“If you want to be the leader, then you have to perform as a leader”
Of the galacticos added to owner Andy Rihs’ firmament at BMC during in the winter of 2011, Thor Hushovd’s star was supposed to shine most brightly in the cobbled classics, but at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, the Norwegian finds himself in a supporting role.
Speaking at the team’s pre-race press conference in Kortrijk on Friday, Hushovd was bluntly honest in assessing why Greg Van Avermaet leads BMC at De Ronde instead of him. After two spring campaigns undone by a lingering illness, Hushovd feels that he simply has not done enough to earn that status.
“If you want to be the leader, then you have to perform as a leader. I haven’t done that but Greg has done it for the past three years so it’s normal that he is the leader on Sunday,” Hushovd said. “But it’s still my goal to be there in the final. If you have more riders in the final then it’s better for all of us.”
BMC’s line-up includes two Tour of Flanders debutants, Taylor Phinney and Silvan Dillier. Hushovd, by contrast, is saddling up for his 13th Ronde, but he laughed off the idea that he was by now something of a Flandrian.
“I think if I’d won it once, I’d feel more like a Flandrian,” he said. “I didn’t know I’d done it that many times. I’m happy to be part of BMC to support Greg here. He’s been our strongest rider for these kind of races and I think we have a really strong team in general. We’re going to race aggressively and try to be there with a few riders in the final.”
For the first time since joining BMC, Hushovd showed sustained flashes of form in the second part of last season, landing another national title, winning a brace of stages at the Tour of Poland and then adding another WorldTour victory...
On paper at least, Edvald Boasson Hagen appears the perfect foil to Geraint Thomas in Sky’s line-up for the Tour of Flanders. With the Welshman agitating to go on the offensive in the finale, Boasson Hagen could sit on behind, keeping his powder dry in the event of a group sprint in Oudenaarde.
Would it were that simple, of course. De Ronde is raced on cobbles and hills, not on paper. And besides, Boasson Hagen himself admits that he is not entirely sure if he would bank on his sprint against the likes of Peter Sagan, John Degenkolb and Tom Boonen.
“They’re stronger riders but we’ll have to see what the position is. If it’s possible to attack, that may be better, but we’ll have to see. It’s also flat in the end. It’s fast and it’s hard to get away,” Boasson Hagen told reporters in Kortrijk.
“I’ve not been sprinting really well in the big sprints, but then I think a sprint in this race is different to other races when you’re fresher. I don’t want a big group for the sprint, but I think I’m sprinting pretty well.”
Instead, it seems as though Boasson Hagen might look to reprise his fine showing at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February, when he infiltrated a break with Niki Terpstra in the finale before protecting teammate Ian Stannard’s interests when he went away in the race-winning move. At the Tour of Flanders, Thomas is Team Sky’s leader, and Boasson Hagen hinted that he was ready to beat a path for him by going on the offensive beforehand.
“Not in an early break or the last one, but maybe a bit before,” he said. “It’s hard with the tactics for these races. Of course, it’s going to be a hard race at the start with some attacks. After that, maybe...
The Lion of Flanders, Johan Museeuw, is a three-time winner of the Tour of Flanders. The former riders finished inside the top ten on no fewer than 15 separate occasions and remains a popular personality within the hearts of the Flemish cycling fans.
In this exclusive inCycle video Museeuw rides the new-look Tour of Flanders course, picking out the key climbs and battlegrounds for this year’s race.
Museeuw picks out the Oude Kwaremont as the first critical point in the race. It’s not the hardest climb but it’s the longest and the first of the 17 bergs on the course. The climb is ridden three times and leads into the Paterberg, which features twice in the final 50 kilometres.
Museeuw believes that it could be last significant climb before the finish, and where a number of the main favourites can force a select break from the peloton. It’s where Fabian Cancellara launched his winning attack in last year’s race.
Finally, Museeuw highlights the Koppenberg, the steepest climb in the race where positioning at the front is crucial for any rider with aspirations of winning the race. It’s a real ‘breaking point’ according to Museeuw. The climb now comes inside the final 45 kilometres, a change from last year.
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Czech says that Flanders suits him better than Roubaix
As grand entrances go, Zdenek Stybar’s at Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s Tour of Flanders press conference this Friday was certainly up there. The reigning cyclo-cross world champion arrived, alongside his boss Patrick Lefevere, by helicopter. It might have been a little folly for Stybar and the team, but it also showed the high esteem that the team hold him in.
With the expectations that have been put on him this season, it is hard to imagine, but Stybar is about to embark on only his second classics campaign. The 28-year-old is quietly spoken and strikes a much less commanding figure than his teammates but, even without looking at his palmarès, the drive to succeed is palpable. Speaking at the press conference, Stybar was raring to go for this weekend and wouldn’t count out a possible victory in both Flanders and Roubaix.
“I’m not nervous at all. I’m really looking forward to it, I’m excited about the race. Let’s go and race.”
“I would love for it, but it’s difficult to say. I hope that we will do it as a team. For the moment, I think that the shape is good and it will not disappear in a week. I think that if I am good on Sunday then I will also be good a week later. I have to wait and see.”
Stybar is one of three riders that QuickStep hope will give them victory at this weekend’s Ronde van Vlaanderen, along with Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra. He put in a solid performance at last year’s race and finished within the second big group, but the expectation has been that he will really bring the fight to the big contenders at Paris-Roubaix the following weekend. The Czech rider looked strong in last year’s race and many believed that he had the legs to beat Fabian...
