- Article published:
- January 16, 2010, 04:47
- Les Clarke
Australian ready for ProTour life beginning on home turf
He's an Olympic gold medallist, a Tour Down Under stage winner, a Tour de France rider and a child of the 'golden generation' of Australian cycling, but Luke Roberts has only just returned to the ProTour ranks after a two-year hiatus.
In that time there was bad luck and injury that kept him relegated to Professional Continental squad Kuota Senges (Kuota-Indeland) during 2008 and 2009, as a broken hip early last season meant he missed a significant amount of racing in Europe.
The situation began to derail plans Roberts had set as he neared the later stages of his career. "I thought that at the end of my career I'd do a few years solely concentrating on the six-day races in Europe over the winter when I was done on the road," said Roberts. "I knew I could switch back to that because it has a lot more to do with experience than strength.
“I wanted that to be at the end of my career but it started happening sooner than I thought - I found myself only doing six-day racing at 31," he explained. "I knew there was more I could do on the road and I could do better - it was just a matter of getting the chance to do that and when this came through [an offer from Milram] I thought, 'Now's the time, 100 percent'."
Roberts is well known in Germany and when he embarked on a mission to be signed by a ProTour team, he didn't need to look far beyond his doorstep. "I went down to the EuroBike show in Friedrichshafen and spent the day there on the hunt for a new contract through some of the contacts I had. A friend of mine works for SRAM as a sponsor manager and while I was visiting him at the SRAM stand I got to meet some of the directors at Team Milram, which got the ball rolling," said Roberts.
"Mid-September I spoke with team management - we discussed what they were looking for in a rider and what I could offer them. It seemed a good fit, having lived in Germany for several years and speaking the language. I think it was the shortest meeting the boss had ever had,” he added. "We left there with my signature on a contract and he said, 'That went well - it was pretty fast. You know what you wanted and I know what I wanted... and it was done'."
Roberts' pedigree on the track puts him in the league of some of the world's best lead-out men, including fellow Australian Brett Lancaster, who came in for high praise during his years riding in service of Alessandro Petacchi. Roberts now has the opportunity to test his legs working for Gerald Ciolek, Milram's prized sprinter.
"It was first time I had personally sat down with a director and spoke about what I could offer - I think during my years at CSC I wasn't really doing the job I was suited to; ideally I'd be doing the last couple of kilometres looking after a sprinter and CSC wasn't really a team that took control of races in the final for a sprint. To now be on a team with good sprinters and a team that wants to take control, I'll be happy to jump in there and do the job," he explained.
The Adelaide native, who returns to home turf for next week's Tour Down Under, is one of four Australians making their way back to the ProTour ranks. All accomplished and talented riders, the quartet is essentially the victim of tough times in an economic environment that can be hostile to professional athletes looking for a place to ply their trade.
"I think it's tough now for all teams with the Global Financial Crisis hitting hard and the last few years have been tough for all teams to continue. The couple of new squads starting this year - Sky and RadioShack - has helped boost cycling and stimulate the market for riders,” he said. "You can see it in the fact that there are four Australians back in ProTour teams that have also been in my situation.
“For Scott Davis, Matt Wilson, Baden Cooke and myself the last couple of years have been pretty lean - we were searching for a place to ride and now it seems to be getting better this year. Those guys will be out there to make the most of it, as will I," said Roberts.
Roberts explained that he must remain vigilant during his return to the big leagues, starting with a strong performance at the Tour Down Under. "It's really important for us to get off to a good start here in Adelaide - the contract with Milram is up at the end of this year; they haven't said they won't continue but they haven't said they will... so for us to try and keep sponsor or find a new one we've really got to get the season off to a good start," he said.
"I've ridden this race in every edition bar three so I know it well and I've lived here for much of my life so I know all the roads well," he said. "I'll be looking to make sure we can use every bit of power we've got to achieve the best result we can."
