- Article published:
- July 26, 2012, 04:26
- Laura Weislo in London
Small teams, technical circuits biggest factors according to Rogers, O'Grady
The 2012 Olympic Games is nearly upon us, and the Australian team has been hard at work scouting the circuit around Box Hill in Surrey, outside London, in preparation for the men's road race on Saturday.
Narrow, twisting roads, speed humps, traffic islands, heavily shaded lanes and, of course, the climb of Box Hill will be the main selecting factors in the 248km men's road race. Getting through the nervous opening kilometres on a tricky run out from Westminster to the nine laps in Surrey unscathed will be of the utmost importance, and the Australians are relying on a combined half century of racing experience to get them through the tricky bits.
"I think this is the best team Australia's ever brought to the Olympic road race," said Stuart O'Grady, who will compete in his sixth Olympic Games alongside Cadel Evans, Michael Rogers, Simon Gerrans and Matthew Goss. "We have someone who's won the Tour de France and the World Championships [Evans], a three time road champion [Rogers], Simon Gerrans and Matt Goss have both won one-day classics, and I won Paris-Roubaix. I think there's an incredible amount of experience in this team and it's going to be a major factor in the race."
O'Grady pegged the trip out to the Box Hill circuit as the trouble spot as far as crashes, and the circuits as the danger zone for unmanageable breakaways.
"It's going to be tricky - we will have to be alert and keep out of trouble. On the circuit there are very small roads, and it's covered so it's quite dark. Once a few riders get out of sight - you won't have any idea who that is unless you're right up front watching the action. This is where experience comes into it."
The fact that the Olympic Games only allow a maximum of five riders per team as opposed to the nine in the Grand Tours means there are fewer riders to control the race and no rider is expendable.
"With five guys we will have to be very smart about when to use riders - there are only so many times you can follow attacks or shut a breakaway down. After 248km you've got to make a lot of very wise decisions out on the road."
Rogers agreed, but also believes that Team Australia has the right formula for any race scenario that might play out. Although some other teams might be heavily invested in a bunch sprint, such as Great Britain for Mark Cavendish or Belgium for Tom Boonen, Rogers said that the racing coming down to a sprint is no foregone conclusion.
"It would be pure speculation [to try and predict an outcome]," Rogers said. "There are only five riders per team, it's a professional sport, and the guys won't stop until there's a situation that they want. It could be a breakaway, a rider soloing to the finish. There are too many possibilities to discuss. The lack of race radios changes things. We have to make decisions based on the information we have. The less we have, the more chance there is for mistakes.
"Between Stuey and me, we have years of experience, we can communicate with each other. You don't get much more experience than Cadel, and Simon and Matt have been around a few years. We have every base covered."
Personally, Rogers said he is in some of the best form of his life, having fully recovered from the mononucleosis which plagued him in 2011 and in previous seasons. Certainly the work he did for his trade teammate Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France showed he's back to full health.
"I [just] came off the best Tour I've ever done, obviously playing a domestique's role, I was still able to finish up there. I'm in some of the best condition road-race wise I've ever been in."
Right now the focus is on rest and recovery from the Tour, while at the same time doing just enough to keep the body primed and ready to go on Saturday.
- Olympic games
- Article published:
- July 26, 2012, 08:06
- Cycling News
Return to competition yet to be determined
It’s been almost three weeks since Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM) left the Tour de France after a dramatic crash on stage six from Épernay to Metz. Poels was one of many who went down that day but unlike many others, he was not able to continue. He abandoned the race and left in an ambulance.
Poels’ injuries were serious and he was kept in intensive care following his ruptured kidney and spleen, a bruised lung and three broken ribs. He was in taken to a military hospital in Metz where he remained until he was stable enough to return to the Netherlands.
He still has a long way to go before he is fully recovered but the Dutchman is now finally at home where he can continue his treatment and rehabilitation.
"My tour lasted 2days longer! Finally home... Still a long way to go but bit by bit is the right direction... # home sweet home," he wrote on Twitter.
His exact recovery time is not yet known but considering the severity of his injuries, it could be a while before we see Poels back in the peloton. Poels was considered one of the contenders for the young rider classification, won by Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), at this year's Tour.
