Saturday 5 May 2012

Cycling Evening News 05.05.12

Rabo revelation is no surprise, nor worthy of note - Giro d'Italia - Two Days of Bedford - Lotto Cup Knokke-Bredene - Tour of the Gila - Nuyens still hurting - Railways team wins Pakistan Women's Nats, Afghan women impress - NetApp bus burglary - Other News - Cycling

Doping tolerated pre-'07 at Rabo "revelation"
According to the "revelation" of Theo de Rooij in Dutch newspaper Volkskrant, doping was tolerated in the Rabobank team between 1996 (when the team was formed from Novell Software-Decca) to 2007 - including between 2003 and 2007, when de Rooij was general manager.

Cycling is not the sport that it was before 2007, nor is
Rabobank the team that it then was
No! Really? There was doping in cycling during the Festina Affair-Operacion Puerto era? A lot of fans seem to be distinctly underwhelmed by the news, which is to be expected really. If anyone can exclusively reveal that there was a major team that wasn't involved in doping at that time, we'll all be a lot more surprised. Rabobank have said they see no reason to investigate the claims. "Since 2007, we've had a new Board and new leadership," a spokesperson told Het Nieuwsblad. "We wish to stress that there is a zero-tolerance policy in today's team."

Fair play to them. It may have taken several deaths and a pair of scandals that very nearly killed the entire sport to finally wake cycling in general up to the fact that something - many things, actually - needed to be done about doping but, since then, Rabobank has been at the vanguard of those teams that stopped talking about it and got on with actually fighting. What happened when de Rooij was in charge and before his tenure no longer matters, there has been a sea change in cycling over the last half-decade and we are now in a different age. That chapter is over, dead, buried, done. What matters is what's happening now, and Rabobank set a shining example.

Giro d'Italia
If you didn't know that the Giro d'Italia started today, you're probably some sort of hermit. Stage 1 was an 8.7km individual time trial on what looked set to be quite a tricky little parcours around the Danish city Herning, following the long tradition of the Grand Tours paying visits to nations other than their own.

The start line is right in the centre of the city (56° 8'14.19"N  8°58'1.99"E) and the riders immediately head for the first of fourteen tight corners - there's an especially compact series after 1.11km to keep the attentive. The last part along Dronningen's Boulevard and Holsterbrovej is a very different sort of route with long, fast straights to the final corner and a final half-kilometre sprint along H.P Hansens Vej to the finish line (56° 8'41.20"N 8°56'56.45"E).

Top Ten
1. Taylor Phinney (BMC) 10'26"

2. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +9"
3. Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Barracuda) +13"
4. Manuele Boaro (SaoBank) +15"
5. Gustav Erik Larsson (Vacansoleil-DCM) +22"
6. Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Barracuda) ST
7. Brett Lancaster (Orica-GreenEDGE) +23"
8. Marco Pinotti (BMC) +24"
9. Jesse Sergeant (RadioShack-Nissan) +26"
10. Nelson Oliveira (RadioShack-Nissan) +27"

While an individual TT doesn't give a perfect indication of form, partially due to the riding positions being very different and partially because a certain percentage of an individual rider's form can only be seen in the way he integrates with his team mates. It's also impossible to say with any certainty who might be in with a chance of winning because the finish line is three weeks and three-and-a-half-thousand kilometres away. Nevertheless, today we got our first look at the riders. Here are some initial thoughts...

