Monday, April 29, 2013

Giro d'Italia 2013: The Main Contenders

By: Barry Ryan
Giro countdown: 5 days until Naples

With five days to go to the start of the Giro d’Italia, Cyclingnews takes a look at the form of the main contenders and their chances of overall success in this year's race.

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky)

Season to date: As he amassed victory upon victory early last season, Wiggins’ lament that journalists kept asking him if he had peaked too soon quickly became more tedious than the question itself. There’s been precious little danger of that this time around, as Wiggins has been far more low-key, completing just three stage races and failing to register a win.

That said, the Englishman did not seem stretched as he rode to fifth place at the Volta Catalunya in March and his climbing appeared to have gone up another notch by the time he hit the Dolomites at the Giro del Trentino. In between those two races, he had spent a lengthy spell training in Mallorca, and the signs are that his work there is paying out more than marginal dividends.

Final preparations: Wiggins’ last competitive outing before the Giro was at Trentino, and his race went to plan until his bike failed him on the final climb to Sega di Ala and he finished fifth overall. Either side of Trentino, Wiggins carried out reconnaissance of a number of the Giro d'Italia key stages, including the summit finish to Tre Cime di Lavaredo and the 54.8km time trial on the Adriatic coast, where he was reported to be concerned by the condition of the road surface. Wiggins returns to Italy on Wednesday, three before the race.

Strengths: The long time trial at the end of week one presents Wiggins with a golden opportunity to take control of the pink jersey, and he demonstrated his capability to defend a lead in the mountains at last year’s Tour de France. Since finishing 134th in the 2008 Giro at the age of 28, Wiggins has undergone a transformation as a rider and is now a complete Grand Tour rider.

Weaknesses: Wiggins has a number of very able lieutenants in his Giro line-up, but Chris Froome, Richie Porte and Michael Rogers – his three key men in France last July – are not on hand this time around. Defending the overall lead for (potentially) the last two weeks of the race would be a big ask for Team Sky.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

Season to date: Nibali has raced more often (27 days) and taken more wins than any of his fellow contenders for final overall victory. The Sicilian was solid if unspectacular at the Tour de San Luis and Tour of Oman, and looked set for more of the same at Tirreno-Adriatico before he turned the race on its head with an attacking display on the rain-soaked stage to Porto Sant’Elpidio.

As if that defiance of Team Sky’s dominance hadn’t heartened Nibali enough, he followed up with victory over Wiggins at the Giro del Trentino. The pair fought out a score draw on the first summit finish at Vetriolo Terme but Nibali was impressive in the way he won at Sega di Ala, even if Wiggins’ mechanical problems meant that there was to be no face off on the steep climb to the finish.

Final preparations: Immediately after Trentino, Nibali hopped on a plane for Belgium in a bid to add Liège-Bastogne-Liège to his palmares, but could only manage 23rd in what was, by his own admission, a tired performance. Nibali spent the week since at an altitude training camp with his teammates in the southern Apennines in Campocatino.

Strengths: Though a strong climber, Nibali will be mindful that he never really put Wiggins in real difficulty at last year’s Tour de France. But he showed at Tirreno-Adriatico that he can put his aggressive instincts to use in inventive ways. A natural attacker and a fearless descender, Nibali has the potential to eke out vital seconds on his rivals away from the set-piece mountain stages. His Astana team looked the strongest at the Giro del Trentino.

Weaknesses: Nibali has time trialing pedigree from his amateur days but he knows he is destined to lose significant time to Wiggins in the Saltara time trial. The timing of Nibali’s attacks has not always been the most astute in the past, although he did a nice turn in measuring his efforts during the second half of his victorious Vuelta a España in 2010.

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp)

Season to date: Why change a winning formula? Hesjedal kept a low profile in the opening months of last season and he has followed a similar template this time around, right down to the sustained show of form at the Ardennes Classics and the early abandon at the Tour de Romandie.

After spending much of the winter in Hawaii, Hesjedal began his 2013 campaign late and with anonymous displays at the Volta a Catalunya and Tour of the Basque Country, but was a different man at the Ardennes classics. An aggressive presence at the Amstel Gold Race, Hesjedal then acted as a domestique deluxe for winner Dan Martin in the finale of Liège-Bastogne-Liège the following Sunday.

Final preparations: Hesjedal’s final outing prior to the Giro was the Tour de Romandie, where he opted to pull out on stage 3 after making little impression on the race, although he insisted that he was feeling better than he was at the same point twelve months ago.

Strengths: At last year’s Giro d'Italia, Hesjedal limited his losses on his bad days (Pian dei Resinelli) and chose his moments to attack on his good days (Cervinia and Alpe di Pampeago). He will need to be just as intelligent this time around. With Wiggins and Nibali the outstanding favourites, Despite being defending champion, Hesjedal might be able to fly under the radar and hit out for pink late in the race.

Weaknesses: Though a solid time trialist, Hesjedal is going to concede time to Wiggins at Saltara, and he is not as explosive as Nibali in the mountains.

Cadel Evans (BMC)

Season so far: Evans began 2013 adamant that the Tour de France was the centre-piece of his season and that he – and not Tejay van Garderen – would be BMC’s leader in July. The hierarchy at the team seems to have shifted in the intervening months, with Evans’ low-key displays at the Tirreno-Adriatico and Critérium International prompting a rethink of his schedule. At the end of March he announced that he would ride the Giro “not as training but to get back to my best level.”

Final preparations: Evans showed some signs of life at the Giro del Trentino, his final race before the Giro d'Italia. His eighth place finish went largely unnoticed amid the hubbub of Nibali’s victory and Wiggins’ mechanical, but he put in a determined display to finish fifth on the steep climb to Sega di Ala. That result was born more of perspiration than inspiration and it’s hard to see how the 36-year-old can conjure up victory over Wiggins, Nibali et al.

