- Article published:
- March 4, 2010, 09:36
- Hedwig Kröner
U23 world champ hoping to start his first "race to the sun"
Basque team Euskaltel-Euskadi might have to do without their latest recruit, Frenchman Romain Sicard, at the upcoming Paris-Nice stage race. The U23 world champion, for whom it would be his very first "race to the sun", is uncertain to start this Sunday because of a spasm to his left calf.
According to French Cyclismactu, Sicard could miss out on the prologue in Montfort-l'Amaury but his team's medical staff maintains that the injury is "nothing serious, even if he has to remain careful".
The decision whether or not he will be present to support his team leader, Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez, will be taken on Friday evening.
If the young Frenchman from the Pyrennees does take part, Euskaltel's line-up at the race will be the following: Koldo Fernandez, Benat Intxausti, Egoi Martinez, Mikel Nieve, Samuel Sanchez, Romain Sicard, Ivan Velasco, Gorka Verdugo. It is not known at this time who would replace him in case of his absence.
- Article published:
- March 4, 2010, 09:54
- Cycling News
Caisse d'Epargne to line up with two potential winners
Caisse d'Epargne has confirmed that Alejandro Valverde will ride in Paris-Nice, which starts this Sunday. The squad directed by Eusebio Unzué will therefore include two riders that have the full potential of winning the stage race: 2009 victor Luis León Sánchez and Valverde, who already won the Tour Méditerranéen this year.
Sánchez, who will ride with the dossard one in his bid to defend his title, doesn't only have to fight against the likes of Alberto Contador (Astana), Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank) or Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step), but may also encounter some rivalry with his own teammate. Still, this doesn’t seem to worry the squad's management:
"I don't know yet who will be the designated leader," said directeur sportif Yvon Ledanois. "It will depend on the riders' state of form at the start, and on how the race will unfold during the first days. What's for sure is that both are able to win this race on paper, and that there will be no problems between them because they have a very good relationship."
Valverde will be making his return to the cold French weather conditions he fled after his victory in the Tour Med by skipping the Tour du Hat Var. Sánchez is also in good form after having already won stages in the Tour Down Under and the Volta ao Algarve. He finished second overall in both events.
Caisse d'Epargne has confirmed the following line-up for Paris-Nice: Juan José Cobo, José Vicente García Acosta, Iván Gutiérrez, David López, Luis Pasamontes, Mathieu Perget, Luis León Sánchez, Alejandro Valverde.
- Article published:
- March 4, 2010, 10:49
- Cycling News
Norwegian Espoir team continues rider build-up in 2010
Norwegian Continental team Joker Bianchi looks forward to the 2010 season with a young but talented squad that includes three newcomers. Since its beginnings in 2005, the squad has been successful in building up young riders that eventually reached the highest level of cycling. Amongst others, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Lars Petter Nordhaug (both Sky) and Alexander Kristoff (BMC) all came from the Joker Bianchi team when they started their pro careers.
In this way, the squad 'lost' three riders at the end of last season (Nordhaug, Kristoff and Frederik Wilmann, who left to to Skil-Shimano), and therefore had to sign new talent. "Norway has a strong tail wind when it comes to cycling these days, there are a lot of exciting names out there," said sports director Gino Van Oudenhove.
"We had been following the three new riders for a while, and have seen how they have developed in their former clubs or teams." Van Oudenhove chose Vegard Breen, Vegard Robinson Bugge and Christer Rake to join the squad, which still includes other strong riders.
Stian Remme and Christer Rake, for example, both represented Norway in the 2009 Worlds in Mendrisio, and Rake finished 12th at the U23 road race. Another important rider on the team is Svein Erik Vold, who adds experience and routine to the young outfit. "With the loss of radio communication in all cat. 2 races, Vold's role will be more central than before," continued Van Oudenhove, who was optimistic about the team's results this year.
"I have a really good feeling before the season start, and I really believe that we still will be able to be represented on the top of the overall classifications in major European stage races," he said.
The team will start the season in France and Belgium this year, not in Croatia as usual. "The Tour de Normandie is a very important race for us during the spring, and it was unfortunately not possible to combine Croatia and Normandie this season," added Van Oudenhove. The team's first race will be GP Lillers in France on March 7.
The 2010 Joker Bianchi roster is: Svein Erik Vold, Ingar Stokstad, Sondre Gjerdevik Sørtveit, Stian Remme, Vegard Stake Laengen, Ole Haavardsholm, Vegard Breen (new), Vegard Robinson Bugge (new) and Christer Rake (new).
