Monday, 2 April 2012

News Digest 02.04.12

 GP de Dottignies (video) - Tour of the Basque Country (video) - Leipheimer accident - Bidons blamed for Cancellara crash - Irene van den Broek out of competition

GP de Dottignies
The big women's cycling event of the day was the Grand Prix de Dottignies, a 133.25km race taking place in the French-speaking Walloon region of Belgium. The race consisted of one 77.25km parcours with a couple of interesting climbs halfway through and one in the latter half, followed by four passes of a flat 14km circuit. Maps here: 77.25km / 14km; profiles here: 77.25km / 14km.

Monia Baccaille
(image credit: ghirolfo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
With the 14km circuit being flat, the peloton played cat and mouse games with various riders feigning attacks and then mounting real attacks as the entire pack slowed down and then sped up repeatedly and apparently at random as they dared one another to make an early break. The 23-year-old Belarusian Alena Amialiusik (BePink) did extraordinarily well to maintain her lead once the riders down the road began to pick up the pace as the finish line drew near (especially considering she was 10th at the Ronde van Vlaanderen and must have been feeling it), but she was eventually caught with 2km to go.

There was no surprise when it all ended with a bunch sprint but with several of the top riders also still feeling the effects of the Ronde in their legs, it was a sprint that could have gone anywhere right up until the last second and a number of less-well-known riders were battling it out with the big guns right to the line. In the end, a group of thirteen crossed the line as a group, but nobody could top the sheer power of Monia Baccaille (MCipollini) when she launched herself from the group and crossed the line like a luminous green rocket to take a stunning victory. Emma Johansson (Hitec-Mistral) was just behind her for second place, followed by Alona Andruk (Diadora-Pasta Zara) for third.  (Full results)

  1.  Monia Baccaile MCipollini-Giambenini-Gauss 03:29:49
  2.  Emma Johansson Hitec Products-Mistral Home ST
  3.  Alona Andruk Diadora-Pasta Zara ST
  4.  Christine Majerus Team GSD Gestion  ST 
  5.  Rasa Leleivyte Vaiana-Tepso  ST   
  6.  Valentina Scandolara S.C. Michela Fanini Rox  ST  
  7.  Carmen Mcnellis Small ST  
  8.  Isabelle Soderberg AA Drink -  ST  
  9.  Nathalie Lamborelle Kleo Ladies Team  ST 
  10.  Nicole Cooke Faren-Honda Team  ST (Best British rider)

GP de Dottignies photographs and video by Sebastien Tytgat1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco
Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, the Tour of the Basque Country, began today after surviving a touch-and-go period in which it was uncertain whether the race could go ahead at all this year, the event's future for the next two years having been guaranteed by the bank Sabadell Guipuzcoano.

This being Euskal Herria, the Greater Basque Country, the races crosses the border from Spain into France to visit Iparralde (the northern parts of the Basque region) and Spanish Navarre, as well as autonomous Euskadi itself - and with the Basque people's legendary adoration for bizikleta, it's become a hugely important race in which the world's top teams will be cheered through stunning countryside by vast, passionate crowds of fans. With that in mind, it seems odd that Eurosport won't be showing the race - it seems a perfect way to promote both the region and the sport, after all. Thankfully, there is Euskal Irrati Telebista, who provide a free and legal stream of the race each day from 14:15 (BST - add 1h for CEST).

The final kilometres (thanks Cyclingflash12)

Stage 1 profile (click to enlarge)
(image credit: Diario Vasco)
As might be expected in a Basque race, there are climbs aplenty throughout; with 153km Stage 1 featuring seven categorised summits that included Cat 1 Alto de Ubal and plenty more seeded right through the parcours. While the rest of the climbs were tough, they were not super-tough and the stage could best be described as rolling rather than hilly. Note that the final 35km, meanwhile, was almost flat with the exception of Cat 3 Alto de San Cosme, after which it was completely flat for the final 6.2km: sprinter's territory, so a sprint was fully expected.

Davide Mucelli (Utensilnord Named) and David De La Fuente (Caja Rural) got themselves into their sponsors' good books with a fine and long-lived breakaway, getting their lead up to five minutes for a while before Euskaltel-Euskadi demonstrated their knowledge of these hills and shaved off a big chunk. The wildcard pair made it into the last 50km, however; but once the big teams started picking up the pace with a view to getting their sprinters into position it was all over. A crash on the last climb then shook up the formations and left several sprinters far from where they wanted to be, creating a bit of a flap and creating opportunity for a few hopefuls to make unsuccessful attempts to escape the pack.