- Article published:
- July 26, 2012, 09:25
- Cycling News
“We aim to impress” says national coach
Paolo Bettini and the Italian men’s road team arrived in London and are finialising their preparation ahead of Saturday’s 250km Olympic road race. It’s possibly not the strongest ever team to represent Italy at the Olympics but Bettini insists that while the team lacks a true leader, there’s plenty of talent to achieve a result.
"I think we can count on a good team. We're perhaps lacking an individual leader but we have a motivated, strong and united team of experienced men who are joined by young talents. Each of them can make a major contribution to the team and the race," said Bettini to La Repubblica.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) will headline the team’s five-man roster with Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox), Luca Paolini (Katusha), Marco Pinotti (BMC) and Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) looking to support the recent third-place finisher at this year’s Tour de France.
"The key man is, of course, Vincenzo Nibali. Not only did he do well at the Tour, he has done great things in one-day races on courses not properly suited to his characteristics, this demonstrates great maturity," Bettini said.
Nibali will start the race as the leader but he’s not supported by simply a group of mere domestiques. Bettini is confident in each of the four others and has one more rider on call, track representative Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale), if any fitness problems arise before Saturday.
"Modolo was second behind Mark Cavendish at the test event last year," Bettini said. "Paolini is experienced, knows how to sacrifice himself for the team but can also lead if asked, Pinotti is a great asset for the time trial and has the experience while Trentin is young and has already proven himself in many races. Viviani is one more who has qualified for the omnium and is included as a reserve. We’ll choose the five riders by the Friday morning deadline."
- Article published:
- July 26, 2012, 10:54
- Cycling News
Tour de Wallonie might have been Dane's last appearance for team
Jakob Fuglsang finished yesterday's final stage at the Tour de Wallonie in 35th place in the general classification and the Danish rider revealed afterwards that the Belgian race was probably his last in the colours of RadioShack-Nissan.
Fuglsang was left out of RadioShack's squad for the 2012 Tour de France last month and following the snub he immediately stated his intention to leave the team at the end of the season. RadioShack responded to his outburst by ruling him out of any remaining WorldTour events for the rest of the year and as a result Fuglsang now doubts that he will race again for the team.
"I have no more races in my programme," Fuglsang told Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. "I asked the team if I could ride the Tour of Colorado and some other races in the build up to the World Championships but they haven't responded.
"At least I can ride the Tour of Denmark with the national team. The coach Lars Bonde emailed me and told me I could have a spot if I was unable to compete for RadioShack."
Fuglsang's fall out with RadioShack has been one of the ingredients of what has largely been a disastrous season for the Luxembourg team. His overall wins at the Tour of Austra and the Tour of Luxembourg have provided some of high points on the road, but these have been offset by Johan Bruyneel's charges from USADA, Frank Schleck's irregular urine samples at Tour de France earlier this month and rumours of financial irregularities. Fuglsang has already opened preliminary negotiations with Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank over a contract with them for next season. He rode for Team Saxo Bank from 2009-2010.
- Article published:
- July 26, 2012, 11:41
- Laura Weislo
US sprinter overcomes untimely injury to make the team
Team USA will field arguably its strongest women's squad to date when the 2012 Olympic Games road race begins on Sunday, and if the race comes down to a bunch sprint, Shelley Olds is a prime prospect for a medal. Although she is one of the fastest women in the world, getting onto the team was never a given for the 31-year-old from Massachusetts.
The Olympic quest began on the track for Olds, but when the UCI removed the points race from the programme, she had to devote herself completely to transforming into a road sprinter, which she did to immediate success: her palmares include two national criterium titles, a Pan American championship, stages of the women's Giro d'Italia and Tour of New Zealand. But her crowning achievement to date, her first World Cup victory on Chongming Island in China in May, came at a extraordinarily opportune moment.
At the start of the season, the United States had slipped out of the top five in the UCI's nations rankings, a designation which determines the size of the team for the Olympic Games. The entire team was devoted to gaining points: Evelyn Stevens won in La Flèche Wallonne, Amber Neben took wins in El Salvador and the PanAmerican Championships, Kristin Armstrong won stages in the Tour of New Zealand and Megan Guarnier followed up her break-out season of 2011 with a seventh place behind Stevens on the Mur de Huy.