- Article published:
- January 16, 2010, 07:11
- Cycling News
Colombian hit by car near his home
Mauricio Soler says he is sore but otherwise fine, following his road accident earlier in the week. The Caisse d'Epargne rider was hit head-on by a car while training near his home in Ramiriqui, Colombia.
“I'm very sore, as the impact was very hard,” the 27-year-old told the Colombian website eltiempo.com. He said he tried to avoid the car, but could not.
Soler also added, “I was saved but my bicycle and helmet were destroyed.”
He is to stop riding for five days to recover and undergo physical therapy at the Ramiriqui Medical Centre, but insisted it wouldn't slow him down in his season preparations. “I will stop for a few days, but I'll have time to recover. I am looking for my best form in the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana.”
- Article published:
- January 16, 2010, 08:05
- Peter Cossins
33-year-old ends career this weekend
Igor Astarloa is sure to get mixed reviews as his racing career comes to an official end when his home town of Ermua pays tribute to him on Saturday. Winner of the world road title in Hamilton and Flèche Wallonne in 2003, the 33-year-old Basque has had a chequered career since.
Released by Milram in May 2008 for irregular blood readings, his subsequent Amica Chips team folded for financial reasons in May 2009, and a month later he was one of the first five riders announced as having abnormal blood values under the UCI’s biological passport testing program.
Although he insists he has done nothing wrong and could probably find another team to hire him this season, Astarloa says he’s had enough. His final act in professional cycling is likely be an appearance at Saturday’s celebration in Ermua, which has been organised by long-time cycling sponsor Cafés Baqué, whose president, María Baqué, also happens to be his wife.
Contacted by El Mundo Deportivo at the family’s second home in Miami, Astarloa described Saturday’s tribute to him “the best way of finishing my career with a good memory”. He also admitted that since winning the 2003 world title, he’d had precious few of these. Even in the wake of that victory he had to counter rumours that he had tested positive.
“The year that I won the Worlds was very good, and the following one with Cofidis was also quite good… But, since then, cycling has changed quite a bit. Things have become very complicated, we are persecuted, we constantly have to give details on where we are… this crisis isn’t helping attract sponsors to the sport at all,” he explained.
Astarloa denied that he had been forced out of the sport by recent scandals, maintaining he could have found a new team. “But cycling isn’t the same as when I started. We used to really enjoy ourselves, there was a good atmosphere between everyone. Having spent 10 years as a professional and seen the before and the now, where you are always under suspicion and there are all kinds of bad affairs, I’m bowing out voluntarily.”
Asked how he felt at being linked to doping despite never having tested positive, Astarloa commented: “Simply because someone suspects you, they eliminate you from cycling. I have been racing bikes for 22 years. All that you’ve done in your life is finished because of suspicion. You don’t need to have tested positive. I see all too well that things aren’t fair at all. It’s better to leave this bad environment and find a better place to be. I’ve never tested positive, I’ve kept racing and I’m not even sanctioned.”
He added that he would change nothing in his career, but again stated that “this isn’t how cycling was before… I don’t know who’s going to ride bikes in future. This sport is hard enough already without them placing more obstacles in front of you. You’d be better off racing motorbikes now.”
Astarloa concluded by saying the thing he will miss most about racing is “the atmosphere of competition. I will keep riding a bike because I’ve loved doing that all my life, but not being able to pin a race number on my back is what I’ll miss the most.”
- Article published:
- January 16, 2010, 08:13
- Daniel Benson
No timetable set, but it remains a goal
World time trial champion Fabian Cancellara has reiterated his desire to tackle the world hour record. However, he would not go so far as to name a date or location, only confirming that it was still one of his goals.
Cancellara, unquestionably the worlds best time trial specialist, is preparing for the 2010 season at Saxo Bank's training camp in Fuerteventura. He will take aim at the Classics this season, with his sights set firmly on the Tour of Flanders, as he tries to add another Monument to his wins in Paris-Roubaix and Milano-Sanremo.
The hour record, however, is an event that Cancellara believes has lost some of its prestige in recent years and that it requires the interest of more riders.
