Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Mon, 21 Apr 2014 12:14:48 +0000 hourly 1 Orica satisfied with Gerrans’ Amstel Gold Race podium result Mon, 21 Apr 2014 12:14:48 +0000 Gregor Brown

Simon Gerrans has finished third in the past four years at the Amstel Gold Race. Photo: Tim De Waele |

For the third time in four years, Simon Gerrans finished third in the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday

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Simon Gerrans has finished third in the past four years at the Amstel Gold Race. Photo: Tim De Waele |

VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — Orica-GreenEdge rode strongly in the final moments of the Amstel Gold Race Sunday and used its cards. It kept Michael Matthews for a small bunch kick and attacked with Simon Gerrans, who took third for the third time in four years.

“But no one could stop Philippe Gilbert,” general manager Shayne Bannan told VeloNews. “It’s hard to look at it another way, he just rode away from us and had a super day.”

A TV helicopter circled overhead to film the finishing straight where Gilbert (BMC Racing) just rode away from his rivals. He climbed the second half of the Cauberg solo and arrived five seconds ahead of Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Belisol). Gerrans, this year’s Aussie road champion, placed a further second back ahead of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

Further down the hill, Orica rode impressively. Along with BMC and Omega Pharma, it put on one of the most united performances. The Australian team in white and blue strung out the group after the remnants of an escape were caught with 7 kilometers remaining.

Tall Dutchman Pieter Weening motored on the front with teammates Simon Clarke, Gerrans, and Matthews in tow. Omega took over at the foot of the Cauberg. And, as the helicopter TV shots showed, BMC won with Samuel Sánchez’s attack and Gilbert’s counter-attack.

“We couldn’t have done much more,” Bannan said. “The guys — Pieter Weening and Clarke — were exactly where they needed to be. They did what they needed to do earlier in the race. So the race panned out as we thought it was going to, but when Gilbert went on the climb, Gerrans could not react, not because he’s not a good rider but because Gilbert was having a super day.”

Gerrans looked like he might have had more in him than a third place. He and Kwiatkowski jumped to follow Sánchez’s wheel with 3km to race. They held an advantage but Gilbert quickly closed it and fired away solo. Bannan explained that Gerrans did not hesitate but chased and evaluated his situation.

“When you are on a climb you know your capabilities,” Bannan added. “I don’t think it was hesitation, just a matter of sussing the situation out and looking at who was behind. Was there a possibility to get a group together to minimize the distance? Which Gerro did.”

Belgium’s Vanendert gained some ground and took second. Gerrans placed third to match his 2011 and 2013 results. His 23-year-old teammate Matthews placed 12th. Matthews’ result, after earning two wins this season to go along with a runner-up to Gilbert in Brabantse Pijl (Brabant Arrow) on Wednesday, gave Bannan further reason to smile.

“Mike Matthews was behind Gerro coming into the climb. He backed off trying to get his own group going up the climb in anticipation of the group coming together for a sprint,” Bannan said. “He’s been progressing well and we are happy with the way he’s gone. He had a possibility to get a good result but if anything, it adds to his progression.”

Bannan walked the 500 meters to the finish line where the organizer rewarded Gerrans for his third place.

“I turn my back on this Amstel Gold Race pleased,” Bannan said. “We came with the goal to win, we didn’t do that, but we took third and rode well. I walk away pretty satisfied.”

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Degenkolb emerges from classics as a monuments contender Mon, 21 Apr 2014 11:38:17 +0000 Andrew Hood

John Degenkolb out-sprinted several riders to win Gent-Wevelgem. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The 25-year-old German racked up a win and a runner-up in Belgium and northern France

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John Degenkolb out-sprinted several riders to win Gent-Wevelgem. Photo: Tim De Waele |

John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) is cooling his jets after a breakout northern classics campaign that saw the 25-year-old German confirm his status as a contender for monuments season.

Victory at Gent-Wevelgem and a second at Paris-Roubaix proved to everyone that Degenkolb has the chops to battle for victory in the most grueling conditions.

“We are very content with John’s performances during the classics,” Giant sport director Marc Reef told VeloNews. “The whole team rode great throughout all the races. Even with some bad luck in a few races, we got the big results we were looking for. John is already at a high level, and will only improve in the coming years.

Coupled with Marcel Kittel’s emphatic victory at Scheldeprijs for a third consecutive time, Giant was one of the top performers across the northern classics.

The team hopes to continue its success across the Ardennes, but the success on the cobblestones of Belgium and France only fuel motivation for the future.

Reef said Degenkolb should only improve in the coming years.

“His strength and maturity will continue to evolve. Experience counts a lot for these races. And he took a big step forward this year,” he said. “These are the races that he is excited about. These performances will motivate him even more.”

After Roubaix, Degenkolb is taking a recovery break before resuming racing in May.

Giant officials confirmed he’s scheduled to race on home roads at the Rund um den Finanzplatz-Frankfurt on May 1, which he won in 2011, before heading to the United States for the Amgen Tour of California, where he will square off against the likes of Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

Of course, the California start means he won’t be riding to help teammate Marcel Kittel in his debut at the Giro d’Italia.

Degenkolb will likely race the Tour de Suisse in June before linking up again with Kittel for the Tour de France in July.

Degenkolb and Kittel form a formidable pairing for the Tour, when Degenkolb works to set up his big compatriot for the pure sprints. Degenkolb also has freedom to race for results in hillier, more challenging finales.

For Degenkolb, these cobblestone results only fuel his ambitions for the future.

“These monuments are the races I really love, and the ones that I want to focus on in the future,” Degenkolb said. “We can be really proud in second place. It’s the next step in growing to be on the podium of a monument. I hope someday to win these races.”

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Love hurts: The give and take of the Ardennes Mon, 21 Apr 2014 09:00:37 +0000 Matthew Beaudin

The Ardennes-week races are special and edgy, built for riders who can manage the left-right-left-up-down-up calculation for six hours at a stretch. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The Ardennes classics serve up the full package of thinking man's races, where it's game on from start to finish and one miscue ends it all

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The Ardennes-week races are special and edgy, built for riders who can manage the left-right-left-up-down-up calculation for six hours at a stretch. Photo: Tim De Waele |

VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — The soft morning light bounced off the city hall, into the main square in Maastricht, and Andy Schleck said in this moment these were his favorite races of the year.

It wasn’t hard to see why. The square was loud and the sun was shining and the roads the peloton would soon flow over dissected this tiny country in one-lane cuts across fields and through orderly and straight-walled Dutch towns.

And then, a short time later, Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) crashed and later pulled out of the Amstel Gold Race, a victim of a pileup that also drowned the hopes of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). It was an indication how quickly things can change in bike racing, no matter the rider or the route, though there’s a much greater chance of an incident in Amstel or even La Flèche Wallonne. One of his favorite races put him on the ground.

A broadcaster referred to Amstel Gold as an elimination race on Sunday, and he couldn’t have been more right. Rodriguez was a sure bet to factor in the late fight on the Cauberg. Geraint Thomas (Sky) also crashed out when “someone decided he wanted a wee and just turned 90 degrees right,” he said on Twitter. Tony Martin clipped wheels with an Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate and had a long and lonely chase back on, to finish in 72nd place, more than six minutes down.

They wasted no time at all, these cruel hilly classics, in their dream-ending. And though at first blush these don’t feel like the iconoclasts the classics to the north have become, these Ardennes week races are special and edgy, built for riders who manage the left-right-left-up-down-up calculation. For six hours.

“It’s like back and forth and up and down. I crashed last year in one of the big crashes, and I still loved it,” said Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rory Sutherland. “It’s just a really cool feeling and the people out there and the fact that the sun is shining — it’s a beautiful area to ride a bike.”

And, here’s this from the yet-to-crash Schleck:

“These are my three favorite races of the year. Many years I try to do good — I did good in Flèche, and I won Liège. Amstel I always came close but never really made it to the podium. So of course everybody wants to go to the podium, but I’m really motivated. Especially for today and next Sunday. I believe the team is ready. We did good races and good preparation before. We hope the best.”

They always do, though it seldom happens. That’s racing, but that’s also racing the thin and bendy Amstel. Up next is Flèche, on Wednesday — not as harrowing as Amstel, but still very much a racer’s race.

“They’re kind of nasty races. The sort of races that it really takes a full package,” said Garmin-Sharp’s Alex Howes.

“You’ve got to know how to drive your bike real well. You’ve got to be a pretty strong climber but also have to have a pretty sound understanding of how the tactics are going to work out. It takes a bit of luck — knowing how you’re going to play your cards. And very often the weather is not good.

“So it’s a full race, from beginning to the end you’ve got to be switched on. And each one is like six and half hours of full gas.”

BMC Racing showed Sunday it has brains and brawn. The team rode a clean, forceful race, using the right riders to reel in the break, and then playing its cards — cards most teams would call aces — to perfection late in the race. Greg Van Avermaet leapt into the Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) attack. Samuel Sanchez burnt his book of matches low on the Cauberg, making the race thin instantly. And then, pop, Philippe Gilbert reminded the sport he was still Philippe Gilbert. Being strong wouldn’t have been enough. At least according to the riders.

