AEG Sports leaves another local squad out of the reckoning
Jamis-Sutter Home is proof that winning the National Racing Calendar (NRC) doesn't guarantee a start at America's most prestigious race, the Amgen Tour of California. Race organiser AEG Sports recently announced the 16 invited teams and the nation's number one ranked squad was no where to be found.
"I know it's difficult for the organisers to choose the teams and they do not have an easy job but, I am surprised that Jamis-Sutter Home was not invited," said the outfit's directeur sportif Sebastian Alexandre. "I think after the amazing 2009 season we had and the great start we are having to 2010, it's a disappointment for me and the riders on our squad that we were not selected."
"We were definitely hoping to race the Tour of California as we have in past years," he added. "It is the biggest race in the US and attracts the world's top teams. We have a tremendous team and I believe we deserved to be part of it."
Medalist Sports was largely responsible in selecting the 16 teams that were invited to compete in the race. Managing partner at Medalist Sports, Jim Birrell, noted the difficulty in selecting teams based on the NRC ranking.
"It's a challenge that we face every year and every tour that we are a part of," said Birrell. "The race is invitation only and there are only so many slots available but so many great teams domestically and internationally. We have to look at all of the teams objectively.
"It's hard in how teams are ranked by the NRC level because not ever team races every NRC race and not every rider is at every NRC race," he added. "I don't know what the solution is to make it fair and equitable across the board. Unfortunately, while Jamis-Sutter Home won the NRC racing last year, the team that earned that ranking lost some of its leadership riders."
The UCI Continental team captured the NRC overall team classification title by virtue of winning 12 of the series' stages and races along with 17 podium places. The squad also won three UCI events in 2009. Its sprinter Lucas Sebastian Haedo placed second in the individual classification and the team place five riders inside the top ten.
"To win the NRC like we did is something that all US teams strive for," continued Alexandre. "But even beyond the NRC win, Jamis-Sutter Home has a lot to be proud of in terms of the way the team has raced over the last few years. This season, our team name changed from Colavita-Sutter Home presented by Cooking Light to Jamis-Sutter Home presented by Colavita but that's the only thing that's really different.
"We have the same staff and management that we started with back in 2003. We've always taken great pride in the quality of our riders and this season we have three absolute superstars on our roster in Ivan Dominguez, Alejandro Borrajo, and Luis Amaran."
Riders that did not return to the team this year include the aforementioned Haedo, Kyle Wamsley, Anthony Colby, Luca Damiani and Davide Frattini. Alexandre speculated that losing Haedo might have been a factor in his team not receiving an invitation to the Tour of California.
Haedo moved up to ProTour team Saxo Bank but was replaced with the highly decorated Ivan Dominguez (pictured above, left) who last year split his season between the ProTour team Fuji-Servetto and US-based Rock Racing.
Alexandre noted that Dominguez is one of three riders to have won stages in the three biggest American stage races, including the Tour of California, the former Tour de Georgia and Tour of Missouri. Levi Leipheimer and Juan Jose Haedo are the other two. He believes the team he has this year is qualified to participate in the Tour of California.
"Ivan has sprinted side by side with the best sprinters in the world," said Alexandre. "Alejandro Borrajo has also proved that he is an outstanding sprinter on the road. At the same time, he's a great team player, having worked for Sebastian Haedo in the second part of last season to try to win the NRC as a team and in the individual ranking. So he sacrificed many times to pursue the team goal. Luis Amaran is one of the three or four strongest riders in the US peloton right now. He is definitely a rider that everyone is watching.
"I don't think that Sebastian leaving made a big change to our team because we were a strong team, and Sebastian was the winning face," he added. "We could have won as many races with Alejandro [Borrajo] just by changing their roles in the final sprint. Just because Sebastian left doesn't mean that we have a completely different team. We also signed Ivan to try to replace Sebastian."
There are 16 teams invited to participate in the Amgen Tour of California, including seven ProTour teams in RadioShack, Garmin-Transitions, Saxo Bank, Rabobank, Quick Step, Liquigas-Doimo and HTC-Columbia. Professional Continental teams include Cervélo TestTeam and BMC Racing Team along with Continental squads UnitedHealthcare, Team Type 1, Fly V Australia, Jelly Belly, Kelly Benefit Strategies and Bissell.
"I congratulate all the US squads selected for this year's Tour of California," said Alexandre. "And I look forward to lining up with them at upcoming races this season."
Jamis-Sutter Home will now focus on competing in the USA Crit Speed Week Series, Tour of the Gila, Joe Martin Stage Race, TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championships, Nature Valley Grand Prix, Clarendon Cup, Cascade Cycling Classic and the Tour of Elk Grove among others.
