VeloNews.com » Road http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Sun, 23 Nov 2014 17:22:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Rwanda aims to become a hub for African cyclists http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/rwanda-leads-way-african-cyclists_353857 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/rwanda-leads-way-african-cyclists_353857#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 21:54:23 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353857

Janvier Hadi (Louis Garneau) of Rwanda rode in the break on stage 4 of Tour of Alberta, and would take the most aggressive jersey that day. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com (File).

Cycling in Rwanda is on the rise, in no small part due to the the Tour of Rwanda, which attracts and increasingly strong field

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Janvier Hadi (Louis Garneau) of Rwanda rode in the break on stage 4 of Tour of Alberta, and would take the most aggressive jersey that day. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com (File).

KIGALI, Rwanda (AFP) — Three years ago, Janvier Hadi pedaled a singlespeed bicycle taxi. This week, he won the prologue of the Tour of Rwanda, a success mirroring the growth of cycling in his country.

Born into a family of modest farmers, the 23-year-old took up the sport seriously after taking part in a race in the south Rwandan town of Butare.

“I heard there was a race for a singlespeed bike. … It was like a test, and I won; I got first place,” he told AFP.

“At first I thought that because I was young I didn’t have the strength like some of the others … but when I beat them, I thought finally, I can do this cycling,” he said smiling, and proudly wearing his winner’s yellow jersey after his win in the capital Kigali.

Cycling in Rwanda, as in the rest of Africa, is growing as a sport.

“We started with five riders and five-speed cycles from the 1980s, but most of the gears were not working, they were wrecks,” said Jonathan Boyer, the first American to have raced the Tour de France in 1981, and who in 2006 became the first coach of Team Rwanda.

Cycling in Rwanda “grows gradually,” said Boyer, explaining that like Hadi, many racers are former bicycle taxi drivers, who build strong muscles pedaling up Rwanda’s rolling hills, transporting people and goods. The Rwanda Cycling Federation has around 100 members.

One of Africa’s toughest races

“Cycling in Rwanda is still very young,” said federation president Aimable Bayingana. “We have not really a long history of cycling, we are building the sport, evolving at the same time as the Tour of Rwanda.”

In June, the country opened a training center in the northern town of Musanze with modern equipment, which is hoped to become a regional training center for African cycling. The Tour of Rwanda is gradually gaining a place as a key race on the continent.

Experts say the tour of Rwanda — dubbed the land of “a thousand hills” — is one of the toughest races in Africa.

Riders on the eight-day tour, which finishes Sunday, battle over 934 kilometers (580 miles) and climb some 19,500 meters (64,000 feet) with peaks rising to 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) high. Cyclists race up and down through coffee, tea, and banana plantations.

“This is a country where the hills are really tough,” said Cameroonian racer Damien Tekou. “But we came to win.”

Organizers estimate over two million spectators will see the race, nearly a fifth of Rwanda’s 11 million people.

The race’s reputation is growing, with 14 teams taking part this year, with cyclists from across the continent — including Algeria, Burundi, Morocco, Eritrea, Ethiopia — as well as from Europe too, from France, Germany, and Switzerland.

“When we compete with Europeans here it means that we Africans are developing,” added Tekou, adding his dream was the continent would soon rise up the ranks on a wider international stage.

Changing image of Rwanda

Yves Beau from the team Bike Aid — which includes Eritrean cyclist Mekseb Debesay, who is in the running to win the UCI’s Africa tour ranking — says the sport is becoming more organized.

There are increasing number of competitions held each year across the continent, he notes.

But while, for now, African cyclists are sometimes hampered by a lack of often expensive kit and the best bicycles, he believes things will improve in the future.

“I think they really have the qualities to make good cyclists,” Beau said.

Boyer points not only to Rwanda, but to Ethiopia and Eritrea, which he said have a large pool of talent, although tapping that will require serious training and investment.

For Rwanda, it offers more than the sporting race alone.

Hadi says it provides a different image of Rwanda abroad than just the memories of the 1994 genocide when an estimated 800,000 people were killed in just 100 days.

“We must move forward, to change the image of the country, so that people think not just of genocide but say, ‘Rwanda has good cyclists,’” he said.

“Like in Kenya, people talk about their marathon runners, so in Rwanda we in Rwanda we have strong riders.”

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Astana announces new sponsor for women’s team http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/astana-launches-womens-team_353826 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/astana-launches-womens-team_353826#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 18:17:10 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353826

Astana is stepping up its commitment to its women's squad, which placed 10th at world team time trial championships in 2014. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Astana is investing in women's professional racing with an Italian-based team of about 15 young riders it hopes to develop

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Astana is stepping up its commitment to its women's squad, which placed 10th at world team time trial championships in 2014. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Olympic time trial champion and former world time trial champion Zulfia Zabirova will join forces with Maurizio Fabretto to launch Astana’s new women’s cycling team in 2015. The team will field a roster of about 15 riders, mostly young athletes that it hopes to develop into seasoned pros.

The team will be officially named Astana-Acca Due O, and it will be registered in Kazakhstan. Many of the riders will come from Eastern Europe, but the team will also have strong Italian flavor. It will have a headquarters in Cornuda, Veneto, and sponsor Acca Due O is an Italian water treatment company.

“The project is very exciting,” said Zabirova, supervisor of the entire sport management, “And so is the challenge: [Our] long-term goal is to bring Astana to be the first team in the world within four years. During last edition of Asia championships and world championships we saw encouraging things by young Kazakhs. “We have very professional coaches and sport directors, and I’m sure that they’ll know how to let them show their full potential.”

The Astana BePink women’s team placed 10th at 2014 world team time trial championships in Ponferrada, Spain.

The team had a few notable victories in 2014, including Alena Amialiusik’s wins in the Belarus national road and time trial championships, Doris Schweizer’s stage 1 win at Tour de Bretagne Féminin, and Amialiusik’s stage 5 win at the Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche.

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Quintana, Valverde to share leadership at 2015 Tour, Vuelta http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/quintana-valverde-share-leadership-2015-tour-vuelta_353815 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/quintana-valverde-share-leadership-2015-tour-vuelta_353815#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:22:51 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353815

After Movistar's dual-leader strategy payed off in the Vuelta, the Spanish team plans to send Quintana and Valverde to the Tour. Though Quintana is their best hope for yellow, Valverde will be ready to step in if things go wrong. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File)

Movistar aims to break the mold with a two-leader plan for the Tour de France that focuses on Quintana but keeps Valverde on deck

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After Movistar's dual-leader strategy payed off in the Vuelta, the Spanish team plans to send Quintana and Valverde to the Tour. Though Quintana is their best hope for yellow, Valverde will be ready to step in if things go wrong. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File)

PAMPLONA, Spain (VN) — Don’t expect behind-the-scenes drama between Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana heading into the 2015 Tour de France.

A house united is always stronger than a house divided. That’s the philosophy behind Movistar’s provocative decision to bring both Valverde and Quintana as leaders to both the Tour and Vuelta a España.

Valverde promised there would not be a repeat of the soap opera that engulfed Team Sky as Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome fought publicly and privately for control of the British team.