“You have to think. If all you’re thinking about is right turn left turn up down this that, you’re not going to get very far,” Howes said. “You’ve got to be thinking two steps ahead the whole time. ‘Okay. Who’s playing this, who’s playing that, where are we going, what’s coming up here, can I sag this climb if we’re coming on to a big road after that? Do I really need to put the effort in here? Is it going to save my ass 5k down the line?’”

And though he abandoned Sunday, Garmin’s Dan Martin will return to fight for the next two, in Flèche and Liège.

“I just love the one-day races. It’s same as Lombardia, also one of my favorite one-day races. I just love that. Starting completely fresh, everything you’ve done to prepare properly for it. The two or three days before you’re just tapering. You probably feel as good as you can possibly feel at the start line of these races. Especially Liège, after the four days. Flèche, you always feel Amstel a little bit, but Liège, it’s always you’re super fresh and it’s everything on the line. One tactical mistake, you lose the race.”

Or, one crash. But, ask any rider or director and, to a man, they will all tell you that it’s just part of the game.

“I will never say it’s too dangerous. … It’s dangerous, we know. We are professional,” said Sky director Nicolas Portal. “Maybe because I come from the mountain bike, you know, sometimes you take some risks. You have nothing on the right side, but if you want to win the race, you need to be strong on the climb, and technically strong, too. On the road it’s the same.”

Before he abandoned, Martin said the peloton was particularly well mannered. Asked if there’s a reprieve from the tension, he wasn’t sure. He’s crashed out of Flèche twice.

“The peloton showed a lot of respect today,” he said. “I wasn’t there for the final, so I don’t know how hectic it got then, but from what I saw it was a lot more relaxed than previous years.

“For sure there’s a lot of road furniture here in Holland. It’s the left right up down. It’s a lot more about positioning. It’s natural the guys are going to fight for position a lot harder. Whereas Flèche and Liège, it’s definitely more, the legs do the talking. Especially at Liège.

“Flèche is still a big fight for position at the bottom of the Mur, but even then, it’s not just that last steep part. It’s a hard climb into the bottom of the Mur. … At the same time, I’ve crashed two or three times in Flèche. I think I’ve crashed out of the race twice in Flèche.

“So it’s — it’s cycling. Accidents can happen anywhere, you know?”


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Gallery: Going for the gold at Amstel Sun, 20 Apr 2014 23:56:21 +0000

The peloton ascends the Gulpenerberg. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Photos from the 49th running of the Amstel Gold Race

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The peloton ascends the Gulpenerberg. Photo: Tim De Waele |

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Michal Kwiatkowski says he’s getting better, but still has much to learn Sun, 20 Apr 2014 17:34:22 +0000 Gregor Brown

Michal Kwiatkowski says he's happy with his performance, but still has much to learn. Photo: Tim De Waele |

A different approach to the season is paying dividends for the young Polish champion, who says he's still learning his trade

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Michal Kwiatkowski says he's happy with his performance, but still has much to learn. Photo: Tim De Waele |

VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — Michal Kwiatkowski placed fifth in the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday but finished as the most promising rider. At 23, he is four years younger than his next youngest rival from the top 10, and shows potential for the Ardennes classics to come.

“There’s so much to learn and I’m still taking it all in,” Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Polish rider said. “Philippe Gilbert won the race with a solo move and was impressive, but I saw ways that I can do a little bit better. I’m happy about my condition and I’m going to keep on going into the season, which only just began.”

He could sit on the steps of the bus in his gray hooded sweatshirt without a worry. He has already won five times this season, including the Volta ao Algarve overall. In the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) last week, he won the points classification and placed second on GC.

País Vasco marked a different approach compared to last year, when he rode the cobbled classics ahead of the Ardennes. He said his fifth place on Sunday confirmed that the team was correct to re-schedule his calendar to include the traditional Ardennes lead-up.

In fact, Kwiatkowski could not find much to complain about. Though he finished one spot worse than last year — when he was one spot ahead of Gilbert — he said he felt better and the team rode strongly.

“We rode the whole course well, we stayed at the front and we had Zdenek Stybar in the break. Michal Golas was very impressive today, he was able to chase down the break, he was still with me at the bottom of the Cauberg,” Kwiatkowski said.

“I’m happy that I placed fifth because I improved from last year, I made a better start to the Cauberg and I could follow guys. Last year, I just stayed put and tried to sprint.”

An attack by Gilbert’s teammate Samuel Sánchez drew Kwiatkowski out. He was able to follow Sánchez, but had little left in his tank when Gilbert went with 2.5km remaining.

“It would’ve better to be on Gilbert’s wheel, he has so much experience. It would’ve been easier, but I started behind Golas on the Cauberg and was thinking, ‘Why wait? It’ll be just a couple of seconds and we’ll be on the top.’ Actually, though, it’s a long way to the top!”

Kwiatkowski paused and thought about what had happened on the road leading from Valkenburg. He began talking about his race plan for 2015.

“If you know the race better, you can save a lot of power,” he said. “I stayed the whole day in the front, but I think that you don’t have to do that. You can stay in the back a little more, but you have to know where and when you can do that.”

The young rider who races in the white-and-red Polish champion’s jersey could strike again in Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday. The team’s performance director, Rolf Aldag, said that he could win Liège, considered the toughest of the three Ardennes classics.

Win or lose, Kwiatkowski is certain to gain more experience that will help him develop and deliver on his star potential.


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Hampered by knee pain, Dan Martin saves his strength for down the road Sun, 20 Apr 2014 17:16:18 +0000 Matthew Beaudin

Dan Martin, shown after winning last year Liège-Bastogne-Liège, was forced by knee pain to abandon the 2014 Amstel Gold Race. Photo: BrakeThrough Media |

The reigning Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion found himself sidelined by knee pain at the Amstel Gold Race

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Dan Martin, shown after winning last year Liège-Bastogne-Liège, was forced by knee pain to abandon the 2014 Amstel Gold Race. Photo: BrakeThrough Media |

VALKENBURG, Netherlands (VN) — It probably wasn’t the ending Dan Martin expected, this sitting in the door of the bus after abandoning the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday. Martin, after all, is the defending Liège-Bastogne-Liège champ and a lover of these hilly classics.

But on this warm day in the Netherlands, Martin was forced to pull out of Amstel, citing knee pain. There was buzz that he’d crashed out of the race, though the team quickly put the clamps on that.

“I’m fine. I just had a pretty bad day. … My knee started to hurt a little bit and I just didn’t want to take any chances. I’ve got the Giro coming up and I’ve got Flèche on Wednesday and Liège on Sunday, you know? And it’s like — I’m a bit sad I couldn’t help the guys in the final, you know, but yeah, I’ve got to think big picture a bit more… and I just wasn’t on a good day,” Martin told VeloNews after the race unwound.

He’s expected to start La Flèche Wallonne Wednesday, and line up for La Doyenne Sunday.

“I’ve been having a bit of an issue with my knee the last week or so. It’s a case of every day it’s been improving. And we’ve got the best staff in the world here to look after at. Every day it’s been getting better and better, I just ran out of days,” he said. “It’s nothing serious at all.”

Rather than suffer on, the 27-year-old pulled the plug, electing to save his bullets — bullets Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) indicated everyone else will need to stall his attempt at Ardennes-week history.

“I just didn’t have any spark, you know? I think it’s also coming down from altitude. It’s the first time I’ve ever done altitude so I don’t know how my body reacts. I’ve only been down at sea level for five days so far, so, it’s obviously a bit of a learning experience,” he said.

“But again, we’re aiming for the Giro, and today we were riding for Tom [Jelte Slagter] as well. Tom and Fabian [Wegmann] were our leaders today. I was here to help them and unfortunately couldn’t do my job. I’m still pretty happy with how my legs are. Just rest up and try to be as fresh as possible for Wednesday.”

Asked if he was worried, he didn’t say he was, or seem so.

“Not at the moment, no. Should be — it’s a long time between now and then, you know? Hopefully we’ll be 100 percent.”