Strengths: Solid in the mountains and against the clock, Evans is also consistent over three weeks. He has been there and done that, most notably at the 2011 Tour de France. His unspectacular two years since mean that he will have a freer rein than he did at his last Giro in 2010.

Weaknesses: Evans pinned the blame for his disappointing 2012 Tour on illness but 2013 has scarcely been better for the veteran Australian. This Giro will provide an indication of whether Evans’ decline is terminal.

Ivan Basso (Cannondale)

Season so far: Abysmal. A brief flourish at the Settimana Coppi e Bartali aside, Basso has been an anonymous figure in 2013. He began his campaign with a non-descript showing at Paris-Nice and was lagging well behind the level of Evans at the Giro del Trentino (19th), never mind that of Nibali and Wiggins. He claims he has been training hard, including a spell at Teide. but there has been little sign it has worked so far.

Final preparations: Basso’s final outing before the Giro was the Tour de Romandie and it was in keeping with the tenor of his season to date. Lying a lowly 62nd overall, Basso opted not to ride the final time trial on Sunday. That said, Basso was similarly lacklustre at Romandie three years ago before somehow locating the condition necessary to win the Giro immediately afterwards. At 35 years of age, however, there is a sense that Basso has been to the well once too often.

Strengths: In times past, Basso placed great store on his diesel engine and it was his reserves in the final week of racing that won him the 2010 Giro d’Italia. Since then he has climbed solidly for the opening halves of the 2011 Tour and 2012 Giro only to come up short in the final week.

Weaknesses: Since returning from suspension for his links to the Operacion Puerto blood doping investigation (bags of his blood were found in Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes’ freezer in Madrid in 2006, the year of his first Giro d'Italia win), Basso has curiously forgotten how to time trial. In spite of the strength of his Liquigas team in the mountains at last year’s Giro, Basso was repeatedly exposed as lacking in ideas and explosiveness once his last man swung off.

Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida)

Season to date: Suspended for the three months during the off-season after admitting to undergoing tests with Dr. Michele Ferrari, Scarponi was withheld from racing by his own team in the early weeks of the season, allegedly because new sponsor Merida was concerned of a flood of negative publicity.

After some tough contract renegotiation and a reported significant cut in salary, Scarponi was welcomed back into the fold in time for the GP Camaiore in late February, before lining up at Paris-Nice. By the Volta a Catalunya, he was back in the thick of the action, finishing third behind Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), although he followed that up with an anaemic performance in the mountains at the Giro del Trentino, which came after a spell of training on Mount Etna.

Final preparations: Scarponi’s yo-yo spring continued at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, where he rode to fifth place at La Doyenne just 48 hours after finishing Trentino. Like Wiggins and Nibali, Scarponi opted not to ride the Tour de Romandie.

Strengths: A solid climber, Scarponi is most at home on hilly and medium mountain stages, and the opening two weeks of the Giro contain a number opportunities for the Italian.

Weaknesses: Scarponi’s Giro challenge could suffer a fatal blow in his native Marche during the time trial at the end of week one.

Robert Gesink (Blanco)

Season so far: With Blanco eager to attract a title sponsor to replace the departed Rabobank, Gesink began the season with the express mission to claim some early publicity for the squad. He was in the mix at the Vuelta Murcia (fourth) in February, although he abandoned Paris-Nice, his major early-season objective, citing illness. The Dutchman bounced back to finish 6th at the Volta a Catalunya, one place behind Wiggins. Gesink then went almost an entire month without racing before the Tour de Romandie, opting to forgo Amstel Gold Race in order to undertake a lengthy training camp at altitude on Mount Teide.

Final preparations: After his hiatus in Tenerife, Gesink returned to action with a distinctly low-key showing at the Tour de Romandie, finishing in 54th place overall and cheerily admitting that he treated the final time trial as a rest day before the Giro. Unlike Wiggins, Gesink eschewed carrying out detailed reconnaissance of the Giro’s mountain stages, telling Wieler Revue: “You should not overestimate these explorations. In my first Vuelta I knew no climb and I was seventh.”

Strengths: Gesink is a fine climber and usually a consistent performer over three weeks – provided that he avoids crashes. At 26 years of age, the eternal promise is at an age where he ought to start delivering and the strength of his team at the Giro d'Italia should not be under-estimated, with Wilco Kelderman (fifth at Romandie) and Steven Kruijswijk flanking him.
Weaknesses: Crashes have ruined three of Gesink’s four Tour de France participations to date, and his first challenge will be staying out of trouble in the frantic opening days of his debut at the Giro. Like many others, he will concede ground to Wiggins in the first time trial.

Article Source:Cycling News

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tech: Giro Sport Design's R&D Laboratory

By: Ben Delaney

The Dome - Giro's test and creation facility

This article originally published on BikeRadar

At the beginning, Jim Gentes packed a crude, handcarved model of a cycling helmet into a brown paper bag and took it to a tradeshow to drum up some interest. Today, Giro Sports Design is part of the Easton-Bell Sports empire, and its new research, design and development facility — dubbed The Dome — buzzes with dozens of engineers, graphic designers and lab techs as the company pushes the envelope for helmets across a variety of sports.

BikeRadar visited The Dome in Scotts Valley, just uphill and inland from Santa Cruz, California, a surf town whose culture helps propel and inspire the work inside Giro.

Inside Easton-Bell, helmets are made for cycling, American football, baseball, lacrosse and snowsports.

"We have all these different applications, technologies, designs and materials that can cross-pollinate," said Eric Richter, Giro's cycling senior brand manager.