Olds, however, was sitting on her sofa with a cast on her broken wrist, watching her compatriots' successes and seeing her own chances of making the team slipping away.
"I put my whole life into cycling this winter to qualify for the Games, and then I had a big crash in one of the best races for me - the Binda World Cup," Olds told Cyclingnews. The moment came on a descent early in the Italian World Cup when another rider crashed in front of Olds, leaving her with a fractured wrist which had to be stabilized in a full plaster cast. "I lost five weeks of my season and I had to sit in my apartment watching everyone else racing to qualify. It was very difficult mentally to stay focused and say, 'I still have a month to qualify and I have to put all of my efforts into that'."
"When I broke my wrist I wasn't able to climb for a long time because of the cast, I couldn't stand and move around. I focused all my energy on the race in China because I knew that was what I could use to qualify for the Olympics - it was completely flat. So I focused all my training on flat racing, sprints, power work on the flats."
Desperate to get back into the game, Olds defied her doctor's orders and raced just four weeks later, still with the cast, at the Festival Luxembourgeois du Cyclisme Féminin Elsy Jacobs. It was too soon. "I had another crash and my hand was OK but I hit my head pretty hard because I was protecting my hand." The incident made her doubt whether or not she could even go to China less than two weeks later for the World Cup.
"I made the decision I needed to get myself back mentally, and get back into racing. So I went to China and it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me."
Olds used the three-day stage race which precedes the Chongming Island World Cup to tune her body, mind and race strategy for her final chance at making the Olympic team - nothing short of a victory would do.
"The stage race had two stages that finished on the same circuit as the World Cup, so we got to practice the sprint two times before the World Cup. It was not a very big field, but it was a difficult race because it was raining and windy, and it was a long race. In the end it came down to a field sprint and I happened to be at the right place at the right time and sprinted to victory."
The win gave Olds the edge in the USA Cycling selection process over Guarnier, who had 20 more UCI points than Olds but no World Cup wins. "I've known Megan for a long time and I have a lot of respect for her as a rider, and I think she's done amazing things this year. In the end it was a battle of five girls for four spots, and I feel fortunate I'm going to have an opportunity to represent the USA."
After her success in China, Olds returned to her European base to train in Italy, tackling some of the toughest climbs in the world in order to prepare for the Giro Donne and Olympic Games. The hard work paid off with a sprint victory on stage 6 in Italy, where she beat a host of top riders: Marianne Vos, Giorgia Bronzini, Monia Baccaille, Judith Arndt and Emma Johansson.
That victory gave Olds the confidence that she can deliver an Olympic gold medal for Team USA if the race on Sunday should come down to a sprint. "It's not always the strongest or fastest person who wins, it's the person who has been the smartest, who has had the most luck that day and who is in the right position at the right time.
"I think Team USA is capable of winning a medal with any one of our riders. I feel that I am capable of winning in the sprint against some of these big riders," Olds said.
The race itself will be challenging not only because of the undulating, technical course but because the UCI's restrictions on team size yield a tiny peloton of just 67 riders - that is less than half the size of most World Cups.
"It's a long race, 140km, the roads are very uneven, the surface is not smooth. You're constantly battling with your bike on the surface, even on the downhills you can't recover because you're bumping around. The whole course is up and down, so it's never an easy race. I think Box Hill can be the decisive point in the race because it's coming from a big road onto a narrow road, and if the big countries and strong girls want to make a selection that's where they can make it. It's a long way to the finish, but it's a small field and once a selection is made it's hard to say who will chase and who can bring the group back together."
The summer in London has been less than ideal, with cold temperatures and heavy rains plaguing the country for months. While the sun emerged in time for the team's arrival in Surrey, and Olds and her fellow riders have enjoyed warm, sunny conditions while training this week, the forecast for Sunday is dismal. Olds remains unfazed.
"I don't mind if it rains or if it's hot or cold. that will make the race. This is going to be an epic moment, a memorable experience. If it's raining then that just adds to the experience, or if it is a beautiful day - whatever happens, happens, and that is how it's meant to be. The weather will not change how I race the race."
