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Second Edition Cycling News, Thursday, February 28, 2013

Date published:
February 28, 2013, 0:00 GMT
  • Langkawi mission accomplished for Coquard

    Bryan Coquard (Europcar) puts his Olympic rings on display on stage 8 at Langkawi
    Article published:
    February 28, 2013, 11:41 GMT
    Alex Malone

    Frenchman collects third professional victory in neo-pro year

    Revealing a tattoo with the Olympic rings and the words "Silver LONDON” while blazing across the finish line was Bryan Coquard's way of coming good on a challenge made with his Europcar sports director prior to travelling to Tour de Langkawi. Coquard had agreed to show the tattoo if he won a stage and he did just that in the end of stage 8 at the Malaysian race.

    Coquard's tattoo means more than just ink, it's the proudest moment of his short but successful career, according to the rider who has already won three races since pulling on the Europcar colours in January of this year. Coquard's Langkawi victory comes off the back of a strong start to the year at Etoile de Bessèges, where he won two stages, finished second on another and finished up 12th overall in the general classification.

    "The sprint was difficult, with a lot of fight," Coquard told Cyclingnews while catching his breath after the finish.

    "At 500m Kévin Reza launched me and after at 200m I was on the wheel of Chicchi and I started my sprint. I am so happy because the win at the Tour de Langkawi has been difficult for me.

    "Today, I am very happy. It's my third win for the year. It's a very good day for Europcar and for me. At the Tour de Langkawi there are many good sprinters and I'm very happy to win ahead of them. I thank the team because they have worked a lot for me. It has produced a good result today but the work preparing the sprint has been good from the beginning of the race.

    "I'm very proud of this tattoo because the silver medal for me at the Olympic Games is my best memory to date," Coquard told reporters.

    The young Coquard will but his passion for the boards to one side while he looks to build...

  • Schleck back in action at the GP Camaiore

    Andy Schleck (RadioShack Leopard) before the start at Camaiore.
    Article published:
    February 28, 2013, 12:30 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    RadioShack Leopard rider looks to put "dark moment" behind him

    Andy Schleck started the GP Camaiore race in Tuscany on Thursday, with his Radioshack Leopard team hoping he can finish his first race for almost year.

    Schleck came to Tuscany after training in Mallorca for ten days, hoping to finally put his problems behind him. He quit the Tour Méditerranéen on stage one citing illness and has now not finished a race since the 2012 Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

    His negative spiral of results and problems began last June when he fractured his pelvis during the time trial stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné in early June. Schleck missed the Tour de France and his comeback was delayed several times, with his bother's doping case also creating problems and difficulties within the Radioshack-Leopard team.

    A recent report in L'Équipe compared Schleck to Jan Ullrich, questioning Schleck's self-discipline and lack of motivation to that of the former German rider.

    Schleck's poor performances have been ridiculed by many people, especially on social media. However, it seems Schleck's problems are more complicated than just a lack of fitness and motivation.

    New Radioshack-Leopard team manager Luca Guercilena has hit back at the criticism, confirming that the team is trying to help Andy get his season and career back on track.

    "I think it's sad that whenever a rider goes through a difficult moment in life, a lot of people in cycling forget all the good things they have achieved," Guercilena said.

    "Andy is human just like anyone else and so can have difficult moments in life. We're trying to help him and help him get back to his best. We're ready to accept any criticism of what we do but to target Andy and try to undermine him psychologically is unfair."

    Schleck seemed keen to race when he stepped...

  • Blanco denies ex-commando is conducting intimidating doping interrogations

    Wilco Kelderman, Robert Gesink and Mark Renshaw sport the new Blanco jersey.
    Article published:
    February 28, 2013, 13:18 GMT
    Susan Westemeyer

    Dutch team questioning riders and staff as to their background

    Blanco Pro Cycling Team has denied Dutch media reports that a former military commando is intimidating its rider and interrogating them in the team's internal anti-doping investigation. Team manager Richard Plugge said that while Eelco Wisman is participating in staff interviews, he is there in the role of a mental coach and independent observer.

    “We have a method like Team Sky, asking all people like Sky did about their past,” Plugge told Cyclingnews Thursday morning.  “We have one third-party person who is sitting in the same room and questioning, he is there to be an independent individual who can help me or the other party on the other side of the table as well. It can be emotional.”

