Omega Pharma-Quick Step train to clash with Giant-Shimano
Mark Cavendish will reunite with trusted lead out man Mark Renshaw at the Dubai Tour and can count on the support of Alessandro Petacchi and a strong team as he clashes with Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) in the three expected sprints at the inaugural Dubai Tour.
Cavendish opted for a quiet season debut at the Tour de San Luis but looks lean and appears keen to take his first victory of 2014.
Mark Renshaw contested the sprints at the Santos Tour Down Under and then travelled to Dubai to team up with Cavendish. They have not raced together since 2011 but practiced their lead out at a December training camp. Omega Pharma-Quick Step also has Tony Martin, Martin Velits and strong domestiques Nikolas Maes, Wout Poels and Julien Vermote to control the racing before Petacchi and Renshaw lead out Cavendish.
Cavendish rightly shares team leadership responsibilities with Martin, who is the favourite for the opening time trial and possibly the overall victory.
"It's the first time those two guys have ridden together. We've obviously got Tony Martin, the world time trial champion here too and the race starts with a time trial and hopefully Omega Pharma Quick-Step will get off to a good start," Cavendish told Cyclingnews in the pre-race press conference.
"The three stages should end in sprints after that. We'll be targeting all the stages here and the overall. It's the first time we've ridden together as a group but we've got a strong team. We're motivated.”
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Cavendish, Sagan Phinney and Martin star in new race
The inaugural Tour of Dubai starts on Wednesday with a 10-kilometre time trial in Dubai. Eleven WorldTour teams take the start in the UCI 2.1 event with Grand Tour winners Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde and Ryder Hesjedal among them.
The line-up for the race, organized by RCS Sport, is full of cycling’s superstars. They posed on the beach in front of the world famous Burj al Arab, the iconic hotel in the form of a sail of a dhow boat.
The world’s elite in sprinting with Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Peter Sagan (Cannondale) take on each other in the flat stages in the Dubai deserts.
Former world champions like Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd and Fabian Cancellara plus the current road race world champion Rui Costa and time trial world champion Tony Martin also line up for this four day stage race.
ASO have revealed the course for the 72nd edition of Paris-Nice and confirmed that there will not be a prologue nor a time trial in this year's event.
With 1,447 kilometres of racing, it's the longest Paris-Nice since 1968 when the race was still nine days instead of the current eight. Defending champion Richie Porte (Sky) as well as Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Thor Hushovd (BMC) and John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) were announced to take part.
Paris-Nice starts on Sunday, March 9 in the department of Yvelines, west of Paris, with a 162.5 kilometre stage, with start and finish in Mantes-la-Jolie. Then the peloton heads south for a 205 kilometre stretch to Saint-Georges-sur-Baulche. The third stage finishes after 180 kilometres on the motor circuit of Magny Cours.
Day four presents the riders with the climb to Mont-Brouilly with ramps of 25 per cent and finishes in Belleville. There is a short fifth stage to Rive-de-Gier before a transfer to the start of stage six in Avignon. The riders have to tackle 221.5 kilometres, the longest stage of this year's race to Fayence, just 60 kilometres east from Nice.
The final weekend offers a 199.5 kilometre stage to Sophia Antipolis before the last stage to Nice on Sunday. The Col d'Eze, the climb where Richie Porte secured the overall win in an uphill time trial last year, is the last mountain before the finish on the Boulevard des Anglais in Nice.
The 18 WorldTour teams automatically received an invitation for the second WorldTour event of the season. The organization awarded wildcards to the French procontinental teams Bretagne - Séché Environnement and Cofids and to IAM Cycling from Switzerland.
Europcar’s leader says he won’t be at his best until April
After his thwarted attempt to ride the Tour Down Under, which failed to happen after he broke his right collarbone during his first pre-race ride in Australia, Thomas Voeckler has started training on the bike again. Speaking at a Europcar media event in Paris on Monday, Voeckler said he expects to return to racing at either the Tour of the Mediterranean or the Tour of the Algarve in mid-February, and admitted that his main objective during his spring campaign will now be the Ardennes Classics, particularly Amstel Gold.
Two weeks on from an operation to re-set his collarbone, which he previously broke in different places in 2009 and 2013, the 34-year-old Frenchman returned to training on the road on Saturday, riding for three hours. But he told L’Equipe that longer rides of five hours and more are still beyond him for the time being.
He predicted that with a good winter of preparation behind him, he should be able to return to racing later month, and will make a decision on this after meeting with his surgeon in Nantes on Friday.
