

    Ben Swift was shivering as he spoke to journalists after climbing on the Milan-San Remo podium with Alexander Kristoff but his heart was warmed by the satisfaction of finishing third in his first ever edition of La Classicissima.

    The Team Sky rider suffered with a shoulder injury in 2013 and ended his season in August to undergo surgery and hopefully get his career back on track. After a hard winter of training, including a spell in South Africa, he proved he was back to his best in the Challenge Mallorca and the Tour of Oman.

    He did not ride Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico but secured a place on Team Sky's squad for Milan-San Remo because his sprinting skills and ability to handle the climbs makes him an ideal rider for La Classicissima.

    "I think my happiness is overshadowing how cold I am," Swift said.

    Swift and Team Sky now believe the 26-year-old Yorkshire man can one day win Milan-San Remo.

    “I'd like to hope so, I think Milan-San Remo is suited to my characteristics," he said.

    "It's the first time I've ever ridden Milan-San Remo and get that first experience. To get on the podium on the first is pretty amazing."

    Swift rode an intelligent race and then fought for a good wheel in the finale. He followed Fabian Cancellara in the final kilometre but struggled to find a way through to the front and was unable to open up his sprint until the finish line was in sight.

    "I had good legs today and just felt better and better as the race went on," he explained.

    "On the Poggio I waited for the attacks to come but I think the weather got to a lot of people and we were over the top before we realised. I was fourth over the top and maintained it to the finish."

    "I got a little bit boxed in for the sprint but I'm happy to get on the podium. It was a great...

  • Alberto Contador expects open Volta a Catalunya

    Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) with the winner's trophy in Tirreno-Adriatico
    Article published:
    March 24, 2014, 10:58 GMT
    Cycling News

    Tirreno Adriatico winner in form

    Alberto Contador lines up for the Volta a Catalunya on Monday as one of the pre-race favourites after his win in Tirreno Adriatico earlier this month.

    "My form from Tirreno is good and I hope to recuperate well these days. I was much more tired from the Tirreno than I would have thought." 

    The Volta a Catalunya is Contador's third stage race of the season. He finished second to Michal Kwiatkowski in the Volta ao Algare overall classification. The Spaniard took his first victory in over a year in Portugal by winning the fourth stage to Alto do Malhão.

    In Tirreno Adriatico the 31-year-old managed to win two stages and the overall classification. "The stages in Italy were very long and demanding. It will take some effort to get started again but I hope I'll feel well. I have been training around Calella [the start and finish of stage 1] and enjoyed the good weather."

    For Contador stages 3 and 4 with uphill finishes at La Molina and Vallter 2000 will be pivotal. "It's a very open race. There is not a day of flat racing and here are bonus seconds every day." 

    The absence of a time trial in the seven-day stage race in the east of Spain could benefit Contador, but it could also be a disadvantage. "If you take on pure climbers in a race like this, a time trial benefits me but if I race against riders who are better against the clock than I am, it's not." 

    Contador starts Volta a Catalunya with a team of young riders and experiences domestiques. He will miss climber Rafa Majka by his side. The Polish rider crashed in the final stage of Paris-Nice a week ago and has not recovered sufficiently. 

    Tinkoff-Saxo and Contador will face tough opposition from Team Sky with Chris Froome and Richie Porte as well as from last year's winner Daniel Martin of...

  • Cold conditions made it hard to attack at Milan-San Remo, says Gilbert

    Philippe Gilbert (BMC) will have to wait for another year
    Article published:
    March 24, 2014, 13:22 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Belgian unable to go clear on the Poggio

    Vincenzo Nibali may have bemoaned the lack of aggression from the non-sprinters at Milan-San Remo, but Philippe Gilbert (BMC) said that there was precious little else he could have done to break the deadlock in a leading group where the selection was made from the back rather than from the front.

    Gilbert made a brief surge approaching the summit of the Poggio but he was unable to open a gap, citing a combination of the effects of the cold weather and the headwind on the climb, and victory eventually fell to Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) in a sprint from a 25-man group.

    “I tried 800 metres from the summit but there was quite a bit of wind so I sat up,” Gilbert told reporters on wheeling to a halt shortly past the finish line. “We all suffered in the rain and the cold and in the end it’s hard to race in conditions like that because your muscles are tired and you lack explosiveness.

    “It was an extremely hard edition again with the cold and the rain and really hard to be able to spin the legs in the final because we suffered a lot in these wintry conditions. That’s not an excuse, it’s the same for everyone, but it makes it harder.

    “Still, we went up the Cipressa and Poggio very quickly today, but the sprinters were up there in spite of the tempo, so that means that they were very strong today. it wasn’t easy to make the difference.”

    As the road flattened out over the crest of the Poggio, Gilbert’s brief was to track Fabian Cancellara (Trek), while Greg Van Avermaet prodded for opportunities to escape on the descent. Luca Paolini’s stint of pace-making on the front in support of his teammate Kristoff, however, meant that the race came back together in the streets of San...

  • RCS Sport confirms Pompeiana climb will feature in 2015 Milan-San Remo

    The final sprint for the line in Milan-San Remo
    Article published:
    March 24, 2014, 14:45 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Vegni: "We want to shake things up a bit"

    This year's Milan-San Remo looks almost certain to be the last time the sprinters will have a real chance to fight for victory.

