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Second Edition Cycling News, Sunday, March 31, 2013

Date published:
March 31, 2013, 0:00 GMT
  • Start gallery: Tour of Flanders

    A wall of noise greeted Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) before the start.
    Article published:
    March 31, 2013, 12:22 BST
    Cycling News

    Huge crowds gather in Bruges

    The start of the Tour of Flanders is like no other in cycling, and huge crowds gathered in Bruges on Sunday morning to cheer on the contenders for De Ronde.

    As ever, the most raucous roars were for reserved for Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), but the Belgian champion’s race would prove to be short-lived. The peloton had scarcely left Bruges when Boonen was involved in a crash and forced to abandon.

    Boonen’s ill fortune will have disappointed his legions of fans, but for all of their partisan support, the passion of the Flemish public is universal. Home contenders like Stijn Devolder (RadioShack Leopard), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) can always rely on vocal encouragement, but so too can the visitors such as Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) and Filippo Pozzato (Lampre Merida).

    The great race is 100 years old in 2013, and on the evidence of Sunday morning in Bruges, the enthusiasm of the Flemish people for the Tour of Flanders remains undimmed.

  • Van Avermaet regrets Gilbert's absence at Tour of Flanders

    Greg Van Avermaet (Team BMC)
    Article published:
    March 31, 2013, 12:55 BST
    Cycling News

    Belgian hopes for aggressive race ahead of Oudenaarde finale

    Greg Van Avermaet will assume the role of outright leader at BMC for the Tour of Flanders in Philippe Gilbert’s absence, but the Belgian said that he would have preferred to have had the world champion at his side on Sunday.

    Van Avermaet and Gilbert had endured a frosty relationship during their time together at Lotto, but since they were reunited at BMC last season, the pair’s rapport has appeared somewhat more harmonious, helped in part, perhaps, by Gilbert’s lack of form last spring.

    At BMC’s pre-race press conference, Van Avermaet said that Gilbert’s absence would have a significant impact on the outcome of the race. “It changes a lot because he’s the world champion and I’m a bit disappointed that he’s not here,” Van Avermaet said. “With him, we would have another strong rider in the final and maybe more opportunities but it’s like that and you cannot change it. Taylor Phinney is not here either, so we will see.”

    Speaking to Cyclingnews during the Tour of Qatar last month, Van Avermaet had expressed his reservations about the new route of the Tour of Flanders, which was rolled out last season. Van Avermaet preferred the old finale over the Muur van Geraardsbergen and the Bosberg, but he conceded that at the second attempt, the new Oude Kwaremont-Paterberg circuit might be interpreted differently.

    “It’s hard to say, but it’s the second time we do the parcours,” he said. “Last year, everybody was looking at each other a little bit but this time I hope the race is harder from a little earlier. In the end, I think the Kwaremont and Paterberg will be the key point and I think the strongest guys will go to the finish.”

    The expectation is that those strongmen will prove to be Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale), but Van Avermaet warned that there are other serious contenders for...

  • Gallery: UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team at De Panne

    Alessandro Bazzana (UnitedHealthcare) worked his way into the break.
    Article published:
    March 31, 2013, 14:20 BST
    Cycling News

    US-based Pro Conti squad in action in Belgium

    The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, a US-based Pro Continental squad, has been in action in Europe this spring, most recently at Belgium's Three Days of De Panne stage race, encompassing four stages in three days from March 26 to 28.

    Photographer Jonathan Devich has been travelling with the team and has provided this behind the scenes look at UnitedHealthcare's stint in Belgium.

    Highlights for the team include Kiel Reijnen making the early break on the opening stage, Alessandro Bazzana making a key three-man escape late in stage 2 followed by a top-15 finish by sprinter Jake Keough in the finale, plus a top-10 finish by Bazzana on stage 3a.

    Click here to view the photo gallery.

