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Etixx-Quick-Step announced its seven-rider roster for the Tour Down Under in Australia, January 17-25.
The team will leave many of its spring classics heavies at home — like Tom Boonen, Michal Kwiatkowski, and Niki Terpstra — and instead bring a squad of all-rounders and journeymen to the first WorldTour event of 2015.
The 2015 edition of the race offers opportunities for sprinters, climbers, and breakaway artists. “Gianni Meersman can take advantage of specific kinds of sprints, such as in a small group,” said Etixx sport director Rik Van Slycke. “For the climbs, we have David De La Cruz, Pieter Serry, and Maxime Bouet. Bouet did a good race last year, but crashed two days from the finish which prevented a top finish. We are sure they can arrive focused and ready to contribute on the climbs such as on Willunga Hill. Two riders who will complete the team are Martin Velits and Yves Lampaert, two strong riders for any kind of terrain.”
The Belgian powerhouse squad will also bring along Australian Mark Renshaw, who often plays the role of leadout man for Mark Cavendish. At the Tour Down Under, Renshaw may have free reign to mix it up in the sprints.
“[Renshaw] brings a little extra motivation that can play a role in the sprints,” said Van Slycke. “He even won the Down Under Classic in 2007 and won the first stage of Tour Down Under in 2008.”
Lampaert, De La Cruz, and Bouet are new to Etixx team, and Tour Down Under will be their debut in the black, white, and blue kit.
Etixx-Quick-Step team for Santos Tour Down Under
David De La Cruz
The post Etixx-Quick-Step set to kick off 2015 at Tour Down Under appeared first on VeloNews.com.
DENIA, Spain (VN) — The comeback trail for Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) is longer and more complicated than expected. The BMC Racing star admitted Wednesday it’s still too early to talk about a firm date to return to racing.
The 24-year-old is champing at the bit to get back in the races, but recovery and rehabilitation from his devastating crash at the USA Cycling road nationalchampionships last summer is forcing Phinney to be more patient than he’d like to be.
“I need a few more months of general strengthening to get to where I am pain-free,” Phinney said. “I need the leg to get back to 90-, 95-percent strength before I can start talking about other things.”
Phinney admitted that any hope of racing the spring classics is unrealistic, but he is holding out hope he could be “race fit” in time for the Amgen Tour of California in May. He’s driven to be back in condition to challenge for the world time trial championship on home soil in Richmond, Virginia, in September, but even he admits the first step is resuming training full-time.
“I cannot get too carried away thinking about racing just yet,” he said. “My knee gets swollen after a too-long ride, or too much time in the gym. When we were talking about things a few months ago, we thought maybe returning to the Dubai Tour [Phinney won in 2014] in February, but things are obviously taking longer than we had hoped for. It’s been a long process.”
In May, Phinney suffered a devastating accident during the U.S. nationals resulting in a complicated fracture in his left leg. After undergoing surgeries, Phinney continues through the painful and arduous rehab process.
Phinney joked about his atrophied leg, which he calls “Froomey,” when compared to his healthy leg, which he’s dubbed “Greipel,” after skinny GC rider Chris Froome and stocky sprinter André Greipel.
“There is a four-centimeter difference in girth between ‘Froomey’ and ‘Greipey,’ but the doctors say I am recovering well. And we’re doing it in a healthy and sustainable way. They said if I rushed it, I could suffer arthritis when I am in my 30s,” he said. “There is always a concern I might not get back to the same level I was. Some even suggested that I return to college. It’s not been easy, but things are going pretty well.”
Sporting manager Allan Peiper confirmed it’s simply too early to talk about firm dates.
“We have to play it by the moment, and see how he recuperates, how the rehab goes, how his power numbers are,” Peiper said. “It’s going to take some time.”
Peiper said it was important for Phinney to join his teammates here in Spain. Even though Phinney is still unable to go on the long, intense training rides, he can join the squad with other activities; something that Peiper said is vital to Phinney’s morale and recovery.
“He’s been to war and back. He’s a different kid. He’s been through some rough stuff,” Peiper said. “I can see how hard it’s been for him. There is a sparkle that is missing in his eye. After going through what he’s been through, the accident, the surgery, the rehab, the physio, and then to have it in limbo, you have to doubt, ‘can I ever do what I wanted to do?’
