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Second Edition Cycling News, Saturday, March 27, 2010

Date published:
March 27, 2010, 22:00
  • Rollin hoping to ace second Classics test

    Dominique Rollin (Cervelo Test Team)
    Article published:
    March 27, 2010, 10:20
    Richard Tyler

    Canadian strongman pleased with condition after Paris-Nice

    In his sophomore season at the Classics, Cervelo's Dominique Rollin faces a heavy spring schedule as he supports his team's goal of a victory at the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix. While he is yet to be confirmed for Flanders, Rollin will form part of the team's roster for E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem, Scheldeprijs-Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix.

    With Thor Hushovd being touted as one of the favourites for Roubaix, Rollin is hopeful his debut there will be made even more memorable.

    "A success for the team would be a victory at either Flanders or Roubaix," he told Cyclingnews at the team's Classics base on the outskirts of Gent. "Unfortunately, Heino's [Heinrich Haussler] knee injury it's not helping us, but with Thor and the legs he's shown in Milan-San Remo I think we can still win one big Classic. Hopefully Roubaix, and have something good for Flanders."

    Rollin is enthusiastic about his condition coming into the Classics and is hopeful he will also get the call up to race on the first Sunday in April.

    "Flanders is still a big question mark,” he said. “I think the team like to keep the suspense. It'd be a bummer not to do Flanders, but it won't be a surprise if I'm not as I'd never been scheduled in for it. But it'd be great to be there to help the team. I've got great fitness this year compared to last year, and more confidence.

    "Last year I didn't know what I was stepping into,” he admitted. “Now, I've started to know the climbs, I know the run-ins, where to fight and where to relax. I'm more comfortable."

    His confidence received a boost last month when he finished fifth at this year's brutal Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. He then continued his preparation for the spring's major races at Paris-Nice, a decision that appeared to justify itself at Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen.

    "I think a hard race like Paris-Nice this year, with the speed and intensity on the climbs has just got me fine tuned for the Classics," he said. "Since then I've been feeling really comfortable.

    "Going up the Cote de Trieu (Knokteberg) I was setting the pace in the field and the guys told me after the race, 'what the heck were you doing? You were going so fast', I said 'I don't know, I was just trying to survive'," he said with a grin. "So it seems I could be a bit stronger than I thought. I just have to try to not get overwhelmed by it and waste energy for no reason."

    Despite his increasing familiarity the northern European races, Rollin believes Cervelo's experienced leadership group remains its biggest asset in terms of dealing with the unique challenges so often presented on the pave.

    "On paper we're not one of the strongest teams, but we're one of the most united and knowledgeable with Roger Hammond, Jeremy Hunt, Andreas Klier and Thor. They all know those roads and those races by heart,” he said. “It helps orientate the rest of us so we can be there when we're needed."

    His first assignment will be at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen on Saturday and Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. Although a tough double-header, the 27-year-old said his team can afford to push for a result without impacting their chances at Flanders.

    "We're not doing Three Days of De Panne, so with a week in between we can go full on this weekend and we've got a good six days to recover and do some more work,” he said. “It'll be fun to see who went too deep on Saturday and can't make it through on Sunday.

    "The weather's supposed to be windy so it may be like last year where a group goes away by the coast," added Rollin.

  • Jeremy still in the Hunt 14 years after debut

    Jeremey Hunt (Cervelo TestTeam)
    Article published:
    March 27, 2010, 10:45
    Daniel Benson

    Hunt can still sprint regardless of retirement thoughts

    Jeremy Hunt is in his 15th season as a professional and 36-year-old looks more settled than ever as he embarks on another batch of Belgium races this weekend. The Cervelo rider will start both E3 Prijs and Gent-Wevelgem, and will throw all his effort into supporting team leaders Thor Hushovd and Theo Bos. It’s a far cry from the Hunt that burst onto the scene in 1996 as a young sprinter for Miguel Indurain’s Banesto team.

