Tom Boonen and Mark Cavendish have dominated the headlines recently as the Tour of Qatar approaches. Both are the undisputed leaders of their teams, and both Boonen and Cavendish have ambitious plans for 2009. However, there are several other quality sprinters lining up for Qatar, and each of them could upset the Boonen-Cavendish duo in the flat seven day stage race.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
What Are We, Chopped Liver? Chicchi, Napolitano, Haussler, Pozzato Look to Upstage Tommeke and Cav at Qatar
Tom Boonen and Mark Cavendish have dominated the headlines recently as the Tour of Qatar approaches. Both are the undisputed leaders of their teams, and both Boonen and Cavendish have ambitious plans for 2009. However, there are several other quality sprinters lining up for Qatar, and each of them could upset the Boonen-Cavendish duo in the flat seven day stage race.
Friday, January 30, 2009
The Tour of Qatar begins on Sunday, February 1, and EP, as we are wont to do, would like to come forward with five wild predictions ahead of the race. In reality these predictions won;t come true, but wouldn't it be cool if they did?
1. Mark Cavendish wins every single stage and wears the leader's jersey wire-to-wire. Of all of our wild predictions, this one is actually the most likely, as Cavendish looks to be on the precipice of dominating greatness after a coming of age 2008. One thing's for sure: His entire Columbia team will be lending their full support to him for the duration of the stage race.
2. Wauter Weylandt wins more stages than teammate Tom Boonen. Weylandt seems one year away from jumping to another team to assume leadership duties. He is a tough one day rider built in the mold of Boonen. Wouldn't it be cool if he found a way to sang a stage?
3. Juan Antonio Flecha and Nick Nuyens come to blows during the team time trial, and both are booted off team Rabobank before the season even gets started. While they probably won't duke it out with fists, expect a palpable tension amongst the two classics hopes throughout the year, beginning at Qatar.
4. Leif Hoste finishes in second place on every stage. Hoste is a constant runner up, so this too isn't much of a stretch. Plus, like Flecha, he'll be dealing with the arrival of a younger, more promising classics hope in Philippe Gilbert. Qatar may be his only chance all year to get a 2nd place finish as he'll be riding himself into the ground for Gilbert at Flanders and Roubaix.
5. Filippo Pozzato fails to win a stage at Qatar, and then shaves his head so that he is more aerodynamic for future races. The pressure is on for Pozzato in 2009, after having a down 2008. Plus, the Katusha team wants wins now, and if Pozzato doesn't deliver he may find himself sent to Siberia to break rocks the rest of the season.
So there you have it, 5 wild predictions for 2009. Got any of your own? Comments are open, let em' fly!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Nick Nuyens is probably best known for his U-23 career, as he took both the U-23 world road championship and the U-23 Tour of Flanders in the same year back in 2002. Then, after four seasons at Quick Step, he rode under the French banner of Cofidis in 2008. For 2009, he moves over to the Dutch Rabobank team, where he'll hope to act as co-leader with teammate Juan Antonio Flecha for the 2009 cobbled classics. And in the interest of developing both form and chemistry as soon as possible with his new team, the Belgian has been placed on the Tour of Qatar team, to contest the event side by side with new teammate and classics contender Juan Antonio Flecha.
In 2008, white was undoubtedly the most popular color in the European peloton. many teams had white as the dominant color in their uniforms, and most Euro cyclists chose white as the color for their shoes as well. Some though stuck with a black motif for their footwear, and as 2009 approaches, the question is whether black will make a comeback and be worn by more pros.
Lance Armstrong has long been a proponent of a darker shaded shoe, and the 7-time TDF winner was recently seen rocking the black shoes at the Tour Down Under. However, as seen in this picture, he is surrounded by white feet, including those of former teammate and fellow countryman George Hincapie of team Columbia. Thus far, it is looking as though white will again be the color for footwear in 2009.
