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Second Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Date published:
February 27, 2013, 0:00 GMT
  • Former Langkawi winner Monsalve not giving up after Genting defeat

    Monsalve (Vini Fantini) was lost contact on Genting
    Article published:
    February 27, 2013, 5:49 GMT
    Alex Malone

    Vini Fantini rider attacks on longest day of tour

    Two years ago Jonathan Monsalve took his most important victory atop Genting Highlands at Tour de Langkawi in his first year as a professional but this year hasn't gone to plan for the winner of the 2011 edition.

    Last year Monsalve was part of the winning Androni Giocatolli squad as part of the line-up designated to support the eventual winner Jose Serpa, who won his second overall title. Monsalve would finish the race in 15th overall but he arrived this year with ambitions to win for his new Vini Fantini - Selle Italia team.

    Monsalve started Stage 6 with the GC essentially out of reach. He rolled out for the longest stage on tour at 217.5km in 11th overall and 2:29 behind the race lead but had the determination to go on the attack. The escape failed to bear a result but it showed his resolve and persistence, something he'll need plenty of when he starts the Giro d'Italia and makes his grand tour debut this year.

    "I really wanted to arrive in the top position, in this jersey [at Genting] but the most important race this year for me is the Giro d'Italia. I'll go to Coppi Bartali and Giro Trentino after this and they will be my next big goals," he told Cyclingnews.

    Monsalve had been part of the leading group that formed on the relentless ascent to Genting was unable to follow the winning move, eventually coming in 2:29 behind the day's winner and current yellow jersey holder Julián Arredondo (Nippo - De Rosa)

    With the Venezulean's general classication hopes dashed at Genting, he had the determination to go on the attack. His time out front was brought back after a furious chase from the bunch, he slotted back in and finished with the main field at the end of the day.

    "I wanted to arrive at Genting in the first...

  • Gallery: 20 years of Paris-Nice

    Chris Boardman (Gan) in full time trial mode in 1996
    Article published:
    February 27, 2013, 9:15 GMT
    Cycling News

    Images from the race to the sun

    Paris-Nice is known as "the race to the sun", and for 71 years it has been an early-season proving ground for the Grand Tour contenders. Taking riders from the cold, dreary weather of Northern Europe to the (sometimes) warm, sunny Mediterranean climate in Nice, it also serves as a symbolic transition from winter to spring.

    The Col d'Eze has served as the main difficulty throughout much of the race's history - it made its first appearance in 1968, and although the grand finale was moved from the climb into the more spectator-friendly streets of Nice proper in the 90s, it returned to the slopes in recent years. Bradley Wiggins won the overall with a stellar performance in a time trial up the 500m ascent.

    The type of rider who wins has shifted with the prominence of the final climbing stage. Sean Kelly dominated in the 80s, winning seven straight classics-rider-friendly editions, but Jacques Anquetil is the next most prolific with five career wins. 

    Eddy Merckx got the better of Raymond Poulidor in three editions in the 1970s, but the Frenchman rallied back for two overall victories. Laurent Jalabert and Joop Zoetemelk each won three, and seven different riders are double champions including Alberto Contador and Alexander Vinokourov.

    This year's race should once again favor the Grand Tour challengers.

    The parcours ups the suffer score with a triple whammy in the final three days: a mountain top finish on the Montagne de Lure is followed by the longest stage, 220km from Manosque into Nice with five classified climbs including the category 1 Côte de Cabris and Col du Ferrier in the latter half precede the 9.6km uphill test.

    As we await the excitement of the week ahead, enjoy this gallery of images from the past 20 years of Paris-Nice.

  • Evans, Van Avermaet headline BMC for Strade Bianche

    Cadel Evans started his season in Oman
    Article published:
    February 27, 2013, 10:23 GMT
    Cycling News

    Ballan still out through injury

    With Alessandro Ballan still recovering from his December training crash, the Strade Bianche will be without the two-time runner-up but the BMC will still boast two in-form riders in Cadel Evans and Greg Van Avermaet.

    Van Avermaet and Ballan were key protagonists in last year’s edition of the iconic Tuscan race, just missing out on the podium – the latter was fourth while the Belgian rider was fifth. Now, with Van Avermaet coming off the back of his fifth placing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, it is hoped that he can come up with the goods.

    "Cadel will be our leader and Greg is in very good condition too," said Assistant Director Fabio Baldato. "Greg is really a fighter and this race is one for the fighters. He was right there to help Alessandro last year near the end."

    Van Avermaet was quoted following last Saturday’s race that "5th place is the confirmation" of his form, despite being frustrated by the result. The Belgian will be aiming for another strong showing next weekend.