One of the quiet men of Belgian cycling, Greg Van Avermaet is happy to maintain a low profile as the biggest day of his season approaches at the Tour of Flanders. There is an obvious trio of favourites – Boonen, Cancellara and Sagan – but in the various lists of names touted as dark horses, Van Avermaet’s does not feature with the same frequency as the likes of Terpstra, Vanmarcke and Thomas.
“I think I didn’t have the great result, like top 3 or something,” Van Avermaet said on by way of his explanation for his relatively long odds. “But I feel like I’m able to follow the good guys. Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m not up there with the bookmakers because I was already a lot of times in the top five with the bookmakers and I never won the race. Maybe now it’s a little different and it’s not a bad position to be in.”
At Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February, Van Avermaet looked set to underline his credentials as a Ronde contender when he broke clear with Ian Stannard (Sky) in the finale, but suffering from the cold conditions, he surprisingly lost out to the Englishman in the two-up sprint in Ghent’s Sint-Pietersplein.
The disappointment at the result was tempered in part by satisfaction at the performance – afterwards, manager Allan Peiper insisted BMC’s glass was more than half-full – and Van Avermaet has been buoyed, too, by being handed sole leadership of the team for the cobbled classics. He views the role as an opportunity rather than a burden.
“The pressure is there, but it was there last year too,” he said. “It feels a bit better now, actually, because all the support is for me. It’s a nice feeling to have a team...
With all the hype that surrounds the likes of the Tour of Flanders big three, John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) has managed to fly under the radar. There were only a handful of journalists at the German’s pre-race press conference, compared to the hordes that made their way to Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s event just two hours later.
Count him out at your peril though. Degenkolb has been in fine fettle this spring and was on great form at Milan-San Remo, before he suffered a race-ending puncture. With five wins this season he is fourth in the victory standings, but he says he’s not feeling the pressure to add a sixth here.
“If the classic season finished now then we are fine,” he says. “We have already done some very nice things and that is it. I don’t know how the race will develop, but we can only win. We can’t lose anything.”
“I am not on the same level as Cancellara, Sagan, Boonen and Vanmarcke. These four guys, they are really the top favourites of the race. Like I said, we don’t have the pressure to win the race. Of course our goal is to make a really good result and probably get the podium at the end. The pressure is on the other guys.”
Degenkolb has already got one over his classics rivals with his victory at Gent-Wevelgem. He used the disappointment from Milan-San Remo and E3 Harelbeke to drive himself through the carnage of the race and out-sprinted Peter Sagan, showing that he has the legs to take on the Slovakian if he needs to but he will need to be on top of his game if he wants to repeat it.
“It shows that he’s not unbeatable. It’s a great feeling, it’s a bit of revenge for last year when he beat me in a stage of the Tour. I’ve known him for a long time and I know that he is a great rider and a...
Women's team looking to factor in third World Cup round
Specialized-lululemon line up for tomorrow’s edition of the women’s Tour of Flanders with a number of potential cards to play in the race. The race, which marks the third round of the women’s World Cup, sees the international squad line-up with a team consisting of Evelyn Stevens, Trixi Worrack, Carmen Small, Chantal Blaak, Lisa Brennauer and Tiffany Cromwell.
The team has gone without a win in the opening two rounds of the World Cup, but Cromwell, who signed for the team at the start of the year, believes that the squad is starting to find its stride.
“We just need a bit of luck and for our tactics to go the right way,” she told Cyclingnews before travelling to Belgium.
“I’ve not been flying at the moment but that’s maybe not a bad thing at the start of the season but I’ve had a couple of top tens and a podium, so I’m happy so far. Now the big races are coming and I want to have a few more podiums.”
“The hardest part for us was at the start of year. Half of us were new to the team and it takes a while for us to gel and workout how to race together. We’re starting to come together now and we’ve picked up results. For Flanders we will have a bit of an open plan but save maybe myself and couple of riders for the end. All of us, the entire squad, can all be good in these classics races.”
In a similar move to the men’s parcours, the women’s route has seen a number of changes. The race length has been extended, more cobbled sections have been added, while the finale of climbs come closer to the finish line.
“We have a number of cards that we can play and that’s the beauty because it keeps everyone else guessing. We go into races to be aggressive. That didn’t pay off last weekend because we were too aggressive to...
It seems strange to label a 23-year-old’s Tour of Flanders debut as "belated" but Taylor Phinney has been in the public eye for so long that it’s easy to forget his relative youth. Now in his fourth professional season at BMC, the American lines up in Bruges on Sunday after injury forced him out of the selection twelve months ago.
"I always had issues around it so I was never able to do it before now," Phinney told reporters in Kortrijk on Friday. Not that his path to De Ronde has been seamless this time around. Illness kept Phinney out of Milan-San Remo and E3 Harelbeke, but after returning to action at Gent-Wevelgem last weekend, he was declared fit for action for the big day.
"It took a couple of more days than I anticipated to come back. I’d planned to be at E3 but I felt tired during the week and the team was lenient with me and let me recover and come back for Gent-Wevelgem," Phinney said. "I suffered a bit more than I wanted to, but that was to be expected after having a week when I was pretty knocked out."
Phinney’s avowed goal this spring is Paris-Roubaix and his role on Sunday will be to ride in support of Greg Van Avermaet. He explained that it would take a number of years before he could truly hope to be competitive in De Ronde, pointing out that, for now at least, the steady efforts over the pavé at Roubaix suit him far better than the punchy climbs of the Flemish Ardennes.
"I’m aware that, physically, I’m more adept at a race like Paris-Roubaix right now, but I think the Tour of Flanders that can become more my speciality as I get older, leaner and have more race kilometres in my legs," he said. "As well as that, positioning...