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Second Edition Cycling News, Thursday, April 18, 2013

Date published:
April 18, 2013, 1:00 BST
  • Meier on Ardennes launch pad for Giro d'Italia

    Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge) on stage to receive the sprint classification jersey.
    Article published:
    April 18, 2013, 4:04 BST
    Jane Aubrey

    Orica GreenEdge rider to hunt winning break at grand tour

    Just 12 days separates the end of the Ardennes and the Giro d'Italia and a countdown will begin for Christian Meier (Orica GreenEdge).

    The Canadian will be riding the Giro for the second time in his career, his third grand tour having previously also ridden the Vuelta a Espana in 2009 with Garmin - Slipstream. Like quite a number of riders at the Ardennes this week, Meier is using the one-day events as a launching pad to a tough three weeks in the saddle.

    "The Giro's always a spectacular race and a race I really enjoy," he told Cyclingnews. "For me it's my favourite grand tour of the year so I'm looking forward to it. If you ask me that again in the second week I might use different words, but I am looking forward to it."

    Meier's form has been impressive with some rare personal results of late, claiming the sprint classification at the Volta a Catalunya late last month, this combined with 32 podiums so far for the season for the team, the 28-year-old says "we have to be happy."

    Meier's season is based on peaking for the Giro, mentally as well as physically and he'll be dedicated to laying the groundwork for lead sprinter Matt Goss and climber Pieter Weening over the three weeks of the race.

    "I think this year the Giro's a bit different in the sense that we have some hilly stages early on and then some more sprint stages after," he explained. "The team time trial maybe sounds not so straight forward this year so I think it will be an interesting first few days but with Gossy we can win a stage and also with Pieter Weening we have a shot at the hillier days."

    As for his own chances, one good breakaway will do. "You never know, there's always...

  • Nibali unsurprised by Wiggins' strength at Giro del Trentino

    Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Bradley Wiggins (Sky)
    Article published:
    April 18, 2013, 5:02 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Astana go on the attack

    Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) crossed the finish line virtually side by side at the end of the first mountain stage of the Giro del Trentino on Wednesday, both happy with how they handled the 14km climb and that they managed to distance the key rivals they will face in the Giro d'Italia.

    While some riders were unable to handle the fast pace on the seven percent climb, both Wiggins and Nibali looked comfortable, rarely going very deep or seeming to suffer.

    Wiggins was happy to feel better after his saddle sore problems and antibiotics, while Nibali took pride in the way his Astana team had performed on the climb.

    Nibali finished third on the 224km stage, 19 seconds behind winner Kanstantin Siutsou (Team Sky) and 15 seconds behind Mauro Santambrogio (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia).

    Four Astana riders finished in the top-25: talented neo-pro Fabio Aru and Alexsandr Dyachenko were both within a minute of Nibali after going on the attack with him in the final three kilometres, while Fredrik Kessiakoff and Valerio Agnoli were a little further back after doing a lot of work on the final climb.

    "It was important to understand how we're going as a team, and I think we rode well, we went hard," Nibali said before descending off the mountain to the team bus.

    "We saw that Wiggins is strong but that's no surprise. I saw that he was looking good, and I think he saw that I'm looking good, too."

    Astana on the attack

    Nibali attacked with three kilometre to go, splitting the front group and forcing Wiggins to chase.

    "I was looking for...

  • Betancur: I wanted to race like Joaquim Rodríguez

    Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) makes his attack at the base of the Mur de Huy
    Article published:
    April 18, 2013, 7:02 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Colombian launched surprise early attack on Mur De Huy

    Probably the least expected part of La Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday came when Carlos Alberto Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) launched an all-out attack at the foot of the Mur de Huy. Certainly to judge by the lack of reaction in the peloton, nobody had been expecting such a move, and the Colombians' tearing up of the script worked so well that Betancur - second in a recent ultra-steep finish behind Sergio Henao (Sky) in the Tour of the Basque Country - stayed ahead for far longer than expected.

