VeloNews.com » Gregor Brown http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Sun, 01 May 2016 15:00:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.1 Wilier signs on as new Southeast – Venezuela title sponsor http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/wilier-signs-on-as-new-southeast-venezuela-title-sponsor_403995 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/wilier-signs-on-as-new-southeast-venezuela-title-sponsor_403995#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:18:08 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=403995

Filippo Pozzato models Wilier Triestina – Southeast's new kit. Photo: Wilier Triestina – Southeast

The company already provided bikes for the Pro Continental team, and now will serve as title sponsor.

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Filippo Pozzato models Wilier Triestina – Southeast's new kit. Photo: Wilier Triestina – Southeast

MILAN (VN) — With seven days to the start of the Giro d’Italia, Wilier Triestina takes over the title sponsorship of team Southeast – Venezuela. The Italian bike manufacturer based in Italy’s northeast announced Friday the Pro Continental team will be known as Wilier Triestina – Southeast moving forward.

The team’s kit will change from grey and yellow to red and yellow. Star Filippo Pozzato and sprinter Jakub Mareczko will wear the team’s new colors when the Giro d’Italia kicks off in Apeldoorn, Netherlands on May 6. Their grey Wilier Triestina bikes will now be the company’s famous red.

“It was 1946 when the bright red jersey of Wilier Triestina made its debut in the world of professional cycling,” reads a press statement. “The color was an important choice at the time. The visibility was part of it: W Italia Libera E Redenta (“Long live Italy, liberated and redeemed”, the acronym that makes WILIER), was emblazoned on the chests of the riders’ amaranth red jerseys.”

Italian great Fiorenzo Magni rode a Wilier to victory in the 1948 Giro d’Italia and in the 1951 Tour of Flanders. In recent years, the Gastaldello brothers — Enrico, Michele, and Andrea — sponsored teams Mercatone Uno, Liquigas, Gerolsteiner, Cofidis, Lampre, and UnitedHealthcare.

“The team, led by Luca Scinto and Angelo Citracca, now turns red,” reads the statement. “As Wilier’s corporate color, the red jersey will represent all the history that the company brings to the peloton.”

The Italian team is one of four Professional Continental squads racing the 99th Giro d’Italia, scheduled for May 6-29, with a wildcard invitation. Its nine men will line up with the 18 WorldTour teams.

The team is not the first to change title sponsors before a major event. Highroad added new sponsors ahead of the Tour de France on a couple of occasions. Columbia sportswear joined as title sponsor ahead of the 2008 Tour and HTC joined in 2009. Also ahead of the 2008 Tour, Saxo Bank joined team CSC, which is now Tinkoff.

Belkin consumer electronics took over the sponsorship of Dutch team Rabobank/Blanco in June 2013. In 2015, during the Tour, the team welcomed Lotto and now races as LottoNL – Jumbo.

Southeast, located in Hangzhou, China, manufactures prefabricated metal panels for construction. It began sponsorship for the 2015 season. General manager Angelo Citracca told VeloNews that Venezuela will remain a smaller sponsor in the run-up to the Olympics this August, above all for the team’s two Venezuelan cyclists.

The second-division team has raced as Neri Sottoli, Yellow Fluo, and Vini Fantini over the years. Despite some doping scandals involving riders Danilo Di Luca, Mauro Santambrogio, and Matteo Rabottini, it participated in the last five editions of the Giro d’Italia. The team’s budget is believed to be around 5 million euros, or $5.7 million.

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Di Luca on doping: I don’t regret anything http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/danilo-di-luca-book-bestie-da-vittoria_403874 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/danilo-di-luca-book-bestie-da-vittoria_403874#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 16:55:41 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=403874

Danilo Di Luca is one of Italy's most infamous cyclists. His new book reveals the extent of his doping during the cycling's dark years. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

A new book by Danilo Di Luca reveals the extent of his career of cheating, with shocking details about his doping and career.

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Danilo Di Luca is one of Italy's most infamous cyclists. His new book reveals the extent of his doping during the cycling's dark years. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

MILAN (VN) — Danilo Di Luca does not regret anything, despite a pro career tainted by three EPO doping positives, a Giro d’Italia expulsion, and a lifetime ban from cycling. The Italian released a memoir this week recounting his life on the bike, which is full of shocking details.

“Bestie da Vittoria,” 288 pages for 17.50 euros, arrived on bookshelves Tuesday in Italy. The timing is near perfect, a week before the country’s biggest race, the Giro d’Italia, sets off. It is full of lines almost as colorful as his cycling career.

“I don’t regret anything,” the 40-year-old wrote.

Di Luca won the Giro d’Italia in 2007, but left question marks on that edition and cast a shadow on others in the years to come. He kept his 2007 title even if his urine tests from Monte Zoncolan were deemed suspicious. So clean, his urine was sometimes called ‘angel’s pee.’

Later that year, an oil-for-drugs doping investigation showed that he had used EPO in 2004 resulting in a roughly three-month ban. In 2009, with Lance Armstrong riding the Giro for the first and only time, he won two stages and placed second overall. Officials disqualified those results after exams showed that his ride was EPO-fueled.

Di Luca describes it all in his book. Even saying how he thought about his preparations for the 2013 Giro while driving home to Pescara: “I went over the upcoming training, studied the stages that I could win and how I would continue to ‘treat myself.'”

Di Luca’s book recalls his career with many equally troubling lines:

His career spanned from 1998 to 2013: “I could not have not doped.”

Di Luca won all three Ardennes classics, a Giro, and stages in the Vuelta a España: “Doping improves your performance between 5 and 7 percent, and maybe 10 to 12 percent when you are in a peak shape. If I had never doped, I wouldn’t have ever won.” He rode for teams including Saeco, Liquigas, LPR, Katusha: “Doping is not addictive, but it is an instrument of power: Who wins brings in the money to himself, to the team and the sponsors.”

He indicated he used some form of doping his entire career: “But I only started the serious stuff in 2001.”

His 2013 Giro preparation: “It included doping and non-doping substances: vitamins, amino acids, supplements, protein, EPO, cortisone, hormones of various types, corticosteroids, testosterone.”

He used 500 units of EPO on April 28, 2013: “Fifteen years ago, before the hematocrit controls, some would do up to 4,000 units per day. Madness.” The testers came the next morning and he began the Giro on May 4. On a snowed-out stage three weeks in, the test result came out. It was his third EPO positive, and he was finished with cycling for good.

The biological passport came about in 2008, in Di Luca’s time: “It saved our lives. It stopped us all killing ourselves.”

Di Luca would inject everywhere: “Put the tourniquet and inject yourself, like a junkie. If you miss the vein, try again with the other arm. Even under the skin in the belly, the legs … It’s part of the job. If you get caught, then you timed it wrong, because everyone knows how many hours must pass before you won’t show positive. ”

The new anti-doping test for EPO brought about micro-dosing and brought back the blood transfusions: “It was complicated. You need the bags, sterilized and suited for blood. Only the hospital has them. Then there’s the problem of where you keep them. I know some cyclists who gave them to a masseur, a wife or a girlfriend. Then one day, they find themselves being blackmailed: €50,000, or even 100,000 to 150,000. Living a criminal life can transform those around you.”

But he would not speak out on the problem: “The only thing worse than being caught is having the reputation of a Judas.”

He also contends that the doping affected his libido. On the eve of the 1999 Giro di Lombardia, he had a one-night stand: “Cyclists are known for being vigorous service providers, it’s all the testosterone they produce and devour. [The sex] took all my strength and softened my legs, and the next day I have 260 kilometers to race. I took some drugs to help stimulate the production of testosterone. I was strong, I was at front the whole race.” He finished second to Mirko Celestino that day.

The Giro has its temptations as well: “It’s full of girls: those from the caravan, the village, the podium girls. And the cyclists are full of testosterone, even if they are tired. They always want to screw. A caravan girl gave me her number. That night, we were in the same hotel. After dinner, I passed by her room and betrayed [my wife] Valentina.”

Valentina left him in the 2011 Giro: “I’m sorry she left, but I don’t suffer. Bike riding is suffering, the rest just a pity.”

He knew nothing else but cycling: “I lived in a bubble for years, I never took a train on my own, I never cooked an egg, I never truly knew the person sleeping next to me in bed. I lived in an altered reality. It was like always being on holiday, I thought only about climbing on my bike and winning.”

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Amid controversy, British Cycling director Sutton resigns http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/british-cycling-suspends-director-over-discrimination-row_403669 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/british-cycling-suspends-director-over-discrimination-row_403669#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 13:14:34 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=403669

Shane Sutton, pictured here at Sky's 2010 team presentation. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Reports say Shane Sutton made derogatory comments toward females on the British cycling team and also Paralympic cyclists.