Some big name teams have already been seen with white-clad feet, including the new Russian Katusha team, Columbia, Milram, Quick Step, and Saxo Bank. But perhaps Armstrong's comeback will see a change heading into the final half of the 2009 season and into 2010.
in terms of coolness, white is probably a bit more chic. The bright reflection of white shoes on a sunny day draw attention to the eye more than a black shoe, and manufacturers undoubtedly sell more white shoes because they get dirty faster. However, when coupled with a black sock, a dark shoe can look equally as cool. At the end of the day, it's a matter of preference, but EuroPeloton supports white over black without a doubt. And if not wearing white, perhaps these or these would do?
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
In 2008, the BMC cycling team established itself as one of the most aggressive and active teams in the American domestic peloton. Behind staunch all-arounders like Jeff Louder, Scott Nydam, and Jackson Stewart, the BMC team prided itself on being one of the biggest animators for each race that they entered in 2008.
For 2009, the team is expanding, and will have a greater presence across the pond in Europe. Director John LeLangue will try to secure a variety of wild card invites, and with a solid early season the team should expect to ride in some of the bigger summer races in Europe. Already preparing for a big early campaign, the "White Sharks" recently completed a California training camp, where they were able to preview some of the stages for the Tour of California.
For 2009, BMC has brought on some solid talent to augment those already on board from previous seasons. Young Danilo Wyss will ride his first professional season under the BMC flag, and he'll look to gain valuable experience from some of the veterans on the BMC team. Also new to the team for 2008 is the veteran and reigning Swiss road champ Markus Zberg. Zberg comes over from Gerolsteiner, and his tactical savvy will be valuable to the BMC team throughout the season.
Returning stars include the everyman worker Jeff Louder, mountain man and Levi Leipheimer training partner Nydam, and one day specialist Tony Cruz, formerly of the Discovery team. Each of these riders will look to provide leadership for the team, and all three will likely be on the Tour of California team. Last year the AToC was a dream for the BMC riders, as they took the most aggressive jersey competition. Their frequent long-range attacks were noticed by everyone watching the race, and their performance in California set the tone for the entire season.
Giving nicknames to riders or teams can be a risky venture, but labeling the BMC outfit as "White Sharks" is appropriate and deserved. Calculated, ruthless and powerful, the BMC team cuts its own path through the peloton, and attacks with ferocity. If LeLangue and his guys have their way 2009, like 2008, will be a feeding frenzy on two wheels.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I was sitting at home the other day pouring through my photos of this past year's world championships in Varese, I came upon a series of pictures of the Belgian team out on a training ride on the road course the day before the race. It was a beautiful day, and most of the riders were in great spirits. And as the entire team headed out onto the course, I and a friend attached ourselves to the back of the bunch along with a host of other fans, hoping to ride with our heroes, if only for a few moments.
The Varese world's course was a tough one. It began with a punchy hill, followed by a twisting downhill portion that brought us to the back side of the course. After a brief flat portion, the road turned up for the main ronchi (climb), a 4k test that was just steep enough to put the sprinters in difficulty. Today though, it would be myself and my friend who got the hurt put on us. Big time.
For the first portion of the course, I was fine. I flew up the initial climb right next to Nick Nuyens, and was able to snap some great photos as we coasted down the long 8k descent to the back side of the course. In fact, I happened to be close by when Tom Boonen crashed into the back of a car that was making a turn off the course. Cool as a spring breeze, Boonen popped up unharmed, gave a quick smile to the photogs, and was off again.
When we approached the main climb, I continued to snap photos as the group climbed. It was amazing to me just how easy they handled the climb. Even though it was only a warm up ride, they were ascending the climb at about 17 miles an hour! For me, as a recreational cyclist who rides about 2500 miles a year, 17 is my absolute limit while climbing. And as I turned the pedals on my rental bike, I began to notice with a sinking feeling that I was about to be dropped.
Meanwhile, at the front, Tom Boonen comfortably sat in with the group, making small talk with Philippe Gilbert. Both of the men were smiling, and I could see that they were in absolutely no difficulty while climbing. I on the other hand was starting to lose contact. Just then Nuyens stood up on the pedals and raised the pace just a hair. It was enough. I went flying out the back like I had a flat tire.
