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Second Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Date published:
August 27, 2014, 1:00 BST
  • Wiggins: I am better than I was last year

    Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)
    Article published:
    August 27, 2014, 13:20 BST
    Cycling News

    Reaffirms desire to take on hour record

    At the GP Ouest-France Plouay this Sunday, Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) will begin a block of racing that he hopes can bring a successful end to a rollercoaster year. Wiggins won’t be vying for victory at the weekend - with Edvald Boasson Hagen likely to be the favoured rider - but the subsequent Tour of Britain and World Championships feature highly on former Tour winner's radar.

    Wiggins had hoped to follow fellow time triallist Tony Martin and ride the Vuelta a España in preparation for the worlds, but is happy to be riding at home and defending his Tour of Britain title. "Sky are in the Vuelta to win it now and if they were leading the race and I had to pull out with a week to go, that wouldn’t be right," he told the Guardian newspaper.

    "It will be good to be there [ed. Tour of Britain] with the number one on my back, because I didn’t get to do that with some of the other stage races I’ve won."

    The key to Wiggins’ victory at last year’s Tour of Britain was the 16.1-kilometre time trial through Knowsley Safari Park. The Sky rider held a 37 second advantage over teammate Ian Stannard at the end of the day, but that advantage was slowly ebbed away and by London he was leading Martin Elmiger by 26 seconds. This year, the time trial is the first of two stages on the final day and has been cut by almost half.

    Wiggins admits that this makes defending his title a little harder. "I won’t be able to take much time there, 15-30 seconds maybe, so it will be a question of staying close to everyone, finishing in front on the Tumble (the stage 3 summit finish), then go into the last stage close up and try to poach it on the last...

  • Report: Boasson Hagen signs for MTN-Qhubeka

    Edvald Boasson Hagen gives a lopsided victory salute in 2013
    Article published:
    August 27, 2014, 13:42 BST
    Cycling News

    Norwegian secures two-year contract

    Edvald Boasson Hagen has signed a two-year contract with South African continental team MTN-Qhubeka, according to Norwegian television channel TV2. It is rumoured that the new contract is worth one million Euros, which is less than he is currently on at Sky.

    Boasson Hagen confirmed earlier this month that he would be leaving Team Sky, where he has been since their inaugural season, however his destination has been unknown until now. The Norwegian had been linked with a number of teams including Giant-Shimano and Tinkoff-Saxo, although a tweet from the Oleg Tinkov indicated that it probably wasn’t going to be the latter.

    Boasson Hagen turned professional with High Road in 2008 as a solid all-round rider. Victories at the Eneco Tour and Tour of Britain showed him to be a rider with huge promise, and he moved to Team Sky in 2010. The Norwegian went on to win two stages of the Tour de France in 2011, and take a silver medal at the 2012 world championships. However, with Team Sky’s growing attention towards the Grand Tours, and more specifically the Tour de France, Boasson Hagen's career has begun to stagnate.

    While moving to MTN-Qhubeka may be a surprise, it could also prove to be the jolt that Boasson Hagen needs to re-start his career. It worked for Gerald Ciolek in 2013, who went on to win Milan-San Remo. The move to the team links him up with other former WorldTour riders such as, Linus Gerdemann, Sergio Pardilla and Ignatas Konovalovas.

    Since turning Pro Continental in 2013, MTN-Qhubeka has been growing quickly. The team is currently making its Grand Tour debut at Vuelta a España, the first African registered team to do so. At...

  • Nicki Sørensen to retire at end of the season

    Most combative rider of stage 15 Nicki Sörensen (Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank).
    Article published:
    August 27, 2014, 15:00 BST
    Cycling News

    Dane considering staying with Tinkoff-Saxo in another role

    After a professional career that has lasted 16 seasons, Danish rider Nicki Sørensen has decided to call it a day. The 39-year-old will be out of contract with Tinkoff-Saxo at the end of this season and has chosen not to seek an extension.

    “I've decided that it's my last year as a cyclist. Personally, I think the time has come when I see that I am now 39 years old,” he told Danish website BT. “I have not even looked into the possibility of a contract for next year. It is clear that there are major changes in the team and I could risk being among those who are not offered a contract.”

    Sørensen joined the team in 2001 when it was known as CSC-Tiscali, and under the management of fellow Dane Bjarne Riis. However, Riis handed over the reigns to his sponsor Oleg Tinkov in December of last year. Tinkov has been on a signing spree this August, extending contracts with the likes of Rafal Majka and Michael Rogers, and taking on new riders Peter Sagan and Ivan Basso.