- Article published:
- March 4, 2010, 11:54
- Cycling News
Belgian race says the American team's line-up was not sufficient
Dwars door Vlaanderen have refused to issue a wildcard invitation to BMC Racing Team, choosing instead to take Xacobeo Galicia. Race organisers said that the American team was not sending any of its big-name riders to the event scheduled for March 24.
BMC rode the race last season, although none of its riders were amongst the 37 finishers. Marcus Burghardt, who rode for Columbia-HTC last year, finished 17th.
The organiser had hoped to see at least one of the team's top names for the Classics, such as former World champion Alessandro Ballan or George Hincapie in the Professional Continental team's line-up when its management asked for an invitation last fall.
“But we were greatly astonished when we got their list showing their selection for our race,” race director Guy Delesie told the Belga news agency. “Because there was not the name of any of their leaders.
“This would leave us with a 'third-rate' team. We consider that a lack of respect for our organisation. This is why we have decided not to allow them in Dwars door Vlaanderen.”
The invitation was instead given to Spanish team Xacobeo-Galicia. “We would rather have a motivated team at the start,” said Delesie.
The race will feature 12 ProTour teams, nine Professional Continental teams, and three Belgian Continental teams.
The teams for Dwars Door Vlaanderen are:
ProTour: Omega Pharma-Lotto, Quick Step, Francaise des Jeux, AG2R, Saxo Bank, Rabobank, HTC-Columbia, RadioShack, Milram, Katusha, Sky and Footon-Servetto
Professional Continental: Landbouwkrediet, Topsport Vlaanderen, Cervelo, Skil-Shimano, Vacansoleil, Cofidis, Bbox Bouygues Telecom, Acqua & Sapone, and Xacobeo-Galicia
Continental: An Post-Sean Kelly, Palmans-Cras, Verandas Willems
- Article published:
- March 4, 2010, 12:04
- Richard Tyler
Sky rider pleased with progress of European-based preparations
Gerrans will use Paris-Nice as part of a steady build-up to his first major goal of the season, the Ardennes Classics. But with a tough 2010 Paris-Nice route likely to play to his strengths, he is aware that consistent stage results could put him in a strong position overall.
"I'm planning to take it stage-by-stage and see where that gets me on GC," Gerrans told Cyclingnews on Wednesday. "I've never really been right up there on the overall, but that's something I'm looking at improving over the course of this year."
Gerrans, 29, has already proven his ability to lead and win multi-day races, with overall titles at the Tour Down Under (2006) and the Herald Sun Tour (2005, 2006) part of a palmarès that also includes stage wins at each of the three Grand Tours.
While those results bode well for similar success this season, he doesn't expect to perform a miracle in France next week. "There's no really big mountains [at Paris-Nice]. But I'm not planning to shock anyone with a huge result this week," he said.
Gerrans' 2010 season got off to a strong start at last week's Ruta del Sol. The trip to Spain yielded two top-three stage placings and served as affirmation of a new approach to his pre-season preparations.
"I think I'm on track. I've done lots of training and had some good solid preparation blocks. Last week [at Ruta del Sol] I felt that I was really improving as the five days went on," he said. "The goal was to be at around 90 per cent by this stage of the season and I'm pretty close to that now."
In contrast to previous seasons, Gerrans trained much of the early part of the year in Europe, rather than his native Australia. With his previous two participations in Paris-Nice (2007, 2008) cut short by illness, he is hopeful the extra period of acclimatization will prevent any delays to his season.
"My preparation has been different. It's been a slightly slower build-up and I've already been in Europe for a couple of months. It's probably the first time I've been really well adjusted to the European weather."
While Gerrans will be given the opportunity to test his general classification ability at races including Paris-Nice, Critérium International and Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), he remains firmly focussed on hitting peak form for the Walloon Classics. After top-ten finishes at Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year, he will be one of Sky's top hopes next month.
"The Ardennes [Classics] will be my first real goal of the season. It's part of the plan to build that last ten percent over the next six weeks in the lead-up to those races."
- Article published:
- March 4, 2010, 12:05
- Peter Cossins
RadioShack rider hopes to build on strong Algarve performance
RadioShack’s Tiago Machado has said he’s delighted to have been selected for the team that will appear at Paris-Nice, which begins at Montfort-l’Amaury, France, on Sunday.
The 24-year-old Portuguese rider had been slated to appear at the Tour of West Flanders this week, but his strong showing at the recent Tour of the Algarve, where he finished third overall, has led to his late selection for 'the race to the sun'.
"This gives me immense pleasure because it shows that the team have a lot of faith in me as they are letting me ride an event of the highest level," said Machado, who showed his ability as a climber in the Algarve by finishing runner-up to Alberto Contador at the summit of the Alto ao Malhao.
