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Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) out-sprinted Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) to win stage 3 of the Vuelta a España in a punchy uphill finish.
The young Australian rediscovered the sprinting legs that carried him to the pink jersey in this year’s Giro d’Italia. For his efforts in the 188km stage from Cádiz to Arcos de la Frontera, he was rewarded with both the stage win and the Vuelta’s red leader’s jersey.
He earned a 10-second time bonus on the line, which gave him the overall lead.
“Today we had to take control from the start because we had a really good chance to win the stage,” said Matthews. “As you can see from the finish, none of my teammates are here because they sacrificed themselves 110 percent.
“All this in one year it’s just a dream come true, I can’t think of a better way to start this Vuelta,” the Australian said about this and his success at the Giro.
GC contenders Cadel Evans (BMC), Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha), and Chris Froome all finished in the top-10.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) now sits second on GC, three seconds back, and his teammate, Valverde, is third, 11 seconds behind the Australian leader.
In the first 10 kilometers, five riders broke away from the field: Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka), Danilo Wyss (BMC), Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural), Jonathan Fumeaux (IAM Cycling), and Jerome Cousin (Europcar)
After only another 10 kilometers of racing, the gap was more than five minutes.
Movistar took up the chase to defend Valverde’s lead, controlling the pace and keeping their leaders out of harm’s way.
With 75 kilometers left, the break’s advantage had fallen to 2:30, though the leaders were still working cooperatively.
Orica-GreenEdge also chipped in at the front of the field, working on behalf of sprinter Michael Matthews.
As the gap fell, Bonet set off alone, but the peloton brought him back with 25 kilometers to go.
Technical, hilly finale
Just outside of 10 kilometers to go, Lotto-Belisol’s Adam Hansen attacked and quickly got a 22-second lead on the field. However, the sprinters’ teams weren’t about to let him steal the day.
With eight kilometers to go, Katusha and Omega Pharma-Quick Step took to the front to fight for position.
Although the finish was 2.5 kilometers away, the race was on for a sharp right turn onto a narrow bridge in the lead-in to the finale.
Katusha strung out the peloton and looked to be in control.
When the peloton hit the final climb at 1.2km to go, Giant-Shimano moved to the front, but their train was quickly overwhelmed by Katusha.
As the front of the field saw one kilometer to go, a lone Katusha rider got a gap, but it was too far out from the finish.
He was overhauled by Martin on the final push to the line.
Then, with the finish only meters away, Matthews burst past the Irishman on the right side, winning the stage and capturing the overall lead with the first-place time bonus.
The post Michael Matthews wins Vuelta stage 3, grabs overall lead appeared first on VeloNews.com.
CADIZ, Spain (VN) — Of all the superstar riders at the 2014 Vuelta a España, there is one name who is missing: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
Rather than race the Vuelta, the recently-crowned Tour de France winner is traveling this week to Kazakhstan to meet with team backers. Instead, Astana brings Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa to the Vuelta, with Nibali reloading for a run at the world championship title and the Giro di Lombardia in October to finish off his season.
There will surely be a lot debate about who is the best rider in the peloton right now, especially with so many top names racing the Vuelta this month, but for veteran sport director Giuseppe Martinelli, there is no confusion.
“Vincenzo is the strongest rider in the peloton right now. He’s won the Giro [d'Italia in 2013] and the Tour, and he was second in the Vuelta in the same year [in 2013], no one else has been so consistent,” Martinelli told VeloNews. “I think he’s demonstrated he is above all the others right now.”
Nibali stood head and shoulders above the Tour this year, dominating the race that many surmised he would enter on the back foot. Crashes that took out Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) certainly helped bolster Nibali’s chances, but he crushed the field, taking critical gains over the cobblestones, and winning four stages. For Martinelli, there is no debate.
“Nibali really deserved the Tour victory. To win the Tour is the most important race in cycling,” Martinelli said. “The team was strong, Nibali was the strongest, and things could not have gone better.
“It was important to win not only the Tour, but to win stages, to demonstrate that he was the strongest in the race, to leave no doubt,” Martinelli continued. “The victory at Hautacam ended all conversation about who deserved to win this Tour.”
For Martinelli, the question of whether or not Nibali would have won had Froome or Contador been in the race also seems pointless. Nibali was there, the others weren’t — end of conversation.
“He demonstrated a tremendous calm under fire, but I think that came from the confidence he had in himself, and in his team. He had good legs, and after the crashes of Froome and Contador, he was even calmer,” the Astana director said. “When he’s good, he doesn’t need to worry about anyone.”
