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Second Edition Cycling News, Saturday, March 16, 2013

Date published:
March 16, 2013, 0:00 GMT
  • BMC’s big guns ready to fire at Milan-San Remo

    Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team)
    Article published:
    March 16, 2013, 12:16 GMT
    Peter Cossins

    Gilbert and Hushovd both say they are in better shape than last year

    Most of the pre-Milan-San Remo talk may be focusing on Peter Sagan, especially in the wake of the comments made by Fabian Cancellara, but there are plenty of other potential contenders for the title, including as many as three at BMC Racing.

    Thor Hushovd, Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet all said they were in great shape when they met the press at their team hotel on Friday evening. Asked about the possibility of the team perhaps having too many leaders, Hushovd replied, “I think it’s good because it gives us options.”

    The Norwegian’s long battle against a debilitating virus began at this point last season, but Hushovd believes he’s now getting back to the kind of form that he enjoyed two years before he joined BMC.

    “It feels nice to be here and healthy. I feel like I’m back to normal. During Tirreno I felt like I’d rediscovered my level from a couple of years back and I’m really looking forward to the race. I know with these legs I can be in the hunt for San Remo,” he said.

    Gilbert also said he was in better shape than last year, although he prefaced his insight into San Remo with an apologetic explanation of comments he had made about the Lion of Flanders being waved at the World Championships. Speaking in French and then in Flemish, the world champion said: “You all know there’s been some polemic. I regret the way in which those words came out. I neglected to re-read the article and I authorised it and it was my fault. I...

  • Cavendish: it's going to take a miracle to beat Sagan

    Tirreno-Adriatico leader Mark Cavendish lets loose with the bubbly.
    Article published:
    March 16, 2013, 13:24 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Manxman sticks to early-season message ahead of Milan-San Remo

    Mark Cavendish has never known a Milan-San Remo build-up quite like this one. Right back to his much-anticipated (and victorious) debut in 2009, the Manxman has been at the centre of attention in the weeks leading up to La Classicissima but this time around, he has been able to fly largely under the radar.

    The reason? Ever since joining Omega Pharma-QuickStep at the beginning of the season, Cavendish has told anyone who will listen that Milan-San Remo is no longer a major goal, explaining that the evolution of the race in the years since the climb of Le Manie was introduced in 2008 means that the odds are now stacked against the pure sprinters.

    “It’s not a goal for me this year. I’ll ride it in the hope of winning but not necessarily planning on winning,” Cavendish told reporters in Cinisello Balsamo, just north of Milan, on Friday evening. “We’ve got a strong team here, we’ve got lots and lots of different options which is really good, and that’s given me the most relaxed week I’ve had between Tirreno and San Remo.”

    Given the strength of his team and his insistence in 2009 that he was at Milan-San Remo purely for experience, few are willing to completely write off Cavendish’s chances, but his repeated declarations over the opening weeks of the season have certainly lifted the usual weight of expectation that has traditionally surrounded him.

    As world champion at Sky, Cavendish’s every move was scrutinised in the run-in to Milan-San Remo last year. That came on the back of being the figurehead for the...

  • Moser to support Sagan in Milan-San Remo

    Moreno Moser (Cannondale) wins the 2013 Strade Bianche in style
    Article published:
    March 16, 2013, 15:28 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Italy expects from Strade Bianche winner

    Seven years on from the last Italian victory at Milan-San Remo, a nation turns its lonely eyes to youth ahead of this year’s edition of the race, as Moreno Moser (Cannondale) makes his debut in the first monument of the season.

    Fresh from victory in Strade Bianche and flanking pre-race favourite Peter Sagan, expectations are high for the Trento native, and Italian cycling’s penchant for nostalgia has only added to the sense of anticipation around Moser’s San Remo bow: his uncle Francesco won the race in 1984, albeit at his 12th attempt and under the controversial guidance of Dr. Francesco Conconi.

    The younger Moser only turned 22 last Christmas, however, and in spite of his fine start to the current campaign, he was keen to put things in perspective at the Cannondale pre-race press conference in Milan.

    “It’s my first Milan-San Remo, it’s a 300km race and that’s a distance I’ve never tackled in my life before, so I don’t know what my hopes are really,” Moser said. “I’d just like to be competitive in the finale and be able to help Peter. If I’m still in the race after the Poggio and able to help Peter win, then that would be a successful San Remo for me.”