Alessandro Ballan
Theo Bos (Rabobank) probably won't make it onto many lists of potential winners, but he's looking good to grab more than his fair share of points. For such a stocky man, he rode smoothly today and his legs have that "elasticated" look that indicates large reserves of stored power. He'll certainly give Cav a run for his money.
Geraint Thomas (Sky) is going to win a Grand Tour this year. Last year, for a short while at the Tour after Bradley Wiggins had gone home with a broken collar bone, it looked as though that victory would come sooner rather than later - which is why many people will have watched him carefully today. His TT form was exquisite, but that Grand Tour's not coming this year.
A lot of people are tipping Roman Kreuziger (Astana) this year, but I don't see it myself - chiefly for the same reason as Thomas; ie at his age he still lacks that certain "GC contender" quality that only the most exceptional have (Merckx had it at 25, so did Contador - Andy Schleck still hasn't). In two years, things will be very different.
Alessandro Ballan (BMC) is known primarily as a Classics rider and the majority of his stage race success has been in the shorter events. However, he can occasionally surprise in the later stages of a long race; as was the case at the 2010 Tour de France when he came second on Stage 15. Ballan has always been somewhat on the skinny side, but today he resembled an anatomical model of the human muscles. Is he perhaps hoping to do well on the mountains, like he did that day in the Tour? Ballan's another one who won't make it onto every list of likely lads, but he's worth keeping an eye on (unless you're trying to uncover who ate all the pies - he can definitely be ruled out of that investigation).
Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan), who only found out he was coming to the Giro a few days ago, appears to have better form than many people might have expected. His season thus far has been a little underwhelming, but he's got the loose-limbed legginess of a climber. Don't write Frank off just yet, because he may surprise us in the mountains - his time trialing hasn't improved at all over the winter, however, inspiring at least one Twitterer to wonder if the police might want to breathalyse him as he wobbled around the course.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is in good shape, as always, and his rivals do not allow themselves to forget that he's a rider with a near-unique combination of abilities: he has Classics toughness, he can climb and he can hold his own in a sprint. A potential winner? Maybe. Top five? Certainly.
Filippo Pozzato looks good around the legs, but seems to have a little trace of belly fat at the moment - which was unexpected, because he didn't have it at the Ronde van Vlaanderen (or maybe it was just the new Farnese Vini-Selle Italia strip; because nobody could look good in that monstrosity). Having said that, it really was the merest suggestion of belly fat, nothing that he won't have burned off long before the mountains.
Ivan Basso
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) is looking good, no trace of excess fat and the right balance between all-rounder muscle and the stringy limbs of a climber. Barring accident, he'll do well in this edition.
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-ISD) is another rider who, like Rodriguez, has a rare combination of three abilities; though in his case it's time trialing, sprinting and climbing. When Cunego shows up at the start of a stage race, he is immediately a GC contender. That's as true this year as ever.
Finally, Michele Scarponi, the man who finished in second place last year but wore pink today after the disqualification and suspension of Alberto Contador. His form is visibly good, his legs look springy, everything is as it ought to be. More importantly, pink suits him very well. Now he's had a taste, he'll want to show the world that he can take first place purely on his own merit.

Sunday brings the first road race stage, a 206km loop from Herning up to the Limfjorden north of Holsterbro, then south along the western coastline including a ride along the 13.2km Thorsminde causeway separating Nissumfjord from the North Sea. Having travelled as far as Ringkobingfjord, they head inland again for a straight 50km run back to Herning. This being Denmark, the parcours is flat all the way - expect to see the likes of Mark Cavendish and Theo Bos showing what they're capable of doing at the end of the stage.

Stages 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14 / 15 / 16 / 17 / 18 / 19 / 20 / 21

Two Days of Bedford
Giro got you in the mood for some hardcore bike action? Craving the sweet scent of chain oil and the thrill of lycra flashing past your face at 45kph? Can't quite stretch to filling up the tanks on the Gulfstream IV for a jolly down to Italy? Well then - if you live anywhere in the British South-East or southern part of the Midlands, you might be interested to know about the Two Days of Bedford.

The long-running event consists of four stages over two days (6th and 7th of May) with a 7.4km team time trial followed by an 80km road race on the Sunday, then a 6.4km individual time trial and an 85km race made up of nine laps of the Milbrook Vehicle Testing Facility. Over the years, it's grown to become one of the premier events on the British women's cycling calendar and now attracts some of the top names in the international sport, including the legendary paralympian Sarah Storey and, riding for the world-famous Matrix Fitness-Prendas team, Hannah Walker (National Derny Champion 2011), Annie Simpson (winner, 2011 Oldham Johnson HealthTech GP), Hannah Rich (Commonwealth Games contender, 2010), Penny Rowson (bronze, National Junior Cyclo Cross Championships), Jessie Walker (winner, Women's Track League 2011) and Sarah Reynolds (Team GB). Matrix Fitness won the 2011 Johnson HealthTech GP Series and is home to European Team Pursuit Champion Dani King, National Pursuit Champion Jo Rowsell and six-time National Cyclo Cross Champion Helen Wyman - an indication of the high level of competition in this race.