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Shane Sutton, pictured here at Sky's 2010 team presentation. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — British Cycling suspended its successful director Shane Sutton just 100 days before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics over a deepening discrimination row. He is accused of making derogatory comments toward females and para-cyclists. Later on Wednesday, Sutton officially tendered his resignation.

“I believe it is in the best interests of British Cycling for me to step down from my position as technical director,” Sutton said “The developments over the past few days have clearly become a distraction. It is for this reason, and having spoken to friends and family, that I believe it is in the best interests of British Cycling for me to step down from my position as technical director.”

Darren Kenny, a Paralympic gold medalist, said he and others were regularly referred to as “gimps.” Four days ago, Jess Varnish said Sutton told her to “go away and have a baby” when he refused to renew her place on the team.

The federation banned Sutton overnight as it investigates the claims. The cycling superpower must act quickly if it intends to continue its domination at the upcoming Rio Games, which start August 5.

“British Cycling is announcing the formation of an independent review, in conjunction with UK Sport, of the federation’s performance programs following allegations of discriminatory behavior,” reads a statement from the federation. “We are fully committed to the principles and active promotion of equality of opportunity and we must take any such allegations seriously.”

In an update, British Cycling added, “Shane Sutton has been suspended pending an internal investigation into the allegations of discrimination that have been reported in the press.”

The Australian has helped steer British Cycling since 2002 to its large medal haul, which included nine track cycling medals at the 2012 London Olympics. Sutton coached Bradley Wiggins and others in the early years of Team Sky, seeing Wiggins to his 2012 Tour de France victory.

For his efforts, Queen Elizabeth II honored him with the title Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2010.

Sutton took over the coaching program when David Brailsford stepped away from British Cycling to focus solely on running Sky.

The hierarchy could quickly change, however, if recent press reports prove true. The Daily Mail published an article last Friday and quoted Varnish as saying, “Don’t get me wrong, the boys don’t get it easy, but I can’t imagine him [Sutton] saying something to one of the men about their body shape or telling them to go off and have a baby.”

British Cycling announced it would investigate, but moved to suspend Sutton after The Daily Mail published comments Tuesday from Kenny.

“We were tolerated at best,” Kenny said. “The term used to refer to us was generally ‘gimps,’ with another word in front of that. I know others had an issue as well with not being allowed on the track and not being given time to prepare for competitions.”

Sutton has yet to comment on the latest comments, but he did respond after the Varnish article appeared last week.

“I wholeheartedly deny that I said or did anything other than act with complete professionalism in my dealings with Jess,” Sutton said.

“As with all other riders on the track program, she was subject to a performance review following the worlds and the data did not justify Jess retaining a lottery-funded place on the podium program as an athlete with medal potential in this Olympic cycle or the next.”

Wednesday also saw fresh claims of discrimination after Malaysian cyclist Josiah Ng, the 2010 Commonwealth Games keirin champion, said Sutton had called him “Boatie” — a term which could be taken as a reference to people sailing from Asia to seek asylum in Australia.

Ng said he did not think Sutton had meant to be racist, writing on Facebook: “Shane used to always call me ‘boatie.’

“I could have taken offense (sic) and maybe I should have but I choose to shrug it off as his twisted sense of humor.”

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Mikel Landa: Doubts are gone now http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/landa-turns-season-around-to-become-giro-favorite_403509 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/landa-turns-season-around-to-become-giro-favorite_403509#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2016 13:37:25 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=403509

Mikel Landa hopes to land on the final podium at the upcoming Giro d'Italia. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Mikel Landa will start the Giro d'Italia in less than two weeks as one of the favorites to pull on the race winner's pink jersey.

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Mikel Landa hopes to land on the final podium at the upcoming Giro d'Italia. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — Basque climber Mikel Landa has gone from an uncertainty to a Giro d’Italia favorite in a short amount of time. After skipping races two months ago he is now racking up victories, including the Giro del Trentino last week.

Sky’s ace starts the 2016 Giro d’Italia next Friday in the Netherlands as a probable victor. Only 2013 winner Vincenzo Nibali, who also won the 2010 Vuelta a Espana and the 2014 Tour de France, has better odds. Astana’s Nibali is going off at 150 to win, according to bet365.com. Landa is at 250 and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde is at 450.

“I’m pleased with this win, it’s a big one that gives me motivation ahead of the Giro d’Italia,” Landa told Tutto Bici last Friday after the Giro del Trentino.

The British super team signed Landa over the winter after he raced with Astana for two years. Last year he placed third in the Giro d’Italia.

Landa replaced Richie Porte on the Sky roster, who joined BMC Racing. Landa is Sky’s main GC rider for the “Corsa Rosa,” scheduled for May 6-29.

Far from the Italian Alps in Spain, Landa did not appear on track earlier this season. He was due to start in Sky’s black colors in the Volta a Valenciana on February 3, but that debut was postponed to the Ruta del Sol on February 17. He needed more time on his time trial bike, he said, but then he fell sick and missed that race. The cold forced him to skip Italy’s Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico, too.

Landa bounced back well. He returned in the Coppi e Bartali stage race, and later won a stage in the Tour of the Basque Country — his home race — ahead of Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL – Jumbo), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). Following his overall win in the Giro del Trentino, Landa’s odds of winning the Giro’s pink jersey are good.

As always, the high passes through the Italian Alps from the country’s eastern border with Austria to the west along the French border mark the race route. “But there are time trials too,” Nibali’s trainer Paolo Slongo told VeloNews. “Landa has problems with time trialing.”

Landa lost four minutes to eventual winner Contador in the long time trial through the Prosecco hills last year, but he rebounded with two stage wins and placed third at 3:05 back.

“They call me a Giro favorite? Let’s see,” Landa said. “The Giro is three weeks long and already in Holland, the race starts with a flat and windy time trial.”

Landa found the best team to improve in time trialing. Bradley Wiggins called Sky his home for five years and he won the 2012 Tour de France thanks to his strength in the individual events. Landa works directly with sport director Dario Cioni, but also pulls on the knowledge of trainers Tim Kerrison and Rod Ellingworth.

“It’s something special here, I’ve never seen this in another team. Also the little details, a lot of the small things that can make us better. Everyone is looking for marginal gains,” Landa said in January.

“We started working hard in December, finding my position on the track. Now we are training once or twice a week on the time trial bike and focused on losing as little time as possible. I’m feeling more comfortable, I feel fast.”

Landa lost 2 minutes in the Basque Country time trial in early April, but he could record better times in the Giro with improving form. The mountains remain the Spaniard’s focus. These days, he trains on the passes in the Friuli, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Veneto regions. After a brief stop home in Spain, he’ll head to the Giro start in Apeldoorn, Netherlands next Tuesday.

“I had some doubts at the start of the season, but those are gone now,” Landa told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I expected more of a fight from Nibali [last] week, but in two weeks, it’ll be different. When he prepares for something, he never makes a mistake.”

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Will Nibali abandon Astana for new Middle Eastern team? http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/nibali-linked-to-bahrain-based-team-for-2017_403230 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/nibali-linked-to-bahrain-based-team-for-2017_403230#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 13:10:10 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=403230

Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour of Oman in February. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

A Bahraini team is quietly taking shape, and the squad is reportedly targeting Vincenzo Nibali and a spot in the WorldTour.

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Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour of Oman in February. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — A new team from the Middle East island nation of Bahrain is quietly taking shape with eyes on Vincenzo Nibali and the UCI WorldTour. In these days, Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa is reportedly sorting out sponsors and the team’s management.

The prince announced in February he is starting a top-level team via his Instagram account:

Its real!!! I would like to officially announce the birth of Bahrain cycling team. Our main effort is to introduce the cycling sport, encourage and support young athletes, to maintain a healthy life style in our region, and to compete with the best teams in the world. احب اعلن عن انشاء فريق البحرين للدراجات الهوائيه. مهمتنا الرئيسيه هي نشر الوعي و تعريف منطقتنا عن هذه الرياضه و تهيئة و دعم الابطال الصغار للمستقبل و نشر الثقافه لسلك نمط الحياه الصحيه و ايضاً منافسة اكبر الفرق العالميه لرفع اسم مملكة البحرين عالياً.

A photo posted by nasser13hamad (@nasser13hamad) on

Prince Nasser had been linked with Bjarne Riis’s new team and with team Tinkoff, but it appears he will begin a team from scratch and apply for a WorldTour license for 2017. One or possibly two spots will be open, with Oleg Tinkov folding his Tinkoff team and IAM Cycling’s future uncertain.

