The Vuelta a España resumes after a lengthy transfer north and the first rest day of the race with the crucial stage 11 time trial around Tarazona in the province of Zaragoza.
The sole individual time trial in the Vuelta, the 38.8km test will provide further indication of the overall contenders’ credentials, as well as a useful proving ground for riders with designs on the time trial at the world championships in Florence later this month.
The first man off will be Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), who rolls down the start ramp at 13:14 local time, while two of the strongest time triallists in the race will set off just three minutes apart – Marci Pinotti (BMC) is in action at 14:15, with Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) following at 14:18.
The final 30 riders set out at two-minute intervals, with red jersey Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) the last man to start, at 16:50. The American is preceded by Joaquim Rodriguez (16:42), Alejandro Valverde (16:44), Nicolas Roche (16:46) and his two-minute man, Vincenzo Nibali (16:48).
US national champion heading to Tuscany as part of USA team
Freddie Rodriguez got the best birthday present a US cyclist could ask for Tuesday when the now-40-year-old Jelly Belly rider was officially named in USA Cycling's team for the world road race championships.
Rodriguez was one of three automatic selections for the US team, earning his spot by winning his fourth US road race championship earlier this summer in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He'll join fellow automatic selections Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), along with discretionary picks Chris Horner (Radioshack-Leopard), Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp), Taylor Phinney (BMC) and Peter Stetina (Garmin-Sharp).
“It's amazing,” Rodriguez said of earning his seventh trip to the world championships. “It's been a year of a lot of emotions when Exergy stepped out and I found myself working on my Fast Freddie Apparel for a couple of months and wondering what was my next step.”
Rodriguez, who first raced professionally in 1998 with Saturn before heading to Europe and forging a career as a top-level sprinter and lead-out man, was ready to hang up his cleats after team Exergy abruptly pulled the plug before this season, but then he got a call from Jelly Belly.
“They wanted to give me a chance to start at the US pro championships,” Rodriguez said. “That spiraled to the next level, getting into Colorado, getting into Alberta and now a spot for Worlds.”
Support role, retirement in 2015
Rodriguez knows that he will be in a support role for the climbers on the US team over the 280km course that goes over the route's major climb 10 times. He said he hopes he can pass along to the younger riders some of the experience he's accumulated over his career and during his past appearances at...
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has admitted that he has reached the midpoint of the Vuelta a España further behind in the general classification than he had anticipated before the race, but the Catalan looked to sound an optimistic note about his chances of overall victory.
While Rodriguez has been consistent through the first half of the Vuelta, he has so far been unable to put time into his rivals on the short, sharp summit finishes that are his favourite terrain, and he enters Wednesday’s stage 11 time trial in 5th place overall, 1:40 down on the red jersey of Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard).
“It’s not that I’ve been missing anything up to now, it’s that I have strong rivals,” Rodriguez said, according to the EFE news agency. “Horner is very strong, as is [Vincenzo] Nibali, who is very motivated to come back and win the Vuelta.”
After finishing the Tour de France in third place, Rodriguez was widely viewed as one of the principal favourites for overall victory at the Vuelta, particularly given the presence of no fewer than eleven summit finishes on the parcours.
“I haven’t been able to get away and the truth is that that I haven’t had a chance to win. I’m not at the point that I hoped, but I’m sure that it will come,” he said. “I have to hope that my rivals come down a bit, as up to now they have been superior."
“I haven’t been holding anything back up to now, quite the contrary. I would have counted on being higher than fifth now but I’m not pessimistic because we certainly still have...
"We are happy to welcome Darwin to the team for 2014," team manager Jim Ochowicz said in a press release. "He has shown on several occasions at ProTour races this year his skills in the mountains. He will be a great asset to the BMC Racing Team in the Grand Tours and other stage races."
Atapuma has performed consistently well in 2013 and won the mountainous sixth stage at the Tour of Poland, while riding for the Colombia Professional Continental team. He also finished second in the climber's competition.
"To go to the ProTour completes my dream. I know it will be a difficult task. My objective is to work for the team and for the team's leaders, so I will give my best," Atapuma said.
The BMC team has signed a number of riders for 2014 as it looks to make up from disappointing performances from team leaders Philippe Gilbert and Cadel Evans and the exit of head directeur sportif John Lelangue. The team recently said that Valerio Piva will join as a directeur sportif in 2014.
Peter Stetina, Peter Velits and Rick Zabel have all been announced as joining the team, while Taylor Phinney has extended his contract.
Riders set to leave include Italian national champion Ivan Santaromita, who is going to Orica-GreenEdge, and Mathias Frank, who is joining IAM Cycling. Several other riders have still to be confirmed or released by the US-registered team.
The Pro Contintenal squad bolstered its ranks for next season with Sylvain Chavanel, Mathias Frank, Roger Kluge, Jérôme Pineau and Vicente Reynes all linking up for 2014. Thétaz is expecting that the new recruits will add considerable firepower to the team in both the Classics and stage races.