With Nibali at the top of the peloton’s pecking order, Martinelli and Astana will begin work on the repeat effort. He said it’s too early to speak about a possibility of attempting the Giro-Tour double (something that’s not been done since Marco Pantani in 1998). The first priority is to defend the yellow jersey, something that no one’s done since Contador in 2009-2010, though the latter victory was later stripped following his controversial clenbuterol case.
“To win the Tour raises the challenge of trying to win another one. We’ve seen the past few years it’s not easy. He is at his best in this moment, and I believe he can maintain that level for a few years. He is very professional,” Martinelli said.
“I think it’s always possible to improve. To win the Giro and then the Tour, that gave him tremendous self-confidence. Vincenzo is clearly the strongest in the peloton. Now it’s the others who must beat him.”
Martinelli is leading a young squad here at the Vuelta, and admitted the team will not have the same firepower as it did during July.
“We have Aru, Landa, with a good team, but with the level in the Vuelta, I think it’s too much to talk about the podium or anything too ambitious. We’ll see how the race unfolds,” he said. “If Vincenzo were here, it would be different.”
For Martinelli, Nibali is clearly the man to beat, even when he’s not in the race.
DENVER, Colorado (VN) — Tejay, Tom … Tsvetkov?
While Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) comfortably defended his title at the USA Pro Challenge, and Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) put in a valiant effort to come second in his beloved home race, Sergey Tsvetkov, of the comparatively minuscule Jelly Belly team, rode to an impressive — and for some, a head-scratching — third place overall against a truly world-class crop of riders and teams.
All in a day’s riding for the soft-spoken, mellow Moldovan (who races with Romanian citizenship).
“I try to race everyday like it’s another day; I don’t think about the GC and that’s probably how I get to be third now,” he told VeloNews. “Because if you try to stay, hold in GC, you don’t have an aggressive [mindset], and I just try to treat every day like a new day.”
Many fans were asking, “Who is this guy with the jelly beans on his kit?” Others, including his two WorldTour companions on the podium, weren’t at all surprised to see Tsvetkov standing beside them in downtown Denver.
“I’m not actually surprised. He’s put in some really good rides; he’s two-time national time trial champion,” van Garderen said. “I was just thinking it was a matter of time before he had a breakthrough ride. The whole time we were looking at the results sheet, we kind of kept saying, ‘There’s all the obvious guys like Danielson and Majka,’ but his name kept popping up, like, we should maybe keep an eye on him.”
If you are a scholar of the Pro Challenge, however, you know that Tsvetkov showed signs of serious talent years prior, riding for Exergy, on the stage from Durango to Telluride, in 2012. That day, he joined a breakaway with Danielson and current Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (then riding for Liquigas-Cannondale), among others. Danielson, for one, took notice.
“My first experience with Sergey was in 2012 on the stage from Durango to Telluride, when we were throwing bombs out, left, right, and center. ‘Who is this Exergy guy there who was going pull for pull?’ I was like, ‘Who are you, man? When are you gonna blow?’ And then I started to freak,” Danielson said. “We had Nibali there, Stetina and myself, and Serghei, and I kept looking at him and asking, ‘Who are you?’ And he’s a really nice guy. Ever since I’ve been following him — and I saw this year that he won Cascade criterium, on top of the time trial and all this other stuff — and I thought, ‘Uh oh.’ I’ve seen him up there the last couple of days and said this is gonna be trouble.”
It’s true that Tsvetkov has had an impressive rise through the U.S. domestic scene after moving over from the Tusnad cycling team in Romania. He won the time trial at the Tour of the Gila and finished 12th during the Folsom time trial at the Tour of California. Tsvetkov crashed hard during stage 1 of the Tour de Beauce in June, but persevered to finish third overall in the Canadian UCI 2.2 race.
Tsvetkov won the overall at the Cascade Cycling Classic this July for a second straight year, after taking two stage wins in the time trial and criterium. He nabbed three top-10 finishes at the Tour of Utah earlier this month in preparation for the more gradual climbs of Colorado that he prefers.
But his performance at the Pro Challenge, where he finished third on the climbing stage 3 to Monarch Mountain (20 seconds down on stage winner van Garderen), third in the sprint the next day on the circuit race through Colorado Springs (in the same time as stage winner Elia Viviani of Cannondale), and third in the stage 6 Vail time trial (losing 1:08 to stage winner van Garderen), was a display of his comprehensive skillset.
“If you ask any of the Continental managers who have seen him race over the past four years, this is not a project that happened overnight,” said Danny van Haute, director of the Jelly Belly team. “He’s been in the States the past four years — two years with Exergy and two years with us — and we’ve seen his progress every year: 10 percent better, 20 percent better. And now it’s at that point that he needs to graduate.”