“This is nothing like Froome and Wiggins, far from it,” Valverde said Friday during a press conference. “I have no problem working with Nairo. We’ve been together these past two seasons, and we get along well. First, we go to the Tour with the idea of riding for Nairo, and then we’ll see what happens.”

There is no rancor between Quintana and Valverde, and they’re friends on and off the bike. And Valverde is the first to admit that the 24-year-old Colombian has a better chance of winning the Tour than he does.

“It’s very clear that Nairo has the qualities to win the Tour. I can be close, but it’s more complicated for me,” Valverde continued. “For the Tour, first we’ll back Nairo, then me. We’re a lot stronger together than he or I riding alone.”

Movistar is clearly taking a different approach to the Tour. Most major teams are backing one lone leader, with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Froome, and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) enjoying complete backing from their respective teams. Movistar boss Eusebio Unzue said the team has the “good fortune” to have two riders capable of leading who are also committed to working together.

“With Nairo and Alejandro working together, we have better chances of success. We are stronger together, rather than dividing our strength with distinct calendars,” Unzue said. “They can share the responsibility of the race between them. We go with Nairo as leader, but [with] Alejandro we have the assurance of a leader who has the experience that few in the peloton can bring to the Tour.”

This season, Movistar split the pair, sending Quintana to the Giro, which he promptly won, while Valverde got his shot at the Tour, where he finished a disappointing fourth.

Going into 2015, Unzue sat down with riders and staff to gauge the team’s mood and ambitions for a new season. The veteran Spaniard manager said they took lessons out of the 2014 Vuelta a España, when both Valverde and Quintana shared leadership. Quintana crashed out, but Valverde picked up the baton, and rode to third overall behind Contador.

Movistar is hoping to apply that Vuelta template to the 2015 Tour, with Quintana is the top captain, and Valverde poised in the wings if anything happens.

Movistar boss Unzue also confirmed that Quintana will not defend his Giro d’Italia crown, and instead will target the Tour and Vuelta double, with Valverde at his side.

“We have the Giro for younger riders who are looking for their chance to lead, such as Beñat Intxausti, Jesus Herrada, or Ion Izagirre,” Unzue said. “We believe the time is right for Nairo to target the Tour, and this route is ideal for him, as well as Alejandro.”

The decision to join Valverde and Quintana at the hip for the Tour simply reflects the reality within the Movistar camp. Valverde, 35, couldn’t quite reach the podium in 2014, finishing fourth, but he remains an explosive and productive rider who is a factor in any race he starts. And Quintana, despite winning the Giro in impressive fashion in May, remains relatively inexperienced at just 24.

“We cannot forget that Nairo is still a ‘chaval,’ and he is still progressing as a rider and a leader,” Unzue continued. “Valverde brings a depth of experience and tranquility that is invaluable to Nairo. And with Nairo there, Valverde doesn’t have to carry the entire weight of the team by himself. They’re stronger as a partnership working together.”

Quintana, too, seemed content to have WorldTour winner Valverde as his wingman. Not only will it give Movistar a one-two GC punch that the other top rivals will not have (assuming both survive the Tour’s treacherous first week), but it helps take the pressure off each of them.

“It could be a complicated situation, but we manage it well,” Quintana said. “It fills me with pride that a rider like Alejandro would vow to help me in the Tour. I am convinced that we are stronger together than ride separately.”

Sharing Tour leadership typically has backfired — look no further than the intrigue of the 1986 Tour with Greg LeMond battling Bernhard Hinault — but with Valverde and Quintana, it just might work.

Perhaps neither will start as a five-star favorite, but they will present a formidable pair that will create complications for their rivals.

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Nibali goes on the attack after fourth Astana doping positive http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/nibali-goes-on-the-attack-after-fourth-astana-doping-positive_353794 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/nibali-goes-on-the-attack-after-fourth-astana-doping-positive_353794#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:59:59 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353794

Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team could lose its racing license or have conditions attached to it after four doping positives this year. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The Tour de France winner says the four Astana riders who turned in doing positives this year "have nothing to do with me"

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Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team could lose its racing license or have conditions attached to it after four doping positives this year. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali attacked after the announcement Wednesday that a fourth Astana teammate this season has failed a doping test, the fourth such announcement in less than three months.

“If people want to associate me with these cases, they don’t understand anything,” the Sicilian and 2014 Tour de France winner told Italy’s sports daily, La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“They are four idiots that have nothing to do with me.”

The four are brothers Valentin and Maxim Iglinskiy, Ilya Davidenok, and Victor Okishev — the latter two race for Astana’s third-division feeder team. Maxim Iglinskiy helped Nibali win the Tour in July.

Valentin Iglinskiy tested positive for EPO on August 11, with the announcement coming September 10; Maxim Iglinskiy turned in an EPO positive on August 1, which was announced October 1; Davidenok had a positive test for steroids on August 27, announced October 16; and Okishev tested positive for steroids on May 29, which was announced November 19.

The four cases have created a black stain on the team in blue.

“The problem is certainly not mine. I think about myself and I have a clear conscience. I certainly can’t give answers for their problems,” Nibali said.

“Also, the two riders race for the continental team and I don’t even know who they are.

“Maxim Iglinskiy? In a team there are those you have to live with regardless. He was not part of my group and between us, there’s no link.”

Before the Tour de France, Maxim Iglinskiy rode with Nibali in the Tour of Oman, Milano-Sanremo, Amstel Gold Race, La Flèche Wallonne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and the Tour de Romandie.

Because of its second doping case and its membership in the MPCC anti-doping movement, the team had to sit out eight days of racing in October and missed the Tour of Beijing.

The four cases, along with Roman Kreuziger’s biological passport problem stemming from his years with Astana, could shine a bad light on the team and its racing license. The UCI announced in October the 10 teams with a WorldTour racing license for 2015, and Astana was among them. Seven other teams had either applied or were requesting a renewal. In the wake of Astana’s doping cases, UCI President Brian Cookson said the licensing commission could decide to revoke or attach restrictions to its 2015 license.

“It’s safe to say that everyone was very disappointed by this turn of events,” Cookson told VeloNews last month. “But if we assume that there have been three cases, that’s something that’s obviously very, very serious and that’s why we’ve referred it to the licensing commission, asking them to look into all the issues around that and make recommendations as to what impact these issues should have on the license of Astana. That’s the right and proper process. That’s what the license commission was established to do, and we’re going to let them get on with their job now.”

The license commission heard from Astana general manager Alexander Vinokourov earlier this month as part of its review. The UCI will hear from the commission before it announces its WorldTour license renewals in the next week or the first week of December.

“It seems absurd that the blame falls on the team,” Nibali continued.

“I can guarantee that the sponsors are very upset. You can’t place the blame on the team for what has happened, however. The idea that it’s a team doping system is wrong. To take away our license would be a mistake.”

Nibali, though being upset with the situation in his team, wants the UCI and anti-doping testers to continue their work.

“I hope that they catch all the dopers,” Nibali added. “If they catch another 10, I’d be pleased. It means the controls are in place and they are working.”

