- Article published:
- August 22, 2012, 08:03
- Peter Hymas
US Continental squad won team classification on opening stage
Making its USA Pro Cycling Challenge debut, the US-based UCI Continental squad Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies was quick to stamp its name on the Colorado stage race's opening day on Monday, a taxing 202.1km from Durango to Telluride.
The team figured strongly in Monday's sprint finale in Telluride and also claimed the team classification for the opening stage. Additionally, Andrew Bajadali was prominent in the 22-man break which nearly rode away with the stage.
Prior to the start of the USA Pro Cycling's second stage, Cyclingnews spoke with Team Optum's Mike Friedman in Montrose. Friedman was a key lead-out rider the previous day in Telluride for the team's sprinter Alex Candelario and Friedman spoke of the demanding tempo throughout the day as well as the hectic final kilometre of a sprint ultimately claimed by Garmin-Sharp's Tyler Farrar.
Friedman surprised himself with his own performance on a stage which crested Lizard Head Pass, the category 2 ascent topping out at 10,222 feet with 25km remaining and expressed the team's mission of being aggressive each and every day in Colorado.
- Article published:
- August 22, 2012, 09:07
- Cycling News
Sanchez, Gerrans and Demare move up
With the changes to the cycling calendar due to the Olympics there were two big one day races taking place last week. The Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian and Vattenfall Cyclassics are both WorldTour races. In the IG Index they are in different tiers with San Sebastian in tier two alongside such races as Strade Bianche and Gent-Wevelgem. Vattenfall Cyclassics is a tier three race alongside races like Paris-Bruxelles and Giro del Piemonte.
The Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian normally takes place the weekend after the Tour de France finishes. This year it was pushed back in the calendar due to the Olympic Games. Luis Leon Sanchez still managed to retain his form from the Tour de France to take the win. The Spaniard attacked out of a group of twenty riders to in the closing stages. It was a bold and daring move and he now stands in 23rd spot in the Index. It should be noted that Sanchez still retains both titles of the greatest distance and days raced in the last 12 months. In total he has raced 16,409 kilometres and 105 days.
In the sprint behind Sanchez Simon Gerrans led home the group followed by Gianni Meersman. Gerrans is now in 12th place in the Index and is the highest placed Australian and Orica Greenedge rider. Meersman was one of the week’s biggest movers in the top 200 with the points his third place gave him. He jumped up 76 positions to 96th in the Index. The Belgium rider is now racing the Vuelta a España where he will be aiming to win his first ever grand tour stage win.
The Vattenfall Cyclassics is one of the few one day races in the calendar that is favourable to the sprinters. The past winners include sprinters such as Zabel, McEwen and Freire. This year’s race was decided in a sprint once again after lots of attacking racing from 60km to go. It was young Frenchman Arnaud Demare who won the sprint by a clear distance. Demare won the under 23 world championships last year but this is his most impressive win in 2012. He is now 46th overall in the Index which is a very high position for a first year professional. He is also the top ranked rider in the FDJ-Big Mat team above riders like Hutarovich (58th) and Fedrigo (61st). Clearly Demare has a bright future ahead of him and will be a key rider for his team next year.
Andre Greipel came second behind Demare in Vattenfall and as a results moved up two places and back into the top ten in 9th spot. The defending champion, Edvald Boasson Hagen, could only manage 5th place and as a result lost much of his points total from the race. He dropped six places in the Index to 18th spot.
There were some new entries further down the top 200 in the form of Jeremy Roy (146th) and Yukiya Arashiro (148th). Both had impressive rides at the Tour de Limousin (Tier 4). Roy won the decsive final stage from Arashiro but the Japanese rider took the overall win as Roy lost time on stage 2.
This week is action packed full of racing. The third and final grand tour, the Vuelta a Espana, dominates the week. There two other stage races going on; the US Pro Cycling Challenge (Tier 3) in America and the Tour of Denmark (Tier 4). Then on Sunday the Tier two one day race the GP Ouest France-Plouay takes place.
