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Second Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Date published:
March 19, 2013, 16:00
  • Drapac make it through tough start to Tour de Taiwan

    Robbie Hucker (Drapac Porsche)
    Article published:
    March 19, 2013, 02:30
    By:
    Cycling News

    General classification set to receive shake-up on Stage 2

    The Tour de Taiwan got off to a tough start yesterday and it was not all smiles at the finish of the Perfect Taiwan opening stage. The Australian Continental squad Drapac Professional Cycling was unable to come away with a stage win but the entire team made it safely across the line with the group that sprinted for second-place - a feat a number of teams were unable to achieve.

    The peloton was not as lucky with crashes, DNF's and riders finishing outside the time limit meaning that 11 starters already find themselves packing up and heading home before the tour has really begun.

    Drapac were attentive throughout the wind-swept stage however, none of the teams were able to real in the remaining two riders who fought it out for the stage win after being part of a late-race break of eight riders.

    At the finish it was one of the team's newest signings Robbie Hucker who claimed seventh-place with Bernard Sulzberger putting two inside the top-ten with ninth. A last minute replacement was needed to fill in the spot left by former Grafton to Inverell winner Malcolm Rudolph with the experienced Gordon McCauley stepping into the race.

    "Although it was a flat course, the exception of one bridge, it would be the winds and aggression amongst the riders that would make it fast and difficult" read a team release.

    "Many different groups tried their luck to escape but it wasn't until late in the race when a break of 8 riders slipped off the front. This group slowly whittled away but two riders were able to hold off a fast closing bunch to take an 8 second advantage."

    McCauley is currently the team's best placed rider in ninth-place and sits eight seconds from the race lead of Stage 1 winner Kirill Pozdnyakov (Synergy Baku Cycling Project Team). The following day in Tainan City could present an opportunity for some of the general classification contenders with tough climb to the finish of the 137km stage.

    "Tomorrows stage from Tainan City to Guanzihling has a hill climb finish and will be sure to sort out the GC."

  • Rasmussen back at Garmin Sharp after whereabouts violations

    Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Barracuda) could only mange fourth on the prologue
    Article published:
    March 19, 2013, 04:01
    By:
    Cycling News

    Dane to sign one-year deal with former squad

    Alex Rasmussen will re-join his former Garmin Sharp team in the coming days, according to reports. Rasmussen was fired from the team run by Jonathan Vaughters after being handed an 18-month suspension for violating the whereabouts system. The Dane was yet to sign the contract but announced he would be returning to the squad that signed with for the 2012 season - before receiving his suspension in March of that year.

    "It's really great, and what I have always hoped for," he told feltet.dk. "Now I just have to sign, and then we go out and deliver it. Now I'm finally back, which is what I have always believed. I simply cannot wait to get started

    Rasmussen is hoping to return to competition as soon as possible, with a desire to race tomorrow's Dwars door Vlaanderen but understood that he may have to wait a little longer before pinning on his first race number of the year.

    "I would really like to run already on Wednesday (Dwars door Vlaanderen ed.) but it's probably too close. So Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem is very interesting. I have to start somewhere, so it might as well be there. Physically, the shape is good, now I just have to mentally prepare myself for it, so it's probably good just to wait until Sunday," he added.

    Rasmussen had his contract terminated by HTC-Highroad prior to joining Garmin in 2012 however, the Danish Cycling Federation had cleared him to race. He signed for Vaughters' squad before the Court of Arbitration for Sport overruled the Danish Federation's decision and handed him an 18-month suspension.

    "Right now I am just happy that I even have a team to run on, and then I through my results prove that I am still a very good rider," said Rasmussen.

     

  • Rodríguez receives unexpected result at Volta a Catalunya

    Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) attacks
    Article published:
    March 19, 2013, 05:38
    By:
    Cycling News

    Wiggins is a huge threat to overall, says Spaniard

    It would appear the contenders for the overall classification at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya have been revealed after just the a single stage. The day looked better suited to the sprinters but at the end of the 159km stage Joaquím Rodríguez was the only rider from the Katusha sqaud to make it into the select 13-man group that surprisingly finished 28-seconds ahead of the main field.