As I drifted away from the elite group of Belgians, I couldn't help but be amazed at what exceptional athletes pro cyclists are. The fact that they can climb a steep hill at 17 mph without much effort speaks to their astounding strength and conditioning. And when riding beside these athletes, their level of talent is at once awe-inspiring, intimidating, and hard to believe. I cherish that lap I took with the Belgians, as it re-inforced to me the level of commitment and talent it takes to succeed as an elite cyclist.
Here's something you don't see everyday. Former Quick Step prodigy José Antonion Pecharromán has been cleared by the CAS of doping, and his two year ban has been overturned. After exhaustive investigation, it was determined that Pecharroman used a solution to help mitigate his baldness, and that the drug did not indicate its full ingredients.
This is the first time in my memory that someone has actually had their ban overturned, and it begs the question: what is Pecharroman entitle d to as a result of being falsely accused of doping? He was booted off his Portuguese team last year, and surely lost out on a significant portion of his salary, not to mention any possible endorsement deals. Whether he'll be able to recoup those losses remains to be seen.
Pecharroman's case is an interesting one in that it shows that sometimes the system can be wrong. Riders are subject to a guilty until proven innocent mindset, and the damage done to their career is immeasurable. Pecharroman may have trouble catching on with another team despite being cleared, and even if he does he still lost out on last season. Plus, with his name dragged through the mud, he had to endure a lengthy period of uncertainty as he struggled to clear his name.
Just this week the UCI expressed that they have 30 riders who have suspicious blood values from the bio passport system, but are cautioning the public against jumping to any conclusions. Instead, the UCI has explained that they'll not go forward with charges until they are positively sure that doping or manipulation has occurred. Hopefully other sanctioning bodies will take a similar approach, so that the sport of cycling avoids another fiasco like the Pecharroman affair.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Big crowds at bike races are not extremely common in America. The Philadelphia International championship attracts a large contingent, as does the Tour of Missouri, but in recent years the Tour of California has dwarfed them all. Each year attendance at the stage race has grown, and with Armstrong's comeback those numbers will explode once again for the 2009 version of the event.
In Europe, huge crowds at important races are common. Crowds that are ten deep are common place at the Grand Tours, classics, and world championships. But in America, it is rare to see even a five deep situation. But the Tour of California changes all of that. Due to a perennial field of top riders, fans are flocking from all over the nation to see the best cyclists in the world compete. Throw in a 7-time Tour de France champion and national hero for 2009, and you have the recipe for MAJOR crowds.
So what does this mean to the fan who has attended every ToC since it began in 2006? Well, a few things. For one, forget about having a piece of road all to yourself to view the race. Sure, if you set up 75 kilometers from the finish line you'll probably enjoy some solitude, but if you are anywhere near the start r finish lines, prepare for mass humanity. Second, expect tightened security throughout the week. in the past, it was easy for fans to access the riders ahead of each stage as they prepared on their trainers for the day's racing. But now that there will be hundreds of thousands of bodies, expect security to tighten considerably. Without a media pass, the closest one may find themselves to the riders is watching them on the TV set that evening.
Lastly, expect an even higher level of racing. Now that Armstrong is involved, the rest of the field will be keen to show how strong they are to the legend himself. Stage wins will be considered even more prestigious than in previous editions, and so attacks and active racing will be even more prevalent than in past editions. Plus, Armstrong is on the same team as the defending champ, so he and his mates will already be marked men in the race.