About the IG Markets Index
The IG Pro Cycling Index is a 12-month rolling ranking system designed answer the question “Who is the best cyclist in the world?” We teamed up with sports data experts Opta to create a comprehensive cycling ranking system that was based on an entirely new formula. We source results from the 120 top international road races throughout the season. Races are ranked by our expert panel, based on their prestige and their importance to cycling fans and put into four tiers in three different categories.
The IG Pro Cycling Index has a number of features that make it unique: Races are tiered depending on history, importance and calibre of field rather than UCI Class. So winning the Tour of Beijing will not give you the same points as winning Paris-Nice or the Dauphiné. Wins carry much greater weight and are rewarded more than placings. Bonus points are awarded for multiple victories in the top races, winning the most prestigious stages at the Grand Tours or winning multiple classics.
- Article published:
- August 22, 2012, 09:40
- Cycling News
Seven out of eight consulted say Sky correct to continue echelon
A survey of former professionals by the Spanish newspaper AS has found that an overwhelming majority say Sky did not behave incorrectly when Alejandro Valverde fell and then the British team continued to drive the echelon they had just started to form seconds before the crash happened on stage 4 of the Vuelta a España.
Valverde slumped from first to ninth overall, and yesterday was furious with Sky’s racing tactics, going to the Sky team bus to remonstrate with the British team after the finish.
However, all eight ex-pros interviewed said they did not believe there was any kind of intentionality in the crash, something that even Valverde’s Movistar sports director Eusebio Unzue, who initially accused the British of provoking the pile-up, now recognises.
Only one, 2006 Tour winner Oscar Pereiro argued that Sky should have stopped, saying “Sky, as well as other teams, waited for Cadel Evans (BMC) in the Tour this year [when hooligans flung tacks on the course on a stage through the Pyrenees – ed.] so there is a precedent.”
However, the other seven – all Spanish – are anything but convinced that is the case, with experienced radio commentator and former Vuelta podium finisher Eduardo Chozas saying “there’s no norm for this kind of situation and if they had waited, the racing would have become devalued. I’m sorry for Valverde, but they shouldn’t have stopped in this case.”
“Why should they stop?” former Tour and Vuelta stage winner Roberto Laiseka told AS. “They formed the echelon and they went for it. It wasn’t unsporting.”
“In my time we went on at a normal pace when somebody crashed,” said three times Tour King of the Mountains winner Julio Jiménez. “If you fall, then you have to accept it. Bad luck.”
“The echelon had formed before the crash,” pointed out David Etxebarría, a rider fans may remember for his ‘kung-fu’ type salute when he won a Tour stage back in 1999. “It wasn’t a result of it.”
Looking further ahead, there were calls amongst the Spanish media for some kind of clear rule to be established about whether the peloton should stop when the leader falls. At the moment it is up to the riders and sports directors to make a decision, which – whatever that decision is – almost invariably creates controversy.
Spain’s Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky), who helped create the echelon, pointed out that nobody had waited for him when a race vehicle slammed into him and Johnny Hoogerland in the Tour de France last year.
“If the crash [in the Vuelta] had been a result of our acceleration, it would have been wrong on our part,” Flecha said. “Nobody told me to stop yesterday and I only found out late that Alejandro Valverde had been involved.
“There are lots of crashes in a race. When should we stop? I’m not going to become a commissaire and decide when we stop. It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last.”
- Article published:
- August 22, 2012, 10:28
- Cycling News
Clarke makes it two wins in one day at la Vuleta
There was even more reason for the riders of Orica-GreenEdge to celebrate when Adis Kruopis took the opening stage and the overall race lead at Tour du Poitou Charentes yesterday. His third win of the year came just hours before Simon Clarke took his first professional victory at the Vuelta a España.
"I had a perfect lead out from Jens [Keukeleire] and Leigh [Howard]," said Kruopis. "Jens took over with one kilometre to go, and Leigh was the last rider in front of me. He dropped me off, and I sprinted to the line. It was a hard sprint because of a headwind, and I thought someone might pass me but nobody was close on the line," he said after the race.