If it happens, the UCI would have its first WorldTour team from the Middle East after seeing the region host top-level events like the Tour of Qatar and the Abu Dhabi Tour. To make it possible, Slovenian Erzen Milan has been reaching out to cycling agents and companies.

Milan raced for several years and opened a development center in Slovenia. Prince Nasser reportedly was impressed and asked Milan to come to his island in the Persian Gulf to construct state-of-the-art stables for his million-dollar race horses. Now, Milan is focused on million-dollar cyclists.

Nibali has won all three grand tours, including the 2014 Tour de France. He is taking aim at winning his second Giro d’Italia title next month. Nibali’s contract is up at the end of this season and he could earn around $4 million a year for his next contract. Initial reports linked him to Trek – Segafredo, but general manager Luca Guercilena said Nibali decided to ride for Bahrain. The only other option would be for Nibali to renew his contract with Astana.

“Due to the elections in Kazakhstan, [Astana general manager] Alexandre Vinokourov has been busy,” Nibali’s agent Alex Carera told VeloNews. “We are going to discus a contract renewal option with him when he returns.”

The team could ride Specialized, which would sweeten the deal for Nibali because he has used the American bikes since he joined Astana in 2013. Canyon could be another option for the prince’s new venture.

Nibali’s group would also likely make the jump, including teammates Alessandro Vanotti and Valerio Agnoli, masseur Michele Pallini, and trainer Paolo Slongo. Giuseppe Martinelli could switch from being team manager at Astana to Bahrain.

Carera could become the team’s operations manager or general manager, but he would not comment on those reports. If that is the case, he would need to leave the agency business to his brother Johnny. If so, Peter Sagan would likely not join the Bahraini team as he is under the Careras’ rival agent Giovanni Lombardi.

Any Nibali news will not be official until August 1, when cyclists may freely announce their new contracts. What is certain for now is that Prince Nasser is planning to put Bahrain on the cycling map.

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Trainer: Nibali in good place ahead of Giro http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/trainer-nibali-in-good-place-ahead-of-giro_403143 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/trainer-nibali-in-good-place-ahead-of-giro_403143#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 13:37:45 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=403143

Vincenzo Nibali will try to win his second pink jersey next month in the Giro. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Vincenzo Nibali will attempt to win his second Giro title next month. His trainer and sport director says he's ready for the challenge.

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Vincenzo Nibali will try to win his second pink jersey next month in the Giro. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — Italian Vincenzo Nibali is on a good track for next month’s Giro d’Italia. Team Astana says he is calmer than ever and acclimatizing after returning from 16 days at altitude in Tenerife.

Nibali is one of only two current cyclists, along with with Alberto Contador, to have won all three grand tours. This year, he is aiming for the Giro d’Italia again after winning in 2013.

With other stars Chris Froome (Sky), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Contador (Tinkoff) racing the Tour de France this year, the pressure will be on Nibali to perform in the Giro.

“The pressure is not a problem,” Astana trainer and sport director Paolo Slongo told VeloNews. “We scare the other teams and Nibali can manage the situation.”

Some may have doubts. In the Giro del Trentino, an important build-up race, Nibali lost 32 seconds to probable Giro rival Mikel Landa (Sky) on the first mountain stage Wednesday. Slongo explained his star often suffers when dropping down from thin air and racing.

“He had a good feeling after the Tenerife camp, but it happened in the Tour de France already that he was not good right away,” Slongo said. “So the days coming down are important.”

Instead, Nibali’s Danish teammate Jakob Fuglsang took the reins and finished 14 seconds slower than Landa in stage 2 and was 10 seconds behind Landa in the general classification entering Thursday’s stage 3. Of Astana’s eight, Fuglsang was the only cyclist not to visit Spain’s volcanic island off the western coast of Africa.

Landa, however, now stands a good chance to win the Giro del Trentino’s overall title Friday with his advantage.

Astana is taking aim at the bigger Giro — the Giro d’Italia — from May 6-29. With only two weeks to go, Nibali appears calm. Last year at this point, he was struggling to reach his best for the Tour de France and Astana’s general manager Alexandre Vinokourov began to ask questions.

“Vincenzo is calmer now,” added Slongo. “Thinking of the Tour de France so far off on the horizon was hard for him because fans in Italy always wanted to see him on the attack in every race beforehand. This year, with the Giro, he’s calmer. It’s created a different atmosphere.

“Last year, he didn’t like going to some events not being on form. Now he’s running at a high level in the events he races in, 80 to 90 percent, besides when he started in Argentina this January. Already in the Tour of Oman, he was firing. But he also had has time when he’s off. I had him do 10 days of just pedaling after Tirreno-Adriatico. But starting in Tenerife, he went hard again.”

Nibali won the queen stage of the Tour of Oman to Green Mountain and the overall classification. In Tirreno-Adriatico, he did not have a chance to test himself because the race organizer canceled the main mountain stage due to bad weather.

The 2014 Tour de France winner told VeloNews in Oman, “I began slowly because I was aiming for the Tour in the last two years. I was more relaxed — which is a mistake.”

Nibali’s 2016 season is nearly flawless so far, besides Wednesday’s hiccup at Trentino. He can also be confident in the team Astana is building for the Giro d’Italia. On Tuesday, the first day of Trentino, the squad beat Sky in the 12.1-kilometer team time trial by 14 seconds.

Trentino closes with mountain stages Thursday and Friday, and then Nibali will race in Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“He is going to test himself against Landa, who will be at the Giro d’Italia, with Alejandro Valverde and Rigoberto Urán, but Landa is tough. He showed it already in País Vasco that he found his form and will be ready for the Giro,” Slongo said.

“Is Vincenzo the man to beat for the Giro? It’s hard to say. Landa has problems time trialling. Valverde is not going as he was last year, but Urán has been training in Tenerife with his teammates. Nothing’s certain.”

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Henao sidelined over biological passport inquiry http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/sky-pulls-henao-as-cadf-makes-inquiry-over-passport-numbers_402972 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/sky-pulls-henao-as-cadf-makes-inquiry-over-passport-numbers_402972#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2016 10:44:56 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=402972

Team Sky removed Sergio Henao ahead of Flèche Wallonne due to an inquiry into his biological passport numbers. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The Colombian climber has now been pulled twice because of questions over his biological passport readings.

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Team Sky removed Sergio Henao ahead of Flèche Wallonne due to an inquiry into his biological passport numbers. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — Team Sky’s Colombian climber Sergio Henao was sidelined for a second time by his team Wednesday due to ongoing questions about his biological passport readings. The Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) is making formal inquiries about the Colombian’s passport numbers from 2011 to 2015, and Sky pulled him from racing ahead of Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne.

In a statement released Wednesday, Sky officials confirmed Henao was contacted this week by CADF officials over blood and urine values taken between August 2011 and June 2015. In 2014, Sky voluntarily pulled the 28-year-old from competition because its in-house experts “had questions about Sergio’s out-of-competition control tests at altitude.”

“We recognize why the CADF have raised this issue as it is one we have obviously raised ourselves,” team principal Dave Brailsford said in a statement. “Thus far, Sergio’s data has been anonymous to the CADF experts. We hope and believe they will reach the same conclusions when they consider the background and all the evidence over the coming weeks.”

Sky was quick to point out this was not an anti-doping positive, and that the team voluntarily pulled Henao out of Flèche Wallonne, adding that living at altitude in Colombia may have created odd readings.

“The physiology of ‘altitude natives’ is a complex area,” Brailsford added.

The CADF requested more information about Henao’s numbers and may forward the case to the UCI’s anti-doping tribunal. In the past, Franco Pellizotti, Leif Hoste, and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke served bans involving biological passport cases.

Back in top form following a knee injury, Henao was a favorite for Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne and Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He is also scheduled to ride the Giro d’Italia in support of Mikel Landa. There was no word on how long the inquiry might take or when Henao might return to racing.

“I am beyond disappointed,” Henao said in a statement. “I have worked incredibly hard to get back to racing fitness after shattering my knee last year — but I know who I am, how hard I have worked and the sacrifices I have made to be where I am today. I am calm and confident that this will be resolved soon so I can get back to racing as soon as possible.”

The UCI has yet to comment, but Team Sky issued the following statement Wednesday morning:

In March 2014, Team Sky took the tough decision to withdraw Sergio Henao from racing for a period of three months.

As we announced at the time, this was as a result of the team’s own internal monitoring of Athlete Biological Passports and in response to Sergio’s initial out-of-competition control tests at altitude in Colombia. These tests were introduced that winter by the anti-doping authorities.