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Gallery: 2014′s best distractions, by Tim de Waele http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/road/gallery-tim-de-waeles-best-roadside-distractions-2014_353672 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/road/gallery-tim-de-waeles-best-roadside-distractions-2014_353672#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:33:32 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353672

Even once the racing starts, it's not all stern faces and toil. Photographer Tim de Waele finds many unique and amusing distractions

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Stevens takes time off, then looks ahead http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/stevens-takes-time-looks-ahead_353689 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/stevens-takes-time-looks-ahead_353689#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:59:23 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353689

American Evelyn Stevens will take on 2015 with a new team, but she'll still bring familiar sponsors Specialized and lululemon along for the ride. Photo: BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

American Evelyn Stevens talks off-season, a new team, and next year after a successful 2014

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American Evelyn Stevens will take on 2015 with a new team, but she'll still bring familiar sponsors Specialized and lululemon along for the ride. Photo: BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

She finished up the world championships, went to Cape Cod, got engaged, and took three weeks off the bike.

And now, Evelyn Stevens is at it again. She’s in Boulder, Colorado this week getting back up to speed, staying with Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney. “It’s always a nice time of year,” she said. “I’ve been training for a few weeks already. I go to my first training camp in December.”

That entrance back into the fray, though, comes after a chunk of time off the bike. Which, it turns out, doesn’t make her crazy. “That’s funny,” she said when asked if she gets a bit itchy without riding. “I don’t miss it. I’m also traveling a lot. … It’s really nice not putting on your kit. It’s not having to put your spandex on is what I find [nice]. Being able to do other things. I enjoy it. But you’re ready to ride again.”

While she enjoyed a good season, winning the Boels Rental Ladies Tour, the Parx Philly Classic, and the world team time trial, she had a rough go, too. Stevens separated her shoulder in a crash while training for the TTT at worlds, but that didn’t stop her from winning the team event with Specialized-lululemon, placing third in the individual time trial, and taking 12th in the road race.

“It was definitely a factor,” Stevens said to TeamUSA.org after worlds. “Anytime you hurt something, your body is trying to heal it. But it happened, and there was nothing I could do about it.”

Next year, Stevens will move to the Boels-Dolmans team along with sponsors Specialized and lululemon, but the structure will be different.

“It’s a new team, new management, but so far I’ve been lucky,” Stevens said. “That was really positive. I basically learned all my biking from that team and that program.”

As far as the goals for next year, those are undefined until team camp. At least until she starts talking about the upcoming season, then it much comes down to this: Do well in the big races.

The team time trial remains important, as does the individual effort. The UCI world road championships will be held in Richmond, Virginia, which heightens the pressure for American riders. She mentioned major stage races, and … “I would love to do well in some of the one-day classics, but I’m also content to be a good teammate,” she said. “I have teammates who are awesome.”

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Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies announces full 2015 men’s roster http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/optum-kelly-benefit-strategies-announces-full-2015-mens-roster_353730 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/optum-kelly-benefit-strategies-announces-full-2015-mens-roster_353730#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:01:28 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353730

Tom Zirbel took a big pull on the front for Optum in stage 4 of the Tour of Alberta. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Optum signs five new riders in hopes of continuing its success in domestic stage races and securing a spot in the worlds TTT lineup

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Tom Zirbel took a big pull on the front for Optum in stage 4 of the Tour of Alberta. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

The Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies men’s team will take on 2015 with five new riders to supplement a core of talent that won stages at the Tour of the Gila, Tour of California, and Tour of Utah in 2014.

Cannondale Pro Cycling’s Guillaume Boivin, and Garmin-Sharp’s Phil Gaimon highlight the new signings, returning to race primarily in North America after spending last season in the WorldTour. American Curtis White, along with Canadians Pierrick Naud and Michael Woods will round out the final selection for the team’s 14-man roster.

Nine riders return from last season’s team, including Ryan Anderson, Jesse Anthony, Brad Huff, 2014 Tour of California stage winner Will Routley, Bjorn Selander, Tom Soladay, 2014 Tour of Utah stage winner Eric Young, 2013 U.S. time trial champion Tom Zirbel, and Scott Zwizanski.

One notable loss for the team is climber Carter Jones, who heads to the WorldTour to race with Giant-Alpecin in 2015, but the team remains optimistic about next season.

“On paper this should be our strongest and most well-balanced team yet. We will have more depth on the climbing side thanks to some of our new signings, and we’ll maintain a great core of time trialists, sprinters, and leadout guys,” said performance director Jonas Carney. “That being said, there are very high expectations for this group based on our results in 2014. Our goal is to exceed those expectations.

Boivin, Naud, Woods, and Gaimon arrive with a long list of individual results, while White’s professional career is just beginning to take shape.

“White is a ‘cross specialist and just a few weeks ago claimed the biggest victory of his young career at the U23 Pan Am Continental cyclocross championships” said Carney. “He also excels on the road, and we believe he will bring a lot to the table with our already competitive team.”

Looking ahead to early season

The team will begin its 2015 season with a block of international racing, undertaking a multi-race campaign in Portugal following its Southern California training camp in late January. The campaign will feature the Volta ao Alentejo/Liberty Seguros stage race, as well as the Volta a Costa Vicentina, Cycling Portugal-Classica de Loulé, and the Grande Premio do Guadiana.

“Racing in Europe during the early portion of the season is critical to our yearlong success,” said Carney. “The racing is hard and intense, it helps us quickly build chemistry as a team, and it prepares us well for difficult blocks of racing later in the year.”

The team is again aiming for stage wins and the overall in the UCI America’s Tour as primary goals. UCI stage races like the Tour of California, Tour of Utah, USA Pro Challenge, and the Tour of Alberta will feature prominently in the team’s program, as will defending its National Racing Calendar team title.

The 2015 men’s team consists of entirely American and Canadian athletes — for the eighth consecutive season — a direct result of Carney’s focus on the development and support of North America’s significant talent pool. The uniquely domestic roster will again make the U.S. and Canadian national championships a primary goal, with former national champions in the time trial, road race, and criterium disciplines hailing from both countries.

The historic 2015 UCI road world championships in Richmond, Virginia could feature prominently in the team’s late season. A high placing in the UCI America’s Tour would give the team an automatic bid to start the world team time trial championships.

“Having the world championships here in America is a rare opportunity for a North American team like ours,” said Carney. “We have competed in two world championship TTT events with the men’s team, and having another shot at it with some “home advantage” could be very exciting for the program.”

Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies 2015 men’s road roster

Ryan Anderson (CAN)
Jesse Anthony (USA)
Guillaume Boivin (CAN)
Phil Gaimon (USA)
Brad Huff (USA)
Pierrick Naud (CAN)
Will Routley (CAN)
Bjorn Selander (USA)
Tom Soladay (USA)
Curtis White (USA)
Michael Woods (CAN)
Eric Young (USA)
Tom Zirbel (USA)
Scott Zwizanski (USA)

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Giro d’Italia director blasts idea of shortening grand tours http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/giro-ditalia-director-blasts-idea-of-shortening-grand-tours_353727 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/giro-ditalia-director-blasts-idea-of-shortening-grand-tours_353727#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:46:32 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353727

The Giro d'Italia began in 1909 and is nearly as popular as the Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Mauro Vegni criticizes the idea that the UCI could cut back the number of stages in cycling's grand tours

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The Giro d'Italia began in 1909 and is nearly as popular as the Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — Giro d’Italia race director Mauro Vegni said the idea of shorter grand tours would be “stupid” and that it is not part of the UCI’s proposed reforms.