Some technologies don't carry over, such as the Vinyl Nitrile material used in football and some snowsport helmets. Unlike EPS, the expanded foam material used in cycling helmets that cracks after one crash, VN bounces back to shape — a necessary trait for high-contact sports. So why not use it for cycling, where a crash means throwing out an expensive helmet? "VN doesn't perform well in extreme heat," said Rob Wessen, Giro's director of helmet technology. One US CPSC standard requires structural stability at a wide range of temperatures, and VN "gets squishy" at about 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Also it's heavier than foam.

Easton-Bell doesn't makes helmets in The Dome, but both the design and engineering elements incorporate digital and physical work. On the design front, everything is hand-drawn. Some is hand-sketched and scanned, but much of the work is drawn using a gridded, 3D mold.

Giro lead designer Eli Atkins said the design team benefits from being part of Easton-Bell, working with the Easton equipment team on color schemes for upcoming model years, for example.

"It's a cultural thing, and it extends beyond this building," Atkins said. "Sometimes we call friends at bike companies and ask what colors they're using."

Once a graphic is created for a particular helmet, it's transferred to the shell material then heated until it begins to droop. Then a vacuum sucks the shell into the mold, where it is formed with the EPS material. Suffice it to say, it's a more complicated process than applying stickers.

Like any company that sells helmets in the US and Europe, Giro must ensure that its helmets meet all the differing safety requirements. Wessen said Europe's CE standard are somewhat 'easier', as the limits are a little lower for some measurements. For example, the CPSC drop test requires a two-meter drop at 6.2 meters per second. The CE test specifies a lower height and velocity.

A 2m drop test, landing on this metal post, is one of many standard tests
A 2m drop test, landing on this metal post, is one of many standard tests

With the Air Attack, Giro's new aero road helmet, the company tested cooling with the reduced venting as well as the aerodynamics. Giro capitalized on the front of the helmet being a high pressure area, setting the forehead pad back from the front of the to better channeling the incoming air. "That high-pressure air wants to go somewhere," Wessen said. "We took advantage by giving it a place to go inside, inside of channeling it around the outside of the shell."

Giro engineers used a system they call the 'Thermanator' to test how well different helmets handle heat. By heating a head-shaped fixture to a certain temperature, then blasting it with air in a wind tunnel at a specific temperature, angle and speed, Giro could measure differences in helmet aero flow with internal gauges. The end result, Wessen said, was the Air Attack was one degree Fahrenheit warmer than the Giro Aeon.

Article Source: Cycling News

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tour de Romandie: Froome Powers to Prologue Win

April 23, Prologue: Le Châble - Bruson (ITT) 7km
By: Daniel Benson
Sky rider becomes first race leader

Chris Froome (Team Sky) won the opening 7.45km kilometre prologue at the Tour de Romandie, edging out Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) in a winning time of 13:15. Talansky finished six seconds down with Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack-Leopard) 13 seconds back in third. Froome will wear the first leader's jersey of the race for stage 1.

World time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) could only manage 16th, 29 seconds down on Froome.

Froome started the prologue last due to the fact that his Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins (absent this year) triumphed in last year's race and the Kenyan-born rider quickly set about dismantling the field on the uphill course situated in the foothills of Verbier. While unsure of his condition prior to today's prologue, Froome stamped his authority on the opening day with the first time trial victory of his career.

"I haven't raced now in a stage race for a month since Criterium International," said Froome. "I wasn't sure how my condition would be coming into this race. Winning the prologue today is definitely a good sign and I'd like to try and defend the jersey this week the best I can. I know it's going to be a very hard week of racing."

Sky has multiple options to play during the week, with Paris-Nice champion Richie Porte in fourth overall at 15 seconds.

"We have a really good team here," said Froome. "Richie who came fourth today is also sitting in a very good position. That could be really important for us over the next few days as it means we have some other cards to play with the rest of the riders here to support us. It should be a good week of racing.

"We're going to try and keep [the jersey]. I don't have a really big advantage on the other GC contenders here. I think the big stages will be this coming weekend. On Saturday we have a really hard mountain stage followed by a time trial on Sunday. So we have to do as much as we can there and hope that nothing bad turns against us in the race."

France's Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) had held the initial lead after setting a time of 13:32 but with so many Grand Tour contenders in the field it was always going to be a huge ask for the talented 22-year-old to keep the likes of Froome and Talansky at bay.

However, having finished 11th overall last year, Pinot laid down an indication of his growing stature in the sport to eventually finish 6th.

Both Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and his teammate Tom Danielson failed to topple the Frenchman, with Hesjedal struggling to find his momentum on the lower slopes of the climb to Bruson. He wasn't the only rider to struggle, though, with Robert Gesink, Lieuwe Westra and Jurgen Van Den Broeck also failing to make genuine impressions.

Pinot was eventually knocked off the top step when Rui Costa (Movistar) finished one second faster but it was Paris-Nice winner Richie Porte (Team Sky) who set down the next marker with 13:30.

Andrew Talansky, who finished runner-up to Porte at Paris-Nice, claimed a morale-boosting scalp when he finished 9 precious seconds faster than the Australian but Froome was already on the move, making Daniel Moreno look like a statue when he swooped past the Katusha leader.

Tony Martin, who unclipped his pedal soon after the start ramp, crossed the line in 16th but with 500 meters remaining Froome was six seconds clear of Talansky.

The 27-year-old had enough in the tank to seal the win, and the first prologue of his career.

Kiserlovski, who is expected to lead RadioShack Leopard at this year's Giro d'Italia, edged out Porte for third.

