News shorts: 'Armstrong treated unfairly,' says Yates

Stybar ready for 2015, Pinot talks Tour de France

Yates says that Armstrong was treated unfairly

Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif Sean Yates has told the BBC that his former teammate Lance Armstrong has been unfairly punished following the detailed USADA investigation that covered evidence of systematic doping on his US Postal Service team.

Armstrong was banned for life following the publication of USADA’s Reasoned Decision in October 2012 and he confessed to doping in a televised interview the following January.

“Lance was the big figure that they hunted down, along with others obviously, but he was the stand-out figure and he took the brunt of the publicity and the brunt of the blame, unfairly in my opinion,” Yates said. “Obviously people will make up their own minds somewhere down the road but that may be a few years to come yet.”

Yates stepped down as a directeur sportif at Team Sky and announced his retirement in October 2012 only to return with Tinkoff-Saxo this season, where he will be in Alberto Contador’s corner against his former charge Chris Froome.

“Last year they both fell off which was not good for the Tour de France and that enabled [Vincenzo] Nibali to win but I think they are a level above,” Yates said of Contador and Froome. “Hopefully they both stay on their bikes this year and it’s a good clean fight, and may the best man win.”

New directeur sportif Sean Yates watches his riders from the road side

Zdeněk Štybar ready to start 2015

Czech national champion Zdeněk Štybar will end his longest ever off-season this Saturday when he pins on a number for the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia for Etixx - Quick-Step. The three-time cyclo-cross world champion was forced to sit out the defence of his rainbow jersey on home soil due to a crash in October. Štybar also crashed out of the Eneco Tour and required surgery for injuries sustained in the two falls.

"Actually I think I had a really good winter," said Štybar, who will also line up at the Clasica de Almeria on Sunday. "I could do almost my whole training that was scheduled, except in January due to my tooth implantations. But this was anticipated and my training was already organized around the surgery for my teeth implants. So I took the time during that period to take it easy and recover from training."

With no cyclo-cross racing in his legs, just road miles from training, Sybar added he is unsure how will go in his first race of the season.

"I was training in Mallorca after that, and at the end of January I did another camp with the team in Calpe," Stybar said. "So to be honest, everything is going well. I'm curious to see where I stand with my condition at the moment. I didn't race cyclo-cross, so all my training was on the road. I am anxious to see how my body reacts to this. I am really excited to get back to racing regardless.

"I've never been on the bench so long in my career. So I am really looking forward to getting back into competitions."


Pinot: Talk of Tour de France victory is premature

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) has downplayed the prospect of contending for overall victory at this year’s Tour de France, saying that a repeat of his podium finish last season would already be a tall order.

While the dearth of time trialling miles on the 2015 route will suit Pinot, he will have to contend with Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana as he bids to improve on his third-place finish of last year.

“It’s too soon. There are a lot of results to pick up before the summer,” Pinot told Ouest France. “And repeating a podium finish at the Tour is already a complicated thing, so talking about victory would be premature. We’ll take stock at the end of this season and we’ll see after that.

“In any case, we’re not talking about the Tour right now. We’ll start to get into it with the first reconnaissance rides, starting in May.”

Pinot began his season on home roads at the Grand Prix la Marseillaise and Étoile de Bessèges, but his first major examination of the season comes next week at the Tour of Oman, before he lines up at Tirreno-Adriatico next month against Contador, Froome, Quintana and Nibali.

“It’s one of the big races before the Tour, that’s true,” he said. “All the favourites will be there and. So it’s of course important to be up there. It will be a good moment to gauge where I’m at.”

Italian Vincenzo Nibali was flanked by Frenchmen Jean-Christophe Peraud and Thibaut Pinot on the 2014 Tour de France podium.

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