“We did not talk about it, we talked about reform in general,” Vegni told VeloNews of the Paris meeting among cycling’s stakeholders last week.

“I’ve never seen a real proposal on the table to reduce them. It would seem stupid to me. We have a good thing, why cut it back?”

The UCI, cycling’s governing body, has been organizing meetings with the sport’s stakeholders with the plan to introduce reforms for 2017. It is considering fewer and smaller teams, a new points system, and a streamlined calendar. An official UCI report on the changes is due to be released at a WorldTour seminar in Montreux, Switzerland, in early December.

UCI President Brian Cookson, however, responded to rumors that the body could shorten the three grand tours — the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and the Vuelta a España — to ease the strain on cycling’s calendar.

“Nothing is untouchable,” Cookson told Spain’s AS newspaper Wednesday. “We want to plan for a better sport in which the top cyclists are able to participate in the top races. With the current calendar of three grand tours, each three weeks, it’s impossible.”

Earlier this year, the grand tour bosses said they would oppose anyone touching their historic events. The Tour began in 1903 to become cycling’s biggest race, with the yellow jersey, the Alpe d’Huez, and the finish on the Champs-Élysées capturing the public’s imagination. The Giro, which began in 1909, is nearly as popular as the Tour with its pink jersey and climbs through the country’s north.

Spain’s grand tour is the youngest of the three (1935) and suffers at times, but maintains an important end-of-season spot that allows stage racers to bounce back. In 2014, both Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Chris Froome (Sky) used it to rebound after crashing out of the Tour. They went head-to-head and finished first and second overall, respectively.

“Cycling needs events that promote the sport. The events have a good and important return from TV and with journalists,” Vegni explained.

“To reduce the grand tours, those races that give the most visibility to our sport, would be an error. Why would you go and castrate your best product?”

Vegni explained that Cookson wants to create a better package to sell cycling globally. Instead of looking at grand tours, Vegni said the UCI should trim some of the calendar’s fat, smaller and unpopular races that have popped up over the last 10 years.

“Now, all you need is someone to come along and propose a race, and they will put it in [the calendar]. We should not cut the grand tours for those races,” Vegni added.

“You have to be able to promote cycling in the new countries, and that happens with the big events, not with the small races. You take the big races to those countries and leave behind a mark for the locals to continue the work. You do it via the big events, the grand tours, Milano-Sanremo, Paris-Roubaix. It’d be absurd to touch cycling’s heritage.”

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MTN-Qhubeka secures Pro Continental license for 2015, eyes Tour de France spot http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/mtn-qhubeka-secures-pro-continental-license-for-2015-eyes-tour-de-france-spot_353722 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/mtn-qhubeka-secures-pro-continental-license-for-2015-eyes-tour-de-france-spot_353722#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:10:21 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353722

MTN-Qhubeka is hoping to earn a wildcard spot in the Tour de France next summer. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The squad wants to be the first African-registered team to race in the Tour de France

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MTN-Qhubeka is hoping to earn a wildcard spot in the Tour de France next summer. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

It was a procedural hurdle, but an important one. MTN-Qhubeka confirmed Thursday the UCI has re-upped its Pro Continental racing license for 2015, a critical stepping stone for the team’s ambitions to race the Tour de France next season.

The announcement comes with the confirmation that the team also received invitations to race the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Oman in February, two races organized by Tour owner Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), another important signal the squad could be Tour-bound in July.

“The main target for the team and its partners is the Tour de France in 2015,” said interim team manager Brian Smith in a press release Thursday. “To be invited to Qatar and Oman by the ASO confirms to us that we are going in the right direction. These events are very important races for the team and we plan to go there and race hard. It sets up a year that could be a very good year for the team as we continue to create history for African cycling.”

With its renewed racing license for 2015, MTN-Qhubeka will embark on its third season in the second-tier, Pro Continental ranks. The team made history in August when it became the first African-registered team to race a grand tour at the Vuelta a España.

“The registration process is time consuming and needs to be done right to maintain your credibility and sustainability with the UCI,” said team principal Douglas Ryder. “Our partners MTN, Samsung and Qhubeka are incredible and continue to support the team in all areas that culminates in a greater sense of purpose. 2015 is going to be our biggest season yet, with new partners coming on board, a new team look, and an awesome team line-up and exciting races we have not done before.”

To position itself for a possible Tour wildcard bid, the team has signed a legion of top racing talent, including Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky), Theo Bos (Belkin), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), and Matthew Goss (Orica-GreenEdge).

The team is hoping, with the additional firepower and its unique African heritage, the Tour will offer up one of its likely four wildcard slots for the 2015 edition.

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Martin confirms interest in breaking hour record http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/martin-confirms-interest-in-breaking-hour-record_353710 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/martin-confirms-interest-in-breaking-hour-record_353710#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:45:16 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353710

Tony Martin said the hour record is on his 2015 radar, but it's not his top priority. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The German would like to take on the challenge, but only if it fits around his other 2015 goals — like taking back his world TT title

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Tony Martin said the hour record is on his 2015 radar, but it's not his top priority. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

What started as a trickle is now a flood. Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is the latest rider to confirm he will try to take on an hour record attempt, perhaps sometime in 2015.

Speaking to the German website RadSport, the three-time world time trial champion said he would like to tackle the hour record, but only if it fits in with his road racing priorities.

“I will meet with my team in December to see if we can do something without it conflicting with my goals on the road,” he told RadSport. “I will need time to prepare without hurting my condition for the road. I think we can try to find a date within the next year.”

Martin, 29, said the hour attempt is not his priority for 2015, pointing out that a shot at the yellow jersey at the Tour de France in the opening-day time trial, as well as recapturing the world TT title in Richmond, Virginia, will be more important.

“The opening day of the Tour would be like the World Cup final and my season highlight, all in one day, if I can take the yellow jersey,” Martin said. “And for the world championships, I always like to race in the United States, and it should be a great world championships. I hear the course will be good for me. There were not many fans in Ponferrada, but there are a lot of cycling fanatics in the United States, so I am looking forward to it.”

Martin said he will put renewed focus on early-season stage races, such as Paris-Nice or the Tour de Suisse, before taking on the Tour, which not only features an opening-day time trial, but a team time trial as well. And with the world championships a top goal for September, Martin admitted fitting in the hour record would not be easy.

Martin is the latest in a steady stream of riders who are taking renewed interest in the hour record since the UCI changed the rules outlining the prestigious mark. Jens Voigt set a new mark in September (51.115km), only to be bettered by Matthias Brandle (51.852km). Thomas Dekker and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) have both confirmed they will target the hour mark in 2015.

Dekker, currently without a contract for 2015, will be trying to pull together technical assistance to make an attempt, while Wiggins is expected to make a well-planned assault on the historic mark, perhaps sometime in June or July.

Martin admitted that Wiggins, with his track racing background, will have an advantage, and said he would need special training to become accustomed to racing on the oval.

