Cult Energy a no show at Haut Var stage 2 after bike theft
Danish Pro Continental team Cult Energy Pro Cycling became the latest squad to be hit by thieves in Europe when their truck was completely emptied on Saturday night while competing at the Tour de Haut Var. Fabian Wegmann had placed fourth on stage 1 but he and the rest of of the team were forced to abandon the race as they had no bike to ride.
"It's just devastating. We had a car parked in front of the back of the truck, so the thieves somehow must have moved the car and then broke the lock to the truck," said the teams sports director Michael Skelde.
Last year Team Sky were hit by thieves on the eve of the race, losing 16 bikes, but were able to compete after sourcing new bikes from its nearby training base in Nice and borrowing one bike from the Bretagne-Séché team, which was sharing the same hotel as Sky.
Cult Enery were not so lucky and their participation in next week's races is now in doubt.
"They stole everything - bikes, wheels and all our equipment. Now we're waiting for the police to show up and start their investigation. We won't be racing today and I reckon it's doubtful that we will be ready for next week's Het Nieuwsblad. I'm hoping for a miracle," Skelde said.
Hutarovich completes Bretagne-Séché Environnement hat trick La Tropicale Amissa Bongo
Yauheni Hutarovich's debut for Bretagne-Séché Environnement at the Tour de San Luis was promising, with the sprinter recording two top-five stage finishes, but without reward. Hutarovich moved to the Pro-Continental team after two season in the WorldTour with Ag2r-La Mondiale and five seasons before that with FDJ.
On his first appearance at the UCI 2.1 La Tropicale Amissa Bongo, Hutarovich was unstoppable as he won three stages and finished second behind neo-pro teammate Daniel McLay when he claimed a maiden professional win.
The eighth and final stage of the race served as reminder of their dominance, with McLay finishing second despite leading out his Belorussian teammate.
MTN-Qhubeka get Amstel Gold wildcard
Team MTN-Qhubeka has received a wildcard to this year’s Amstel Gold in what represents another significant step for the fast-growing South African outfit.
Last year the Pro Continental team was invited to the ASO-owned Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Flèche-Wallonne but this is the first time it will line up at the Dutch race, which kicks off the Ardennes Classics on April 19.
Earlier in the year a seminal moment in African cycling was signaled when the team was granted a wildcard for the 2015 Tour de France, where they will become the first African-registered team to ride cycling’s biggest race. It comes on the back of a debut Grand Tour appearance at last year’s Vuelta a Espana.
The bigger races appearing on the team’s calendar is matched by some bigger names on its roster of riders. A heavy recruitment drive over the winter has seen the signings of Edvald Boasson Hagen from Team Sky, Tyler Farrar from Garmin-Sharp, Matt Goss from Orica-GreenEDGE and Steve Cummings from BMC. It is hoped one of them can achieve a victory on the scale of the team's breakthrough success at Milano-San Remo in 2013 with Gerald Ciolek.
The four other invitations for Amstel Gold went to the Italian teams Bardiani-CSF and Nippo-Vini Fantini, Polish CCC Polkowice Sprandi and Denmark’s Cult Energy Pro Cycling.
Merckx unhappy over Oman stage cancellation
Eddy Merckx expressed his dismay at the cancellation of stage five of the Tour of Oman, arguing that testing conditions are a part of bike racing.
The stage was called off mid-race after riders ground to a halt under a bridge, expressing their concerns over extreme temperatures that comfortably surpassed 40 degrees Celsius and caused several tires to explode at high speeds.
Before the protest the stage had already been shortened due to strong winds at the start-line at Al Sawadi Beach, which caused severe sandstorms.
“When it rains Paris-Roubaix is also dangerous, but they don't climb off their bikes,” said Merckx, who is the race organiser of the Tour of Oman. "I'm disappointed, yes, because this could endanger the future of the Tour of Oman.”
The riders, though, were genuinely concerned for their safety and elder statesman of the peloton Fabian Cancellara spoke up. “It’s our life and life is more important than anything else,” he told Salim bin Mubarak Al Hasani, Committee member for Sport Events and Tour of Oman.
He later added: “It is nothing against the organisers but it was impossible to do a descent at 85kph when the temperature is 47 degrees. The tyres were boiling and some of the guys could take them off with their hands and usually you can’t do that.
“The UCI has to organise regulations for extreme weather, like here with the heat and Milan-San Remo with the snow.”