- Article published:
- May 8, 2012, 06:12
- Laura Weislo
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 Sacramento, he isn't sure when he will have a chance to go for a win next week. He is happy, however, to be back on the west coast where the skies are blue and the rolling green hills are basking in sunshine.
"Changing the date to May made [the race] more interesting for us. Now it's not so important if you have a few days of jet lag. When it was in February it was too close to the Classics, and also the weather was really bad in February. Now it's easier for them to get a lot of good European riders here."
The team is "95 per cent certain" that Leipheimer will try to earn his fourth Amgen Tour of California title, but if he cannot race or is not at his best, then they will look to Peter Velits for the general classification. The team also will field Bert Grabsch, Dries Devenyns, Stijn Vandenbergh, Gerald Ciolek and Frantisek Rabon.
Boonen said the team will "see day by day" for the sprints. "If I feel good I will try to win a stage also."
Following the Amgen Tour, Boonen will put in a few weeks of training before the Tour de Suisse, and then assess his progress and decide then whether or not he will compete in the Tour de France, which ends just six days before the men's road race in the London Olympic Games.
"I think for the Olympic Games it's better for me to not do the Tour, but we are looking at that right now," he said. On the London road race course, Boonen opined, "It's harder than everyone expected, but it's a parcours that really suits me. Especially I think the nine laps we do, if it had been shorter (return trip) it would have been even harder. It's a hard circuit, but you have time to recover after the climb. Normally if I'm really good I won't get dropped on that climb, but it's harder than everybody expects. There won't be any fast guys left."
While Boonen has had little luck in the past four years against pure sprinters like Mark Cavendish, who is also targeting the Olympics, he hasn't given up the idea of being a sprinter for the Grand Tours, even if he may give the Tour de France a miss this year. "If you can win sprints in the Classics you can win sprints in the Tour also. I think the main thing about the sprints is you have to have a team. Of course I'm not the fastest guy in the world anymore, but I can still beat the guys."
- Article published:
- May 8, 2012, 09:00
- Cycling News
Bright future predicted for Czech cyclo-cross star
Former cyclo-cross world champion Zdenek Stybar has taken his first victory on the road since he started to combine the two disciplines with his Omega Pharma-QuickStep team in 2011. The Czech rider won the queen stage of the Four Days of Dunkirk, stage four which finished on a cobbled climb in Cassel, France.
"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 had always put his faith in the rider, who has "a lot of class. Zdenek was very professional after his disappointing cross season. He trained on his own and stuck to his programme very strictly.
"Stybar has just one problem: he always wants to see results. Which is why we didn't let him start in the spring classics. He could also score the wins he wanted in the somewhat easier races."
- Article published:
- May 8, 2012, 10:32
- Cycling News
Wind not as big a factor as expected
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) and maglia rosa Taylor Phinney (BMC) dominated the post-stage discussions, but Basso admitted that he had been concentrated simply on staying upright himself.
“I hope that the fall doesn’t have consequences that will affect the rest of [Phinney’s] Giro,” Basso said. “I don’t exactly what the situation was with time bonuses, maybe he was up there because he was worried someone would pick up seconds to take the jersey off him. I don’t know because I was focused on not falling and losing time myself.
“At his age, he’s certainly not here to win the Giro but to try and keep the maglia rosa as long as possible. The maglia rosa gives you a special energy that sometimes causes you to make mistakes, but he’s a great rider and I hope for him that he can continue in the race.”
An x-ray on Monday evening confirmed that Phinney had broken no bones, and in spite of receiving stitches to a wound on his foot, Phinney is expected to defend his overall lead when the race resumes on Wednesday.
The peloton left Denmark by air on Monday night ahead of Tuesday’s rest day in Verona, scene of Basso’s second Giro victory in 2010. His plans for the eve of the team time trial are straightforward: “I’ll do three hours on the bike and spend the other 23 hours in bed.”
- Article published:
- May 8, 2012, 11:33
- Cycling News
FDJ-Big Mat and Farnese Vini riders also hurt
World champion Mark Cavendish (Sky) and pink jersey Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) were not the only riders hurt in Monday's crash on stage three of the Giro d'Italia, which was triggered by Roberto Ferrari (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela). More riders went down in the pile-up and sustained injuries, inluding William Bonnet and Mickaël Delage of FDJ-BigMat. Bonnet suffered contusions on the left side of his body, while Delage hurt his shoulder.
"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.
- Article published:
- May 8, 2012, 12:41
- Cycling News
Colombian fractured ring finger on Sunday
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.
Serpa was a faller on the opening road stage in Denmark and sustained a fracture to the fourth metacarpal bone of his right hand in the process. The Colombian was able to successfully negotiate Monday’s stage to Horsens, finishing safely in the main peloton.
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 that Serpa didn’t feel too much pain during the race yesterday. Although that said, he is a hard man…”
Serpa, who finished 12th overall in the 2009 Giro, is one of the leaders of the Androni-Venezuela team, alongside Jose Rujano.
- Article published:
- May 8, 2012, 13:35
- Susan Westemeyer
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 teams were on-board.
"It's my guess that a Grand Tour start would happen in Russia or China before the US."
She might take heart, however, from new race director Michele Acquarone, who this week told Het Nieuwsblad that "I want even more in the future, I want to go out of Europe." Specifically, "I dream of a start in the United States."
Acquarone acknowledged that "such a start is very expensive and with the current economic crisis, it is not an option. I do not know whether we can afford it, but if the globalization of cycling continues, the Giro should also participate in that evolution. Once we have outgrown the crisis and cycling has handled its problems, it should be achievable.
"A start in the US, a few stages on American soil and then the riders fly by night, in business class to Italy. Then we do a couple of days in Italy, some short and flat stages to overcome the jetlag and then we get right back in again. I really think it's possible. "
It won't happen on the short term, "a little further in the future" than 2015, he said.
- Article published:
- May 8, 2012, 15:12
- Pat Malach
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 or three days in, and those same four guys are going to get tired, and then you start missing out on the breakaways. That's a really big problem for a Continental team."
The Bissell staff will evaluate each stage and look at the riders who can perform at the end of the stage and the guys who can perform at the beginning, designating one or two riders every day who might have a chance of getting a result.
"We did that well last year," he said, adding that riders Chris Baldwin and Carter Jones would likely get the chance to go for a result on the summit finishes at Big Bear and Mt. Baldy. "I think they've shown they're capable of it. It's just a matter of having all the stars align for them."
Bissell Pro Cycling Team ATOC Roster: Christopher Baldwin (USA), Chris Barton (USA), Patrick Bevin (NZl), Andrew Dahlheim (USA), Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA), Carter Jones (USA), Frank Kevin Pipp (USA), Jeremy Venell (NZl).
- Article published:
- May 8, 2012, 16:10
- Cycling News
Phinney defends pink jersey
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.
Phinney endured a late scare in the finale of stage 3 when he was brought down by a mass crash in the finishing straight in Horsens, but he is set to continue in the race. The American received three stitches to a wound on his right foot, but x-rays taken in Soave, Italy on Monday night showed that he had broken no bones.
Start order (all times CET)
||Ag2r - La Mondiale
||Euskaltel - Euskadi
||Androni Giocattoli - Venezuela
||Lampre - ISD
||Lotto Belisol Team
||Colnago - CSF Inox
||FDJ - BigMat
||Farnese Vini-Selle Italia
||Rabobank Cycling Team
||Team Saxo Bank
||Liquigas - Cannondale
||Astana Pro Team
||Omega Pharma - Quickstep
||Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team
||Radioshack - Nissan
||Orica - Greenedge
||Garmin - Barracuda
||BMC Racing Team