“I raced a bit on the track as a junior, but Wiggins obviously has more experience than me,” Martin said. “It would certainly take me longer to become comfortable on the track. I would need to make a few experiments on the track to see if it’s feasible.”

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Safeway to sponsor continental team http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/safeway-sponsor-continental-team_353670 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/safeway-sponsor-continental-team_353670#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 22:32:38 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353670

Collegiate national champion Griffin Easter rode with Airgas in the 2014 Cascade Cycling Classic race. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

The team, formerly Airgas, is focused on developing young riders and hopes to make an impact on the domestic racing circuit

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Collegiate national champion Griffin Easter rode with Airgas in the 2014 Cascade Cycling Classic race. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

American grocer Safeway recently stepped into the pro cycling arena, announcing its sponsorship of a UCI continental team, to be called the Airgas-Safeway Cycling Team. The team will be made up of 16 riders — the roster is not yet finalized — and focus on development, though it does not bill itself as a development team.

“2014 was our first year as a UCI team and we were able to compete in over 20 states throughout the U.S. and in South Africa. In 2015 we will concentrate on a number of high-level events and are very grateful to add Safeway as co-sponsor,” said team principal Chris Johnson in a press release. Johnson later said in an interview that the team wasn’t ready to nail down a calendar but did hope to compete in the major races in the U.S., such as the USA Pro Challenge and Amgen Tour of California.

“It’s a really big deal,” Johnson said of the Safeway sponsorship. “They’ve been involved in a masters team for more than 10 years … it’s great news for everybody. Us having national sponsors is going to help everyone get national sponsors.”

The team, formerly Airgas, is focused on developing younger riders and will return five riders from last year’s UCI squad, and three development riders. “We’ve signed a number of riders from other continental teams,” Johnson said, though he would not elaborate.

Bart Bowen will be the director for next season and the squad will have riders from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

“Having companies like Airgas and Safeway come in to support professional cycling in the U.S. is a very big deal. Most of the UCI-level teams in the U.S. are supported by wealthy individuals or an industry partner whose marketing goals fall in line with what a certain team might be doing in a given season,” Johnson wrote in an email. “By going outside the industry for support, we’re able to choose our industry partners and create a solid foundation that will let us tackle the largest races in the U.S.”

Team members were excited about the news as well.

“When I heard Safeway was going to be our co-sponsor next season, I think I yelled out loud,” said the current USA Cycling collegiate national champion Griffin Easter in a team release.

Safeway operates 1,331 stores in the United States and had annual sales of $35.1 billion in 2013. Airgas is a company that provides gases, welding and safety products.

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Richie Porte ready to turn page on uneven 2014 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/porte-ready-turn-page-uneven-2014_353627 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/porte-ready-turn-page-uneven-2014_353627#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:04:39 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353627

Richie Porte tried to step in for downed leader Chris Froome at the Tour, but steadily lost ground in the overall. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

A healthy Richie Porte is writing off his 2014 season to bad luck, and is already looking ahead to next year with renewed motivation

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Richie Porte tried to step in for downed leader Chris Froome at the Tour, but steadily lost ground in the overall. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Richie Porte (Sky) is hoping to put his annus horribilis behind him, and ride into 2015 with a roar.

Illnesses derailed much of Porte’s season, forcing him to miss the Giro d’Italia. Later, at the Tour de France, he was poised to step up, following the unexpected exit of defending champion Chris Froome, but he suffered in the mountains. Speaking on Team Sky’s website, Porte admitted it was a year of hard knocks.

“Probably the only good thing about having a bad year is that it does make you hungrier,” he told TeamSky.com. “It was a rough season. It started well and I was where I needed to be in January and February, but I got sick a few times, which meant I didn’t had the most straightforward year. In October I came off a month of antibiotics, and I feel much, much better.”

Porte pulled the plug on his season earlier than expected, and has taken the time to fully recover.

“I’m coming into this period seven kilos lighter [15.4 pounds] than I was at this time last year. I’m definitely ready to go and ready to really step it up. I’d love to have a big year,” he said.

“Obviously the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that the Tour is hard enough as it is without throwing in some sickness,” he continued. “It was a disaster when Chris [Froome] went home, but the form I had going into the Tour was quite good. … That was the dream, as it’s always been my ambition to finish on the podium in the Tour, but then it turned into a nightmare. Obviously, I think about it as a missed opportunity, but you’ve got to get on with it.”

Porte said he was training hard in Europe, where’s he based in Monaco, taking in La Madone nearly daily with training partner and teammate, Froome. He’s since returned to Tasmania, where he is enjoying a bit of quality time at home. He is expected to race the Santos Tour Down Under in January, where he won a stage and finished fourth overall last year.

Porte, 29, put a philosophical spin on Sky’s season.

“We had two years of massive success. It’s almost like we needed to have this year,” he said. “But we’ve also had a lot of bad luck – with Geraint (Thomas) at Paris-Nice, Sergio (Henao’s) crash, myself, Yogi (Ian Stannard), and Froomey. It hasn’t been a straightforward year. I guess it’s hard to measure luck, but we’ve had our fair share of bad. It just makes everyone doubly determined to have a great season next year.”

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Gallery: Tim De Waele’s best racing action of 2014 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/road/gallery-tim-de-waeles-best-race-action-2014_353597 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/road/gallery-tim-de-waeles-best-race-action-2014_353597#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:14:38 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353597

From the Oman desert to the rainy French cobblestones, here are the 2014 season's most memorable racing moments

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Henderson on life in the fast lane: ‘I still love it’ http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/henderson-life-fast-lane-still-love_353635 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/henderson-life-fast-lane-still-love_353635#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:20:59 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353635

Greg Henderson (right) with teammate Jens Debusschere at the 2014 Vuelta a España. Photo by Tim de Waele.

The veteran leadout man says the emergence of a top crop of sprinters only spurs motivation to help Andre Greipel win the mass gallops

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Greg Henderson (right) with teammate Jens Debusschere at the 2014 Vuelta a España. Photo by Tim de Waele.

It’s hard to go slow when you’re paid to ride fast. Veteran sprinter and ace leadout man Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol) had to learn to slip into the slow lane in 2014 to recover from three minor surgeries. Those proved to be little more than speed bumps, and the 38-year-old Henderson was right back in the mix, picking up a win at the Ster ZLM Toer and slotting into his role as part of Lotto’s formidable leadout train.

VeloNews recently caught up with Henderson from his European home base in Girona, Spain, to talk sprints, André Greipel, and how to beat Marcel Kittel.

VeloNews: You’ve been in the game a long time. Do you still love racing?
Greg Henderson: It depends on what you call a pro. When I was racing on the track, I guess you could call that a bit of a living. I was in America for a number of years, and I was able to make the jump to Europe. I’ve been racing my bike a long time, but I still love it. I really do. I am lucky that I enjoy training. I love the hard work. You have to love it; otherwise you couldn’t deal with all the suffering. If you haven’t done the hard work, you get your ass handed to you at the race. I pride myself on the hard work I put into the bike.