    A bunch sprint appeared to be on the cards for the opening stage of the Volta a Catalunya but the Sky squad had other ideas, pushing the pace on the final climb and continuing the impetus on the descent. Those at the front near the summit of the final Category-three Alt de Collsacreu climb were rewarded as the Great British team hurtled down the into the finishing town of Calella.

    A select group sprinted to the line and while Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) took his first win of the season, the resulting time differences were also a small victory for the likes of Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Robert Gesink (Blanco), Daniel Martin (Garmin Sharp) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre) who have already established a considerably margin over the remaining GC rivals.

    Rodríguez's teammate Denis Menchov finished in the main peloton that followed 28 seconds in arrears with the recent Tirreno-Adriatico stage winner now putting all his energy into capturing the overall title when the race reaches its conclusion in Barcelona on Sunday.

    "We did not expect the race to break up on the descent and with such large [time] differences. There was even talk of a sprint finish, but I knew it was harder than that," said Rodríguez on biciclismo.com.

    "I will fight to win the tour. The sensations are good and I am here as a favourite. I will put up a great fight," he added.

    Last year's number-one rider in the UCI standings said the strength of Sky on the final climb caused the split, adding that Wiggins made his intentions extremely clear. Wiggins may have had the numerical advantage at the finish with teammates Dario Cataldo and David Lopez also at the front but last year's Tour de France winner has his eye on the overall.

    "Sky led the race as they like, with a rapid pace [on the final climb]. And if there was any doubt, Wiggins has been shown he is here to win the race - from day one," said Rodríguez.

    "At first we thought the key stages would be Thursday, Friday and the last one in Barcelona. But today we have seen that any stage, like today, you can make a difference."

     

  • Acquarone on Milan-San Remo: It was an incredible day of racing

    Article published:
    March 19, 2013, 09:18
    By:
    Stephen Farrand

    Race organiser happy for Ciolek, defends decision to suspend race

    Michele Acquarone brushed aside criticism from Tom Boonen and other riders about racing in the snow and rain at Milan-San Remo, insisting that race organiser RCS Sport did all they could to ensure riders' safety.

    Some riders complained that the race should have been suspended earlier, before the cold and snow left them frozen to the bone and covered in ice. However Acquarone and race director Mauro Vegni claimed they did everything they could, managing a difficult situation and managing to arrange a bus transfer through the snow and then quickly arrange a new start on the Italian coast.

    Acquarone personally congratulated Gerald Ciolek after his victory. The general manager of RCS Sport actively supported the MTN-Qhubeka bid for a wild card for Milan-San Remo during the selection process, knowing that the new African team would bring something new and different to the race. He never imagined the team would hit the jackpot and win the race.

    "I'm really happy for Ciolek and the MTN-Qhubeka team. I think it's a great project that will help everyday people in Africa. It's sport and charity together," he told Cyclingnews.

    "It was an incredible day of racing. One which will go in the history book of the race and be remembered for a long time."

    "We knew that the weather could have been bad but nobody expected it to be infernal like it was. We sent people to check out the Turchino and as soon as we realised the snow was sticking, we decided with the UCI race officials to stop the race. We could have cancelled the race or try and do it as safely as possible. We thought it as right to carry on in the rain and the race staff, riders and teams did an amazing job. I can't praise and thank them enough."

    Acquarone is from San Remo and so grew up watching the race every spring, almost always in sunny conditions. However he has learnt during his short tenure at RCS Sport that the weather -good or bad, is part of the sport. Football matches are often cancelled but cycling rarely stops due to adverse weather conditions.

    "It's easy to be critical afterwards," Acquarone said when told of Boonen's reported criticism.

    "I'm really sorry that Tom didn’t make it to San Remo. I would have loved to have a race in the sun, with all the big favourites fighting for victory. But the bad weather is part of cycling. We know that and the riders know that. It's part of what makes cycling special."