Sergio was born in Colombia and raised in the mountains. He goes back to Colombia during the winter and lives and trains at different altitude levels. The team’s understanding of the effects of such prolonged periods at altitude after returning from sea level has been limited by a lack of scientific research into ‘altitude natives’ such as Sergio.

At the time, Team Sky made this issue public and drew it to the attention of the relevant authorities — the UCI and Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) — and asked them for assistance. To aid our understanding of Sergio’s readings, we then commissioned a 10-week research programme led by Dr Eddie Hampton, a consultant haematologist from the University of Sheffield, with other independent scientific experts. This programme involved further randomised blood and urine tests at sea level and altitude, undertaken through WADA accredited laboratories.

After completing their research, the experts had the highest level of confidence that the readings which prompted us to undertake further testing were the athlete’s normal response to altitude. As a result, Sergio returned to racing with Team Sky in June 2014.

Sergio has this week been contacted by the CADF with a request for more information with regards to readings on his Athlete Blood Passport between August 2011 to June 2015. These include the same readings which prompted us to undertake further research in 2014. Given the team had drawn the attention of anti-doping authorities to the issue at the time, this does not come as a surprise.

Sergio has not failed a drug test and the CADF process is conducted confidentially. However, given that we have raised this issue in the past, we feel it is important to set out our latest position.

We continue to support Sergio and remain confident in the independent scientific research which was undertaken. We will be helping Sergio make his case robustly over the coming period. He will also withdraw from racing until the issue is resolved given this contact from the CADF and the very obvious distraction to him. There is no obligation on us to do this, but it is team policy if and when a formal process such as this begins.

We do have to recognise the CADF process going forward so we hope people understand why we will be unable to give further commentary on it over the coming weeks. It is our hope that this can be looked at and resolved quickly by all the relevant authorities so Sergio can start racing again soon.

Dave Brailsford said:

“The physiology of ‘altitude natives’ is a complex area. The science is limited and in recent years we have proactively sought to understand it better by undertaking detailed scientific research — both for Sergio and for the benefit of clean sport more widely. We recognise why the CADF have raised this issue as it is one we have obviously raised ourselves. Thus far Sergio’s data has been anonymous to the CADF experts. We hope and believe they will reach the same conclusions when they consider the background and all the evidence over the coming weeks.

“We believe in Sergio. He has just come back to full fitness after spending eight months recovering from a potentially career ending crash. But we respect the CADF process and will apply our team policy in the circumstances.

“We will continue to support him fully during this period so he can get back to racing as soon as possible.”

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IAM Cycling’s future uncertain as it searches for bigger budget http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/iam-cyclings-future-uncertain-as-it-searches-for-bigger-budget_402911 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/iam-cyclings-future-uncertain-as-it-searches-for-bigger-budget_402911#comments Tue, 19 Apr 2016 13:29:37 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=402911

IAM Cycling has been around since 2013, and it joined the WorldTour last season. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Team owner and manager Michel Thétaz tells VeloNews he needs to secure more funding — and he's giving himself until mid-May.

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IAM Cycling has been around since 2013, and it joined the WorldTour last season. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — Swiss WorldTour team IAM Cycling continues to search for a co-sponsor to increase its budget, but it’s also considering an early exit from cycling. Nothing is certain until mid-May, says owner and manager Michel Thétaz.

Thétaz began the team in 2013 and took it to the WorldTour two years later. With demands high at that level, however, he needs another backer to augment his $13 million budget.

“I always said to the riders and staff that I will give it until Mid-may to decide,” Thétaz said to VeloNews after returning from a recent ski trip.

“I will take everything into consideration. In theory, we could stop the team. Yes, but we could also continue for 20 years. We have to be realistic.”

The Swiss businessman began the team to support his company, Independent Asset Management (IAM). In 2013, the squad began with a modest $7.5 million budget in the second division. With its spot in the WorldTour, though, the stakes have risen.

“It’s a lot of my money? I like it. It’s good for IAM, the product, good for me, and good for the cyclists. But we have to continue to progress,” Thétaz added.

“The key thing is continuing to grow. If not, it’s money down the drain for a sponsor.

“I want to still find a co-sponsor and get credibility and visibility for the team. The riders want to win. We are close to some big wins, but we need resources to pull it off.

“The big teams have budgets around 20 million euros ($22.65 million). You see the difference. We are ranked 12th in the WorldTour, but if we had big money, 20 million, then we could be up there with the top teams.”

Australian Heinrich Haussler pulled off one of his best performances last week in Paris-Roubaix and brought the team a sixth-place result. The team counts four wins already this year, more than other WorldTour teams Cannondale, LottoNL – Jumbo, Ag2r La Mondiale, Lampre – Merida, and Giant – Alpecin.

“I’m proud of the team’s spirit, the way the team works together for one. They do that better than some of the big budget teams,” added Thétaz.

“And last year, we put a Swiss, Mathias Frank, in the top 10 of the Tour de France. It’s been 17 years since we’ve had a Swiss in the top 10.”

To continue riding at the top level, IAM Cycling needs either a co-sponsor or “resources” soon. Without one, and with a couple of other teams jockeying for 2017 WorldTour spots, Thétaz may need to reconsider. He is giving himself one month.

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Motorized cheating report raises more questions http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/motorized-cheating-report-raises-more-questions_402803 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/motorized-cheating-report-raises-more-questions_402803#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 16:32:01 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=402803

Are heat sensors a better way to test for motorized cheating? UCI says current MRI methods are still the best option.

Amid controversy over reported cheating at Strade Bianche, UCI insists current motor tests are the best option to check bikes at races.

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Are heat sensors a better way to test for motorized cheating? UCI says current MRI methods are still the best option.

MILAN (VN) — A report Sunday that professional cyclists cheated with motors in recent Italian races raises more questions than answers as the UCI races for better detection methods.

Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera and France Télévisions Stade 2 reported that seven cyclists cheated in March races Strade Bianche and Coppi e Bartali. It filmed the cyclists using a hidden thermal video camera, which shows bright yellow and orange for heat.

Neither the Corriere della Sera newspaper article nor Stade 2’s 20-minute show named the cyclists. Stade 2’s “Moteurs, ça roule!,” or “Motors, they’re running!” program showed its reporter sharing the colorful footage with UCI president Brian Cookson. Cookson said, “interesting.”

It is unclear if the UCI now has those names in hand. However, it appears the body is not going to investigate the cyclists even if it knows their identities. Instead, it is steadfast in its plans to continue using magnetic bike scanners.

“We have looked at thermal imaging, x-ray, and ultrasonic testing, but by far the most cost-effective, reliable, and accurate method has proved to be magnetic resonance testing using software we have created in partnership with a company of specialist developers,” said the Switzerland-based body yesterday. “The scanning is done with a tablet and enables an operator to test the frame and wheels of a bike in less than a minute.”

Will Corriere della Sera or France Télévisions release the names of the cyclists it spotted? It used a device similar to the FLIR T420 Thermal Imaging Camera which costs around $9,000 online. It detects and shows emitted energy from the object, in this case the cyclist and his bicycle.

Their footage showed glowing yellow and orange coming from the seat tube and bottom bracket in five cases and from the rear hub and wheel in two other cases. The report’s two cases suggest what many have been speculating: the existence and use of electromagnetic wheels. The Corriere della Sera interviewed developer Istvan Varjas from Budapest who said one could gain 60 watts with the 50,000-euro ($56,400) wheel.

Raising more questions, Stade 2 showed footage of Alberto Contador changing wheels ahead of the Mortirolo climb in last year’s Giro d’Italia. Contador climbed in 45:14 minutes (at 15.52kph) and went on to win the Giro. It also showed footage of his mechanic fiddling with his watch and spinning Contador’s rear wheel while waiting for the UCI to check the bicycle. At the beginning of the 20-minute show, it briefly played video of Ryder Hesjedal and Ion Izaguirre crashing — and their rear wheels continuing to spin on their own. All the clips, as well as arguments explaining the movements, can be found on the Internet.

For now, with the seven professional cyclists’ names unknown, Femke Van den Driessche surfaces when one searches on motorized cycling cheats. The 19-year-old Belgian was caught with a motor in her spare bike at the cyclocross world championship in January. The UCI caught her with its beefed-up tablet. With curiosity high, it is reportedly planning a demonstration of its detection method soon.

The professional riders association is also pressuring the UCI to do more. “The CPA is asking for the UCI to impose exemplary and severe sanctions such as life bans for the riders who commit offenses because they throw mud all over the honest cycling of the majority,” said Gianni Bugno, head of the CPA.