When asked if not receiving an invitation to the Tour of California lessens the morale of the riders on his team, Alexandre said, "No, this is a winning team, we like to win. If we were to go to the Tour of California we would've tried to win. If we don't go to that race but to another, we will try to win there too. We like to go to the race and win and that is what we are going to keep on doing."
Reigning champ Basso returns to Giro d'Italia leadup race
Organiser of the Giro del Trentio, GS Alto Garda-Arco, has announced the 20 teams that will race the 34th edition around the scenic Trento region of Italy, held from April 20 to 23.
It's a vital warmup for the Giro d'Italia and as such attracts a star-studded field each year. In 2010 that's no different, with five ProTour teams attending, including Liquigas-Doimo, which features defending champion Ivan Basso (right) and Tour de France king of the mountains Franco Pellizotti. These two will be keen to test their legs ahead of the Italian grand tour, which starts in Amsterdam on May 8.
There's also local squad Lampre-Farnese, plus AG2R La Mondiale, Team Katusha and Astana, with Maxim Iglinsky, local hero Enrico Gasparotto and Alexandre Vinokourov representing the Kazakh crew in northern Italy.
Among the Professional Continental teams, former road world champion Alessandro Ballan will lead US squad BMC Racing Team, whilst Acqua e Sapone will take the evergreen Stefano Garzelli, who won Tirreno-Adriatico last month. The controversial Riccardo Riccò will lead Italian squad Ceramica Flaminia's charge, with two victories at the Settimana Lombarda stage race last week an indication of his form.
Dutch squad Skil-Shimano gets a start, with young Belgian Dominque Cornu aiming for honours in the 12.5km prologue around Lake Garda. Team NetApp is also amongst the teams invited, with local Trentino rider Cesare Benedetti turning out for the German outfit.
Belgian teams Quickstep and Omega Pharma-Lotto will be trying out their Paris-Roubaix bikes on Thursday and Friday before the "Hell Of The North" on Sunday. Both squads will base themselves in Compiègne for the start of the greatest of all cobbled Classics, and will make their reconnaissance rides before the week-end.
Quickstep, whose three-time winner Tom Boonen is again a favourite for the event, will have two new bikes at his disposal, one for Boonen and one for Stijn Devolder. "Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder will have two new bikes. Their frames are longer than the usual road bikes," Quickstep mechanic Kevin Desmedt told La Dernière Heure.
A longer frame may contribute to a lower position on the bike and therefore a lower centre of gravity, which is one of the key factors to riding in Paris-Roubaix. On the cobbles, rider stability and smoothness are vital in order to stand a chance of actually finishing in the Roubaix velodrome, let alone winning the event.
"The other riders will have their normal bikes, but they will be adapted to the circumstances to dampen road shock," Desmedt added.
The Quickstep team, heavily under pressure to save its spring classics campaign with a Roubaix victory, will recon the parcours on Friday, from the Bois de Wallers-Arenberg sector to Gruson, just after the famous Carrefour de l'Arbre.
Omega Pharma-Lotto, on the other hand, chose to use aluminum bikes at the Queen of the Classics coming up this Sunday. Only one rider, Greg Van Avermaet, will keep his carbon bike.
"Greg Van Avermaet prefers a carbon frame," said Lotto mechanic Steven Van Olmen. "The advantage of aluminum bikes is a greater feeling of comfort on the cobbles. The riders will have the choice between 25mm or 28mm tyres. We will decide this after the recon on Thursday."
The Belgian team will head out on a test ride today, starting from the Bois de Wallers-Arenberg sector and finishing after the last stretch of pavé inside the town of Roubaix, just before entering the velodrome.
Garmin-Transitions meet their goal at Scheldeprijs
Tyler Farrar sealed one of the biggest victories of his career on Wednesday at the 98th edition of Scheldeprijs. The 205 kilometre event is one of the few spring races suited specifically to sprinters, and his win will give his Garmin-Transitions team a boost ahead of this Sunday's Paris-Roubaix.
Scheldeprijs had been a specific target for Farrar, who also won a stage at the Three Days of De Panne and finished fifth at the Tour of Flanders. Cyclingnews spoke to the American sprinter during De Panne, where he outlined his role with the Garmin-Transitions team throughout April.
Martijn Maaskant, Farrar's roommate for the Classics, came into the spring as one of the team's strongest hopes for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Unfortunately for the Dutchman he required stitches to his elbow after a crash at Flanders and once again hit the tarmac at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday.