  • Ochowicz philosophical about BMC's Tour of Flanders result

    Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
    Article published:
    March 31, 2013, 18:05 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Team left to fight for minor placings in finale

    Despite strength in numbers on the final lap of the Kwaremont and Paterberg, the BMC Racing team was left to fight for the minor places in the Tour of Flanders with Greg Van Avermaet their best placed finisher in seventh place.

    BMC, like the rest of the peloton in Flanders, was simply blown away by Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) who soloed clear on the Paterberg to win his second Ronde title. With Peter Sagan and Jurgen Roelandts second and third the best BMC could have hoped for was fourth place.

    At the finish in Oudenaarde BMC's team manager Jim Ochowicz was philosophical in defeat, praising his team's effort but admitting that they were simply up against an unstoppable force of nature in Cancellara.

    "Overall things were okay. We didn't really have any big incidents out there today. Physically we were okay. We had three riders in the group coming in but Cancellara was by far the best rider today," Ochowicz told Cyclingnews.

    "Look, the more people you have the longer they stay, the better chance you have but in the end you still have to have the strongest rider to do what Cancellara did. You could have 20 riders there but only one guy could do what he did today and he did it."

    BMC's tactic of strength in numbers was in contrast to Lotto Belisol's policy of repeated attacks. First André Greipel and then Marcel Sieberg formed part of a dangerous attack in the second half of the race, and then Jurgen Roelandts linked up with Yoann Offredo (FDJ), Sébastien Turgot (Team Europcar) and Sébastien Hinault (IAM Cycling) and Maarten Tjallingii (Team Blanco).

    "The move paid off for Roelandts who stayed...

  • Cancellara: “I hope Belgium is happy with my win”

    Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) takes the spoils of victory
    Article published:
    March 31, 2013, 18:28 BST
    Barry Ryan

    RadioShack rider on Boonen, Sagan and his knock out blow to win Flanders

    The Tour of Flanders had been billed as a something of a prize fight, and after three rounds over the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg, it was the experienced slugger Fabian Cancellara who prevailed over the young contender Peter Sagan to claim victory, with a knock-out victory.

    In Oudenaarde’s main square after the race, RadioShack-Leopard manager Luca Guercilena acknowledged the race for what it had been – a protracted duel between the two strongest riders.

    “In the end Fabian won like it was a boxing match,” Guercilena said. “The old guy beat the young boxer with a knock-out punch,” he said.

    That telling blow arrived on the final ascent of the Paterberg, but Cancellara had already begun the softening up process by hitting the front on the Oude Kwaremont just beforehand. He had exposed a chink in Sagan’s defences on the same climb at E3 Harelbeke last week, although this time the Slovak proved more resilient to Cancellara’s initial probing.

    “I accelerated the first time to see what would happen, as we were still in a big group,” Cancellara said of the move that brought him and Sagan up to the wheel of escapee Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) as they approached the Paterberg.

    Before the race, no less a figure than Tom Boonen had speculated that Sagan would be the quickest man up the Paterberg, but on the short but steep wall, it was Cancellara who began to wear down his rival’s resistance. An exploratory jab suggested that Sagan’s legs were wobbling, and the decisive combination arrived near the summit.

    “I was alone with Peter. I wouldn’t say that I accelerated exactly, but I put...

  • Roelandts uses team tactics to finally show his class

    The 2013 Tour of Flanders podium (l-r): Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara, Jurgen Roelandts
    Article published:
    March 31, 2013, 19:21 BST
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Lotto Belisol impressive at Flanders with preemptive attacks

    In a predictable Ronde van Vlaanderen, there were few riders who managed to anticipate the moment when eventual winner Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) would unleash their strength on the Oude Kwaremont, 17km from the finish in Oudenaarde. However former Belgian champion Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) rode a clever race, sneaking away after the penultimate ascent of the Paterberg, 33km from the finish. It turned out to be an excellent tactical decision which eventually gave the 28 year-old rider a well-deserved podium spot in the 100th anniversary edition of the Ronde.

    It was the first time Roelandts and his Lotto-Belisol team were able to leave their mark in the Spring Classics.

