- Article published:
- April 4, 2013, 00:45
- Pat Malach
American hit by iliotibial band friction syndrome
Despite having to withdraw from the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and then skip the Vuelta al Pais Vasco because of a lingering knee injury, Chris Horner said this week that he expects to be fully recovered and in top condition when the Amgen Tour of California takes off on May 12 from very near his home in San Diego County.
Horner pulled out of Catalunya two weeks ago, revealing via Twitter that he had "tweaked something on the steep climbs in Tirreno." His RadioShack Leopard team said in a press release that he was suffering from iliotibial band friction syndrome.
"You have a big tendon on the outside of each leg and it attaches just below the knee," Horner told Cyclingnews. "There's some tissue underneath that band that protects it from the sharpness of the bone in the knee, and so that part gets irritated and inflamed. It's a strange injury that I've never had before. It's more common with runners than cyclists."
The injury can be especially frustrating, Horner said, because while the joint may appear to have healed - showing no outward signs of damage and not causing pain - the lack of symptoms can be deceptive. Too much strain on the tendon too early can quickly re-injure the joint and set the recovery back significantly.
"So it's a strange injury in general, and it's been difficult to deal with," Horner said. "Most injuries that I've had, when the pain is gone it's healed, but this one doesn't work that way. So it's very difficult for me as an athlete to understand when you can start training on it and when you can't."
An initial MRI taken in Europe revealed the injury before Horner returned to Bend, Oregon, to recover, and he hopes a second MRI on Friday will clear him to start training again next week. If he gets the 'ok' from his doctor, he'll drive from Oregon to San Diego, stopping along the way to preview some of the 2013 California stage routes. Horner said the eight-stage, UCI 2.HC race is the earliest he will return to racing.
"I've been off the bike for eight, nine, 10 days or something like that," Horner said Tuesday. "So even if it healed tomorrow, it's not like I'd have the form to go ride the classics or something. If it was 100 percent healed tomorrow by a miracle of God or something, which it won't be, but if it did then maybe I could make Romandie or something and then come back for California. But because I'm pretty certain it's not healed yet from what all the experts have told me, then it looks like California would be the best program."
But can the 41-year-old American who won the race in 2011 regain the form he showed in the early season in time to compete for the win in California?
"If the knee is healed? Absolutely," Horner said. "That's no problem, I was almost 100 percent at Tirreno-Adriatico, and that was coming with the winter and Christmas and holidays, then flying to Europe for camp and flying back, so I basically had three good weeks of training and still was able to ride at Tirreno with good form."
Horner said he needs two weeks of moderate training, followed by a three-week block of "good" training to prepare for California. If his recovery allows that, he said, riding well at California should be "no problem."
"The weight is still very good," Horner said. "The morale is fine. I'm not upset or frustrated or sitting on the couch eating candy bars or anything like that. I need three good weeks. As long as the knee heals where I can start training good next week, then I'll be ready for California. There's a good window still, so no panic yet. If the knee problem lasted for another two or three weeks or something, then we might have a question mark about how I could ride there."
Horner said although the 2013 Tour of California route offers the advantage of starting so close to his Southern California home, the overall course doesn't look as difficult as when he won the overall in 2011. Nevertheless, the uphill finish for the Stage 6 time trial will favour his style much better than last year's flat time trial course in Bakersfield, where Horner slipped out of the overall battle with a poor showing.
"I don't know how difficult it is, it's hard to tell from the profiles," Horner said of this year's San Jose time trial course. "My wife has done a little research on it for me and stuff like that, and it looks like a pretty decent climb at the end. So anytime it goes up at the finish it's going to be a little bit better for me than if it's just a flat TT like you had in Bakersfield."
And although there has been much talk about the summit finish on Mt. Diablo, which comes on the penultimate stage, Horner believes the 124 mile Stage 2 trek from Murrieta to Greater Palm Springs could be even more decisive. The route climbs into the San Jacinto mountains before descending back into the valley below for the final climb up Tram Way. Horner said he has used the internet to research the climbs, as well as other people's power files and times.
"From what I've seen with Mt. Diablo, it doesn't look like it's extremely difficult," he said. "Certainly the finishing part is a little steeper than the beginning, from what I'm told, but it doesn't look like it's a [Mt.] Baldy by any means. So it could be that the race is more decided by the second stage and the time trial than even the Mt. Diablo stage."
After California, Horner will head back to the European circuit, where he expects his team to choose him for the Tour de France squad. The veteran rider said he doesn't believe this early season interruption will affect his chances to ride another Tour.
