- Article published:
- March 12, 2013, 09:30
- Cycling News
Withdrawal from Tirreno-Adriatico another setback for Luxembourger
Andy Schleck's abandon at Tirreno-Adriatico is yet another blow to the rider who has struggled with his return to competition following his crash and broken sacrum suffered at last year's Critérium du Dauphiné. Schleck was one of 56 riders who will not start the final stage at Tirreno and while the atrocious conditions saw nearly one third of the field pull out, the "DNF" tag appears difficult for the RadioShack Leopard rider to shake.
Schleck has progressed slowly since his dismal start to the year in Australia at the Santos Tour Down Under, where he pulled out on the final stage after apparently experiences mechanical issues, but he is still a long way from being competitive.
He started the penultimate day at Tirreno-Adriatico in 84th place but his withdrawal from 'The Race of the Two Seas' marks his third abandon of the year after he also pulled out of stage 1 at Tour Méditerranéen after barely 100km and then skipped the Tour du Haut-Var to train in Mallorca.
RadioShack Leopard team director Luca Guercilena has once again put his faith in the official winner of the 2010 Tour de France, calling for Schleck to rediscover "his old self" while adding that he needs to continue to work hard in order to find the kind of condition that has made him a real Tour contender since winning the young rider classification and finishing second overall at the Giro d'Italia in 2007.
"We were sad to see Andy abandon," said Guercilena on the team site. "He has been improving a lot but in these conditions, he wasn't able to follow today. His condition is coming up but on a physically demanding day like today, it just wasn't enough. We think he still suffers psychologically from last year's crash. We hope he continues to work through this and that it passes soon. This is the most important thing.
"We want our Andy back. We think he can benefit from working with someone in the effort to help him find his old self. This is important to all of us."
The Critérium International had been listed as Schleck's next race appointment. The two-day tour runs from 23-24 March giving Schleck a little more than 10 days to bounce back from his latest disappointment.
- Article published:
- March 12, 2013, 11:09
- Cycling News
Trainer believes BMC rider can be around the mark for Milan-Sanremo
After two top-10 individual performances at Tirreno-Adriatico, Thor Hushovd's long-time trainer Atle Kvålsvoll believes that his charge is well on the way for a return to top form over the cobbled classics, specifically Paris-Roubaix.
"Thor is solid, but he still has more improvements to make," Kvålsvoll told Procycling.no
Hushovd opened his account at the Tour du Haut Var last month, scoring his first win since September 14, 2011, where he won stage 4 at the Tour of Britain. 2012 was a frustrating season for the new BMC recruit who struggled with a virus and muscle inflammation which restricted his calendar to just 28 race days.
After Tirreno-Adriatico concludes today, Hushovd will race Milan-Sanremo on Sunday where he's finished third twice (2005 and 2009). BMC's provisional line-up for La Primavera so far includes Hushovd, Cadel Evans, Greg Van Avermaet and another rider who has finished twice on the podium, Philippe Gilbert (2008, 2011).
Kvålsvoll is optimistic that Hushovd could again finish on the podium.
"I think Thor is one of those who may be fighting in the front group, especially considering how well he rides on the hilly days. It is also important to remember that there is a big difference between individual stages and a one-day classic.
"The plan is to peak for maximum form at Paris-Roubaix," he continued. "But now Hushovd is so strong that there should be no problem to sit in the final, even though he might lack a little to be absolutely on top form. If the body is normal, he should be completely up front."
- Article published:
- March 12, 2013, 12:07
- Daniel Benson
Sky rider on Sky's anti-doping stance and Paris-Nice
Richie Porte (Team Sky) has told Cyclingnews that winning bike races in the modern era makes a rider a sitting duck for accusations of doping.
The Tasmanian secured the biggest win of his professional career last weekend at Paris-Nice, winning the mountain finish to La Montagne de Lure and the individual time trial to Col d’Èze on his way to overall success.
Porte's post-race press conference was dominated by questions relating to doping, Sky’s anti-doping stance and the team’s impressive form. The situation was heightened by the fact that Sky were also on the front foot at Tirrreno-Adriatico over the weekend, with Chris Froome and Sky’s train dropping the best climbers in the world to win at Prati di Tivo.
“By sitting duck, what I mean is that success means we’re an instant target. If you go to Paris-Nice and you have a great performance all of a sudden you’re a target. I find that sad that I’m looked at in that light. Some aren’t involved in any way other than following cycling on Twitter or watching it on television, and to be honest the television commentary doesn’t really always give a true perspective. You can’t always take the television commenter and his opinion as gospel either,” Porte told Cyclingnews.
“There’s not that much you can do to defend yourself either. I can point to the tests and that I was tested three times in two days at Paris-Nice but I know that’s not everything. But what more can I say? I comply with the standards and rules and at the end of the day we just get on with our jobs.”