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Results: 2014 Amstel Gold Race Sun, 20 Apr 2014 15:32:06 +0000 Results from the 2014 Amstel Gold Race

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  • 1. Philippe GILBERT, BMC Racing, in 6:25:57
  • 2. Jelle VANENDERT, Lotto-Belisol, at :05
  • 3. Simon GERRANS, Orica-GreenEdge, at :06
  • 4. Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE, Movistar, at :06
  • 5. Michal KWIATKOWSKI, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at :06
  • 6. Simon GESCHKE, Giant-Shimano, at :10
  • 7. Bauke MOLLEMA, Belkin, at :10
  • 8. Enrico GASPAROTTO, Astana, at :10
  • 9. Daniel MORENO FERNANDEZ, Katusha, at :10
  • 10. Yukiya ARASHIRO, Europcar, at :12
  • 11. Björn LEUKEMANS, Wanty-Groupe Gobert, at :12
  • 12. Michael MATTHEWS, Orica-GreenEdge, at :12
  • 13. Davide REBELLIN, CCC Polsat Polkowice, at :12
  • 14. Fabian WEGMANN, Garmin-Sharp, at :12
  • 15. Anthony ROUX,, at :12
  • 16. Giampaolo CARUSO, Katusha, at :12
  • 17. Rui Alberto FARIA DA COSTA, Lampre-Merida, at :12
  • 18. Roman KREUZIGER, Tinkoff-Saxo, at :12
  • 19. Alexandr KOLOBNEV, Katusha, at :21
  • 20. Tom DUMOULIN, Giant-Shimano, at :21
  • 21. Tom Jelte SLAGTER, Garmin-Sharp, at :21
  • 22. Lars Petter NORDHAUG, Belkin, at :21
  • 23. Arnold JEANNESSON,, at :21
  • 24. Frank SCHLECK, Trek Factory Racing, at :23
  • 25. Thomas VOECKLER, Europcar, at :36
  • 26. Paul MARTENS, Belkin, at :36
  • 27. Cyril GAUTIER, Europcar, at :36
  • 28. Eduard VORGANOV, Katusha, at :36
  • 29. Jakob FUGLSANG, Astana, at :36
  • 30. Fabio FELLINE, Trek Factory Racing, at :36
  • 31. Marco MARCATO, Cannondale, at :36
  • 32. Enrico BARBIN, Bardiani-CSF, at :36
  • 33. Romain BARDET, Ag2r La Mondiale, at :36
  • 34. Diego ULISSI, Lampre-Merida, at :36
  • 35. Alex HOWES, Garmin-Sharp, at :36
  • 36. Stefan DENIFL, IAM Cycling, at :36
  • 37. Chris Anker SÖRENSEN, Tinkoff-Saxo, at :36
  • 38. Bob JUNGELS, Trek Factory Racing, at :36
  • 39. Edvald BOASSON HAGEN, Sky, at :36
  • 40. Greg VAN AVERMAET, BMC Racing, at :36
  • 41. Mikael CHEREL, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1:01
  • 42. Marcus BURGHARDT, BMC Racing, at 1:01
  • 43. Ben HERMANS, BMC Racing, at 1:01
  • 44. Dominik NERZ, BMC Racing, at 1:01
  • 45. Davide MALACARNE, Europcar, at 1:01
  • 46. Jan BAKELANTS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 1:01
  • 47. Dennis VANENDERT, Lotto-Belisol, at 1:01
  • 48. Kristijan DURASEK, Lampre-Merida, at 1:01
  • 49. Alessandro DE MARCHI, Cannondale, at 1:01
  • 50. Damiano CUNEGO, Lampre-Merida, at 1:01
  • 51. Laurens TEN DAM, Belkin, at 1:01
  • 52. Vincenzo NIBALI, Astana, at 1:01
  • 53. Preben VAN HECKE, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, at 1:32
  • 54. Christophe RIBLON, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 1:32
  • 55. Benoît VAUGRENARD,, at 1:32
  • 56. Simon CLARKE, Orica-GreenEdge, at 1:32
  • 57. Rafael VALLS FERRI, Lampre-Merida, at 1:32
  • 58. Angelo PAGANI, Bardiani-CSF, at 1:32
  • 59. Michal GOLAS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 1:32
  • 60. Pieter SERRY, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 2:03
  • 61. Lieuwe WESTRA, Astana, at 2:03
  • 62. Samuel SANCHEZ GONZALEZ, BMC Racing, at 2:16
  • 63. Alberto LOSADA ALGUACIL, Katusha, at 2:54
  • 64. Angel VICIOSO ARCOS, Katusha, at 2:54
  • 65. Carlos Alberto BETANCUR GOMEZ, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 2:54
  • 66. Gorka IZAGUIRRE INSAUSTI, Movistar, at 2:54
  • 67. Pieter WEENING, Orica-GreenEdge, at 3:07
  • 68. Tim WELLENS, Lotto-Belisol, at 3:23
  • 69. Maciej PATERSKI, CCC Polsat Polkowice, at 3:32
  • 70. Nathan HAAS, Garmin-Sharp, at 5:36
  • 71. Ramunas NAVARDAUSKAS, Garmin-Sharp, at 5:36
  • 72. Tony MARTIN, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 6:26
  • 73. Matteo MONTAGUTI, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 6:26
  • 74. Matthias BRANDLE, IAM Cycling, at 6:26
  • 75. Thomas LÖVKVIST, IAM Cycling, at 6:26
  • 76. Daryl IMPEY, Orica-GreenEdge, at 6:26
  • 77. Bram TANKINK, Belkin, at 8:45
  • 78. Peter VELITS, BMC Racing, at 10:00
  • 79. Nathan EARLE, Sky, at 10:00
  • 80. Matthew BUSCHE, Trek Factory Racing, at 10:00
  • 81. Thomas SPRENGERS, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, at 10:00
  • 82. Pim LIGTHART, Lotto-Belisol, at 10:00
  • 83. Bart DE CLERCQ, Lotto-Belisol, at 10:00
  • 84. Pieter JACOBS, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, at 10:00
  • 85. Marco BANDIERA, Androni Giocattoli, at 10:00
  • 86. Kévin REZA, Europcar, at 10:00
  • 87. Johnny HOOGERLAND, Androni Giocattoli, at 10:00
  • 88. Zico WAEYTENS, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, at 10:00
  • 89. Jérôme BAUGNIES, Wanty-Groupe Gobert, at 10:00
  • 90. Andriy GRIVKO, Astana, at 10:00
  • 91. Reto HOLLENSTEIN, IAM Cycling, at 10:00
  • 92. Angelo TULIK, Europcar, at 10:00
  • 93. Jean Marc MARINO, Cannondale, at 10:00
  • 94. Jonathan HIVERT, Belkin, at 10:00
  • 95. Antonio PARRINELLO, Androni Giocattoli, at 10:00
  • 96. Jussi VEIKKANEN,, at 10:00
  • 97. Sébastien MINARD, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 10:00
  • 98. Tony GALLOPIN, Lotto-Belisol, at 10:00
  • 99. Jérôme PINEAU, IAM Cycling, at 10:00
  • 100. Ben GASTAUER, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 10:00
  • 101. Maxim IGLINSKY, Astana, at 10:00
  • 102. Alexey LUTSENKO, Astana, at 10:00
  • 103. Jaroslaw MARYCZ, CCC Polsat Polkowice, at 10:00
  • 104. Karsten KROON, Tinkoff-Saxo, at 10:00
  • 105. Dries DEVENYNS, Giant-Shimano, at 10:00
  • 106. Davide VILLELLA, Cannondale, at 10:00
  • 107. Marco CANOLA, Bardiani-CSF, at 10:00
  • 108. Bryan COQUARD, Europcar, at 10:00
  • 109. Pirmin LANG, IAM Cycling, at 10:00
  • 110. Laurens DE VREESE, Wanty-Groupe Gobert, at 13:15
  • 111. Guillaume BONNAFOND, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 13:15
  • 112. Matej MOHORIC, Cannondale, at 13:15
  • 113. Francesco Manuel BONGIORNO, Bardiani-CSF, at 13:15
  • 114. Boy VAN POPPEL, Trek Factory Racing, at 13:15
  • 115. Rory SUTHERLAND, Tinkoff-Saxo, at 13:15
  • 116. Reinardt JANSE VAN RENSBURG, Giant-Shimano, at 13:15
  • 117. Roy CURVERS, Giant-Shimano, at 13:15
  • 118. Wouter POELS, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, at 13:15
  • 119. Borut BOZIC, Astana, at 13:15
  • 120. Marco FRAPPORTI, Androni Giocattoli, at 13:15
  • 121. Arthur VAN OVERBERGHE, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise, at 13:15
  • 122. Jérémy ROY,, at 16:13
  • 123. Michael Valgren ANDERSEN, Tinkoff-Saxo, at 16:13
  • DNF Jesper HANSEN, Tinkoff-Saxo
  • DNF Bruno PIRES, Tinkoff-Saxo
  • DNF Nicki SÖRENSEN, Tinkoff-Saxo
  • DNF Jos VAN EMDEN, Belkin
  • DNF David TANNER, Belkin
  • DNF Michael SCHÄR, BMC Racing
  • DNF Alberto BETTIOL, Cannondale
  • DNF Michel KOCH, Cannondale
  • DNF Daniele RATTO, Cannondale
  • DNF Murilo Antonio FISCHER,
  • DNF Matthieu LADAGNOUS,
  • DNF Thomas DEKKER, Garmin-Sharp
  • DNF Sebastian LANGEVELD, Garmin-Sharp
  • DNF Daniel MARTIN, Garmin-Sharp
  • DNF Matteo BONO, Lampre-Merida
  • DNF Mattia CATTANEO, Lampre-Merida
  • DNF Nelson Filipe SANTOS SIMOES OLIVEIRA, Lampre-Merida
  • DNF Jurgen VAN DEN BROECK, Lotto-Belisol
  • DNF Tosh VAN DER SANDE, Lotto-Belisol
  • DNF Imanol ERVITI, Movistar
  • DNF John GADRET, Movistar
  • DNF Jesus HERRADA LOPEZ, Movistar
  • DNF José Ivan GUTIERREZ PALACIOS, Movistar
  • DNF Zdenek STYBAR, Omega Pharma-Quick Step
  • DNF Julian ALAPHILIPPE, Omega Pharma-Quick Step
  • DNF Michael ALBASINI, Orica-GreenEdge
  • DNF Mathew HAYMAN, Orica-GreenEdge
  • DNF Christian MEIER, Orica-GreenEdge
  • DNF Perrig QUEMENEUR, Europcar
  • DNF Koen DE KORT, Giant-Shimano
  • DNF Thierry HUPOND, Giant-Shimano
  • DNF Albert TIMMER, Giant-Shimano
  • DNF Joaquin RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Katusha
  • DNF Sergei CHERNETSKI, Katusha
  • DNF Ian BOSWELL, Sky
  • DNF Joshua EDMONDSON, Sky
  • DNF Christian KNEES, Sky
  • DNF Danny PATE, Sky
  • DNF Ben SWIFT, Sky
  • DNF Geraint THOMAS, Sky
  • DNF Andy SCHLECK, Trek Factory Racing
  • DNF Kristof VANDEWALLE, Trek Factory Racing
  • DNF Haimar ZUBELDIA AGIRRE, Trek Factory Racing
  • DNF Manuel BELLETTI, Androni Giocattoli
  • DNF Nicola TESTI, Androni Giocattoli
  • DNF Omar BERTAZZO, Androni Giocattoli
  • DNF Andrea ZORDAN, Androni Giocattoli
  • DNF Bartlomiej MATYSIAK, CCC Polsat Polkowice
  • DNF Lukasz OWSIAN, CCC Polsat Polkowice
  • DNF Marek RUTKIEWICZ, CCC Polsat Polkowice
  • DNF Adrian HONKISZ, CCC Polsat Polkowice
  • DNF Adrian KUREK, CCC Polsat Polkowice
  • DNF Sylvain CHAVANEL, IAM Cycling
  • DNF Aleksejs SARAMOTINS, IAM Cycling
  • DNF Edward THEUNS, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
  • DNF Eliot LIETAER, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
  • DNF Pieter VANSPEYBROUCK, Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
  • DNF Wesley KREDER, Wanty-Groupe Gobert
  • DNF Michel KREDER, Wanty-Groupe Gobert
  • DNF Marco MINNAARD, Wanty-Groupe Gobert
  • DNF Nico SIJMENS, Wanty-Groupe Gobert
  • DNF James VANLANDSCHOOT, Wanty-Groupe Gobert
  • DNF Sonny COLBRELLI, Bardiani-CSF
  • DNF Enrico BATTAGLIN, Bardiani-CSF
  • DNF Nicola BOEM, Bardiani-CSF
  • DNF Edoardo ZARDINI, Bardiani-CSF