"It wasn’t by chance that I finished third in the Algarve, a race where there were a lot of very good riders. It was down to all of the hard work I did this winter," said the Portuguese, who admitted he’s still got a long way to go before he’s the finished article.
"I know that there are lots of details I need to work on and I also know that Paris-Nice is a race where I will be up against some of the best riders in the world. I will have to be humble and, above all, be aware there are riders in my team such as Levi Leipheimer who want to be in contention for this title and who will be relying on my help," said Machado.
The Portuguese, who’s featured as one of the Fab Four in the April issue of Procycling, is due to ride the Critérium International, Tour of the Basque Country and the Tour of Castilla y León after Paris-Nice.
- Article published:
- March 4, 2010, 17:56
- Richard Tyler
Pro Continental team confirms line-ups for Italian races, Paris-Nice
Cervélo TestTeam has named its line-ups for Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, with the squad's roster for the Italian stage race to face a final tune up at the Montepaschi Strade Bianche in Tuscany on Saturday.
The Professional Continental squad will send an almost identical line-up to both the Tuscan semi-Classic and Tirreno, with Norway's Thor Hushovd scheduled to replace Italian neo-pro Davide Appollonio for the latter event. Appollonio will, however, be given his opportunity to perform on home soil after he was named as Cervélo's co-captain for the one-day race.
"I am confident we have a very strong team for Montepaschi," said Cervélo's Sports Director for the event, Jens Zemke. "The riders are very motivated. In Roger Hammond we have a specialist who is ideal for this kind of race and our young Italian rider, Davide Appollonio, is also very motivated to perform well as this will be his first pro race in his home country."
Seven members of the Montepaschi roster will then travel to Livorno for the start of Tirreno-Adriatico. There they will be joined by their captain for the seven-day race, Thor Hushovd, who will hope to add to his 2006 stage win as he builds towards Milano-Sanremo.
"Thor will led the team for this race," said Sports Director Jean-Paul van Poppel,. "Our goal here is to make as strong a showing as possible and to win a stage."
Cervélo's depth will also see the team present a strong front at the start of Paris-Nice on Sunday. Sports Director Philippe Mauduit said that while members of their roster including Heinrich Haussler will use the event as preparation for the major Classics, they will head to France with the intention of stage wins and a high overall finish.
"We are not simply using this race for training, Paris-Nice is too important for that," he said. "We will try to go for a stage win and see what we can do in the GC. For that we're looking to Joaquín Novoa and probably Xavier Tondo to do something.
"While they will probably not be able to go for the win, they will certainly go for the best possible placement. For the flatter stages we'll have our sprinter, Heinrich Haussler, who won the second stage in last year's edition."
Cervélo TestTeam for Montepaschi Strade Bianche (March 6): Roger Hammond, Jeremy Hunt, Ignatas Konovalovas, Brett Lancaster, Gabriel Rasch and Martin Reimer.
Cervélo TestTeam for Paris-Nice (March 7-14): Xavier Florencio, Volodimir Gustov, Heinrich Haussler, Ted King, Daniel Lloyd, Joaquín Novoa, Dominique Rollin and Xavier Tondo.
Cervélo TestTeam for Tirreno-Adriatico (March 10-16): Roger Hammond, Jeremy Hunt, Thor Hushovd, Andreas Klier, Ignatas Konovalovas, Brett Lancaster, Gabriel Rasch and Martin Reimer.
- Article published:
- March 4, 2010, 22:21
- Laura Weislo
Even some ProTour teams need a good result
The International Cycling Union's so called "World Calendar" resumes this weekend with the 68th edition of Paris-Nice, one of 10 races with the "Historic" designation. Paris-Nice will be not only an important test for teams and riders, but also an audition in front of the organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) which also puts on the sport's biggest event of the year, the Tour de France.
There are 16 teams guaranteed a place in the Tour de France, but the unique arrangement for Historic races leaves ProTour teams Garmin-Transitions, Katusha, Sky and RadioShack battling it out with the wild card Professional Continental teams for the 4-6 open spots.
With Tour director Christian Prudhomme tipping Team Radioshack as a nearly assured invite, Garmin, Sky, Cervélo, Skil-Shimano, Saur-Sojasun, Vacansoleil, all of whom will compete in Paris-Nice, and the team of World Champion Cadel Evans, BMC, who chose to race in Tirreno-Adriatico instead, are some of the prime contenders for the remaining positions.
The performance of each team is not the only consideration: the Tour organisers are sticklers for teams with a strong anti-doping ethic, but politics can also come into play when it comes time to set the final start list.
BMC Director John Lelangue insists that the team has not jeopardized their chances for a Tour invite by skipping Paris-Nice in favour of Tirreno-Adriatico.
