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Second Edition Cycling News, Thursday, May 17, 2012

Date published:
May 17, 2012, 1:00 BST
  • Leukemans returns to action at Circuit de Lorraine

     Björn Leukemans (Vacansoleil)
    Article published:
    May 17, 2012, 11:15 BST
    Cycling News

    Belgian's knee injury had kept him out since April 1

    After more than six weeks on the sidelines with a serious knee injury, Vacansoleil-DCM's Bjorn Leukemans made his competitive return to cycling yesterday at the Circuit de Lorraine in France. The 34-year-old Belgian was satisfied with his 15th place in the opening stage of the French race from Rombas to Neuves-Maisons.

    The 160km stage came down to a sprint finish and Leukemans found himself right in the thick of things behind eventual winner Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat). Leukemans had not raced since he picked up the injury at the Tour of Flanders on 1 April. He admitted to feeling some pain afterwards but was hopeful that his knee, which didn't require surgery, would hold out until the climax of the race in Hayange on Sunday, close to the Luxembourg border.

    "The first ride is all in the past now," he said.

    "I still have what a weird feeling in my knee, with an occasional sting, but I did ride out and the condition does not seem so bad. Let's hope I can continue with my knee until Sunday."


  • Weekend races could have big say in IG Pro Cycling Index

    Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) continues to lead the Giro d'Italia.
    Article published:
    May 17, 2012, 11:53 BST
    Cycling News

    Rodriguez eyeing top spot at Gilbert's expense

    Since the IG Pro Cycling Index started last June, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) has topped the rankings. This has in large part been due to his excellent results in early 2011, which saw him win all the Ardennes Classics, Strade Bianche, the Tour of Belgium, Ster ZLM Tour and stages at both the Volta ao Algarve and Tirreno-Adriatico. The Belgian’s lead continued to grow throughout the year as he continued to win races and by the end of the season he had amassed a huge 2828 points.

    In 2012 his lead has gradually been cut back as he has failed to match his dominant performances from 2011. Despite this he has still held onto the top spot, mainly for two reasons - his performances in the second half of 2011 and his 3rd place in this year’s Fleche Wallone. After last week’s update the gap between Gilbert at the top and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is just 119 points, while Tom Boonen is just 165 points behind his countryman Gilbert in third position.

    Rodriguez is currently riding and leading the Giro d’Italia after his stage win on stage 10. This result will likely propel him even closer to the number one spot. As the index is a rolling 12-month ranking system the key is to better your results from the previous year.

    Last year, Rodriguez finished 4th overall and finished in the top ten on eight stages. This year, he has already won a stage and had two other top five finishes. If he wins another stage before Monday or comes in the top three in two stages then he will move to the number one spot overall on the Index. He will also help his chances to take the top spot if he stays in the pink jersey for as long as possible as that will bring him 12 points for every day he does.

    Gilbert is not...

  • Bontrager-Livestrong light up Amgen Tour of California

    Axel Merckx and Rabobank General Manager Harold Knebel at the start of stage 4.
    Article published:
    May 17, 2012, 14:34 BST
    Pat Malach

    Team of young guns mixing it up with some of the world's best

    The Bontrager-Livestrong development team has made the most so far of its invitation to the Amgen Tour of California, scoring multiple top-10 stage results and placing New Zealander Josh Atkins, who currently sits 10th overall, in the Best Young Rider's jersey.

    "We try to be present everyday on the front," said team director Axel Merckx. "And we try to be active and throw ourselves into the mix of things. Now [stage 4] is a long day leading into the time trial, and then there are two really big hard days. Like I said in the beginning, we'll take it one day at a time. We have our goals everyday and we try to accomplish them, and then we turn the page and look at tomorrow."

    Texan Lawson Craddock, currently 15th overall, has twice found his way to the front of the big bunch finishes, placing ninth on stage 1 and seventh on stage 2. The young Texan said the results have surprised even himself.

    "The first stage was one of the first times I've actually been up there trying to duke it out in the sprint," Craddock said. "I've never thought of myself as a sprinter, and being up there throwing elbows with guys like Sagan and Haussler, it's insane, so I've definitely surprised myself, for sure. I'm doing a lot better than I thought I would in this race."

