It has been a big few weeks for Tim Wellens (Lotto-Belisol). After finishing his first Grand Tour, the Belgian has secured a year's extension to his contract, which was due to run out at the end of this season.
This year’s Giro d'Italia was the biggest test for the young Belgian to date, and he came through with flying colours. Wellens was one of the few riders to make it through the Montecassino crash unscathed and finished second to Michael Matthews. However, he was most active in the final week and made it into the break no less than four times. He went on to take another second place, behind Stefano Pirazzi on stage 17.
Wellens' wasn't able to convert those attacks into his first Grand Tour victory, but his aggressive performance impressed his Lotto-Belisol team. "His offensive style of racing, which everybody loves, offers him opportunities," said team manager Marc Sergeant.
"The two second places are nice rewards. The next years we'll have to see together with him where his possibilities lie, in one-day races and stage races. As a team I think the development of Tim is a prototype example of how we can form Belgian riders."
Wellens has been part of the Lotto-Belisol set-up since 2012, where he rode for the U23 squad. Six months into his contract, the Belgian was snapped up by the senior squad and he turned professional. He hasn't yet taken his first professional victory, with his previous best result coming at the Tour of Beijing in 2012, where he finished 10th in the general classification.
While the team was keen to keep him for another year, for Wellens, there was no other choice. "As a young...
Boonen said that he missed the stage five recon, which includes nine sections of pavé, due to a simple visit to the dentist.
"I was not there because I had to go to the dentist. I had a broken tooth in the Tour of Belgium, which had to be fixed," said Boonen ahead of the Gullegem Koerse on Tuesday. "Anyway, I do not need to do it as I know that route really well."
If Boonen does ride the Tour de France next month it will be his first since 2011, which he abandoned after stage 6 due to injuries he picked up the day before. The Belgian won the points classification in 2007, but has since decided to forgo Grand Tours to focus more on the classics. Boonen's last Grand Tour was the Vuelta a España, also in 2011.
In the past Boonen has indicated that it was unlikely that he would ride the Tour de France ever again. However, the inclusion of the cobbles on stage five spiked his interest in competing this year. The competition for spots will be tough, as the team look to support Mark Cavendish in the sprints and Michal Kwiatkowski in the general classification. Boonen has been in good form recently, with victory in the opening two stages of the Belgium Tour.
With just over a month remaining until the race gets under way in Yorkshire, the final selection is still to be made. "There is nothing yet decided. I just know that I started in Gippingen and then in the Tour of Switzerland."
The Tour de France begins in Leeds on July 5 and finishes in Paris on July 27.
Gilbert has ridden both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España - in the same year - four times during his career, including 2012 when he won his World title in Valkenburg. However, BMC's sporting manager has made some serious changes to Gilbert’s schedule, which seems to include the Grand Boucle.
After two troubled years for Gilbert, the alterations to his racing programme have improved things for the 31-year-old. At this point last year, desperation had almost set in when he'd failed to win a single race during the Ardennes Classics. While it's not a total turn around, Gilbert can boast victories at Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold.
Gilbert recently finished fourth at the Belgium Tour, which was won by Tony Martin. He will next be in action at the GP du canton d'Argovie in Switzerland on June 12, before the Tour de Suisse two days later.
American Tejay van Garderen returns to competition for the first time since dropping out of the Tour de Romandie at the start of May. He is confident, however, that his reduced racing schedule - cut back due to illness and injury - will not impact his ability to shine as a team leader for BMC Racing at the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de France.
The 25-year-old began the season with a strong showing in the Tour of Oman, where he was second to Chris Froome, before illness caused him to withdraw from Paris-Nice on stage 1. He rebounded with a stage win and third place overall in the Volta a Catalunya in March, and a sixth overall in País Vasco in April before a crash during the prologue at Romandie sent him packing on the third stage.
He now believes that his time spent home in Aspen, Colorado, training at altitude and a recent return to Europe to preview the Tour de France mountain stages was a sufficient replacement for racing days, and is looking for a strong showing in the Critérium du Dauphiné next week.
"We want to treat it as a dress rehearsal for the Tour de France," Van Garderen said ahead of the race this week. "I'll definitely be going for as high a GC place as possible, try to test my limits a little bit, and make sure the team is all working well together."
