Olympics, Worlds main goals, but Tour de France still in question
Omega Pharma-Quickstep's Tom Boonen will bring his star power to the Amgen Tour of California this week, but having taken an extended break from competition following his spectacular Classics victories including the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, he is not expecting to make a big splash on US soil. Instead, he is using the race to tune up for his main goals: the Olympic Games and World Championships.
"The main ambition is to have a good week here and get racing again. Hopefully Levi [Leipheimer] will be feeling better," Boonen told Cyclingnews. "But for most of the guys it's just getting started again - either they had a break after the Classics or have been altitude training. It's a nice week, it's hard, but it's a good week to get started again and go back to Europe with some good shape."
The four weeks since his record fourth Paris-Roubaix win have not been all fun and relaxation, Boonen explained that he moved from Monaco to Belgium in April and spent the past few weeks moving boxes and unpacking. "The Sunday night after Roubaix was the first night I spent at my house in Belgium," he said.
"It's a lot of work, but if you don't do it yourself it doesn't feel like home. The last time I moved I didn't do anything, I just came back from a race and everything was there, but I never had a real sensation of being at home. Now it's different, we are really at home."
Now settled in back home, Boonen returns to the Amgen Tour of California for the first time since 2009. While he only has one stage win here in his palmares, the 2008 sprint in the state capital of...
"I am super happy about this victory," Stybar said. "I proved I can win also on the road. A lot of people said it wasn't possible, and now I showed it was possible."
The 2010 and 2011 cyclo-cross world champion went through a more difficult period last year, not being as competitive as before. His personal trainer, Peter Hespel, told Het Nieuwsblad that he was confident this victory represented a breakthrough and would launch the Czech's career on the road. "This can really start off his season," said Hespel, explaining that Stybar's build-up this year had been very specific in view of success.
"After a less successful time in cyclo-cross, we decided to rest for a few weeks," Hespel explained. "Zdenek is someone who wants to train constantly, and sometimes you have to hold him back. After that followed a five-week training camp in Mallorca. We asked him not to overdo it, and he trained with a great mentality."
Together with his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team, it was decided that the 26-year-old should not race the spring classics, "even if they are the races of his dreams," continued Hespel. "We focused on races that would suit his qualities better. And it worked."
Stybar's team manager Patrick Lefevere was of course delighted about the victory at the Four Days of Dunkirk, and said that he...
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) came through the Giro d’Italia’s three days in Denmark among the best-placed of the overall contenders after delivering a solid display in the prologue and then emerging unscathed from the crash-strewn opening road stages.
Basso lies 39 seconds down in 37th place overall, but he has already gained 26 seconds on Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and is just three second behind Roman Kreuziger (Astana), the best-placed of the pink jersey contenders.
While conditions were chilly for much of the weekend, Basso pointed out that the wind did not influence matters on the road as much as he had anticipated beforehand.
“The prologue and the first two stages were very difficult on paper, but we were quite lucky with the weather conditions,” Basso told Gazzetta dello Sport. “We didn’t have the classic Danish wind, so we’ve come out of these Danish stages well. But after the rest day we have another very important day, the team time trial in Verona.”
Basso was a particularly prominent figure in the front rows of the peloton in the finale of stage three to Horsens. Safely tucked on Valerio Agnoli’s rear wheel and surrounded by a phalanx of lime green Liquigas-Cannondale jerseys, Basso was vigilant as the race entered its sometimes technical finishing circuit.
“I brought back the win at the Giro in 2006 and 2010 by riding that way,” Basso said. “My teammates have faith in me, so does all the staff. They all believe and they’ll keep working to put me in the ideal conditions to try and do well in this Giro.”
The dramatic crash that brought down Mark Cavendish (Sky)...
"It's unfortunate as these are the last two riders to lead out [team sprinter] Arnaud Démare," Martial Gayant told L'Equipe. Démare finished fourth on Monday in Horsens, as he was able to avoid Cavendish's crash in front of him by a hair's breadth.
"He told me he almost touched his helmet. Fortunately, Cavendish didn't slide on the road, otherwise Arnaud would have ridden over him."
Other riders were less lucky, as this is exactly what happened only fractions of a second later. Three Farnese Vini-Selle Italia riders came up behind the world champion, and while the first two were also able to avoid the crashed rider, the third one hit him hard and went down himself.
Andrea Guardini, the Italian team's sprinter, swerved around the fallen Sky sprinter on the left hand side. His lead-out man Elia Favilli, at more than 60 km/h, actually jumped over him as if on a mountain bike, as there was no other way to avoid crashing into the Manxman. Pier Paolo De Negri, however, was unable to prevent himself from going down and also suffered significant bruises and a blow to his hip.