    Mauro Vegni, the head of cycling at RCS Sport, has confirmed to Cyclingnews that the Pompeiana climb will be added to the 2015 race route, making the first Monument of the cycling season more suited to hilly Classics and Grand Tour riders rather than the sprinters and finisseur riders who have filled the results for much of the 105-year history of the race.

    RCS Sport wanted to include the Pompeiana in this year's race but a major landslide during the winter and then polemics with local authorities forced them to use a more traditional route. The cold and rain made for a hard race on Sunday but Norway's Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) emerged to win the 27-rider sprint on the San Remo seafront.

    The inclusion of the Pompeiana will surely see very different names in the results.

    The five-kilometre climb sits between the Cipressa and the Poggio and comes just 25km from the finish of Milan-San Remo. Any attacks launched on the Cipressa will have a far greater chance of staying away and most of the sprinters will have little chance of staying with the leaders over the series of three climbs that are packed into the last 37km of the 294km race.

    Many riders and cycling fans have criticised RCS Sport's decision to radically change the Milan-San Remo route. The current finely balanced route creates a dramatic finale to a long day in the saddle, with many considering it sacred. Mark Cavendish compared the decision to asking graffiti artist Banksy to paint the inside of the Pantheon in Rome.

    Vegni is clearly not attached to tradition and believes Milan-San Remo needs a shake-up. He wants to...

  • What did USA Cycling know of doping before Armstrong investigation?

    USA Cycling president Steve Johnson speaks at the press conference announcing the new European training base in the Limburg province of the Netherlands.
    Article published:
    March 24, 2014, 15:38 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Zabriskie says he informed Johnson of doping at US Postal before 2010

    Steve Johnson, USA Cycling's president and CEO, has found himself at the centre of a media storm after the book "Cycle of Lies" drew attention to his role and conduct during the Lance Armstrong years. In the book, by the New York Times' Juliet Macur, Dave Zabriskie says he informed Johnson of the widespread doping culture within the US Postal Service team several times, but nothing was done. Johnson has stated the conversation with Zabriskie never took place, but has been unwilling to answer further questions when Cyclingnews contacted USA Cycling.

    Johnson was recruited by USA Cycling in 1998 and worked his way up through the ranks until he was made USA Cycling CEO in 2006. A large proportion of that rise and work was helped by Thom Weisel, who pumped millions of dollars into cycling, while at the same time running Tailwind Sports, which managed the US Postal team.

    Zabriskie agreed to answer Cyclingnews' questions via email, and when asked to re-tell the first episode which took place in 1999. Zabriskie said, "at the Olympic training center I had reservations about going into professional cycling because I had been beginning to hear stories about the drugs in the sport. I went to Steve to ask his advice because I didn't want to give up college and a whole other life if it meant having to do drugs."

    "Steve said it was a great time to enter the sport because it was getting all cleaned up. So I continued to pursue professional cycling. I gave it my full effort and was doing very well - got onto Postal Service - had just gotten fifth in a big race - and out of nowhere Johan [Bruyneel] comes to me with drugs."

    The second conversation took place in 2004, when Zabriskie was in the midst of leaving US Postal for another team.

    "I became more and more frustrated over the whole scene on Postal Service as it was the exact opposite of the...

  • Kristoff now fourth on WorldTour rankings after Milan-San Remo win

    Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) was the best sprinter after 300km of racing
    Article published:
    March 24, 2014, 19:40 GMT
    Cycling News

    Betancur remains overall leader, Movistar new best team

    Eighth in last year's Milan-San Remo, 12 months on Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) has triumphed in the first Monument of 2014, out-sprinting a group of 27 riders in what is easily his biggest win to date. As a result, Kristoff jumps to fourth overall on the latest UCI WorldTour standings.

    A bronze medallist in the 2012 Olympics, former national champion and already a winner of a stage of the Tour of Oman in 2014, Kristoff timed his final charge for the line in the rain-soaked streets of San Remo to perfection. Shooting past Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), second for a third time, and Team Sky's Ben Swift - who placed third - Kristoff said his victory represented a new high point in his career.

    "[Teammate] Luca Paolini helped me enormously in the finale, but I really didn't think more than a top ten finish was possible," Kristoff said. "Even if a sprint after 300 kilometres is very different to a normal sprint, I couldn't believe I'd won until I crossed the line. It's absolutely fantastic."

    While the top three riders in the UCI WorldTour - Carlos Alberto Betancur (AG2R La Mondiale) with 114, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) with 114 and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) with 112 - remain with unchanged placings and unchanged points totals, Kristoff has gained no fewer than 59 spots and is now fourth with 101 points.

    He is not the only Classics rider or sprinter to make significant progress towards the highest placings thanks to Milan-San Remo: Cancellara now lies in seventh with 84 points, Swift takes his first UCI WorldTour points to move into 12th, and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick Step), who was fifth in the race, moves up from 33rd to 17th.

    In the nations classification, Australia remains in the lead with 336 points, but Spain has closed the gap and moved up from third to...