It's Van Garderen's first time as the undisputed team leader for the Tour de France, and he is hoping to put the bad luck of last year's Tour, where he shared leadership with Cadel Evans, behind him.
"I'm confident in my ability to be a Tour de France contender," he...
Six months into the season and Moreno Moser (Cannondale) continues in his struggle to find form. Last weekend, Moser completed the Giro d’Italia in an almost anonymous fashion. The Italian did make it into the break on stage 11, but has been off-key for much of the season.
"Moreno is has not done as we all hoped at Tirreno-Adriatico, which he didn’t finish, and the Giro also has had its ups and downs,” Cannondale team manager Roberto Amadio told Tuttobiciweb.
"Before the Giro started Moreno said that he was good, but in the middle of the Giro he fell ill with a minor infection and it had to be treated with antibiotics, which can have a negative effect. The infection was highlighted by his performance during the following stage from Collecchio to Savona (which was won by Michael Rogers from a solo break)."
What a difference a year makes. This time last year, Moser was being touted as the next big thing after his superb victory at Strade Bianche – the only Italian to win the one-day race. He then went onto put in an impressive performance during the double ascent of the Alpe d'Huez at the Tour de France. Despite the problems, the team believe that Moser can live up to the expectations that his previous results have promised.
"We are not overlooking anything, and we are confident that Moser is a rider of class and he can return the results to prove it," said Amadio. “For the moment we are not going to change Moreno’s programme.”
Moser is set to ride the Tour de Suisse, which starts in Bellinzona on June 14 with a 9.4-kilometre time trial.
The MTN-Qhubeka rider returned from a year's hiatus after not being renewed with RadioShack to join the South African Pro Continental team this year. He confirmed his rising form with a recent stage victory at the Tour of Azerbaidjan.
The race begins with a 2.5km prologue today, followed by three undulating stages. The stages on Saturday and Sunday will be key to the overall classification, with hilly circuits in Differdange and Luxembourg featuring short, sharp hills that will favor the climbers.
The team's directeur sportif, Michel Cornelisse - himself a past champion of the event - sees the team's chances for a high placing in the overall as a real possibility.
"I think for this race we will definitely have to go for the general classification as our goal," Cornelisse said. "We have a strong team here with Gerdemann as a previous winner of this race, but all our other riders are strong so we have a good chance of getting a good result. I have just come from the riders rooms a few moments ago and the motivation is really high among them."
The team will be represented by sprinter Andreas Stauff, roulers Daniel Teklehaimanot and Ignatas Konovalovas, Gerdemann, Jaco Venter, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Jay Thomson and Johann van Zyl.
American ramping up for "own mini-Tour de France" in July
Specialized-lululemon's Evelyn Stevens scored an impressive second victory in the Philly Cycling Classic this past weekend, confirming her form is on the upswing ahead of what she is calling her "own mini-Tour de France". She speaks about her team-supported victory in Philadelphia and her future plans in this video with Cyclingnews' Kirsten Frattini.
Stevens will race in the Giro Rosa, a ten-day long women's Giro d'Italia, and then the next day will start in the Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen, giving her 17 consecutive days of racing in July. A week's rest will be followed by La Course by Le Tour de France: the ASO's first attempt at integrating a women's race in with the Tour de France, which will consist of a circuit race on the Champs Élysées before the men's arrival.
Such a demanding month is a tall order for any rider, but Stevens is proud to be a part of the movement to raise the level of women's cycling in the eyes of the public.
"It's exciting that there's going to be a women's race at the Tour de France. I can't wait to see what develops from it. Hopefully it will continue going in the right direction," Stevens told Cyclingnews.
"With races like Parx Casino Philly where you have equal prize money - women's cycling is gaining incredible momentum right now. I'm feel so fortunate to be a part of this change."
Reijnen was well protected by his team in Philadelphia, being led into the final climb where he proved, on his birthday no less, that he is unbeatable on this type of climb.
"I just had to finish the job," Reijnen said. "We raced 198k, and for 197.5 they did everything. We took control with one lap to go, and then coming down the final straight .. they kept rolling. I had Ken Hanson and John Murphy with me there for the final run-in to the final corner. It's important to be in the first five guys there. Murphy is my last man standing, and we went into the corner 1-2. He peeled off after the climb steepened, and then it was all me."