Video with Jacob Erker and Bob Gregorio before stage three
Before the start of stage three of the Amgen Tour of California Cyclingnews spent the morning talking with Kelly Benefit Strategies' directeur Jacob Erker and mechanic Bob Gregorio. In this relaxed, behind-the-scenes footage the guys talk about their passion for cycling while also showing off their frisbee skills.
Kelly Benefit Strategies' directeur Jacob Erker and mechanic Bob Gregorio
Cyclingnews' Amgen Tour of California video is brought to you by Specialized
Says no evidence exists that illegal mechanical aids are in use
The UCI has played down media speculation that a type of mechanical doping could already exist in the peloton, saying that there is no evidence that riders are utilising small motors to power their bikes and thus gain an unfair advantage. However the UCI have confirmed to Cyclingnews that they are looking into a method of screening frames in order to remove any doubts.
On Tuesday morning the newspaper L’Avvenire ran a story about what it termed were ‘invisible’ motors that could be hidden within bike tubing and help to power a bike along. It suggested that a rider could utilise such a setup to save energy in the first five hours of racing, then change to a standard bike and ride the finale with an unassisted machine.
The resulting energy saving would make a clear difference in the run-in to the finish, it suggested, as the competitor would be much fresher and thus have more power than his fatiguing rivals.
Il Giornale followed up the story on Wednesday by claiming that spot checks are already being carried out, and saying that some of the bikes of Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders had been scrutinised.
There is some confusion as to whether this is a problem for the present or the future. Rumours about this have existed in the peloton for several months. However, speaking to Cyclingnews, the UCI’s Enrico Carpani said there were no indications that riders had already tried to use such motors in races.
“We do not have any knowledge if this product is already in use in competitive cycling,” he said. “At this point in time, we don’t have any evidence that leads us to the conclusion that this kind of engine is already in use in the peloton.
“But our equipment commission will follow this issue very carefully because they are obviously interested in everything that could affect cycling in the future. The UCI is studying the machine to find a method to detect it.”
The Giro’s assistant race director Stefano Allocchio also quashed the claims. "There are no souped-up bikes at the Giro," he told the Italian news agency ANSA.
"According to all the checks that have been done, all the bikes are ok. The chief judge is very attentive - if there was something unusual, he would have seen it straight away."
"I understand it's something the UCI have been looking at since last November but at an amateur level, not a professional level. Everything is okay here at the Giro."
However Marco Bognetti, a previous member of the material commissions and consultant to Jean Wauthier, the current head of the materials unit at the UCI, spoke with a little more urgency.
"It's all true, there’s a suspicion that there are teams and riders who used a 'pedal-assisted' bike,” he told L'Avvenire. “We were first told about it last July, during the Tour de France. We first heard about it from the USA and it set alarm bells ringing."
He elaborated on this to Il Giornale. "We've discovered that it could save a rider between 60 and 100 watts, which is an enormous advantage in the finale of a race. Checks are under way, others are planned. Our technicians are working on a special scanner that will discover the hidden motors inside the frames. All the bikes at the major races will soon be checked."
L’Avvenire gave one example of a mechanism that currently exists on the market. Called the Gruber Assist, the motor is inserted down the seat tube and interacts with a standard bottom bracket axel via a bevel gear unit. It is practically invisible, although the model displayed on its website has an external on/off switch plus a battery pack that is mounted in a saddle bag. The total weight of all of the components is 1900 grams, and can provide 100 watts of power.
Modifications of this or other such devices could presumably limit the external signs of the motor, as a saddle bag would be perceived as unusual in pro racing.
Team Type 1 enjoyed a successful day of racing on stage three of the Amgen Tour of California. The team sent Davide Frattini up the road in the early break with the plan of hoovering up as many mountain points as possible in order to protect Thomas Rabou's lead. It worked perfectly and Rabou heads into stage four with a four point lead in the classification. Here's their reaction, as well as preview of stage four from San Jose to Modesto.
Team Type 1 keep KOM in Amgen Tour
Cyclingnews' Amgen Tour of California video is brought to you by Specialized
Richie Porte (Saxo Bank) took the pink jersey at the end of a legendary stage finishing in L'Aquila 13 months after the dramatic earthquake that devastated the town at the centre of Italy. The heavy favourites of the Giro (Alexandre Vinokourov, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, etc.) arrived more than 12 minutes behind the group in which the best young rider had finished. The Australian now has a 1:42 lead over Spain's David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne).