VN: You were a sprinter in your own right, but now you’ve slotted into the role as a leadout man. Are you happy in that position?
GH: I am very happy. I had my chance to have my shots. A win now doesn’t make or break me. I am employed to do a job. At the Vuelta, I was looking after the Belgian champion [Jens Debusschere]. Some of these young guys really need help with positioning, how to save energy, how to move around the bunch, general skills in the peloton. I really enjoy doing that. That’s what I enjoy. André has the horsepower I never had. My biggest attribute was always positioning, so it works out perfect. My job is to position Greipel, and I drop him off with 200 meters to go, then he turns on the turbos at 2,000 watts. It’s impressive to watch. I am totally happy with that.

VN: You had that nasty crash at the Tour de France. How was the recovery from that one?
GH: I had three knee surgeries over the past year, mate. I had a problem at the end of [2013]. After the team time trial at worlds, my knee was so sore, I skipped the Tour of Beijing to give it a rest and hoped it would resolve itself. Well, it never did, and I had surgery two months later. They found some old scar tissue in there, and it was fine. Then I crashed at the GP Samyn [in April], and I opened it up again, got some dirt off the road, and it got infected. I pulled out of Three Days of De Panne. So it was another surgery, and two weeks on the couch. After that, the training went perfect, and I started the Tour de France with huge motivation, and then I crashed on the fourth day. It was a stupid crash, and I landed on my knee, and it just exploded. It just blew straight open.

VN: So another surgery, but a fast comeback for the Vuelta?
GH: Yes, my surgeon knows me pretty well by now. My knee just exploded at the Tour. It was a stupid crash, I just crossed wheels with André [Greipel], and I landed right on it. I was not a happy chappy, but it was not as serious as it looked. They sewed me up, and I was back for the Commonwealth Games [ed: he was seventh]. This year, I’ve been king of the comebacks.

Generation of super sprinters

VN: Lotto has one of the top sprint trains, but now there’s a lot of competition …
GH: Three years ago, there was not that many sprint trains. Giant-Shimano saw what we were doing, and now every team is trying this leadout thing. We did a bloody good job, but credit goes to the other teams. Now there are three or four major leadout trains out there. It makes it more fun, more of a challenge, and more satisfying when you win.

VN: Has the type of sprinting changed? Now we see these huge engines, Greipel and Marcel Kittel. How different is that to guys like Robbie McEwen or Oscar Freire?
GH: There are pure power sprinters, like Greipel and Kittel, who just want to get to the front, and they will smash the pedals. Guys like McEwen and [Mark] Cavendish, they’re more nimble, and they can move through the peloton, and use their pure speed to win. When McEwen was at the top of his game, you’d be looking around, where’s Robbie? He’d be tucked in behind someone, and then, oh, there he is, and he wins. There are different types of sprinters today. Kittel is so strong, with 200 meters to go, when he opens up, there is almost no chance to pass him. The only way to beat him is to try to make him tired before the final sprint. [Alexander] Kristoff, he’s another big, strong guy. They just blast off. Sprinters have changed a bit the past few years.

VN: It’s a very deep sprinter field right now — is it more competitive than ever?
GH: It’s very deep right now. Five years ago, it was all Cavendish, and everyone else was racing for second. There’d be Greipel, maybe [Tyler] Farrar, and then here comes Kittel. We have three very fast guys right now, with Greipel, Kittel, and Cav. And guys like Kristoff, [Luka] Mezgec, [Sacha] Modolo, all coming up. Even if you lined it up perfectly at the Tour, you could still be fifth at the line. The guys are lightning-quick, and the field is deeper. More teams are bringing their trains. It’s an exciting time right now for the sprints.

VN: What’s your take on Nacer Bouhanni?
GH: I don’t know him at all. He’s come up bloody fast. I did the Vuelta with him this year, and I couldn’t believe how strong he was climbing. He’s the complete package, that’s for sure. I don’t know him as a person. He’s not a super-friendly type of guy that you’re going to chat to in the bunch.

VN: Despite this generation of sprinters, it seems like the major races have something against a pure sprint stage; there’s always a rising finale, or a steep climb in the final 20km … is that frustrating?
GH: Then you get guys like [John] Degenkolb, [Peter] Sagan, and [Michael] Matthews, guys who can get up a 10-minute climb. The pure sprinters cannot do that. They’ve had to change their sprinting styles. They’ve lost a little speed in the pure sprints, but they can get over those hard climbs that the sprinters cannot, and then they can win out of a smaller group. There are two options to win a sprint these days: the first is to put out 2000 watts at the line, or 450 watts for a 10-minute climb at the end of a race, and win out of a small group. It’s still bloody exciting.

VN: Would you like to see more chances for the pure sprinters? You don’t want the extreme, such as when Alessandro Petacchi won nine sprints in the 2004 Giro, but there were only three or four sprints in the Vuelta this year. What’s the balance?
GH: The pure sprinters deserve their chances. So long as there is an even distribution of stages, I am happy with it. You cannot have a sprint every day, but it does seem like they’re putting in these bloody hard climbs to make it to the sprint. The guys have worked on that skill, and evolved their style of sprinting to adapt to the changes in the kinds of stages we’re seeing. You gotta be able to get over that final climb to have a chance to win the sprint.

VN: How is your team dealing with the emergence of Kittel? First, you had to try to beat Cavendish, and now here comes Kittel …
GH: He’s hard to beat. I’ve been studying footage on YouTube to try to figure out a way to beat him, to see if he has a flaw in his sprint. The problem is, he’s bloody strong. He doesn’t have a big kick, it’s like he’s a bloody steam train. To beat him is very difficult. But that’s bike racing. We have to find a way to beat him. You cannot just go into the race thinking about second place, especially if you’re a sprinter. We do what we normally do, and try to put André in perfect position with 200 meters to go, and hit it out on the line. André’s pretty bloody strong, too.

Greipel is ‘consummate pro’

VN: Greipel and the team have won at least one Tour de France stage the past four editions in a row. How important is that?
GH: André is the consummate pro. From January until October, he’s still winning. That’s bang for your buck. There are not a lot of bike riders who can do that. He had the most wins again this season. He’s exemplary. He’s always in good condition, always healthy, and ready to race to win. He’s one of those guys young riders look up to.

VN: How is Greipel as a leader? He doesn’t seem like one of those riders who yells and screams on the bus when things go wrong …
GH: He is really mellow. He lets his legs do the talking. He gets upset when he loses, but he’s angrier with himself, especially when he messes something up. That’s a mark of a true champion. Of course, he’s disappointed when he doesn’t win, but he’s not on the bus, yelling and screaming, throwing his helmet. He’s very respectable with everyone, and he knows he cannot win without us.

VN: Does the increased competition give the team even more motivation?
GH: Absolutely. It’s never a given we’re going to win. We hate being beaten. It pisses me off immediately. That’s a huge driving force — to win. It takes a lot of hard work to win. That’s part of this job, the hard work.

VN: Describe the sensation of winning …
GH: It’s incredibly satisfying. It’s better than any wine you’ll ever drink. Winning is the best, but when you win at the Tour de France, it’s beyond words. It’s such an incredible feeling, because everyone knows just how hard it is. There’s that one stage from the Tour a few years ago, and there’s a photo with my arms up in the air, I was celebrating before André even crossed the line. I knew as soon as André came off my wheel, I knew he was going faster. That’s when we won our first one.

