News shorts: UnitedHealthcare target 2015 Giro, Lofkvist prepares for retirement

UnitedHealthcare targeting the Giro

The American ProContinental team UnitedHealthcare will have a bit more of an Italian feel to it in 2015 with the signing of Daniele Ratto and Marco Canola. The pair will join fellow Italians Alessandro Bazzana and Davide Frattini on the team.

Canola steps into the team after a strong 2014, where he won his first Grand Tour stage at the Giro d’Italia in May. He also took victory in the mountains classification at Tirreno-Adriatico. “I’m very enthusiastic to join the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team. I trust in this team and in this project,” Canola said in a team press release. “I’m sure that I will able to express my potential and repay the confidence the team has placed in me! In 2015, I want to reconfirm the good results I had in the 2014 and try to reach new important goals.”

Ratto moves over to the team from Cannondale, after three seasons with there. The 24-year-old made his Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a España last season, where he won a stage. He’s had a tricky 2014, which has seen him hardly race in the second half of the season.

UnitedHealthcare hope that the two signings will increase their chances at a spot for the 2015 Giro d’Italia, which would be their first Grand Tour. Canola and Ratto will travel to the Giro d’Italia presentation with directeur sportif Roberto Damiano on Monday 6 October.

A fond farewell

Thomas Lofkvist (IAM Cycling) is getting ready to hang up his wheels, as he calls an end to his ten-year career. The Swedish cyclist will ride his final race this Sunday at Il Lombardia. Lofkvist made the decision in August citing chronic fatigue.

The 30-year-old says he is ready for the next step in his life. ““I have no regrets. I leave with peace of mind ten years after signing my first pro contract with Française des Jeux,” he said. “I have some projects that I am quietly pursuing. But before moving back to Sweden with my wife and two boys, I am going to take advantage of all the things in Switzerland that I could never do during my career, starting with skiing.”

Joining Lofkvist in IAM Cycling’s team for Lombardia will be Matthias Brändle, Mathias Frank, Jonathan Fumeaux, Jérôme Pineau, Sébastien Reichenbach, Patrick Schelling and Johann Tschopp.

A different take on things

Giant-Shimano has announced that they are going to take a different approach to sourcing young talent, by moving away from the idea of a development team. They will continue their commitment to riders currently on their development programme, but will not take on any new riders through that method.

The squad who will be known as Giant-Alpecin from next season, has said that utilising a development team has proved ineffective for them.

“There are many talents out there, and many riders slip through without being given a real chance to show their true capabilities. This is why we have developed a new concept, aimed at giving more young riders the opportunity to use our facilities and to get their chance,” said team manager Iwan Spekenbrink.

Instead of the traditional route for new talent, the team say that they will be looking for future stars in what they have called ‘talent days.’ The lucky few will then go on to be tested over a year to see if they have what it takes to make it at WorldTour level. With their new sponsor Alpecin, there will be an increased focus on German riders.

Lars van der Haar has been part of the development team and will make the step up to the WorldTour squad for 2015.

Vuelta a Murcia looking for more

The organisers of the one-day race the Vuelta a Murcia are looking to not only move the dates of the race, but extend it to three days, according to Spanish sports daily Marca. Currently the 2015 edition of the race is scheduled for March 1, but the organisers have asked the UCI for an earlier slot on the weekend of Saturday February 14.

The Vuelta a Murcia was originally a five-day stage race, but financial problems meant that it went down to three days for 2011, and two days in 2012. A year later it was reduced to a single day. Alejandro Valverde this year’s edition of the race.

Race organiser Francisco Guzman hopes that the February date will attract bigger riders looking to prepare for the Vuelta a Andalucía, which begins the following Thursday.

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