"I'm still pinching myself," Porte said with the pink jersey on his shoulders. "It's incredible. They (the favourites) let us go up the road and get so much time. I didn't break any code. There were big names like Carlos Sastre in our group and a lot of power with riders from Sky, Caisse d'Epargne and my teammates who have done an exceptional job. We are a young team and we were underrated at the beginning of the Giro, but when you see someone like Chris Sørensen who won a stage the other day sacrificing himself for me, it's fantastic.
"When we had a six minute lead and more, it was always at the back of my mind that I could end up in pink but I didn't want to jeopardize my chances of getting it by my riding speed," he said. "It was a tricky finale as well."
Porte experienced a typical Tasmanian weather conditions on the roads to L'Aquila. "I've done a lot of riding in crappy weather like today," said the 25-year-old neo-pro who switched from triathlon to cycling in 2006. Porte migrated to Italy for racing as an amateur the year after through the connections of Michael Wilson who was the only Tasmanian stage winner at the Giro until Matt Goss two days ago. Wilson's son Josh informed Porte there was a spot available in Tuscany.
"To become the leader of a Grand Tour especially in Italy where I rode as an amateur, it's huge," said Porte who won the time trial of the Baby Giro one year ago and was directed to Saxo Bank by former Paris-Roubaix winner Andrea Tafi.
Porte's limits are undetermined. Can he keep the pink jersey until the end? This is an option the "Tasmanian devil" doesn't rule out. "People were surprised by my win at the Tour of Romandie in the time trial," he told Cyclingnews. "Hopefully I can surprise them again. People don't really know who I am. I've passed under the radar these past few years.
"I'm gonna try to hang on to the pink jersey. I'm in a pretty good position and I have a good team behind me. I'll take it day-by-day."
To the question "how much of a climber are you?," Porte said, "I didn't lose that much time the other day."
Porte finished 26 seconds behind Vinokourov and Evans on the Terminillo climb at the conclusion of stage eight and the former Giro leaders are now 9:58 and 11:10 behind him respectively.
Eight years after his last individual pro win, Katusha's Evgeni Petrov has finally delivered a result on stage 11 of the Giro d’Italia. His victory on Wednesday was a great one and came beneath torrential rain in L’Aquila at the end of the longest stage of the 2010 edition of the Giro. Ten years ago, the Russian was the world’s most promising cyclist, but his career hasn’t lived up to those expectations so far.
"This win is very important for Russia, where cycling is picking up again," said Petrov, who will celebrate his 32nd birthday next week on May 25. His team, Katusha, joined the ProTour peloton in 2009, but Petrov is a veteran of the squad having also been a member of its predecessor, Tinkoff Credit Systems, for two years. At the 2007 Giro d’Italia he finished 7th overall, a result which appeared to be a re-start to his career. However, he has failed to emulate that performance since.
"I don’t know why I haven’t had more success as a pro," he said. "Several times I’ve tried at the Giro but only today I found victory. Usually, groups of 50 riders away don’t succeed, but I guess it’s the weather conditions that didn’t allow the bunch to catch us. When I crossed the line I thought of my wife Anna, who is often alone at home in Italy where we don’t have many friends. We both make a lot of sacrifices. Maybe the reason why I haven’t won much is because I’ve always been available as a domestique for my team captains."
"I don’t know when I last won a race," he added. Indeed, it was September 2002 that he had last tasted individual success. He won the Duo Normand two-man time trial with Filippo Pozzato, his teammate at the then-Mapei-Quick Step-Latexco squad and who is again his teammate at Katusha today. That same month, with the help of Pozzato and Bernhard Eisel, he had won the overall title the Tour de l’Avenir, but did so without a stage win. And three months earlier he had been crowned Russian national time trial champion for the second time in his career.
In fact, stage five in the 2002 Tour of Slovenia was the last time he enjoyed an individual win. That result had itself broken a two-year drought dating back to his fabulous double at the 2000 World Championships in Plouay, France.
In France that year Petrov became the under-23 world champion for both the road race and time trial disciplines, ahead of Yaroslav Popovych and Fabian Cancellara, respectively. It had looked like the first decade of the new millennium would be his. Ten years later, he has finally delivered a long awaited result and perhaps proven that it's never too late to meet expectations.