The excitement around Lance Armstrong's return is beginning to reach a fever pitch, and it won't slow down any time soon. While his influence will help cycling on many fronts, it will also hurt on others. For the hard core cycling fan that wants to be as close to the action as possible, Armstrong's return will hamper the ability for that to happen. Increased security, huge crowds and only so much space will mean that some of the intimacy will be lost form the Tour of California. Such is progress in life and in cycling, and we'll all have to somehow adapt.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Many teams have started or will start early season training camps this week ahead of the nine stage Amgen Tour of California beginning February 14th. The OUCH team launched this past weekend, and new signed GC rider Floyd Landis will make his way back to the sport of cycling after a two year ban. He and the rest of his OUCH teammates are putting in hard training mile ahead of California, where they'll look to contend with Landis for the overall win and with defending NRC champion Rory Sutherland for stage wins.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Exclusive Interview: Kelly Benefit Strategies Director Sportif Jonas Carney Sounds Off on Amgen Tour of California Snub
Jonas Carney, director sportif for the Kelly Benefit Strategies p/b Medifast cycling team, was gracious enough to take a few moments out of his schedule to speak with EuroPeloton about the team's exclusion from the Amgen Tour of California, 2009 season goals, and overall team morale for 2009. Below is the exclusive interview.
EP: Jonas, talk a bit about the team's exclusion from this year's Amgen Tour of California, and any affect it has had on team morale.
AndyBajadali is the best climber in
EP: What is the plan for the KBS team for 2009 now that the AToC is off the board?
JC: We’re planning on focusing on races we think we can win. Some of those include
EP: How is the rider and team morale heading into the new season, particularly with your veteran athletes?
JC: Well, obviously the guys are disappointed about California, particularly Candelario and Bajadali. Those guys feel like they really could have made an impact at California, and so they are understandably frustrated that they can't participate. But like I said earlier, hopefully it's a blessing in disguise. Now that they don't have to peak so early in the season, they can adjust their season goals and plan on riding strong well into the summer and fall. And the extra time also allows us to do some stuff as a team that we wouldn't otherwise be able to do. For instance, right now we are in Winter Park, Colorado doing a winter weather camp. We're enjoying some snow shoeing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, so that has been fun. Pushing our season back a bit
EP: The state of the economy is on everyone's mind these days. How has it affected the KBS team?
JC: Luckily we've managed to stay pretty safe from having to cut back on our cycling program. All three of our main sponsors, Kelly Benefit Strategies, Contour, and Medifast all returned for 2009, and two of those three increased their commitment. And although we won't ride Lemond bikes in 2009, we have still chosen to stay with the Trek family, and will ride the new Gary Fisher road bikes this season. And for us, now is really about looking ahead to 2010 to make sure we continue to protect our team for the future.
EuroPeloton would like to thank Jonas Carney for taking the time to answer a few of our questions, and we wish he and the rest of the KBS squad continued success in 2009 and beyond.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
The Tour of California has announced the complete line up of teams for the nine day stage race event in February. In addition to the previously announced Pro Tour squads, nine additional teams have been added to the Tour, bringing the final number up to 17 teams.
The full line up is:
Ag2r-La Mondiale (FRA)
Bissell Pro Cycling Team (USA)*
BMC Racing Team (USA)*
Cervelo Test Team (SUI)*
Colavita/Sutter Home Presented by Cooking Light (USA)*
Fly V Australia presented by Successful Living Foundation Team (AUS)*
Jelly Belly Cycling Team (USA)*
Ouch Presented by Maxxis (USA)*
Quick Step (BEL)
Rock Racing (USA)*
Saxo Bank (DEN)
Team Columbia (USA)
Team Type 1 (USA)*
* denotes new additions
The good part about including teams like Fly V, Type 1, and Jelly Belly is that the race still maintains its distinctive American flair. Most of the wild card team are from America, so some of the USA'a best domestic talent will be able to try their luck against the best cyclists in the world. Riders like Tom Zirbel, Burke Swindlehurst, Aaron Olson, Sebastian Haedo, Fred Rodriguez, Scott Nydam, Jackson Stewart, and many others will have the opportunity to show the rest of the world that American-based pros are up to the task of riding against the world's elite.
One team that certainly should have been considered is the new Fuji-Servetto team. They ride an American bike, and had been included for California in the past when they were known as Saunier-Duvall. Ommiting the Fuji-Servetto team was likely due to their past problems with doping, including last year at the Tour de France with Riccardo Ricco.
