- Article published:
- February 11, 2010, 11:02
- Cycling News
Italian targets Flanders and Paris-Roubaix
As the 2010 season is getting underway under the sunny skies of Australia and Africa, the riders targeting the northern Classics are preparing for their possible hours of glory in the cold of Belgium and France in early April. Filippo Pozzato, who won the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke last year, will again be one of the major protagonists on the cobbles of Flanders and Roubaix as he is out to finally win one of these prestigious one-day races.
"If I have to choose, I'd like to win Flanders, as this race comes first and would make me more confident for the Hell of the North," he told Belgian newpaper La Dernière Heure this week.
Taking into account that the progress of the Katusha rider during the last few years has been steady - from top 20 placings in 2006, the year he won Milano-Sanremo, to fifth in the Ronde and second in Paris-Roubaix last year - Pozzato is a major contender and could see his dreams come true. The Italian's rivals, however, include the likes of Stijn Devolder and Tom Boonen (Quick Step), as well as Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam), who are also building up form right now.
Pozzato has a lot of respect for his former teammate Boonen, two-time winner of the Ronde and three-time winner of Paris-Roubaix. "Tom will always be a major adversary, because he is the greatest specialist right now for these kind of races. Last year, he was stronger than me," he continued, speaking of Roubaix. "Tom on the cobbles, that's really something! But you have to keep in mind that he is not unbeatable."
In 2009, before the Hell of the North, Pozzato and Boonen clung together in Flanders and neutralized each other's chances, which the Belgian had strongly bemoaned after the race, calling Pozzato his 'shadow'. "I know what he said, but I also know that this was said just after the race, at a time when there's still a lot of nervousness and disappointment. I have very good contact with him. We respect each other," commented the Italian, who did not reveal his tactics for this year's edition of the Ronde.
"Everything is decided during the race, but if Tom has a good day, then yes, I could again follow him on the cobbles of the Tour of Flanders."
- Article published:
- February 11, 2010, 11:31
- Daniel Benson
Vuelta brought Irish rider to a new level
Despite losing close to ten minutes on the first stage of the Tour Méditerranéen, Dan Martin starts the 2010 season with a new found confidence and form, both of which he'll aim to take into this year's racing. The Irishman ended the 2009 season in good shape, completing his first Grand Tour at the Vuelta and claiming a top ten placing in Lombardia.
However, despite the progression he's made on the bike, Martin is reluctant to set himself many goals, aware that his instinctive nature and relaxed approach are the reasons for any success he's had to date.
"I'm not going to set goals this year. If you look at one of my best races last year, Catalyuna, it was a surprise for me. I had good form but I didn't expect to be at the front. That's how I'm going to approach this season. Just turn up at the races and see how it goes. If I don't have good legs I'll work for someone else," Martin told Cyclingnews.
In Catalyuna, Martin was able to match riders like Alejandro Valverde, often putting the Spaniard into difficulty in the mountains. But it wasn't all success for Martin in 2009 with injury and illness surfacing at the most frustrating times.
Last year, Martin was plagued by sickness in the Spring and was down to ride his first Tour de France before a niggling injury forced him out at the last minute. Despite the setbacks, Martin recovered and regrouped and rode the Vuelta, which he believes was a good learning experience for him.
"The Vuelta changed me. I felt so strong, somehow I stayed skinny too and I'm starting from a much stronger position this season than I was last year. I did 8,000 kilometres in eight weeks before the end of the season and that was totally new for me. I did a full Pro Tour calendar but at the Vuelta I brought myself to a new level."
Martin also revealed that support from two of his older and more established teammates helped him recover from missing out on the Tour de France.
"Christian Vande Velde and David Millar are like my big brothers and they look after me. When I had to pull out of the Tour they took me aside and said don't worry go and do the Vuelta and then you don't have to train during the winter. That's the thing with cycling: it's a special sport, if you miss one race there's always another one around the corner especially with the Pro Tour now, everything is a big race."
All going well, Martin will line up for this year's Tour de France start in The Netherlands in top form. With no team time trial and a hard week in the Pyrenees, the route looks favourable to both him and his team leader Vande Velde, and despite the fact that Martin's performances will be eagerly watched he's willing to devote all his energies to working for Vande Velde.