    Meantime, Evans began his season by finishing third overall at the Tour of Oman. The 36-year-old Australian was due to compete at the GP di Lugano last Sunday but with the race cancelled due to bad weather, Evans was forced indoors on the rollers.

    "So far, the start to the season has been good," Evans said. "It's only been Oman, but I prefer to start off at the pointy end of the peloton so it sets the standard for the rest of the year. I look to progress from Oman from here and onwards to Tirreno-Adriatico and so on."

    Evans' best-placing in the Strade is...

  • MTN-Qhubeka at Tour de Langkawi with strength in numbers

    Tsgabu and Pardilla (MTN-Qhubeka) on the climb
    Article published:
    February 27, 2013, 12:08 GMT
    Alex Malone

    Pardilla third overall, squad leads team classification

    Proving to be one of the strongest teams at the Tour de Langkawi is MTN-Qhubeka who with three riders in the top-15 present a real threat to claim the overall individual victory. The South African team has an almost unassailable lead in the team classification but it's Sergio Pardilla's third-place on GC, currently 2:10 off the yellow jersey, they are looking to protect in the coming days.

    The newly registered Pro-Continental team has flown somewhat under the radar at Langkawi but after strong showings atop Cameron Highlands and again at Genting, the South African team is arguably showing up some of the larger ProTeams in the race.

    Both Orica GreenEdge and Garmin Sharp have achieved better stage results since the race began and Blanco and Astana have both won stages but MTN-Qhubeka has generally been right there and not just one with one or two riders. The team has three riders inside the top-15 with Tsabu Grmay in 9th and Jacques Van Rensburg in 14th. In fact, the entire team is placed on the front page of the results sheet.

    "We are leading [team GC] with nine minutes, it's nice for us," Van Rensburg told Cyclingnews prior to Stage 7.

    "We wanted to get a result on a stage rather than have three guys in the top-ten or whatever but we are quite satisfied with our GC individually and the team. We are definitely aiming to keep the team GC now.

    The team isn't content to just sit back and let others do the work. They have remained attentive and when a dangerous break formed with Pierre Rolland (Europcar) during the demanding conditions on Stage 6, they came to the front to assist with the chase.

    "Pierre Rolland was in the breakaway so we had to help the Nippo guys close the gap," said Van Rensburg.

    "I think they tested them [Nippo] yesterday and when big splits go with like 10 or 15 guys they are not strong enough to control it or...

  • Lövkvist on leaving Sky and a new start at IAM Cycling

    Thomas Lövkvist (IAM Cycling) wins the Tour Med
    Article published:
    February 27, 2013, 12:44 GMT
    Daniel Benson

    Swedish rider aims at week-long stage races

    After three barren years at Team Sky Thomas Lövkvist bounced back to win the Tour Méditerranéen earlier this month. The 28-year-old, who left the British team for pastures new at the IAM Cycling squad, is hoping that the change in teams will help propel him back towards the top of the sport.

    His win at the Tour Méditerranéen marked his first win since 2009 and his time at HTC-Highroad. At the French stage race he measured his strength in the opening stages before latching onto a break in the final stage. Seventh place in Grasse was enough to seal the overall.

    “You can never expect a win but I had good sensations and I knew I was doing well. I went into the race with good condition but I didn’t say beforehand that I was going to win. I wanted to simply do as well as possible at the start of the year,” he told Cyclingnews.

    “Of course I was really happy with the outcome. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to raise my hands in the air at a bike race and it was a great feeling. It’s been a long time.”

    A long time indeed, as Lövkvist was heralded as a promising junior when he turned professional with FDJ in 2004, winning the Circuit Cycliste Sarthe and finishing second overall at the Tour de l'Avenir in his debut season. It hinted at a future in stage racing, while a superb win in Strade Bianche in 2009 and stint in the maglia rosa the same year was a reminder of his overall potential too.

    A move to Sky followed at the end of 2009 and before Wiggins put pen to paper, there were brief murmurings that suggested Lövkvist could lead the team at the Tour.

    However, three years at Sky saw...

  • Italian races relying on passion to survive, says Acquarone

    Michele Acquarone and Felice Gimondi
    Article published:
    February 27, 2013, 13:57 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    Giro director on organising races in difficult economic times

    With the GP Camaiore, Strade Bianche, Roma Maxima, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo taking place in quick succession over the coming two weeks, Italian cycling appears on first glance to be in rude health. Appearances can be deceptive, however, and the harsh reality is that Italy’s bleak economic situation means that top-level racing is increasingly at risk in the country.

