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Second Edition Cycling News, Sunday, March 28, 2010

Date published:
March 28, 2010, 23:00
  • On the start line at Criterium International

    Cadel Evans (BMC) is another overall contender
    Article published:
    March 28, 2010, 11:49
    By:
    Jeff Quénet

    Riders up early for morning road stage

    With a morning road stage and then an afternoon time trial, it was an early start for the riders at Criterium International on Sunday.

    Saturday's road stage was over 75km and was won by Britain's Russel Downing (Team Sky). Stage one winner Pierrick Fedrigo (BBox Bouygues Telecom) was third but now faces a battle to hold onto the yellow jersey in the afternoon 7.7km time trial.
     

  • Downing takes first British win for Team Sky

    Russel Downing (Team Sky) was all smiles on the podium
    Article published:
    March 28, 2010, 13:05
    By:
    Jean-François Quénet

    But mixed fortunes for Team Sky as Gerrans crashes out

    Team Sky experienced mixed fortunes in stage two of the Criterium International. Russel Downing gave Team Sky their eighth win of the season and the first by a British rider, but Simon Gerrans crashed and abandon after 25 kilometres of racing.

    Downing out sprinted HTC-Columbia’s Michael Albasini and race leader Pierrick Fédrigo, (BBox Bouygues Telecom) on the hilly finish leading up to the old town of Porto-Vecchio. “This is what I wanted to do”, a delighted Downing said. “I knew it would be a sprint with no sprinters, so it would be an open finish.”

    When Downing crossed the line, Gerrans could hear the voice of race commentator Daniel Mangeas from his hotel room. “I look like a pizza”, he joked during a phone conversation with Cyclingnews. His crash was caused by a tree. His bike was broken in two pieces but fortunately he wasn’t seriously injured. “The second team car took me straight to the hotel and the doctor cleaned me up here”, the Australian said.

    That means the high ambitions Team Sky has set for him at the Ardennes classics aren’t in jeopardy and he’ll follow the race plan that includes taking part in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in early April.

    In order to peak his form for the hilly Ardennes classics, Gerrans skipped the Santos Tour Down Under which he won in 2006, while Downing begun his ProTour career with Team Sky in Adelaide.

    "I started good”, the Englishman remembered. “The Criterium International was the first goal on my list and now the Amstel Gold Race is a big target of mine. I’ve won some 1.1 races in Belgium [the Druivenkoers in 2006] and stages all over the world but this victory is special because it’s for Team Sky”, Downing continued. “This is where I wanted to be since I’ve been riding a bike, probably since I was six years old.”

    The 31 year old was picked by Dave Brailsford and his staff after winning the Tour of Ireland last year for the CandiTV team. His runner up in Dublin was Norway’s Lars-Petter Nordhaug who also joined Sky upon request of Edvald Boasson Hagen. He proved to be an excellent lead out man for the Englishman in Corsica.

    “The boys worked for me during all the stage”, Downing said. “Two of them brought the breakaway back. Thomas (Löfkvist) rode in front of me for the last ten or fifteen kilometres. Then Lars-Petter did an amazing job. With 2km to go, I was on second or third wheel but I went back to fifteenth, that’s when Lars-Petter brought me back up to the front. I told him to jump on the HTC-Columbia train. I could see it’s gonna be close but I stayed in control for the last 200 metres.”
     

  • On the start line of Gent-Wevelgem

    Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) gets ready to go
    Article published:
    March 28, 2010, 13:10
    By:
    Cycling News

    ProTour teams come together in Deinze

    The ProTour peloton decended on Deinze, Belgium on Sunday morning for the start of Gent-Wevelgem. Cyclingnews was on location to capture these images of the scene.

    The first Belgian race of the International Cycling Union's (UCI) world calendar, the semi-Classic will see the riders make a 219km journey across Flanders and back into the centre of Wevelgem.

    Last year, Edvald Boasson Hagen took victory for Columbia-Highroad, after he and Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas) escaped on the Kemmelberg. Twelve months on the race is a different beast, with 14 climbs added to the twin ascents of the Kemmel.