Part of the issue over Sky’s strength and the discussion over doping has been taken out of Porte’s hands. While Sky has become the strongest force in team stage racing in the last 18 months - with seeming ease in the eyes of armchair viewers - they’ve also missed several opportunities to come to terms with the doping discussion within sport. Even when they’ve tried to be proactive in the post-Armstrong era, they’ve misjudged the situation and at times taken the public for fools.
“Credibility and results, for me, they have to go hand in hand,” Porte says, “and people can say what they want on Twitter. I’m training harder than most people can imagine and I’m riding up Col d’Èze in 19 minutes and I’m doing it clean. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”
It's a shame Sky’s hierarchy can’t employ someone who can talk with such relative frankness. Instead, the team has shot themselves in foot repeatedly, first by working with Dr. Geert Leinders, then by creating an unworkable framework in which riders and staff were asked to sign anti-doping declarations in order to keep their jobs. It doesn’t look much better with the fact that the team held themselves up as an anti-doping team yet hired Sean Yates, Steven de Jongh and Bobby Julich. Their vocal, no-stone-unturned approach looked weak after they claimed no knowledge of Leinders’ past.
Sky has tried to turn the tide in recent months. They’ve recruited the Sunday Times’ David Walsh or rather granted him full access to the team. Currently, the Irishman is in Tenerife with the team’s Classics squad, something that Porte strongly backs.
“I met him in Mallorca this year. He was always around I guess. A couple of mornings he was there with Froome and me when we were doing core work with the physio. He’s a presence in the background but for us, what more can we do because we’re sitting ducks. To have someone come in, for me, that’s good because it’s nice to have someone impartial and a third party getting their side of the story out.”
A few zumba classes with the men in black and blue certainly won’t be enough in some peoples’ eyes. The Leinders question has yet to be fully explained too. The doctor worked with Sky for 80 days in 2012 and has been talked of highly by all concerned at Sky. However his involvement with doping riders at Rabobank was too much for the team to take and they were forced to drop him from their ranks.
Working with Leinders was a decision that looks sloppy at best and something Walsh will need to raise if his all-areas access – a luxury that was pulled from under the feet of Paul Kimmage in 2010 - is to be seen as credible.
“He was there on the bus after races and that’s no different to any other race doctor I’ve worked with,” says Porte, who goes a lot further than his teammate Mat Hayman, who offered Cyclingnews a flat ‘no comment’ when the doctor's name was mentioned last week.
“If you had a problem you went and saw him but to me he was no different to any other team doctor that we’ve had at Saxo Bank or Sky. When I was sick he helped me. I didn’t know anything about his past, I had no idea. I heard him talk about Rabobank once or twice but whoopee do he’s the ex-Rabobank team doctor. He gave me caffeine maybe but that’s about it. He gave me Strepsils and Paracetamol.”
Porte explains that Sky’s dominance is partly down to the new techniques they’ve employed since 2010 as well as a comprehensive recruitment of talented riders. Two years ago they were laughed at when they began warming up and cooling down on rollers at races. A few races later and after riders had been shelled out of the back in the opening kilometres of races, no one was laughing anymore.
“The truth of it is partly down to the recruitment,” Porte says.
“At Paris-Nice, I had two of the most crucial riders as teammates in Lopez and Kiryienka. Did you see Kiryienka on the stage to Nice? The team know the riders who they want and that’s what they’ve gone and recruited. That’s the key when you’re going to Paris-Nice and Tirreno, having two strong, balanced teams in both races.
“The thing is that every rider has a goal of where they have to get to in a race. The other day Danny Pate had a goal. He had to ride until 140km into the stage. That was his day over. Cycling is a mental game as well so if you’ve got a figure in your head, you’ve done your job by the time you pull off. It’s such a strong team and it’s great to be riding for a squad that’s so well organised.”
Porte’s progression and confidence from Paris-Nice will carry him towards Critérium International later this month before a stint in the Ardennes and the Tour de Romandie.
- Article published:
- March 12, 2013, 13:30
- Cycling News
Frenchman not in a critical condition
Laurent Jalabert sustained fractures to his right tibia and his arm when he was struck by a car while training on his bike on Monday. The former professional and current French national team coach is in hospital in Montauban, where he was due to undergo surgery on his injuries.
Jalabert is understood to have been knocked unconscious for a brief time by the force of the impact but his partner told RTL radio on Monday evening that his condition was never critical.
“I want to reassure people that he’s ok this evening. He is not in a critical condition, it’s just fractures,” Fanny Chassignet told RTL.
“We have been able to talk to him, his children too. We’ve seen him a few times and been able to reassure him and encourage him, and the messages he is receiving are doing him good too.”