    Wisman “can work for both of us as an independent witness as to what was said from both sides,” in case questions arise later.

    Plugge also denied reports that riders felt “intimidated” by Wisman.  “The guys I spoke with said it was nothing intimidating at all, that they had to show their questionnaires and give their answers, then had a nice chit-chat as to how they are dealing with it.”

    The Dutch newspaer De Telegraaf had quoted an anonymous rider as saying, “His presence is intimidating. He observes and asks questions. Some interviews lasted more than an hour. It feels like we are treated like criminals."

    “We hired him because he is a mental coach, and independent from me, the team, the riders, the sport, everyone,” Plugge told Cyclingnews.

    As to him being an ex-commando, “yes, he was, maybe 20 years ago he was a commando. But after that, he was a sports instructor for the commandos. The funny thing is that after that story appeared, a lot of commandos called us to say, 'he was not a real commando, he was just a sports instructor to the...

  • Millar: Paris-Nice is one of the hardest races of the year

    David Millar (Garmin - Sharp) on the podium
    Article published:
    February 28, 2013, 14:10 GMT
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Garmin-Sharp veteran set to hone Belgian Classics form at Paris-Nice

    After a false start at the Tour du Haut Var, where he fell ill and climbed off after 100 kilometres, David Millar’s 2013 season starts in earnest at Paris-Nice this weekend. It’s been a slightly rocky start to the year, after the 36-year-old broke a finger in an accident in January which set him back for a couple of weeks and then got sick in early February, but he is optimistic things will be on the rise in March and even more so in April.

    “Things have been going better for the last month, but after getting sick at Haut Var, Paris-Nice is my first real race,” Millar told Cyclingnews on Thursday morning.

    “It’s a very difficult one, the first big stage race of the year and the weather’s generally not that conducive to cycling. It’s just a tough week and one of the hardest races of the year physically: everybody’s in really good shape, you’ve got a whole peloton motivated and raring to go.”

    Millar is the last British winner of the Paris-Nice prologue, back in 2007. “One of the few of those statistics left,” he says somewhat wryly given the constant rise of the sport in the UK, but this year he will be using the Race to the Sun to hone his form for the Belgian Classics.

    “I don’t imagine I’ll be setting things alight at Paris-Nice, but our primary objective will be to look after [Garmin-Sharp stage race contender Andrew] Talansky.”

    “I’ve looked at the route, it follows the same pattern roughly each year. You make sure you don’t get caught out in the crosswinds in the first couple of days, then if you go for GC, you try not to lose too much time on the uphill finish [the Montagne de Lure on stage five.] and then it all comes down to the Col d’Èze time trial [on stage seven]. It’s not the hardest race to control if they make it through those things, there’s always a few guys on...

  • Bak is back to racing in Paris-Nice

    Lars Ytting Bak (Lotto Belisol Team)
    Article published:
    February 28, 2013, 15:20 GMT
    Cycling News

    Lotto Belisol rider recovered from fractured hand bone

    Lars Bak has received the ok from team doctors and will ride Paris-Nice. The Lotto Belisol rider had broken his hand at the end of January, but has now been cleared to ride again.

    “I'm incredibly glad to be allowed to race again,” he told  “That's what I've trained for all winter.”

    Bak crashed in the finale of the GP de Marseillaise on January 30 and broke the scaphoid. Surgery allowed him to start training again only one week later.

    “I've trained well on my home trainer with some 'nasty' intervals, and the last few weeks put in many hours on the road. Of course I shall get beaten up on the climbs in Paris-Nice, but after a few days, I hope my diesel engine will go well.”

    Lotto Belisol for Paris-Nice: Lars Bak, Dirk Bellemakers, Gaëtan Bille, Bart De Clercq, Francis De Greef, Jens Debusschere, Dennis Vanendert and Frederik Willems

  • Talansky ready to lead Garmin-Sharp at Paris-Nice

    Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) on Bola del Mundo.
    Article published:
    February 28, 2013, 17:30 GMT
    Peter Hymas

    American has eyes on Tour debut in July

    The WorldTour makes its first foray into Europe at Paris-Nice, with a 2.9km prologue time trial kicking off the eight-day race on Sunday, and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) is ready. Now entering his third year at the WorldTour level, all spent with the Garmin organisation, the 24-year-old American faces the first test of a season in which he expects to make his Tour de France debut in July.