    A number of races have already fallen by the wayside in recent years due to a lack of funding, including the Giro della Provincia di Reggio-Calabria, Giro di Sardegna and Brixia Tour, and the races run by Giro d’Italia organisers RCS Sport are not exempt from a similar fate.

    In a blog for Cyclingnews last year, Giro director Michele Acquarone revealed how close Strade Bianche had come to folding following the withdrawal of former title sponsor Monte dei Paschi di Siena and, twelve months on, the long-term prognosis is scarcely any better for RCS races outside of the Giro itself.

    “It’s worse, always worse. It makes you want to cry if you look at the market in Italy today because sponsorship isn’t coming and tax is rising,” Acquarone told Cyclingnews. “It’s very complicated to organise races because cities and local councils have less and less money to spend on sport. Our country is in great difficulty, but we’re hanging in there because we love this sport too much and we have faith in the future.”

    Ironically, Acquarone was speaking in Dublin at the announcement that the 2014 Giro would begin in Ireland. Stages on foreign roads are increasingly becoming a necessity in...

  • Dutch cycling federation offers six-month bans for pre-2008 doping confessions

    Rabobank manager Theo De Rooy was eventually forced to exclude Michael Rasmussen from the 2007 Tour de France while he was wearing the yellow jersey.
    Article published:
    February 27, 2013, 15:03 GMT
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Dutch WorldTour teams to sign agreement

    The Dutch cycling federation (KNWU), the three Dutch WorldTour teams and the Dutch Anti-Doping Authority are in the process of enforcing a new agreement which will see employees and riders who admit to doping violations dating from before January 1st, 2008 face reduced bans of six months as well as having their pay docked for three months.

    However, according to the agreement, any riders who confess to any doping offences from after this date will face full sanctions as well as being sacked from their teams. Any new contracts, too, will now have to include the statement that a doping offence will automatically be followed by dismissal.

    The deadline for confessing to doping offences is April 1st, 2013. It was also agreed that all employees and riders from Argos-Shimano, Vacansoleil-DCM and Blanco Pro Cycling – including non-Dutch riders and staff – are to fill in a signed statement and questionnaire by that date, detailing whether they took part in or witnessed doping between the years 1993 and 2008. Even if the questionnaire is left blank, it must still be signed.

    For up to 2008 at least, the Dutch policy represents a ‘half-way house’ between the zero tolerance approach to past doping offences shown by teams like Sky and the usual two-year sanction for first-time doping offenders.

    Last autumn, the Dutch cycling federation sent a strongly worded letter to the UCI saying that it felt that “We can not sufficiently answer the question whether or not the doping culture has become widely accepted in professional cycling in the recent years. The credibility of the sport and the institutions around it are therefore more than ever at stake.”

    To resolve this, the letter called for four-year sanctions for first time offenders, penalties for teams, banning those with past links to doping from WorldTour teams, allowing only UCI-accredited WorldTour doctors to work with teams, and the separation of...

  • Cancellara looks to defend Strade Bianche crown

    The latest issue of CNHD
    Article published:
    February 27, 2013, 17:34 GMT
    Alasdair Fotheringham

    Swiss star previews race in exclusive Cyclingnews HD interview

    In this exclusive interview with Cyclingnews HD, defending champion Fabian Cancellara previews this weekend's Strade Bianche.

    CNHD: You’ve won Strade Bianche twice, which win satisfied you more?

    The first win was better because it was on a different, harder route, but both of them were pretty good. It’s just a nice race, special and unique. And riding along those old roads gives it a sort of historical feel, but it’s very tricky, too.

    How similar is it to Paris-Roubaix?

    It has nothing in common at all. Roubaix means cobblestones, and Strade Bianche is white gravel roads, the gravel doesn’t feel the same at all. There are some parts where the roads are a little fluffy, but it’s a different experience altogether.

    Which is harder to manoeuvre the bike in?

    Strade Bianche. Because when you are riding through a lot of gravel, it’s very difficult to keep your bike steady. I’m used to doing it, we have some gravel roads in Switzerland and I sometimes take the MTB on it, but you have to be careful on it. It’s a very different experience, I remember once I came off the road when I punctured in Qatar and I ended up riding through sand there. That’s the kind of sensation you have at Strade Bianche.

    How important for you is it to get a win early on this season to boost your confidence after last year was so uneven?

    It’s always important to get a win, it doesn’t matter where, it gives extra motivation to you and the team throughout the classics. Winning isn’t absolutely everything, a good result can do the...