Article Source: Cycling News 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Epic Behind the Scenes Video of Paris Roubaix

Shimano Race TV goes behind the scenes in this epic movie with beautiful shots before and during Paris Roubaix.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Four Women Represent U.S. at Pan American Continental Champs

Colorado Springs, Colo. (April 15, 2013) — USA Cycling announced on Monday the four women who will represent the United States in Zacatecas, Mexico, at the 2013 Pan American Continental Road Championships from May 1-5.

Amber Neben leads a talented group of women to Mexico for the 2013 Pan American Continental Road Championships. (Photo by Casey Gibson)
Amber Neben leads a talented group of women to Mexico for the 2013 Pan American Continental Road Championships. (Photo by Casey Gibson)
Automatic selections Amber Neben (Lake Forest, Calif./Pasta Zara Cogeas) and Carmen Small (Durango, Colo./Specialized-lululemon) will be joined by coaching nominations Ally Stacher (Asheville, N.C./Specialized-lululemon) and Tayler Wiles (Murray, Utah/Specialized-lululemon) as they compete in the road race on May 4. Neben and Small will also race against the clock in the time trial on May 2.

Neben and Small each earned her automatic nomination by being ranked in the top 50 of the 2013 UCI individual rankings classification. As of April 15, Neben is ranked 11th and Small is ranked 40th.

Neben, who won the world championship in the time trial at the 2008 UCI Road World Championships in Italy, has placed in the top 10 seven times in time trial world championships. Neben also finished seventh in the time trial at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Small placed fourth in the Ronde van Gelderland on April 14, after recording top-10 finishes at a pair of World Cup races this season. Small finished 10th at the Boels Rental Ronde van Drenthe on March 9, and Trofeo Alfredo Binda-Comune di Cittiglio on March 24.

Competition is slated to begin on Wednesday, May 1, in Zacatecas, Mexico. A complete schedule for the event is available online.

2013 Pan American Continental Road Championships
Zacatecas, Mexico
May 1-5, 2013

Women Elite

Road Race   
*Amber Neben (Lake Forest, Calif./Pasta Zara Cogeas) – also contesting time trial
*Carmen Small (Durango, Colo./Specialized-lululemon) – also contesting time trial
Ally Stacher (Asheville, N.C./Specialized-lululemon)
Tayler Wiles (Murray, Utah/Specialized-lululemon)

* - Automatic selection

Article Source: USA CYCLING 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Giro: The Air Attack Helmet

Giro's first Air Attack™ was a revelation in styling and performance for all types of riding. Inspired by the original, the new Air Attack™ Shield delivers a dose of free speed. Its compact, lightweight and super-aerodynamic design slices through air to deliver a hyper-efficient ride. And with the comfort, adjustability and enhanced airflow you get from the all-new Roc Loc® Air system, this helmet is one of the coolest designs you can put on your head.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Eight Conclusions From Paris-Roubaix

By:Daniel Benson

Analysis of the good and bad after the Queen of the Classics

Cancellara’s spring conquest

“Mission accomplished” announced RadioShack-Leopard in a post Paris-Roubaix press release without even any hint of irony. But after the travails of 2012 and Cancellara's injury hit spring last year, it’s hard for even the most devout Boonen fans to begrudge Cancellara his dues this time.

At E3 Harelbeke he was dominating, at the Tour of Flanders he was merciless, then at Paris-Roubaix he was calculating and incisive.

Knowing that he’d be watched like a hawk Cancellara set out phase one of his Paris-Roubaix game plan early, using up teammates in the first half of the race in a bid to negate the threat of 2011 when a group was given too much room.

Each escape was given two minutes or less and when Cancellara’s men disappeared off the front, phase two began. A testing acceleration burnt off the likes of Hushovd, Boasson Hagen and Chavanel (who was forced to change bikes and chase) and brought a number of other contenders into Cancellara’s sights.

He was then able to measure who was a genuine threat but perhaps his best play came when he drifted back to the team car to liaise with Dirk Demol. Half the lead pack carried on racing – like they should – but Boom, Eisel and Terpstra slowed too. It provided the opportunity to eliminate a further three rivals with one attack and once Cancellara started carving through the groups it was simply a matter of who could keep up.

Is it time to rebuild Omega Pharma-Quick Step?

If team manager Patrick Lefevere is looking for positives aspects to away from Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s difficult spring campaign, he should look to the promising performances of Zdenek Stybar, Michal Kwiatkowski and Stijn Vandenbergh. They all showed huge potential for the future.

For all of Tom Boonen’s past success and his many comebacks, he can’t go on forever and 2013 may be seen as a blessing in disguise for Lefevere, giving him the opportunity to see which of his riders can develop into team leaders.

The Belgian super team still has a number of issues to resolve, not least their faulty lead outs for Mark Cavendish. However with the Belgian transfer market well underway, the most pressing task for Lefevere will be deciding whether and where the team needs strengthening for the 2014 season. It is time to start looking for the next Tom Boonen.

Vanmarcke saves Blanco blushes

Heading in Paris-Roubaix, Blanco led a long list of teams desperate for a big result and in Lars Boom and Sep Vanmarcke the Dutch squad had better than average hopes of a podium.
Both played roles in the race, escaping with the main group of favourites inside the final 60 kilometres after fine work from Maarten Wynants and Robert Wagner.

Boom marked Cancellara and simply couldn’t respond when the RadioShack rider started to eliminate the opposition. Vanmarcke was more inventive and used both luck and talent to seize the initiative, jumping clear with Stijn Vandenbergh.

It was one of the most tactically astute plays in the race, the Blanco rider knowing that the Omega Pharma-Quick Step man would tow him along under the unquestionable orders of Lefevere, while Cancellara would have to make a significant effort to join them.

There was a little wobble when Cancellara accelerated on the Carrefour de l'Arbre, and Stybar briefly looked stronger, but Vanmarcke became Cancellara’s final rival on merit alone and it was testament to the threat he held in so much as Cancellara attacked before the finish in an attempt to dodge the sprint.