Believe me, you will not get more excitement for what it'll cost you to get to this race anywhere in the country (and you won't even have to change your pounds for krone). (More information here)

Lotto Cup Knokke-Bredene
Over on the other side of the North Sea, another women's race in the shape of the Knokke-Bredene took place on Saturday afternoon with one 47.6km main section followed by eight laps of a 7.8km circuit to make a total of 110km.

The race forms part of the Lotto Cycling Cup, a series that aims to bring the best cyclists in the world to Belgium in order to increase the profile of the sport. Among the top names on the start list this year: Irene van der Broek, Laura van der Kamp and Elena Tchalykh (Dolans-Boels); Evelyn Arys and Grace Verbeke (Kleo); Vera Koedooder (Sengers); Christine Majerus (GSD Gestion); Linda Ringlever (NWV Groningen); Nathalie van Gogh and Laura Trott (Ibis); Thalita de Jongh, Iris Slappendel, Roxanne Knetemann, Liesbet de Vocht and Tatiana Antoshina (Rabobank).

Video credit: @Velowijf

It became evident soon after the race began that, barring just about anything short of alien invasion and/or zombie apocalypse, somebody from Rabobank was going to win - just 30km into proceedings they had four riders at the front and never let up from that point onwards, keeping control all the way. Once the race began to near the finish line de Vocht, Knetemann, Else Belmans and Maaike Polspoel (Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley) attacked, escaping the peloton and forcing speeds upward to tire the pack - and it worked splendidly: in the final 500m, de Vocht put her foot down and launched herself towards the line. Belmans and team mate Maaike Polspoel went after her and managed to hang onto her back wheel all the way, but neither could get ahead.

Top Ten
  1.  Liesbeth De Vocht Rabobank 2h45'01"
  2.  Else Belmans Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012 ST
  3.  Maaike Polspoel Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012 ST
  4.  Roxane Knetemann Rabobank +05"
  5.  Sarah Düster Rabobank +19"
  6.  Latoya Brulee Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012 ST
  7.  Lauren Kitchen Rabobank ST
  8.  Martina Zwick ST
  9.  Kelly Druyts Topsport Vlaanderen-Ridley 2012 ST
  10.  Evelyn Arys Kleo ST
(Full result)

Tour of the Gila
Carmen Small is riding fantastically well
jut to stay anywhere near Kristin
Armstrong, who has perhaps the best
form of any procyclist this season
The Stage 3 individual time trials took place on a 26.6km parcours with two testing climbs - the first, a Category 4, began 2km into the race and involved around 600m of climbing to a summit 1,949, above sea level, though the maximum gradient was not especially challenging. The second is the same mountain, approached from the opposite side on the return journey. It's much steeper when approached from that angle, hence an uprade to Cat 3. The start and finish line was located in Tyrone, a ghost town.

Kristin Armstrong (Exergy Twenty12) apparently plans to win this race by the simple-if-hard-to-achieve method of "completely and utterly dominating the field in every stage," and as a result she won for the third time in a row - and what a win it was: the 38-year-old Tennessean smashed Clara Hughes' time on the same parcours in 2011 by a whole two minutes. What matters more, of course, is she also beat the competition; crossing the line 2'05" faster than Alison Powers (Now and Novartis). Her advantage in the General Classification now stands at 5'01" over second place Carmen Small.

Top Ten
  1.  Kristin Armstrong Exergy Twenty12 37'13"
  2.  Alison Powers Now and Novartis for MS +2'05"
  3.  Carmen Small Optum p/b Kelly Benefit +2'11"
  4.  Tara Whitten Team TIBCO +2'46"
  5.  Jasmin Glaisser Colavita-ESPNW +2'48"
  6.  Anne Samplonius Now and Novartis for MS +3'18"
  7.  Jade Wilcoxson Optum p/b Kelly Benefit +3'28"
  8.  Alison Tetrick Exergy Twenty12 +3'29"
  9.  Calle Williams Colombia NT +3'38"
  10.  Olivia Dillon Now and Novartis for MS +3'50"
(Full results and GC)

Rory Sutherland
Catching Armstrong looks increasingly like an impossible task, but the eventual outcome seems far less certain among the men where Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare Presented By Maxxis) leads the GC by only 26", an advantage that could very easily be lost on the last two stages. Evan Huffman, who has been trying to improve his TT performances, was experimenting with a different bike position and has apparently found one that works because he was the fastest man on the parcours with a finishing time 3" faster than Sutherland. "I think I can call myself a time trialist now," he said after the race.