    “For once the race went our way and I had no bad luck, no flat tires and nobody rode over my head. It’s the first time during this spring that I was able to show that I’ve taken a step up,” Roelandts said on Sporza radio. “Finishing third behind big guns like Cancellara and Sagan is nice. I knew before the race that those two were stronger than the rest.”

    With that in mind, the Belgian team opted to break open the race as soon as possible. Tosh Van der Sande featured in the early breakaway group, then André Greipel attacked the peloton on the Molenberg and later Marcel Sieberg bridged up with the lead group. Meanwhile Roelandts stayed as calm as possible, tucked away in the peloton.

    “Having some guys in the breakaway put me in a perfect position. Frederik Willems looked after me the whole day. I wanted a wide-open race and from the Molenberg on the team started attacking. I wanted to ride away before the Kwaremont but wanting is different...

  • Sagan: “I wasn’t able to hold Cancellara on the last climb”

    Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) on the podium
    Article published:
    March 31, 2013, 19:57 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Slovak happy with second place at Tour of Flanders

    It was a different kind of second place finish for Peter Sagan (Cannondale) at the Tour of Flanders. Two weeks ago at Milan-San Remo, he could scarcely hide his dismay after allowing a maiden monument victory to slip through his grasp and into the lap of Gerald Ciolek.

    However in Oudenaarde on Sunday, Sagan even punched the air in celebration on crossing the line in second place, 1:27 down on winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard).

    That Sagan had claimed his first classic victory at Gent-Wevelgem on the intervening weekend had doubtless helped to soften the blow, and he had the air of a man determined to view his glass as half-full rather than half-empty after the race.

    When complimented on his performance, Sagan allowed himself a wry smile and quipped: “Well, Cancellara did a nicer race, no?”

    Sagan and Cancellara had been the overwhelming pre-race favourites, and the pair duly went head-to-head on the final circuit over the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. Sagan matched his rival pedal stroke for pedal stroke on the first climb as they leapt across to escapee Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol). But on the Paterberg, Cancellara edged away near the summit and then hammered clear over the top, never to be seen again.

    “We went away in a break on the Oude Kwaremont, but then Cancellara went for it on the Paterberg and I wasn’t able to follow him,” Sagan conceded.

    Rather than sit and wait for the twenty-strong chasing group that was taking shape behind, Sagan opted to continue in his effort with Roelandts, acknowledging that he was already effectively racing for second place.

    “I said to myself that it was better to wait for Jurgen, because we could work together. There was still a decent group behind us but if the two of...

  • Fourth in Flanders, Kristoff eyes Paris-Roubaix

    Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) crossed the line for fourth at the head of a 20-rider chase group.
    Article published:
    March 31, 2013, 20:50 BST
    Jane Aubrey

    Hot run of form continues for Katusha sprinter

    Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) continued his impressive run of form, leading home the chase group 1:39 behind winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) to finish just off the podium in fourth at the Tour of Flanders.

    Although pleased with the result, the 25-year-old Norwegian was half wondering what might have been as one of the on-form sprinters during the week at the Three Days of De Panne. Kristoff was in cahoots with a strong-looking Sébastien Turgot (Europcar), Greg Van Avermaet, Daniel Oss (BMC), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), Sebastian Langeveld (Orica GreenEdge), Oscar Gatto (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) and Edvald Boasson-Hagen (Sky) to name a few that was bearing down on the day's other podium getters, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol).

    "It's a shame that we didn't catch Sagan and Roelandts because then I could have been second," a confident Kristoff told Cyclingnews at the finish in Oudenaarde. "They were strong and we weren't able to catch them. That's how it is."

    He admitted, however, that he was almost resigned to a showdown between Cancellara and Sagan on the final time up the Old Kwaremont and the Paterberg.

    "I expected it but I'd worked hard the whole race to follow them," he said. "I was just trying to do my race and stay in the front group and I managed that so I'm happy."

    Kristoff was eighth in Milan-San Remo and then followed that up with two top-20 results at Dwars door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem before racing De Panne in the lead up to the centenary edition of the Tour of Flanders. There, he...