By Jean-François Quénet in Ligné
Astana's directeur sportif Alain Gallopin will fly to Istanbul for the Presidential Tour of Turkey right after the Circuit de la Sarthe because it would be a heartbreak for him to watch Paris-Roubaix on television with the likes of Vladimir Gusev, Tomas Vaitkus and Gregory Rast, missing out on their chance to contest the win on the famous velodrome in the north of France.
Gusev was his protégé at CSC during his first two professional seasons in 2004 and 2005. Aged 26, the Russian from Nijni-Novgorod is now one of the world's strongest riders for the Classics, but he'll get only one chance to shine this spring and that will be at the Amstel Gold Race since Astana hasn't been invited by RCS Sport and ASO at Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Flèche Wallonne.
He crashed on Sunday during the Ronde van Vlaanderen. His whole right side was heavily bruised, so he was uncertain to line up at the Circuit de la Sarthe until the last minute; however, he decided to give it a go and finished stage one in Ligné.
"He is an amazing fighter", Gallopin commented. "He broke his collarbone at the Tour of California on February 25 and he was back on his bike on March 23! We've thought the Circuit de la Sarthe was something good for him to do in preparation for the Amstel Gold Race rather than Gent-Wevelgem where his chances are limited because it often finishes in a sprint. And who knows? Even injured, he might win the time trial here..."
Winner of the Tour of Belgium last year, Gusev will always find some way to show his strong character on the roads of the bike races.