The overall line up for the ToC is an impressive one. There will be several grand tour winners on the start line (Sastre, Armstrong, Basso) and a host of top sprinters. As it has done every year since its inception, the Tour of California has managed to be bigger, and better than the previous year. Now, all we need is for the weather to hold.
For the most part, the ToC organizers got it right. They have managed to invite some of the best teams in the world while also finding a way to involve the best America has to offer. Hopefully the domestic American teams will be able to live up to their inclusion, whether by initiating or pulling back break aways, or battling for one of the jerseys.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Velonews.com has a great article referencing Ivan Basso's state of mind in regards to the re-opening of the Operacion Puerto affair. Basso explains that he is relieved that he has already been sanctioned, and explained that he learned honesty is the best policy, "not just in sport, but in life."
Basso has had his share of detractors over the last couple of years, and many still don't forgive him for his actions leading up to the 2007 Tour de France. However, after reading his quotes in the Velonews article, the time has come for the public to change their mind about how they view the 31 year old Italian stage racing star.
Basso, as he has said, payed the price for his dishonesty and cheating. He served a full two year suspension, and returns to the sport of cycling to redeem himself both as an athlete and a person. He has voluntarily posted all of his blood values online for anyone to view, and makes no qualms with having been sanctioned. Although it took a bit of time, Basso has found the inner strength to admit what he did was wrong, and more importantly to take the punishment handed to him by the authorities.
Another quote from Basso in the article was particularly inspiring. "“What can I say? When you do something bad, you have to pay the price,” Basso continued. “What happened to me wasn’t a question of luck. I did something wrong. I was guilty, but now my conscience is clear because I’ve paid the price.” This is a statement that would be great to hear from other athletes. But is it likely that someone like Barry Bonds, or Mark McGuire, or Francesco Mancebo would come forward and admit they were wrong? Doubtful.
Ivan Basso, at this point in his career, should be celebrated for his ability to admit his mistake in front of critics worldwide. He was cast out of the sport he loves, dragged through the mud in the press, and disparaged by some of his colleagues. But now the time has come to realize that Basso made a horrible mistake. He has learned from his experience and deserves to be let back into the community of cycling as a positive influence and role model. Everyone makes mistakes, but few are able to admit their mistake regardless of the consequences. Basso did so, and for that he deserves your, and my, respect.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Aaron Olson has long been known as one of cycling's nicest characters as well as one of the most consistent. Always standing tall with a smile, Olson's presence at a bike race increases the positive vibe of any environment. A hard worker who cut his teeth in Europe with T-Mobile and Saunier-Duvall, Olson returns to Colivita/Sutter Home in 2009. Olson last rode for the Colavita team in 2004-2005, and he returns as a leader on the road for the upcoming season.
Olson had an excellent 2008 campaign for his Bissell squad. His highlight of the season came in June, where he netted the overall win at the Tour de Nez stage race. Behind solid team tactics and strong individual riding, Olson brought home the leader's jersey in a race that wasn't decided until the final stage.
For 2009, Olson will once again focus on providing stability and consistency for his team, and his veteran leadership should prove valuable at both the Tour of California and other races throughout the season. He should return to the Tour de Nez to defend his title, as he has stated more than once that he loves the atmosphere of the Nez race. And although he may not be one of the most well known riders in the domestic field, he has the talent to be recognized in every race he enters.
Cycling needs more athletes like Aaron Olson. Honest, grounded, and always available for a chat, Olson embues all of the characteristics of a professional without seeming aloof or arrogant. He is a class act whether winning or losing, and goes out of his way to promote the sport of cycling in a positive light. The younger generation would be well served to look to Olson as an example of how an athlete should comport themselves on and off the bike. So when you see him this year out on the course, give him a holler. He's sure to return the favor with a wave and a smile.
