Dimension Data are backing Nathan Haas at the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday after the Australian showed strong form at Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday. Haas is a fast finisher from reduced groups and will be looking to be in position for the finish after the peloton tackles the 35 climbs throughout the 261km day, including the infamous Cauberg.
Changes to this year's parcours, with the Cauberg coming more than 16km from the finish, mean the race is wide-open this year and could be decided by the sprinters, but the long day of climbing could also provide opportunists with a chance to steal the day from a breakaway. Dimension Data hopes to be prepared for both scenarios.
"The plan for the race is to look after Nathan [Haas]," said Dimension data director Oli Cookson. "We want to put him in the best possible position for the final. However, due to the changes in the racecourse, I think we may see the favorites open up earlier than usual, as we have seen in the previous races this year. We need to be ready to react to that. We know that Nathan can do a good race and that Kristian [Sbaragli] has good legs as well. We are going to use our assets the best we can."
Dimension Data for Amstel Gold: Nathan Hass, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Ben King, Serge Pauwels, Youcef Reguigui, Johann Van Zyl, Jaco Venter, Kristian Sbaragli.
Synergy Baku suspends Averin for meldonium positive
Azerbaijan Continental team Synergy Baku has provisionally suspended Maxim Averin after the rider returned a non-negative test for meldonium at the Istrian Spring Trophy in March, according to a statement from the team. Averin has also been suspended from the Azerbaijan national team until investigations are completed.
"The detection of prohibited meldonium in the blood of Maxim Averin has caused a serious anxiety for the Azerbaijan Cycling Federation," the federation said in a statement released to media. "Maxim Averin has been removed from both the national team and the club while the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and UCI are processing the investigation on the aforementioned medicine in the athlete’s blood. The final decision will be made after the completion of the investigation."
Averin, 31, has ridden with Synergy Baku since 2014 and is the 2015 and 2016 road champion of Azerbaijan.
Pozzovivo hunting more wins Tour of the Alps
Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) will be looking to keep his success rolling at next week's Tour of the Alps [formerly Giro del Trentino], a race where the 34-year-old Italian has scored a third of his career victories.
Between 2010 and 2015, Pozzovivo won three stages of the race, taking the overall win in 2012. He was one of four AG2R rders in the top 10 last year, with Romain Bardet leading the way in sixth, Pozzovivo following in seventh, Jean-Christophe Peraud ninth and Hubert Dupont 10th.
“Even if the race has changed its name, it still will be very difficult," said Dupont, who will return this year. "We will face tons of climbing over the five days. Personally, I returned to racing at the Vuelta Al Pais Vasco after having taken a month off from racing. That allowed me to restart the machinery. The Tour of the Alps is an important race with the Giro just over the horizon."
Although the Tour of the Alps is a crucial test of form ahead of the Giro d'Italia, which starts May 5 in Alghero, Dupont said it's important not to peak too early at a warm-up race like Tour of the Alps.
"Last year I finished 10th at Trentino before going on to finish 11th at the Giro," Dupont said. "This race makes it possible for you to get a real reading of where your form is, but I also know from experience that it is important not to be ready too soon. Being super-hot at the end of April is not necessarily a good thing before heading into three weeks of racing.”
AG2R for Tour of the Alps: Julien Bérard, François Bidard, Clément Chevrier, Hubert Dupont, Ben Gastauer, Alexandre Geniez, Matteo Montaguti, Domenico Pozzovivo