Defending Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali is aiming to start his season with good momentum at the Tour of Oman. The race, which takes place from February 17-22 will host 18 teams in its sixth year, and the Green Mountain beckons as the first test of the season for the Grand Tour contenders.
Although defending champion Chris Froome will be absent from the Tour of Oman, there will be a host of ambitious climbers to take on Nibali, including runner up Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin), Julian Arredondo (Trek) and Tinkoff-Saxo's Rafal Majka.
Teams for Tour of Oman: Astana Pro Team: (Nibali, Fuglsang, Guardini), Bardiani CSF (Colbrelli), BMC Racing Team (Van Garderen, Van Avermaet, Velits), Bora – Argon 18: (Bennett), Cofidis (Bouhanni), Etixx – Quick Step (Boonen, Terpstra), FDJ (Pinot, Démare), Giant-Alpecin: (Barguil), IAM Cycling (Frank), Katusha (Rodriguez, Kristoff), Lampre-Merida (Costa, Modolo), Movistar (Valverde, Rojas), MTN – Qhubeka (Boasson Hagen, Bos, Goss), Orica GreenEdge (Blythe, Weening), Team Sky (König, Poels), Tinkoff – Saxo (Sagan, Kreuziger, Majka), Topsport Vlaanderen Baloise (Wallays), Trek Factory Racing (Cancellara, Arredondo).
Bardet raring to start in GP Marseillaise
AG2R La Mondiale's climber and future Tour de France contender Romain Bardet will start his season at the Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise, and is eagerly awaiting his chance to get back to racing.
"I’m impatient to start the season. I have been training hard for three months and now I want to race," he said, looking forward to the February 1 one-day race. "I have been a professional for four years and I always begin with this race. It’s the opening of the season in France and we always have good time there. It’s the first meeting of the teams, the course is not too long (140 km), the race is often lively even though it often ends with a sprint between 30 riders. We have fun in this race. Our team will be attacking, with the rookies."
Bardet said he stuck to a tested formula for his off-season training, and has been healthy this winter. "My form is good for January," he said.
Although he is eager to race this weekend, Bardet's first major goals come in March, with Paris-Nice and the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.
After having a break-through 2014, where he challenged for the jersey of best young rider in the Tour de France and finished sixth overall, Bardet knows that he may not have the same sort of leap this season, but still wants to confirm his promise and keep progressing.
"I always want more," he said. "I want to take a step forward in stage races and improve my ranking in Classics. Volta Catalunya is a first important goal. I dream of Liège - Bastogne - Liège … and, of course, I want to do my best in the Tour de France."
BMC supports Hour Record attempt by Dennis
Rohan Dennis is set to attempt to break the UCI Hour Record on February 8 at the Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen, and his BMC team is pulling together to support his attempt. The team will fill the program to entertain the spectators, with a full schedule of entertainment prior to the 2PM start of the attempt.
The Swiss National track team will put on a demonstration, and mountain bike world champion Julien Absalon will make a special appearance before Cadel Evans fires the starting gun to kick off Dennis' attempt, in his first official duty in his new role as ambassador for BMC Switzerland.
Katusha, powered by sturgeon
The sport of cycling has some curious sponsorships, from childcare supply company Baby Dump, to caffeine-shampoo maker Alpecin, but the WorldTour Team Katusha has partnered with the Spanish company Caviar de Riofrio to provide the team with an interesting alternative to sports nutrition.
The team states the high-dollar snack adds "valuable supplements of proteins, iodine, minerals, microelements and Omega-3 fatty acids" to the diet of the riders.
"We all know about the nutritional value of a product like caviar, especially when we speak about such a high quality product as Caviar de Riofrio," team director Viacheslav Ekimov said.
"We hope that our caviars are not only likely to appeal to riders of Team Katusha, but will become an integral part of their diet, and will help to achieve greater results at the highest international level," said Sergei Kapanen, general director of Caviar de Riofrio.
Lotto-Soudal backs Gallopin in GP la Marseillaise and Etoile de Bessèges
2014 Tour de France stage winner and wearer of the maillot jaune Tony Gallopin will lead the Lotto-Soudal team at the GP la Marseillaise and Etoile de Bessèges.
Last year, Tony Gallopin finished on the seventh place overall in Etoile de Bessèges, but this year the team will go in search of stage wins in addition to the overall classification.
“In the Étoile de Bessèges we go for a stage win. The first four stages are traditionally bunch sprints. Tony Gallopin and Kris Boeckmans are fast finishers. But also Tosh Van der Sande and Pim Ligthart can finish strongly. Gallopin and Maxime Monfort want to ride for a good result in the overall standings. The GC will be decided in the final stage: the individual time trial. A time trial in which also Sean De Bie can get a good result.”
Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Kris Boeckmans, Vegard Breen, Sean De Bie, Tony Gallopin, Pim Ligthart, Maxime Monfort and Tosh Van der Sande.