- Article published:
- September 3, 2013, 08:57
- Stephen Farrand
Cannondale leader confident about the second part of the Vuelta
Ivan Basso (Cannondale) traveled from Andalucía to Catalunya for the first rest day of the Vuelta a Espana with a smile on his face after another solid performance in the mountains. The Italian missed the Giro d'Italia due to a saddle sore but seems back to his best as he fights to save his pride and remain a Grand Tour contender.
Basso was unable to go after Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard) or Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on the climb to Alto de Hazallanas on Monday but looked stronger than other GC contenders Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). He lost 1:02 to Horner but actually moved up to seventh overall, 2:20 down on the American.
Basso lost 1:26 to Nibali in the opening team time trial and 1:16 to Horner. He may lose some more in Wednesday's time trial around Tarazona but is confident for the big Pyrenean stages.
"The big days will come next weekend and it's going to hurt…" he joked to Gazzetta dello Sport.
"It was another good performance from me and I'm happy. I tried every way I could to get away but it didn't happen and so when Nibali went, I preferred to stay on the wheels."
Basso seems content to play a long game, knowing the final week and the final mountain stages could dramatically shake up the overall classification.
"I've moved up overall and I'm relaxed for the rest of the Vuelta," he said, analyzing his rivals.
"Vincenzo is very strong but that's nothing new. Then there's Valverde and Rodriguez: they were the three favourites before the race and they're still up there. But I'm there too and will try to get into the fight for the red jersey."
- Article published:
- September 3, 2013, 09:24
- Cycling News
Alonso to meet with Colnago at Italian Gran Prix
Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso’s rescue of the Euskaltel-Euskadi team has prompted speculation from Gazzetta dello Sport that his friend Alberto Contador may join the squad next season.
Although Contador has a contract with Saxo-Tinkoff for the next two seasons, Gazzetta claims that manager Bjarne Riis is struggling to find the funds to pay his estimated salary of €4.5 million per year. Riis is reportedly in the process of negotiating a deal that would see Oleg Tinkov remain in place as a backer of the team next year in spite of the announcement of the dissolution of their partnership last month.
Following Tinkov’s withering – and repeated – criticism of Contador via Twitter in the wake of his fourth-place finish at the Tour de France, it was announced that the Russian magnate’s Tinkoff Credit Systems would no longer sponsor Riis’ team in 2014 due to disagreements “on how the team should be run.”
According to Gazzetta, Contador’s relationship with Riis has also become strained since the Tour – in public, there appeared to be some initial disagreement regarding Contador’s decision not to defend his Vuelta a España title – and the Italian newspaper speculates that “the team manager could have an interest in letting Contador go and proceeding with Tinkov.” However this would leave Riis without a high-profile team leader for the Grand Tours.
Speculation linking Contador with a move to an Alonso-backed team is not new, of course, and dates back to when the driver first expressed an interest in owning a cycling team at the start of the 2009 Tour de France, a period in which Contador was unsuccessfully looking to leave the Astana squad.
While Contador’s arrival at Alonso’s team remains purely in the realm of speculation for now, Ernesto Colnago has confirmed that he will meet with Alonso at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza this weekend, perhaps to discuss the team using Colnago bikes in 2014. Euskaltel-Euskadi currently uses Orbea bikes.
“I don’t know anything but I have a meeting with him on Saturday at Monza,” Colnago told Gazzetta. “If he wants, then I’m ready to supply bikes to the team. It would be a good thing for the whole industry in Italy.”
L’Équipe reports that current Euskaltel manager Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano will remain at the helm next year, while there is speculation that Alonso’s long-term personal sponsor, Banco Santander, will be the principal name on the team’s jerseys.
- Article published:
- September 3, 2013, 10:49
- Pat Malach
Prologue and time bonuses are expected to decide the overall classification
The prologue time trial at the inaugural Tour of Alberta could do more than just set the pecking order for the first stage of the six-day UCI 2.1 race, with time bonuses on the other five stages expected to shape the final general classification when the race ends on Sunday September 8.
With flood damage reducing the queen stage to a lumpy circuit race, Cannondale's Peter Sagan, who won four stages last month at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado, is the natural favourite for overall success.
Sagan has won 19 races so far this season and was untouchable in the sprints in Colorado. He is hoping that the same form can lead him to the overall win when the Tour of Alberta ends Sunday in Calgary.
“It's a good parcours for me,” the Slovakian champion said Monday at the pre-race press conference.
“The organization did a very good parcours. But we will see day by day. [Today] is the prologue, and then we will see how we can control the race. There are also some good sprinters here, so we'll see.”
Sagan spent two weeks at altitude before the Colorado race, and he spent the following six days training there in Nederland at nearly 2,500 meters of elevation.