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Philippe Gilbert wins Amstel Gold in last-minute surge Sun, 20 Apr 2014 14:54:03 +0000

Philippe Gilbert attacks on the Cauberg to win his third Amstel Gold Race. Photo: AFP

After a winter of training and sacrifices, a resurgent Gilbert wins his third Amstel Gold race with a massive attack on the final ascent

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Philippe Gilbert attacks on the Cauberg to win his third Amstel Gold Race. Photo: AFP

A resurgent Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team) broke away on the final climb to win the 49th edition of the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.

The peloton had only just retrieved an escape going into the final ascent of the Cauberg when first Samuel Sanchez, then Gilbert lit it up, the latter instantly opening a lead of several bike lengths. And while Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) led a frantic pursuit, it was too late — the BMC man had plenty of time to sit up, arrange his jersey for the cameramen, and celebrate his third victory here.

“My teammates did a great job,” Gilbert said. “During the briefing the Sanchez attack was foreseen. So it wasn’t a surprise for me, but I think it was one for my adversaries. … I just had to wait.”

Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Belisol) finished second with Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) out-kicking Kwiatkowski and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) for third.

The 252km race from Maastricht to Valkenburg claimed a host of victims, with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Andy Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) and Geraint Thomas (Sky) among those forced to abandon following crashes.

An early 10-man break had dwindled to Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF) with just over 30km to go.

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) attacked from the bunch to try to reach the leaders, and following were Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing Team), Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol), Pieter Weening (Orica-GreenEdge), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), Bjorn Leukemans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Paul Martens (Belkin).

Boem lost contact on the Keutenberg, leaving a twosome out front. And with 24km remaining Riblon and Van Hecke still had 90 seconds’ advantage as they passed the finish line for the first time and entered the final circuit.

The Voeckler group was shedding riders and had only a couple dozen seconds’ edge over the main group, which likewise was whittling itself down.

With 15km to go the two leaders were carrying on, with the Voeckler group at 40 seconds and the main bunch just behind.

As the intermediate group came apart and drifted back to the peloton Van Avermaet and Fuglsang held firm and kept chasing the leaders. With 11km to go it was a four-man lead group, just seconds ahead of the main bunch.

Garmin was setting the pace on the penultimate climb, the Bemerlerberg. Then Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) shot away from the chase and bridged to the leaders.

That was the cue for Van Avermaet to try his luck. He got nowhere, and as one rider after another tried and failed the pursuit pulled them back in and it was one big bunch with 7km remaining.

Orica-GreenEdge came to the front then and set the pace with one final ascent of the 12 percent, 800-meter Cauberg remaining.

Teams fought for position in the high-speed descent to the last climb, and as the ground tilted upward it was Gilbert who blasted out of the pack and drove for the line, just as he did in the 2012 world road championships.

“I took the inside path of the curve. We knew it was supposed to be bad wind in the final, but of course I knew the route very well,” he said.

Gilbert hit the red kite alone, pursued by Simon Gerrans (Orica), Valverde and Kwiatkowski. And he would stay alone, crossing the line with a broad grin and one hand raised skyward.

Gilbert said it was an emotional day for him, with his wife and children at the start.

“It was a good moment for me and for them … the emotion was really strong,” he said. “And also for me, I’m still like a child somewhere. I’m still dreaming about races like this one.”

Vanendert was pleased with his runner-up finish.

“It confirms the condition is back,” he said. The feelings I had in racing and training were really good. In Paris-Nice I raced with a broken elbow, so you have to be careful with that.”

As for Gerrans, he said the best man won.

“Philippe came straight past me. …. He was going too strong for me today,” he said. “It’s my third time finishing third in this race, so I would have liked to improve on that, but I’m happy finishing on the podium, behind Philippe who was the strongest guy in the race today. There’s no question.”

Editor’s note: Senior writer Matthew Beaudin contributed to this report.




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Joaquim Rodriguez, Andy Schleck among crash victims at Amstel Gold Sun, 20 Apr 2014 13:49:59 +0000

Paramedics attend to Joaquim Rodriguez after his crash in the Amstel Gold Race. Photo: AFP

Rodriguez was in hospital, complaining of dizziness, while Schleck continued briefly before abandoning

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Paramedics attend to Joaquim Rodriguez after his crash in the Amstel Gold Race. Photo: AFP

VALKENBURG, Netherlands (AFP) — Joaquim Rodriguez is in doubt for the rest of the Ardennes classics campaign after crashing out of the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday.

The 34-year-old Katusha rider could well miss Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne, a race he won in 2012, after complaining of dizziness.

“Purito definitely out. @PuritoRodriguez hit by other rider,” said his team’s press officer, Philippe Maertens, on Twitter.

“Too dizzy in head to continue. Too early to say something on coming races.”

Rodriguez himself tweeted later: “Thanks for the encouragement, here we are still in the hospital waiting for results. I hope it’s good news.” The team followed up with a note saying that X-rays found no fractures, though Rodriguez was bruised about the ribs.

Although the Amstel course isn’t the most ideal for Rodriguez’s explosive characteristics, he has had some of his best results in the three Ardennes classics.

He finished second at Amstel in 2011, and has had two runner-up finishes at Flèche Wallonne (2010 and 2011) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2009 and 2013).

The same crash, about 80km into the 251.8km race, took down Andy Schleck (Trek Factory Racing). He got back on his bike and rejoined the peloton, only to abandon with knee problems some 40km further down the road.

Schleck, who won Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2009 and was awarded the 2010 Tour de France victory after Alberto Contador was stripped of his win for doping, has not recovered his form since fracturing his pelvis in a crash at the 2012 Criterium du Dauphine.

His best result since then was 20th at last year’s Tour.

Also abandoning were Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), winner of last year’s Liège, and Geraint Thomas (Sky), who tweeted wryly: “Someone decided he wanted a wee and just turned 90 degrees right, nowhere to go, apart from the deck.”


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Brecht Dhaene, Elana Cecchini win Winston-Salem Cycling Classic crits Sun, 20 Apr 2014 03:43:42 +0000

Brecht Dhaene (Astellas Cycling Team) held on to win the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic criterium. Photo: Matt Brown |

Two little-known riders — one of them racing her first criterium — scored big upsets in Winston-Salem

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Brecht Dhaene (Astellas Cycling Team) held on to win the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic criterium. Photo: Matt Brown |

A pair of little-known riders — Belgian Brecht Dhaene and Italian Elana Cecchini — scored big upsets Saturday at the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic criteriums in North Carolina.

Dhaene (Astellas Cycling Team) finished just ahead of the chasing field after riding in a three-man breakaway for more than half of the 90-minute men’s race.

“Coming out of the last corner, my left leg was completely cramping,” Dhaene said. “But I knew if I could make it in pole position into the last corner, I was going to win. So I embraced the pain and went as hard as I could the last 50 meters. I was on the brink of explosion. Everything was falling apart.”

