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Second Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Date published:
February 14, 2012, 0:00 GMT
  • Guardini continues sprint education

     Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli) is a bright star for the future.
    Article published:
    February 14, 2012, 6:17 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Italian fastman takes aim at the Tour of Oman

    At the same point twelve months ago, Andrea Guardini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) already had six wins to his name, after rattling off five stage victories at the Tour de Langkawi and repeating the trick on the final day of the Tour of Qatar.

    This time around, wins have been somewhat harder to come by for the second year professional, even if the raw statistics don't tell the full story. Guardini's two near misses at January's Tour de San Luis, for instance, came against a stronger complement of sprinters than the one he faced in Malaysia at the same time last year.

    Speaking to Cyclingnews after a short training ride on the eve of the Tour of Oman, Guardini explained that his primary aim in the opening salvoes of the season is to continue his education as a sprinter. While his natural aptitude for the role's most fundamental requirement remains undimmed, the young Italian freely admits that he is still learning the ropes when it comes to marrying his pure speed to the more technical aspects of his vocation.

    "This year, we've been working to have riders who can give me a hand in the final kilometres of a race," Guardini said. "The thing is that it's a bit of a novelty for us. I've never had a real train in my life and I'm realising that it's not that easy to organise a team and succeed in being all together at the right time and starting at the right time."

    Those kinks were most evident on the final stage of the Tour of Qatar, where Guardini was looking to repeat his victory of a year ago. On this occasion, he could only manage 8th in the finishing sprint, after hitting the front too far...

  • Hushovd confirmed for both Giro d'Italia and Tour de France

    Thor Hushovd (BMC) on the start line
    Article published:
    February 14, 2012, 10:11 GMT
    Cycling News

    Spring classics, Olympics and Worlds also on Norwegian's schedule

    Thor Hushovd's participation in the Giro d'Italia this year does not mean he will skip the Tour de France. BMC Racing Team sporting director John Lelangue has confirmed that the Norwegian is part of the team's plans for both races.

    “Of course. He is one of our main pieces for the Tour,” Lelangue told

    It will be a busy year for the former world champion, with many highlights. “He wants to rest after Paris-Roubaix before the Giro. After the Giro he will prepare for the Tour,” Lelangue said. The Tour is followed almost immediately by the 2012 London Olympic Games and after that Lelangue says that BMC “must ensure that Thor is in shape for the world championships.”

    Hushovd last rode the Giro in 2007. “He does not go to the Giro to win overall. For Thor, it is the perfect start in Denmark and a prologue that he is good at, and the opening stages suit him. So we'll see, but we will make sure he gets a few days of rest to recover,” Lelangue said.

    The Norwegian made his BMC debut this month in Qatar, where “he was unlucky with crashes, punctures and bike trouble,” but Lelangue is satisfied and thinks he will be well prepared for the spring classics.

    “We know that Thor is most focused on Flanders, Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix. These are three of his main goals for the season. Gilbert, for example, is more focused on the Liege-Baston-Liege and Amstel Gold Race. There will be opportunities for everyone,” said Lelangue.

  • U23 world champion Démare happy to learn more after Qatar stage win

    Arnaud Démare (FDJ-BigMat) celebrates victory in Doha.
    Article published:
    February 14, 2012, 11:01 GMT
    Cycling News

    Promising Frenchman hopes to be in the mix again at Flemish Classics

    At 20 years of age and starting out his first-ever season amongst the pros, Arnaud Démare of the French FDJ-BigMat team knows he still has plenty to learn. But at the same time, coming home from the Tour of Qatar with a stage victory in his pocket is not a bad sign for the future.

    The 2011 U23 World champion took the race's final bunch sprint on the Doha Corniche on February 10, beating Denis Galimzyanov (Katusha) and Mark Renshaw (Rabobank) after a crash on the finishing straight saw Mark Cavendish (Sky) hit the deck and overall winner Tom Boonen (Omeag Pharma-QuickStep) finish 15th. However, Demare showed he was able to be up there with the best, and Boonen as well as Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda) ackowledged this.

    "There were a lot of great sprinters and some of them congratulated me. Now, they know me. Next time, they won't say: what's this guy doing here? In the fight for positioning, the guys will know why I have to pass. They won't think that I would never be able to win. And that will make it easier for me to open some doors..." he reflected to Velochrono on Tuesday.