His only handicap this week is the short-handed six-rider team Cannondale brought to the race after several of his teammates fell ill or were injured in crashes. The green-clad Cannondale riders will face eight-rider squads from the five other WorldTour teams present, along with the two Pro Continental and seven Continental teams.
Sagan didn't appear too phased by the smaller team he'll be relying on to control races and bring a compact bunch to the finish.
“We are a little bit fewer riders than the other teams, because we have only six,” Sagan said. “We have too many riders sick or crashed, but I think it's no problem. It's very important here to do good [today] in the prologue, and then we will see what we can do here.”
Sagan will face challenges each day from many of the same sprinters he faced in Colorado.
Optum-Kelly Benefits' Ryan Anderson finished on the podium twice there and led Sagan on the last day until the final meters. Argos-Shimano's Luca Mezgec finished second to Sagan twice, and Belkin has Australian fast man Mark Renshaw at the race.
UnitedHealthcare brought its speedster team, led by Luke Keogh and Grand Tour stage winner Robert Forster. Despite Sagan's success in Colorado, US road champion Freddie Rodriguez said the Slovakian phenomenon can be beaten.
“We might want to give him some kind of a handicap, that's how good he is right now,” Rodriguez joked.
“But in sprinting there are always a lot of variables. Sagan definitely has what it takes to control those,
but he's not always going to be able to do that.”
Bell predicts a fast prologue
Canadian national champion Zack Bell (Champion System) said the 7.3km TT course is going to be very fast despite some technical sections and a 1km climb.
“It's going to be some pretty high-speed riding through the whole course, despite the corners,” Bell said.
"They're ones you can take at speed, well at least the left-hand ones should be OK. It's going to be really exciting and a close finish for sure. With a short course like that the top guys are going to be pretty tight together, so the stakes are going to be high, and you're going to have to stay in the bars the whole time.”
- Article published:
- September 3, 2013, 13:10
- Pat Malach
Belkin field strong team for Canadian stage ace
Recent Tour of Poland winner Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge) has predicted that cross winds could blow the Tour of Alberta apart, dashing many riders' plans to grab time bonuses in sprint finishes.
Weening leads the Orica-GreenEdge team along with Cameron Meyer and is targeting the final podium.
“When I came to this race and saw the profile, I thought, ah, it's not really hard,” Weening said. “But yesterday we went out on the bike and saw a lot of crosswinds. And I was born in a crosswind. So this is going to be a hard race."
“If there are a lot of winds it's always stressful and you always have to fight for a place,” Weening said. “If you want to be good here at this race and there is a crosswind, you have to fight for it. If you fall asleep and end up in the back of the bunch your race can be over in 20 seconds.”
Weeing's fellow countryman Robert Gesink (Belkin) said he is also expecting a difficult race despite the loss of the only real climbing stage. The Dutch WorldTour team also has Mark Renshaw and Tom-Jelte Slagter in its line-up.
Gesink, the 2012 Tour of California winner, has plenty of experience performing well in Canada; he won the WorldTour race in Montreal in 2010 and was third that year in the Quebec WorldTour race. He finished second in Quebec in 2011.
“It always feel good over here, and I've gotten some of my best results,” he said.
“After the Tour [de France] I was pretty tired. Myself and my girlfriend flew into L.A. Then we drove all the way up to Boulder. We saw all the national parks, and of course we didn't want to miss out on one of the most beautiful parks here in Banff, so we spent two nights there. So we enjoyed a nice drive, of course training all the way.”
Before the Dutch riders get their opportunity to make the Tour of Alberta tough along the windswept farmlands leading to the finish in Calgary, anyone with general classification hopes will need to perform well during the 7.3km prologue through the streets of downtown Edmonton.
“It's important, obviously,” Weening said. “A race like this can be decided by one or two seconds. I think a lot of it will be decided in the prologue. I think if you get 10 seconds you can make the [final] GC.”
- Article published:
- September 3, 2013, 15:05
- Pat Malach
Canadian proud to be racing at home
The inaugural Tour of Alberta will serve as a homecoming – and possible redemption – of sorts for former Grand Tour winners Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Cadel Evans (BMC), who've won the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France but have been hit by injury and illness this season.
Hesjedal, the first Canadian to win one of the three-week Grand Tours, is from nearby Victoria, British Columbia, while Evans is returning to the place where he started racing professionally as a mountain biker.
“Reaching all the way back to the last century when I was a mountain biker, I raced a lot here in Colorado and in Alberta – Canmore – a couple of times there, and of course I've got memories of that,” said Evans, who won the Tour in 2011.