After riding stage three of the Giro d’Italia nursing a broken finger, José Serpa (Androni-Venezuela) headed for Turin on the race’s return to Italy in order to assess the injury in greater detail and have a new cast fitted.
Rather than spend the rest day in Verona, however, Serpa travelled to an orthopaedic surgeon Turin in the company of directeur sportif Giovanni Ellena and team doctor Luca Romano for further scans on his injury.
“First of all, José will undergo another x-ray to see if the fracture in his metacarpal grew during yesterday’s stage,” Androni-Venezuela manager Gianni Savio told Tuttobici. “We’re hoping that nothing has changed, in which case the specialist will create a cast that will allow José to hold the handlebars without problems.”
While his teammates sample the team time trial course in Verona, Serpa will bring his time trial bike with him to Turin to assess whether he needs a special cast for the gripping the tri-bars.
“Ellena is bringing the TT bike, but it’s the surgeon who will decide whether to make two casts or just the one,” Savio explained. “Our hope is that José can continue the Giro with us, and we’re taking heart from the fact...
Acquarone expresses support for the idea in the future
The Giro d'Italia has finished its expedition to Denmark and returned to Italy on Monday evening. The flight, however, was shorter than it would have been had the Italian Grand Tour started in Washington, DC, as had been considered previously. US organizers now have their doubts as to whether the Giro or any other European race will ever make the step across the ocean, although race organizers have expressed renewed interest in the idea.
Washington had bid to hold the start of this year's Giro, and negotiations seemed promising. However, in April 2011 it was announced that the race would start in Denmark, which had initially asked to host the 2013 edition.
Robin Morton of g4 Productions, who was on the 2012 Giro d'Italia Working Group, said there were two main reasons that Washington was not chosen. The first one had been that city mayor Adrian Fenty was defeated in the fall of 2010. "He was the cycling advocate within the DC government. The new administration had many other issues to deal with; this was not a priority," Morton told Cyclingnews.
Nor was it the only important personnel change. Former race director Angelo Zomegnan was removed from his job, as well. "Zomegnan was the cornerstone of the project. Without him to lead the charge from the RCS side it was a difficult sell," Morton added.
Nevertheless, there is still interest to launch the race in the US, she said: "I have also heard rumblings about a start in Manhattan."
Morton was however not optimistic about the US' chances. "The UCI does not look favourably on starting the Giro (or perhaps any Grand Tour) outside of the continent. This could change if there was significant money/sponsorship involved and the...
US Continental outfit chasing result on Big Bear and Mt. Baldy
From its spot at the head of the class among US Continental teams that have snagged the most consecutive Tour of California invitations, Bissell Pro Cycling makes it very clear to its riders what's expected of them when the race rolls out of Santa Rosa on May 13.
"When we go to the Tour of California, we're 100 percent there to be aggressive and race every day like it's its own race," said team director Omer Kem. "That's how we get our sponsors on TV. We have to be in those breakaways, otherwise we're really then just riding. If you go to California and you ride around all week, and your sprinters never really make it to the end on those days that could potentially be a sprint day, you're not going to get invited back. We're there to be aggressive and make the race."
Despite having slowly built a leadout train that has delivered youthful sprinters Paddy Bevin and Eric Young to four NRC bunch-finish wins so far this season, Kem said those daily podium goals take a back seat to animating the action on every road race stage.
"The first goal is to be in the breakaway every day representing Bissell and our other sponsors the best we can," Kem said. "And then we look at how the guys are feeling, and if we get down to the end of one of those stages that could be bunch finishes, then we see what we can do. We've never really had a team that can win stages like the team we've got this year, and it's something we want to take advantage of at California. But we can't make it our emphasis, because we run the risk of there not being a bunch of stages where we have that opportunity."
Kem expects each of his riders to make it into a breakaway at least once over the eight days of racing.
"We have to spread it around," he said. "You can't put the pressure on the same four guys to be in the break everyday, because you're going to start missing the moves. You get two...
Race leader Taylor Phinney and his BMC squad will be the final starters in Verona on Wednesday as the Giro d’Italia gets back into action after the rest day with the stage 4 team time trial.
The remainder of the starting order is decided by the teams classification, with the lowest placed squad Ag2r-La Mondiale kicking off proceedings at 15:25 local time. Teams set off at three-minute intervals thereafter, with leading squad Garmin-Barracuda the penultimate team down the start ramp at 16:25, before Phinney and BMC set off at 16:28.
In the overall standings, Phinney holds a nine-second lead over Geraint Thomas (Sky) with Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Barracuda) a further four seconds back in third.