"I get on the scale, I show them my power files, and they can take an educated guess from there," he said of the team directors who will choose the Tour squad. "If anything, this will allow me to go in even fresher."
Horner said the unexpected time off the bike hasn't really changed his major goals for the season, although he'll have to work a little longer now to acquire the UCI points that make riders valuable to teams.
"In all honesty, I thought I would pick up 50 to 100 UCI points at Catalunya, and then I thought I'd pick up 50 to 100 points at the Basque Country," Horner said. "And so that would have made for a fantastic season just off of those three stage races, and it would have taken a lot of pressure off myself as a rider. Now I have to work with what I got from Tirreno and what I can get results-wise from California and through the Tour and stuff."
- Article published:
- April 4, 2013, 01:45
- Cycling News
Orica GreenEdge squad prepared for tough battle
It was at Circuit Cycliste Sarthe in 2012 then neo-professional Luke Durbridge carved his name into the race's record books. The Stage 3 time trial around Angers marked the Australian's first professional victory for Orica GreenEdge and he did it wearing the colours of the Australian national time trial champion. He went on to capture the overall classification in 2012 and now seems poised to do it again in 2013.
Twelve months on from his first victory the now experienced road and TT national champion has demonstrated his class by winning the short individual test at Sarthe and with it pulled on the race leader's jersey. At this edition of the French race, the Australian squad has a near full complement of riders - a number of which sit in the perfect position to put pressure on the remaining GC hopefuls.
Durbridge was kept out of trouble in the morning's short road stage so he could save all his energy for the 6.8km test. His margin of victory was much closer this year with the 21-year-old besting RadioShack Leopard's Bob Jungels by less than one-second while Orica GreenEdge teammate Cameron Meyer, who has just recently started his European campaign, finished in third. In fact the team filled four of the top-ten spots with Svein Tuft and Michael Hepburn finishing in fifth and 10th respectively.
The time gap between himself and Jungles is irrelevant right now, according to the new race leader Durbridge who believes he has the condition necessary to defend his title from last year.
"I won by .17 of a second," said Durbridge on his team site. ".17 of a second or 17 seconds - it doesn’t matter. A win is a win, and I’m happy for this victory today. My teammates did a really good job looking after me, keeping me out of the wind and saving me from using excess energy. Thanks to their efforts, I was able to stay fresh for the time trial and pull of the win."
"The team had great rides not only by me but also by Cam, Svein and Heppy [Michael Hepburn]," said Durbridge. "We’re all in great condition, but today I was just a little bit better than them. I got the victory today. Another day it could easily be one of them beating me."
"We obviously have a team full of strong time triallists," he continued. "It’s not necessarily something we’re competitive about amongst each other. We really are genuinely happy to see our teammates go well. More than anything, I think our time trialing abilities show that we have a strong team. The time trial is a difficult test of physical and mental strength. With so many riders able to test themselves well in the time trial, it shows we have a strong team capable of going well in other races, too."
Doing the double by winning the TT and the overall will be a little more complicated says Durbridge who added that the profiles of the next two stages are more difficult than what he had to contend with in the prior edition.
"Last year I got dropped in that hill of Stage 4 and I got back on," he told Cyclingnews. "This time, the finish is uphill but my condition is better. I remember it's a tough stage. They were attacking and going crazy."
"The next two road stages are a bit more difficult than the last two stages last year," Durbridge said on his team site. "I’m going in with every intention to defend the jersey until the finish. We have options to play with Cam Meyer down by one-second in third overall, and Svein [Tuft] is only four-seconds behind."
"Having Cam and Svein close to me on the overall is to our advantage," said Durbridge. "We can send one of them up the road to take the pressure off the rest of us. We have options, and we’ll discuss all of them in our team meeting."
- Article published:
- April 4, 2013, 02:53
- Jane Aubrey
Farrar takes confidence from hectic final at Scheldeprijs
Garmin Sharp's sports director Geert Van Bondt was taking positives where he could from the Scheldeprijs on Wednesday - Tyler Farrar's last hit out before Paris-Roubaix - with the team's lone protected rider for Sunday, Johan Vansummeren out on a long training ride.
"I think the most important thing is that you come out of this race without crashes like you had last year at the finish line," Van Bondt told Cyclingnews with Farrar back in the team bus.
Notoriously hectic over the finishing laps, Farrar finished in sixth place with Argos-Shimano's Marcel Kittel first across the line in a repeat victory. Van Bondt was yet to speak with the American sprinter, choosing instead to let him cool off before sitting down with him in the evening.