“And then north in Banff, it's absolutely beautiful out there. Sorry for the weather conditions that took out the stage there, because of course that would have made the race a little more suitable for me.”
Hesjedal etched his name in Canadian sporting history when he won the Giro d'Italia last year. Although he had never before been to Edmonton, the 32-year-old said he has been anticipating this race since first hearing about it in 2012.
“I've been waiting patiently for it throughout the season,” he said. “And I've been watching it come to fruition, so here we are.”
Just a year after making history with his Giro win, Hesjedal has had a tough run so far this season. Although he finished eighth in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and fourth during stage two of the Tour de Suisse, he was unable to finish the Swiss race. He also forced out of the Vuelta Pais Vasco, Tour de Romandie, the Giro d'Italia and the recent USA Pro Challenge.
Hesjedal gritted his way to the finish at the Tour de France, often attacking in pursuit of stage victories and finishing more than two hours down on overall winner Chris Froome (Team Sky). Now the question is whether Hesjedal has got the fitness to perform during a new UCI stage race in his home country.
“I've been asking myself that for a few weeks, so we'll see,” he said on Monday at the pre-race press conference.
“I obviously haven't felt that great since the Tour de France. It was very demanding race on the backside of a tough spring, going for a big goal of mine and having some bumps after that. But you keep pushing, because that's what we do. I think sometimes I probably should have stopped earlier, but I'm just happy to be here. I'm in good health, and I feel good, so I'll see how the form is on the road and then make the best out of it.”
Fine tuning for Quebec, Montreal and even Lombardia
Evans is also hoping for a little redemption after a disappointing Tour de France, despite taking third at the Giro d'Italia. He's hoping the Alberta race can fine tune his form for the upcoming WorldTour races in Quebec and Montreal – and possibly even a little bit more.
“We're here to get ready for the races in Quebec and Montreal and rolling into the end of the year looking at Lombardia, of course,” Evans said. “During Lombardia we're looking at going next to guys in the Vuelta and so on who will be coming out of that race. I've had a pretty average-to-bad season so far, and so of course I'd like to do a good end of season and make a good end to 2013.”
Watch out for the bears
To make a good end to his season, Evans will not only need to avoid the roadway potholes he pointed out to Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel during Monday's pre-race press conference, he may need to look out for bears as well. Western Canada is known as grizzly country, as Hesjedal and his wife experienced firsthand last week.
“We were training on the left side of Vancouver Island,” Hesjedal said Monday. “And a bear actually ran in front of my wife when she was driving the support vehicle. So, yeah, Canada is wild.”
- Article published:
- September 3, 2013, 17:40
- Cycling News
Frenchman impresses in mountains
Thibaut Pinot’s Tour de France challenge fell apart due to his fretful descending but the FDJ rider showed that his talent when the road goes uphill remains intact with a fine display on stage 10 of the Vuelta a España on Monday.
Pinot was part of an elite leading group that formed on the steepest section of the final climb, the Alto Hazallanas, and while he was unable to track the acceleration of stage winner Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard), he finished the day in 6th place in the same time as overall contenders Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Ivan Basso (Cannondale).
“I’m very happy with my stage, I haven’t had legs like that since the start of the season,” Pinot said, according to his team website.
The 23-year-old Frenchman entered the Vuelta aiming to restore his morale by preparing for the world championships and challenging for a stage win in the tough final week of the race. After finishing 4th at Peñas Blancas on Saturday, Pinot gave a further illustration of his form on the first major mountain stage of the race.
In spite of briefly losing contact with the leading group due to the ferocity of Vincenzo Nibali’s pressing, Pinot recovered sufficiently to contribute to the pursuit of Horner and he was again prominent when Nibali clipped off the front of the chase group in the final two kilometres.
“I did a bit too much work behind Nibali on the final climb but I don’t regret anything,” said Pinot, who is hopeful that he can benefit from the tightly-packed and highly tactical battle for seconds at the head of the overall standings. “In this race, there are Spanish riders marking one another and Italians who have an understanding, but I’ve found my place.”
Pinot now lies in 8th place overall, 3:11 down on the red jersey of Horner. After finishing in 10th place in his grand tour debut at last year’s Tour de France, he knows that he has the legs to match or better that result at this Vuelta, but he preached caution given that there is still half of the race to come.
“I’m 8th on the general classification but I’m not paying attention to that because if I have a bad day, I could easily slip back,” he said. “But the rest day will do me good.”
- Article published:
- September 3, 2013, 18:50
- Cycling News
Movistar leader predicts the Pyrenees will be decisive
Alejandro Valverde believes he is well placed after the first half of the Vuelta a Espana and is hopeful of producing a good performance in Wednesday's time trial and in the key Pyrenean stages at the weekend.