    "What I'm looking for at Paris-Nice is the kind of the improvement I saw year-to-year in the Vuelta last year - from being who knows what to being 7th overall," Talansky told Cyclingnews from his residence in Girona, Spain. "That's what's going to happen this year in Paris-Nice. I'm going there very conservatively to say I'm racing for the top five but you know the podium is a goal and it's really a wide-open race this year."

    Talansky made his WorldTour debut at Paris-Nice in his first year with Garmin, 2011, where he finished 61st overall but showed glimpses of his potential with a 7th place finish in the stage 6 time trial. The American has made stellar progress since then, featuring his first pro victory in both a road stage and stage race last year at the Tour de l'Ain, a top-ten finish at the Vuelta a Espana, and a second place overall (by 12 seconds) to Bradley Wiggins (Sky) at the Tour of Romandie where Talansky was also denied victory in the concluding time trial by mere fractions of a second at the hands of the flying...

  • Schleck happy to have finished the GP di Camaiore

    Andy Schleck (RadioShack Leopard) reports for duty at the GP Camaiore.
    Article published:
    February 28, 2013, 18:48 GMT
    Stephen Farrand

    Radioshack leader back in the results for the first time since April 2012

    Andy Schleck finished five minutes and thirty seconds behind winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) at the GP di Camaiore but just making it to the finish was an important moment for the RadioShack Leopard rider.

    He had not completed a race since Liège-Bastogne-Liège last April and had struggled to make a comeback since fracturing his pelvis during the time trial stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné in early June. The Luxembourger returned to racing at the Tour of Beijing in October, but dropped out on the fifth stage. In the 2013 season he has failed to finish the Tour Down Under as well as the Tour Méditerranéen.

    Before the start of the GP di Camaiore, new team manager Luca Guercilena, who replaced the ousted Johan Bruyneel, indicated that Schleck has been struggling psychologically after his injury, the suspension of brother Fränk for doping, and the consequent lack of motivation and desire to train.

    Schleck was never in the thick of the action at the GP di Camaiore and was dropped on the three-kilometre Monte Pitore climb one and a half laps from the finish. However, he received praise and satisfied pats on the back from Guercilena afterwards.

    "Honestly I'm quite satisfied. It was a hard race and we worked for the other guys. It's good for my confidence and for the upcoming races," Schleck told Cyclingnews before riding back to his hotel with several teammates.

    "Today was harder than everybody expected because we had to chase the break hard after they got a thirteen-minute lead. The finishing circuit is also hard and it was a nervous race."

    Barring problems, Schleck will ride the Strade Bianche race on Saturday and then stay in Italy for...

  • Federal investigation into doping in Russia?

    Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha)
    Article published:
    February 28, 2013, 19:41 GMT
    Cycling News

    Country's athletics chief wants cycling's biological passports across all sport

    Russia's Federal Drug Control Service could be set to launch a major investigation into its sports men and women - that's according to the boss of the All-Russian Athletics Federation.

    The suggestions come in the wake of Katusha being denied a WorldTour licence by the UCI, a decision which was then finally reversed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport a fortnight ago. The team's bid had been rejected on "ethical grounds"

    While it is not yet known why the CAS reversed the UCI's decision, it has said that in its deliberations, it "did not reach the same conclusions as the UCI Licensing Commission."

    The grounds for the decision will be released "in a few weeks", CAS stated.

    "It's possible that soon in our country a large-scale joint investigation will be undertaken, the organizers of which will be the Sports Ministry, [the Athletics Federation], the Federal Drug Control Service, RUSADA [the Russian Anti-Doping Agency] and other organizations," said All-Russian Athletics Federation boss Valentin Balakhnichev.

    Russian cycling and athletics have been the most-common sports for anti-doping infringements in recent years with Russian sprinter, and former member of Katusha, Denis Galimzyanov handed a two-year ban late last year having tested positive in an out-of-competition control on March 22.

    Track cyclist Victoria Baranova was sent home from the London Olympics year after testing positive to a banned substance in a pre-Games sample.

    Alexandr Kolobnev tested positive for the masking agent hydrochlorothiazide at the 2011 Tour de France only to be cleared by the CAS.

    Meantime a number of riders have been implicated in the on-going Padua investigation including Kolobnev, Vladimir Gusev, Mikhail Ignatiev, and Denis Menchov.

    Balakhnichev is campaigning for blood passports to be used across all sports in Russia.