    Demare, who categorises himself as a "Classics sprinter" was happy to have worked on his skills in Qatar and to have made "all the right mistakes" during the week that made him learn fast to earn his first professional victory on the final day.

    "The first day, I saw that I was much too far away. Already at five kilometres from the finish, I was badly-placed. I couldn't follow my teammates' wheels, it wasn't perfect. I was able to learn lots of things in a small amount of time: how do you position yourself, to which point you wait before starting your...

  • NetApp awarded final wildcard to Tour of Flanders

    Team NetApp spreads out on a climb.
    Article published:
    February 14, 2012, 12:17 GMT
    Cycling News

    German ProConti team adds another top race to its calendar

    Team NetApp has received the final wildcard invitation to the 2012 Tour of Flanders. The German Professional Continental team impressed race organisers with their performance at last year's Paris-Roubaix.

    “We're very excited. First, we were able to surprise our tour riders with the Giro d’Italia as the ultimate highlight of the season,” said team manager Ralph Denk. “Now comes an absolute classics highlight at one of the most famous races in the world.”

    NetApp surprised many observers earlier this year by being awarded a wildcard invitation to the Giro.

    “This news is extra motivation for the classics riders at the start of the season. Every classics rider’s heart beats faster just thinking about the narrow streets, the cobblestones and the difficult climbs. Of course, once again, it will be a huge challenge for us. But we’ll get the team ready just as we did last year for Roubaix,” Denk said.

    “We had to choose among three teams for the last wildcard. NetApp was the team that convinced us,” said Nicolas Denys, managing director of the Tour of Flanders. “Their performance at Paris-Roubaix last year showed us that they enter a major race with an undaunted and aggressive spirit.

    “This year, they’ve strengthened their classics squad considerably. They've signed a great Belgian talent, Jerome Baugnies, who already placed second at our U23 edition.”

    The Tour of Flanders will be run on April 1 and includes 17 climbs over 255km. 25 teams will be at the start, with all 18 WorldTour teams and the following seven Professional Continental teams:  NetApp, Topsport Vlaanderen, Accent.Jobs - Willems Veranda’s, Landbouwkrediet, Project It4i, Europcar and Farnese...

  • Roelandts set back by neurological problem

    Jürgen Roelandts (Lotto-Belisol) in Adelaide hospital follwing mass crash at the Tour Down Under stage one.
    Article published:
    February 14, 2012, 13:03 GMT
    Cycling News

    Lotto-Belisol rider in hospital instead of training camp

    Since his crash at the Tour Down Under in January, where he fractured a neck vertebra, Jurgen Roelandts had hoped to come back to racing at Tirreno-Adriatico. His fracture was healing well, but last weekend the Lotto-Belisol rider experienced some dizziness and after consultation with his doctors was admitted to Aalst hospital on Monday.

    It appears a neurological problem now causes a further setback. "There is a complete closure of one of the bruised blood vessels. This led to a blood deficiency in parts of the cerebellum. Jurgen will be under observation for 72 hours," the team stated. "On Thursday, his rehabilitation period and his return on the bike will be clearer."

    The closing of the blood vessel seems to be another direct consequence of Roelandts' crash in Australia. Fortunately, the prognosis is not overly negative. "Jurgen still has some double vision and still feels somewhat dizzy, but there is nothing more. His language faculty, for which the cerebellum is important, is not harmed," explained team doctor Jan Mathieu to Sporza.

    Roelandts, who was scheduled to travel to Portugal for a training camp on Monday, will thus remain in hospital until Thursday at least. "His fracture has healed well, but now we're facing a different problem," Mathieu added. "I think we can scrap his spring season. The only thing that matters now is his health, more important than his racing career. There will be enough Tours of Flanders in the future."

  • Cunego to skip Giro, focus on Classics and Worlds

    Damiano Cunego
    Article published:
    February 14, 2012, 14:03 GMT
    Cycling News

    Lampre leader believes "beating Gilbert is possible"

    Damiano Cunego, who at 22 years of age won the 2004 Giro d'Italia, has always had difficulty choosing between Grand Tour or Classics contention. As he this year enters his tenth season as a pro, the now 30-year-old has opted to focus on the Spring Classics and the Worlds in the Netherlands as his main targets in 2012. Like last year, the Lampre-ISD rider will skip the Giro d'Italia, and participate in the Tour de France, but without aiming at the general classification.