However, he is still expected to line-up alongside Johan Vansummeren as one of the team's captains for Roubaix. He told Cyclingnews that his training throughout the winter had been specifically geared towards Flanders and the 'Hell of the north'.
Matti Breschel will aim to put aside his torrid run of bad luck at the Classics when he spearheads Saxo Bank's challenge at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. The 25-year-old will act as co-captain of the Danish squad, alongside Tour of Flanders winner Fabian Cancellara.
"Hopefully everyone on the team is there after the Arenberg so that we can work to split up the peloton. Then hopefully me and Fabian can be in the final group together and then we'll have to see what's going on from there," he told Cyclingnews after making a planned early withdrawal from Scheldeprijs.
On Wendesday, Breschel returned to the Saxo Bank team bus after 172 kilometres of the mid-week semi-Classic. The Danish national road champion explained that his abandon was part of a strategy to start in Compiègne on Sunday morning with what he hopes will be race-winning shape.
"I didn't know [the cobbles at Scheldeprijs], it's the first time I've done this race. It was pretty stressful – it was a fast race, and left-right all the time," he said.
"Pulling out was part of the plan. I feel alright and I don’t feel I need to force anything. The form is there and on Thursday we'll go to check out the parcours for Roubaix. We'll get a good ride there and that should be enough."
With his 2010 Classics campaign interrupted by a run of mechanical incidents, Breschel is looking forward to having better luck on Sunday. Bitter memories of a puncture at Gent-Wevelgem and a badly executed bike change at Flanders are still raw in his mind, but Breschel is keen to channel that frustration towards the pavé of Roubaix.
"I am feeling relaxed. I have a lot of anger now after Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem and I'm trying to get it out with my legs, to use it as a positive," he said. "Yeah, I have to put Flanders behind me. All the anger, I need to put it in my legs, but that race, I have to put it behind me - that was really bad luck."
One of the men Breschel will rely upon on Sunday, Baden Cooke, experienced his own moment of misfortune at Scheldeprijs when he crashed. Despite taking some skin off his left knee, the Australian is still expected to line-up in France this weekend.
"He's okay, he'll be alright for this weekend, he's just annoyed," said Breschel. "We were actually talking about him crashing too much and he said, 'ah, I hope I don't crash today', and then boom, he went down. He didn't seem to see the wheel [move] in front of him and he went down pretty hard, but he's okay."
Breschel's co-captain for Paris-Roubaix, Cancellara, also withdrew from Scheldeprijs on Wednesday. The Swiss climbed off his bike inside the last ten kilometres, having remained well clear of any danger as he patrolled the rear of the peloton throughout the race. With Saxo Bank's Classics squad close to full strength for the 'Queen of the Classics', Breschel said the team is primed for yet another strong spring performance.
"Everything's alright for this weekend, and the same for Fabian. He didn't know whether maybe he should stop or keep going in the race [Scheldeprijs]," said Breschel. "We're kinda mentally in Roubaix already, and that goes for the whole team."
BMC leader highly motivated for the Queen of the Classics
George Hincapie (BMC) goes into this weekend's Paris-Roubaix in good form after finishing sixth at the Tour of Flanders last week. The American has had a love/hate relationship with the race, but his results there have been consistent as he finished in the top ten on five occasions, and claimed second in 2005.
The BMC team is still without a win this season but potentially has one of the best Classics teams on paper. With the exception of Hincapie's result in Flanders, the outfit has shown very little through the likes of Alessandro Ballan and Marcus Burghardt.
Hincapie knows that a win in Roubaix would be the perfect way to kick-start their season.
"That would be awesome but the team is happy," Hincapie told Cyclingnews. "We're the sixth best team in the world and we're a new team. At all the big races we're always there. We just need a bit of luck and that will come soon. Maybe it'll be Sunday, when you need a lot of luck."
Although also beaten on the day by better performances, luck has often been against in Hincapie in Roubaix. In 2006, his steerer tube snapped with 45 kilometres to go, and the American ended up on the side of the road, as he saw the lead group drive away. However, in 2005, he finished second to Tom Boonen.
"I'm going into it full gas and I'm not thinking about my age. At Flanders I went into that race as good as ever in that race."
At 36, Hincapie only has a few years left within the sport. However he'll take comfort and confidence from Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle who won the race at the grand age of 38 in 1993.
"My age isn't a factor at the moment but more than likely next year will be my last one. But you never know."
After his effort in Flanders, the American admitted that he was still a little worn out at the start of yesterday's Scheldeprijs. "I'm a little bit tired. It was a tough race and I'll try and take it as easy as possible before then and save everything for Sunday. That's going to be very big. It's the biggest point in the year for me and I'm hoping I have as good a legs as I did in Flanders, if not better."