The stage win and time bonuses gave the 25-year-old a slim one-second lead in the overall standings. Kruopis has enjoyed a number of wins this year after winning a stage at the Tour of Norway and Tour of Poland however, the Lithuanian had the benefit of experience during for the finale at the French race.
"Jens knew the finish," explained team director Lionel Marie. "He raced here two years ago and this finish was included then. That’s why we had him take charge of our sprint in the last kilometre. All three riders gave their maximum. Aidis finished off their effort and arrived two bike lengths ahead of everyone else. He made it look easy. It was a perfect day for us. We did our work, and we finished first," he said.
Kruopis is not expected to retain the overall lead throughout the race however he believes a number of his teammates should perform well in the coming days, mentioning Luke Durbridge for the upcoming time trial on stage 4.
"We are looking forward to the time trial. We have Durbridge who can perform very well," Kruopis said at the finish line.
Meanwhile at the Vuelta, it was Simon Clarke and his teammates who were also enjoying the spoils of victory. Clarke’s win in the mountain-top finish stage 4 was a "long time coming" said Clarke.
"I have been a professional for four years, and this is only my first professional win. I never imagined it would come in such a big way for me and the team. I couldn’t be any happier," said Clarke.
- Article published:
- August 22, 2012, 11:15
- Cycling News
Double Ronde winner to reunite with Bruyneel and Demol?
After two listless campaigns in the colours of Vacansoleil-DCM, Stijn Devolder looks set to join RadioShack-Nissan next season, where he would be reunited with Johan Bruyneel and Dirk Demol.
Devolder spent four years under Bruyneel and Demol’s tutelage at US Postal and Discovery Channel, where he was initially touted as a future Grand Tour contender and successor to Lance Armstrong. When Discovery Channel withdrew from sponsorship at the end of 2007, Devolder left for QuickStep, where he went on to win the Tour of Flanders two years in succession.
The Kortrijk native has failed to win a race in his two years at Vacansoleil, however, and in July, the team confirmed that it would not renew his contract. While Devolder was coy about revealing his destination for 2013, Het Nieuwsblad reports that he is likely to be confirmed as a RadioShack rider in the next week.
“For me the most important thing is that I come into an environment with people who know me and trust me,” Devolder said. “Sometimes the difference between success and failure is a matter of detail, and for me details simply make a big difference.”
RadioShack manager Bruyneel, who has been charged with doping by the US Anti-Doping Agency, confirmed that he had been in talks with Devolder. “I don’t see why I wouldn’t do that,” he said.
Demol, who was something of a mentor to Devolder during his spell at US Postal and Discovery Channel, said that he was “ready to receive him with open arms.”
Both Cofidis and Europcar are also reported to have expressed interest in signing Devolder, but it is the Belgian’s preference is understood to be a switch to RadioShack.
- Article published:
- August 22, 2012, 12:36
- Cycling News
Short stage races a possible future target
Mark Cavendish (Sky) returns to competitive action for the first time since the London 2012 Olympics road race when he lines up for stage 1 of the Tour of Denmark in Randers on Wednesday.
The world champion, whose future at Team Sky has been the subject of considerable speculation in recent weeks, is set to lock horns with Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Oscar Freire (Katusha) in a race that could feature up to four bunch finishes.
“Boonen didn’t ride the Tour de France, so I don’t know what to expect of him, but I think he will be the toughest competitor,” Cavendish told Ekstra Bladet.
Cavendish took the first stage race victory of his career at the Ster ZLM Toer in June, but in spite of the flat parcours, he ruled out a repeat performance in Denmark. “This year, the GC is totally ruled out because I’m not in good enough shape,” he said. “We’re riding for Lars-Petter Nordhaug and I’m hoping to win stages.”
Nonetheless, Cavendish admitted that his appetite to test himself in short, flat stage races had been whetted by his June success.
“I overcame a big obstacle when I won the Ster ZLM Toer, and now I know I can win [races like this],” he said. “It could be a goal for me in the future. Not the big races, but shorter stage races like the Tour of Denmark and Tour of Britain, where there are no really big mountains.”