    “I’m here to help Thor win, so we’ll try and win with him. We’ll see how we go but we’re looking strong as a team,” Hunt said at the team’s base in Melle, Belgium.

    In his career Hunt has ridden for many teams but his love for the Classics started in 2004 when he signed for a Belgian team and rode alongside Frank Vandenbrouke, Jo Planckaert and Roger Hammond.

    “I discovered the Classics with and realised I wanted to do them,” he said. “It got me back on my back and gave me more ambition, and then I found this team where you can be a good helper for some of the best riders in the world.”

    Hunt turned professional in 1996. At the time the amateur had a choice between the Banesto team and waiting one year and signing with Motorola as a stagiere. The choice was an easy one and Hunt went to Spain. In hindsight it was the best move with Motorola folding at the end of 1996.

    “I went to one of the best teams in the world and rode with Indurain but since then I’ve just ridden my bike and enjoyed it as much as I can.”

    “When you’re watching guys like Indurain on television at the age of 15 and then you turn pro with them, it’s like turning pro now and riding with Lance,” he added. “Maybe a bit different because there was no internet then, so you’d just watch them on television during the Tour de France. There weren’t different levels of racing like there are now, just pros and amateurs. Indurain was a hero so it was scary, you didn’t know what to do but it was great to be in that team.”

    In his first two seasons Hunt won over 10 races, claiming wins over the best sprinters in the world and taking stages on the Tour de l’Avenir. Those legs may have slowed a bit when it comes to sprinting but Hunt is still confident that given the chance, he can still surprise people with his kick.

    “I can win a sprint against some of the sprinters out there,” he said. “If Thor is leading me out then I can beat them. I can’t be Cavendish, Thor or Heinrich but I can beat the guys finishing fifth and sixth.

    “I always wanted to be a Classics rider,” Hunt said. “But I went to Banesto and became a sprinter but I didn’t want to be in that mould. Sprinting was the way I won races but I could always climb and sprint and I would have rather come to a team like this if I could have my time again.”

    Hunt has raced all over Europe since his time Spain, but naturally matured as a rider in that time.

    “You get stronger and you know how to race. But my role is different now to the Hunt back then,” he said. “Now there are two captains in the team and it’s about getting them to the finish first. It’s not about dreaming about one day winning Flanders. I’m 36, I would have done it already if it was going to happen now.

    “I can still win a bunch sprint,” he said. “I’ve done it for the last few years but would I rather see Thor and the others win or get third or fourth?”

    With time beginning to catch up with him Hunt admitted that retirement has crossed his mind but that it won’t happen just yet. Not while he’s still able to do a job for the team.

    “I don’t want to be riding around making up the numbers,” he said. “I’m still racing, I’m still there, doing a job. Last week my job was to lead into the Cipressa with Thor and I did it. As long as I can keep doing that I’ll be here.”

    So expect to see Hunt doing his job again this weekend.

  • Lefevere piles on the pressure before the Flemish classics

    Team Manager Patrick Lefevere and French cyclist Sylvain Chavanel speak during the team presentation of Quick-Step.
    Article published:
    March 27, 2010, 11:26
    Cycling News

    Quick Step manager questions Devolder's fitness

    As the spring classics step up a gear with the E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem this weekend, Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere has piled the pressure on his riders in the hope they lift their performance.

    The next two weeks marks the very peak of the season for the Belgian team and anything less than another victory at either the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix would mean Quick Step's spring, and season, would considered a failure.

    While Lefevere must be happy with Tom Boonen's return to form and his second place in Milan-San Remo, the Belgian team manager picked out Stijn Devolder for criticism, using some strong words, perhaps in the hope his riders will respond with anger out on the road.

    "Next Sunday if he (Devolder) wins the Tour of Flanders again, I'll shut up, otherwise he's the one with a problem. I just hope he performs like Philippe Gilbert did last autumn," Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad report on Saturday.