Monday, January 19, 2009
The Tour Down Under finally got underway for real, with a rolling 140k stage from Norwood to Mawson Lakes. The day's racing was largely uneventful, and a bunch finish decided the first Pro Tour race of 2009. Lance Armstrong, top of mind word-wide, finished safely in the main bunch. The Texan's affect on the race as a whole was clear, as the crowds for the event were huge.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Once again, the infamous Operacion Puerto scandal has re-surfaced, as Spanish authorities have once again decided to re-open the case for proceedings against those involved. The case is now nearly three years old, and it seems almost too ridiculous to believe that closure will come any time soon. Time and again, the Spanish authorities have shut down any efforts by the sport of cycling to bring those guilty to justice.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
In the last two editions of the Tour of California, the dreaded 'Bots Dots' have caused a crash. In 2007, it was a huge pile up on the finishing circuit of stage one into Santa Rosa (aftermath video below), and in 2008 Vladimir Gusev was the unlucky one, sliding over a Bots Dot in the rain and breaking his collar bone.
Posted by Briggs at 11:27 AM
Friday, January 16, 2009
Each year, the early cycling season seems to claim several big time riders, leaving their early season in shambles and their summer and fall in doubt. Whether from injury, illness, or a bad crash, the luck of the draw can break dreams and ambitions despite the best laid plans.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Mark Cavendish, without a doubt, was the undisputed fastest man in the world of cycling in 2008. Behind unswerving support from super domestique Gerald Ciolek (now a leader at Milram), Cavendish left most of the peloton in his wake en route to 17 wins on the 2008 season, the most of any cyclist. For 2009, Cavendish will head to the Tour of Qatar for his season debut, where he'll face off against fellow top sprinter Tom Boonen.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
The 2008 cycling season was dominated by the color white. Many team kits were predominantly white, as were bikes and shoes and saddles and sunglasses . . . . well, you get the idea. So which color will be the dominant one for the 2009 season? In looking at some of the team kits and new bikes, some guesses can be made.
Like last year, many teams are going with a white inspired design. Among these, Xacobeo Galicia and Columbia have white as a prominent color in their team kits, as does the newly formed Katusha team.
The other dominant color for 2009 seems to be blue. Agritubel, after having a mostly white uniform in 2008, goes almost all blue in 2009. The aforementioned Katusha has blue in their uniform, as does Ag2R and another new team, the Fuji-Servetto squad.
Finally, yellow seems as though it will be featured heavily. Astana, with the come back of Lance Armstrong, will have additional yellow highlights in their kit, and the new ISD team is also mostly yellow. The Vacansoleil team is kitted in yellow too, and coming back to Armstrong, the Texan will ride a custom bike that is black and yellow.
It is likely that 2009 will, due to Armstrong's come back, be looked back on as a year that yellow was the most popular color. Team Columbia will contribute to this fact as well, as they try to become the winningest team in the world again in 2009. As for equipment, it seems that white will continue to set the tone, especially in terms of bikes and cleats. Also, as in past years, we can count on Rabobank to rock orange and blue, Lotto to be the worst kit in cycling, ans for Caisse d-Epargne to be back in black again for "Don" Alejandro Valverde.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Rumors are swirling around former Italian great Michele Bartoli, who is considering a comeback to the pro peloton. An extremely accomplished rider, Bartoli took Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia twice, Flanders once, and was a two-time UCI points champion as well in his storied career. He also added wins at the Amstel Gold Race in 2002, La Flèche Wallonne in 1999 and Tirreno-Adriatico, also in 1999. The Italian retired from the sport in 2004, but seems poised to return in the very near future. In fact, his name is being linked to the newly formed ISD team, headed up by classics hope Giovanni Visconti.
The reason for Bartoli's desire to come back is any one's guess. He has accomplished almost all there is to accomplish in the sport of pro cycling, and it is assumed that he is financially secure. Why then would such a great champion decide to come back? The thrill of competition? Boredom? Ego? The way I see it, there could only be two reasons.
The first and most likely possibility for Bartoli's come back surrounds the desire to prove that he can race as well without drugs as he did with them the first time around. Whether Bartoli was ever accused of cheating is moot. He was a part of one of the dirtiest generations of cyclists, and had success at the height of the EPO era. If other big time stars were cheating back then, it is likely that Bartoli was using artificial means as well. In coming back, the now 39 year old will hope to prove to the world of cycling that he can stay with the world's best even after a long lay off. He doesn't have to win, but rather just manage to stay with the world's best in select races. If he can do that , the rest of his career will have been validated, if only in his eyes.