Not surprisingly, the calls from WorldTour teams are coming left and right. Though he hasn’t made any decision yet, nor signed any contracts, his prospects continue to rise after his display in his adopted home state of Colorado, where he has lived in Golden since 2012.
“The calls started coming a few weeks before the start of this race. And they’ve … accelerated [laughs],” said van Haute.
The move to the WorldTour would mean a reevaluation for Tsvetkov, something he’s well aware of.
“I understand that if I move up, I will work hard for other guys because there are a lot of strong guys,” he said. “I’m ready for that. Now, I have opportunities to be a leader on Jelly Belly, and they really support me well, the guys were riding amazing. I’m just happy now to be a GC contender. But I’m looking everyday as a new day. If I have a sprint day, I try for sprint. If I have to climb, I will climb. It looks like I can do almost everything …”
Indeed it does. Especially in the thin air atop Monarch Pass where he beat the high-altitude specialist Danielson, among a slew of other more well known climbers. It all had to do with a new mindset that saw him being patient rather than persistent.
“That [stage] was huge for me. Just awesome,” he said. “My first goal was just to stay in the first group. In the end, I realized, ‘Wow, everyone is tired, I’m not fresh [either], probably those guys just attack each other too early and now I have a chance.”
On the back of that performance, he continued to ride quietly and intelligently, conserving energy whenever possible, learning to ride with reserve, and trusting that the hard work that he had put into the sport would repay him with results. It was the opposite approach to years past when he looked to bring attention to the team with breakaway efforts and stage wins.
“I am glad that the work that I have done has paid off, because when you’re working hard, you try to train well, sleep, ride, and everything, and get this result,” he said. “It’s not so much a surprise; everything is working. Everything is possible.”
The post Sergey Tsvetkov storms the castle at the USA Pro Challenge appeared first on VeloNews.com.
MILAN (VN) — Italy is rallying its troops around Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) for the world championship road race in Ponferrada, Spain. The official team will not be known until Friday, September 12, 16 days before the race on September 28, but it appears that it will be one for Nibali.
“We’ve been talking about this since he won the Italian Championship race,” Italy’s head coach Davide Cassani said at a fan club party two weeks ago in honor of Nibali’s Tour win. “He wants to wear Italy’s blue jersey and is thinking about the worlds.”
Nibali became the first Italian to win the Tour de France since Marco Pantani in 1998 and only the seventh in the history of the race. The 29-year-old Sicilian won four stages and the overall with 7:37 on Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale).
He now wants to try to become the first Italian to win the worlds title since Alessandro Ballan in 2008. Already in 2013, despite a crash on the wet roads in Florence, he finished fourth.
“If he has the form of the [Tour] then we are confident,” added Cassani. “If he is slightly off, he could still have it his way, even if the course is not perfect for him.”
After the last five years where the title event began with a point to point section, the 2014 course will take place entirely on a circuit. The Ponferrada circuit in northwest Spain, 100 kilometers west of Leon, runs 18.2km and includes two climbs and a 5km descent to the line. The elite men will race it 14 times, which works out to 254.8km and 4,284 meters of climbing in one day.
Nibali, despite being known as a grand tour cyclist thanks to wins in all three, has done remarkably well in one-day races since joining the professional ranks in 2005. He has won several smaller Italian races and France’s GP Ouest-France classic. In 2012, he placed third in Milano-Sanremo and second in Liège-Bastogne-Liège — both times benefiting from attacks late in the race.
After the Tour de France, Nibali planned his end-of-season schedule with trainer Paolo Slongo and team manager Giuseppe Martinelli with the worlds in mind. This week, Nibali will return from a sponsor visit in Kazakhstan and at his home in Lugano, Switzerland, he will meet with Slongo for specific motor-pace training.
He will officially return to racing in the Coppa Bernocchi on September 16, and will continue in the Coppa Agostini, the Tre Valli Varesine, the Memorial Pantani, and the GP Prato. In the last two races, he could already wear Italy’s blue jersey instead of Astana’s turquoise colors since his trade team is not planning to attend.
While Nibali is in Kazakhstan, Cassani is busy tailor-fitting the team, or ‘Squadra Azzurra,’ for Nibali. He told VeloNews after seeing the circuit in February that it is hard but not one to force an elite group naturally like the 2013 Florence course. Instead, Italy must create a hard race for Nibali and must take the right men to do so.
Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale), Alessandro Vanotti (Astana), and Manuel Quinziato (BMC Racing) could be Italy’s workhorses. Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff-Saxo) is the road captain to organize the riders who, unlike in UCI WorldTour races, are not allowed to use two-way radios. Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) for a sprint and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) for an attack could be alternatives to Plan Nibali.
The post Plan Nibali: Italy rallies around Tour winner for worlds appeared first on VeloNews.com.