Dhaene, David Cueli (UnitedHealthcare of Georgia-The 706 Project) and Rémi Pelletier-Roy (Garneau-Quebecor) teamed up to build a lead that yo-yoed between 20 and 25 seconds the final half hour. Their advantage was still 13 seconds with two laps left as first Team SmartStop, then UnitedHealthcare and finally Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies led the pursuit.

Cueli was first to be caught on the second-to-last corner of the six-turn course and Pelletier-Roy was absorbed in the short chute leading to the final turn. But Dhaene, who said he was simply covering a move he thought would not survive to the finish, held on to win ahead of a pair of Americans, Luke Keough (UnitedHealthcare) and Daniel Holloway (Athlete Octane).

“I love all the turns, it’s something we really like in Belgium,” Dhaene said. “I knew I was not able to win in the sprint, so I tried to attack and it worked out just fine. I really wanted to have a win in the next couple of races because I knew my shape was good. So that’s what made me do it.”

Pelletier-Roy, who held on to finish fourth, and Cueli had previously showed their strength on the first stop of the USA CRITS Series, the Delray Beach Twilight Criterium. There, they teamed together to finish first and second, respectively.

Holloway, the 2010 U.S. national criterium champion, said the field might have relied too much on UnitedHealthcare to lead the chase.

“We’ve seen it time and time again where the race gives a small group like that 20 or 30 seconds and then ‘the blue train’ (UnitedHealthcare) comes to the front and reels it back,” he said. “I think the course was just tough enough to suit a strong group staying away. We got awfully close. He didn’t win it by much. We were hot on his heels.”

In the women’s race, Cecchini (Estado de México-Faren Kuota) upset a field of criterium specialists to win by a bike length ahead of New Zealand’s Joanne Kiesanowski (Team Tibco) and U.S. national criterium champion Alison Powers (UnitedHealthcare). Shelley Olds, the winner of Friday’s Winston-Salem Cycling Classic road race, was fourth.

Cecchini, who finished fifth on Friday, said the 60-minute race was her first criterium.

“I do a lot of track during the winter, so it’s like a track race,” she said. “I knew that Shelley Olds was the favorite and also Alison Powers. So I stayed in the first position and saw that UnitedHealthcare was doing a good train. So I stayed in their wheel. I went into the last corner first because I knew there were faster riders than me.”

Powers, whose UnitedHealthcare team had taken the front with two laps to go, said Cecchini may not have been well-known before the race, but she pulled a veteran move.

“She passed me in the last corner — that’s impressive,” Powers said. “I don’t usually get passed in the corners. We were hoping to have Hannah (Barnes) on my wheel, so that would prevent anyone from coming around. And if someone did come around, it would be Hannah. Unfortunately, Hannah wasn’t there.”

Thanks to a fast pace, breakaway moves were at a premium during the 60-minute race. The most promising move featured five riders that slipped the rapidly diminishing peloton with 11 laps to go. But the quintet enjoyed only two laps of freedom and never led by more than 10 seconds.


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Start list: 2014 Amstel Gold Race Sun, 20 Apr 2014 00:34:29 +0000 The start list for the 2014 Amstel Gold Race

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1 Kreuziger, Roman
2 Andersen, Michael Valgren
3 Hansen, Jesper
4 Kroon, Karsten
5 Pires, Bruno
6 Sorensen, Chris-Anker
7 Sorensen, Nick
8 Sutherland, Rory
Sport director: Hoffman, Tristan

Ag2R La Mondiale
11 Bardet, Romain
12 Betancur Gomez, Carlos Alberto
13 Bonnafond , Guillaume
14 Cherel, Mikae
15 Gastauer, Ben
16 Minard, Sébastien
17 Montaguti, Matteo
18 Riblon, Christophe
Sport director: Quiclet, Jean-Baptiste

Astana Pro Team
21 Nibali, Vincenzo
22 Bozic, Borut
23 Fuglsang, Jakob
24 Gasparotto, Enrico
25 Lutsenko, Alexey
26 Grivko, Andriy
27 Iglinskiy, Maxim
28 Westra, Lieuwe
Sport director: Zanini, Stefano

31 Mollema, Bauke
32 Van Emden, Jos
33 Hivert, Jonathan
34 Martens, Paul
35 Nordhaug, Lars Petter
36 Tankink, Bram
37 Tanner, David
38 Ten Dam, Laurens

BMC Racing Team
41 Gilbert, Philippe
42 Burghardt, Marcus
43 Hermans, Ben
44 Nerz, Dominik
45 Sanchez Gonzalez, Samuel
46 Van Avermaet, Greg
47 van Garderen, Tejay
48 Velits, Peter

51 Bettiol, Alberto
52 De Marchi, Alessandro
53 Koch, Michael
54 Marcato, Marco
55 Marino, Jean Marc
56 Mohoric, Matej
57 Ratto, Daniele
58 Villella, Davide
Sport director: Volpi, Alberto
61 Courteille, Arnaud
62 Fischer, Murilo Antonio
63 Jeanesson, Arnold
64 Ladagnous, Matthieu
65 Roy, Jeremy
66 Vaugrenard, Benoit
67 Veikkanen, Jussi
68 Vichot, Arthur
Sport director: Pineau, Franck

71 Dekker, Thomas
72 Langeveld, Sebastian
73 Howes, Alex
74 Martin, Daniel
75 Navardauskas, Ramunas
76 Haas, Nathan
77 Slagter, Tom Jelte
78 Wegmann, Fabian
Sport director: Weltz, Johnny

81 Cunego, Damiano
82 Bono, Matteo
83 Cattaneo, Mattia
84 Faria Da Costa, Rui Alberto
85 Oliveira, Nelson
86 Ulissi, Diego
87 Valls Ferri, Rafael
88 Durasek, Kristijan
Sport director: Fernandez Rodriguez, Jose Antonio

91 De Clercq, Bart
92 Gallopin, Tony
93 Ligthart, Pim
94 Van Den Broeck, Jurgen
95 Van Der Sande, Tosh
96 Vanendert, Dennis
97 Vanendert, Jelle
98 Wellens, Tim
Sport director: Leysen, Bart

101 Valverde Belmonte, Alejandro
102 Erviti, Imanol
103 Gadret, John
104 Herrada Lopez, Jesus
105 Izaguirre Insausti, Jon
106 Gutierrez Palacios, José Ivan
107 Intxausti Elorriaga, Benat
108 Izagirre Insausti, Gorka
Sport director: Arrieta, Jose Luis

Omega Pharma-Quick Step
111 Kwiatkowski, Michal
112 Bakelants, Jan
113 Golas, Michal
114 Martin, Tony
115 Poels, Wouter
116 Serry, Pieter
117 Stybar, Zdenek
118 Terpstra, Niki
Sport director: Steels, Tom

121 Gerrans, Simon
122 Albasini, Michael
123 Clarke, Simon
124 Hayman, Mathew
125 Impey, Daryl
126 Matthews, Michael
127 Meier, Christian
128 Weening, Pieter
Sport director: White, Matthew

131 Voeckler, Thomas
132 Arashiro, Yukiya
133 Bernaudeau, Giovanni
134 Coquard, Bryan
135 Gautier, Cyril
136 Quemeneur, Perrig
137 Reza, Kevin
138 Tulik, Angelo
Sport director: Flickinger, Andy

Team Giant-Shimano
141 Geschke, Simon
142 Curvers, Roy
143 De Kort, Koen
144 Devenyns, Dries
145 Dumoulin, Tom
146 Hupond, Thierry
147 Janse Van Rensburg, Reinardt
148 Timmer, Albert
Sport director: Visbeek, Aike

Team Katusha
151 Rodriguez Oliver, Joaquin
152 Caruso, Giampaolo
153 Chernetsckii, Sergei
154 Kolobnev, Alexander
155 Losada Alguacil, Alberto
156 Moreno Fernandez, Daniel
157 Vicioso Arcos, Ange
158 Vorganov, Eduard
Sport director: Azevedo, Jose

Team Sky
161 Boswell, Ian
162 Earle, Nathan
163 Edmondson, Josh
164 Boasson Hagen, Edvald
165 Knees, Christian
166 Pate, Danny
167 Swift, Ben
168 Thomas, Geraint
Sport director: Portal, Nicolas

Trek Factory Team
171 Busche, Matthew
172 Van Poppel, Boy
173 Felline, Fabio
174 Jungels, Bob
175 Schleck, Andy
176 Schleck, Frank
177 Vandewalle, Kristof
178 Zubeldia Aguirre, Haimar

Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela
181 Bandiera, Marco
182 Belletti, Manuel
183 Frapporti, Marco
184 Hoogerland, Johnny
185 Parrinello, Antonio
186 Testi, Nicola
187 Bertazzo, Omar
188 Zordan, Andrea
Sport director: Ellena, Giovanni

CCC Polsat Polkowice
191 Rebellin, Davide
192 Marycz, Jaroslaw
193 Matysiak, Bartlomiej
194 Owsian, Lukasz
195 Paterski, Maciej
196 Rutkiewicz, Marek
197 Honkisz, Adrian
198 Taciak, Mateusz
Sport director: Wadecki, Piotr