  • Cancellara becomes the big favourite for the Tour of Flanders

    Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) strikes again
    Article published:
    March 28, 2010, 13:44
    By:
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Saxo Bank rider shows his form with win at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke

    A week before the Tour of Flanders, Fabian Cancellara has stepped up and taken the role of favorite for the 'Ronde' by winning the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen – Harelbeke, traditionally the key warm-up race on the cobbled climbs of Flanders.

    And after his emphatic victory, it's a role the Swiss champion happily accepts. He hasn't made a secret of his desire to win the Tour of Flanders. "I'm very proud that I can win my first proper race in Belgium, since my other victory here came in a time trial. Now I'm even more determined to do well next Sunday. I'm in good form and hopefully that will still be the case in a week time. The team did a great job and adding this to our win on Wednesday [Matti Breschel won Dwars door Vlaanderen] we can be proud," Cancellara stated after E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke

    Sixty kilometres from the finish in Harelbeke things weren't looking that great for Cancellara as he suddenly ended up lying on the ground. "I crashed at the foot of the Taaienberg. I made a jump and landed on Nick Nuyens (Rabobank) who caused the crash. It was a bad situation at a bad moment because the Taaienberg is usually the climb where Tom Boonen unleashes his devils. I remained calm and with help from the team I managed to return to the front," Cancellara said.

    From that moment on the 29 year-old Saxo Bank rider managed to stay near Tom Boonen who was showed his own excellent form on the cobbled climbs. On the 20% slopes of the cobbled Paterberg climb, with forty kilometres to go, Boonen, Cancellara and Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) blasted away from the peloton and after the long cobbled Oude Kwaremont climb that came just after, it was clear that the three would fight for the win in Harelbeke. Especially after a late counter-attack from Italian champion Filippo Pozzato was repelled with some surges by all three riders on the front.

    "We wanted to make him suffer," Cancellara said of Pozzato. "We didn't talk a lot but everybody is in contact with their teams via the race radio so I assume everybody knew what the situation was. During the race we're rivals but after the race we're friends."

    Perfectly timed late attack

    With Boonen by far the fastest of the three, Cancellara realised that if he wanted to win he had to avoid a sprint finish. The Olympic time trial champion unleashed his power and aggression just before the last kilometre. The small gap he carved out did not look enough at first but then grew bigger as both Boonen and Flecha didn't have the speed and strength in their legs to pull back the strong Swiss rider.

    "Tom is strong in the sprint and Flecha can attack too. Waiting for the sprint was the easy option. I choose to risk something. That way, if I lost I would at least be able to know that I tried everything. I saw that Flecha showed signs of fatigue so I attacked when he was on my wheel," Cancellara said.

    The Swiss champion had a late scare when he misjudged a left-hand corner but so did Boonen and Flecha. "I was surprised by the corner. The last kilometre had changed here but I don't think the outcome would have been different on the old course."

    The win in Harelbeke was well a special moment for Cancellara and makes him a big favourite for the Tour of Flanders. However he will now head home to Switzerland to train and prepare for the biggest week of his season on home roads.

    "We're in Flanders' holy week and every race here is important. I've got a nice win in the pocket and that's important. At the end of the week one looks back and checks what has been scored, so this victory is a good one to start with. After this weekend I'm returning home to relax and train."

    And no doubt get 100% ready to ride another aggressive race at the Tour of Flanders.

     

  • Eisel relishes Gent-Wevelgem glory

    Bernhard Eisel (HTC - Columbia) celebrates his victory in Gent - Wevelgem.
    Article published:
    March 28, 2010, 18:56
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    HTC-Columbia rider pays respect to mentors Hincapie and Guesdon

    Bernhard Eisel claimed the biggest victory of his ten-year professional career and secured HTC-Columbia's second consecutive victory at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.

    Eisel triumphed after a drawn-out sprint from a group of five riders. As the strongest sprinter in the late-race move, everyone else was riding against him but the 29-year-old made no mistake. He stayed protected in the final kilometre and then opened his sprint with 200 metres to go, beating Sep Vermarcke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator) and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto).