    But the race is far from over, and Thursday's time trial in Bakersfield, followed by two tough mountain stages, will certainly shake up the general classification, but Merckx said the overall has never been a team goal.

    "The GC right now is not really the GC that's going to be at the end of the week, we all know that," Merckx said. "There's a long TT
    tomorrow and then two hard stages, so it's going to be turned upside down tomorrow, I know that. We'll see how it goes and see how...

  • Guardini draws lessons from Giro d’Italia debut

    Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia).
    Article published:
    May 17, 2012, 15:50 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Italian wants to contest a sprint before Milan

    One of the most eagerly awaited debutants at this year’s Giro d’Italia, Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) has failed to make an impact in the frenetic bunch sprints thus far, but he is determined to draw lessons from his first taste of the corsa rosa.

    10th place in Horsens on stage 3 is all Guardini has to show for his travails at this point, and the 22-year-old readily admits that he has struggled to cope with the various obstacles thrown up by the Giro’s mass finishes, as crashes and late climbs have repeatedly thwarted his attempts to execute a clean sprint.

    “I was a bit unlucky at the start of the Giro in Denmark because the crashes in the stages there held me up,” Guardini told Cyclingnews in Seravezza. “Then the other three sprint stages turned out to be more difficult than anticipated. The long stages and especially the ones with tough finales like at Montecatini Terme and Fano have been hard. I’m still struggling with those to be honest.”

    Stage 11 was something of a double milestone for Guardini: it marked the first time that he had taken part in a race longer than ten days, while the 255 kilometres from Assisi to Montecatini Terme was the longest distance he had ever covered on a bike.

    “Yesterday’s stage seemed more like a classic than a regular day in a stage race, but I realise that these are the races that count and I’m happy to gain the experience,” said Guardini, who lost contact on the final circuit over the climb of the Vico.

    At the end of the opening week of the Giro, Guardini hit some unwanted headlines when his frustrated directeur sportif told Gazzetta dello Sport that he needed to start heeding his advice or else leave the...

  • Voigt says Sagan is in superior shape

    Jens Voigt ready for another day of patroling the front of the peloton.
    Article published:
    May 17, 2012, 16:36 BST
    Laura Weislo

    RadioShack rouleur may be ready to retire

    If the Amgen Tour of California had a jersey for the most popular rider, it would likely go to RadioShack-Nissan's Jens Voigt. The affable German was in a good mood as usual in Sonora yesterday as he prepared for the longest day of the week.

    His team has taken a back seat to the action as it looks to keep defending race champion Chris Horner out of trouble before the three key stages to come, and with no team willing to go on the attack in the climbs the race has gone to Peter Sagan, who won four consecutive stages.

    It's been described as repetitive, dull and even a bit predictable, but the fact that Sagan keeps winning in Voigt's opinion is merely a matter of his strength.

    "Does it make the sport worse? Does it make the other teams seem stupid?" Voigt asked, comparing the dominance of Sagan to that of an NFL team like the New York Giants.

    "If he has that much more punch than anyone else, what can you do?" he said. "That's just how it is. He's just in superior shape at the moment and he's a good rider."

    Each day has replayed the same script, despite a challenging parcours of mountains in relatively close proximity to the finishes: a breakaway of domestic riders goes up the road, the WorldTour teams peg it back and the groups rejoin for a large bunch sprint.

    Voigt supported the Continental teams in their quest to gain publicity for their sponsors in the early part of the stages. "The domestic teams they try to get out there and get the stage win because they know they don't have a sprinter who can match [Sagan]. They don't have a climber who can match Horner or [Levi] Leipheimer in the mountains so they need to get out there and show their jerseys, which is fair...

  • Casar laments missed chances at stage 12 of Giro d'Italia

    Sandy Casar (FDJ-Big Mat)
    Article published:
    May 17, 2012, 18:15 BST
    Jean-François Quénet

    Still no Frenchman in pink jersey since Laurent Jalabert

    Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat) could be considered the main loser of the breakaway on stage 12 of the Giro d’Italia, despite finishing second on the day behind Lars Bak (Lotto Belisol) and putting in a great effort in defeat. He was the virtual pink jersey holder until the very last kilometre of racing but he finished second in Sestri Levante and narrowly missed taking over the GC lead from Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). Ivan Basso’s Liquigas-Cannondale team closed the gap to less than four minutes and Casar missed out on the pink jersey and lies in third place in the GC behind Rodriguez and Ryder Hesjedal.