French team heads for Roubaix more motivated than ever
Bbox Bouygues Telecom is preparing for the Queen of the Classics this Sunday, and will be at the start line in Compiègne more motivated than ever following a very successful first part of the season. The team, directed by Jean-René Bernaudeau, has already scored nine victories in 2010 and was at the forefront at many races, showing a great pool of talent that is now coming to maturity.
Other than its leaders Thomas Voeckler and Pierrick Fédrigo - not included in the line-up for Paris-Roubaix this Sunday - the outfit counts on William Bonnet, who won a stage in Paris-Nice, Sébastien Turgot, victorious at the Three Days of De Panne, and Steve Chainel, also a winner in the same race in Belgium last week.
Bonnet, Chainel and Turgot will be the main hopes of Jean-René Bernaudeau's Roubaix team, with Alexandre Pichot, Saïd Haddou, Yohann Gene, Damien Gaudin and Mathieu Claude rounding out the roster. Bonnet, who came to Bbox from Crédit Agricole in 2008 where he was a lead-out-man for Thor Hushovd, has always dreamed about Paris-Roubaix glory. Following his tenth placing in the recent Tour of Flanders, Bbox directeur sportif Dominique Arnould thinks Bonnet is now ready to perform well at the "Hell of the North".
"We are extremely motivated," Arnould told Cyclingnews on Thursday after the team reconnoitred the first part of the course, with the race finish test ride due on Friday. "I have a team of real warriors for this race, and everyone is in great shape. Our leader is William Bonnet, but Steve Chainel also showed his class in the Tour of Flanders. Nevertheless, he feels a little less comfortable on the cobbles, so we will se how it goes. But we are confident, as we rely not only on one leader but have a few cards to play."
These include Pichot and young talent Gaudin, winner of the U23 Paris-Roubaix in 2007. "We really have a handful of good riders and collectively, we will put our mark on the race this Sunday," continued Arnould, whose team has gained lots of confidence following its recent victories, and rightfully so.
"I think the team as a whole is on the same level now as - let's say Rabobank. We have shown this at the Tour of Flanders. Now, we hope that Boonen and Cancellara will mark each other, and that our riders can take advantage of that. There is much less pressure on the riders now that we've already had a spring campaign beyond our own expectations. They feel serene, and want to finish off this first part of the season in style."
Former winner aims to start and finish his 16th edition
Veteran Servais Knaven will lead German ProTour Team Milram at Paris-Roubaix this Sunday, April 11. Knaven, who won the race in 2001, is looking set an historical record. If the 39-year-old Dutchman finishes the ride through "the hell of the north", he wlll be the only active rider to have started and ended the race 16 times.
Former winner Raymond Impanis also finished the race 16 times. Howver, the Belgian, born in 1925, started more often and did not finish the race each time.
"Of course, I want to cross the finish line in the velodrome of Roubaix," said Knaven of his 16th appearance at Paris-Roubaix. "I would be very proud. But that is not the most important thing. It is more important that we have a good performance as a team and that one of our riders finishes as far forward as possible."
Team Milram's directeur sportif Ralf Grabsch was also looking forward to the race. "We have done well in our last races and all of our Classics riders are really looking forward to this important race. The day's form is decisive in this race. You need to give 120 percent and have an iron will. Plus you need the luck to come through without a mechanical problem."
In addition to veteran Knaven, Grabsch will look in the "hell of the north" to Classics specialists Niki Terpstra and Wim de Vocht as well as three Germans, Markus Eichler, Roger Kluge and Paul Voß and Austrian Peter "Paco" Wrolich. Grabsch will have to do without Classics expert Roy Sentjens, who had to pass on participating due to an intestinal infection. His place will be taken by Australian Luke Roberts.
The race, which has been carried out since 1896, is one of the five so-called Monuments of Cycling. The "La Reine des Classics" (Queen of the Classics) has its own unique character due to the approximately 50 kilometers of cobblestone passages. On the 259 kilometers between Compiegne and the velodrome in Roubaix, any rider has a chance to win, depending on weather and how the race goes.
Current Director Sportif Grabsch made his own mark in the race in 2007 with a long solo effort and a 15th place finish.
In the 107 runnings of the race to day, only one German has been able to win: Josef Fischer, who won the premiere race in 1896.
Team Milram for Paris-Roubaix: Wim de Vocht (Bel), Markus Eichler (Ger), Roger Kluge (Ger), Servais Knaven (Ned), Niki Terpstra (Ned); Paul Voß (Ger), Peter Wrolich (Aut) and Luke Roberts (Aus).