"It's lost its importance and some of its honour. Before every big champion did it. Guys like Rominger, Hinault, Indurain, Merckx, they all did it and now the current champion is Ondrej Sosenka and nobody talks about it," he told Cyclingnews.
Despite showing more than an interest in the event, the Swiss national champion admitted that such an attempt would not be easy and that it would take considerable preparation, scheduling and training.
"The hour record is a goal but there's no time set for that. It's a big project. It's not just a ride on the track and then you're done. It's more than that. You have to find the training, the bike, the track and I think that if I'm honest there are not that many riders who can do all of that."
Cancellara stormed to victory in the world time trial championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland last year, winning by nearly a minute and a half and he believes that if he can devote time to the attempt he could raise the bar substantially.
"With everything I've won in time trials I think it could be something good for me. I still have some other goals that I want to reach. But when I take on the record it has to be to set a long distance. I don't want to beat it by 100 metres."
- Article published:
- January 16, 2010, 10:52
- Cycling News
Rest of BMC preparing to gather in California
World Champion Cadel Evans has joined his teammates in Adelaide, Australia, for the Tour Down Under, while the rest of the squad is preparing to gather in Santa Rosa, California, for their first training camp.
“I'm enormously pleased to be joining my new team,” Evans said, after arriving at the team hotel on Friday evening. He will be making his debut with the US-based team.
Evans does not have to face the jet-lag that the other riders do, as he has been in his native Australia since November. He immediately joined his teammates for a training ride on Saturday morning.
The rest of the Professional Continental team will soon be gathering in Santa Rosa, California, for a training camp. Soigneurs were busy preparing supplies from the team's official apparel sponsor, Hincapie Sportswear, owned by rider George Hincapie.
The firm sent 20 boxes to the training camp, containing everything from race wear to casual clothes for both riders and staff. More than 40 boxes were also sent to the team's service base in Belgium.
Team mechanics also worked to prepared the BMC bikes, pro machine SLCO1s and racemaster SLX01s, to have things ready when the riders start arriving Saturday for the 14-day camp.
- Article published:
- January 16, 2010, 16:48
- Stephen Farrand
Men and women log training miles in Portugal
The first day of the Cervélo TestTeam presentation weekend saw riders, media, sponsors and guests ride together on the Portuguese Algarve. Eighty riders set off under grey skies from the Robinson Club Quinta da Ria golf resort for a short out and back ride into the hills.
The peloton was divided into five groups, called Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo, Giro di Lombardia, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Tours.
Dutch sprinter and new signing for 2010 Theo Bos led the Paris-Roubaix group; Carlos Sastre led the Milan-San Remo group, Heinrich Haussler piloted the Giro di Lombardia group; Thor Hushovd was in charge of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Milriam Melchers headed the Paris-Tours group.
Everyone wore the new 2010 Cervelo Test Team jersey which has the big Cervélo "é" on the back.
Most of the riders also had their new black and white 2010 team bikes fitted with SRAM components and Rotor chainsets. In 2009, Cervélo used Shimano components. Every bike used by guests and media for the ride had been used by a Cervélo TestTeam rider in major competition in 2009.
The weather was not great, but there were plenty of smiles and some bursts of racing on the climb to the coffee stop and in the final kilometres back to the hotel.
The men had ridden for five and half hours the day before and so used the ride as a rest day. For some of the guest and media, even the 40km ride was a test of their endurance. A few got a helpful push to make sure they got back to the hotel.
The 13 women riders and 25 men arrived in Portugal a week ago and will stay for another week of intense training.
The team will hold its official presentation on Sunday morning.