    The last Frenchman to have worn the pink jersey was Laurent Jalabert in 1999. But Casar wasn’t thinking of making history this way. “I only rode for the stage win”, he told Cyclingnews on the finishing line at Sestri Levante. “With [BMC’s Ivan] Santaromita only 15 seconds down on me on GC, I couldn’t just ride hard at the front because he would have countered me. I couldn’t give everything for the pink jersey.”

    When Lars Bak attacked, ultimately decisively, he expected another rider to go and catch the Dane.

    “I’m very disappointed”, Casar admitted. “I had marked this stage as mine since the start of the Giro in Denmark. This was an occasion to win that I might never have again.” He wasn’t bitter about the actions of Liquigas-Cannondale: “The finale was dangerous and it was important for them to position their leader [Ivan Basso] and keep him out of danger.

    “I would have liked to go under the radar as I’m now racing outside France but I have a name in cycling. I can’t do just whatever I...

  • Cunego sparkles briefly on road to Sestri Levante in Giro d'Italia

    Damiano Cunego (Lampre - ISD)
    Article published:
    May 17, 2012, 18:55 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Basso and Liquigas control finale

    The phoney war continues in the race for overall honours at the Giro d'Italia. With the major difficulties of the race shoe-horned into the final few stages, the opening two weeks have had the feel of a lengthy preamble. The main players are in no hurry to cut to the chase, but the suspense is palpable as the race slowly approaches the foot of the Alps.

    The game of bluff and counter-bluff was typified by a brief cameo from Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) on the sinuous run-in to Sestri Levante on stage 12. The 2004 Giro winner was quick to respond when Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) attacked on the final climb of Villa Tassani, and for a moment, it seemed as though Cunego would try and steal back some of the time he has lost to date on a finale well-suited to his characteristics as a puncheur.

    Instead, Cunego was content simply to follow Tiralongo's wheel and even the arrival of Tom Jelle Slagter (Rabobank) couldn't add purchase to the attack. As the trio crested the summit of the climb, Liquigas-Cannondale squeezed the remaining life out of the move and the status quo was restored. At the finish line, Cunego explained that he had acted with team tactics in mind rather than to serve any personal ambition.

    "I was simply following an attack from one of our rivals because it could have ended up being very dangerous," Cunego said. "I think Tiralongo is one of the riders you need to keep an eye on. His intention was to get away on the climb and then push hard down the descent, so I was present and when the race sparked into life, I was there."

    Tiralongo's attack had come in the face of Liquigas-Cannondale's pace-setting at the front end of the race, a defining characteristic of a Giro that...

  • Santaromita left empty-handed at Giro d'Italia in Sestri Levante

    Ivan Santaromita (BMC) and Roman Kreuziger (Astana) before the start of stage 2 of the Giro del Trentino.
    Article published:
    May 17, 2012, 21:00 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Italian claims he was marked by Casar

    Ivan Santaromita (BMC) was locked in a battle for the win and for possession of the maglia rosa on stage 12 of the Giro d'Italia, but ultimately wound up empty-handed on both fronts in Sestri Levante.

    The Italian was part of a nine-man group that broke clear after 50km, and when the group's advantage stretched beyond four minutes, he moved within striking distance of the overall lead. While Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat) was the pink jersey on the road at that point, Santaromita knew that stage victory would also see him land the time bonus necessary to overtake the Frenchman in the general standings.

    When Santaromita attempted to jump clear on the final climb of the Villa Tassani, however, he found that his every pedal stroke was being carefully watched by Casar, who appeared to be the strong man of the break. In the end, it was Lars Bak (Lotto Belisol) who soloed to stage victory and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) retained the pink jersey, while Santaromita rolled across the line in fifth.

    After changing and mulling over the finale aboard his team bus, Santaromita said that he felt being in the hunt for the maglia rosa had dented his own chances of stealing clear to stage victory.

    "Casar rode against me. I tried to attack on the climb and I tried to go again with 3km to go, but he didn't give me any space," Santaromita told Cyclingnews. "In the end, I didn't win the stage, and he didn't get the jersey."

    At that precise moment, Casar was telling reporters that he had ridden only with stage victory in mind and the Frenchman...