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Italian, French media say video shows hidden motors http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/italian-french-media-say-video-shows-hidden-motors_402683 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/italian-french-media-say-video-shows-hidden-motors_402683#comments Sun, 17 Apr 2016 16:45:30 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=402683

A French television station and an Italian newspaper say that thermal video points to the use of hidden motors at Strade Bianche last month. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (file)

Italian and French media say video captured via thermal camera points to "motorized doping" in the peloton

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A French television station and an Italian newspaper say that thermal video points to the use of hidden motors at Strade Bianche last month. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (file)

MILAN (VN) — Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper and France’s Télévisions Stade 2 say video evidence shows riders cheating with motors at Italian races Strade Bianche and Coppi e Bartali this March.

The Italian and French media outlets collaborated to capture images from the races using a hidden thermal video camera. Published footage shows seven riders’ bicycles lit up brightly yellow and orange, five with heat coming from their seat-tubes and two with heat in their hubs.

“It happened in March, in Strade Bianche and Coppi e Bartali,” reported Corriere della Sera. “UCI controls? No, images from from France Télévisions’ hidden camera.”

Since April 2010, when some accused Fabian Cancellara of using a motor in the classics, cycling’s governing body has ramped up its controls. Over the course of the last year, the UCI has used tablets to test bikes for hidden motors. This winter, Belgian junior racer Femke Van den Driessche was caught with a motor at the cyclocross world championships in Belgium.

It is unknown whether the UCI is supplementing that testing with thermal cameras like the one used for Sunday’s report.

“The UCI is using its tablet at the start area where the motors are off,” reported the Corriere della Sera. “They are using a Tesla meter. We tested it one like the UCI’s, and it is unreliable for the elusive magnetic field.”

“We have looked at thermal imaging, x-ray and ultrasonic testing but by far the most cost effective, reliable and accurate method has proved to be magnetic resonance testing using software we have created in partnership with a company of specialist developers,” the UCI said in a statement Sunday. “The scanning is done with a tablet and enables an operator to test the frame and wheels of a bike in less than a minute.

“It is with this scanning method that we detected a hidden motor at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Heusden Zolder in January 2016 where we tested over 100 bikes. We have tested bikes at many races this year (for example 216 at Tour of Flanders, 224 at Paris-Roubaix) and will continue to test heavily in all disciplines throughout the year. Co-operation from teams and riders as we have deployed these extensive tests has been excellent. We are confident that we now have a method of detection that is extremely efficient and easy to deploy”

Corriere della Sera did not name the riders depicted in the film and did not say whether it handed the information over to the UCI to catch the cyclists. It reported that the new seat-tube motors generate 250 watts, and that magnetic induction wheel technology generates 60, with an expert putting the wheel’s cost at around €50,000 or $56,400.

Former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins said in February, “I’m sure [motorized cheating] happened in the past but they haven’t found them.” The UCI said it was considering a lifetime ban for Femke Van den Driessche, but has yet to release its decision.

“They should suspend them for life,” cycling great Eddy Merckx said. “For me they should suspend them for life. This is the worst that they can do, they should just race motorbikes then.”

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Matured Boswell ready for Giro debut http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/matured-boswell-ready-giro-debut_402583 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/matured-boswell-ready-giro-debut_402583#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2016 16:32:28 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=402583

Sky's Ian Boswell is set to race the Giro d'Italia in support of Mikel Landa. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Ian Boswell is set to make his first Giro d'Italia start in support of Sky teammate Mikel Landa

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Sky's Ian Boswell is set to race the Giro d'Italia in support of Mikel Landa. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — Ian Boswell, after working for Sky’s Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, will line up in the Giro d’Italia in May sharper and more mature.

Boswell is set to make the start in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, on May 6, riding the first grand tour of the year in support of Spanish teammate Mikel Landa. Having spent time training and racing with Froome and helping Thomas recently to win Paris-Nice, he says that he feels up to the task.

“Froome and Thomas rubbed off. The biggest thing has been learning to be consistent. That’s the biggest thing to being a GC rider,” Boswell told VeloNews. He spoke via a spotty telephone line from a training camp on Tenerife’s volcanic Mount Teide, where he has been riding with Froome and Thomas.

“Before, I was sporadic, with a big training ride and then I’d crash and be tired. Or maybe a quick diet that I’d pay for. I learned to be consistent and to do things in moderation.”

Asked what, if anything, the big stars learned from the 25-year-old from Oregon, “The American fist pump greeting!”

Boswell is taking his work seriously. After starting the season in Australia with Froome, the two trained together in South Africa at altitude. Boswell then helped Thomas win his biggest stage race yet in Paris-Nice. Just like last year in several stages of the Critérium du Dauphiné, he rode at the front often, particularly on the Madone d’Utelle climb that he knows well from his training rides around his base in Nice, France.

“I’ve grown up and matured a bit,” Boswell said. “Compared to last years, the quality of my race schedule has been upped. I spoke with the team about having more WorldTour races if I need to do well in the Giro. That paid off, I saw that in Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya.”

For 2016, Boswell took aim at starting his second grand tour. His debut in the Vuelta a España last year went we well. With Froome suffering due to a crash, he had a chance to fight for a stage win in the third week on a tough day through Andorra and placed third behind Landa, then with team Astana, and eventual winner Fabio Aru.

“I’ve been a reliable teammate working my way up the pecking order. My goal was the Giro and it’s awesome to be able to have a chance to race it and support Landa,” said Boswell. “I am able to ride on the flats if needed for [sprinter Elia] Viviani, but also I’ll be there in the mountains for Landa. I know the last stages well from my training camps at Isola 2000.”

Boswell will travel to Bergamo, Italy, on Saturday. He and some of the Giro team, including Landa, will race the Giro del Trentino from Tuesday through Thursday. It is his last stop before the Giro, which kicks off in the Netherlands this year.

“I respond well to grand tour training. I want to keep working up the pecking order with Sky.”

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Can top teams afford Sagan’s $6m price tag? http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/can-top-teams-afford-sagans-6m-price-tag_402516 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/can-top-teams-afford-sagans-6m-price-tag_402516#comments Thu, 14 Apr 2016 16:10:20 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=402516

The team that hires Peter Sagan in 2017 will get an immensely talented rider who is a media darling, but the price will be very high. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

Peter Sagan comes on the market in 2017 and he could command a record $6.77 million annual salary — greater than Chris Froome's pay.

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The team that hires Peter Sagan in 2017 will get an immensely talented rider who is a media darling, but the price will be very high. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

MILAN (VN) — Peter Sagan could become the highest-paid cyclist in the sport if the stars align in his favor — and so far they have. Tinkoff’s Slovakian won the world championship and, in the rainbow jersey, won his first monument at Tour of Flanders two weeks ago.

Numbers are hard to come by, and no one will confirm contract values, but word in the peloton is that the 26-year-old aims become the first six-million-euro man for 2017. Such a contract, at $6.77 million annually, would be unheard of in cycling.

Two-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome re-signed with Sky this January for an estimated 4 million pounds ($5.65 million) annually and top sprinter Mark Cavendish earns in the ballpark of 2 million euros ($2.25 million) per year with Dimension Data.

“He’s asking for big numbers, but I can’t confirm the amount,” Trek – Segafredo manager Luca Guercilena told VeloNews. Asked about the 6 million euros figure, he said, “The amount is more or less that.”

Sagan has a deal with his Russian WorldTour team through 2017, but all signs point to the team closing shop at the end of this season. Owner Oleg Tinkov is pulling out and no replacement backer has stepped forward.

Trek – Segafredo needs to replace Fabian Cancellara, who retires at the end of 2016. It is also shopping for a grand tour winner with eyes on Vincenzo Nibali. Guercilena, however, recently said the deal will not happen because Nibali seems destined for a new Bahraini team.

Along with Trek – Segafredo, teams Etixx – Quick-Step, BMC Racing, and Giant – Alpecin could be interested in Sagan. Of course, money is an issue. Even at 4 million euro ($4.51 million), general manager Patrick Lefevere does not know if he can afford having Sagan in his Etixx team.

“Four million is 20 percent of my budget, and that does not even include the entourage he would bring,” Lefevere told Het Laatste Nieuws. He added that Mike Sinyard, Specialized founder and president, called to talk about keeping Sagan on his bikes and wearing Etixx’s blue colors.

Sagan has never won a Tour de France and is nowhere near Cavendish’s 26 stage wins in the race, but he has something else. He can win year-round in smaller races and score big in the the most publicized events. Besides the Ronde and worlds, Sagan won the green jersey four times in the Tour, Gent-Wevelgem twice and stages in nearly every race, including 13 from the Tour of California plus the 2015 GC title in that week-long race.