IAM Cycling
201 Chavanel, Sylvain
202 Brandle, Matthias
203 Denifl, Stefan
204 Lang, Pirmin
205 Hollenstein, Reto
206 Lovkvist, Thomas
207 Pineau, Jerome
208 Saramotins, Aleksejs
Sport director: Carlström, Kjell

Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
211 Helven, Sander
212 Jacobs, Pieter
213 Lietaer, Eliot
214 Sprengers, Thomas
215 Van Hecke, Preben
216 Vanoverberghe, Arthur
217 Vanspeybrouck, Pieter
218 Waeytens, Zico
Sport director: De Clercq, Hans

Wanty-Groupe Gobert
221 Leukemans, Bjorn
222 Baugnies, Jerome
223 De Greef, Francis
24 De Vreese, Laurens
225 Kreder, Michel
226 Minnaard, Marco
227 Sijmens, Nico
228 Selvaggi, Mirko
Sport director: Vanderschueren, Hilaire Bardiani

Valvole-CSF Inox
231 Colbrelli, Sonny
232 Barbin, Enrico
233 Battaglin, Enrico
234 Boem, Nicola
235 Bongiorno, Francesco Manuel
236 Canola, Marco
237 Pagani, Angelo
238 Zardini, Edouardo
Sport director: Reverberi, Roberto

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Coming off a win, Philippe Gilbert carries confidence, caution into Amstel Gold Sat, 19 Apr 2014 22:21:09 +0000 Matthew Beaudin

Philippe Gilbert doesn't want to go into the Ardennes triple as a "super favorite." Photo: Tim De Waele |

Gilbert won Brabantse Pijl just days ago, a tilt of momentum into Ardennes week. But he doesn't want to be thought of as the man to beat

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Philippe Gilbert doesn't want to go into the Ardennes triple as a "super favorite." Photo: Tim De Waele |

MAASTRICHT, Netherlands (VN) — It’s something that will both carry and haunt Philippe Gilbert as he presses forward in his career: the Ardennes week sweep in 2011.

Gilbert (BMC Racing) won the three hilly classics that constitute “Ardennes week” in one fell swoop that year, the first and only rider to do so since Davide Rebellin in 2004. Since then, Gilbert has won a world championship in the road race, but has not attained his previous level, by any measure. It’s a cross the Belgian must bear now, that of supreme expectation.

He won Brabantse Pijl just days ago, a tilt of momentum into Amstel, La Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Gilbert is, has been, a winner. But can he get back to the Gilbert of old?

“It’s nice to win again. It’s nice to win a spring race, you know? It’s the first one with BMC. It’s been a long time. I’ve been training a lot. So it’s nice,” he told the media before Amstel.

Amstel is a racer’s race: There is hardly a straight second of road, and the course is littered with sharp climbs and sharper descents. Right, left, up, down. In theory, it suits a puncheur like Gilbert, and he won his rainbow stripes on this same exact finish — a slightly downhill stretch of road 1.8 kilometers long after the steep ascent of the Cauberg.

“I like this race. I like this upcoming week. I’ve had some success in the race for sure. I’d like to have [more] also this year and in the future. I like it — it’s technical. I think everything is possible. It makes it special,” he said.

Of course, there’s a big difference between Pijl and Amstel.

“Sunday’s the WorldTour race. The best riders in the world. The best teams in the world. The race is also 60km more. So all this, it makes a big, big difference,” Gilbert said.

The BMC team scouted the Amstel parcours to get a feel for how the team should ride it. It’s likely Amstel will see a long break, and big teams will try to slip riders in to avoid working. The bendy nature of the course, narrow roads, and the ever-billowing winds can make this race very, very tricky.

“It’s nice to be there with the team. We can all talk about the roads, the direction of the wind. Especially for Sunday’s race it’s really important. It’s nice to be together on the race. Cycling is all about being a team. If you are more together you can have a better team … everything comes automatic, and that’s the goal, also, of this kind of recon,” Gilbert said.

In a way, Gilbert now finds himself in a bit of a sweet spot. Coming off a win, but without the burden of 2012 in the rainbow stripes.

“It’s motivation, but in a way, I don’t want to be the super favorite for the next races,” he said. “I know I’m good. I have a good team. But I know also that other teams are really good and have good riders. I will be one contender for sure, because I’m always there in the final of Amstel.”

There’s just one more day now until the sport learns who’s “there” in the Amstel final this year, and who will carry even more weight into the next two races.


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Ian Boswell eager to tackle the triple: Amstel, Trentino and Liege Sat, 19 Apr 2014 14:09:53 +0000 Gregor Brown

Ian Boswell, shown in his debut with Sky in 2013, this year is tapped to race the Ardennes triple. Photo: Graham Watson | (file)

The only rider slated to race the triple this year, Boswell says he's "leaps ahead" of last year and ready to work for Sky's leaders

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Ian Boswell, shown in his debut with Sky in 2013, this year is tapped to race the Ardennes triple. Photo: Graham Watson | (file)

GENT, Belgium (VN) — Ian Boswell rushed to empty his refrigerator and pack his bags when he heard his travel plans. Team Sky had called, asking him to race Amstel Gold, the Giro del Trentino and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“I got the full package!” Boswell told VeloNews via telephone while leaving his base in Nice, France. “Six days of racing over eight days. Afterwards, I’m flying to LA for a 21st Century Fox press meeting, home to Oregon for a few days and then back to support Brad Wiggins in the Tour of California.”

The 23-year-old — the only rider scheduled to race the triple this year — spoke with pride about the upcoming week. In his sophomore year as a pro, he debuts in the Ardennes classics, races he holds highly as he placed second in Liège in 2012 as an under-23 rider.

Boswell’s job is not to win, but to help others do so. He will support Geraint Thomas, Edvald Boasson Hagen and Ben Swift in Amstel Gold, Wiggins in Trentino, and Chris Froome and Richie Porte in Liège.

“I do Amstel Gold, fly to Trentino the next day for a team time trial and three road stages, the next day fly up to Belgium and do Liège. With the U.S., it’s a month-long trip,” Boswell said.

“I don’t mind, my fitness is good. I want to do well in these races in the future anyway.”

Boswell traveled alongside Australian Nathan Earle. Last year, he was in the same shoes as Earle, debuting in the first division and riding with a foreign team. Now, he has his chance to race the Ardennes classics. And he says he feels confident in his abilities to perform.

“The team noted that I’m leaps ahead compared to last year: I’m set up in Europe, I understand how the team works, my role in the team, how my body’s adapted to the training. Last year, I had to fight my body just to get through the training rides and meet the demands of training for the WorldTour. This year, it’s much more manageable for me.

“I know the team and know what’s expected of me. I’ve taken a big step forward by knowing what I need to do to be at the level they want me to perform at. My training’s been spot on and I’ve had consistency.”

Boswell will spend Saturday training on the Dutch and Belgian roads around Sky’s base in Maastricht. Though he rides now in Sky’s black and blue kit, he covered these roads on the U.S. national team at the 2012 world championships.

The worlds circuit used the same famous Cauberg climb that Amstel uses each year. In fact, the Amstel pushed its finish line 1.8km down the road to match the worlds course. Boswell also returned to Maastricht last year to visit the team during its Ardennes campaign and rode the roads again.

“These classics require experience. Like Amstel, it’s inherently dangerous with its turns and the wind. Mathew Hayman rode Paris-Roubaix 10 to 15 times and is still perfecting his way. It’s the same with the Ardennes, just getting experience and building fitness,” Boswell said.

“Sky didn’t get a win in the classics beforehand, but it’s going well. I hope to help the team win in Amstel or Liège. I’m not going for a result, but to be a part of a successful team.”


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McCabe, Olds win road races at Winston-Salem Classic Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:56:39 +0000

Team SmartStop's Travis McCabe took a big win at the Winston-Salem Classic. Photo by Matt Brown,

A pair of American riders, Travis McCabe and Shelly Olds, took victories Friday at the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic in North Carolina.

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Team SmartStop's Travis McCabe took a big win at the Winston-Salem Classic. Photo by Matt Brown,

A pair of American riders, Travis McCabe and Shelly Olds, took victories Friday at the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic in North Carolina.

The UCI and National Racing Calendar (NRC) women’s race was the first of two professional cycling events Friday in Winston-Salem. Olds (Alé Cipollini-Galassia) won a bunch sprint finale ahead of Canadian Joelle Numainville (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Eugenia Bujak of Poland (BTC City Ljubljana) at the end of the 91-kilometer race that comprised eight laps of an 11.5-km circuit.

“It’s probably my favorite win of the year by far,” Olds said. “It’s my country and I never get to race here. Now, to see some riders racing over here that I normally see in Europe, it kind of mixes up the whole dynamic of the racing. You don’t just have American style racing or European racing. You have a combination of both. It makes it much more exciting. It was really fun.”

Alé Cipollini set up Olds perfectly, shutting down multiple attacks throughout the day. Olds also played a role in ensuring the bunch sprint by marking an acceleration by UnitedHealthcare’s Alison Powers with two laps to go, and again on the final lap. Erica Allar (Colavita-Fine Cooking) also made her way onto the wheel of Powers, who tried a final time to attack solo on a descent. But even a 10-second advantage was not enough to prevent the bunch finish, as she was caught on the steep section of the final climb that featured a maximum gradient of 10 percent.