"Tyler's riding very well," Van Bondt said. "He did good on Sunday in Flanders and I think most riders were taking a training day - not Tyler of course, he's been working very hard for this race and I think he did a very good race. He was there where he had to be. If you see also in the sprint it's pretty hectic and you need some luck to be in a good wheel and in good position. He was sixth and he came here to win. He will be disappointed."
Van Bondt believes that the team can head into Paris-Roubaix with confidence, off the back of Farrar's performance on Wednesday, and also with Van Summeren's 20th in Flanders having finished in the main chase group.
"[Van Summeren] He was in the small group on the Patersberg," explained Van Bondt. "He knows it was going to be very difficult to follow Sagan and Cancellara because they're from another planet, they were so strong but I think he's on the level where he wants to be and he has a lot of confidence for Sunday."
Van Summeren's result at Flanders is a highlight in a lean classics season for Garmin which has been ravaged by illness and injury over recent weeks.
"Of course we expected maybe more but we had somebody like Nick [Nuyens] who's out, [David] Millar who was sick, Ramunas [Navardauskas] who was sick and then you lose a lot," Van Bondt admitted. "But Johan is on the level where we want him to be and if he wins on Sunday, all the rest is forgotten."
When Van Summeren won Paris-Roubaix in 2011, he soloed to victory having survived from an early breakaway. Unwilling to make any predictions about how Sunday's race would play out, Van Bondt did say that much was dependent on the form of Fabian Cancellara.
"Will he be alone or have teammates; that's the thing," he asked rhetorically. "You can make 100 tactics but it can be tactic 101 that wins it. The most important thing for me is that you mark the points where the team has to be in front - that's the first couple of sections to Wallers. And then after Wallers you have to see how many riders you have left and then you have to see how the race develops."
- Ronde van Vlaanderen
- Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen
- Article published:
- April 4, 2013, 04:50
- Cycling News
Astana sprinter falls just shy of podium in fourth
It was frantic finish at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday that saw the field all back together with more than an hour of racing still to go but Astana's Andrea Guardini was happy enough with his fourth-place despite losing his teammates entering the final moments of the race.
The headwind sprint meant that a number of riders who jumped too early found themselves quickly going backwards as the real contenders sprinted for the line. Guardini was in the mix but poor positioning and a lack of teammates around him resulted in falling one spot shy of the podium, in fourth.
"In the last 400m there was so many riders coming backwards because they sprinted too early. I followed Cavendish on the right side of the road and moved up through the pack for the sprint. It was a strong head wind and I knew if I tried to go too early I would lose positions," said Guardini on his team site.
Guardini could do little to contest with the finishing speed of Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), who took his second consecutive win in the sprinter's warm-up ahead of Sunday's Paris-Roubaix. Mark Cavendish (OPQS), a three-time winner in the Belgian classic, found himself in a similar situation to Guardini and had to sprint from too far back just to get near the now two-time winner Kittel.
The Astana squad had placed a rider up the road so they would not be forced to chase toward the end of the 204.2km race but crosswinds that hit the peloton meant a rapid increase in speed brought the day's breakaway back into the fold well ahead of schedule.
Garmin Sharp and Argos drove the pace and caused a number of splits but the attentive Astana team still had the numbers up front.
"The sprinters' teams started to compete early when we got into a crosswind. Garmin-Sharp and Argos-Shimano split up the peloton and sent everyone flying, and that ended the breakaway around 40km before anybody wanted. We were smart to have four riders at the front of the peloton when the splits happened, so we didn't have to chase, but it meant that Arman [Kamyshev] came back early and the race effectively restarted with more than an hour to go," said Astana team director Jaan Kirsipuu.
Guardini was kept up the front with less than two kilometres remaining but when a rush from Argos came on the left side of the road the Giro stage winner was left isolated. His neo-professional teammate Ruslan Tleubayev found himself locked into the wheel of the German winner and could do little but remain on the wheel and look for his own result. He ended up crossing the line in 39th.
"It was an accident of the course, there was a turn and our riders were separated. Tleubayev found himself alone behind Kittel, and at 500m he was at the front with nothing to do except go for victory,” added Kirsipuu.
- Article published:
- April 4, 2013, 05:50
- Cycling News
Peloton sent wrong way, held up by train, boat and trucks
The organisers of the women's Energiewacht Tour have made an official apology after a disruptive opening stage in which the peloton experienced a number of difficult moments throughout the 107.9km stage.
The 139-rider field was forced to stop on more than one occasion as the race crossed a number of canal bridges and railway tracks throughout the day. A raised bridge, passing train, trucks and vehicles allowed onto the course and incorrect directions meant that tempers were starting to flare by the time the bunch reached the finishing circuit.