The other reason is missing the competition and wanting to give back to the sport he loves so much. Perhaps Bartoli realizes that his expertise could greatly benefit some of the younger riders in the peloton, and being able to act as a coach during the races would be of great value to the younger generation. Bartoli probably realizes that he only has at most two seasons to ride as a pro, and he may want to take this last chance before it is too late.
Michele Bartoli's story is not unusual, as many former pro athletes often decide to try coming back after long periods away from competition. Unfortunately though, those come backs are usually cut short when the older athlete realizes that their body in no longer up to the task of elite competition. And while Bartoli has been out training with many active pros over the last few months, he will find that racing against them is much different than being out on a training ride with them. Having been away from the sport since 2004, Bartoli will have his work cut out for him if he is to ride competitively again. But like many retired cyclists coming back, Bartoli deserves a chance to try one last time for the glory of professional cycling.
Monday, January 12, 2009
As promised by the UCI, the Pro Tour racing series will continue to expand into areas outside of Europe, and Russia is the latest country to be included on the calendar, with a stage race planned for the month of May. The race will bring some of the best riders in the world to the red country, and will afford pro riders a chance to compete in a big time race in Russia.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
The Omloop Het Volk race will have a new name this year, and will go by the name Omloop Het Niewsblad. And while I understand the reason for the name change, it is still a shame that it happened. As one of the biggest early season cobbled classics, the Omloop just sounded cooler being called Het Volk. Niewsblad just doesn't evoke the mystique that Het Volk did.
Friday, January 9, 2009
The Cervelo TestTeam will be coming to the Tour of California, and team leader Carlos Sastre will make the trip to the great American west as he begins his 2009 season. Although no other riders have been officially announced, it is likely that Thor Hushovd, Dominique Rollin, Roger Hammond, Ted King, Hayden Roulston, and Andreas Klier will probably be chosen for the squad.
Thor has ridden the ToC before, in 2006, and he'll be looking to build his early season form for an eventual run at one of the cobbled classics. Hammond and Klier too will be targeting the early northern classics, and will use California to familiarize themselves with each others riding style. Roulston, after riding on the American circuit in 2008, will be a valuable rider to help with race routes and with leading out Hushovd in the sprints. Plus, Roulston finished in the top ten on two stages in last year's Tour, so he may be a dark horse for a sneaky victory during the nine day race.
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Lance Armstrong is now about a week away from his much publicized comeback to pro cycling, and he'll make his comeback on a custom Trek bike complete with LIVESTRONG art work. Armstrong has made it clear throughout the run up to his comeback that he is riding professionally again to raise awareness for the LIVESTRONG Foundation, and his new bike will ensure that he receives maximum exposure for his cancer awareness foundation.
Armstrong continues to train in Hawaii, using the steep climbs of the Pacific island to build his form ahead of the Tour Down Under. Many pundits have already written Armstrong off as a contender for the overall title in Australia, including Stuart O'Grady. But Armstrong has a penchant for surprising his followers, and the Texan may come in with good enough fitness to hunt for a stage win in the first Pro Tour race of 2009.
Regardless of whether Armstrong is a contender at the TDU, he will still undoubtedly receive the most media attention. From his custom bike (and probably team kit) to his status as the winningest rider in the race, Armstrong will be bombarded by the media on a daily basis, which is exactly how he wants it. Unlike in his first career, Armstrong is much more open to the media, and in the interest of raising awareness for his cancer initiatives will give the media unprecedented access into his comeback. A frequent Twitter user, Armstrong has even claimed that he may use the social media platform to update his followers during the race. All for the fight against cancer.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Over the past few years, Australian cycling has come to the forefront of big time cycling, from one day classics to stage races. Australians like Cadel Evans, Stuart O'Grady, Mick Rogers, Adam Hansen have spearheaded a new generation of Aussies ready to take on the best the world has to offer at the highest level of cycling. And this weekend, some of the brightest young Australian cyclists will do battle for both the time trial and national titles. Evans, already preparing for the Tour, will be absent, as will O'Grady as he plans his assault on the Tour Down Under for Saxo Bank in about a week's time, but there are still many talented riders on hand for both events.
