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Second Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Date published:
March 31, 2010, 1:00 BST
  • Grabsch, Sieberg looking forward to hometown race Rund um Köln

    Marcel Sieberg looks relaxed.
    Article published:
    March 31, 2010, 11:35 BST
    Cycling News

    Milram DS, HTC-Columbia rider say concentration is important

    Ralf Grabsch and Marcel Sieberg are neighbours in Köln, Germany, and both will be taking part in the Rund um Köln race this coming Easter Monday. They will view the race from different perspectives, as Grabsch is the Directeur Sportif for Team Milram, while Sieberg rides for HTC-Columbia, but neither wants to miss out on his “home race”.

    Grabsch, 36, is doing the the Spring Classics with Milram and said on the race website that what he likes best about Rund um Köln is “the diversified, fascinating course right through the area, in the heart of nature.” He warned, though, that the constant “up and down along the way will require full concentration from the start of the race.” His team hopes to win, of course, but the only German ProTour team also wants to “present the best side of cycling to the fans along the course and to the tv cameras.”

    Sieberg, 27, doesn't expect to be factor in the race, as he will be coming directly from the Tour of Flanders the day before. He wants to ride well in Belgium on Sunday, and “will surely be totally exhausted at the end of the day.” He wasn't scheduled to ride in Köln, but asked the team management to enter him, because it is his home race. He first rode the race as an U-23 rider, and says he still finds the atmosphere around the race “amazing.” Sieberg agreed with Grabsch that the key is “to be near the front and concentrated.”

    Sieberg will probably be riding for his teammate and good friend Andre Greipel, who also lives in the area. The HTC-Columbia sprinter will be a favourite to win the race.

  • Prudhomme defends Tour de France team selections

    Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme at the presentation of the Brussels region itinerary for the 2010 Tour de France.
    Article published:
    March 31, 2010, 12:39 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Tour director explains selection of Team Sky, RadioShack and BMC

    Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has justified the selection of the 22 teams for this year's Tour de France, explaining that the spread of leading riders across the teams from around the world made choosing the final six teams extremely difficult.

    Giving places to new teams RadioShack, Team Sky and BMC meant that French team Saur-Sojasun missed out on a place, while the absence of Vancansoleil means popular French riders Brice and Romain Feillu will not be in the Tour.

    Prudhomme came under fire for his choices in Wednesday's l'Equipe newspaper but defended his decision to invite more English-speaking teams than French teams.

    "It was very complicated selecting the teams," Prudhomme told l'Equipe. "We've always said there should be between 30 and 35 French riders and there will be. We won't forget the traditions of the Tour but cycling is becoming more and more international. The economic strength of international cycling and spread of the team leaders was also a factor. And there can't be more than 200 riders in the race for safety reasons."

    "The selection of the six remaining places (after the pre-selection of 16 teams under a long-term agreement) was based on the quality of the teams and their respective leaders: RadioShack with Armstrong, Sky with Wiggins, who was fourth last year and who have a star of today and tomorrow in Boasson Hagen, Garmin who has Vande Velde for the overall and Farrar for the sprints, Katusha with their attackers like Pozzato and Rodriguez who won Catalunya; Cervélo with 2008 Tour winner Sastre and last year's green jersey Hushovd, and BMC with Evans who was second twice and is the current world champion."

    "Despite their efforts since the start of the season, Saur-Sojasun hasn't done as well as those teams. I'm really sorry for the Feillu brothers and it wasn't nice to say 'We can't take you this year' to Saur-Sojasun but that means we didn't think they were up...

  • Team Sky to let riders decide on Tour de France squad

    Bradley Wiggins is one of Team Sky's big signings
    Article published:
    March 31, 2010, 12:44 BST
    Susan Westemeyer

    Wiggins to lead British team in its Tour debut

    Team Sky is bringing many innovations to professional cycling, and the way its selects the riders for the Tour de France will be no different. The riders have decided the criteria as to who is selected for the Tour de France, and the team will probably be announced as early as next month.

    The team will be led by Bradley Wiggins, who finished fourth last year and was the revelation of the race. 18 other riders are competing for the eight spots in the team that will line up in Rotterdam on July 3.

    "We asked the riders back in November how they thought the Tour team should be selected, and they came up with a plan,” team principal Dave Brailsford told the Guardian newspaper. “We know from previous experience with the Olympics that the biggest source of unrest and friction is team selection. The riders want to know two things: what it takes to be selected, and who makes the decision. From our point of view, we want the team picked early. We want them at their best at the Tour, not to gain selection."

    The team received a wildcard invitation to the Tour de France on Tuesday,  thanks to the strength of the team but also due to its “clean credentials,” Brailsford said. "It was certainly one of the factors. I think that, on the sporting front, we earned our place on merit. I also like to think that it's recognised that we're doing it the right way, and that we're committed to clean cycling.”