    Indeed, there were even gasps of "he's won, he's won" from the Flèche Wallonne press room as Betancur failed to crack on the ever steepening slopes of the Mur. It was only at the last moment, with less than 150 metros to go, that the Colombian climber cracked slightly, dropping to third.

    "I saw how [Joaquim] Rodríguez won last year and I wanted to imitate it," was how Betancur described his attack, although in fact he may have not watched 'Purito' in last year's Flèche, given the Spaniard attacked with about 300 metres to go.

    "I thought I was going to win, it was only about 100 metres from the finish when they finally got past me," he said. "This kind of result is very important for me and for Colombia."

    Betancur said that the 2013 boom in Colombian cycling, rising from sixth to second overall in the nations classification in the UCI WorldTour ranking, was due to the "biological passport. [Anti-doping] controls are far tighter nowadays and riders like us who live at altitude have more of an advantage."

    Seventh in the Tour of the...

  • Gilbert exposed by truth of Mur de Huy at Flèche Wallonne

    Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was a marked man.
    Article published:
    April 18, 2013, 8:02 BST
    Cycling News

    It's about legs not luck, according to world champion

    Leading what was left of the peloton up the final ascent of the Mur de Huy at La Flèche Wallonne seemed to spell the end of Philippe Gilbert's chances at claiming his second win in the mid-week Ardennes classic. BMC had led the charge for most of the day, protecting the world champion from the wind until finally leaving him to do his thing in the last kilometre. However, there was no burst of speed like in 2011 when he won a hat-trick of Ardennes classics and the former winner seemed to lose heart as Dani Moreno (Katusha) shot past. He would eventually finish 15th.

    "I tried, but it was too long for me," said Gilbert to Nieuwsblad. "I just fell short and it's a pity but it is not new. Every year it is so. That [Mur de Huy] climb has always been difficult for me and it does not lie. The best rider wins."

    Gilbert is yet to win a race in the white colours of the road race world champion, his best result coming just a little over a week ago at De Brabantse Pijl where he finished second to Peter Sagan (Cannondale) but according to the Walloon, "I'm getting better everyday. To win a race as difficult as Flèche is not about luck but about who has the best legs, said the BMC leader.

    "I didn't ride the perfect race today. The perfect race, that is winning. But to win, if you are the favourite you have to be 100 percent. You cannot count on luck, you must have the good legs," he said before adding that he is aiming to have fully recovered for Sunday's La Doyenne - Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

    It was two yea's ago that Gilbert took his

  • Contador: I couldn't find a good rhythm

    Alberto Contador just didn't have good legs today.
    Article published:
    April 18, 2013, 9:35 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Saxo-Tinkoff co-leader below expectations at Flèche Wallonne

    Alberto Contador's return to the Ardennes Classics and more specficially to Fleche Wallone, where he finished third in 2010, has not started well, with the Spaniard failing to impact on the steep climb to Huy and finishing only 33rd. Amstel Gold Race winner and Saxo-Tinkoff team-mate Roman Kreuziger finished 17th.

    Contador was close to the front the first time the race went up the Mur de Huy and Saxo-Tinkoff powered things up in the last three kilometres as the race roared towards the finish.

    But Contador said that "that acceleration was more to keep us at the front of the field rather than looking for a particular result. We wanted to be sure we were well-positioned and staying out of trouble if there were crashes."

    "I couldn't find my right pace, though, I don't know if it was because of tiredness or because I've had quite a bit of time off in the last week."

    "But I could see that my legs were not as good as I wanted them to be and that's why I decided to take things more calmly than usual."

    "Things didn't work out as well as I'd have liked even if the team was great all the way through. We can just hope that things work out better on Sunday at Liege-Bastogne-Liege when I've had more time to rebuild some form."


  • Report: Greipel and Roelandts intend to stay with Lotto Belisol

    The leaders of the 2013 Lotto Belisol team
    Article published:
    April 18, 2013, 10:37 BST
    Cycling News

    Five key riders signal their intentions

    Lotto Belisol's core group of riders have indicated their intention to stay with the team in the coming year. Jürgen Roelandts, Andre Greipel, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson and Marcel Sieberg have signed letters of intent to sign for the Belgian team in 2014.