For now, Cavendish is pleased simply to return to Denmark, scene of his world championship victory last September. In addition, one of his earliest professional victories came in his last appearance in the Tour of Denmark, in 2007.
“I’ve not raced the Tour of Denmark since 2007 when I won the stage to Frederiksberg and I’m really looking forward to racing in Denmark again,” he said. “I won the Worlds in Copenhagen last year and I think that Denmark is one of the coolest countries in the world. I knew nothing about Denmark before I met Brian Holm, who is one of my very best friends.”
Holm's Omega Pharma-QuickStep team is one of a number of squads reported to be interested in acquiring Cavendish should he part company with Sky at the end of the season.
- Article published:
- August 22, 2012, 13:27
- Pat Malach
Going deep, "puking" and backing up again
Garmin-Sharp's Dave Zabriskie, seven-time US time trial national champion and winner of stages in all three Grand Tours, obviously knows how to suffer. But his efforts so far at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado have taken agony to a new level.
In a moment broadcast to the world on live television, Zabriske dropped from a breakaway that he had been powering throughout stage 1 and vomited in the road before seeking medical attention for cramps and nausea. He eventually finished with the gruppetto, some 15 minutes after his teammate Tyler Farrar brought home the stage win in Telluride.
"I was going pretty hard, pretty deep," he told Cyclingnews after the stage. "And then the last super deep effort - I let the group split and then bridged up to those guys - that was pretty hard to get to them. I was planning to pull them and I finally, I don't know; the body said stop and my spirit said you're puking."
Then, after one night of recovery, Zabriske hit out again on the super-fast opening of stage 2 from Montronse to Crested Butte. He joined teammate Alex Howes, Mathias Frank (BMC Racing Team), Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan), Vincenzo Nibali and Valerio Agnoli (Liquigas-Cannondale), Julien El Fares (Team Type 1-Sanofi), Craig Lewis (Champion System Pro Cycling Team), Chris Baldwin (Bissell Pro Cycling), Matt Cooke (Team Exergy), plus Rafael Infantino Abreu and Jorge Camilo Castiblanco Cubides (EPM-Une) in a 12 rider breakaway that escaped about 20 km into the 159.3 km race.
Again, Zabriske wasted little time going to the front of the group and supplying power to pull the leaders away from the chasing field. Seeing Zabriske make another tough selection at the front of the race and then digging another deep hole for himself may have surprised a lot of casual observers, but Garmin-Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters said he never worried that one of his star riders would be ready to ride hard again on stage 2.
"I knew that he'd just ridden so hard that he just threw up," Vaughters said. "I mean good for him. That's what I pay him for. He definitely put in a pretty solid effort the last couple of days. He'll be tired tomorrow, there's no doubt about that."
Zabriske's horsepower helped the leaders build a fairly sizeable five minute gap just 40 km into the race, apparently catching even the wily veteran by surprise. When the official time board moto approached the leaders to inform them of their latest split, he laughed and said, "Are you kidding me?"
They weren't. The bunch let the gap hover around the five-minute mark until the leaders passed through the town of Gunnison, where they started the last 52 km and the long, grinding climb to the town of Crested Butte and the ski area above. Zabriske attacked the group again outside of the small college town and dropped dropped Voigt, Agnoli and El Fares in his wake.
Lewis said the loss of cooperation in the group may have pushed Zabriske to make his move rather than any specific race strategy. "I think he was more just tired of messing around, so he rolled away," Lewis said. "Fortunately, we dropped the guys we wanted to."
The break's advantage held until the final 15 kilometres with a concerted chase from a number of teams slowly whittling it down. As the leaders approached the final steep rise to the finish at three kilometres to go, they still led the peloton by 40 seconds. Camilo Castiblanco (EPM-Une) launched an attack and the lead group started coming apart as the chasers reeled them in one by one. Tejay van Garderen and Christian Vande Velde eventually pulled away from the rest and finished first and second, respectively. Zabriske finished with a large group more than four minutes down.
It was another very long, hot, windy day off the front for the rider who had pushed himself to the brink just 24 hours before. So how does a rider who suffered so horribly for his team on the opening stage work up the gumption to go out and do it again the very next day?