Keen to keep racing before coaching

VN: So you’re still up for 2015?
GH: Yes, one more year with my contract, but I want to keep racing. I am still at the top of my game. I am really good at the job I do. I love it. I have a niche that I am super-comfortable with, and I give 100 percent.

VN: Have you thought about what you will do when you retire?
GH: I’ve started a little coaching business. I have about 12 guys that I look after, mentor, and coach. It’s something I really enjoy, and it’s an avenue I’d like to explore when I retire, whether it’s coaching on my own, or as a sport director, or coach for a team. I have a sport science degree from university, and it’s always been a passion of mine. I am always reading articles to stay up to date, and I’m always interested in the new training techniques. When I was at Team Sky, I was always pestering the coach there with questions. One day he said, ‘Hendo, are you sick? You have haven’t asked one question all day.’

VN: Do you think there will ever be a top New Zealand team, similar to Orica-GreenEdge?
GH: I’d love it. Racing is getting better and better in New Zealand. Back in the day, it was just Julian Dean. There was Chris Jenner, and then I got across from America to Europe. Now we have six Kiwis in the European peloton. That’s the thing with the Kiwis; we have to succeed. If you’re Belgian, you can just go home, but if you’re Kiwi, this is your only shot. The work ethic is there.

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Is six-day track racing too dangerous for road stars? http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/is-six-day-track-racing-too-dangerous-for-road-stars_353639 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/is-six-day-track-racing-too-dangerous-for-road-stars_353639#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:37:09 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353639

Mark Cavendish and Iljo Keisse are racing at Six Days of Ghent this week. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Mark Cavendish is among a group of road cyclists currently racing at Belgium's Six Days of Ghent.

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Mark Cavendish and Iljo Keisse are racing at Six Days of Ghent this week. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

MILAN (VN) — Six-day racing was once an off-season must for road stars in search of money and fitness, but it has been forgotten due to longer road seasons, winter training camps, and the “dangerous” label.

Mark Cavendish, winner of 25 Tour de France stages, began the Gent Six-Day track cycling event Tuesday night with partner and Belgian Iljo Keisse, but it took some persuading for Omega Pharma-Quick step team boss Patrick Lefevere to say “yes.”

For six consecutive nights, sometimes lasting until 2 a.m., two-man teams race in various events. But the Madison is the main focus. Cyclists sling their partners into action and try to gain points in sprints, or better yet, a lap on their rivals.

As with road cycling, crashes happen. One happened in the opening night of the Gent Six-Day last year. Last month, derny bike driver Cees Stam suffered a heart problem and fell into cyclist Nick Stöpler in the Amsterdam Six-Day.

Lefevere last year said the racing is too risky for Cavendish and he banned the Brit from racing. He said the six-day season intrudes on his preparations for the upcoming road season.

“Nothing’s changed,” Lefevere told Belgium’s Het Nieuwsblad newspaper recently. “It’s not about the risk of a crash or about the event itself. We just faced the question: How do we keep him fit? Because Mark also likes doing it, we allowed it. But I’m still not in favor of it.”

Cavendish spent many of his early years on the track. He won the Madison world title with Rob Hayles in 2005 and with Bradley Wiggins in 2008. He is reportedly considering a return to the track to represent Great Britain in the Omnium at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Six-day racing was favored by many in the past, including road stars Eddy Merckx, Francesco Moser, and Erik Zabel.

“The big names raced the six-days to make money,” Patrick Sercu told Cycle Sport magazine last winter. “When I was a pro, there was more money on the track than the road. Rick Van Looy won two road world titles and raced the six-days those winters. That wasn’t to prepare for the road season! Life is money.”

The Belgian Sercu won the most six-days, 88, and was paired for many of those with Merckx. The six-day races — from Milan to Paris, Berlin to Rotterdam — provided a steady flow of winter training and income. Now, the road season stretches from January to October, riders earn more on average, and team managers require more in return.

“Road racing dominates TV, where sponsors want to be seen,” Sercu added. “It combines with a longer and more demanding schedule, which prohibits many stars from attending sixes.”

The biggest road stars racing this winter are all Omega Pharma cyclists: Cavendish, Keisse, and Dutchman Niki Terpstra. Terpstra, the 2014 Paris-Roubaix winner, won the Amsterdam Six-Day last month with Yoeri Havik.

Lefevere and other team managers may be against their riders hand-slinging around a track filled with disco music, but the six-day races have their appeal.

“This time of year there’s snow in The Netherlands, or it’s just nasty out,” Terpstra told VeloNews last year. “If you’re on the track for six or seven days, it’s good for the road season.”

Keisse, who is from Gent, is more of a star on the track than on the road. He races many events in the winter and in the road season, he leads Cavendish’s sprint train or Tom Boonen in the classics.

“I understand, the team pays Mark a big contract and they want him to win races in the grand tours and other big races,” Keisse said last year. “For the team, six-days are less important than victories in grand tours or elsewhere.

“It’s always good when one of the big road riders come to a six-day because they bring a lot of fans and more interest from the press. For six-day riders, it’s good.”

Cavendish and Keisse sit fourth overall going into the second night of racing behind leaders and Belgian locals Jasper de Buyst and Kenny De Ketele. Judging by the attention on the race, Cavendish’s participation has been beneficial.

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Fourth Astana rider turns in doping positive http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/fourth-astana-rider-turns-doping-positive_353629 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/fourth-astana-rider-turns-doping-positive_353629#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 13:29:31 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353629 Victor Okishev tests positive for steroids during the Asian Championships

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PARIS (AFP) — Kazakh cycling team Astana’s participation in next year’s UCI WorldTour was further compromised on Wednesday when the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced a fourth rider in two months that has tested positive for a banned substance.

Victor Okishev, who rides for Astana’s reserve team, failed a test for steroids during the Asian championships last May and has been suspended.

He is the second member of the Astana reserve team to be suspended after Ilya Davidenok was banned last month for testing positive for steroids during the Tour de l’Avenir in August.

Earlier in October, brothers Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy tested positive for EPO and after Davidenok was suspended the (UCI) said it had asked its license commission to undertake a full review of the management and anti-doping policies of the Astana team.

The Kazakhstan-based team of 2014 Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali has already been granted a license for 2015.

But it could lose this license or have conditions attached to it.

The Astana team is run by controversial former rider Alexandre Vinokourov, who was banned for blood doping in 2007-2009.

The team appeared at a UCI hearing in Geneva on November 6 and a decision on its future next season is expected in the next two weeks.

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Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia to be held on queen stage of 2015 route http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/gran-fondo-giro-ditalia-held-queen-stage-2015-route_353578 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/gran-fondo-giro-ditalia-held-queen-stage-2015-route_353578#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 20:05:10 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353578

The 2015 Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia will tackle the grand tour's queen stage in May. Photo: Giro d'Italia

Italian Gran Fondo offers climbs of the Campo Carlo Magno, Passo del Tonale, Aprica, and Mortirolo over a 175km course

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The 2015 Gran Fondo Giro d'Italia will tackle the grand tour's queen stage in May. Photo: Giro d'Italia

MILAN — Just in time for the holiday season, the Giro d’Italia is opening registration in December for its Gran Fondo event.