- Article published:
- July 26, 2012, 14:05
- Daniel Benson
American in best shape of his life
Taylor Phinney (United States of America) will race in both Saturday's Olympic road race and next week's time trial and the American rider is determined to leave London with a medal.
Despite his tender age of 22, Phinney is competing in his second Games, having raced on the track in Beijing four years ago. That experience, in which Phinney missed out on a medal in the individual pursuit, has left the BMC rider hungry for Olympic successes.
"Back then I was a little kid. I was way out of my element in 2008 and I almost got lost in the whole experience even before I'd competed. I came to realise that a lot of people ended up going to the Olympics just for the experience. In a way I forgot that I had to race my bike for four and half minutes. I did okay but it wasn't up to my capabilities but I took it for granted that I might have extra chances at the gold medal," Phinney told Cyclingnews.
In the four years since Beijing, Phinney's career has seen a steady improvement, from track specialist to a one-day, and time trial rider. From signing to the Livestrong team at the tail end of 2008, to BMC for the beginning of 2011, he has picked up two under 23 Paris-Roubaix titles, an under 23 time trial world championship gold and a Giro d'Italia prologue win. However, the Olympics have been a target since last year and since the Giro, Phinney has split his time between the US and his base in Italy as he prepares for the London Games.
"I've come here in probably the best shape I've ever been in. I know going into the road race and the time trial I'm not a hot favourite for either one of them but I am someone who can come out and have a really good result. I've done everything I've needed to do training and nutrition-wise, and I've taken care of myself over the last two months to make sure I've got the best legs possible."
However, in order to succeed in the time trial Phinney will have to beat several of the world's leading time trial specialists. Bradley Wiggins, winner of two time trials at the Tour de France as well as the overall, Chris Froome, Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin all line up as rivals, and Phinney is well aware of the task at hand. But unlike in Beijing four years ago, when competing appeared to be enough, the aspiring rider is keen to stress that medals are all that matters.
"I'm really happy with the way I've approached it and I'm also really confident in my abilities. It's perhaps a different confidence than what I had before the Giro. I went there knowing I could win and that I would win if nothing held me back, whereas here it's different to my specialty in terms of the length of the time trial but I've seen gains in training. I'm going to leave everything out there and I'm not going to leave anything to chance," he told Cyclingnews.
"In my mind you have to go to the Olympics thinking that you can medal so in my mind I've trained like I'm coming here to win an Olympic medal. I'm not sitting here saying I'll win a medal but I've trained in a way, and dedicated myself in way that an Olympic medallist would.
"It's a huge task for sure. To win a medal I'll have to beat Cancellara, Wiggins, Martin or Froome, so it's huge, but I can't come here and say I want to get fifth or top-10because you have to come here and want to medal."
- Article published:
- July 26, 2012, 16:11
- Cycling News
Belgian rider hoping for a medal
2012 has been a disappointing one so far for Philippe Gilbert, but the Belgian is mindful that a medal at this Saturday's Olympic road race could act as a silver lining to his well-documented troubles. Since signing for BMC at the end of last season, Gilbert has failed to win a race. By this time last season, in stark contrast, he had won 13 times and was on his way to winning the 2011 Velo d'Or.
A combination of illness, niggling injuries and problems adapting to his new surroundings have conspired to make it a year to forget, but Gilbert believes that the Olympics offer a unique opportunity for any athlete. Now that he has arrived in London, the special atmosphere that an Olympic Games provides has breathed some vigour into some tired limbs and muscles. He will enter Saturday's road race as part of a star-studded five-man Belgian team alongside Tom Boonen, Jurgen Roelandts, Greg Van Avermaet and Stijn Vandenbergh but despite the firepower in the Belgian ranks Gilbert realises that winning a medal will be a tough assignment.
"I think it's a tremendous experience to be here," Gilbert told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad. "You get this chance only once every four years. We are here with 140 riders at the start so to get a medal is very difficult. But we are motivated. Yesterday I trained for three hours and my legs felt good in the last hour."