"It's my job, sir," the rider known for his Captain America time trial skinsuit said before chuckling and walking off to recover at the team's hotel.
- Article published:
- August 22, 2012, 15:29
- Peter Hymas
US Continental squad qualified from American Tour ranking
The US-based Team Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies squad has announced that it has accepted an invitation to compete in the upcoming team time trial world championship, being held as part of the UCI road world championships in Limburg, The Netherlands, held September 15-23. The team time trial will be re-introduced at the upcoming UCI road world championships on September 16. Last contested in 1994 by national teams, the team time trial will now be contested by men's and women's trade teams which will vie for world titles over 53.2km and 34.2km distances respectively.
For the men's field, all 18 WorldTeams are required to field teams while 32 additional Pro Continental and Continental were offered invitations based on the August 15 team rankings of the five UCI Continental Tours: 20 from the Europe Tour, five each from the American Tour and Asia Tour, plus one each from the Africa and Oceania Tour. Team Optum finished third on the America Tour rankings, behind Funvic-Pindamonhangaba and UnitedHealthcare teams and ahead of the Real Cycling Team and Team Type 1-Sanofi squads.
"As soon as we realized we were definitely going to be in, immediately following [Tour of] Utah, I had conversations with my mechanics and with [team directors] Eric Wohlberg and Jake Erker and it just seemed like a no-brainer," team manager Jonas Carney told Cyclingnews at the USA Pro Challenge. "Why wouldn't we do it? We were going to be in Europe racing anyway and it's just a great experience for the team, the riders and the staff. There's no reason not to race when you're invited to the world championships."
The team time trial will be contested by six-man teams, with the time based on the fourth rider to cross the finish line. Carney told Cyclingnews he expects Team Optum's line-up to include Tom Zirbel, Scott Zwizanski, Jesse Anthony, Mike Creed, Reid Mumford and Mike Friedman. With less than one month until the world championships, however, finding time to conduct specific team time trial training has its challenges.
"Our schedule is so packed, we've been running it super-hot for a while now and now we have this race (USA Pro Challenge, where Zirbel, Anthony, Creed and Friedman are competing)," said Carney. "Ideally it would be great if we could start working on it now but it's going to have to wait until the riders are recovered.
"We're going to have a bit of a block in the early part of September where we can get all six guys together and do some specific training for the event and we'll probably recon the course. We're going to be on Oudenaarde, Belgium, so we're a two-hour drive away from Limburg, Holland."
In addition to specific team time trial practice, the team will compete at the following European races for preparation as well: the UCI 1.2-rated Kernen Omloop Echt-Susteren road race in The Netherlands on September 2, the UCI 1.2-rated Chrono Champenois Masculin International in France on September 9 and the UCI 1.1-rated Grand Prix de la Somme in France on September 14. Additionally, the team may contest pro kermesses as necessary.
Team time trials are rare events for professional teams, particularly at the Continental level, but the squad recently contested a 21.75km team time trial during stage 2 of the Tour of Utah on August 8.
"We finished seventh, and that's not the greatest result, but I was really happy with how the guys rode," said Carney. "We ended up being really close to some excellent teams: five seconds behind BMC, 10 seconds behind UnitedHealthcare and we beat some Pro Conti and ProTeams. That was a really conservative ride because it was the first time and we really didn't have time to practice and we didn't have our best possible team so I feel that it was a good experience, a confidence builder that we can be competitive against some pretty strong international teams."
Carney was cautiously pragmatic about Team Optum's expectations for the team time trial world championships.
"I think that we have some really strong riders with Zirbel, Zwiz and Friedman - really powerful time trial guys - but we're certainly not expecting that we're going to win the world team time trial championship against 18 WorldTour teams. I think a realistic goal is that we're going to go in there and be extremely competitive against the Pro Conti and Conti teams that were invited.
"We just want to have a really strong showing, have a good ride and maybe use that as a stepping stone to next year and the following year where maybe we could make the team time trial a priority for the team."