The ride is open to aficionados and cyclists who want to challenge themselves on the roads of the Corsa Rosa’s hardest stage. The ride is scheduled for Sunday, May 17, 2015.

The Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia will be held on the route as the grand tour’s queen stage — from Pinzolo to Aprica — and will run over the same climbs, the same descents, the same hairpins, and the same 175-kilometer distance that will test the pro riders days later, in what is one of the most anticipated days of the 2015 Giro d’Italia.

Participants can choose between two courses: a long route that will cover the entire 175km of the Pinzolo to Aprica stage, including the climbs of Campo Carlo Magno, Passo del Tonale, Aprica, and Mortirolo before the final climb toward Aprica. The medium route will end after 102km on the first passage in Aprica.

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Gallery: Taiwan KOM Challenge http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/road/gallery-taiwan-kom-challenge_353521 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/road/gallery-taiwan-kom-challenge_353521#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 19:48:35 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353521

A cold, rainy day in Taiwan sees John Ebsen win the men's race for a second time and Canadian Marg Fedyna shock the women's field

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Orica all-in for TDU defense with Gerrans; Ewan won’t race http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/orica-tdu-defense-gerrans_353453 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/orica-tdu-defense-gerrans_353453#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 17:41:10 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353453

Simon Gerrans won his third Santos Tour Down Under in January 2014. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Orica-GreenEdge aims for record fourth Tour Down Under title for Simon Gerrans

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Simon Gerrans won his third Santos Tour Down Under in January 2014. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The peloton is starting to wake from its autumn slumber, with training camps and team meetings revving up following a few precious weeks of downtime after a wild 2014 season.

But there’s no rest for the weary, and even less so for riders from Australia, where the racing season will soon click back into gear. Orica-GreenEdge is already planning to race well on home roads, and the team will be riding for all-out victory with Simon Gerrans at the 17th Santos Tour Down Under (January 20-25).

“We’re going to the Tour Down Under to win again with Simon,” Orica sport director Matt White told VeloNews. “We’re bringing the whole team to ride for one guy. We’re not looking for stage wins. We’re not being greedy.”

Gerrans won a squeaker last year against Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), taking the leader’s jersey and eventual victory thanks to savvy racing, picking up time bonuses to erase the difference to Evans and win by one second.

Evans, the 2011 Tour de France champion, will be racing his final professional event at the Tour Down Under before retiring, but don’t expect any sympathy from White and the Orica boys. They’re racing to win again.

“Simon is at the pinnacle of his career right now,” White said. “We call him the ‘hit man.’ We just signed a three-year deal with us, and he’ll be finishing his career at Orica-GreenEdge. He’s won his biggest races with us, and he’s been a very positive influence on the team.”

“We call him the hit man”
Gerrans, 34, has already won the Tour Down Under three times, and will be aiming for a record fourth title in January.

After another big 2014 season, including victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, White said Gerrans will be running a similar schedule next season. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, White said.

“He’ll be running a similar template for 2015, cleaning up in Australia, then the Ardennes, and later the Tour de France,” White continued. “I don’t think he ran 60 days this year [63 -Ed.], but he was always there for the win in the races that counted. He only had six race days after the Tour, and he won or podiumed in four of them. He’s an easy man to respect. He leads by example.”

Ewan to miss TDU
There are no major changes for Orica-GreenEdge coming into 2015. However, Matthew Goss and Aidis Kruopis have left for MTN-Qhubeka and An Post-Chainreaction, respectively. New hires include Adam Blythe (NFTO), Jack Haig (Avanti), and the arrival late this season of the highly touted Caleb Ewan.

The 20-year-old sprinter debuted with the Orica at the Tour of Beijing, just days after winning the bunch sprint at the U23 world championship to claim silver.

Ewan, however, will not make his Australian debut in an Orica-GreenEdge jersey at the Tour Down Under. Instead, White said with the team going all-out to win with Gerrans, Ewan will race the Herald Sun Tour (February 4-8).

“He’s very mature for his age, and he’s a born winner, but we’re not taking him to the Tour Down Under,” White said. “He’ll ride the Sun Tour. We’ll give him the right mix of WorldTour and non-WorldTour races where he can win.”

Ewan is the most promising sprinter to come out of Australia in nearly a decade. Compatriot Mark Renshaw told VeloNews earlier this year that Ewan “is as good as [Mark] Cavendish.”

White said the team will give Ewan plenty of chances to win, without putting too much pressure on him too early.

“He’s a born-winner, and we’ve done a good job looking out after our young kids. We will give him a mixed program,” White said. “You want to give him a chance to win. You don’t want a young rider to always ride in support or just to learn. You don’t want a rider to lose that winning edge.”

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Twice is nice: Movistar claims second consecutive WorldTour title http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/movistar-team-top-world-cycling_353351 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/11/news/movistar-team-top-world-cycling_353351#comments Mon, 17 Nov 2014 19:06:45 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=353351

Brian Cookson presented the prize for top individual WorldTour rider to Alejandro Valverde in Madrid at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Photo: Team Movistar

Movistar and Alejandro Valverde are recognized as top WorldTour team and rider at their sponsor's headquarters in Madrid

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Brian Cookson presented the prize for top individual WorldTour rider to Alejandro Valverde in Madrid at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Photo: Team Movistar

For the second year in a row, the Movistar team was handed the trophy for best WorldTour team, and this time around, their veteran leader, Alejandro Valverde won the individual rider title as well.

The 2014 UCI WorldTour award ceremony was held in the headquarters of the squad’s title sponsor, Madrid’s Distrito Telefónica, on Monday. There, UCI president Brian Cookson presented the hardware to team general manager Eusebio Unzué and Valverde. Also present was Royal Spanish Cycling Federation chairman José Luis López Cerrón and Miguel Cardenal, Spanish secretary of state for sport, who announced that the Royal Order of Sporting Merit will be awarded to the squad.

“It’s a big recognition for all of us — not only the riders [who formed] a marvelous roster which allows us to claim such important victory and, most especially, to take cycling in our country back to the place it deserves, but also the staff, all people into our team whose efforts lead us to the top,” said Unzué. “It makes us proud to receive these trophies at Telefónica’s headquarters, since they make really big efforts for us all the time. I also want to dedicate this victory to all cycling schools and youth teams — the young people, their families and coaches — they really help us to take this sport forward despite all bad moments our country is going through. This success is also theirs.”

For Valverde, the award recognizes his consistently excellent performances that ran from February to October, with 11 victories and almost thirty top-10 finishes in 77 days of racing.

“It’s been undoubtedly a great season, and a proof of that is we got this prize that rewards the best throughout the season,” he said. “It’s my third time. … My season was quite good. It could have been even better with minor improvements, like the Tour podium, but at the end, I gave everything I had in my body, and you can’t really ask for anything else. Though it’s difficult to repeat this season’s success, there are goals we didn’t achieve yet and we will fight to conquer them in 2015.”

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