    Although Moser had caught the eye last season with wins at the Trofeo Laigueglia and Tour of Poland, it was his tub-thumping win at Strade Bianche two weeks ago ahead of his teammate Sagan that catapulted his name into the list of contenders for La Classicissima.

    “I suppose I have a lot more expectations than I did before Strade Bianche,” Moser conceded. “Milan-San Remo is the Olympus...

  • Video: Cancelllara has cards to play at Milan-San Remo

    Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard)
    Article published:
    March 16, 2013, 16:55 GMT
    Cycling News

    RadioShack leader on his love of La Classicissim

    All the attention may have turned towards the simmering rivalry between Fabian Cancellara and Peter Sagan in recent days, but the RadioShack leader is in determined mood to prove that he can win another Classic.

    Cancellara has an enviable record in La Classicissima with one win (2008) and two second places (2011 and 2012). Despite enduring a difficult 2012 due to injury, the 2013 campaign has been sluggish too. Yet to win a race, he was outfought by Sagan and his teammate Moreno Moser in last month’s Strade Bianche but while the form book may point to Sagan win, Cancellara remains one of the strongest favouites for tomorrow’s race.

    In this exclusive video interview with Cyclingnews, Cancellara describes his San Remo win from 2008 and what makes the race so endearingly special for him.

    Importantly, he also stresses that he has a number of cards to play with the ability to attack on the Poggio, the following descent or even waiting for the sprint. All are options he shares with Sagan.

  • Gilbert denies allegations of cortisone use at Lotto

    Philippe Gilbert (Lotto Omega Pharma)
    Article published:
    March 16, 2013, 17:31 GMT
    Cycling News

    Belgian accused of using cortisone to boost performance

    Philippe Gilbert has denied allegations published in Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad that he used cortisone to enhance his performance during his time at the Lotto team. Currently at BMC, Gilbert raced for Lotto from 2009 to 2011 and won six classics in his three seasons at the Belgian squad.

    The NRC Handelsblad report cites an anonymous former Lotto teammate who stated that Gilbert received cortisone on prescription from Lotto doctor Jan Mathieu with the aim of boosting his performance. The use of cortisone is forbidden unless the rider holds a therapeutic use exemption stating that he is taking it to treat an injury.

    “Gilbert often raced on cortisone and I know that from Jan Mathieu himself. I received cortisone from Mathieu, supposedly on prescription and he told me that he did the same thing with Gilbert,” the source told NRC Handelsblad.

    Gilbert opted to respond to the NRC allegations in writing. “I’ve always done my job in a serious manner and in the best way possible,” he said. “I won big races both before and after my years at Lotto, and for the most part in the same fashion. I hope that says enough about it.”

    It was also reported that Jan Mathieu, who is still the doctor at Lotto-Belisol, admitted that he had used cortisone to treat injuries at Lotto but insisted that he was not complicit in concocting injuries for the purposes of producing falsified TUEs for riders. “It might be that a rider came to me claiming to be really injured,” Mathieu said.

    The abuse of cortisone and its use as a performance-enhancing substance is one of the chief concerns of the Movement for Credible Cycling’s (MPCC), which requires that its member teams do not field riders while they hold therapeutic use exemptions for cortisone. MPCC teams undergo four random tests per season for...

  • Boonen limits expectations at Milan-San Remo

    Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quickstep)
    Article published:
    March 16, 2013, 18:50 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Belgian making up for time ahead of cobbled classics

    Tom Boonen’s combination of endurance and finishing speed seems the embodiment of the qualities required by a Milan-San Remo winner, yet success on the Italian Riviera has always eluded him, with podium finishes in 2007 and 2010 the best he has to show from 10 appearances in the race.

    Speaking to reporters in Cinisello Balsamo on Friday evening, Boonen downplayed his chances of breaking his Milan-San Remo hoodoo this time around also, and insisted that his principal aim for the 300km race is simply to build his condition for the cobbled Classics after a troubled off-season.

    Winner of the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Gent-Wevelgem last spring, Boonen’s annus mirabilis was followed by the health problems that plagued his winter. First, he was laid low by an intestinal infection in December and, more seriously, surgery on an elbow infection delayed the beginning of his 2013 campaign, but after grinding his way through a tough Paris-Nice, Boonen is hopeful that perhaps he is himself again.

