News shorts: Merckx backs Contador's Giro-Tour double

Tour de France's second stage finalised, IAM to Oman, Boom busted

Merckx backs Contador's Giro-Tour double

Team Sky's David Lopez may doubt Alberto Contador's Giro d'Italia and Tour de France double but a man who achieved the feat on three occasions, Eddy Merckx, believes the six time grand tour winner can win both this year.

"For me, going to the Giro is the best possible preparation for the Tour. It is not as fast as the French race, only mountainous. And I know from experience. I did much better in the Tour if I had ridden the Giro beforehand," Merckx told Spanish newspaper MARCA. "I think the others, Froome, Nibali and Quintana should [attempt the double] too."

Merckx rubbished the suggestion that Contador would be to fatigued after the Giro to challenge for victory at the Tour.

"Tired? Come on," Merckx said: There is no reason he should get tired. You know all the time that you have between the two races? Seriously, [he shouldn't be] tired at all. You can even go to the Tour of Switzerland. Anyway, he will have more than enough time to recover. That this is cycling, not soccer!"

Contador won the 2011 Giro d'Italia, only to be officially stripped of the title by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) following a doping suspension related to the 2010 Tour de France, and makes his return to the race for the fist time in four years. 2011 was also the first and so far, only time he has attempted a Giro-Tour double which saw him place fifth at the French grand tour, only to lose that result as well courtesy of CAS.

The last rider to successfully complete a Giro-Tour double was Marco Pantani in 1998.

© Tim de Waele

Tour de France second stage revealed

While the start and finish was previously known of the Tour de France's second stage, race organisers ASO have revealed the full details of the 166km stage. Starting in Utrecht, the peloton heads south to Zeeland via the port city of Rotterdam finishing on the artificial island of Neeltje Jans.

With the race crossing several bridges in the Zeeland Delta, Tour race director Christian Prudhomme described the stage as unique due to the roads and weather the peloton will encounter.

"For the first time, the Tour de France will experience offshore racing," Prudhomme said. "The harbours and beach resorts of France have offered prestigious finishes by the sea. But only the Netherlands can allow to design a finish line "in the sea", at the heart of the Zeeland Delta. This unlikely geographical situation will mainly alert the title contenders: risks of echelons are to be highly considered."

The island of Neeltje Jans is in the middle of the nine kilometre Oosterscheldekering, designed and built to stop the Netherlands from North Sea flooding.

The first stage of the 2014 World Ports Classic, also owned by ASO, passed over the bridge with the first sprint point of the day held at Neeltje Jans with Andreas Stauff (MTN - Qhubeka) claiming maximum points.

© Tour de France

IAM Cycling to Tour of Oman

IAM Cycling continues its desert racing at the Tour of Oman from February 17 with three protected riders for the race as it looks for stage wins

"We have three cards to play at the Tour of Oman,"said new signing Jonas Van Genechten. "We'll come with Mathias Frank for the mountains, and in terms of the sprints, the team can rely on Matteo Pelucchi and me."

The last of the trilogy of Arabian races, following the Dubai Tour and Tour of Qatar, the Tour of Oman offers opportunities for both sprinters and climbers.

"IAM Cycling's targets for the Tour of Oman are similar to those we had for Qatar, which are to give the riders good races to ramp up for the season, but also to chalk up some top results," said Van Genechten.

The 28-year-old Van Genechten joined IAM Cycling after three years with Lotto-Belisol, making his debut with the team at the Tour of Qatar. With good sensations from the windy race, Van Genechten is anticipating that he will arrive in Oman in good form to help his team to stage wins.

"For I know that Oman will suit me better since it is a course fit for rouleurs and is a bit more selective," he said. "I think that with the work done at the Tour of Qatar and then a little rest, I will be in good condition. And I am sure that Matteo and I will be able to work very well together on the team; it will not be a problem. I am expected to work for him, but I know that I will also be getting my own chances if he has less of a shot."

Frank will make his stage racing debut for 2015 in Oman with Van Genechten explaining,therefore there is little expectation for a high overall placing; "For Mathias, he won't have too much pressure on him to perform just yet."

IAM Cycling for Tour of Oman: Marcel Aregger, Matthias Brändle, Dries Devenyns, Martin Elmiger, Mathias Frank, Reto Hollenstein, Matteo Pelucchi and Jonas Van Genechten.

Boom disqualified from Tour of Qatar

Having suffered a puncture with 20km to race in the Tour of Qatar's fifth stage, Lars Boom (Astana) was forced to chase hard as the pace of the peloton was drastically increasing. Boom was deemed to have used his team car too enthusiastically in trying to latch back on with race organisers disqualifying after the race him despite him not playing a non-active role in the stage finish won by Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). Boom crossed the line in 111th place.

"Lars Boom was eliminated from the 2015 #TourofQatar for sheltering for a long time behind a vehicle," tweeted the race organiser. 

Boom's teammate Westra voiced his opinion on the matter after the stage, tweeting, "Difficult stage in Qatar !! ... nearly 80 percent rode sometimes behind cars and one they disqualify #bizar"

 

© Time de Waele

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