Garmin-Sharp sprinter in the mix, while Dennis looks to reclaim lost time
Steele von Hoff is making quite a name for himself. Just a little over a week after capturing the Australian men's national criterium championship, the Garmin-Sharp rider earned a hard-fought podium position with a third-place sprint finish behind two of the world's best in Simon Gerrans and André Greipel on the opening stage of the Tour Down Under in Adelaide on Tuesday.
"That was the first time in a long time that I've been able to actually contest a finish and I can honestly say that I was beaten by better guys," said von Hoff. "I perhaps could have played it a bit differently, but I am happy I was in the mix and it was a good stage."
The 26-year-old from Victoria had targeted stage one, a 135-kilometre race from Nurioopta to Angaston, which featured a gnarly uphill sprint finish into a headwind after a near-3km climb of Menglers Hill had splintered the field and spat out the stragglers.
"Menglers Hill was pretty hard and I had to empty out the tank and dig pretty deep," von Hoff told Cyclingnews. "Nathan Haas just pulled me right up and put me on Gerro's wheel. Gerro's form at the moment is top level. He was a really good wheel to be on I just didn't have that little bit to come back at him when he went."
A crash inside three kilometres to the finish almost cost von Hoff a shot for the podium when a rider on his right side clipped a wheel and fell over his own rear wheel. "I almost didn't make it through," he said. " I lost about ten metres and had to gas it up to Haas."
Speaking to Cyclingnews on Monday, Garmin-Sharp general classification contender Rohan Dennis had also identified stage one as offering a significant opportunity for von Hoff. Dennis, who conceded 11 seconds to the stage winner - and two-time Tour Down Under champion -...
Team sports director believes team can keep Gerrans in ochre
Simon Gerrans got his bid for a record third final overall victory at the Tour Down Under off to the best possible start when he defeated André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) in the bunch finish in Angaston at the end of stage 1.
Led deftly by his Orica-GreenEdge teammates Daryl Impey and Michael Matthews, Gerrans out-duelled one of the WorldTour's fastest sprinters into a headwind on an uphill finish at the end of the 135-kilometre stage, which began in Nuriootpa.
"Look Simon is fast," said Orica-GreenEdge sports director Matt White. "He beat Peter Sagan last year to win a stage in the Tour de France. It's quite a deceptive climb from two or three kilometres up until 400 metres to go, and it does hurt the big boys. It just showed that Simon was a lot fresher than the big boys today."
Gerrans, who won the Tour Down Under in 2012 in GreenEdge's debut WorldTour race, also won the event 2006, when he took the first stage in Angaston and then held the jersey for the entirety of the race.
The 33-year-old showed his early-season form by claiming the Australian road race title earlier this month, and he outlined his intentions here by taking third place on the second intermediate sprint point to gain a one second bonus. In the overall standing, Gerrans now has a five-second lead over Greipel but importantly, he is 11 seconds ahead of rivals Cadel Evans (BMC), Robert Gesink (Belkin) and Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp).
"I won the stage in Angaston here in 2006 and held the jersey right through," said Gerrans. "It is a heck of tough task these days as the race is at a much higher level than what it was in 2006, but I have a fantastic team and I am sure the guys are going to give me 100 per cent and give me every opportunity to win.
Gerrans also said the time bonuses collected on the day will be critical as the race progresses. "It is a lot better to be 11 seconds in...
The Belkin team suffered a day of mixed fortunes on stage one of the Tour Down Under, with Robert Gesink finishing in the front group. However David Tanner was forced to quit the race after breaking his right collarbone.
The Australian crashed with just a kilometre to go, as the riders fought for position before the uphill sprint finish. Gesink finished tenth, behind stage winner and first race leader Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) and is 11 seconds behind the Australian national champion in the general classification.
"The guys dropped off David and me perfectly for the final climb," Gesink said.
"Normally Jack Bobridge, who’s looking very strong, would have been up there as well, but he punctured at a bad time. Then David went down with 1km to go, which was a shock. Luckily I was still able to ride a strong final and post a good result. I took some seconds on some strong riders and that’s nice, because the Tour Down Under is often decided by seconds. It's a shame that David is now out of the race, because he was in a good shape."
Belkin directeur sportif Erik Dekker was gutted to loose Tanner on stage one. He was on form after working hard in Australia during the winter.
"It’s a big bummer because despite the fact that he normally would have ridden in service of Robert, there also were some chances for himself. On this finish, he was allowed to try something," he said.
"David has worked towards this race all winter long. He did very well at the Australian Championships with a tenth place. Cadel Evans even came to me this week and told me how impressed he was with David’s performance."
Dekker hopes Gesink can be at the front again on Wednesday’s...
Former world champion concedes eleven seconds to two-time winner Simon Gerrans
Cadel Evans (BMC) has labelled Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) as "the man to beat" after the two-time Tour Down Under champion took stage one of the 2014 race in emphatic fashion with an impressive sprint victory over Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and newly-crowned Australian criterium champion Steele von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp).
Evans conceded eleven seconds to Gerrans on the stage thanks to the time bonuses gained by the Orica-GreenEdge man on the 135-kilometre leg from Nuriootpa to Angaston, which featured a taxing 3km climb up Menglers Hill in the finale.
"Looking at the results, Simon Gerrans looks to be the guy to beat," said Evans, who turns 37 in February. "I was there in the final but I was a bit disappointed – I would have liked to have been much closer to the bonus seconds in a finish like that."
This is Evans' first appearance at the Tour Down Under since finishing sixth overall while wearing the rainbow jersey of world champion in 2010. The former Tour de France winner said that it's difficult to assess precisely where both he and his BMC teammates are in terms of form at the moment.