  • Report: RadioShack to end team sponsorship

    The 2013 RadioShack Leopard team was presented in Spain.
    Article published:
    March 19, 2013, 09:37
    By:
    Cycling News

    Team faces unknown future

    RadioShack will end its sponsorship of the RadioShack-Leopard team at the end of the current season, according to a report in French newspaper L'Equipe. The US electronics retailer is reportedly blaiming financial losses, a change of sponsorship focus, and the recent doping revelations within the sport for its decision.

    The Luxembourg-based team has been hit by a number of problems this season, both on and off the road. Nissan withdrew as a title sponsor for the team for this season, citing both the doping problems and the team's lack of success, although it continued its financial obligation.

    RadioShack suffered significant final losses in 2012, with a reported loss of $63 million in the fourth quarter, giving it a loss for every quarter of the year. In addition, the firm is said to be turning its focus to the Asian market.

    Cyclingnews could not reach team owner Flavio Becca for a comment, and a spokesman said the team had no comment. However, Cyclingnews understands that some kind of sponsor announcement is expected in the coming weeks, perhaps even before the Tour of Flanders, but it is not going to be confirmation of a new title sponsor.

    RadioShack has been a sponsor in the UCI WorldTour since 2010, when it stepped in to sponsor a team featuring Lance Armstrong and managed by Johan Bruyneel. The team ended after only two seasons, and Bruyneel moved over to the Leopard Trek team, taking RadioShack with him.

    Doping within the sport is also said to have played a role in RadioShack's decision. Armstrong was given a lifelong ban and confessed to having doped throughout most of his career, although not during his time with RadioShack. Bruyneel, who was also named in the USADA's suit and is awaiting a hearing, also faces a possible lifetime ban. He was let go from the team in October 2012 after the USADA's reasoned decision was issued, which detailed his role in the USPS doping scheme.

    In addition, Fränk Schleck has been given a one-year doping ban for a positive test at the Tour de France last summer whilst with the team.

    The team faces further problems with its riders. Its captain Andy Schleck has finished only one race since April 2012, is apparently suffering from the after effects of his crash last year which left him with a broken pelvis. His team has admitted he needs psychiatric help,and he was reported to have been found drunk in a Munich hotel after abandoning Tirreno-Adriatico. He has denied the reports.

    Multiple World Champion Fabian Cancellara is said to have tried to break his contract with the team last year, but was unable to do so. The contract expires the end of this year, and it is unlikely he would stay even if a new sponsor is found. He has been linked to the new Swiss IAM Cycling team.

    The team also features two of the oldest riders in the peloton, Jens Voigt  and Chris Horner, both of whom will turn 42 this autumn. L'Equipe suggested that they and Andreas Kloden will all retire if the team folds at the end of 2013.

  • Lefevere defends Boonen's decision to abandon Milan-San Remo

    Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma QuickStep)
    Article published:
    March 19, 2013, 11:16
    By:
    Cycling News

    Team manager says Belgian is focused on the Classics

    Patrick Lefevere has defend Tom Boonen's decision to abandon Milan-San Remo on Sunday, saying that Boonen's focus is on the upcoming Classics, rather than on the Italian race. The Omega Pharma-QuickStep rider opted not to continue in the race after the snow-and-cold induced break. Niki Terpstra, and Stijn Vandenbergh also did not continue in the race after the restart in Cogoleto.

    The Omega Pharma-Quick Step team manger told the Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad that “we need him for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. He is important for the team, not so much in Milan-Sanremo.”

    Lefevere noted that “ I think Tom made a wise decision, because after his colon and elbow problems that have disrupted his preparation, he can't miss anything else if he wants to contest Flanders and Roubaix.” Boonen was hospitalized last fall for intestinal problems, and again in late January for a bacterial infection in his elbow.

    He emphasized that it was up to each rider in the team to decide whether to continue in the race after it was suspended due to the bad weather.

    “The riders had one hundred percent free choice to restart or stop. Initially Cavendish wanted to stop, but when Mark heard that La Manie was taken out, he changed his mind. He would not often get  such a unique opportunity.”

    Lefevere added that he was pleased with Boonen results and performances so far this season. “People forget that we are all happy that he managed to start in Oman and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. In Paris-Nice, he rode as he hoped to be able to ride.”