    Wiggins will lead the team after joining Team Sky from Garmin during the winter. Two of the team's young Scandinavian stars, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Thomas Löfkvist are also likely to be in the Tour de France line-up.

    Wiggins was forced to miss the recent Volta a Catalunya stage race due to a stomach problem. He is expected to return in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (April 5-10). “We'll probably re-jig his programme slightly," Brailsford said. "It's not ideal, but it's not a threat to our...

  • Boasson Hagen out of Tour of Flanders

    Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky)
    Article published:
    March 31, 2010, 16:43 BST
    Cycling News

    Norwegian still aiming for Paris-Roubaix depite injury

    Team Sky's Norwegian sensation Edvald Boasson Hagen will not start the Tour of Flanders this Sunday as he is still recuperating from tendonitis of his Achilles tendon, his team announced today. He has been suffering from the ailment since Milan-San Remo.

    The team's medical staff and management made the decision in order for Boasson Hagen to work towards his main goal, Paris-Roubaix, in one week's time.

    “We’re making a prudent decision regarding Edvald’s injury and by way of precautionary measure, this is for sure the right thing to do. He is on the right road to recovery, but since he still has some problems with his Achilles, we’re not taking any risks. By doing so, he’ll still be able to train progressively and focus on Paris-Roubaix and hopefully be able to make his mark there.” says Team Sky’s senior sports director, Scott Sunderland.

    Boasson Hagen, the winner of last year's Gent-Wevelgem, was forced to relinquish his hopes of repeating that victory this year due to his injury.

    He rode his first Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix last year, coming 66th in Belgium and 62nd in France. However, after moving across from the HTC-Columbia team to Team Sky this year, the Norwegian was to be one of the team's protected riders for the two events.

    “I’m sad miss out on Tour of Flanders as I have been looking forward to this race for a long time. But I still haven’t gotten completely rid of my tendonitis, so I need to save myself a little, so I can still be competitive in Paris-Roubaix.

    "This is clearly not what I had hoped for, but I’m very hopeful that I have a good chance of getting ready for Paris-Roubaix and that race is still a very big goal for me”, said Boasson Hagen.

    Boasson Hagen will be replaced by Greg Henderson in the Tour of Flanders.

  • Grivko agonisingly close to lead in De Panne

    Andriy Grivko (Astana)
    Article published:
    March 31, 2010, 17:19 BST
    Richard Tyler

    Astana rider will be Millar's biggest rival in time trial finale

    Andry Grivko will enter the final day of the Three Days of De Panne on Thursday on the same time as the race's new leader, Luca Paolini (Acqua & Sapone). The Astana rider came agonisingly close to outright possession of the leader's jersey after a day-long escape in brutal weather conditions.

    Racing towards the costal town of Koksijke, the De Panne peloton was lashed by a strong head wind and rain for much of the stage. The wind had such a severe impact on the race's schedule that the race jury cancelled two of the three planned finishing loops – reducing the 214 kilometre stage to 188 kilometres.

    Grivko finished third on the stage in a group of four survivors from an originally 12-man break that had escaped the peloton after 24 kilometres. He had faced a particularly heavy workload in the final 30 kilometres of the stage, after overnight leader Steve Chainel (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) was dropped from a depleted chase group, placing the obligation of leadership virtuel on Grivko's shoulders.

    "Yeah, I was working for the jersey," Grivko told Cyclingnews after the stage. "I feel good but it was a very, very difficult day."

    Paolini finished the stage 41 seconds down on the first four riders to cross the line, but his effort was enough to draw level with Grivko's cumulative time from the first two stages. The Italian assumed the overall lead by virtue of his higher standing in the points classification. Although he was able to secure the intermediate sprint jersey, Grivko was left to rue the one second that separated him from the overall lead.

    "It was not bad, it would have been nice to take more time but a lot of people didn't want to work," he said, after having been forced to perform the longest turns in the last 10 kilometres.

    Grivko will start the final day of De Panne on the same time as Paolini and twelve seconds ahead of David Millar (Garmin-Transitions), after the latter finished 44...

  • Bike thieves caught in Austria after stealing Amore e Vita race bikes

    Amore & Vita-Conad before their bikes were stolen
    Article published:
    March 31, 2010, 17:54 BST
    Stephen Farrand

    Italian team uses borrowed bikes to ride the Settimana Lombarda race

    The Amore e Vita-Conad team was forced to ride on borrowed bikes during the opening stage of the Settimana Lombarda race on Wednesday after modern-day bicycle thieves cleaned out the team's truck in Bergamo the night before the race.