“I asked him the other day what his goals were for the season, and he said, ‘My first goal would be to start the Tour of California, and then make the Tour de France,’’” Peiper continued. “They’re long shots, but it’s important to have a focus. He’s the American GI Joe. If anyone can do it, he can.”
2015, the year of the hour record.
It lay dormant for a decade, a decaying relic held by a rider who was caught doping, ridden on a bike frozen in time. It’s no surprise that riders, their sponsors, and the sport as a whole didn’t want to touch the event Eddy Merckx once called “the longest hour.”
That all changed in May. The Athlete’s Hour (colloquially, the Merckx Hour) and Best Human records were thrown to the history books in favor of a single, unified hour record to be performed under modern endurance track regulations — pursuit style bikes are now the weapon of choice.
If any man could rekindle the hour, it was Jens Voigt. With only 49.7km to beat, a record set without any aerodynamic aids, the first top rider to step up under the new rules would effectively set the mark. There was very little chance of failure. Somebody had to be the sacrificial lamb; someone had to be willing to lay down the first modern hour record time. Voigt, winding down a 17-year career, was the perfect man for the job.
The Trek Factory Racing rider sped across 51.11 kilometers in an hour, and the event was so popular that this website saw traffic normally reserved for the final days of the Tour de France.
Little did Voigt know that the pistol fired to finish his 60 minutes of agony was actually a starter’s gun.
Just a month later, IAM Cycling’s Matthias Brändle made his own attempt, beating Voigt’s record, riding 51.852km. That record stands today, but likely won’t for long.
The list of hour record contenders continues to grow. Wednesday morning, BMC’s Rohan Dennis announced that he will make an attempt at the velodrome in Grenchen, Switzerland on February 8, where Voigt rode his way into the record books.
“When I look at my experience on the track and the numbers I have been doing on the track and road, it’s within reach,” Dennis said. “As long as I don’t get too excited at the start and control my nerves, the pacing will take care of itself.”
Dane Alex Rasmussen announced his intention to beat Jens Voigt’s record just a week after the German made his attempt. His intention, at the time of that announcement, was to make an attempt in August, after the Tour of Denmark. Given the firepower set to hit the boards over the next few months, he may want to bring that date back a bit.
Thomas Dekker, who enters 2015 without a pro contract, will ride the hour this spring, though no specific date has been released. He will focus solely on preparing for the hour all winter.
“I’m not afraid of it. I put everything aside in the next few months. I put everything I have into that one hour,” he told Dutch newspaper AD
Alex Dowsett’s Movistar team will likely confirm his planned attempt in London at the end of February on Friday. His attempt will probably happen at the same Revolution Series event that will see Sarah Storey take a crack at the women’s record, on the velodrome built for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Jack Bobridge, the current world record holder in the individual pursuit, will make an attempt in 2015. He stepped down from European racing this year and struck a deal with Australian squad Budget Forklifts, with an eye toward racing the 2016 Olympic Games on the track. Details of that attempt will be announced Thursday.
Bradley Wiggins remains the biggest name to throw his hat in the ring, with an attempt slated for summer 2015.
Of all the contenders, Wiggins, Dowsett, and Bobridge bring the greatest combination of track skills and time trial motors.
Bobridge broke a record many thought unbreakable in 2011 when he rode the individual 4km pursuit in 4 minutes 10.534 seconds, beating Chris Boardman’s time of 4 minutes 11.11 seconds.
The class of Wiggins is beyond question. Tour de France champion, world time trial champion, multi-time Olympic medalist, piles of world championship medals on the track, top-ten at Paris-Roubaix — he may be the most widely accomplished male cyclist of his era.
Though BMC’s Taylor Phinney has expressed interest in the record in the past, his recovery from the crash that ended his season at U.S. road nationals in June will likely prevent him from making an attempt in 2015.
“Initially, I was thinking that I would be further along than I am, and that I could have done it this year,” he said. “Maybe it would still be possible after Richmond [worlds], but it’s something we can consider further down the road. I am really happy to see that the hour record is ‘cool’ again. It’s been around a long time in cycling history, and it’s exciting to see everyone going for it.”