Top Ten
  1.  Evan Huffman  California Giant     34'23"
  2.  Rory Sutherland UnitedHealthcare Presented By Maxxis +3"
  3.  Joe Dombrowski Bontrager Livestrong +17"
  4.  Jeremy Vennell Bissel Pro +24"
  5.  Lawson Craddock Bontrager Livestrong +38"
  6.  Francisco Mancebo Competitive Cyclist +45"
  7.  Nathaniel English Kenda/5-Hour Energy +50"
  8.  Ian Burnett Competitive Cyclist +52"
  9.  Benjamin Day UnitedHealthcare Presented By Maxxis +56"
  10.  Marc De Maar UnitedHealthcare Presented By Maxxis ST
(Full results and GC)

Tour of the Gila Stage 4
Stage 4 is an urban criterium race around a 1.74km square Silver City parcours with three bonus sprints and course hazards that include, according to the race bible, "rough pavement and errant pedestrians." The Pro Women will complete 25 laps to make a total of 43.5km, the Pro Men 40 laps for 69.5km.

Nick Nuyens still suffering
SaxoBank's Nick Nuyens was left disappointed after his Four Days of Dunkirk comeback, the injured hip he sustained in Paris-Nice two months ago making it impossible for him to ride as well as he'd hoped.

"I saw the fugitives still pulling away, but I couldn't respond," he told Het Niuewslad. "My hip still hurts, much more than I had expected after the training. The muscles around the hip are still weak, so I was uncomfortable on the bike. This was no fluke - I hope it'll improve given time."

Railways wins Pakistan Women's Nationals
Afghan Women's Team in training
Pakistan Railways won overall at the Pakistan Women's Championships on Thursday night, accumulating a total of 177 points at the Lahore velodrome during the event. Education High Commission took second with 160 points while Punjab was third with 86. The real stars of the Championships, however, have been the Afghan Women's team - despite hailing from a nation where until not too long ago any woman caught doing anything even remotely resembling a competitive sport would be publicly beheaded and although there are no races to speak of in Afghanistan, they won a number of medals and took fourth place overall with 68 points.

The Afghan women, the first foreign team to be invited to the race, impressed sufficiently for organisers to say they'll look into the possiblity of inviting teams from other Central Asian nations in future. Their performance was also a great encouragement for the athletes themselves - "I know that it will take time to win at an international level," says rider Karishma Ibadi, "but as sports grow we will be able to produce good players who will win abroad."

Other News
Team NetApp, competing in the Giro on a wildcard invitation this year, have had their first bout of misfortune - their bus was broken into and damaged on Friday night. Thieves got away with the vehicle's GPS system and items of the riders' clothing and shoes. So, if you happen to be in Herning and somebody offers you a cheap jersey that looks like the one on the left (probably without Reto Hollenstein in it), don't buy it and notify the police.

Peter Stetina (Garmin-Barracuda) escaped injury when he was hit by a car during a training ride yesterday. The incident was reported as a hit-and-run but, the rider - who has been given the go-ahead to start the Giro - praises the driver, telling Wielerland that he/she "was attentive and the car just came in contact with my rear wheel."

"Latecomer Schleck finds Giro course to his liking" (The Independent)

Heather Moyse had already made
her name in both bobsleigh and
rugby before coming to cycling
"Canadian gold medalist Heather Moyse becomes triple-threat with cycling success" (Calgary Herald)

"They just don't come any tougher than cycling's double world champion Laura Trott" (Daily Telegraph)

"Reasons to get excited about cycling this summer" (The Guardian)

"Reviving a cycling legend" (That's Greg Lemond, btw. SFGate, USA)

"Reta Trotman graduates in style at Nationals" (NZHerald)

"Pursuit squad thrilled with Kiwi made super sleek racer" (NZHerald)

"High school league fills niche" (PE, California)

"As far as oiling the wheels of big City deals goes, cycling is the new golf" (Daily Telegraph)

"Urban cycling: top 10 safety tips" (The Guardian)

"Cyclist badly hurt by deer" (Diss Express)

"Packs of cyclists need to obey traffic laws" (Times Colonist, Canada)

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