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Australian has learnt to love the bad weather of Belgium
Sam Spokes has taken a slightly different route to his contemporaries in order to race the roads of Europe during his second season riding on the Omega Pharma-Quick Step feeder team Etixx. The 23-year-old, who enjoys his birthday in early-April, has been steadily building his palmarès since he left Australia to live and breathe the European racing life.
In 2010, Spokes came to attention when he won Liège - La Gleize overall, a race that Eddy Merckx won in 1962, to announce himself as a promising junior. In 2012 he then won the Tour of the Eure-et-Loir and with several good rides under his belt, he landed a contract with the Czech based Etixx squad having ridden for Museeuw Test Team and then EFC Omega Pharma QuickStep.
The 2014 season for Spokes started in Australia with a fifth place at the U23 Australian national time trial championships, an aggressive ride in the criterium a few days later almost landed him a green and gold jersey and he then finished off the championships with 18th place in a hot and hard road race won by Caleb Ewan.
"I always enjoy racing in Australia. I was very surprised with my ITT result as I hadn't done a lot of work on the TT bike after breaking my collarbone, but I knew I had done much more training in the off season then previous years," Spokes explained to Cyclingnews.
Wary of burning out, Spokes added that understanding what his young body is capable of is necessary for a long season of racing. "To be peaking in January, it's almost impossible to be going strong towards the end of the European season at our age."
Spokes stint down under was extended with a spot on the U23 Jayco Australian national team at the Herald Sun Tour in early-February and although it...
New event would complement National Road Series opener Tour de Perth
The 2014 National Road Series (NRS) for the second year running will start with the Tour de Perth although the stage race has been slightly pushed forward in the calendar to the last weekend of March. The Adelaide Tour is the next race on the calendar and takes place the following weekend with a month long break before racing resumes at the Battle of the Border from May 15-18.
Having been treated to a spectacular summer of cycling in Australia, the WorldTour peloton may have moved onto Europe leaving local teams to fight it out for the NRS overall and team classifications but Perth is relishing the upcoming cycling festival that is Velofest with the Tour de Perth a showcase event.
The 2013 Tour de Perth was won by Joe Cooper who set up the win by blitzing the Rottnest Island time trial and held onto his lead thanks to a strong Huon Genesys team, who in 2014 are racing under the Avanti name. The driving force behind Tour de Perth, Craig Smith-Gander, explained to Cyclingnews that there will be a few changes to the parcours this year.
"We've had Rottnest Island as a part of the festival right from the first day and we have a significant amount of support from the business community on Rottnest and they provide us with a lot of assistance. Rottnest Island an iconic part of Western Australia and Tourism WA are very keen for it to be used.
"We experimented with the road race over there last year which didn't really work and there are a number of factors behind that. Our first stage was the road race [which was the first race of the NRS] and things were a bit 'fidgety' so starting off with a road race in retrospect probably wasn't a good idea."
Smith-Gander isn't a man who takes no lightly and where others may have seen insurmountable obstacles he sees possibilities....
Former Team Sky directeur sportif switches role at Tinkoff-Saxo
Alberto Contador has confirmed that former Team Sky directeur sportif Steven de Jongh is his new coach at Tinkoff-Saxo and has acknowledged that the Dutchman has played a key role in helping him rediscover his form and perform so well at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Contador had a difficult 2013 season, winning just a stage in the early season Tour de San Luis. He fought to finish fourth overall in the Tour de France but was unable to compete against Chris Froome. Tinkoff-Saxo team manager Bjarne Riis convinced Contador to improve the quality of his training and the Spaniard reached out to De Jongh last November.
The Dutchman is not a sports physiologist but apparently convinced Contador of the benefits of training at altitude on Mount Teide in Tenerife and has helped him control his weight.
While most of the Tinkoff-Saxo team trained at sea level in Gran Canaria in January, Contador clocked lots of climbing miles at altitude on Mount Teide with two teammates, under the careful eye of De Jongh.
"I'm really happy to be working with Steven," Contador told journalists, including Cyclingnews, after stage six of Tirreno-Adriatico.
"There's a good feeling between us, good understanding. I think the work is giving us some excellent results."
De Jongh knows the secrets of how Team Sky trains its athletes but Contador played down suggestions that he was interested in copying the British team.
"He hasn't told me anything and I'm not interested in knowing anything [about Team Sky.] The important thing is that we keep doing as well as we have so far," Contador said.
The Dutch De Telegraaf newspaper was the first to reveal that Contador was working with De Jongh.
De Jongh was a directeur sportif with Team Sky between 2010 and 2012 and directed the team's spring Classics...
Flat 9.1km TT brings down the curtain on stage race
The final act of this year's star-studded Tirreno-Adriatico sees Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) clash in the 9.1km out-and-back time trial on the seafront of San Benedetto del Tronto.
Martin is the world time trial champion and arguably the favourite. However Cancellara is looking to celebrate his birthday in style and Wiggins is out to prove that he is on form despite no longer being a stage-race contender.
Other possible contenders for the stage victory include Michael Hepburn and Luke Durbridge (Orica-GreenEdge), Giro d'Italia time trial winner Alex Dowsett and Adriano Malori (Movistar) and early Tirreno-Adriatico leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), who beat Martin and Contador in the 13km Volta ao Algarve trial three weeks ago.
Martin won the same stage last year at Tirreno-Adriatico and wants another victory to complete Omega Pharma's week of success.
"I know the stage from last year, it was a good win. So, I'm pretty motivated," he told Cyclingnews.
"It looks like the same parcours from the book. I had a good feeling there last year. I think it suits me really well. I saw that my condition is good and I've recovered from the previous two mountain stages. There is some power left. I am focused and I really would like to go for my first individual time trial victory this year."