“This actually was supposed to be my break after my block in Europe,” Olds said. “But, we found out about this race and it’s really important for our team to be here and race today. I didn’t know how I was going to feel, I’m trying to take sort of a rest from the whole block, but I think the rest did me good last week with my family and now I am kind of fresh.”

Alison Tetrick (Twenty16 Pro Cycling) won both the “Queen of the Mountain” and the sprint competition after attacking on the second lap and staying away until about two-and-a-half laps remained. She gained as much as a 90-second lead, but an attack by Powers brought a select group to her wheel. But that move was eventually neutralized by the field.

“Our team just wanted to race hard and show Winston-Salem a little bit about women’s cycling,” Tetrick said. ”Sometimes you can’t plan for bike racing, when the moment’s right you just go for it. It was pretty early, but it was a beautiful course and a lot of fun to ride. I definitely enjoyed that time. I think this is my first solidified queen of the mountains jersey of my career. I won a sprint jersey on Ronde van Drenthe, so now this is my second of those.”

McCabe times it perfectly

Later Friday, McCabe used a perfectly-timed attack on the final climb to solo to victory, ahead of Australian Joe Lewis (Hincapie Sportswear Development Team). Canadian national road champion Zach Bell (SmartStop) sprinted to third out of a small group, five seconds later.

“This is huge,” McCabe said of the victory. “The team is based out of Winston-Salem. It’s our home town, so it was a race we really wanted to win. The team was always there in all the moves and all of the splits. It’s a big win for us. We’re really excited.”

The chaotic race came down to a group of 14 riders which formed in the final nine laps of the 171-kilometer race that comprised 15 laps of an 11.4-km circuit. A three-rider escape group of David Cueli (UnitedHealthcare of Georgia), Matt Green (Astellas), and Oscar Clark (Hincapie Sportswear) stayed away out of that group for several laps starting at that point. A seven-rider chase group formed behind those three, and Green was eventually dropped. A group of 10 formed with three laps to go, but there was a regroupment of 34 riders about half a lap later.

Attacks continued to fly, but a strong counter attack by Will Routley (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) with two laps remaining upped the pace in the group significantly. By the time Routley was caught due to an acceleration from Bell, there was only a lap to go and the front group had splintered.

Several teams were well-represented in the small group that contested the finish. Smartstop had four riders, Hincapie Sportswear had three and the Optum and 5-Hour Energy-Kenda squads each had two.  Smartstop took over the front to set up McCabe, with the 2013 U.S. national elite criterium champion launching his winning attack on the final climb.

“I went on the steepest part — the last 50 meters of that climb,” McCabe said. “It was sort of like a stair-stepper. You had the kicker, it flattened out, then a kicker, and then the last 50 or 100 meters it was just steep. I knew right there we had four guys. I just lined it up and we just took a chance and I went as hard as I could up over the hill. It was so short after the hill that if I could get up and over with a gap, I could recover over the rollers. If anyone caught me I had enough of a kick. So I just took a chance and it played out really well.”

Smartstop team director Michael Creed said McCabe’s victory in the UCI-National Racing Calendar event builds on the team’s earlier accomplishments this season: a stage win by McCabe at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, second and third at last weekend’s Novant Health Invitational Criterium, and a runner-up finish with Rob Britton at Vuelta Independencia Nacional in February.

“To see the guys who didn’t know each other from the start, who had very few connections amongst them, come together and to be at the helm of that – for them to do what I say and trust it is very satisfying,” Creed said. “It’s one thing to say this is a tactic, and another for the riders to have a mentality to make sure it happens. These guys did that and there is a tremendous amount of satisfaction.”

In addition to the runner-up finish for Lewis, Hincapie Sportswear swept the king of the mountains and sprint competitions with Lewis and Alexander Ray, respectively.

The two-day Winston-Salem Cycling Classic continues Saturday with the fourth round of the USA Crits Series. The women will contest a 60-minute criterium, followed by a 75-minute men’s event. Both races will stream live at

Watch day 2 of the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic >>

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Omega rolling confident into Ardennes week Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:16:32 +0000 Matthew Beaudin

Omega's Michal Kwiatkowski looks to strike in the Ardennes races, starting with Amstel. (c)Tim De Waele

Omega Pharma is traditionally thought of as a cobbled classics team, but this year the Ardennes may show another side to the Belgian squad

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Omega's Michal Kwiatkowski looks to strike in the Ardennes races, starting with Amstel. (c)Tim De Waele

SITTARD, Netherlands (VN) — Omega Pharma-Quick Step is fresh off a Paris-Roubaix victory, and has an ace in hand for this week’s hilly classics. It’s good to be an Omega rider right about now, and it could get even better soon.

The Belgian powerhouse team, which salvaged its classics campaign on the wings of Niki Terpstra’s dazzling solo effort last week in the velodrome, enters the second phase of spring races with Michal Kwiatkowski as an outside favorite in the hilly Ardennes races — and a deep roster with many riders capable of striking.

“I know I can do it well, Amstel Gold Race,” Kwiatkowski told reporters on Friday. “We go into the race very motivated. As for me, I’ve had more results this year leading into Amstel. So, because of that there is perhaps more pressure, but until now nothing has changed.”

Indeed, this season has shaped up nicely for Kwiatkowski. He’s finished first and second at the Volta ao Algarve and Tour of the Basque Country, respectively, and won Strade Bianche, where he smashed Peter Sagan (Cannondale) in the final, steep kilometer. The 23-year-old has become the next hottest thing in cycling, and certainly enters into races now with expectation and a bit more pressure, two things that come quickly for young riders taking major results. And even with undisputed talent and form, winning one of these Ardennes races is a tall, tall order. Kwiatkowski must butt heads with the likes of Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), and Joaqium Rodríguez (Katusha).

“I can say much more after the race. I have to save a lot of energy until the last climb on the Cauberg. It’s not easy to stay in front all day of a 250km race. If you want to save energy, perhaps some people will think it’s better to sit in the back of the group. But, it’s always better to sit in the front,” Kwiatkowski said. “You have to do that. Don’t use energy to be there. You have to know where to be before the climb and on the climb. That’s why the recon and experience of this race is so important and I am happy we’re well prepared. I know the parcours really well, as does the team.”

Kwiatkowski said the race tends to boil at about 70 kilometers to go, adding that he will be weary of attacks. “There are a lot of good riders who are explosive on the climbs. Philippe Gilbert, Joaquim Rodriguez, or Alejandro Valverde for example. This race is unpredictable, so it’s difficult to give a true prognosis before the race,” Kwiatkowski said.

Omega boss Patrick Lefevere is bullish on his rider. And why wouldn’t he be?

“Michal last year was also competitive in these kinds of races,” Lefevere said. “This year, the riders around him have become stronger. We have experienced riders like Pieter Serry, Jan Bakelants, and Wout Poels, who is racing at home. We’ll also have to see how recovered Zdenek Stybar is from Paris-Roubaix. As for the race, it typically is very nervous. There are a lot of curves. They announced crosswinds for the race, so it will be even more tough.”

Poels, coming off a stage win at Pais Vasco, said he feels up to the task of Amstel — a race that seems to feature every hill in The Netherlands, comprising its 13,000 feet of climbing.

“I feel really good,” Poels said. “Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco was a really nice victory, and race in general. I feel really good, so I hope we can do a nice job at Amstel Gold Race. It means a lot at my home province. It’s a really nice race, and a nice public here at my home. I’m looking forward to it. I feel the team really likes this race. We have climbers in the team who can also do well in a one day race like this.”

Another Omega rider looking forward to the climbs of the region is Jan Bakelants. The 28-year-old Belgian soared to prominence last season when he held the yellow jersey at the Tour de France for stages 3 and 4 after a stage win on the second day of the race.

“The upcoming two races, Amstel Gold Race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, are really important races of my season,” Bakelants said. “I look forward to competing in them. Clearly I am eager to do them and hoping to do well for me as well as the team. Amstel Gold Race is not typical because it’s all about short, uphill, almost sprinting efforts. One sprint is not enough to get to the top though, so there’s a mix of endurance and efforts that go into the lactic acid. So, this parcours is a nice challenge. As for the team, OPQS has a strong team this year with 30 strong guys. No matter which race we come to, we have always eight really competitive riders.”

That much, he’s certainly right about. Amstel begins on Sunday in Maastricht.

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Pro Bike Gallery: Joe Schmalz’s Felt FC Fri, 18 Apr 2014 17:52:31 +0000 Logan VonBokel

The Hincapie Development rider employs a Shimano Ultegra 6800 groupset paired with a Dura-Ace 7900 SRM crank

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Cavendish to skip Giro in favor of Tour de France prep Fri, 18 Apr 2014 15:48:53 +0000 The British rider’s No. 1 objective for the season is the Tour de France

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PARIS (AFP) — British sprint specialist Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) revealed on Friday that he will bypass next month’s Giro d’Italia to focus on the Tour de France, which begins July 5.

The 28-year-old Isle of Man native will instead use the Tour of Turkey (April 27-May 4), Amgen Tour of California (May 11-18), and the Tour de Suisse (June 14-22) as his tune-up races for the Tour de France. This summer’s Tour begins in Leeds, located in Yorkshire, England.