    While Boonen will ride the E3 Harelbeke this coming Friday, it is not a major goal for him. “He has to be good in the next 14 days, not now,” Lefevere said, adding "I have every confidence in him."

  • Brailsford: doping is addictive, like going from marijuana to cocaine

    Article published:
    March 19, 2013, 11:20
    By:
    Cycling News

    Peloton was swept up in the doping culture

    Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford has compared the use of doping in sport to social drug use, highlighting the addictive nature of drugs and how people can rapidly progress from a first joint to crack cocaine.

    Speaking at the Advertising Week Europe conference in London on Monday, the Guardian reported that Brailsford suggested that athletes had become swept up in a doping culture with the arrival of once undetectable drugs such as the growth hormone EPO.

    "To me [the riders who doped] are not bad people as such,” he said, highlighting the addictive nature of doping with the comparison to so-called recreational drugs.

    “It is similar to someone having their first joint and then moving onto ecstasy or whatever. Then the next thing you know it is everyone on crack cocaine," the Guardian reported Brailsford as saying.

    As for Lance Armstrong and the expose of not only his own doping, but his intimidation of other rider and even journalists, Brailsford suggested that there may well have been wide spread corruption to hide a complex doping programme.

    “Yes, I do think there was institutionalised corruption. I do think anyone can rehabilitate themselves. It is down to the individual. Suing people [journalists], bullying was unpleasant."

    Brailsford is the team manager at Team Sky and also directed the Great Britain cycling team to success at the 2013 London Olympics. Team Sky introduced a zero-tolerance policy to doping in the team at the end of 2012. All staff and riders are obbliged  to sign a statement that they have never been involved with doping. Several people left the team as a consequence of the policy.

    Last week Brailsford hit back at innuendo about why Team Sky is so strong in stage races, using the success of the Great Britain team as guarantee of his integrity.

    "If people want the entertainment value of riders attacking each other, stopping, attacking each other again and again, then go back to 'old cycling', which will give you the capability to do that," he told Cyclingnews.

    "If you want clean sport and clean cycling, then it's going to be different. You can't have it both ways. There's an element of reality about what were doing."

  • Dutch riders: doping controls for passport are too few and too far apart

    The Netherlands = gratuitous windmill shots.
    Article published:
    March 19, 2013, 15:30
    By:
    Cycling News

    No UCI out-of-competition controls for some riders since summer or fall 2012

    Dutch riders have questioned the efficiency of the UCI's biological passport based on the inconsistency of testing. A number of riders stated they have gone for months without undergoing the out-of-competition controls used for the passport, which establishes a rider's basic blood values and then traces them over time.

    Nusport.nl asked 27 Dutch riders when they were last tested, and how often the testers came. While 20 of them had undergone OOC controls this year, the other seven were last tested in November, September, and as long ago as July of 2012.

    Equally troubling is the length of time between the controls. Marc de Maar (UnitedHealthCare) said that he was tested OOC only twice in 2012. “When I talk to colleagues about it, nobody is checked often. If you ask me, the system is not foolproof. There is too much time between the controls, there is room to cheat.”

    Tom Leezer of Blanco said that he was tested 10 times in 2008, his first year with the Rabobank ProTour team, but has now not been checked since last November. “You may think they have enough data from me, but on the other hand, what if I would so something ...  the opportunity should not be there. You must keep on checking.”

    Some riders fear that since so much time has passed since their last check that they have missed a control, which could eventually lead to a ban. Thomas Dekker (Garmin-Sharp), who has already served two-years on doping charges, expressed his concerns. "The last time was in the second week of July, last year. That's not a good sign. I'm almost afraid I've missed a test. I was tested once by the USADA when I was training in America, but that is not a UCI control."

    Lieuwe Westra of Vacansoleil-DCM is another who has waited a long time, as his last OOC test was in early October. “I find that very long ago, and I expect them every day – for nearly half a year! Time goes on and one, and the door bell still does not ring.”

    Blanco's Robert Gesink is one of the more-often tested riders, with the most recent one being the end of February. He has a total of 54 OOC controls since 2008, he said, including 11 in 2012.