    "I'm pleased that everyone thought Quick Step was weak on Wednesday (in Dwars door Vlaanderen). But I have three million euro less in my budget than five years ago, and that is making itself felt. I'm not a magician."

    Lefevere reminded his riders that many of their contract end this year and that four major teams are still without sponsors for 2011.

    "I was told that I definitely had to keep Kevin Van Impe but I've noted that he is not up there. But I'm not nervous. It's the riders who have to be nervous. 20 of the 27 riders (at Quick Step) are out of contract and I see that there are four teams without a sponsor for next season. I have time. I am not obliged by circumstances, I don’t have to sign anyone before the Tour de France."

    True to character, Devolder shrugged off the pressure from his boss.

    "I'm not really worried," he said. "At Dwars Vlaanderen I was unfortunate to be too far back. I'd also done a big block of training that only ended on Sunday. I saw that Fabian Cancellara had been trying to stir things up between me and Boonen at Tirreno-Adriatico but we had a good laugh about it on Wednesday night. It's no big deal."

  • On the start line of E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke

    Roger Hammond (Cervelo)
    Article published:
    March 27, 2010, 12:38
    Cycling News

    Images from the start line in Harelbeke, Beligium

    The start of E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke was awash with colour on Saturday morning as some of cycling’s elite descended on the sleepy Belgian town. Click here for a gallery of images.

    The riders were greeted with perfect spring-time weather, with just a few clouds hovering overhead. The peloton face a 210 kilometre slog, with 12 short but steep climbs before the finish back in Harelbeke.

    However one rider who didn’t take the start was Thor Hushovd (Cervelo). The Norwegian pulled out through illness.

    The race still contains most of the Classics stars with four-time winner Tom Boonen looking for revenge over Katusha's Filippo Pozzato, who beat him in a thrilling finish here last year.

  • Vino and Contador join forces for Criterium International

    United: Astana's captains, Contador and Vinokourov in Pisa, Italy
    Article published:
    March 27, 2010, 13:41
    Jean-François Quénet

    Astana leaders ride together in Corsica

    This weekend's Critérium International race sees Alberto Contador and Alexandre Vinokourov on the same start list and in the same team for the first time since the 2006 Tour de France in Strasbourg, when both riders were unable to start the race after several of their teammates were implicated in Operacion Puerto.

    At the time Vinokourov was team leader and Contador just a talented young rider. Now their roles have changed drastically, after Vinokourov failed a blood test in the 2007 Tour de France and Contador went on to win the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.

    "Contador used to be at my service and now it's the opposite," Vinokourov told Cyclingnews before lining up with the Spaniard at the Critérium International on the island of Corsica on Saturday. "Vinokourov and I have an excellent relationship," said Contador, as they got set to ride together and take on new rival Lance Armstrong in the two-day, three-stage race.

    Contador recently won Paris-Nice while Vinokourov had a pretty quiet Tirreno-Adriatico. The Kazakh was tenth on stage two but crashed the following day and hurt his left elbow. "The injury affected me a bit," he said. "I couldn't pull on the handlebar on steep climbs. But I've recovered and it hasn't delayed my training since the end of the race. It hasn't changed my schedule. Milan-San Remo wasn't part of it anyway because there are a lot of risks that don't make it worth it for me."

    The Critérium International was always on Vinokourov's race schedule even before Contador changed his. "It was great news when Alberto said he wanted to do this race instead of the Tour of Catalunya. It's our first race together this year and it's a good opportunity to work on our team tactics," Vino said. "It's a very difficult race with big teams competing. It's perfect for testing our legs. It's very, very good to be here together; otherwise we probably wouldn't have been on the same team until the Tour de France."

    Contador and Vinokourov now also have Liège-Bastogne-Liège on their common agenda, where the Spaniard intends to put himself at the service of the Kazakh. "I'll go to the Ardennes to get experience because I'd like to win one-day classics in the future. Unfortunately, that time of the year isn't very favourable for me because of my allergies," Contador said. After the Ardennes classics, Vinokourov will captain the Astana team at the Giro d'Italia before working for Contador at the Tour de France. "This has always been our plan and it won't change," Vino added.

