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Second Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Date published:
March 26, 2014, 0:00 GMT
  • Gallery: 100 days until the 2014 Tour de France

    The final 2014 Tirreno-Adriatico podium: Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Roman Krueziger
    Article published:
    March 26, 2014, 9:01 GMT
    Cycling News

    How the big names riders are faring before La Grand Boucle

    With 100 days to go until the 2014 Tour de France grand depart in Yorkshire on July 5, Cyclingnews takes a look at how some of the potential headliners have fared so far this season.

    Chris Froome (Team Sky): 1st place 2013
    For the defending champion Froome, 2014 hasn’t been as smooth sailing as last year with back issues forcing him to miss Tirreno-Adriatico. While there was a repeat win at the Tour of Oman, Froome’s next test is this week at the Volta a Catalunya against some of his main rivals in July.

    Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo): 5th place 2013
    El Pisterolo claimed two tough mountain stages at Tirreno-Adriatico for his first wins of 2014 and looks to be back to his best form. Whether he will be as brutal in destroying the field in July remains to be seen, but the five-time Grand Tour winner is looming large as a real challenger to Team Sky’s dominance of the Tour de France.

    Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): 8th place 2013
    Movistar may have had Nairo Quintana on the podium last year but in 2014 the team is backing Valverde to deliver the goods. The 2009 Vuelta a España winner has been in blistering form so far this year including three stages and the overall at the Vuelta a Andalucía.

    Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky):
    The 2012 Tour champion is hoping to return to the Tour after a knee injury meant he was not selected for the team last year. Wiggins has said that this may be the last Tour he races and is willing to be a super domestique for his teammate but he could steal a time trial stage.

    The sprinters

    Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano): four stage wins
    The first maillot jaune of the Tour in 2013 has continued his winning ways in 2014 and is a...

  • Henao speaks about Team Sky withdrawing him from competition

    Sergio Henao (Sky) slipped down the overall
    Article published:
    March 26, 2014, 10:36 GMT
    Cycling News

    An out of competition blood test done in Colombia on Jan 14

    Sergio Henao has spoken for the first time since he was withdrawn from racing by Team Sky, saying he is optimistic about the outcome of the extra controls he is about to undergo in Colombia and hopes to soon return to racing.

    Henao issued a personal statement to Cyclingnews, Biciciclismo and Tuttobiciweb. He also spoke to Colombian newspaper El Tiempo.

    Team Sky withdrew Henao
    from its racing schedule on March 19 after the team's internal monthly physiological profile caught the eye of the team's experts and set alarm bells ringing.

    The UCI has not begun to investigate into a possible Biological Passport violation, as in the case of Jonathan Tiernan Locke, however Team Sky said that their experts had "questions about Sergio’s out-of-competition control tests at altitude - tests introduced this winter by the anti-doping authorities."

    Henao spent the winter at home in Rionegro in Colombia. It is at an altitude of 2125 metres. Team Sky wants to investigate if this played a factor in sparking Henao's unusual blood value but claimed their understanding is "limited by a lack of scientific research into ‘altitude natives’ such as Sergio."

    Henao has been out of action since the Tour of Oman. He is expected to return to Colombia when Team Sky agrees a testing protocol that can shed light on his unusual blood value.

    Henao told Cyclingnews that he "shares and understands the attention Team Sky is giving to the blood value the last monthly control has highlighted," pointing out he has "always believed in the ethical values of cycling, and that honesty and respect for the rules come before anything else."

  • Gallery: On the start line at Dwars door Vlaanderen

    Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) used Dwars door Vlaanderen to prepare for the cobbles at the Tour de France.
    Article published:
    March 26, 2014, 13:05 GMT
    Cycling News

    Boonen back in action as Ronde countdown begins

    Just ten days from the Tour of Flanders, the countdown to Belgian cycling’s greatest occasion began in earnest in Roeselare on Wednesday morning as the peloton lined up for Dwars door Vlaanderen.

    As ever, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) drew the largest cheers from the home fans, as he returned to action after missing Milan-San Remo for personal reasons. The Belgian often forgoes this race, but has opted to line up to ensure he has sufficient racing in his legs ahead of the weekend’s WorldTour races.

    Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) lined up with a very different aim – the Spaniard is making a rare appearance in Flanders in order to familiarise himself with the cobblestones ahead of the Tour de France’s trek over the pavé in July.