Teammate Tondo an alternative for Cervélo TestTeam
The mega-breakaway formed en route to L'Aquila has earned Carlos Sastre an unexpected comeback into the top ten of the Giro d'Italia's overall classification. The 35-year-old Spaniard is now in 8th place, 7:09 down on race leader Richie Porte (Saxo Bank), but all the other famous favourites such as Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), Cadel Evans (BMC), Liquigas-Doimo teammates Vincenzo Nibali and Ivan Basso plus Michele Scarponi (Androni Giocattoli) are now behind him.
"This stage has been full of action," said Sastre, the winner of the 2008 Tour de France. "It went beyond our expectations. It's a complete turnover of the situation after the difficult and complicated start I had in this Giro.
"What a fantastic job my teammates did today. [Volodymyr] Gustov and [Marcel] Wyss have in particular done everything they could to make this breakaway go ahead. Together with other teams, we were able to make it a success. It means I'm back in the race, which is just what I wanted, but I'm not the only one back up on GC: Xavi Tondo is as well. He's doing a really good Giro."
At the start of stage 11, Sastre told Cyclingnews: "Everybody is amazed by Tondo since the beginning of the season. He's totally dedicated." A stage winner at Paris-Nice and the Volta Catalunya, Tondo is one of the revelations of the 2010 season. He regularly delivered results in the past since his stage win at the Tour of Qinghai Lakes back in 2002 but he remained in the shadows while a member of small teams in Portugal and Spain. His late inclusion on the roster of Cervélo in November was the result of a the search for a domestique for Sastre at the Giro d'Italia.
Tondo appears he is able to do more than just help his captain. Thanks to stage 11's lengthy breakaway Tondo is now fourth on GC, 3:54 down on Porte. He was also the fastest climber at the stage eight summit finish on the Terminillo where he attacked the group of favourites to cross the line in third behind breakaway riders Chris Sørensen and Simone Stortoni.
Also at the start of stage 11 in Lucera, Tondo told Cyclingnews: "I've been feeling good since the beginning of the season. I came here to help Sastre but the only reason why he's a bit down on GC is because he had back luck. He crashed three times and had a flat tyre at the worst moment on the gravelled road."
Cervélo's directeur sportif Philippe Mauduit said that Sastre couldn't be reproached for any mistakes. Sastre crashed in each of the first three stages of the Giro but every time he was riding near the front: the first time he crashed with Bradley Wiggins, the second time with Cadel Evans and the third time with Vincenzo Nibali. Sastre's legs were still full of bruises when he approached the Terminillo. He really struggled on that climb but got better during the two days in the south of Italy.
"I didn't throw the towel and that was worth it," Sastre said. However, he didn't want to express his ambitions for the overall classification too soon. "To be honest, I'm just happy to be back in the race and to be feeling in such good shape now."
Tondo also preferred not to look too far ahead. "This is my first Grand Tour ever," said the 31-year-old from Catalunya. "I have no idea how I'll go in the final week."
Italian team under fire after Basso and Nibali lose almost 13 minutes
Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) lost the pink jersey but on the post-race chat show on Italian television, it was widely agreed that the Liquigas-Doimo team was the big loser of the day, as both Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali finished almost 13 minutes behind Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam), Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and new race leader Richie Porte (Saxo Bank).
In what appears to have been a game of brinkmanship between Astana and Liquigas-Doimo, both teams refused to chase the break but both ended up losing out and will now have to go on the attack to pull pack the time they have lost. As the biggest and strongest Italian team in the Giro, Liquigas-Doimo came under the most fire, especially after Ivan Basso admitted they had made a serious mistake.
"We wanted to make the pink jersey work and then try something in the finale. It didn't work and we had to work on the front yet again," Basso told Italian television after the stage.
"It was a bad day for us. I don't want to reflect on what happened, we'll do that tonight. But it's a bad day because we didn't do what we wanted to do. After all the bad luck Sastre had, he's back in the race and will be a contender again."
Teams claimed they did not know who was in the 56-rider break until it had gained eight minutes. Liquigas had four riders in the break and so refused to chase, but with Astana also refusing to work hard so early in the 262km stage, the gap grew to 17 minutes.
Liquigas-Doimo team manager Roberto Amadio refuted the idea that his team was to blame, pointing the finger at Astana. The Kazakhstan team did not reply to his accusations.
"I think the Astana team should be ashamed of how they behaved. They didn't honour the pink jersey," Amadio said.
"They should have put some riders on the front and kept the gap to about six minutes. Then perhaps other teams would have helped them. We're not going to be a domestique for Evans and Vino. The gaps are significant but the Giro is not over. There are still some hard stages to come and this Giro won't be decided till Verona."