Elisabeth Armitstead (Great Britain)
Emilie Aubry (Switzerland)
Regina Bruins (Netherlands)
Lieselot Decroix (Belgium)
Sarah Düster (Germany)
Claudia Häusler (Germany)
Sharon Laws (Great Britain)
Mirjam Melchers (Netherlands)
Emma Pooley (Great Britain)
Carla Ryan (Australia)
Patricia Schwager (Switzerland)
Iris Slappendel (Netherlands)
Kirsten Wild (Netherlands)
Davide Appollonio (Italy)
Theo Bos (Netherlands)
João Correia (Portugal)
Iñigo Cuesta (Spain)
Philip Deignan (Ireland)
Stefan Denifl (Austria)
Xavier Florencio (Spain)
Volodimir Gustov (Ukraine)
Roger Hammond (Great Britain)
Heinrich Haussler (Germany)
Jérémy Hunt (Great Britain)
Thor Hushovd (Norway)
Ted King (United States)
Andreas Klier (Germany)
Ignatas Konovalovas (Lithuania)
Brett Lancaster (Australia)
Daniel Lloyd (Great Britain)
Joaquín Novoa (Spain)
Oscar Pujol (Spain)
Gabriel Rasch (Norway)
Martin Reimer (Germany)
Dominique Rollin (Canada)
Carlos Sastre (Spain)
Xavier Tondo (Spain)
Marcel Wyss (Switzerland)
- Article published:
- January 16, 2010, 18:04
- Daniel Benson
American excited about new team
With his first Team RadioShack training camp under his belt, Levi Leipheimer is ready to embark on the 2010 season. However the three-time Tour of California winner will be easing himself into the season and unlike the last three years, he will make his racing debut in Europe.
Leipheimer spent 10 days of December at the team's training camp in Tucson, Arizona, and despite an illustrious career with teams like USPS, Rabobank, Gerolsteiner and Astana, he was still excited about pulling on another new jersey. "It was great. As far as training goes, it was low key. It was mainly about getting together, meeting new riders, sponsors and getting our new bikes and equipment," he said to Cyclingnews.
"There were lots of logistical things to get out of the way so we can start the new year dialled in."
Unlike his experience at Rabobank and Gerolsteiner, Leipheimer will be racing alongside Lance Armstrong once again, as they he did in Astana colours last year. Leipheimer is still taken aback by how much publicity and media interest the seven-time Tour winner receives.
"The biggest difference was having Lance around and the attention on the team, there's a lot more media. Everything that goes on around him and Livestrong requires a lot more work than anything I've ever seen before. He's a busy guy, but RadioShack wouldn't be a team without Lance."
Despite the media distractions, Leipheimer reaffirmed his racing goals and confirmed that the Tour of California is his biggest goal of the season. But with a new race date, the American has had to restructure his training programme. Leipheimer is one of the best riders at starting out strongly in the season, yet May’s new race date has meant that he has started 2010 in a much slower fashion, shying away from an early peak in form.
"I have to structure my season differently and am starting out a little slower and in Europe. I can't be in the same form I was in February as I was in previous years. That means I'm not training as hard right now."
"I've trained very consistently for the last four year. I can handle a bigger training load more, the older you get the more you can do. I don't know if that's a mental or a physical thing, but I seem to be able to knock out the training more easily in my head and in my body. That's fun. I love to get out there and do rides that seem daunting when you're looking at them but when you're done you feel like you've really accomplished something. I like that part of my job."
- Article published:
- January 16, 2010, 18:10
- Cycling News
Doctors see good chances of recovery
Matthias Kessler was not wearing a helmet when he crashed earlier this week on Majorca. The German has been placed in an induced coma, but the outlook for his recovery is better now.
His father Karlheinz and brother Andreas have flown to Majorca. Karlheinz Kessler confirmed that his son was not wearing a helmet when he swerved to avoid a cat and crashed head-first into a wall, suffering a fractured skull.
The 30-year-old underwent surgery to have blood clots removed and was subsequently placed in an induced coma to facilitate recovery. "The doctors are confident that he will recover," said the father to the Nürnrberger Nachrichten newspaper.
Spanish sources say that Kessler is still in critical condition.
Kessler served a two-year suspension for doping, and hoped to return to the peloton. "He was planning to come back to the sport again," Karlheinz Kessler said. He had not signed a contract for the current season but was said to have a verbal agreement with several teams.