    With the roster filling up, Sørensen was heavily aware that he could be shown the door. “That I wasn’t selected for a single Grand Tour this year was the writing on the wall. I would like to end at a certain level and not be dropped from races because they don’t think I’m strong enough.

    “Another thing is that being a professional cyclist is a dangerous job. This season I've had two crashes in which I smashed the helmet totally, and it sets up thoughts. I do not want to get so seriously injured that it affects my life after career.”

    At 39, Sørensen is one of the oldest...

  • MTN-Qhubeka confirms Boasson Hagen signing

    Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky)
    Article published:
    August 27, 2014, 17:23 BST
    Cycling News

    Rider leaves Team Sky after five years

    After five years with Team Sky, Edvald Boasson Hagen has decided to continue his career with Team MTN-Qhubeka for the next two years. On Wednesday, the team confirmed the signing, which was previously reported on Cyclingnews.

    "It's been five great seasons with Team Sky, but the time has come to seek new challenges," said Boasson Hagen. "MTN-Qhubeka has a very good platform and a framework that fits me very well, so I'm sure this is a very good choice for the next seasons.

    "I've had several options for the future, among them also WorldTour teams. But after some consideration, this is the team I most of all want to ride for in the future. They are upgrading the team for next season, but already this year they have received wild cards for most of the races I would like to do next year."

    MTN-Qhubeka is currently taking part in its first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España and next year, it will target a spot in the Tour de France.

    "I feel safe about the race program, and I really look forward to focusing on new goals in the MTN-Qhubeka jersey. The African riders I have seen race this year and I hope to help them with my experience as they are great talents. The other thing I really enjoy is this team does not just race for themselves but for a charity."

    Team Principal Douglas Ryder said, "We are really excited to welcome Edvald Boasson Hagen into Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung. We believe he is one of the best riders in the world and we look forward to seeing him achieve great results for himself as well as mentor our young African talents. We want to become one of the best teams in the world to assist the African riders to get into the biggest races in cycling and this is a huge step in that...

  • Vuelta a Espana: We had to give it a go, says Contador

    Alberto Contador (Tinkoff - Saxo) at the start line in Mairena del Alcor
    Article published:
    August 27, 2014, 18:29 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Tinkoff-Saxo create echelons in last kilometres of stage five

    A day before the set-piece Vuelta stage to La Zubia’s summit finish acts as a first real test of the overall contenders’ strength, Tinkoff-Saxo and Alberto Contador attempted to catch out their rivals by forming an echelon in the closing kilometres of the stage.

    The move worked, in that some 70 riders made it into the front group, but only one overall favourite - Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Sharp - was caught out, losing over three minutes.

    Contador has tried this tactic before, most notably in the 2013 Tour de France when he managed to catch out overall leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) on stage 13. Froome lost over a minute, whilst Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), attempting to change a back wheel wrecked when another rival collided with him, lost over 13 minutes.

    “It was good to try something, but the information we had was really bad, we had no idea who was caught behind and who wasn’t,” Contador said at the finish.

    “I thought some other riders were caught behind, there was a lot of confusion. We tried it anyway.”

    Asked about Froome, who moved ahead on an intermediate sprint to claim a two second time bonus, Contador said, “he tried it twice, the first time he ended up in no-man’s land, and the second time he got a placing after working with a team-mate. I don’t think it was that important.”

    As for his knee injury, Contador said “well, every day that goes past is a plus, it’s neither better or worse. We’ll see what happens.”

  • Pinot struggles in Spanish heat after early illness

    Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) celebrates his first white jersey for the Tour's best young rider
    Article published:
    August 27, 2014, 18:43 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Frenchman hopes for cooler days at the Vuelta a España

    When Thibaut Pinot arrived at the team bus in Córdoba on Tuesday afternoon, his summation of stage 4 of the Vuelta a España was a blunt one. It had been, he told one onlooker, the worst day of his life as a cyclist.

    Pinot was part of a salt-encrusted, hollow-faced group that ghosted into the one-time capital of Spain’s Islamic Caliphate almost 17 minutes down, following another day of searing heat in the deep south.

    The Vuelta’s extended early sojourn in Andalusia has brought the peloton through some of the region’s most evocative terrain and beguiling towns, but has also subjected the riders to the most extreme temperatures.