    "What can I say, it’s my first big one and I’m so happy," said an elated Eisel immediately after crossing the line in Wevelgem. "I was really strong today but I was lucky and smart too. I always kept going."

    The Austrian was one of nine riders able to match Matti Breschel's acceleration on the final ascent of the Kemmelberg. That group was whittled down in the final 35 kilometres with Breschel suffering the misfortune of a puncture and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) falling off the pace.

    "I'm sorry for him [Breschel], the cars in front of our group flicked some stones onto the road and unfortunately he punctured, there were five riders chasing so we couldn't stop and wait for him," explained Eisel.

    "The group I was in was a really, really good group of riders, there's a lot of respect there," he added.

    Eisel chose to mark Daniel Oss (Liquigas) in the finale, but his race-winning sprint was eventually led out by former-teammate, Hincapie, who finished fourth. Still close friends, Eisel admitted the two hadn't had too much time to make small talk during the race.

    "Oss was the fastest after me. I saw George coming across, I looked up and thought 'oh, it's still a long way to go'," he said. "It was a bit strange [racing with George today]. I gave him a gel with about 20 kilometres to go because he was hungry, but I think that's the only thing we talked about the whole day. We're still good friends, we'll probably be texting each other tonight," he said.

    Eisel will continue his programme at the Classics where he will "remain focused on the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix," but he will soon return to protecting and leading out Mark Cavendish, a role he says he is happy to fill.

    "I have the power and I'm quick enough, but I'm not aerodynamic enough for the Grand Tours. It's something I need to work on; I'm too big and too high," he said with a laugh. "I had my chance and he's the fastest sprinter in the team. If Mark is here [at Gent-Wevelgem] next year I'll be happy."

    Busy weekend

    Sunday's result bore little resemblance to that of the previous day at E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke, with riders and teams carefully choosing their objective and their effort. Eisel said the busy calendar with two tough races back-to-back on the same weekend, made it risky for riders and teams to be too ambitious.

    "We need a year that's 700 days long. I think it's important to switch the races around to keep them alive, but not make them all super hard," he said "For us [HTC-Columbia] we're racing here, Criterium International and Catalunya. These days you need a team of 40 riders and no one can afford that. It shows because there were completely different riders in the front group today than there were yesterday."

    After winning the race he first contested in 2003, but has now only finished twice, Eisel thanked his teammates, both past and present. He made a particular point of thanking former La Française des Jeux teammate and 1997 Paris-Roubaix Champion Frédéric Guesdon for his role as a mentor in the formative years of his career.

    "Everybody in the team works together, we have a good relationship. This morning in our team meeting it was said I was the captain; you saw how well we share things with Lars Bak attacking. I have to thank Matty Goss and Hayden Roulston, they did an amazing job. I have to also thank Frédéric Gudeson and Hincapie for showing me how to [win]."

  • Farrar draws on positives at Gent-Wevelgem

    Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Transitions)
    Article published:
    March 28, 2010, 20:19
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    Garmin-Transitions sprinter left to rue tactical error on Mont Noir

    Tyler Farrar recorded his second top-ten result of the 2010 Classics season, with a ninth place finish at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday afternoon. Despite being unable to match last month's podium success at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the American Garmin-Transitions rider said he is pleased with the progression he has shown in the Classics this year.

    "The Classics were a huge objective for me. The first thing I always dreamed of was being a Classics rider. I'm doing my best to try and do it," he said after finishing as part of a six-man group that crossed the line 1:01 behind race winner Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Columbia).

    "I was so far in the red chasing back on that if we'd have caught them with four or five to go, I don't think I would have had the legs to really sprint. It's a pity; it would have been really exciting. This, of all the Classics, was the one I was really targeting this year."

    Farrar was pleased with his condition before and during Sunday's race, but missed a decisive move on the ascent of the Mont Noir, with 48 kilometres to go. His hesitation saw him forced to join forces with Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank), Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone) and Christian Knees (Milram) in a desperate, though ultimately unsuccessful, pursuit of the race-winning group.

    "I was super motivated and I had fantastic legs. I missed the move when the group went away on the Mont Noir, I was in a group of 35 and I thought, 'Oh, they're not going to let the group go so easy'. I thought the group I was in was a little bit stronger, but the front group wouldn't let go," he explained.