He can also entertain with wheelies and power-slides, and even pull off a one-legged bunny-hop to escape certain carnage. It would be a win-win scenario for any team, regardless of Sagan’s results.

“It would be one of most important salaries for cycling, but he would make any team happy,” Guercilena added.

“He has a strong image so he can go to the market with those numbers. A grand tour rider goes only one month or so, but a classics rider goes in April and then goes again in a grand tour where he can win some stages. Sagan, even in a stage race, brings high visibility. So it makes sense that he asks for big money.”

The supply of cyclists on the market works against him, however. Geraint Thomas (Sky), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL – Jumbo), John Degenkolb (Giant – Alpecin), and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) are just a few of the riders on the market for 2017. And they all share similar palmares and characteristics to Sagan.

“It’s not easy. It depends on the market, how many others are available and many other factors,” said Guercilena.

“[Sagan’s asking price] is a serious number given the budgets currently in cycling. If I’m not mistaken, the average team budget is 14 million euros. A team has to dedicate itself exclusively to that rider and it becomes harder to build a team with other high-level athletes.”

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Paolini banned 18 months for cocaine use http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/paolini-banned-18-months-for-cocaine-use_402387 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/paolini-banned-18-months-for-cocaine-use_402387#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 12:34:36 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=402387

Luca Paolini was handed an 18-month ban for a failed anti-doping test at the 2015 Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The UCI imposes the suspension after Italian Luca Paolini tested positive for cocaine during the 2015 Tour de France.

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Luca Paolini was handed an 18-month ban for a failed anti-doping test at the 2015 Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — Italian Luca Paolini received an 18-month ban Wednesday from cycling’s governing body for a cocaine positive at the 2015 Tour de France.

The decision may be backdated, but it would still prohibit the 39-year-old from racing this season. He will be eligible to return in 2017, when he will be 40 years old.

“The Anti-Doping Tribunal found the rider guilty of a non-intentional anti-doping rule violation (presence of a cocaine metabolite — benzoylecgonine) and imposed an 18-month period of ineligibility on the rider,” a UCI statement reads.

The UCI said it would publish the tribunal’s ruling on its website later Wednesday.

Team officials booted Paolini from the 2015 Tour on July 10. Test results from July 7, after the cobbled fourth stage to Cambrai, showed traces of cocaine in his system.

Paolini reasoned that it was technically an out-of-competition positive, which would not draw a ban, as he used the substance during a June training camp. It is unclear how the cocaine could have lingered in his body until July 7 without the pre-Tour tests detecting it.

In December, Paolini revealed how he struggled with an addiction to sleeping medicine Benzodiazepine. That drug is not prohibited and Paolini said he purchased it with a prescription. However, he maintains he only used cocaine once.

“Benzodiazepine created a bad dependency,” Paolini said. “I needed it at night to rest, to confront the physical and mental effort of the next day. In the last two to three years, I always used it, at home and at the races. I was dependent. Then came cocaine. It was inevitable for me. I took it when I was alone at a pre-Tour training camp in mid-June. It made me open my eyes to the dependency I had on sleeping medication.”

Katusha avoided a team suspension due to multiple doping cases when the UCI ruled in February Paolini’s drug use was recreational. It gave him hope the anti-doping tribunal would show him the same leniency.

Paolini worked years in the service of leaders, helping Joaquím Rodríguez and Alexander Kristoff score their victories while wearing Katusha’s red colors. Paolini himself has also bagged wins, in the 2013 Giro d’Italia, the 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and the 2015 Gent-Wevelgem.

Paolini had hoped to return to racing this season. He posted a photograph of himself training on his Katusha team bike while watching Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in February and rode the Tour de Flanders sportive the day before the pros raced.

The news of his ban comes less than 24 hours after another Italian professional, Mattia Gavazzi, tested positive for cocaine for a third time. He failed a test as an amateur, then again with team Collage – CSF Inox in 2010, and again with team Amore & Vita – Selle SMP while at the 2015 Tour of Qinghai Lake. The UCI confirmed Gavazzi’s B sample positive for cocaine Tuesday.

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Orica boss: ‘Hayman was in another league’ http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/hayman-was-in-another-league_402334 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/hayman-was-in-another-league_402334#comments Tue, 12 Apr 2016 13:54:35 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=402334

Paris-Roubaix was Mathew Hayman's second victory in his 17-year professional career. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Despite breaking a radius bone at Omloop, Mathew Hayman came roaring back to form to win big at Roubaix after 17 years of domestique work.

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Paris-Roubaix was Mathew Hayman's second victory in his 17-year professional career. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — Orica-GreenEdge boss Shayne Bannan never saw a Mathew Hayman like the one he saw win Paris-Roubaix on Sunday in northern France. He says that the 37-year-old Aussie “was in another league” slugging it out against heavyweights like Tom Boonen and Ian Stannard.

Hayman was the only one in the five-man front group from the day’s early escape that went at 85 kilometers into the 255.5-kilometer race. When Stannard accelerated on the Camphin-en-Pévèle sector at 20 kilometers to race, Hayman followed and effectively entered ring for the title fight.

“This fulfills his cycling dream. He should feel a pretty completed person after this,” Bannan told VeloNews off to the side of Roubaix’s velodrome while his star accepted the cobblestone trophy.

“Tactically, in the last 20 kilometers, Mat Hayman was in another league. It was like watching the final round of a heavyweight fight, it was really just the last man standing. They all gave each other the same respect even if Hayman had been away all day.”

Hayman spent 170.5 kilometers away in the escape. First the group numbered 16. Others like Imanol Erviti (Movistar) tried to remain when the favorites bridged, but only Hayman had the staying power. He formed a group of five with Etixx’s Boonen, Sky’s Stannard, Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL – Jumbo), and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data).

“He was in the escape, he conserved well, he ate, drank with all the carnage happening behind. He was able to regulate how he was going,” Bannan added.

“It was unexpected, but in saying that, he’s the most expected guy out there in the field. He knows he doesn’t have many years left him. He is so passionate about this race, he lives it and breathes it. He had his day.”

Hayman raced for Rabobank and Sky before joining Australian WorldTour team Orica in 2014. In those 17 years since 2000, he only collected three wins: the Commonwealth Games road race, Paris-Bourges, and Sunday his third, Paris-Roubaix. He spent most of years working for others.

Five weeks ago, Bannan did not even expect Hayman to race Paris-Roubaix. In fact, the team sent out a press release on February 28 titled “Hayman to miss Spring Classics after crash” in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad that resulted in a fractured right radius bone.

“Five weeks ago, we didn’t even know if he was starting Roubaix. We didn’t make that decision until a couple of weeks ago,” Bannan said.

“His preparation was a little different coming here. He obviously didn’t do the Tour of Flanders last weekend, but he rode a couple of one-day races in Spain. He’s been doing a lot of work on the indoor bike and transferred that out on the road once he had the clearance from the doctor. It was his extra motivation to do more because he wasn’t racing and coming into the race without pressure, but still wanting to do something.”

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Boonen: Why not ride on in 2017? http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/boonen-not-ride-2017_402156 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/boonen-not-ride-2017_402156#comments Sun, 10 Apr 2016 19:22:37 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=402156

He may not have taken a fifth career Paris-Roubaix victory, but Tom Boonen did deliver another podium performance Sunday at age 35. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

After another strong showing in Roubaix, 35-year-old Tom Boonen can't see any reason why he should hang up the bike just yet

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He may not have taken a fifth career Paris-Roubaix victory, but Tom Boonen did deliver another podium performance Sunday at age 35. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Tom Boonen (Etixx–Quick-Step) fell just short of winning a record fifth title in Paris-Roubaix today, but took away enough confidence that he should continue his career into 2017.

The 35-year-old Belgian avoided crashes and marked attacks on northern France’s farm roads, and just lost the sprint to Mathew Hayman (Orica-GreenEdge). The win would have put him one above Roger De Vlaeminck and made him Roubaix’s absolute best. Instead, he took away a second place. But that means something too, considering he crashed and fractured his skull six months ago in October.

“Mixed emotions? Yeah. In the end, I am not sure which emotion will be the top emotion,” Boonen said to a crowded pressroom in the covered velodrome adjacent to the famous outdoor one.

“I am happy with my performance. I knew after my injury it was going to be hard to get on a good level. I started to feel better, and I was getting hope for today. I knew the past few weeks, from experience, that I was getting better. I needed some hard finals. I was on a good level, maybe not the best. Maybe being second won’t be so bad for the future, maybe it will give me confidence for another year.”