Considering Vanmarcke could barely stand three weeks ago after injuring his knee in Tirreno-Adriatico and that he hobbled through Gent-Wevelgem and Flanders, his Roubaix results stands up as one of the memorable rides this spring.

Spare a thought for Rabobank who weren’t able to celebrate after having shelled out on signing Vanmarcke from Garmin.

Blanco are still negotiating with a number of international parties in their search for sponsorship but after Roubaix, Vanmarcke’s agent will also one fielding several important calls.

Having signed a two-year deal Vanmarcke is in the driving seat. If Blanco find a replacement sponsor, the situation is dandy. Should Plugge and his staff fail, Vanmarcke will not only be paid the final year of his current deal in full but he’ll also pick up a cheque from his new team. Some teams may use that as bargaining chip to undercut the rider but there should be enough teams to ensure that Vanmarcke receives his true market value.

Sky’s got talent

It’s almost impossible to pinpoint exactly where Team Sky went wrong this spring, such were the numerous mistakes the team made. From dithering over leadership, to Geraint Thomas’ poor positioning at key points in Flanders and Roubaix, one of the most heavily backed and professional teams in the peloton were left disappointed with just Matt Hayman’s podium in Dwars Door Vlaanderen to celebrate.

It’s arguable that the team has regressed in terms of rider talent. The arrival of Gabriel Rasch, Luke Rowe, Salvatore Puccio haven’t improved the unit as a whole and the loss of Juan Antonio Flecha, although a limited rider himself, rules out an experienced set of legs who can grind out results.
Edvald Boasson Hagen is perhaps the most disappointing of all. Before Peter Sagan was pulling wheelies across finish lines and harassing podium girls there was “Eddy B”, a rider considered by teammates, managers and commentators as the next great rider of his generation.

Boasson Hagen’s career has been far from a failure but his persistent no shows in the major Classics should be a major concern for Team Sky. While it is obvious to point to Sky’s Tenerife training as the root of all their problems, the answer could simply be that too many of their riders lack major Classic experience or simply aren’t good enough.

Is it time for more barriers along the cobbles?

Seeing both Stijn Vandenbergh and Zdenek Stybar hit the deck at speed after tangling with roadside spectators sparked anger on Twitter, with the fans along the race route being blamed for ruining the two rider's chances of fighting for victory with Cancellara and Vanmarcke.

In truth the riders are as much to blame for their downfall, opting to ride on the narrow strip of dirt alongside the cobbles, rather than on the more uncomfortable crown of the road.

It can be argued that fans should stay out of the way or that riders should stay on the cobbles. The only way to ensure that crashes don’t happen in future is to greatly increase the sections of pave protected by crowd barriers.

It is impossible to have barriers along all the 50km of pave but the riders, the race and the fans need better protection.

Pozzato personifies Italy's woes

Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) completed a full set of disappointing Classics results, finishing 22nd at Paris-Roubaix, a significant 2:52 behind Cancellara and Vanmarcke.

The Italian has had a dire spring despite being the well-paid, well protected designated team leader at Lampre-Merida. Pippo was unable to stay with the key contenders over the top of the Poggio at Milan-San Remo, struggled in the Flemish races and crashed due to poor positioning at Paris-Roubaix.

Since his ban for working with Dr. Michele Ferrari, Pozzato has won races, including the Trofeo Laigueglia but claimed he felt 'empty' in the big races, unable to be in the action after 200km of racing.

With Pozzato under performing, Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team) out after his training accident, and the lesser lights all failing to shine, it was up to 36-year-old veteran Luca Paolini to save Italy's spring. He was only 21st at Paris-Roubaix but was in the front group until a puncture sent him backwards.

He won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and was fifth in Milan-San Remo. However an Italian has now not won Paris-Roubaix since Andrea Tafi in 1999 and any monument Classic since Damiano Cunego won the Tour of Lombardy in 2008. As Gazzetta dello Sport pointed out, that's a lifetime ago for Italian cycling.

BMC breakdown

Taylor Phinney summed up BMC’s situation perfectly after crossing the line in Roubaix on Sunday: "It's always hard in a team like this to all be motivated for one single goal and one single rider,” he said.

Already one of the most quotable riders in the pack Phinney cut through the nonsense and highlighted the cornerstone of BMC cobbled failures – they don’t know who they are riding for.

Starting the spring campaign with Thor Hushovd as a genuine leader should have been an unthinkable move because no matter how much team backer Andy Rihs paid for the 2010 World Champion rider, he’s no longer the force he once was. In fact he was already on the decline during his one season with Garmin, when two stage wins at the Tour, papered over the fact that his legs were slowing. Health problems last year have only compounded the problem.

Hushovd has failed to deliver a top 10 in any major Classic while Greg Van Avermaet and Phinney have improved to the point where they can both lay claim to hierarchal supremacy over Hushovd.
Until BMC’s management wake up to the fact that after 250 kilometres reputation counts for nothing, they’ll continue to make the same mistakes.

As for Avermaet, he stepped in to fill the shoes of Ballan, saving the team with a string of pleasing performances: fifth at Omloop, sixth in Strade Bianche, third in Gent-Wevelgem, seventh in Flanders and fourth at Paris-Roubaix, make him one of the most consistent riders this spring.

Sylvain Chavanel: OPQS's unprotected team leader

Far less talented riders than Sylvain Chavanel have and will win monuments but at 34 it’s hard to see the Frenchman having a better chance of opening his classics account and rectifying the glaring whole in his palmares than this year.

Even with Boonen wrapped in bandages for much of the spring, Omega Pharma-Quick Step clung to hope that he would recover in time for the Tour of Flanders.