"I think it's going to a really cool route this year and one that suits Christian down to the ground with all the mountains in the final week. I love the Pyrenees as well. Hopefully I'll be there to help him in that final week. To have someone that I respect so much and to see him on the podium, having helped him that would feel like me winning the Tour. He's done so much for me that I'd love to pay him back," Martin said.
As for his own future in the sport, Martin again defaults to that relaxed demeanour, unwilling to put pressure on himself despite his team manager Jonathan Vaughters heralding him as a true star to come. "I don't think we really know what I can do on the bike. It's obvious to say that I have potential because of the way I can climb, but the mental stress of being the Tour - well, I don't know how I'm going to cope with that. Maybe I'll be a one-day rider. I'd be okay with that. I'm just going to approach the season like the rest of my career. As long as I'm having fun and enjoying it they will be happy days."
- Article published:
- February 11, 2010, 11:45
- Cycling News
Change in the course leading up to traditional finish line
Tom Boonen will look to defend his title at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on Sunday, February 28, the second race of the Belgian season. The race will feature a new run-in to the finish this year, due to road constructions taking place.
The 1.1 ranked race will have 25 teams this year, including 13 ProTour teams. In addition to Boonen, other top names include Greg Van Avermaet (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Gert Steegmans and Sebastien Rosseler (RadioShack), Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky).
There will also be 10 Professional Continental teams and two Continental teams in the race.
The race will start at the Kuurne race track. Due to road construction, however, the final run-in to Kuurne has changed, with two rounds of 13.5 kilometres, passing through Kortrijk. The finish will still be at the traditional Brugsesteenweg.
In 2009, Boonen took the win by out-sprinting Bernhard Eisel (HTC-Columbia) and Jeremy Hunt (Cervelo TestTeam).
Teams for 2010 Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne
ProTour teams: Quick Step, Omega Pharma-Lotto, HTC-Columbia, Milram, Rabobank, Team Saxo Bank, Française des Jeux, RadioShack, AG2R, Katusha, Team Sky, Liquigas, Garmin-Transitions
Professional Continental teams: Cervelo, Vacansoleil, Cofidis, Skil-Shimano, Landbouwkrediet, Acqua & Sapone, BBox Bouygues Telecom, Saur-Sojasun, Team BMC, Topsport Vlaanderen
Continental teams: An Post-Sean Kelly, Willems Verandas
- Article published:
- February 11, 2010, 17:15
- Stephen Farrand
Garmin sprinter due some luck on last day sprint
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) finished stage five at the Tour of Qatar tired and sweaty but had little to show for his huge effort during the 142km stage.
The American sprinter opted to stay in the 14-rider echelon that broke way in the last 20km of the stage. It initially looked like the right tactic. But he lost out when the move was chased down by Quick Step and Team Sky and caught a kilometre from the finishline.
Farrar had a go in the sprint but his legs were heavy and tired and he was only 10th at the line, behind winner Tom Boonen and many riders he usually beats in sprints.
"That's bike racing. You have to gamble if you want to win. Unfortunately today it didn't work out," Farrar said as he rode back to the Garmin team car ready for the long drive back to the race
"It was a pity because I was pretty happy with my odds in that front group. But when the field caught up, I was already dead."
After four punctures wrecked his chances on Wednesday, and crashes left teammates Steven Cozza and Kirk Carlsen with broken collarbones, Farrar was happy just to be in the thick of the action in Qatar.
"At least I didn't have any mishaps today. I gambled but it didn't pay off," he said. "But it's a good sign of my form. Today there were a few opportunities to try things and to get some good training done. That's what you have to do if you want get in better condition for later on."
Farrar is now focused on Friday's final stage from Al Wakra to the Doha Corniche. The 123.5km stage finishes with seven laps of a six-kilometre circuit, with the spectacular Doha skyline in the background.
It could be a perfect way for Farrar and the Garmin-Transitions team to get a pay back for all the bad luck they have suffered so far in the Tour of Qatar.