José Joaquín Rojas
(image credit: Thomas Ducroquet CC BY 3.0)
A sprint took place, too, but it wasn't the sort we all thought it would be - the climbs had taken their toll and several of the real sprint specialists were nowhere to be seen as the line approached, their places taken by all-rounders such as Wout Poels (Vacansoleil-DCM), Fabian Wegmann (Garmin-Barracuda), Arthur Vichot (FDJ-Bigmat), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) and even a sprinkling of lesser-known faces such as Daniele Ratto (Liquigas-Cannondale). Of course, if there was a sprinter who'd also made a bit of a name for himself in the mountains, then that sprinter would have an obvious advantage in this stage. A sprinter rather like José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar), perhaps, who won with his brain as much as his brawn. Keeping cool all the way to the last 500m as he patiently waited for Poels to move over from crowd barriers (patently and bravely - after all, Poels might not), he then shot through the gap as soon as it appeared. Poels realised what was happening, but he had no chance against a specialist.

  1.  Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil Movistar 03:57:44
  2.  Wout Poels Vacansoleil-DCM ST
  3.  Fabian Wegmann  Garmin-Barracuda ST
  4.  Daniele Ratto Liquigas-Cannondale ST 
  5.  Arthur Vichot  FDJ-BigMat ST 
  6.  Ryder Hesjedal  Garmin-Barracuda ST 
  7.  Gianni Meersman Lotto-Belisol ST 
  8.  Gorka Izagirre Insausti Euskaltel-Euskadi ST 
  9.  Francesco Gavazzi Astana
  10.  Paolo Bailetti Utensilnord-Named ST 

Best Brit: 12. Luke Rowe (Sky)

Levi Leipheimer in 2008
(image credit: Montgomery CC BY-SA 3.0)
Leipheimer hit by car
Omega Pharma-Quickstep's Levi Leipheimer is the latest rider to have been hit by a car during a training ride - the accident coming just one day before he was due to start the Tour of the Basque Country. The team have since confirmed that the 38-year-old American escaped serious injury - he was taken to hospital where no broken bones were found after the car drove into him from behind and he will now return to California for further tests so that a recovery program can be devised. Leipheimer, who came third at the 2007 Tour de France, has long been one of the most popular faces in the peloton; not least of all for his caring nature - with his wife, he has become involved in fund-raising for animal welfare charities and is in the process of setting up an animal sanctuary in California.

Bidons to blame for Cancellara crash
Cancellara's crash could easily have ended his
career - bidons were to blame
(image credit: Fliedermaus CC BY-SA 1.0)
Sylvain Chavanel and Filippo Pozzato have both claimed that discarded bidons were to blame for the crash at yesterday's Ronde van Vlaanderen which left Fabian Cancellara with a quadruple fracture to the collar bone and ended his Classics campaign (he has since undergone successful surgery, as reported by Cycling News). Bidons were also blamed by Mark Cavendish, who crashed at the Dwars door Vlaanderen on the 21st of March, leading to calls from the Manx sprinter for all riders to undergo training in an effort to improve safety. Using his Twitter account, Cav stated: "Said it before: EVERYONE involved in a bike race should take a written & practical test to get licence."

With Cancellara's crash being the type that can very easily bring a premature end to a cyclist's career (it was initially feared that he had broken a hip or his pelvis), it looks like Cav is right and the UCI need to address the issue.

Irene van den Broek out of competition
Dolmans-Boels' Irene van den Broek - who finished in second place at the Dutch National Championships last year - has been forced to bring a temporary halt to her racing due to a lung complaint. The 31-year-old suffered painful breathing throughout the Trofeo Binda and Ronde van Vlaandered, leaving her unable to finish in both cases. She'll now undergo medical tests to find out what's wrong.

Other news
Saxobank are safe for the time being - the UCI had requested permission to withdraw the licence it granted to the Bjarne Riis-managed team, until recently home to Alberto Contador; but the request was denied by the Licence Commission. (UCI press release)

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