Others with similar time trial star power to Wiggins, like Tony Martin and Fabian Cancellara, have yet to announce plans.
Cancellara seemed somewhat irked that he has to compare himself to the likes of Brändle and Voigt, rather than Eddy Merckx, as he could have done under the old rules, when VeloNews’ Matthew Beaudin spoke to him last month.
“At the moment when I see all this hour record stuff, it’s just low level. Instead of higher it’s getting lower … but in the end, the UCI set up the rules, and everyone can do it who wants and there’s no limit. When there’s people motivated, they just do it,” he said.
Perhaps comparing himself to Wiggins will be more appealing.
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PARIS (AFP) — After two years of Sky dominance, 2014 was the season that the rest fought back, and but for the Astana doping scandals, it would have gone down as a vintage edition.
Sky had, in eyes of some, taken the drama out of the Tour de France by guiding Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome to dominant victories in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
But the British outfit’s inability to maintain that level of performance in 2014 helped to make it a thrilling year in cycling.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was the main beneficiary as he emerged from the chaos of crashes during the Grand Boucle — that saw three former winners in Froome, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Andy Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) hit the deck and leave the race during the first 10 days — to streak away to victory.
All three grand tours produced high-level winners, with Nairo Quintana (Movistar) triumphing at the Giro d’Italia and Contador claiming a third Vuelta a España title after a terrific battle with Froome.
It has all led to much excitement ahead of the 2015 Tour, with people expecting the four best stage racers in the world — Froome, Contador, Quintana, and Nibali — to put on a nail-biting show on the way to Paris.
That should be the case now that the International Cycling Union (UCI) granted Nibali’s Astana team a WorldTour license for 2015, despite a spate of doping scandals.
Five Kazakh riders tied to the Astana organization tested positive for either the banned-blood-booster EPO or steroids during 2014, leading to speculation the UCI would kick Astana out of cycling.
But fortunately for Nibali, Astana was granted a license under certain conditions that will see them closely monitored in 2015.
Change of guard
Away from the grand tours, there was the start of a changing of the guard.
“Spartacus” — Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) — won his third Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) with a masterful and patient ride, making his move at just the right time to deny Belgian duo Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin).
A week later, it was Dutchman Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) who claimed victory at Paris-Roubaix, with Cancellara and Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma) out-smarted in the finale.
But it was the emergence of the likes of Norway’s Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), who won Milano-Sanremo, and German John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano), who rode to second in Roubaix, that suggested the old guard is starting to be eased out.
In Ardennes classics, there were signs that change is on its way. Pole Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) finished in the top five in all three Ardennes races, including two podium finishes. Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), and Belgium’s Jelle Vanendert of (Lotto-Belisol) both earned second-place finishes, in Flèche Wallonne and Amstel Gold, respectively.
Martin, in fact, would almost certainly have won a second straight title in Liège but for a crash on the final bend as he was streaking clear to victory.
However, the old guard would not be denied in the Ardennes. BMC’s Philippe Gilbert claimed Amstel Gold, Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde won Flèche Wallonne, and Orica-GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans profited from Martin’s late crash to take Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Masterful late break
But it was Kwiatkowski, 24, who took the most confidence from his performance and went on to become world champion in September with a masterful late break in Ponferrada, Spain.
Worlds was also the setting for Wiggins to demonstrate he is the only man capable of upsetting time trial king Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
The German had won three world TT titles in a row, but Wiggins, who also beat Martin at the London Olympics, proved he is one of the greatest, and most versatile, riders of his generation.
The Brit finished the year by vowing to tackle the world hour record and Paris-Roubaix in 2015.
The hour record was thrust back into the limelight when the UCI changed the rules to allow the use of modern pursuit bikes, encouraging more professionals to tackle the 49.7-kilometer mark set by controversial Czech Ondrej Sosenka in 2005.
Veteran German Jens Voigt (Trek), to the delight of cycling fans, went first and pushed it out to 51.11km in September, although six weeks later, Austrian Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling) went almost 750m farther.
That record is sure to come under pressure from Wiggins and others in 2015, a year that promises fireworks on many levels.
The post 2014 in review: Astana drama, fresh faces, hour records, and more appeared first on VeloNews.com.