    No message for Armstrong

    Contador obviously gets on better with Vinokourov than he did with Lance Armstrong last year although he insists that he's got "no message for anybody" when questioned about his rivalry with the American.

    As Vinokourov is instrumental in the running of the Astana team, as well as being a rider in it, he's "very happy" with the results of the squad so far this year despite the departure of the eight teammates Contador had alongside him at the 2009 Tour de France to Armstrong's RadioShack team. "Astana is second in the world ranking behind Caisse d'Epargne," Vino said.

    Indeed, the Kazakh squad has 195 points whereas RadioShack is in 24th place with only seven points at the same level as Footon-Servetto and Française des Jeux. Vino also underlined with pride that "Kazakhstan is in the top 10 (seventh) in the nations ranking. I'm delighted to see some of my compatriots like [Strade Bianche winner] Maxim Iglinskiy doing so well," he said.

  • Saxo Bank riders show their collective strength

    Team Saxo Bank chasing a small breakaway up front.
    Article published:
    March 27, 2010, 18:45
    Daniel Benson

    Team forgets its problems and looks set for more success in the classics

    Team Saxo Bank sent out a strong message ahead of the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix when Fabian Cancellara stormed to victory in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke. It was a victory built on teamwork with every member of the team pulling their weight to land another success.

    The team hit the front of the race en mass with 80 kilometres to go. They led the chase of a group of 24 riders and controlled the peloton as the battle to stay at the front intensified on the short, steep climbs before the finish.

    “That was the game plan,” confirmed Stuart O’Grady at the finish. "We wanted to be in a good position coming into the critical part of the race. You’ve got to take the bull by the horns in races like this.”

    At one point, as O’Grady lead the chase, he seemed to clash heads with Frederic Guesdon (Française des Jeux). “We just bounced onto each other but there was some much worse shit going on back in there. There was a lot of stuff going on.”

    At the finish Frank Hoj agreed that the team has executed their plan to perfection. “We wanted to be in the front, make the tempo and take responsibility for the race ourselves. We knew that Fabian had the legs and he was pretty motivated today. We stuck to the plan and Fabian finished it off.”

    The team hasn’t got off to the best of starts this year. The sponsor revealed it would be pulling the plug and Andy Schleck has struggled with injury. However Hoj believes that after today’s win and Matti Breschel’s win in Dwars door Vlaanderen last week, the team are starting to put a good run together.

    “In cycling timing is everything,” he said with a grin. “It’s easy to get into condition too early but I think we’ve peaked at just the right moment. We want to keep it up now with Flanders and Roubaix coming up.”

    Dominik Klemme is one of the youngest riders on the team. Sitting by the bus eating a post-race snack the German, who bears a striking resemblance to Jan Ullrich, was pleased with his day’s work. Klemme was in the day’s early break but sat up once the radio crackled with the news that Boonen had launched the attack and that Cancellara was with him. “I waited when I heard Boonen was attacking, I gave Fabian a bottle and then pulled him towards the next climb but after that I was finished. I was empty.”

    “This is just nice,” he said. “You get good morale. When racing is like this it’s just fantastic. It’s just easy.”

  • Boonen second again at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke

    Tom Boonen (Quick Step) looks disappointed after finishing second
    Article published:
    March 27, 2010, 19:10
    Richard Tyler

    Belgian Champion disappointed with result, pleased with selection

    For the second year in a row, Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was denied victory at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, when Fabian Cancellara escaped inside the final kilometre and snatch victory.

    Boonen was responsible for the three-man selection that would decide the eventual podium and was confident of then winning the sprint. Cancellara and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) were the only two riders capable of matching his powerful acceleration on the Paterberg, 162 kilometres into the race. Although disappointed that he was not able to get onto Cancellara's wheel, Boonen said his performance in the final 40 kilometres of the race was a sign that he is still well on track for his major spring objectives.