    Cunego, who already has the Amstel Gold Race and the Giro di Lombardia to his name, told Sporza his race schedule had been decided. "This year, I highlighted two events on the calendar: Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April 22 and the Worlds in Valkenburg in September. I'll skip the Olympic Games in London, because the route doesn't suit me."

    The Italian went on to explain that "I am a fast climber, I've always been. That means that I get the best out of one-day races, hence my choice."

    With age comes wisdom, some might say, and also Cunego now counts on his experience to score more Classics victories in what could be his best years yet. "My time is not over yet," he vowed. "In the Ardennes and also in Amstel, Philippe Gilbert will have to watch me. I may be able to be one of his challengers this year. He'll be difficult to beat, I know that. But I firmly believe in it."

    The unveiling of Cunego's race programme could also mean that teammate Michele Scarponi will be leading Lampre-ISD at the Giro d'Italia, but the team has not yet announced anything definite as to whether Scarponi will ride the Giro or the Tour this year.

  • Greipel happy to downplay expectations in Oman

    André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) celebrates victory in the Tour of Oman's opening stage.
    Article published:
    February 14, 2012, 20:57 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    German sprints to victory on opening day

    André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) continued his impressive start to the season with a resounding sprint victory on stage one of the Tour of Oman at Wadi Al Huwqayn on Tuesday. In spite of his effervescence out on the road, however, he was typically low-key when he spoke to reporters after the stage.

    The power of his finishing burst was juxtaposed with a guarded and softly-spoken analysis of the stage as he waited to climb the podium and accept the first red jersey of the race. So hushed were Greipel's tones that at times they scarcely seemed to reach the microphones that encircled him.

    The German sprinter had a simple explanation for his fine early-season form, which has carried him to four victories to date, a far cry from his string of near misses this time 12 months ago.

    "We just had a better winter than the year before," Greipel said. "In November, December there was almost no rain in Germany, so I think I did good work during the winter and I'm happy with it."

    Illness forced Greipel out of the Tour of Qatar last week, but he showed no ill-effects on his return to competitive action and seamlessly picked up where he had left off in Australia. "It was just a precaution," Greipel said. "I could still do my training at home. It was a good choice from the team to keep me out of Qatar."

    After a shaky start to life at Omega Pharma-Lotto in 2011, Greipel picked up confidence and momentum as the year progressed, and it's testimony to his standing at the revamped Lotto Belisol outfit that a lead-out train worthy of the name is being built around him this year, with Greg Henderson arriving from Sky as a dedicated lead-out man.

    "I'm just happy...

  • Armstrong confirmed for US national team at Women's Tour of New Zealand

    Kristin Armstrong won the 2008 edition of the Women's Tour of New Zealand.
    Article published:
    February 14, 2012, 22:16 GMT
    Cycling News

    Defending Olympic time trial champion begins build-up to London Games

    2008 Olympic time trial gold medalist and two-time world time trial champion Kristin Armstrong will compete in the NZCT Women's Tour of New Zealand as part of the US national team. The 38-year-old American will be joined in New Zealand by compatriots Evelyn Stevens, Theresa Cliff-Ryan, Kristin McGrath and Ally Stacher.

    Armstrong, the 2008 Women's Tour of New Zealand champion, along with Stevens, the current US time trial champion, McGrath and Cliff-Ryan had already been named to the 13-rider strong US Olympic Games long team vying for positions for the London Games. The final women's selection will be determined by results of UCI races between January 1-May 31.

    The UCI 2.2-rated stage race takes place February 22-26 in the city of Palmerston North, New Zealand and is one of 12 UCI-sanctioned stage races occurring within the qualification window.

    Race organiser Jorge Sandoval is pleased about the powerhouse line-up his race has attracted in an Olympic year, with reigning time trial world champion Judith Arndt confirmed to compete with the GreenEdge-AIS squad, while 2010 road world champion Tatiana Guderzo will lead the Italian national team.

    "We are so far away from the rest of the world, and top overseas teams are reluctant to come all the way to New Zealand for a five-day race," Sandoval said. "However, those coming know the importance of winning the tour, and picking up international ranking points which will help qualify riders and teams for the London Olympic Games later in the year."