“I think it’s a big step for the team and should lead to success for next season. As we’ve said all year we’ve been trying to set up a successful team but one has to admit that we didn’t have a lot of big wins this year. We were in a lot of breaks, won a few stages and wore some jerseys but we didn’t win a Classics or anything at the Tour de Suisse or Romandie. It has been difficult to make a big impressions without the big wins,” Thétaz told Cyclingnews.
The team has recorded ten individual wins so far this season (three of which came through national championships) but they have been lacking in the biggest one day races. Heinrich Haussler led the line in the spring and managed to pick up fourth in Gent-Wevelgem and sixth in Flanders. Thétaz is hoping that with more support the Australian can return from his current injury and go even further in the future.
“We knew pretty early on that someone like Haussler needed more help so that he could be with the best riders towards the end of some races. Something was missing in terms of leading him out into the finales, so that’s why we’ve been busy hiring certain riders.”
Cyclingnews understands that the Tour of California organisers, AEG, and Amgen are close to finalising the sponsorship of next year’s race.
Amgen has been the title sponsor since the race’s inception in 2006. However, the current deal expires in 2013. The race organisers typically announce their route in the fall period before the following year’s race, and a source close to AEG has told Cyclingnews that plans are close to being formalised for both the sponsorship and the route, securing the race’s future.
“The renewal conversations with Amgen are going positively. The organisers are working hard on the route, and there’s going to be a race,” the source told Cyclingnews.
“I’ve not heard of something that would suggest they’re not on their way to getting everything sorted. It would take an extraordinary set of circumstances for there not to be a race.”
Cyclingnews contacted Kristin Bachochin, Executive Director and Senior Vice President of AEG Sports.
“Amgen has been a fantastic partner since the inception of our race and we look forward to them being a long term partner of the race.
“There was never a question that the Amgen Tour of California wasn’t going to happen. That was never even a conversation.”
In April Bachochin had told Cyclingnews that negotiations between Amgen and AEG were ongoing.
"We have always kept the specifics of our race partnerships confidential but what I can tell you is that we have had a wonderful relationship with Amgen from the very first day and we have built an amazing event with them truly as partners. The have a tremendous leadership team throughout their entire organization and the working relationships we have established is fantastic,” she said.
American drops to fourth overall but still gunning for lead
If Chris Horner (RadioShack) is ever in need of work, he could do worse than go into fortune telling. The 41-year-old American put up the best defence he could of his overall lead in the Vuelta a España, but failed - as he had predicted 48 hours earlier after winning at Hazallanas - in a time trial that did climbers like him no favours.
Horner finally finished 20th in the time trial, with his time loss on Nibali pegged to 1:29. He is now fourth overall, 46 seconds behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) along with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), while Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) slotted into second place with a fifth place on the day, now 33 seconds behind in the GC.
Unlike on his two mountain top stage breakaways, and unlike a surprisingly strong Valverde, Horner never looked wholly at ease on the windy, 38 kilometre time trial course. However, as the ever upbeat American said, it could have been worse.
"I liked the route, I’m sure if it was flatter then I would have lost a lot more time," Horner said afterwards. "I thought I would lose about a minute or so."
However, in the grand scheme of things, Horner feels that the time trial may have a limited impact on such a hard course: "The rider with the best luck and the best legs in the mountains will be getting the win for sure," he said.
But Horner remains defiant, insisting that his battle for the Vuelta lead is far from over. Asked if he thought he could get the red jersey for a third time in the race, he answered with a single, emphatic answer: ‘yes.’
"Maybe this morning when I had very good legs, I got the illusion that I could keep the red jersey but this is where I wanted to...
Sprinter tells Procycling Week that current crop have to lead the way for Germany
German cycling has made many headlines this season, and not only for the brilliant Tour de France they had. Doping stories revolving around their former, fallen, stars continue to rear their ugly heads.
Argos-Shimano rider John Degenkolb, who recently took victory in the Vattenfall Cyclassics – the first German to do so since 2001- hopes this year's successes can go some way to altering perceptions. "I think we are doing a really good job of showing that cycling has changed," he says in an exclusive interview with Procycling Week, which is out this Wednesday 4 September.
"The German media and the people out there were really angry about the cyclists in the generation before us and I think we are on a good way to winning the trust back."
Fed up of the scandals, which have dogged cycling over the past decade, German broadcasters ARD and ZDF dropped coverage of the Tour de France in 2008. Since then we've seen the country lose their ProTour teams Milram and Gerolsteiner. Their races have also fallen down the rankings, with the Vattenfall Cyclassics in Hamburg being the only WorldTour race in Germany.
The German sprinter says he can sympathise with the fans and media, who felt betrayed by their former heroes. "I personally got really disappointed with the era of [Erik] Zabel and [Jan] Ullrich," he says. "They were the big heroes and then you see all of this."
Despite the difficulties, Degenkolb welcomes the opportunity to return cycling in Germany to its former glory. "It's a hard challenge, but I think it is very important to just try it," said the Argos rider. "We see ourselves with the responsibility of being a good example. We have to show them that...