Prudhomme himself indicated that one big name rider isn't enough to win the team an invite, perhaps directing his comments at the BMC squad and its leader Cadel Evans. "I can't promise anything," Prudhomme said last month. "Some teams stand on an individual and if one of them gets injured and can't participate in the Tour, the presence of the whole team would be less evident."
Lelangue countered that by saying his squad is not built around one rider, that in addition to Evans, a two-time Tour runner-up, they have riders who have won stages like George Hincapie, Marcus Burghardt and Karsten Kroon.
"I wanted to be fair with Prudhomme and I made it clear from the start last fall that we would not be a candidate for Paris-Nice because I prefer to put one strong team all together," Lelangue told Cyclingnews. "Tirreno-Adriatico is important for our preparation for the Giro d'Italia, as is the Eroica which begins one day before Paris-Nice.
"I do not think this decision will be a detriment to our selection, and I am confident that the group we are putting together for the Tour de France will earn us an invitation."
The other contenders
Team Sky's formidable roster and wins in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and stages of Tour of Oman, Qatar and the Tour Down Under have likely pushed them to top of the wild card heap alongside Team RadioShack.
Garmin-Transitions has also been putting on a good show, with two wins in this week's Vuelta Murcia by Robbie Hunter and several podium places by its main sprinter Tyler Farrar. A strong showing by the American team's GC contenders could push it over the top, leaving just three more slots open for the 2010 Tour de France.
Katusha are sending a team to Paris-Nice with hopes for Alexander Kolobnev, the runner up to Cadel Evans in the Worlds and Sergei Ivanov as its aggressors, but it will have to put on a good show after a lacklustre start to the season.
Saur-Sojasun has an advantage as a French team with a 100 percent French roster, an aggressive racing style as well as a strong performance in last year's European Tour where Jimmy Casper placed third. They would be a logical pick for the ASO which has historically leaned toward teams from its own country for the wild card spots.
That leaves 2008 Tour winner Carlos Sastre's Cervélo team in a tighter spot than they were last year at this time. Sports Director Philippe Mauduit knows an overall victory in Paris-Nice is a long shot for his team, so he will be sending a team of opportunists in hopes of repeating the team's stage win of last year.
"We will try to go for a stage win and see what we can do in the GC. For that we're looking to Joaquín Novoa and probably Xavier Tondo to do something. While they will probably not be able to go for the win, they will certainly go for the best possible placement. For the flatter stages we have our sprinter, Heinrich Haussler, who won the second stage in last year's edition."
The Vacansoleil team has been putting on a fine show all season so far, netting a victory in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, a stage of Tour of Qatar and two stages of Etoile de Bessèges. For Director Hilaire Van Der Schueren, the results speak for themselves, and he doesn't see the need to alter his game for Paris-Nice. "We have already shown enough, we will ride our own race. We don't have a team for one week of the year, we must shine at all times," he told ANP.
Skil-Shimano hasn't had as much luck so far, its best placing was a second in a stage of Ruta del Sol by Robert Wagner, but director Merijn Zeeman said the team caught the eye of Prudhomme last year with its aggressive racing style and he hopes the addition of several talented French riders will sweeten the deal.
"[Paris-Nice] is a key race for the Tour, and we will do everything we can. Everyone is aware of the situation, but it is not our biggest motivation."
History complicates the mystery of Tour invites
The mystery of how the Tour invitations work is further complicated by the new World Calendar rules. Born out of a long-running dispute between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers, the calendar combines the ProTour races with the Historic events put on by the ASO, Giro d'Italia organiser RCS Sport and Vuelta Espana promoter Unipublic.
The Historic classification sets these races apart not only by status but also by rules governing which teams are invited to participate in the events. Unlike the ProTour events, which must include all ProTour teams, the Historic races, under a September, 2008 agreement, restrict the automatic entries to the teams with valid ProTour licenses on the date of the accord.
So defending Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and his Astana team have nothing to worry about, neither do HTC-Columbia and green jersey hopeful Mark Cavendish, Saxo Bank and contender Andy Schleck and, providing the courts fail to extend his ban in Italy worldwide, presumably the team of Alejandro Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne.
The French teams AG2R La Mondiale, Cofidis, Française des Jeux and Bbox Bouygues Telecom are safe, as are Euskaltel - Euskadi, Footon-Servetto, Lampre-Farnese Vini, Liquigas-Doimo, Omega Pharma-Lotto, Quick Step, Rabobank and Team Milram, all provided that they can avoid any "ethical" scandals which would free the ASO up to rescind their invite.
Race director Christian Prudhomme will be making his final selection for the Tour de France "in early Spring", he said last month, giving the rest of the teams little time to prove their worthiness for the sport's most important race.