    "I tried to go across on the Rodeberg, but I couldn't go across on my own so I just sat up. Then I tried to go across on the Monteberg and the Kemmelberg with Knees and Paolini. We were just killing ourselves to get across. I thought when Breschel flatted (and dropped back), then maybe that was our chance to come back, but it wasn't quite enough. With the tailwind it's so hard to make up ground."

    Although he missed an opportunity to affect the final outcome of the race, Farrar was pleased with his increasingly consistent presence at the front of the spring's races.

    "It's something new for me being up there in those front groups and I'm still learning," he said. "I'm normally hiding in the group waiting for the sprint so it's a little exciting to be up in the front. It would have been nice if we could have come back."

    Farrar will continue his Classics campaign next week at the Tour of Flanders. It will be the 25-year-old's first participation since 2008 and the third of his career. He was reserved about his expectations for the event, with several strong contenders already listed on the Garmin roster.

    "I think [Martijn] Maaskant and [Johan] Vansummeren are favourites for Flanders, but I'll do my best and we'll see what happens," he said.
     

  • Millar to debut in Paris-Roubaix

    A brilliant win for David Millar (Garmin - Transitions).
    Article published:
    March 28, 2010, 20:28
    By:
    Jean-François Quénet

    Winner of Criterium International time trial head to the Classics

    David Millar claimed the sixteenth official win of his career in the individual time at the Criterium International, in Porto-Vecchio, Corsica.

    It was his first win since a time trial at last year’s Vuelta a Espana in Toledo, and his first success since getting married.

    “I was very tired after the end of Paris-Nice”, he said after winning on the Mediterranean island.

    “On Thursday I felt horrible on the bike, so I wasn’t confident.” The climb up to the Ospedale on Saturday reassured him as he finished within ten seconds of the favourites for the overall victory.

    “Today I rode like a junior”, he said with satisfaction. He followed the advice of Christian Vande Velde who told him to ride every time trial the same way, whatever the distance. His American team-mate from Garmin-Transitions told him on the phone that he should “always stay over the limit” over such a short race.

    As he is in form Millar will look at repeating his French success in Belgium next week. He’ll find another time trial at his convenience at the Three Days of De Panne but that will only be the beginning of his campaign in northern Europe. For the first time in his career he’ll take part in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

    “I went to Paris-Roubaix as a spectator last year and I said to myself that I shouldn’t quit cycling without riding it”, the 33-year-old said. “This race fascinates me so much.”

     

  • Hincapie files another fine Classics performance

    George Hincapie (BMC) looking a bit shell shocked after the race.
    Article published:
    March 29, 2010, 00:31
    By:
    Richard Tyler

    BMC captain fourth at Gent-Wevelgem, still building form

    Sixteen years after his first participation in Gent-Wevelgem, George Hincapie added his sixth top-five performance at the Belgian race when he finished fourth on Sunday. The BMC captain rode strongly throughout the day and entered the final 10 kilometres of the race as part of the six-rider group that contained race winner, Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Columbia).

    Despite his apparent strength, the 36-year-old Classics stalwart admitted afterwards that he is still to reach peak form after several bouts of illness already this year. "I didn't have super legs today, but I can feel my form's coming back," said Hincapie. "After Tirreno-Adriatico I'm slowly getting back to where I should be."

    Hincapie has now completed the event 13 times since 1994, with an enviable record of six top-five finishes, including victory in 2001. Heading into the final kilometre today in the company for former team-mate, Eisel, and Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Hincapie chose to open the sprint early in the hope he could get the jump on his opponents.

    "I knew that Eisel was watching Gilbert," explained Hincapie of his move 400 metres from the line. "I wanted to risk it and see if one of them would let me go, but I didn't have the gas for the final metres."

    Hincapie was one of a number of the top-placed riders to comment on Matti Breschel's (Saxo Bank) puncture as the race made its final approach into Wevelgem. "That was unfortunate," he said. "In my opinion Matti was the strongest guy in the race."

    Hincapie will continue his 2010 Classics campaign next weekend at the Tour of Flanders.