Last year, Boonen renewed his contract through 2016 and made his goals the classics and a second world title in the Doha world championships. The classics became a risk after he fell in the Abu Dhabi Tour and broke part of his skull.

“This morning I got message from doctor who treated me in Abu Dhabi that said today was the day I could ride my bike again,” Boonen added. “I am a little bit ahead of schedule.”

He did not look his usual “Tommeke” self at E3 Harelbeke two weeks ago or at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) on Sunday. However, he and the team kept saying that he was improving and that he could possibly reach top form for the last race in his cobbled classic campaign. He appeared to arrive right on time.

Etixx hammered on the front of the peloton with several helpers midway through Sunday’s race. Tony Martin led the group when Alexander Porsev (Katusha) crashed and caused a split on the Quérénaing sector at 115 kilometers to race. Favorites Fabian Cancellara (Trek – Segafredo) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) were left behind. Boonen looked perfectly placed for a fifth title, but his attack inside the final 3km was countered by Hayman, who still had enough to hold off Boonen in the velodrome sprint.

“Mat was the rider that no one was looking at. Edvald was fast, Ian strong, Sep good on cobbles … I felt like it was a good moment, when Mat passed me, he was going strong, and I thought he played it smart.

“I have a few days off, and will need the time to think about the stuff that happened the last four months. I was rushing myself to be in shape. But right now, I cannot think of a reason why I shouldn’t come back next year.”

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Cancellara: Roubaix was love at first sight http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/cancellara-roubaix-was-love-at-first-sight_401960 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/cancellara-roubaix-was-love-at-first-sight_401960#comments Sat, 09 Apr 2016 13:49:00 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=401960

Fabian Cancellara finished his final Tour of Flanders last Sunday, and this weekend he'll take on his last Paris-Roubaix. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Fabian Cancellara will make his final Paris-Roubaix start this Sunday

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Fabian Cancellara finished his final Tour of Flanders last Sunday, and this weekend he'll take on his last Paris-Roubaix. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

GHENT, Belgium (VN) — Fabian Cancellara fell in love 13 years ago in northern France riding the famed Paris-Roubaix. He failed to finish in 2003, but has since dominated the mean and ugly pavé farm roads, taking home three of the famous cobble trophies. Sunday, he races for the final time.

Cancellara will retire at the end of 2016 after a career that includes not only three wins in Paris-Roubaix — in 2006, 2010, and 2013 — but three in the Belgian monument Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and four time trial world titles too.

Every spring, he keeps returning to the Hotel Weinebrugge in Bruges where team Trek-Segafredo bases itself for the cobbled classics. Yesterday, the 35-year-old Swiss rider from Bern spoke with journalists in the meeting room before waving goodbye to the hotel staff today and traveling south to Compiègne for the start of his 12th Paris-Roubaix.

He agreed that it was love at first sight for him in France, unlike De Ronde, where he had to wait nine years to win the first time in 2010. “In my first Roubaix, I gave it up at the second feed zone,” he said. “In my second, I fought all day for the win [4th in 2004].

“It is a game more than just good legs, you have to be mentally strong, don’t crack after some bad luck, because it can still turn around. You can’t quickly throw in the towel.”

He is a favorite Sunday, like he has been before. He showed why he should be with an attack in the Tour of Flanders on the cobbled Kwaremont climb and a chase behind eventual winner Peter Sagan (Tinkoff). He is currently a slight favorite with most oddsmakers, with Sagan close behind. Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL-Jumbo) stands as the bookies’ third favorite. Tom Boonen (Etixx–Quick-Step), a four-time winner who suffered a skull fracture in October, is a bit further down the list this year.

Unlike the younger Sagan, who has only raced four times and placed as highly as sixth, Cancellara brings loads of experience with him. He can draw on years of highs and lows over the 52.8 kilometers of cobbles that make up the 257.5-kilometer monument.

“All my wins were special,” he explained. “The first one was special because it was my first. My win in 2010 came after a 50-kilometer solo attack and in 2013, I out-sprinted Sep Vanmarcke. Each of those victories I cherish.”

Cancellara planned for an early evening Friday after Trek – Segafredo and the hotel staff prepared dinner. “I can’t stay awake all night thinking about my last Roubaix,” he said.

Today, he enters the arena. Organizer ASO presents the teams this afternoon in Compiègne, the start of the race 55 miles north of Paris. The 25 teams meet again in the morning where Cancellara will begin his fight for a fourth title at 10:40 local time.

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Sagan: Destiny will decide Roubaix http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/sagan-destiny-will-decide-roubaix_401896 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/sagan-destiny-will-decide-roubaix_401896#comments Fri, 08 Apr 2016 16:47:08 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=401896

Peter Sagan says his Paris-Roubaix is in the hands of fate, but his relatively weak Tinkoff team may actually be the deciding factor Sunday. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Peter Sagan has a zen mindset ahead of Paris-Roubaix, but it may be his comparatively weak team, not fate, that decides Sunday's race.

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Peter Sagan says his Paris-Roubaix is in the hands of fate, but his relatively weak Tinkoff team may actually be the deciding factor Sunday. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

GENT, Belgium (VN) — Peter Sagan’s Paris-Roubaix is in the hands of fate. After winning Gent-Wevelgem and the Ronde van Vlaanderen over the last two weeks, he aims for a rare triple this Sunday.

Sagan won his first monument with Belgium’s Tour of Flanders on Sunday with a solo attack on the Paterberg climb. If he wins on Sunday in northern France, he would be only the second cyclist to win the double wearing the rainbow jersey alongside Rik Van Looy in 1962. That year, Van Looy also won Gent-Wevelgem.

“If it’s my destiny to win, then I will,” Sagan said. “If not, then I won’t. Destiny will decide.”

Team Tinkoff’s star stepped off the neon yellow bus in a black version of his world champion’s jersey ahead of a training ride on the famous cobbles. This year, the riders face 27 sectors or 52.8 kilometers of the terrible farm roads over the course of the 257.5-kilometer race that ends in the Roubaix velodrome.

Destiny, or bad luck, often comes into play in the Queen of the Classics. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step) looked in position to play for the win in 2013 but crashed into a fan on the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector. Last year, Sagan had a mechanical problem with only five kilometers remaining and threw his bike in disgust.

If his day goes without a hitch, Sagan is the favorite to win on Roubaix’s velodrome. In terms of odds, he is going off at 300 to win, Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) at 333, and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL – Jumbo) at 700 (from PaddyPower).

Sagan spoke little in the crowed press circle on Friday. “I’m relaxed,” Sagan said. “I’m starting without any expectations.”

It may not actually be destiny, but team strength that prevents Sagan from doing what only Van Looy could do 54 years ago. His squad took a hit when Maciej Bodnar crashed in training ahead of Flanders and was unable to race. He said that it brings him good luck to have brother Juraj Sagan and Michael Kolar in the Roubaix team since both Slovakians were there when he won his world title in Richmond, Virginia, and Flanders in Oudenaarde.

In key moments at recent cobbled classics, though, he lacked his yellow guard and relied on sheer strength. That alone may leave him empty handed in Roubaix.

“Team tactics play out the most in Roubaix, that can be especially good for our team,” four-time winner Tom Boonen said after Flanders. “We’re not worried.”

Belgium’s Etixx – Quick-Step lacks a big star for Sunday with Boonen still fighting to reach his best after he crashed and fractured his skull last October in the Abu Dhabi Tour. What it does have, though, is several top men with Boonen, 2014 winner Niki Terpstra, Stybar, Stijn Vandenbergh, and Tony Martin.

“We have a strong support team that showed last weekend that they are effective in helping Peter,” sport director Tristan Hoffman said in a press release. “Guys like Oscar Gatto have good experience in this race which is important. Again they will have their roles of keeping him out of trouble and in position ahead of the cobblestone sectors. We can consider putting someone up the road again to help him later on, but this is hard and often the energy is better spent looking after Peter.”

Sagan’s history in the French monument is not as rich as it is in other races. He participated in Paris-Roubaix four times before with his best result in 2014, sixth place.

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Foreboding Roubaix forecast sows uncertainty http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/foreboding-roubaix-forecast-sews-uncertainty_401759 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/foreboding-roubaix-forecast-sews-uncertainty_401759#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2016 16:07:50 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=401759

Danny Van Poppel found some dry cobbles during Roubaix recon, but he was splattered by a bit after some wet sections of road. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

We haven't seen a wet Paris-Roubaix since 2002, which has the peloton wondering how things will shake out if it's muddy on Sunday.