- Article published:
- February 11, 2010, 17:25
- Peter Cossins
Main sponsor expected to withdraw support of French one-day race
The organiser of the Trophée des Grimpeurs has admitted the future of the event is under threat following the apparent decision of its main backer to withdraw its support for the race. Substantially backed for many years by the Val d'Oise regional council, the Coupe de France event is the only major pro race on the calendar that takes place in the Paris region.
Race organiser Hervé Gérardin told French website Cyclismag that he has been warned that the Conseil Général du Val d'Oise is going to withdraw its backing with immediate effect, putting the 2010 edition of the race in danger. "Officially, I haven't been told anything, but sources close to the Conseil Général have warned me about what is happening," said Gérardin. "It makes me really angry. If I had found out earlier I could have got in contact with other departmental councils or regional bodies a few months ago to see about organising the Trophée des Grimpeurs somewhere else. But I'm not giving up. My objective is to keep the race going this year and then relaunch it somewhere else in 2011."
Gérardin has been told that the €40,000 that he receives from the Val d'Oise, which comprises 40 percent of his race budget, is likely to be targeted towards attracting the Tour de France to that region. "Of course, the Tour de France is the cherry on the cake, but other races provide the foundations, and if you take those away..." Gérardin said, adding that he was not surprised by the decision as the traditional October meeting that was scheduled with the Val d'Oise authorities had not taken place.
He admitted that he had already made contact with other regions close to Paris that might be interested in backing the race. "But it will be hard for them to organise it this year because contact has been made so late in the day. However, they are interested for future years."
Gérardin confessed that he is ready to consider any option in order to keep the race going. "I can organise the Trophée des Grimpeurs anywhere - Brest, Toulon, Marseille. If the Toulon city council called up and told me they were interested I would be straight off to Toulon to organise the race...I function a bit like [Tour organiser] ASO, but at a lower level."
Gérardin added that the Trophée des Grimpeurs women's race could also be affected, but that he is "100 percent certain" that this event will take place.
- Article published:
- February 11, 2010, 17:50
- Cycling News
Long, flat finish to Big Bear stage will minimize time gaps
The Amgen Tour of California organizers announced the details of stages 5 and 6 of this year's race, revealing the course of the much anticipated stage to Big Bear Lake. Those hoping for a mountaintop battle may be disappointed to find a perfectly flat final 10km to the stage.
Providing a tune-up for the Big Bear stage, the fifth day of the Tour will see the central valley town of Visalia return as host of the start, but the riders will travel to Bakersfield this year, covering 195.5km with a mid-stage trip into the Sierra Nevada mountain foothills. It's no mountain stage, but there are a few tough ascents which will play into the hands of those battling for the KOM prize.
The first mountain sprint features a punishing 14 percent grade before the riders get some relief on the long, gradual descent to the Kern River oil field.
As they exit the valley they'll take in another KOM before heading into Bakersfield where the organizers have devised a crafty three-lap finishing circuit which could ruin the plans for the sprinters.
Containing a short climb of 10 percent which riders will encounter three times, it will be a prime launching pad for attacks, but with 2km left to go to the finish, it will take great fortitude for any escapee to hold off the sprinters.
The GC contenders will likely be resting their legs for the next day and the 213.7km Queen stage to Big Bear Lake. With over 10,000 feet of climbing, the sixth stage will likely see the sprinters form a "gruppetto" not far from the start as the contenders for the overall wage war on the first ascent out of Pasedena.
The climbing begins shortly after the start at the Rose Bowl and continues at an unrelenting grade for nearly 7000 feet of elevation gain to the highest point of the Tour at 7900 feet.
A long and potentially dangerous descent, should the winds be high, follows before the race heads back up the long and less steep climb to Big Bear Lake.
The greatly anticipated mountaintop battle may prove to be a bit of a let-down, as the race does not finish at the summit, but continues along the valley for 10 miles before the finish line.
- Article published:
- February 11, 2010, 22:15
- Daniel Benson
UCI performed over 10,000 passport tests in 2009
The UCI carried out 10,603 tests on the 853 riders in the biological passport in 2009 it was confirmed today, an increase from the 8,404 tests carried out on 839 riders in 2008. The statistics were provided by Anne Gripper, the head of the International Cycling Union's (UCI) Anti-Doping Department.
The news came on the back of the Rabobank team's announcement of how many blood and urine test their riders had undergone in 2009 at the hands of the UCI.