For the time trial, it will be a duel between defending champion Adam Hansen of Columbia against his trade team teammate Michael Rogers. Rogers, after an off 2008, is hoping to get back on track in 2009, and will likely be the Columbia team leader at the Tour in July. If he has the green and yellow stripes of Australian time trial champion on his back, so much the better, while losing to teammate Hansen would still ensure that Columbia has the Aussie TT champ in their midst again for 2009.
On the road, there are a host of riders capable of riding away with the win, and with the approaching Tour Down Under, most of the protagonists in the road race will be on good form ahead of the first Pro Tour race of the year the following week. Of the all arounders, Rory Sutherland of team OUCH leads the charge, and he'll give it a go for the title, before coming back to America to prepare for the Tour of California. Likewise Sutherland's teammate Karl Menzies will put his best foot forward before returning to support the OUCH team at the ToC, while Garmin teammates Trent Lowe and Chris Sutton will try to steal the jersey for their American registered team.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
A decision regarding whether to prosecute Tom Boonen for his positive test for cocaine is expected to be meted out on February 3 by a judge from the Belgian town of
Boonen is an undeniable talent capable of great things in the cycling world. But by making poor decisions off the bike, the tall sprinter could see his legacy be one of a criminal instead of an elite cyclist. In fact it has been revealed that Boonen used cocaine multiple times, and his recreational drug use may be a bigger problem than originally thought.
Worst of all is that Boonen's Quick Step team may be without its top star at California. With Gert Steegmans gone, the Quick Step team will depend almost exclusively on Boonen to represent them in the sprints, and without him they would be reduced to a race day wild card, forced to follow attacks and hope to find the right break away on a race by race basis.
It is more likely that Boonen will be let off easy than punished harshly, but he'll be on a short leash going forward. One more misstep could mean a lengthy suspension and possible jail time for the 28 year old Belgian legend. Quick Step boss Patrick Lefevre and the rest of the Quick Step team will need to remain in close contact with Boonen in the interest of keeping their star on the straight and narrow. Providing they do, the cycling world should be treated to an early season spectacle when Boonen faces off against Mark Cavendish and the rest of the best sprinters in the world at the Tour of California.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Thanks to Matt down in southern California, EuroPeloton can offer an "Insider's Perspective" on Floyd Landis as the deposed Tour de France winner makes his comeback to the sport of pro cycling. Matt's email follows below:
Look out indeed. This isn't the first we have heard about Landis' fitness, as some of his OUCH teammates commented that he was putting them through hell at a recent training camp in South Carolina. Floyd's hip has healed completely, and the Pennsylvania Mennonite will be looking to take out his anger over his suspension on the US domestic peloton in 2009. In fact, based on Matt's and other people's observations of Floyd recently, he should be considered as a dark horse contender for the overall title at the Tour of California in February.
Landis won the inaugural ToC in 2006 behind a strong time trial, and there is no reason to think that he can't attain that high level again. At 33 years old, Landis is approaching the end of his carrer, but there is no reason to think he can't ride for a few more years at the highest level. The ToC will be one of the most important, if not THE most important race of 2009 for Landis and his OUCH team, so expect him to come in the best shape possible to the nine day stage race.
The only problem for Landis at the Tour of California is the presence of Lance Armstrong and the Astana team. Armstrong and Landis have been adversaries on the bike before, and Lance will do all he can to make sure that the overall California title goes to Levi Leipheimer or one of the other Astana members. Floyd will get no sympathy from Armstrong or anyone else, and may find that the two year lay off from competitive racing has left him rusty. Still, it is good to see that Floyd will be making his comeback despite his inability to admit any wrong doing surrounding his suspension. he, like any American, deserves a second chance. Hopefully he'll make the most of it.
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