“If the bone has set – in theory it takes six weeks – I will return at the Tour of the Mediterranean, but I won’t be riding at the head of the peloton, or doing crazy descents or giving the team a hand,” he said. He is still likely to ride Paris-Nice, which was his first major objective of the season, but will now focus more on the Tour de France.
“I will have to wait until May to be competitive, or – why not? – in mid-April at Amstel. But I’m not sure whether I will just be good or good enough to be with the best,” said Voeckler.
Asked if Europcar’s elevation to the WorldTour has changed anything for him, Voeckler said it hadn’t, but that it will make greater demands on the team as a...
Taylor Phinney (BMC) has confirmed to Cyclingnews that he is targeting the opening time trial stage of the Dubai Tour on Wednesday, and is confident he has the form to take his first victory of 2014.
Phinney faces serious competition from Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Adriano Malori (Movistar). Riders at the Dubai Tour will be using normal road bikes for the 9.9km out-and-back course in the shadow of the skyscrapers in the Dubai business district, perhaps giving Phinney an advantage.
"I've thought about this race for a couple of months now and ever since it came out that it started with a 10km time trial and then flat stages after that, I knew I could come here and be competitive," he told Cyclingnews.
"You can obviously see that the field is very deep, with guys like Fabian (Cancellara), Tony Martin and (Adriano) Malori, who already beat me in Argentina."
"I've been doing a lot of time trial specific work on my road bike and so I do come here quite confident, knowing I have good fitness. We'll put it out on the road and see what everyone else has."
Early season time trial targets
Phinney will target time trials in early season stage races before heading to Belgium for the cobbled Classics.
"I've had a different built up, with regards to my race programme. I've been given races that have time trials in the early season, to try and get some results going before we jump into the Classics," he said.
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The Tour of Britain has been upgraded within the UCI calendar to a category HC race for 2014.
Britain’s most prestigious stage race, won by Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins last year, now sits alongside races such as the Amgen Tour of California, Criterium International and the Tour of Qatar, in terms of status. This year’s edition of the Tour of Britain is scheduled to take place between September 7-14 with a mixture of WorldTour, ProContinental and domestic teams taking part.
"We are delighted by today's announcement, which comes as a culmination of 10 years' hard work by the SweetSpot team,” said race director Mick Bennett.
"The award of 2.HC status is another step forward for The Tour of Britain, and we look forward to this September's edition of the race being the best yet.
"The upgrade is also a reward for the many hundreds of thousands of spectators who have lined the route and cheered on the race over the past decade."
Further details of the 2014 route will be announced later this spring.
German not intimidated by Cavendish's beefed up team
Marcel Kittel and his Giant-Shimano train may have gotten the better of Mark Cavendish last year, but now that Omega Pharma-QuickStep has beefed up its lead-out train with Cavendish's former right-hand man, Mark Renshaw, and Italian Alessandro Petacchi, many pundits expect the balance to be flipped in 2014.
The two trains will face off for the first time in this week's Dubai Tour, but Kittel is not worried. In this interview, he shows he is confident in his well-drilled team.
"I think our lead-out team is very strong, if you look back to the Tour or other races. We have the experience and the power to do that. I'm not scared of another team. Omega Pharma is a strong team when it comes to the lead-out, and we are too. Then we will see how far we have come as sprinters."
Kittel's team has not been resting on its laurels, and has been working to further hone their technique. The result was a win in the People's Choice Classic criterium over André Greipel, but the team was shut out at the Tour Down Under.
"Of course we should always try to improve and look for details we can maybe change. I think we are at a very high level already. You always want to do the lead-out yourself, but there are situations where you can only follow. I think we can do both."
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Shimano has added a new component to unlock wireless capability within existing Di2 groupsets – but don't get too excited, this isn't an upgrade to wireless shifting!
Instead, it's a way for Di2 owners to display gear position and battery life data from their transmission on a compatible cycle computer.
The SM-EWW01 plugs into the E-tube wiring system of current Di2 groupsets, where it then transmits gear position and battery life data wirelessly to a compatible cycle computer. It's what Shimano is calling the D-Fly Data Management system.
The component is powered via the same Di2 battery that powers the shifting system. It's compatible with Shimano's Dura-Ace 9070, Ultegra 6870 and Ultegra 6770 Di2 groupsets. Retailing at £69.99, the unit weighs just 5g and is fairly svelte – only 38mm long, 25mm wide and 12.5mm tall.
Currently the SM-EWW01 is only compatible with the PRO SCIO ANT+, a new £99.99 computer from PRO's 2014 product line. Shimano says it's currently working with MIO and other companies to increase compatibility by later this year.