    For much of Tuesday’s stage, for instance, the mercury was north of 40 degrees, and Pinot is one of the riders to have suffered the most in the conditions. Never particularly happy beneath blazing sunshine at the best of times, Pinot’s travails have been exacerbated by the illness that laid him low in the days leading up to the race last week.

    At the start in Mareina del Alcor on Tuesday, Pinot had ridden to sign on with an ice pack stuffed down his jersey, and then apologetically nipped back on board the team bus to replenish it before speaking to Cyclingnews.

    “I had a fever for three days, from Wednesday to Saturday, so I’ve found it hard to recover and the serious heat here has weakened me even more,” Pinot said. “It’s been a very complicated start for me, and I’m looking forward to getting up north and into what will hopefully be some cooler temperatures. I don’t like the heat to begin with, and when you’ve been ill on top of that, it just makes things worse again.”

    For now at least, Pinot’s struggles have not affected his stated pre-race goals....

  • Froome: La Zubia is the first big test at the Vuelta a España

    Christopher Froome (Sky)
    Article published:
    August 27, 2014, 19:00 BST
    Barry Ryan

    Sky rider looks ahead to first category 1 finish

    For every action, there seems to be an equal but opposite reaction at this Vuelta a España, at least as far as Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) are concerned.

    On the road to San Fernando on Sunday, Contador's was an ostentatious presence at the head of the peloton in the finale. The following day, Froome announced his presence with a sharp jab on the uphill finish at Arcos de la Frontera. On stage 5, on another searing afternoon in Andalusia, Froome and Contador each issued implicit statements about their intentions for the remainder of this race.

    Froome was first into the fray. As the peloton ambled behind lone leader Pim Ligthart towards the second intermediate sprint at Campillos, Froome clipped off the front in the company of teammate Christian Knees.

    A similar attempt to gain bonus seconds in this way at the 2011 Vuelta ended in unintentional comedy when Froome jumped at the 20km to go banner rather than the sprint marker, but there was no such error this time and he coolly pocketed two bonus seconds.

    Small change but it often seems that every little counts in this, of all races. "I just saw the opportunity," Froome shrugged after warming down outside the Sky bus after the stage.

    Twenty kilometres after Froome's cameo, Alberto Contador sensed an opportunity of his own. As the peloton swung into a section of crosswind on the empty, exposed road between Teba and Ronda, the Spaniard sent his Tinkoff-Saxo team to the front of the peloton.

    Their forcing quickly opened fissures in the peloton and brought back memories of the team's ambush on the road to Saint-Amand Montrand at last year's Tour de France. This time around, however, Froome was alert to the danger, and a phalanx of Sky riders kept...

  • Esteban Chaves views things differently since his crash

    Johan Esteban Chaves (Orica - GreenEdge)
    Article published:
    August 27, 2014, 19:17 BST
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Young Colombian tackles first Grand Tour as Orica-GreenEdge GC Vuelta contender

    Esteban Chaves may have had to wait a year longer than he would liked to debut in a Grand Tour, but for now the 24-year-old's first experience in a three-week stage race could hardly be going better.

    The Orica-GreenEdge pro is currently lying sixth overall in the Vuelta a Espana, 26 seconds overall. And whilst teammate Michael Matthews' stage win and spell in la roja as race leader ease any possible sense of pressure, the young Colombian is perfectly placed for a GC challenge in his own right when the road steepens towards La Zubia's summit finish on Thursday's stage 6.

    It could have all come sooner, of course, had not the talented climber suffered a terrible crash in February 2013 in the Trofeo Laguiglea. The 2011 Tour de L'Avenir winner badly hurt his arm ligaments, to the point where he has had some difficulty using his arm even earlier this year.

    However, after a year of rehabilitation, 2014 could not have gone better, with stage wins in the Tour of California and Tour de Suisse. So what does he expect from the Vuelta?

    "The race is only just beginning, but for now I can't complain, it's all going very well," he told Cyclingnews. "We weren't expecting to do so well in the team time trial, losing by just six seconds was a great start. This isn't the top squad for team time trials, but we checked it out very carefully in the days leading up to the Vuelta and it worked out very well."

    "I've been training for the general classification, and I think it's the first time the team has fielded a candidate for that [in the Vuelta]. So we'll see how it goes, little by little."

    He admits that he may lack a little top-end form because his last race was in the Tour de Suisse, spending instead "a...