    Fortunately for the small Italian team, the thieves were quickly caught and the bikes recovered when Austrian police stopped a van in Vienna.

    "The day began terribly when we discovered that 15 race bikes had been stolen along with 28 pairs of Spinergy wheels," Team Manager Cristian Fanini revealed on the team's website.

    "They were worth at least 100,000 euro and to make things worse, we aren't insured and neither was the hotel. Thank God everything worked okay because they were caught during a routine police check. The Austrian police suspected the van and discovered all our bikes and wheels inside it."

    The Amore e Vita-Conad riders borrowed bikes from a local amateur team in Bergamo to ride the opening mountain time trial at the Settimana Lombarda. The Austrian and Italian police are working with the team to get the bikes back to Bergamo so that the team can use them for Thursday's second stage.

    The bike thieves are suspected of being part of a gang that has regularly targeted teams in Italy. They apparently studied the press to discover when teams were holding training camps or attending races and then struck during the night. In 2009, a gang of thieves stole 22 Bianchi bikes from Team Barloworld during a training camp in Tuscany.

  • Gilbert tests legs at De Panne

    Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Lotto) couldn't win from the break of four.
    Article published:
    March 31, 2010, 18:44 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Omega Pharma-Lotto director pleased with Gilbert's form for Flanders

    Ahead of this weekend's Tour of Flanders, Marc Sargeant is happy with Philippe Gilbert's form. The Omega Pharma-Lotto leader took second on the second stage of De Panne today and is one of the favourites for the Belgian Classic.

    Gilbert formed part of a twelve-man group 24 kilometres into the 188-kilometre stage from Zottegem to Sint Idesbald. However, with rain and brutal crosswinds wreaking havoc, the group was reduced to four riders by the stage finale. Gilbert, Sébastien Turgot (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), Andriy Grivko (Astana) and Jens Mouris (Vacansoleil) were the only members of the original break to vie for stage honours.

    "Philippe is good. He wanted to train today and if you stay with the other groups at the back you can run into trouble, get cold or lose a lot of time. So he took no risks and that showed today," Sargeant said.

    Gilbert may have been using the stage to test his legs ahead of Flanders but there was no chance he was going to let the opportunity of winning the sprint slip through his fingers. Lotto is without a win this year and a victory here would have relieved some of the pressure that has been building on the team in recent weeks after a string of disappointing results.

    "Maybe before the stage he was happy to get some miles in his legs, but if you're so close then of course you want to win. I don't think he's upset about not winning but he will be if he doesn't win on Sunday."

    Gilbert is one of the favourites for Flanders and Sargeant believes that there could be two key sections to the race - the first few climbs and then the final climb of the Bosberg, situated 12 kilometres from the finish. However, while Sargeant named Gilbert, Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank), Tom Boonen (Quick Step) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha) as his favourites for the race, he was unsure whether double winner Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) could make it three in a row.

    "They never let you go. You need the legs to do...

  • Boonen previews Flanders changes

    Tom Boonen (Quick Step)
    Article published:
    March 31, 2010, 21:46 BST
    Daniel Benson

    Belgian names Cancellara as top favourite

    Tom Boonen (Quick Step) named Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) as the man to beat in this weekend's Tour of Flanders. The Belgian has won the race twice (2005, 2006) and again heads into the event with a nation's expectations riding on his shoulders.

    After Cancellara beat Boonen in last week's E3 Prijs however, the Quick Step leader sees Cancellara as his biggest challenger.

    "I am ok with being considered a favourite even though I know that in Harelbeke I didn't really make the big difference. I do think Cancellara is definitely as good as me," Boonen told the media at a press conference.

    During last weekend's race, Boonen escaped with Cancellara and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky) only to see Cancellara pull away in the final kilometre and take the win. "Cancellara put in a big performance last Saturday. If it happens again that I'm in such a position with him, I'll try to sit in his wheel at that moment. It was a moment of poor judgment, I miscalculated the turn, in a new finale. I will try not to get taken by surprise again. There will be some fast guys, but I shouldn't be afraid at all. If I'm good, there is no reason to be nervous, and I know I'm good."

    Boonen and his teammates spent today riding reconnaissance on the route ahead of the race. The race has changed course slightly this year with organisers aiming to create a more aggressive race. Boonen believes that despite the reshuffle, the same climbs will determine the winner.

    "The finale will start where it always starts: Kwaremont, Patersberg, Koppenberg. That's then immediately followed by Taaienberg, Eikenberg. Before you had a little stretch to recover in the lead up to the Berendries, a lot of groups came back before that, but [the course] has been altered by all the extra stones they have put in, so from there on you can consider the finale to start."

    "I did the recon because I didn't know the parcours, it's that simple. It's been very useful to do, more...