Jalabert retired from cycling in 2002 but continues to take part in triathlons, marathons and sportive rides. After commentating on Paris-Nice for France television last week, he was training in the Montauban area on Monday afternoon when he was struck by a car, just over a kilometre from his home.
“It happened very close to home,” Chassignet said. “While he was coming down the road, a car wanted to turn off into a side street and apparently it cut him off. The driver didn’t see him. I don’t know, there will have to be an inquiry to establish precisely what happened. In any case, he had a helmet.”
The driver was questioned by police in Montauban on Monday afternoon. According to RMC, he said that he had been blinded by the sun and had not seen Jalabert.
- Article published:
- March 12, 2013, 16:31
- Cycling News
More weather-related cancellations hit pro peloton
Snow storms in Northern Europe have caused the cancellation of the UCI 1.1-rated Nokere Koerse road race in Belgium, which was scheduled to take place tomorrow. It is the third week of bad weather affecting the UCI Europe Tour.
Last month snow caused Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne and the GP di Lugano to be cancelled on February 24, then the same fate befell the Dwars door Drenthe on March 10.
Organisers made the call mid-day on Tuesday in order to ensure the safety of the peloton and fans. "After a meeting with the organizing committee, the UCI, a delegation of the team leaders, the police and the local authorities concerned have decided to cancel the Nokere Koerse Danilith Classic this year. The safety of the riders, the caravan and the spectators could not be 100 percent guaranteed," an announcement on the race web site read.
"The extreme weather conditions have forced the organizers to make this decision. The roads are mostly cleared, but blowing snow on some portions have made them not passable."
The decision may be of comfort to some of the riders who on Saturday endured temperatures barely above freezing with sleet and rain during the Ronde van Drenthe.
- Article published:
- March 12, 2013, 17:53
- Stephen Farrand
Italian confirms he is against the use of power metres in races
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) punched the air after crossing the finish line at Tirreno-Adriatico, celebrating a second consecutive victory in the Italian stage race. He joins Roger De Vlaeminck, Francesco Moser and Tony Rominger as back to back winners of the 'Race of the two Seas'
"It's been a great race and it's a huge personal satisfaction to win Tirreno-Adriatico. I've beaten some big rivals, people who I've only faced before at the Tour de France," Nibali said after lifting the trident winner's trophy, with Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Team Saxo-Tinkoff) forced to watch on and accept defeat.
Nibali finished 12th in the rainy 9.2km final time trial, conceding only 11 seconds to Froome to keep a 23 second advantage in the final standings.
"I had a good margin after yesterday and so I didn’t want to take any risk on a few of the wet corners. I was sure I'd win but the last battle with Froome was at the Tour de France and I've changed my time trial position since then. This was the first test. It still needed a huge effort to win and I give it everything in the time trial."
Nibali's attack on the rain-soaked descent during Monday's stage in the Le Marche hills overturned the general classification and he snatched the race leader's blue jersey from Froome and distanced Contador. It was act of instinctive, aggressive racing, which defeated Team Sky's more logical and clinical approach.
"Yesterday I did something pretty important. I've done lots of others attacks like that but it was special because it came off.
"Sky has a certain way of interpreting the race. Lets call it scientific, even if it's perhaps not the right term. They work to impose their rules on the race. However, yesterday you couldn't impose a pace; you need legs as certain kinds of strategy don’t work."
Nibali explained that he is in favour of race radios but against power metres. On Monday he suggested banning power metres from races in a message on Twitter.
"People say radios ruin the racing but it’s the riders who decide the best tactic during the race, as I did with other riders yesterday. We aren't radio controlled from the team car," he argued.
"Power metres help you understand how you feel and show your limits but in certain moments we've seen how Sky control their effort. Without power metres that wouldn't be possible."
"At the Tour de France, Team Sky controlled the race with a great team. At the Tour there weren't stages like yesterday or a hard day in the rain. Yesterday was important because I was able to build my success."
Nibali proved yet again that he is successful stage race rider but he will also have a go in Milano-Sanremo on Sunday, tapping into his natural aggression to try and win against the sprinters and classics stars.
He got away with Fabian Cancellara and Simon Gerrans last year but finished third due to his lack of a fast finish. That weakness will not deter him something this year.
"I'm feeling good and I'll be up there to play my cards," he warned.
"I'll try and do a good result but its difficult predict how the race will go. My problem is that it's not suited to me because I'm not a fast finisher. I've got to come up with something special. I've got the courage to try something."
On Monday, Nibali hinted that he will try a move between the Cipressa and Poggio climbs. However he is wary of several of the big-name favourites.
"I saw a lot of riders riding well this week," he said.
"Cavendish worked a lot for the team the other day and rode hard on the climb, showing he was riding well. Sagan looked good, Hushovd too and Cancellara too has be watched. Maybe someone from Paris-Nice will win too. The last two winners of Milano-Sanremo rode Paris-Nice. Milano-Sanremo is a lottery but I'll give it a go, just like I did here."