The large truck which ventured onto the course after miscommunication with the local police also saw riders subject to dangerous circumstances with the peloton eventually calling to a stop in protest with one lap remaining on the finishing circuit.
Race organisers explained each of the separate events that occurred on the official race website and gave a closing message in an attempt to calm the emotions of the many who no doubt felt their performance could have been improved without the issues.
"After the race had been restarted the race jury did not communicate with the police that the race was moving again. This was the reason for the road traffic and was very unfortunate," read the statement.
"The peloton had to come to a stop on a bridge for a boat to pass underneath. This is something that we as an organisation cannot explain because the agreement with the operator was that at that time it had to be kept closed to traffic.
"The organization want to join the riders and teams in order to apologise for the things that have gone wrong today. Murphy's Law was clearly effective. We have an understanding and admiration for the professional manner in which the riders treated the situation during the race and hope that we have no further problems in the coming five days."
There was however, a clear winner in the form of Kirsten Wild (Team Argos-Shimano) who was pushed to the line by Ellen Van Dijk (Specialized – Lululemon). Wild had been part of the eventual four-rider move that formed once the race restarted at the beginning of the final lap in Winschoten.
Iris Slappendel (Rabo Women) and Orica GreenEdge's Loes Gunnewijk were dispatched from the break as the sprint opened up with 300m to go and followed across the line three-seconds in arrears.
A number of pre-race favourites missed the move in what had been a testing day of racing but with high winds predicted throughout the week and a tough 21.1km individual time trial on Stage 3, the race remains very much open.
- Article published:
- April 4, 2013, 07:28
- Brecht Decaluwé
Vacansoleil rider forces his way onto podium
The crowd at Scheldeprijs was happy to see big-name sprinters Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) on the podium after the hectic high-speed sprint. However the third man on the podium, Barry Markus (Vacansoleil-DCM), was was a relatively unknown rider for most of the spectators, even if he is expected to show his talent as a sprinter in the near future.
"Finishing third is unbelievable. All the big sprinters are here. To finish on the podium is something I'm really proud of. What the future will bring? Well, of course I hope to win this race one day," Markus told Cyclingnews in Schoten.
As an U23-rider Markus showed off his skills and fast finish more than once. Back in 2010 he even beat today's cycling stars John Degenkolb and Taylor Phinney in a bunch sprint in the Thüringen Rundfahrt. While Degenkolb and Phinney quickly catapulted themselves to a high level, it was clear that Barry - who's a bit younger too - needed more time to mature. His recent results show that the Dutchman has stepped up a level to be able to mix in with the best. When asked about what type of sprinter he was Markus described himself as one with a jump in the final metres.
"I'm not the type of sprinter to start from far out. I'm more someone who has to come out of the wheels at 200 metres from the finish," Markus said.
During this year's Tour of Qatar he twice finished as runner-up behind Mark Cavendish, the fastest sprinter in the world. Finishing as best of the rest behind Cavendish is an achievement he is proud of. In the Scheldeprijs he once again finished behind the Manxman.
"I didn't have any more power left to get past Kittel and Cavendish passed me too," Markus said.
Markus managed to get himself in the perfect position for the sprint. "During most of the last lap I tried to stay near the front. On the cobbles I was riding around twentieth position. Along the canal there was a lot of pushing going on. During the last one and a half kilometres I was moved up by myself. Actually I was still too far back at one kilometre from the finish but then with 400 metres to go I got on the wheel of Kittel and that's where I stayed. I figured that was a good wheel to be on. Before that I was riding along the others so I wasn't really on a wheel," Markus said.
He was spotted shouldering his compatriot Theo Bos (Blanco) out of the way in an effort to overtake Kittel in the final metres.
"You have to do that in the final. We touched each other. I wanted to steer around him but he was next to me. I think it was all right. Those pushes, they happen all the time in the sprints," Markus said.
Barry Markus wasn't the protected sprinter for Scheldeprijs in the Vacansoleil-DCM team. Kenny van Hummer managed a third place back in 2009.
"Before the start Kenny said that he felt good. The plan was that we would meet up in the finale but I didn't see him anymore so I tried my own luck [laughs]. I didn't see anybody," Markus said confidently.
"Hopefully within two years I'll be amongst the best sprinters in the world. To achieve that I still need to get stronger so that I'm more fresh when I arrive in the finale."
After fighting the best in the world in the Scheldeprijs, Markus' next few races would be of a different level. He is scheduled to race the GP Pino Cerami on Thursday in Belgium and then the GP Denain and Tro Bro Léon in France.