When the crashed out, the team failed to back one single rider (Chavanel), instead changing the team’s DNA and going with a number of options. It almost paid off in Roubaix with Stybar the race’s revelation and Stijn Vandenbergh a heavy animator. But when the time came for Chavanel to stand up he was left trailing with a mechanical. By the time he’d recovered the race was long gone, with his teammates contributing to Chavanel's woes by working up front and going on the attack.

Article Source: Cycling News

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cancellara Wins His Third Paris-Roubaix

 Two-man sprint decides the race on the velodrome

Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Leopard) pulled off a thrilling performance to win the 2013 Paris-Roubaix in a dramatic sprint finish with Sep Vanmarcke (Blanco). Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma QuickStep) sealed the final place on the podium.

Cancellara and Vanmarcke pulled clear on the Carrefour de l'Arbre pave when Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma QuickStep) and then his teammate Zdenek Stybar crashed into spectators. But for one last ditch attack from Cancellara in the closing five kilometres, the leading duo shared the pace setting all the way to the Roubaix velodrome.

Vanmarcke led out, but Cancellara simply had more in the tank and had enough to win his third Roubaix title and his second Flanders and Roubaix double of his career.

“I was in another world of riding! I still don’t know how I did it. I was dropped and pretty far back but then I started to move up. This is a race you can never give up on until the end. I had to play with him in the end because I tried to go away but he followed so then I knew it was man against man. I’m happy for the team and for me. Now I look forward to rest and a holiday. Mission accomplished,” Cancellara said.

The foundations for Cancellara's win were built on solid work from his teammates, who controlled the race in the opening 200 kilometres, never allowing a break to gain more than two minutes and then shepherding their leader towards the front on the Auchy-lez-Orchies - Bersée sector of pave.
It was clear from as early as last weekend's Flanders triumph that Cancellara would be the marked man, but he took the race by the scruff of the neck and although his surge forward in Orchies didn't win him the race, it drew out his main challengers. Thor Hushovd, Taylor Phinney and Edvald Boasson Hagen were the first to fall by the wayside but those that remained played their cards, and allowed Cancellara both a brief respite and opportunity to see would match him.

By the end of the 11th sector, only Cancellara, the Omega Pharma-Quickstep trio Nikki Terpstra, Zdenek Stybar and Vandenbergh, Europcar duo Sébastien Turgot, Damien Gaudin, Blanco duo Sep Vanmarcke and Lars Boom and also Sebastiaan Langeveld, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Bernard Eisel (Sky), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Luca Paolini (Katusha) remained in contention.

In front, Langeveld and Vanmarcke anticipated the next pavé stretch where Vandenbergh and Gaudin impressed as they rode away from the rest of the group. Behind the four leaders, a poker game unfolded. The result was that four more riders rode away from the Cancellara group. When exiting sector 7, the eight leaders were Langeveld, Vanmarcke, Gaudin, Vandenbergh, Stybar, Van Avermaet, Flecha and Paolini.

On the roads towards sector 6, Cancellara closed to the eight leaders on his own, by far his most impressive feat in the race. Having dropped back to his team car and dragging Boom, Terpstra and Eisel with him, he quickly realised he had isolated three major threats. Within a flash, he had left them for dust and was soon back with the Flecha group.

Meanwhile Vandenbergh and Vanmarcke didn't wait for Spartacus and snuck off the front. When reaching sector 6, Cancellara and also Terpstra joined the chase group, half a minute behind the two Belgian leaders. On the same section where Cancellara crashed during the reconnaissance, the second part of sector 6, the cobbles of Bourghelles à Wannehain, the Swiss rider accelerated. Only Stybar was able to keep up with Spartacus.

While Cancellara time trialed towards the two leaders on the wide roads after the cobbles, Stybar tried to hold his wheel. Just before reaching sectors 5 and 4 there were four leaders in the race: Cancellara, Vanmarcke and teammates Vandenbergh and Stybar. Chasers Flecha, Langeveld, Terpstra, Van Avermaet and Gaudin were half a minute down on the leaders. A large group with Boom, Eisel, Paolini, Kristoff, Leukemans and others were further behind.

Vandenbergh was already losing contact on the cobbles of the Carrefour de l'Arbre when he clipped a spectator and fell in the early phase of the sector, leaving Stybar with the difficult job of marking both Cancellara and Vanmarcke.

The former cyclo-cross star looked comfortable on the cobbles though, but when he also rode into a fan, there was no way back.

Bright skies for Compiègne start

In contrast to the massive crowds in Bruges last week, the start in Compiègne was much more low-key. Teams were still rolling in toward the Place Charles de Gaulle in front of the Compiègne castle less than an hour before the start of the race. While temperatures dived under freezing point early in the morning, the sun did enough to persuade riders to wear short-sleeved kits once the race got underway at 10:20 am.

The pace was high right from the start with many teams trying to get a rider in the breakaway group. Thirteen riders managed to get a gap after 17km of racing, but the sizeable group didn't receive the ok from the peloton. The outcome was a blistering fast first hour of racing, averaging just under 50km per hour. The group was caught, and several more attempts fell short.

Upon hitting the first pavé sectors after 100km of racing, the peloton was back together. On the second cobbled stretch of the day, there was a crash which quickly reduced the peloton and hindered men like Stijn Devolder and Ian Stannard. In front, four riders finally managed to get away. Former winner Stuart O'Grady (Orica-Greenedge) was joined by Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Matthew Hayman (Sky) and Clément Koretzky (Bretagne-Seche Environnement). The four got away in sector 22, at 124km from the finish. Behind them, André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) tried to bridge up but the German sprinter fell short. At the back of the peloton, Yoann Offredo (FDJ) crashed out of the race when he didn't notice a traffic island.