- Article published:
- March 12, 2013, 18:56
- Stephen Farrand
German targets a third world title in 2013
Tony Martin gave Omega Pharma-Quick Step yet another stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico, continuing his reign as the best time trialist in professional cycling.
The German set a time of 10:25 for the out and back 9.2km course along the San Bendetto del Tronto seafront, beating Adriano Malori (Lampre-Merida) by six seconds and Andrey Amador (Movistar) by 10 seconds. Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard) was fourth at 12 seconds, despite being in the breakaway during Monday's tough stage in the hills.
Martin powered Omega Pharma-Quick Step to victory in the opening team time trial. He has already won the time trial and the overall classification at the Volta ao Algarve.
"It was more like a prologue than a time trial, and I prefer longer events up to 30/40/50km long. This route wasn't too technical and we were lucky with the weather," he said.
"I expected to fight with Cancellara but in the end it was a fight with Malori. I'm happy after not being able to follow the best in the mountain stages. My form is good, and that's good for the rest of the season."
Martin finished 27th overall, 17:49 behind winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). He lost six minutes on the mountain finish to Prati di Tivo and seems to have given up on being a major stage race contender.
"My big goal this season is the world championships," he said.
"I've got a chance to win for a third time in a row and so that's a big goal for me. There's also the team time trial in the Tour de France and the long time trial. I think I've got a good chance there too. We had a super first stage and a good last stage here, so I'm optimistic for the future."
- Article published:
- March 12, 2013, 21:09
- Cycling News
Judge postpones case to handle sentencing requests
The final arguments in the Operacion Puerto trial have been put on hold by judge Julia Patricia Santamaría until Friday after the defense teams of the five accused of committing crimes against public health requested more time to consider amendments to the accusations against them.
The prosecution reiterated its request for two-year jail terms for the defendants Eufemiano Fuentes, his sister Yolanda, former directeurs sportif Vicente Belda and Manolo Saiz and trainer Jose Ignacio Labarta, should they be found guilty.
The Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) asked for a reduction to one year and one day in prison, but at the same time, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has asked that in addition to the two-year prison sentence, the five be banned from sport for eight years and three months.
Who are the unnamed?
Should Fuentes and his four co-defendants be sent to jail, it would mark a major turning point in a case which, although it has languished since June of 2006, has produced few names and seen few of those involved punished.
A testimony recorded in 2006 was played for the court today from Alberto Leon, who committed suicide in January, 2011. The Spaniard stated in the recording that the clients of Fuentes were not just from cycling and athletics.
So who were the dozens and dozens of athletes visiting Fuentes who remain anonymous? Attorneys for WADA and the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) want to know. The two agencies have reiterated their requests to have access to some of the 224 blood bags seized by the Spanish Civil Guart as part of Operacion Puerto during the spring of 2006.
Mysteriously, 51 of the blood bags remain missing, according to reports, but 173 are being stored at the Barcelona anti-doping laboratory.
Back in 2007, when the Civil Guard released a 6,000 page dossier, it was estimated 107 cyclists were implicated by the documents obtained in the Puerto investigation. The dossier of evidence was promised to the national sporting federations in July of 2006, and UCI revealed that it was granted access to a portion of the Operacion Puerto dossier late in 2006.
Yet, in 2007 a Spanish judge ruled that the evidence could not be used for any prosecution, criminal or sporting, because doping was not against the law in Spain at the time.
So far only two agencies have managed to skirt the ruling, and pushed to acquire access to the blood evidence: the German federation succeeded in gaining access to those linked to Jan Ullrich, and confirmed the connection via DNA evidence.
The CONI managed to get access to the blood bags coded as ‘Valv’, ‘Piti’ and ‘18’ against the wishes of a previous judge in the case, Antonio Serrano, by putting in their request while Serrano was away for the Christmas holiday in 2008.
Valverde’s DNA was collected by CONI as part of a doping control in the 2008 Tour de France when it passed through Italy, and used to link the Spaniard to those bags of blood.
Those blood bags had also been identified as containing traces of the drug EPO, leading to a protracted and ultimately successful appeal by CONI to have Valverde banned from competition.
However, to date, only a handful of athletes have been positively linked to the blood evidence, either through their own admission, as in the case of Michele Scarponi, Ivan Basso, Joerg Jaksche and Tyler Hamilton, or through DNA evidence.
Although it joined the CONI in its appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to ban Valverde, the UCI reportedly has not joined the RFEC and WADA in its request to gain access to the blood evidence.
So who will reveal the identities of the rest of the athletes who were clients of Fuentes? Perhaps the ringleader himself. Fuentes told reporters today that he is going to write a tell-all memoir. He might have two years with nothing better to do.