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Danny Van Poppel found some dry cobbles during Roubaix recon, but he was splattered by a bit after some wet sections of road. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

GENT, Belgium (VN) — Cyclists are looking to the dark clouds circling the above the fields of northern France, wondering what mother nature has in store for Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix.

Forecasts show a likelihood of rain Saturday on the eve of the monument and a chance again on race day. If rain falls on the cobbled farm roads, it would drastically alter the 257.5-kilometer French classic.

“What does yours show? My weather app shows rain on Sunday. I hope it’s wrong!” American Tyler Farrar (Dimension Data) said to VeloNews Wednesday in Schoten, near Antwerp. He had just finished helping teammate Mark Cavendish — in the rain — to second place in the Scheldeprijs.

“We are all going to see what a rainy Roubaix looks like. I don’t think anyone in the current peloton has done a wet Roubaix before.”

Several Paris-Roubaix cyclists sampled the taste of wet cobblestones in the 2014 Tour de France. Stage 5 covered several sectors, racing to Arenberg, where classics strong-man Lars Boom won and his then-teammate on Astana, Vincenzo Nibali, laid the groundwork for his overall title.

The last Paris-Roubaix mud-fest happened 14 years ago on April 14, 2002. George Hincapie fell in the ditch and opened the door for his U.S. Postal Service teammate Tom Boonen, then relatively unknown in his first Paris-Roubaix, to ride to third place behind winner Johan Museeuw. Boonen this year will be racing for a record fifth title.

“I’m not God, I don’t know what’s going to happen Sunday,” Welshman Luke Rowe said. “If it’s a wet one, it’ll be the same for everyone. You just got to crack on.” His Sky teammate Ian Stannard explained that he prefers wet and messy conditions. He said, “It suits my characteristics.”

Fans, many in shorts, gathered in Oudenaarde’s main square Sunday for Belgium’s Tour of Flanders. Cyclists enjoyed one of the few warm days in recent weeks with temperatures around 65 degrees.

The weather turned for the worse, however. A cold front moved in off the North Sea on Tuesday and brought with it strong winds and scattered showers. It prompted concern for Paris-Roubaix organizer ASO, which said that it might need to reroute around some cobble sectors if they remain muddy.

“Some sectors were a mess,” Trek-Segafredo general manager Luca Guercilena said after the team’s reconnaissance Tuesday. The good news, teams found dry conditions and cobbles when they visited to preview on Thursday, three days out.

“Everyone is making a fuss about the weather, but we are still a few days away, so we need to see what happens,” added Rowe. He placed fifth in the Tour of Flanders Sunday.

The worst may blow through Friday, and for the sportive riders Saturday. If it remains messy and muddy Sunday, the race could split early and draw the big favorites out sooner than if it is dry and dusty. Rowe said that as early as the Troisvilles sector, the first of 27 and still with 160 kilometers to race, the race could be decided.

“Our bike and equipment will stay the same regardless,” Rowe said. The team tried Pinarello’s special Dogma K8-S frames Thursday with rear suspension.

“The main thing that changes is that you’ll need to enter the first section in the top three. It’s that critical. And after the first section, there’ll be a big split if it’s wet. It just makes it that much more important to stay in front.”

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Is the Scheldeprijs course safe? http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/is-the-scheldeprijs-course-safe_401589 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/is-the-scheldeprijs-course-safe_401589#comments Wed, 06 Apr 2016 13:52:37 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=401589

Organizers made some changes they hope will make the finish of Scheldeprijs safer. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

With a history of crashes near the finish line, the final run-in at Scheldeprijs was altered for the 2016 edition.

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Organizers made some changes they hope will make the finish of Scheldeprijs safer. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

SCHOTEN, Belgium (VN) — The Scheldeprijs is unofficially called the sprinters’ world championship, but it is also known for its crash-marred final sprints. The race organizer is trying to improve safety for its race Wednesday.

Instead of a straight shot into the Antwerp suburb of Schoten, organizer Flanders Classics is hoping to slow the speeds down and stretch the peloton into a single-file line by adding two right angle turns.

“We will see how it will work out, it’s hard to tell,” three-time winner Marcel Kittel of Etixx – Quick-Step said before the cold and cloudy start in Antwerp.

“It’s definitely different now, in the final 1.5 kilometers you have to be in the front, if you are not there then there is no space to move up. On one hand, we had crashes before because everyone could still come to the front, on the other hand, your chances can be gone already at that point if you are not there.”

With 2km to race in the 208km mid-week classic, the road diverts from the former course and gently bends to the right. Just before the red kite, it turns 90 degrees to the right and 90 degrees to the left only 200 meters later. The final 800 meters to the Aankomst, or finish, run on the Churchilllaan, as in 2015.

“The bunch will reach that spot after going through a narrowing road and several additional curves,” said the organizer. “As a consequence [of the turns], the riders will launch the sprint in a single line. Basically that should allow for a safer finish.”

The organizer also slashed the number of participating teams from 25 to 22, bringing the number of riders down from 200 to 176.

The change is welcome after years of crashes.

Sky’s Elia Viviani rolled several times across the road in 2015 and remained on the ground nursing his arm while Norwegian Alexander Kristoff of Katusha celebrated his victory.

“Why so many crashes? Many guys think they can win because they have fresh legs, it’s mostly because of that,” Kristoff said last year. “The race is not as hard as the others, so there are many fresh legs for the finish and everyone wants to try.

“I don’t think it’s more dangerous than the other races are. It’s the riders, not the race, that makes it dangerous.”

Australian Jonathan Cantwell suffered a punctured lung when a group of cyclists crashed into photographers on the other side of the finish line in 2012. Cyclists had also crashed 2km before the line. Wouter Weylandt fell in the 2011 Scheldeprijs weeks before his death in a Giro d’Italia crash, Alessandro Petacchi crashed in 2009, and Ludovic Capelle did so in 2003.

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Roubaix: Martin aims to emulate Wiggins http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/tony-martin-heads-to-paris-roubaix_401254 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/04/news/tony-martin-heads-to-paris-roubaix_401254#comments Tue, 05 Apr 2016 16:25:30 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=401254

Tony Martin's performance at Tour of Flanders was solid, but he feels Paris-Roubaix will better suit his strengths. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Tony Martin gradually reinvents himself as a classics hard-man, and though he's yet to be a game-changer, he could be a factor in Roubaix.

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Tony Martin's performance at Tour of Flanders was solid, but he feels Paris-Roubaix will better suit his strengths. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

GENT, Belgium (VN) — German Tony Martin once ruled time trials and tried grand tours, but says his focus is now on the cobbled classics. He will face his favorite one, Paris-Roubaix, on Sunday in northern France.

The three-time time trial world champion branched out this spring with his classics-mad team Etixx – Quick-Step. He debuted in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Like a warrior of the north, he crashed but still powered onward to help team leader Tom Boonen.

“I want to transform to a classics rider for the spring, for the classics,” 30-year-old Martin told VeloNews. “I’m no longer suited to the big classification races, that was the past, when sports directors pushing me in Highroad. That’s not really my area. I feel more comfortable in the classics, I think they suit me better. Also look at the surroundings. Being in this Belgian team with the attention the team gives the classics … You really feel it!”

Martin powered team Etixx over the cobbled Paddestraat sector midway into the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday and kept going over climbs and to the first passage of the Kwaremont. The cobbles and efforts suited his time trial motor well.

Bradley Wiggins, the 2014 time trial champion, Olympic track gold medallist, and 2012 Tour de France victor, tried the same in the last years of his Team Sky career. In 2014 and 2015, he switched focus to Paris-Roubaix and finished ninth then 18th, respectively

“Like Wiggins? Yes, that’s the theory,” Martin added. “I hope I’d be able to win someday, but there’s a process for the next few years. I think Roubaix suits me better than Flanders, but you never know. I still haven’t done these races, so you’ll have to ask me when Roubaix’s over.”

Based on the Ronde, Martin could open the throttle and ride clear if the favorites mark Etixx’s other leaders Boonen, Niki Terpstra, or Zdenek Stybar. That is the theory, as Martin says.

Martin still has much to learn. His only Flemish or cobbled one-day race before this year was the 2008 Scheldeprijs. However, he showed potential already in the 2015 Tour’s cobbled stage to Cambrai, which he won.

“It’s getting better for me on the cobbles. It’s a hard process, crashing in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and try to win in the Three Days of De Panne,” Martin added. “I get to know the mentality of the classic races, the roads, the important points where you have to be in the front. It’s good so far, but I’m still far from being on top.”

Martin will not leave time trialling behind with both the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and world championship in Doha on the horizon. He added, “I’m still trying to get back to my old time trial performances. These are my two focuses.”

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