Gilbert revealed that he and his teammates have ridden Saturday's course in preparation and that they liked what they saw. He is, however, in no doubt that the entire field will face a mammoth task in stopping Great Britain's Mark Cavendish should the race turn into a bunch sprint. Their only chance, he says, is to prevent that sprint from materialising.
"It is not a heavyweight track but not really easy either," Gilbert said. "You can do the ascent of Box Hill in outer gears. I think Mark Cavendish will certainly be able to manage it. The rest of us are all together in the same boat. It is everyone against Cavendish. If we get into a sprint with him, we are beaten. We will try to set the race up differently and make it hard for him. But five of us cannot do it alone, we must count on help from the Italians and the Spanish, for example. Cavendish of course has an excellent team around him."
- Article published:
- July 26, 2012, 18:20
- Laura Weislo
Winning move could go anywhere
American Timmy Duggan will be making his Olympic debut in the men's road race on Saturday as the reigning US Pro champion. Although many pundits are predicting a bunch sprint heavily in home hero Mark Cavendish's favour, Duggan sees ample opportunity for himself and his Team USA squad in what he calls a "dynamic course".
Together with Taylor Phinney, Chris Horner, Tyler Farrar and Tejay van Garderen, Duggan has made the rounds along the course which heads from the center of London to Surrey, before hitting the 15.5km Box Hill circuit, which the men will contest nine times before the return trip to the finish in The Mall. It has left him and the team mulling over a variety of race scenarios and concluding that the team is well suited to the course.
"We've got a Swiss army knife of a team - we're not putting our eggs into once basket," Duggan told Cyclingnews. "We have been riding around the course kind of batting around some ideas. It's an interesting course. It's not like there is just one section of the race where something is going to happen and everyone is going to be prepared for that. It's a dynamic course and it's going to make for a dynamic race. I think our team reflects that. We'll be able to kind of play our cards in a breakaway or split situation or a sprint in the end, however it plays out.
"On paper, it seems like the British will ride their butts off for Cavendish and it will be a sprint, but he still only has four guys riding for him in a 250km race. The other teams won't want to help them and go to the line with Cavendish. There are no radios, so that makes it harder to know what's going on. The nature of the course is it's so easy to get out of sight - the break goes and it's just gone, you can't see it, as opposed to a lot of courses have wide open roads until the finish. I think it will be tougher even if there are two teams working together to really build momentum and bring it back quickly."
Duggan is one of the unsung heroes of American cycling, dedicating his career to selfless, slavish dedication to helping his teammates. His work at the front of the Amgen Tour of California for five-time stage winner Peter Sagan on the Liquigas-Cannondale team caught the attention of the Olympic selectors, but it was his solo victory in the US Pro championships in Greenville, South Carolina that sealed the deal.
"During the selection time in the spring and early summer, I did my best to show that I was a good worker, and that I could also win a race when I'm racing for myself," he said. "I showed my best. With a five-man team, of course you're going to leave good guys at home, so I wasn't stressed about it, I wasn't going to cry if I wasn't on the team. I knew I did my best at the right time, and did everything I could do. It worked out well, I'm on the team!"
Duggan's chances for a medal may be slim, but they are not zero as he predicts that the early breakaways might just be able to stay away. "I think one of my best functions in the race will be covering the early moves, and if it works out - if that or part of that move is really influential in the finish, that's great for me."
At the national championships, Duggan showed the strength, timing and tactical nous to get into the right moves and to foil competitors who might be more well known, with tenacity and strength. But if the early break fails, then he is confident the rest of the team can come through.
"We've obviously got some super firepower in the team for the finish - Tyler's one of the fastest finishers in the world, Taylor's been training really well. Chris Horner is a proven contender, and Tejay is coming off an incredible ride in the Tour."
While three of the five Americans raced the Tour de France ahead of the Olympic Games, Duggan was surprisingly left off Liquigas' team for the Tour. With his contract up at the end of the season, he may look for another team which will afford him the opportunity to race in the Tour, but says his destination is not yet known.
"All I can do is ride my best, do my best job and if it doesn't work out... maybe on another team I'll have other opportunities, but having a successful season this year has kind of opened some doors for me," he said. An Olympic medal would certainly help in the negotiations.