"Afterwards there'll be stage races like the Tour of Picardie and Dunkirk. There's a high chance on bunch sprints there. The competition will be different of course," Markus said.
A Grand Tour is not on his schedule for now so Markus will have to wait for another chance to battle against the best in the world.
"The Giro and the Vuelta are quite tough this year and other riders are scheduled for the Tour. I don't know when I'll race against the best again but it'll come around one day for sure," Markus concluded.
- Article published:
- April 4, 2013, 09:20
- Barry Ryan
Teams must anticipate Cancellara, says Frenchman
Yoann Offredo is one of a cadre of French riders taking aim at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday but the FDJ rider acknowledged that denying Fabian Cancellara a third victory in the Hell of the North will require a significant degree of invention.
Speaking to Cyclingnews in Antwerp on Wednesday, Offredo accepted that simply trying to follow Cancellara on the pavé would be tantamount to riding for second place. “The teams who want to beat him will need to take their responsibilities, you can’t just wait for him,” Offredo said. “You have to anticipate: teams will need to use all of their riders and make it an attacking race and force Cancellara to do something different.”
Offredo had already tried a similar tactic at Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, where he went up the road in a group with Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol) ahead of the final loop over the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. “I didn’t want to wait around: Cancellara and Peter Sagan were very strong and the only solution was to attack from distance and anticipate them. We knew that it would have been impossible to follow Fabian à la pedale, he was too strong,” he said.
The intention was to try and hitch a ride on the Cancellara-Sagan express when it inevitably blasted past on the Kwaremont, and Offredo said that he had attempted to pace himself on the climb accordingly. “I didn’t try to follow Roelandts when he started forcing because I wanted to go steady up the first part of the Kwaremont. I was hoping that when Cancellara and Sagan came across, I would be able to follow them,” Offredo said.
“The problem was that I went a bit too steady – they caught me on the hardest part of the Kwaremont and they were going so fast that it was impossible to follow them. Even with excellent legs, I wouldn’t have been able to follow them.
“If I’d stayed with Roelandts and made it to the flat part before they caught me, I think it might have been different and I could have been in the top 5. But you needed them to catch you on the flatter part of the Kwaremont to have any hope of staying with them.”
Offredo finished De Ronde in 16th place in the main chase group, and it was another classic where his legs did not quite match his ambitions. After missing the 2012 campaign due to suspension for clocking three whereabouts violations, the 26-year-old admitted that he was still a little short of full racing sharpness.
“I’m missing a bit of explosiveness and sometimes I’ve been badly placed, but little by little that’s coming back too,” Offredo said. “I’m finding my level bit by bit, I’m responding to the pressure and I’m feeling better and better in the races. In the World Cup races [Milan-San Remo and Flanders], I’ve been in the top 20, so I hope that on Sunday in Roubaix I can make the top ten.”
- Article published:
- April 4, 2013, 10:22
- Cycling News
Texan sidesteps his doping ban
Lance Armstrong is set to race again, despite his life ban for doping, competing against middle-aged swimmers in a regional Masters championships in his home town of Austin, Texas this weekend.
According to a report in the American-Statesman and confirmed by his spokesman Mark Higgins to the Associated Press, Armstrong has entered the meets' three longest races: 500, 1000 and 1650-yard freestyle. He is seeded second in the 1000 freestyle and third in both the 500 and 1650 events and so could be a contender for victory.
Armstrong is allowed to compete in US Masters Swimming events because the organisation does not fall under the anti-doping rules of the US Anti-Doping Agency that banned Armstrong for life and stripped him of his seven Tour de France victories.
Armstrong always vehemently denied doping during his career and the USADA investigation but then confessed in January during an interview with Oprah Winfrey. He said that he hoped to compete again but then refused to cooperate with USADA’s investigation in doping in professional cycling, missing a chance for his ban to be reduced.
US Masters Swimming does not carry out drug testing and the organisation apparently debated if Armstrong or other athletes who have been caught doping should be allowed to compete.
"Our mission, dating back to the 60s, is we encourage adults to swim," Rob Butcher, executive director of Masters Swimming told the Associated Press. "Lance is a member of USMS so he is eligible to swim."
However not everyone agrees with the decision to allow Armstrong to compete, even if no members of US Masters Swimming have yet made a formal complaint.
“This whole masters swimming is him trying to sidestep his punishment,” local triathlete Jamie Cleveland, who owns Hill Country Running and Texas Ironman Multi-Sport Coaching, is quoted as saying by the American-Statesman.
“I’ve been an endurance athlete all my life. I’ve taken great joy in challenging my limits. It really irks me that (Armstrong) has admitted to doping and he’s shown no remorse.”