"I found on a couple of occasions it was a bit hard to judge because it's the first race of the year, you don't know the level of everyone else," Evans said. "It's not as good a start as I would have liked, but it's the first day of what's going to be a pretty intense week of racing, I think."
Stage two could provide Evans an opportunity to capture a stage win and claw some time back from Gerrans. Evans finished second on the 150-kilometre Stirling stage in 2010, and according to Orica’s sports director Matt White Evans is still a viable threat to Gerrans' bid to become the Tour Down Under’s first three-time...
At approximately 20km to go in the 164km first stage, Gaimon led de Maar and two other breakaway companions, Leandro Messineo (San Luis Somos Todos) and Emiliano Contreras (Argentina), into a roundabout but made an error as to which road they needed to take for their exit. As a result, both de Maar and Messineo crashed, leaving Gaimon and Contreras to vie for victory and the Argentinean race's first leader's jersey.
Moments after crossing the finish line de Maar relates what happened at the roundabout, makes a wry comment about the heat, reveals that he's racing with a recently broken collarbone, and discusses his long day off the front at the Tour de San Luis.
"I'm working hard but it's not like a training camp in Tenerife"
While the WorldTour is already underway in Australia, Chris Froome (Sky) is continuing his build-up to the 2014 season by training at home in South Africa ahead of his first race of the new campaign, the Tour of Oman in mid-February.
Froome’s last outing of 2013 was the Saitama Criterium in Japan in late October, after which he spent five weeks away from the training, longest break of his professional career. “I needed a mental break to escape from all the obligations,” he told L’Équipe.
The Tour de France winner then spent the month of December in Monaco before travelling to the southern hemisphere to begin his preparations for the new season in earnest. Sky soigneur Claudio Lucchini is also in South Africa with Froome, while Kanstantin Siutsou and trainer Tim Kerrison are set to join them next week.
When Froome returns to Europe in the spring, most of his altitude training will be carried out on Mount Teide, in Tenerife, but for now at least, he said he was happier to train on the roads near his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Parkhurst.
“Being here helps me stay fresher mentally. I’m working hard but it’s not like a training camp in Tenerife,” Froome said. “I’m at home, I’m relaxing, I see my friends and family. It’s an important part of my preparation and, what’s more, the altitude of 1600-1700 metres is very good for this kind of training.”
According to L’Équipe, Froome has been training in four-day blocks during his time in South Africa, riding early in the day to avoid the most intense heat. Last Friday, he trained for two and a half hours on his time trial bike, averaging over 300 watts for the session....
Enrique Gómez Bastida is third Agency boss in four months
Enrique Gómez Bastida has been named as the new director of Spain’s Anti-Doping Agency, AEPSAD. He is the third head of AEPSAD in the last four months.
The latest switch of director comes about after the previous incumbent, Manuel Quintanar, who had taken over in September, has been named as head of a anti-corruption unit investigating Spanish football.
An officer in Spain’s semi-militarized police force, the Guardia Civil, Gómez Bastida, 36, was heavily involved in the investigations sparked off the Operación Puerto anti-doping probe in 2006 - the case which is still dragging its way through the Spanish courts. Prior to this promotion - and appearing in court last February for the prosecution when the initial Operación Puerto trial took place in Madrid - Gomez Bastida first worked for a Spanish police unit specializing in international judicial cases, the UTPJ, and then joined AEPSAD, the anti-doping agency, last May as their intelligence and investigation officer.
First created in 2008, AEPSAD was granted wider powers in legislation passed last year as part of Spain’s efforts to dispel a perception it is soft on doping - believed to be one reason why Madrid’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games failed spectacularly last September. Since 2008, AEPSAD has had four different directors.
UnitedHealthcare, Bardiani amongst 19 major teams invited
The organiser of the upcoming men's Tour of Qatar stage race has revealed the full race route and the 19 teams invited to the 2014 edition today.
The six-stage parcours will include a stage three individual time trial of 10.9 kilometers, tipping the balance for the general classification away from the sprinters, although the fast men still get five flat stages in which to ply their trade.
19 teams will take the start on February 9 in Al Wakra: 13 WorldTour teams including AG2R La Mondiale, Astana, Belkin, BMC, Cannondale, FDJ, Katusha, Lotto Belisol, Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Orica-GreenEdge, Sky, Tinkoff-Saxo and Trek, plus four Professional Continental teams: Bardiani-CSF, IAM, NetApp-Endura, Topsport Vlaanderen and UnitedHealthcare.
Also taking part this year is the new Continental team from the United Arab Emirates: Skydive Dubai. The team includes Francisco Mancebo, Lucas Sebastian Haedo (from Cannondale), Alexander Pliuschin (from IAM) and Tunisian Rafaâ Chtioui, formerly of Europcar, as well as the local talent from the region.
The first stage heads from Al Wakra to Dukhan Beach (135.5km), while the second stage begins from the Camel Race Track to Al Khor Corniche (1605.km). The time trial will take place on the Lusail Moto GP track on stage three. On February 12, the fourth stage will run from Dukhan to Mesaieed (135km), stage five is 159km running from the Al Zubara Fort on the Northwestern coast of the peninsula, heading to Madinat ash-Shamal.
The final stage will kick off from the Sealine Beach Resort, on the Southeast coast and finish on the spectacular Doha Corniche. Mark Cavendish won the overall classification in 2013 is expected to defend his success and target stage victories this year.
WorldTour Teams Ag2r La Mondiale (FRA) Astana Pro Team (KAZ) Belkin – Pro Cycling Team (NED) BMC Racing Team (USA) Cannondale Pro Cycling (ITA) FDJ.fr...