    Others in the field include Milan-San Remo winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), who admitted that he was still suffering from his exertions on the Riviera on Sunday, Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Ian Stannard (Sky), Stijn Devolder (Trek) and last year’s winner Oscar Gatto, who leads Cannondale in the absence of Peter Sagan.

    As ever in Flanders, however, the road to victory will doubtless go through Omega Pharma-QuickStep. As well as Boonen, the team includes Gert Steegmans, Andy Fenn and 2012 Dwars door Vlaanderen winner Niki Terpstra.

  • Trek down to six riders in Catalunya

    Haimar Zubeldia (Trek)
    Article published:
    March 26, 2014, 14:50 GMT
    Cycling News

    Zubeldia and Hondo withdraw due to illness

    For Trek Factory Racing Stage 2 of the Tour of Catalunya saw Danilo Hondo fail to start due to acute bronchitis and sinusitis while Haimar Zubeldia, who started the race sick yesterday, attempted to make it through the day but lasted only 20km before succumbing to the sickness.

    It was to get worse for the team as Giacomo Nizzolo crashed hard in the latter stages of the stage but was able to continue while Julián Arredondo started the day with stomach issues.

    The team still managed to get the job done in protecting the leader of the race, Robert Kiserlovski, to ensure he didn't lose any time before today's decisive stage three.

    "We are not the only team dealing with this sickness: one from Sky, GreenEdge, and Wanty [Group-Gobert]; there are a lot of guys sick. On top of this there are also stomach problems going around, and Julián was not feeling well at the start. Then Giacomo crashed with 20km to go. He finished, but we have to assess yet how he is. His shoulder is fine though," sport director Alain Gallopin said on the team website.

    "The rest of the team was okay. Robert looks good, and Julián finished and lost a little time at the end but that should not affect much, so we will see tomorrow. I hope the weather will be okay, and the team stays healthy.

    "With only six riders, this does not change much for us. In the mountains even alone you can win, you just need to follow. You have Sky with [Chris] Froome, Tinkoff with [Alberto] Contador, Movistar with [Nairo] Quintana, and Katusha with [Joaquim] Rodriguez - we do not have the responsibility of the race.

  • Kittel confirmed for the Giro d'Italia

    Marcel Kittel (Giant-Simano).
    Article published:
    March 26, 2014, 15:45 GMT
    Cycling News

    Giant-Shimano announces a 12-rider long-list for the first Grand Tour

    The Giant-Shimano team has confirmed that Marcel Kittel will target the sprints in this year's Giro d'Italia and named a 12-rider long-list from which the final nine riders will be selected.

    Kittel won four stages at the 2013 Tour de France and is keen to win in Italy in May to complete his collection of Grand Tour stage victories.

    “Our first goal for the Giro d’Italia is to go for a stage [win] and there are plenty of early opportunities for this with the flat stages,” Kittel said in a press release from the team.

    “I’ve had a good start this season and winning in Dubai with all the best sprinters was good for the confidence. I felt strong at the beginning of Tirreno, on Italian ground, so I’m now looking forward to getting off to a good start in one of the biggest races on the cycling calendar.”

    The eight other riders that will support Kittel will be finalised close to the start of the Giro d'Italia (May 9-June 1). The race starts with a team time trial in Belfast but the other opening stages in Belfast and to Dublin, could be perfect for Kittel.

    The 12-rider Giant-Shimano long-list includes Luka Mezgec, who has won the two opening stages at the Volta a Catalunya and several other strong riders who can provide an excellent leadout for Kittel in the sprints.

    The 12 riders are Marcel Kittel, Nikias Arndt, Bert De Backer, Johannes Fröhlinger, Simon Geschke, Tobias Ludvigsson, Luka Mezgec, Tom Peterson, Georg Preidler, Tom Stamsnijder, Albert Timmer and Tom Veelers.

    Kittel is expected to face Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) in the sprints at the Giro d'Italia. Mark Cavendish and...

  • Mixed emotions for Farrar at Dwars door Vlaanderen

    Tyler Farrar wins the bunch sprint for second in Dwars door Vlaanderen
    Article published:
    March 26, 2014, 17:25 GMT
    Barry Ryan

    American targets Gent-Wevelgem

    When Tyler Farrar descended from the podium after Dwars door Vlaanderen, he beckoned the small group of waiting reporters to follow him into the tent next to the rostrum rather than stand on ceremony outside. "I'm covered in champagne, I needed to go somewhere warm to dry off," he explained apologetically. 