    “It’s the next step in the evolution,” Boonen said of Milan-San Remo. “It’s not the biggest objective of the Spring Classics, but I’d like to do a good race on Sunday. I’m starting to feel good and feel my normal self again and it’s about time, eh?

    “I have no goals set up but I’ll just try to do as good as possible. It will already be a very successful race if I pass the Poggio with the first group, but of course in the back of your mind, you’re thinking about a little bit more and I have good memories of this race.”

    Boonen acknowledged, however, that achieving a little bit more is a rather big ask given the presence of the in-form Peter Sagan (Cannondale). The Slovak is the firm favourite to triumph on the Lungomare Italo Calvino...

  • Thomas: Sky are ready for Milan-San Remo

    Geraint Thomas and Greg Van Avermaet
    Article published:
    March 16, 2013, 19:50 GMT
    Cycling News

    Altitude training ahead of Italian Classic

    Team Sky will be hoping that their new approach to the Spring Classics holds them in good stead when they line up on the start of Milan-San Remo on Sunday morning. The British team’s Classics squad shunned the typical warm-up races of Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice in favour of altitude training in Tenerife in a bid to bring their stage race dominance to the one-day arena.

    Led by Edvald Boasson Hagen and Geraint Thomas, Sky is hoping to improve on the Milan-San Remo form book, with Juan Antonio Flecha – now of Vacansoleil – posting the team's best result of 18th 2010. In the last two years, Edvald Boasson Hagen has been the team’s top finisher, with 25th place last year.

    However, it’s perhaps Thomas who poses Sky’s greatest threat for Sunday’s monument, albeit assuming he can transfer his altitude training legs to the Capi of La Classicissima.

    “I think physically we’ll be a lot more conditioned and a lot more ready for it. But with the Classics, it’s more than just being fit. It’s not just riding up a hill and the fastest man wins. There’s tactics and being in the right place at the right time. It’s quite technical and there’s luck too with punctures and crashes and all that sort of stuff. It’s definitely the best prepared we’ve been as a whole as a team. So hopefully with a bit of luck we can get something out of it,” Thomas said on Team Sky’s website.

    Sky’s decision to move their Classics riders into isolated training mode means their form is somewhat of a mystery. Thomas claimed fourth in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last month though, a results that...

  • Directeur sportif poll picks Sagan to win Milan-San Remo

    The first time up the Sant'Elpidio a Mare and Peter Sagan does the paperboy
    Article published:
    March 16, 2013, 20:33 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Hushovd emerges as a dark horse

    A straw poll amongst directeur sportifs has picked Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling Team) as the big favourite to win Milan-San Remo, with Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing Team) as a dark horse who could emerge in the expected rain and cold.

    Cyclingnews spoke to several directeur sportifs after their pre-race meeting in Milan on Saturday afternoon. Just like their riders, the men who will be in the team cars looked to put pressure on Sagan and his Cannondale team to control the race, in the hope the Slovakian will be isolated and tired by the time the race is decided on Poggio and in the streets of San Remo.

    The directeur sportifs have studied the weather, the race route and the form of the pre-race favourites, with many predicting that the expected cold and rain will mean the winner of Milan-San Remo will emerge from a small group of riders and not decided by a mass sprint.

    Despite having the previous two winners in his team, Australia's Neil Stephens (Orica-GreenEdge) picked Peter Sagan, perhaps trying to take the pressure off his own riders.

    "I'll say Sagan will win from a small group, with [Mark] Cavendish winning the bunch sprint ahead of Gossy (Matt Goss)," he told Cyclingnews.

    Valerio Piva (Katusha) also tipped Sagan. "I think there will be as few as three riders in the front group and Sagan will win it," he said.

    Argos-Shimano team manager Iwan Spekenbrink also picked Sagan. "He'll win, but I think it could be from of 30 riders. People have perhaps overlooked us, but John Degenkolb and Simon Geschke are both going well," he warned.

    Charly Wegelius (Garmin-Sharp) did not pick Sagan, naming Thor Hushovd as his favourite after seeing the Norwegian in action at Tirreno-Adriatico. "If the weather is as bad as people...