    The five riders' contracts all expire the end of this year. The letters of intent bind them to the team, preventing them from signing elsewhere for an unspecified period of time.

    Their action is also a show of trust in the team, and allows team manager Marc Sergeant to have something in hand in his search for new sponsors and a larger budget for 2014. Lotto Belisol's WorldTour licence expires the end of this season.

    Greipel, who is not scheduled to ride the Giro d'Italia this year, has brought in four of the team's 12 wins so far this season. He won three stages at the Tour Down Under and one at the Tour Mediterranéen. Roelandts also won a stage at the latter race.

  • CONI to gain access to Mantova papers

    The Mantova doping investigations are gathering pace
    Article published:
    April 18, 2013, 11:34 BST
    Cycling News

    Preliminary hearing now fixed for April 30

    The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) will have access to the full documentation of the Mantova-based doping investigation after it was added as a civil party to the case at a technical hearing on Wednesday. ANSA reports that the preliminary hearing will now be held on April 30.

    The inquiry is centred on the activities of Mariana Mantovana-based pharmacist Guido Nigrelli and his links to the Lampre team in 2008 and 2009.

    In spite of an objection on technical grounds from lawyers representing the 31 individuals named in the Mantova report, the preliminary hearing judge accepted CONI’s request to be added to the proceedings.

    Two years ago, CONI’s anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri summoned a number of individuals named in the investigation to Rome for questioning, including Alessandro Ballan, but no action was taken pending the conclusion of legal proceedings.

    Wednesday’s development means that riders and managers implicated in the Mantova inquiry could now face sporting sanctions before the conclusion of the lengthy legal proceedings, which have already been delayed on several occasions.

    News of the investigation first appeared in the Italian media in April 2010, and on the eve of the 2011 Giro d’Italia Gazzetta dello Sport published a transcript of a damning conversation between Nigrelli and former world champion Alessandro Ballan, dating from 2009.

    The formal preliminary hearing for the case – in which the 31 people named in the report will learn whether or not they will face trial – has been postponed on several occasions, but has now been fixed for April 30.

    At the preliminary hearing, Gazzetta...

  • Belgium nears worst Classics crisis since 1945

    Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) blew his chances on the final climb
    Article published:
    April 18, 2013, 12:18 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    No wins in Classics or semi-Classics for host nation

    Belgium is one race away from having its worst Classics season since 1945, with no Classic or semi-Classic wins for the host nation of most of the spring’s top one-day races.

    Belgium did not win any of the top seven Classics in either 2007 or 1997, but it won at least one semi-Classic. In 2007, Tom Boonen took E3 Harelbeke and Dwars Door Vlaanderen, whilst in 1997, Hendrik Van Dijk won E3, Johan Museeuw won Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and Peter Van Petegem took Het Volk. This year, though, with the honourable exception of the GP Pino Cerami taken by Jonas Van Genechten (Lotto-Bellisol), Belgium is heading towards its biggest dearth of top results since World War II.

    “For the Belgians this spring is heading slowly towards disaster,” Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure solemnly warned in its sports editorial on Thursday. And indeed, only a Belgian victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday can now end an unheralded run of poor results for the local riders.

    Brabantse Pijl, curiously enough, is the race which has often ‘saved the day’ for the Belgians in terms of local victories. From 1967 to 1984, the one-day hilly Classic had an unbroken run of local winners, from Paris-Roubaix winner Roger Rosiers to Ronny Van Holen. Adrie Van Der Poel then broke the Belgians’ near 20-year stranglehold on the Brabantse Pijl in 1985.

    This year, however, a combination of factors has made it far tougher for the home nation. Tom Boonen’s crash in the Tour of Flanders was one, given his run of four successive wins from E-3 to Paris-Roubaix last year. The rise of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is another, and the return of Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack) to top condition has had a major knock-on effect. So too has Philippe Gilbert’s string of near-misses in the Ardennes Classics, a series he dominated in 2011 as strongly as Boonen did the cobbled Classics of 2012.

    Spain’s increasing...