"Volume of testing doesn't prove a lot except that it's some kind of assurance that riders are well tested," Gripper told Cyclingnews.
"This kind of announcement isn't a totally a new concept either, but what I do know is that the Rabobank riders were really pushing for this. They want people to know that they're well tested."
In previous years both Astana and CSC released the number of tests carried out by their own internal testing programmes, while riders like Bradley Wiggins, Lance Armstrong and Christian Vande Velde have all released their actual test results in a bid to prove that they are racing clean.
While this goes some way to prove transparency, Gripper feels that it can lead to riders being openly and unfairly criticised in public. Last year Armstrong removed his test results relating to the Tour de France after they were questioned.
"I don't think there's anything bad with them doing it. The problem with releasing results is that every single amateur arm-chair haematologist and physiologist starts getting involved and making comments. There's a lot of information behind the released parameters that influence, like altitude training, hydration and physiological characteristics so it kind of opens them up for unfair attacks from all these armchair people who sit around and think they know how to interpret these results."
While the Rabobank announcement can be seen as a goodwill gesture, it does illustrate the discrepancies between riders tested throughout the year. For example, Dennis Menchov had 21 blood tests and 21 urine tests while others riders on the team faced less ten tests. This could be due to a number of factors. Firstly if a rider is part of targeted testing programme; if he wins a number of races and finally if the UCI have information from blood profiles or other sources which means that they could possibly be at risk of doping.
"We do our best to get the tests as evenly spread as possible. We have a base level and then some riders have more. We're at the point right now where we can be much more precise over which riders we test and at which times. It's more precise than it was and keeping track of 850 riders and their tests can be a little bit tricky."
"For some riders that have been in the passport for two years we're dropping their testing right down to six or seven blood tests a year because they already have a substantial profile which appears normal, so that means that those riders have less routine tests conducted on them."
In addition to targeting riders who may be more at risk of doping, in 2009 the UCI ran it's first event-specific focussed out-of-competition testing programme in the run up to the Tour de France, conducting high volume testing on fifty riders who were aiming for various elements in the race, such as stages and jerseys. While that's the only really event-specific concentrated programme the UCI has run, Gripper added that the sport's governing body were using elements of the media to also help target riders.
"We always look at what a rider's intentions are and if a rider comes out and says this is my big race of the year then we'll make sure we test him pretty well before. We take a fair bit of interest in media reports and what riders themselves say and of course we have the whereabouts information to check what races they're planning to do and where they're going to train.
- Article published:
- February 12, 2010, 08:59
- Greg Johnson
Australian squad could return to America’s biggest race
Australian Continental team Fly V Australia could contest this year’s Amgen Tour of California after its major sponsor, V Australia, was revealed as a presenting sponsor of a stage in this year’s race. Tour organiser AEG Sports announced another two stages of the 2010 parcours yesterday, with the race’s sixth stage - Pasadena to Big Bear Lake - carrying V Australia sponsorship.
Cyclingnews sought comment from Fly V Australia’s management company Pegasus Racing, however the team wouldn’t comment on any possible inclusion in the event. AEG Sports isn’t expected to announce the complete team team’s list until later this month, with half the teams expected to come from the ProTour and Professional Continental ranks while the balance will be predominately Continental squads from the United States of America, with Fly V Australia the only likely exception.
Fly V Australia made its debut on US soil last year at the Californian race. It endured a tough entry to the American market as the team battled through the opening stages, however it finished the event with two top 10 stage finishes by sprinter Bernard Sulzberger.
Race organiser Andrew Messick confirmed some of the riders he’s expecting to take part this year to Cyclingnews, including: Lance Armstrong, three-time winner Levi Leiphiemer, Dave Zabriskie, George Hincapie, Andy Schleck, Vincenzo Nibali, Heinrich Haussler and Thor Hushovd. That would mean RadioShack, BMC Racing Team, Team Saxo Bank, Cervelo TestTeam and Liquigas are amongst the teams to be invited to the 2010 race.
One team that won't be contesting the event is new ProTour outfit TeamSky. The British squad announced earlier this week that it had neither been invited or sought to be invited to the race. The route for the race's final two stages will be announced later today.