    Once Farrar had lowered himself into his seat inside, the obvious opening question was whether his glass was half-full or half-empty after winning the sprint for second place, 17 seconds behind Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) in Waregem.

    On crossing the finishing line, the Garmin-Sharp man had slammed his handlebars in frustration, disappointed that the large chasing group had failed to peg back Terpstra in the finale. Half an hour after the event – and after experiencing Terpstra's exuberant celebration first hand – Farrar could only smile ruefully as he reflected on the riot of emotions such a result inevitably brings.

    "It's always something special to be on the podium in the classics and it's really not a bad result but at the same time I'm a bit heartbroken," Farrar said, who pointed out that it was his second near miss at Dwars door Vlaanderen after he finished third behind Nick Nuyens in 2011.

    "Three years ago we just caught them in the sprint and I was third. This time I was second, and again the winner was just in front of me. It's hard but at the same time it’s a nice result for me."

    Victory for Farrar would have seen him rival another American visitor to Waregem on Wednesday, President Barack Obama, for column inches in the morning newspapers. In spite of his initial dismay at the result, he will surely hope that his performance can mark something of a turning point after a difficult few years, which culminated with Garmin's indecision over...

  • Valverde happy with performance at Dwars door Vlaanderen

    Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) goes on the attack
    Article published:
    March 26, 2014, 18:50 GMT
    Sadhbh O'Shea

    Spaniard to race at E3 Harelbeke for more cobble experience

    Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) came through his first experience on the cobbles with flying colours at Dwars door Vlaanderen. The Spaniard helped to light up the race in the latter stages and finished safely within the bunch, behind race winner Niki Terpstra, to complete his pavé debut.

    Despite the conditions that greeted the peloton, Valverde seemed to enjoy the challenge. "I am happy. I think that it was all OK over the pavé. We knew that it would be hard, but we couldn’t have asked for a better race and I’m really happy," he said at the finish. "(It was) spectacular. In general the whole atmosphere and the sensations were really good."

    Valverde came into the race having never competed on the cobbles before, and only came to the race to learn to ride on the pavé ahead of this year’s Tour de France, but says that his lack of knowledge didn’t hinder him. "I haven’t experienced this race, but I have a lot of experience in the finishes at Liège, Amstel, Flèche, the Tour and the Worlds. It’s not so different in the finish," he said. "I am not surprised, because I knew that I would be OK. The sensations were good and I felt good in the finish,"

    The Movistar team was given a seasonably wet Belgian welcome with the rain descending on the riders just before the start. No doubt, Valverde felt a sense of worry as he saw the tricky cobbled turn slick, thus making his job of getting through the 200 kilometre event just a little bit harder. However, the Spaniard hardly looked troubled as he rode alongside seasoned cobbles riders.

    Not content with sitting in the group and lapping up the lesson he was...

  • Terpstra relishes second Dwars door Vlaanderen victory

    Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) put in a massive solo effort to win Dwars door Vlaanderen
    Article published:
    March 26, 2014, 19:40 GMT
    Brecht Decaluwé

    Dutchman solos away once again on the Paterberg

    Niki Terpstra today added a second Dwars door Vlaanderen victory to his palmares, two years after his first win in the Belgian semi-classic. The Dutchman from the star-studded Omega Pharma - Quick-Step team completed a 30km solo attack from the Paterberg for the win, just like two years ago.

    While Terpstra had a comfortable gap over the nearest pursuers in his first victory here, this time around he had to contend with not only a headwind but also an elite four-man chase group hot on his heels. Belgian champion Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Nicki Sorensen (Tinkoff-Saxo) led the pursuit, but Terpstra's teammate Gert Steegmans, too, made the move and enjoyed an armchair ride in the race finale.

    The quartet closed to within 15 seconds, but Terpstra managed to increase his lead to over 30 seconds in the final 20km. The chasers were swept up at 1.5km to go and Terpstra ultimately finished 17 seconds ahead of a charging peloton.

    "Every win is nice," said Terpstra at the post-race press conference in the stadium of Waregem, finish location of the 1957 road world championships won by Rik Van Steenbergen. "Before the start of the season I said that I wanted to perform as well as possible in every race. I haven't won that much that I can say that I'm going to focus solely on the Monuments.

    "This is a top race even though it's not a WorldTour race. This is a big fish. Of course there are bigger races but I'm going to be at the start of those with even more morale. I arrived here with good morale after an ideal build-up to this race. The last ten days after Paris-Nice I was able to train super-well at home. Now my Spring season is already well shaped."