The four leaders built up a lead of more than two minutes over the peloton where Team Saxo-Tinkoff set the pace for their leader Matti Breschel when heading towards the famous Wallers-Arenberg forest. Steegmans led the breakaway into the Trouée Arenberg with a gap of 1:30 on the peloton. Thanks to the efforts from Taylor Phinney (BMC), John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) that gap was brought down to 40 seconds once out of the 2400m long pavé sector. In contrast to previous years, there were barely no crashes in this zone.

The four leaders struggled to hold off the peloton which at sector 17 closed in to touching distance. Nevertheless they reached sector 16 with a 30-second bonus. At that point Steegmans and Hayman left their companions behind. At the same time, Michael Schär (BMC) launched a solo move to join the leaders. In the peloton, outsiders like Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida), Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ) and Geraint Thomas (Sky) were affected by a crash while BMC's leader Thor Hushovd (BMC) flatted.

After 185km of racing and with 69km left to cover, the riders reached the second feed zone. The duo forced Schär to work hard and long but 20km after his initial acceleration, he finally joined the two leaders. A little later, Damien Gaudin (Europcar) bridged up with the leaders, who were riding only half a minute ahead of the reduced peloton.

Sector 11 was the first one where Cancellara moved to the front and from there the pace never dropped. By the time the race reached sector 10, the famous Mons-en-Pévèle the leaders were caught.

Former Paris-Roubaix winner Johan Vansummeren (Garmin-Sharp) flatted while his compatriot Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) impressed in front. No more than 13 riders survived the selection of this sector. They were top favourite Cancellara, Terpstra, Stybar, Vandenbergh, Turgot, Gaudin, Vanmarcke, Boom, Langeveld, Van Avermaet, Eisel, Flecha and Paolini. A little later, Turgot dropped out of the lead group with a flat tyre and Cancellara moved into position.

“It’s amazing having a third victory. When I see how in this race everyone was against our team, against me, I just had to do a selection. The team came into a little bit of difficulty because we lost a few guys because of bad luck. But that’s Roubaix. It’s always nice to win alone but today there was pure fighting until the very end. I could not believe it when I crossed the finish line. My legs and my head wanted to bring me here,” Cancellara said.

Article By: Cycling News

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Conclusions from the Tour of Flanders

By: Barry Ryan & Daniel Benson
The Tour of Flanders is always a momentous occasion but there are concerns that it risks becoming less fascinating race due to the new route introduced last year. Once again, the circuits over the Kwaremont and Paterberg failed to fire the imagination and the race remained largely deadlocked until the final lap.

Yes, the strongest man deservedly won on Sunday, but cycling would be a sorrier spectacle if races were decided on power output alone. It took a strongman to win on the old course over the Muur and Bosberg, too – as Fabian Cancellara himself showed in 2010 – but there were also rewards on offer for riders who showed a degree of ingenuity and invention.

Sylvain Chavanel complained afterwards that the difficulty of the finale inhibits early attackers and means that the race is destined to remain blocked until the last time up the Kwaremont. The pace was high – particularly in the frenetic opening two hours - but the selection happened largely at the back of the bunch rather than the front. And while the Kwaremont-Paterberg circuit fills VIP tents and placates sponsors, it does precious little for the race as a sporting spectacle, with the favourites understandably reluctant to show their hand on the first two times up those climbs.

It’s a similar situation in the Ardennes classics, of course, where none of the real contenders budge on the earlier ascents of the Cauberg at Amstel Gold Race or the Mur de Huy at Flèche Wallonne. In recent years, the Ardennes classics have too often been reduced to a bland question of who can generate the most power on the final climb, and it is troubling to think that the Ronde might begin to follow that pattern. 

Lotto Belisol do their best to hit the jackpot

The new circuit has garnered its share of criticism, but one team did its level best to be inventive regardless. Lotto Belisol were aggressive throughout the race as they looked to pre-empt the inevitable showdown between Cancellara and Peter Sagan on the final lap over the Kwaremont and Paterberg.

André Greipel sparked a dangerous move by attacking on the Molenberg and was later joined by Marcel Sieberg. They were preparing the ground for Jurgen Roelandts, who joined a five-man move with 30km to go, and then attacked alone off the front on the final ascent of the Kwaremont. Roelandts was eventually – inevitably – joined by Cancellara and Sagan, but he got some reward for his efforts by hanging on for a third place finish in Oudenaarde. Tactically, Lotto Belisol made the best use of their riders at their disposal. 

Sky’s high life yet to pay off

In contrast to Lotto Belisol, Team Sky had precious little impact on the development of the race, with Edvald Boasson Hagen (17th) the highest finisher. There were some mitigating factors – Geraint Thomas used up a lot of energy chasing back on after crashing before the second climb of the Kwaremont – but it was a disappointing showing from the British squad.

Sky’s decision to have its classics squad train in the seclusion of Mount Teide rather than race Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico was the source of considerable intrigue before the classics, but so far, the most recent manifestation of the marginal gains philosophy has yet to pay dividends, Ian Stannard’s aggression at Milan-San Remo notwithstanding.

Directeur sportif Servais Knaven conceded afterwards that it was impossible to compete with the strength of Cancellara and Sagan, but Sky displayed a singular lack of imagination in trying to counteract them tactically. The classics require considerably greater finesse than stringing out the peloton on mountain passes as their teammates did at Tirreno-Adriatico or Critérium International recent. Sky needs a result to salvage its cobbled campaign at Paris-Roubaix next weekend. 

QuickStep out of rhythm

When the season started it was widely acknowledged that a repeat of the 2012 invincible season would be almost impossible to achieve. Lightening couldn’t strike twice and with a returning Cancellara, a hungry Sagan and a limping Boonen, Omega Pharma-QuickStep was a team with a target on its back.