"We're happy to be where we are right now. I don't feel tired at all: I'm still feeling strong and the standings show we're right into the fight," Valverde said during at a press conference on the first rest day, after the Vuelta transferred north to Tarazona in Catalunya.
Valverde is currently fourth overall, a minute behind new race leader Chris Horner. Like many of the overall contenders, was surprised that Horner was so strong on Monday's mountain finish.
"Neither I nor any of my rivals were counting on such a demonstration as yesterday's. There are some talented riders here: Basso, Purito and myself are all in great form, and we couldn't follow him yesterday," he said.
"We weren't expecting him on putting a minute on us, but we knew he was strong. We could all see it on the first stage he won and he proved it again yesterday. He pedals easy, not nervous at all, and he didn't offer any signs of weakness yet. Still we don't know how far he can get, if he improve or decrease.
"We have to be satisfied with what we got until this point: we're into GC contention, this last stage was the first real hard day in the race and there's almost everything to be played in the race.
A testing time trial in Tarazona
Before speaking to the media, Valverde studied Wednesday's time trial course. He was pleased to discover that the 38.8km loop around Tarazona is not flat. He predicted limited time gaps and some surprises.
"Despite being a time trial, I don't think it's bad for me at all," he said.
"We were able to recon it this morning and the first 20k are really tough. There are four of five k's of flat, then a 2km slope, and after that there's the real climb – 10km in open roads, much headwind, with no really steep sections, but some complicated ones about 5-6%. The gaps will be made there.
"After cresting, a fast descent, some flat and another 4k downhill before entering Tarazona. Except for the first 20, 22 kilometers - it will be pretty fast."
"Should I have a good day there, I don't think there will be huge gaps - I could even end up fighting with the top guys. I won't put any time gaps on this - there could be surprises."
Valverde is also looking forward to the decisive mountain stages in the Pyrenees. But admitted that the Vuelta is still wide open. "To me, the three Pyrenean stage are the hardest in this year's Vuelta," he said.
"The first one, with the mountain-top finish in La Gallina and the climbs before it, is really hard, while the second one has 230km on the official route plus a 20k neutral zone: 250km in total, with one-hour-long climbs and a difficult final, which I know since I won there in the 2012 Tour.
"Any of the three Pyrenees stages, as well as the other three in Cantabria and Asturias, could mean you gain time or lose it all. There's much strategy on the table: we can play the waiting card, so one rival or the other crack, or attack on climb where we think we can make some hurt. Anything can happen."
- Article published:
- September 3, 2013, 19:50
- Peter Hymas
US squad seeks top-5 result at TTT world championship
While the Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies men's team builds for its second appearance at the team time trial world championships with a steady diet of North American stage racing, the women's squad has travelled to Europe for the first time for a block of racing in France and Italy in preparation for their debut start at the team time trial world championships.
The schedule for Europe includes the UCI 2.2-ranked Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche (September 2-9), a six-day stage race in the Ardeche region of Southern France, and the UCI 2.HC-ranked Giro della Toscana (September 11-15), a five-day stage race in the Tuscany region of Italy that's close to the world championship venue.
The team time trial returned to the world championship program in 2012, now contested by both men's and women's trade teams, with Specialized-lululemon winning the inaugural women's TTT world title last year in the Netherlands. This year the women face a 42.8km world championship parcours on the opening day of the world championships, September 22.
"Although these are our first races in Europe as a team, the riders have all ridden in Europe with their respective national teams, and we are looking forward to combining their experience with the winning spirit we have in the US," said Optum performance director Rachel Heal. "We'll be looking for some great results. We will then have a week to fine tune before the team's big goal of a result at the TTT world championships."
The Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche kicked off on Monday with a 2.4km prologue time trial with the Optum women placing three riders in the top-10: Jade Wilcoxson, 4th; Janel Holcomb, 5th; and Lauren Hall, 10th. Wilcoxson, the reigning US road race national champion, finished five seconds off the pace of prologue winner Linda Villumsen.
The Optum men's performance director Jonas Carney expressed the organisation's high hopes for the women's TTT world championship squad.
"We feel that a realistic goal is for our women to finish in the top five of the world championships," Carney told Cyclingnews. "That would be a great accomplishment for our program.
"We learned a lot at the world championship TTT last year and those experiences are definitely being shared between the staff and riders. In the week leading up to the championship, the men's and women's teams will be staying within five miles of each other. We'll definitely try to help each other as much as possible in the final run up to the championship."
Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies roster:
Lauren Hall (USA), Janel Holcomb (USA), Leah Kirchmann (Can), Joelle Numainville (Can), Denise Ramsden (Can), Jade Wilcoxson (USA)