    "No, it's not the result I wanted, I like to win," Boonen said at the finish in Harelbeke. "My form is more than alright. The three strongest guys were in front, so win or lose it was close. That's a good sign."

    "The team was fantastic today. They did everything that was expected of them and did the same sort of job as at Milan-San Remo."

    A four-time winner of E3 Prijs, Boonen was denied victory in 2009, when Filippo Pozzato out-sprinted him in a one-on-one finish. This year, Pozzato finished fourth after he was unable to bridge across to the front group on the Oude Kwaremont. But Boonen refused to write off the Italian.

    "Pozzato is definitely one of the big boys too," said Boonen, paying respect to his Italian rival. "But obviously it is better for me if he's not up the front. I'd made a big effort on the Paterberg and on the Kwaremont, Cancellara was saying 'Pipo is coming, Pipo is coming', I said 'give me two minutes, I need to recover'. But once we hit the Cote de Trieu (Knokteberg) Pozzato was out of it."

    Boonen admitted to being surprised another of his Classics rivals, Thor Hushovd, had abandoned after just 14 kilometres.

    "For sure, it's not good timing for him," said Boonen. "It's strange because at the start we were just chatting to each other and then five kilometres later he wasn't there. I heard he'd dropped out from Lars Boom."

    Boonen will also start Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem, though was guarded about his expectations for the race he's won once, in 2004. "It's like every race, I'll just take it as it comes," he said.

    Asked whether the podium on Saturday was likely to be the Paris-Roubaix podium in two weeks time, Boonen's reply was succinct, "It's possible," he said wryly.

  • Cervélo's Bos excited ahead of Classics debut

    Who's the boss? Theo Bos (Cervélo TestTeam)
    Article published:
    March 27, 2010, 21:31
    Richard Tyler

    Rollin expects Bos, Reimer to show themselves at Gent-Wevelgem

    Thor Hushovd may have made an early exit from E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke with a stomach bug, but his planned omission from Cervélo's roster for Gent-Wevelgem will give the team's younger riders their chance to shine in Belgium on Sunday. Theo Bos and Martin Reimer will make their Gent-Wevelgem debuts on Sunday and for Bos in particular, the race will be his first taste of Classics.

    Despite having already recorded two victories this season, the 26-year-old Dutchman is realistic about his expectations for the race. "It's going to be a hard race for me, but I'm feeling excited and looking forward to it," he told Cyclingnews. "The legs feel okay and it's going to be a totally new experience for me: my first time in a real Belgian Classic."

    This week, Bos completed reconnaissance of some of the expected key points in the new-look Gent-Wevelgem and will enter the race fresh after sitting out Saturday's E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke.

    "E3 Prijs I think is too hard for me, even Sunday will be tough," he said. "On Thursday I went to the hills with a scooter and rode the Kemmelberg and Rode Berg. It's going to be really hard and I don't know what to expect. I'll just give it 100 per cent. I don't have expectations of being in the front group, winning a sprint or whatever. We'll just see what happens."

    Dominique Rollin, one of Bos' team-mates for the race, told Cyclingnews that his Dutch colleague will be just one of the cards the team can play this weekend. Rollin himself will be considered a strong contender for the event, but he signalled 22-year-old Reimer as another rider capable of a strong performance with fresh legs.

    "He's [Bos] been going pretty well this year. He improved his climbing and endurance a lot, so I think he'll be a really good asset to have," said Rollin. "He hasn't done any Belgian races this year and I don't think it would be clever to put all our eggs in one basket, so it's good to have some more guys ready for the Classics. But he's done a recon of the circuit behind the moto and he felt comfortable so, yeah, I think he can do something over there.

    "Martin Reimer isn't racing on Saturday, so he could be another one who can do something on Sunday," he added.