“As everyone knows, my main objective this year is the Tour de France,” said Cavendish, who has won 25 Tour de France stages.

“I will not do the Giro this year, which saddens me because it is a race that has given me a lot of satisfaction in the past.”

Cavendish, whose mother is from Harrogate, the finishing town for the first stage of this year’s Tour de France, has won 15 Giro stages during his career and earned the overall points title at last year’s race.

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Matthews hopes to bolster season wins total at Amstel Gold Race and Giro Fri, 18 Apr 2014 13:40:16 +0000 Gregor Brown

Michael Matthews picked up a stage win at the Tour of the Basque Country earlier this month. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The Orica-GreenEdge rider recently earned two wins and a runner-up ahead of Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race

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Michael Matthews picked up a stage win at the Tour of the Basque Country earlier this month. Photo: Tim De Waele |

GENT, Belgium (VN) — Michael Matthews takes confidence into Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race. The Aussie known as “Bling” already won twice this season and placed second behind Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) in Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl (Brabant Arrow).

“The Amstel Gold Race is going to suit me,” Matthews told VeloNews. “It’s basically the same as Brabantse Pijl but on a bit of a higher level.”

The 23-year-old Orica-GreenEdge rider chalked up two wins in the last week and a half: a stage in the Vuelta Ciclista a La Rioja and, at the UCI WorldTour level, a stage in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country). It marks the most promising start to a season since the former under-23 world champion turned professional in 2011. It also follows up on two stage wins in the Vuelta a España at the end of last summer.

After teammate Simon Gerrans escaped at Belgium’s mid-week classic Brabantse Pijl Wednesday, Matthews had his chance to win. He followed the wheels in the uphill drag to the finish, closed on Yukiya Arashiro’s attack, and responded to Gilbert’s sprint.

Gilbert, who won the road worlds title in 2012 a year after he swept all three Ardennes classics, won the sprint last week. Matthews finished second.

“I definitely had the legs to win Brabantse Pijl but I was boxed into the last corner by Arashiro. I couldn’t get through and had to settle for second,” Matthews said.

“I’m just coming off of two wins and that makes a difference heading into races like Brabantse Pijl and Amstel Gold. It’s nice to be back on top with wins under your belt because you go into the races with more confidence. I hope there’s more to come from here in both Amstel and the Giro d’Italia.”

Gerrans placed third in the Amstel Gold Race last year and in 2011. He gives the Aussie team its best option to win the Dutch classic. However, just as in Brabantse Pijl, the team has different options with Daryl Impey and Matthews.

“Orica will be one of the strongest teams because we have several options — and that helps going into it,” Matthews said. “We don’t just have one favorite, but three favorites with Gerrans and Impey. Being able to play off one another takes the pressure off and allows the other two to rest and to counter any moves.

“I’m taking confidence from the two wins and this second place into the Amstel Gold Race.”

Following Amstel, Matthews backs off and focuses on the Giro d’Italia and possibly the Tour de France. This year, instead of supporting Matt Goss, who will race in the Amgen Tour of California, Orica is backing “Bling” for stage wins. He already showed what is possible with a win in Lago de Sanabria and in Madrid last year at Spain’s grand tour.

“After the Amstel Gold Race, the Giro is my goal. Orica is aiming for the team’s TT in Belfast. We will see how long we can hold the jersey for after that, and I’ll certainly try to win a stage,” Matthews said.

“The Giro’s a goal for me. I hope to hold this form through to the Giro and have good legs there. I also want to take it onto the Tour de France.”

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Despite 2013 success, Garmin enters Ardennes week as an underdog Fri, 18 Apr 2014 13:03:04 +0000 Matthew Beaudin

Dan Martin kicked to victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Despite having defending Liège-Bastogne-Liège champ Dan Martin on its squad, Garmin remains in the shadows

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Dan Martin kicked to victory at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year. Photo: Tim De Waele |

GENK, Belgium (VN) — As usual, American outfit Garmin-Sharp finds itself a bit of an outsider as it heads into the hilly classics. As usual, the team prefers it that way. And unsurprisingly, the team itself maintains its traditional looseness — the riders all piled into a boat on a rarely sunny Belgian afternoon — in spite of having the defending Liège-Bastogne-Liège champion on its roster.

But make no mistake here: Garmin brings a very deep team into the Ardennes classics, one with 2013 Liège winner Dan Martin of Ireland. But Garmin doesn’t have the megastar of a Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), who won all three Ardennes races in 2011, and it doesn’t have the deep expectations of a Belgian team. The squad kicks off Ardennes week at Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race.

Alex Howes, one of Garmin’s key support riders, says he’s unsure of the pressure the team will face, particularly in Liège next weekend. The team hasn’t found itself in this position before.

“I’ve never had to defend Liège. We’ve never been in this position before. I think we’re fortunate in the fact that we’ve always been seen as underdogs,” Howes said, reclined on a couch at the team hotel a short distance from the start of Amstel. “But maybe that’ll change a little bit this year. But honestly, you look at the guys coming to these races. Guys like Gilbert, and Purito [Joaquim Rodriguez], [Alejandro] Valverde. Hitters. They’ll have a full squad around them, very deep squads as well. We’re definitely not the favorites.”

That’s a role the Garmin boys prefer. Martin won Liège last year to many people’s surprise when he unfurled a devastating final kick, dropping Rodriguez (Katusha) in the process. On that day, Garmin employed attacking teamwork brilliantly, as it sent a flying Ryder Hesjedal up the road to provoke the race rather than truly try and control anything. That’s not what wildcards do, control things.

Martin is excited to be back, and why not? Starting a monument with the ones on his back is something he’s looking forward to.

“Obviously in the past we’ve been relatively successful. Even last year coming into it I’d been sixth in Flèche and fifth in Liège,” Martin said. “And so we were optimistic about what we could achieve. I don’t think any of us could imagine that we’d be coming away with victory, but yeah, it happened. And to be starting Liège this year with the number ones on my back? It’s going to be incredible. It’s a pleasure to ride that race and I’ll be really proud pinning those numbers on. But at the same time, that’s last year, it’s done, it’s finished.”

Come Sunday in Valkenburg, it’s all business. The Amstel Gold Race climbs more than 13,000 feet and has riders packed into small streets for six, seven hours. Martin said he’s thinking of Amstel first and foremost, and that the rest of the Ardennes can wait.

In his Garmin teammates, Howes sees a deep lineup and, as a result, doesn’t think he has much of a chance to ride for himself in the Ardennes. He finished sixth in Brabantse Pijl (Brabant Arrow) in 2012.

“We’ve got a really, really deep team for Amstel, Flèche, and Liège,” Howes said. “It goes all the way down. We’re defending the Liège title. And Ryder Hesjedal’s always really good in these races. Tom-Jelte [Slagter], he’s been kicking phenomenally in the finals. Nathan [Haas] is looking good this year. Fabian Wegmann … He’s always there. On paper, I’m the weakest link.”

Garmin, even with a champ, is an underdog. The squad won’t hold any press conferences — maybe one before Liège for Martin — and won’t be stared at to constrict the races.

“We’re fine with that,” Howes said. “We’re gonna throw down.”

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Valverde ready to pounce in hilly Ardennes classics Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:27:24 +0000 Andrew Hood

Alejandro Valverde is riding to win at the Ardennes classics. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The Spaniard wants to add to his classics win total and make up for a third at Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year

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Alejandro Valverde is riding to win at the Ardennes classics. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is ready to make up for disappointment last year across the Ardennes with a winning ride in at least one of the hilly classics.

Which one? He doesn’t care. Already a winner of one Flèche Wallonne (2006) and two Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2006, 2008), the veteran Spaniard is motivated to make up for third in last year’s Liège, when a mechanical problem in the final attack kept him from shifting gears and opening up his sprint.

“As I’m feeling now, the only goal is winning,” Valverde said in a team release. “We know it’s much easier said than done. I was running well last year, and I was always in the front, but I couldn’t win any of the three.”

Last year, Valverde was solid across the Ardennes, riding to second behind the unstoppable Roma Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) at Amstel Gold, seventh at Flèche, and third at Liège behind Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp).

Always a consistent performer in the hilly classics,Valverde is on good form, and will be a five-star favorite across Ardennes week, which begins Sunday with Amstel Gold Race.

Valverde already has seven wins on the 2014 season, including Roma Maxima and GP Indurain. He skipped racing the Volta a Catalunya to race across the cobblestones at Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke to get a taste of what awaits in this summer’s Tour de France.

At the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) earlier this month, he was out-gunned by eventual winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), scoring three second places in stages, but falling off the final podium after bleeding too much time in the final time trial to finish fifth.

Contador is skipping the Ardennes after his highly successful spring campaign, meaning Valverde, and steady Ardennes performer Joaquin Rodríguez (Katusha) will be the top Spanish riders for the upcoming classics.

Backing up Valverde will be a solid Movistar team, including Beñat Intxausti, John Gadret, Imanol Erviti, and Iván Gutiérrez.

“I always get asked which one I would like to win if I could choose just one, but I won’t do that because I like all three,” Valverde said. “It’s true that Amstel is the one that resisted me so far, I’ve been second and third there, but I still love Liège. I will give 100 percent in all three.”

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