However as the races ticked by, and the wins and podiums slipped through their fingers, the Belgian dynasty appeared to run out of ideas. By the time of their Flanders press conference Lefevere almost knew that the game was up: Sagan and Cancellara were too strong, even with a morale-boosting win in De Panne to give them hope.

Of course it’s fair to say that if Cancellara or Sagan are taken out of the equation, both of their teams would struggle for Classics results too, but Lefevere and his staff could have seen Boonen’s struggles before Flanders a mile off.

Sylvain Chavanel never really seemed to have the entire commitment of his team – although he never really called for it either – and Niki Terptra has been too inconsistent of late.

Roubaix is less than a week away and Lefevere’s reaction to this Flanders set back will be crucial. Terpstra isn’t in the same form he was last year and Chavanel doesn’t have the best track record on the pavé. Will they go for broke in a bid to thwart Cancellara or will the house fold and wait for next year? 

RadioShack startle with strength in depth

While Fabian Cancellara’s strength has never been in doubt, the ability of his team has been questioned ever since he left the Bjarne Riis stable to join the nascent Leopard project in 2011. That spring, Cancellara was left isolated and frustrated in the finale of both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and as recently as Friday afternoon, manager Luca Guercilena admitting to reporters that his team was not as strong as the likes of BMC and Omega Pharma-QuickStep.

On Sunday, however, RadioShack pulled out a surprisingly committed collective performance. Hayden Roulston put in a mammoth stint on the front of the peloton on the first circuit of the Kwaremont-Paterberg circuit but Stijn Devolder’s showing ahead of the finale was particularly remarkable.

Devolder had reportedly travelled to Spain for a mini training camp during the week and he showed the fruits of the trip by sitting at the front of the bunch and controlling affairs ahead of the final circuit over the Kwaremont and Paterberg. The Belgian’s display was all the more striking given that he had punctured shortly beforehand and had to give chase alone.

Four lacklustre years on from his second Tour of Flanders win in 2009, Devolder’s wholly unexpected reanimation played an important part in Cancellara’s win. 

Cancellara the overwhelming favourite for Paris-Roubaix

It’s déjà vu all over again. Three years ago, Cancellara’s emphatic Ronde victory made him the overwhelming favourite for Paris-Roubaix seven days later and the sense of inevitability is even more distinct this time around. With Tom Boonen an absentee, with perennial hopefuls Thor Hushovd and Filippo Pozzato short of form and with relatively few fresh contenders emerging, it’s hard to see how anything other than ill fortune can prevent Cancellara from winning a third Paris-Roubaix.

Indeed, for all its reputation as a lottery, Paris-Roubaix is tactically a relatively straightforward race, with Johan Vansummeren’s canny win in 2011 a rare exception to the rule that the strongest man usually prevails so long as he stays upright. Sylvain Chavanel was trying to sound an optimistic note about his chances in Roubaix when he described it as a race where “the selection occurs naturally” but inadvertently, he summed up why it will be so difficult to upset Cancellara. 

Pozzato and Hushovd feeling the heat

Filippo Pozzato (Lampre-Merida) began the season with a bang thanks to victory at the Trofeo Laigueglia in February, but his classics campaign is set to end with a whimper unless he manages a dramatic turnaround at Paris-Roubaix next week. Although his fate was sealed by mechanical trouble on the Paterberg, Pozzato admitted that he was already on a bad day – “I wasn’t super,” he said – and at 31 years of age, he is fast running out of chances to add another monument to his Milan-San Remo victory of 2006, when he was trained by Dr. Michele Ferrari [Pozzato was suspended for three months last summer after admitting to their collaboration.]

Pozzato’s anonymous showing on Sunday was in the same vein as his display at Milan-San Remo two weeks ago, and he seems a shadow of the man who pushed Tom Boonen so close at the Tour of Flanders last year. If he falls short again at Roubaix, it will be third time in four years that Pozzato has made next to no impact in the spring classics.

Another man under pressure is Thor Hushovd. Signed by BMC to lead its cobbled classics squad, a virus ruined his debut campaign with the squad last year. An early win the Tour du Haut Var suggested the Norwegian had turned a corner in 2013, but he has been listless ever since. Hushovd abandoned the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, as he did at Milan-San Remo and E3 Harelbeke, and he desperately needs to show signs of life at Paris-Roubaix. 

Women’s coverage remains a conundrum

The best rider in the world won the Tour of Flanders in front of hundreds of thousands of screaming fans on Sunday afternoon and nobody was paying attention. No, not Fabian Cancellara, but Marianne Vos. The world champion claimed an overdue victory at the women’s Tour of Flanders in Oudenaarde but her triumph was overshadowed by the men’s race which was entering its decisive phase just as Vos was taking out the sprint.

It’s a truism that the profile of women’s cycling can only be boosted by holding more events in tandem with men’s races, with the London 2012 Olympics often highlighted as exhibit A. But would that magnificent women’s road race in London have made anywhere near the same impact if it had taken place on the same day as the men’s race and without live television coverage?

Placing the women’s Tour of Flanders (and, indeed, the women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Flèche Wallonne) on the same day as the men’s events ensures enormous crowds on the roadside but – paradoxically – also limits the amount of television airtime it will receive from the outset.
Simple logistics makes providing full coverage of two simultaneous races more or less impossible and, like it or not, audience and readership demands mean that the overwhelming majority of journalists accredited for De Ronde are required to prioritise the men’s race. Switching the women’s race to the Saturday as part of a Flemish cycling weekend would reduce the crowds on the roadside but – perhaps – increase its global visibility through the media.

Source: Cycling News