Cancellara celebrates his 33rd birthday today but hinted that he has lost the motivation for time trials, preferring to save his physical and mental energy for the Classics. However the flat course perfectly suits his power and aggression.
"I will try to get the best out of...
Contador last man off in San Benedetto del Tronto
A 9.1km time trial on the seafront at San Benedetto del Tronto brings the curtain down on Tirreno-Adriatico on Tuesday afternoon, with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) poised to seal final overall victory.
The afternoon’s proceedings get underway at 13.00 local time, with Dmitriy Gruzdev (Astana) the first man to roll down the start ramp. The riders set off at one-minute intervals thereafter, until the final 15 starters, who are each separated by two minutes.
Contador is the last man to set off, with a start time of 15.57, and he will expect to defend his lead of 2:08 over Nairo Quintana (Movistar), while his teammate Roman Kreuziger (3rd at 2:15) will hope to at least consolidate his podium place.
While Contador’s blue jersey seems all but a foregone conclusion, the battle for stage honours will be keenly contested, with Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) all in the field.
Martin sets off at 14.22, Wiggins at 14.47 and Cancellara at 14.51, while other rouleurs who could shine over the distance include Alex Dowsett (who starts at 13.05), Tour of Qatar stage winner Michael Hepburn (13.13), Adriano Malori (14.15), Luke Durbridge (14.36) and the on-form Jean-Christophe Peraud (15.49), who is chasing a podium place.
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Australian was over 30 minutes down on Contador
Cadel Evans (BMC) has withdrawn from Tirreno-Adriatico ahead of the final stage time trial at San Benedetto del Tronto. The Australian lay in 70th place overall after stage 6, over half an hour down on overall leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Evans spoke briefly to Cyclingnews before quitting Tirreno-Adriatico, though without revealing what had caused him to perform so badly.
"It's obvious from the results that I'm not where I want to be," Evans said on Monday. "My performance at Tirreno is nowhere near where my intentions were but I have to continue working for my goals for the rest of the year.
Evans struggled in the mountains at Tirreno-Adriatico, losing 8:39 to Contador on the summit finish at Selvarotonda on Saturday and a further 16:41 the following day at Guardiagrele.
The Australian’s low-key showing was all the more surprising given that he had started his season with a stage win and a strong second place overall at the Tour Down Under in January. He followed that up with 5th place at the Tour du Haut-Var and a solid 7th at Strade Bianche last week, but he made no impression at Tirreno-Adriatico, a race he won in 2011.
"Obviously, my results are not anywhere near my expectations or intentions coming here," Evans said in an in-house interview released by BMC on Tuesday. "It is disappointing because we obviously worked a lot and I worked to continue the momentum that we started at the Tour Down Under. But obviously, the results tell a different story. So I will have to go home and reassess the situation and start again toward the next goals."
The centrepiece of Evans' 2014 season is the Giro d'Italia, where he finished 3rd overall last year in spite of similar travails at Tirreno-Adriatico. Asked if he saw that as something of an omen, Evans...
Solid foundation for American after two turbulent years
Following a year of upheaval in which he switched teams mid-season, former US under 23 road champion Rob Squire is hoping his move this year to Jamis-Hagens Berman will provide a stable foundation that can help give fresh legs to his career.
"After a little bit of a turbulent year - a turbulent two years, I should say - looking for a solid platform I could race off of was really most important to me," Squire told Cyclingnews recently from team camp in Tucson.
"When you look around, there are not many teams that have the results and the platform that Jamis has," he said. "So when that opportunity became available to me, it wasn't a very hard decision."
Squire rode with the former Chipotle Development Team of Slipstream Sports, owners of the Garnin-Sharp WorldTour team, for three years starting in 2010. But when his plans to move to the pro team fell through following the 2012 season, he signed with the Italian Continental team Ceramica Flaminia-Fondriest. That relationship was short-lived.
"Things with Ceramica Flaminia didn't pan out with what I was expecting and with what they were expecting, and my race schedule went from being thin to nothing," Squire explained. "They said, 'You can stick with the team if you want, but you're going to have very few opportunities to race with us.'"
The 23-year-old from Utah competed in just a handful of races with the Italian team in 2013 before returning to the US in May for the professional championships. He didn't return to racing in Europe until later that summer after moving to Amore & Vita, an Italian-based team registered in the Ukraine. The director at Amore & Vita is a friend, Squire said, and he offered the American a spot on the team for the remainder of the season.
Spaniard's morale sky high as he returns to form
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) revealed that he wanted more than victory at Tirreno-Adriatico - after his problems of 2013, he was looking for a confirmation that he was back to his best. He got it, beating his rivals by minutes rather than just seconds.
Contador finished behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and teammate Roman Kreuziger in the 9.1km time trial but still won overall by more than two minutes after his dominant stage victories on the two mountain stages. His 2:05 gap on Quintana was the largest winning margin seen at Tirreno-Adriatico for many years, while Kreuziger was third overall at 2:14.
"I came here to win and I honestly thought the seconds I'd lost in team time trial and on stage three would be important, so I'm very happy to have won and won well," he explained.
"It's true, I wanted to do something special. On the team bus before the mountain stage, I said that if could, I'd attack alone and try to make it to finish. I wanted to do it because I think it's what people want to see. There have been a lot of crowds at Tirreno-Adriatico and I think everyone likes to see exciting racing.
"It's not easy to do because you might not have the legs or the chance to do it. I was happy with my uphill stage win on stage four and my happiness was multiplied three or four times when I won again."
When asked if it was a sign of comeback, Contador's pride emerged, with him preferring to describe it as a confirmation of all the hard work done in training, rather than a comeback.
"For me it's confirmation that my training and numbers are accurate," he said. "I've been putting my body through some hard work and so I'm happy to transform it into a victory. That's what I needed."