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Omega Pharma-Quick Step switches gears from the cobblestones to the Ardennes this weekend with the intention of keeping the ball rolling.
Following its dramatic victory in Paris-Roubaix on Sunday with Niki Terpstra, the pavé specialists have stepped aside for the leaner climbers. Leading the team will be Polish sensation Michal Kwiatkowski.
“I like all three. I still need to progress a lot at Liège, because I’ve only done it twice,” Kwiatkowski said Wednesday in an interview. “Last year, I felt very good at Amstel and Flèche, but I was tired at Liège, and I couldn’t really challenge for it. [Liège] is a monument, so it would be great to challenge against the best. In principal, I will challenge for all three.”
Last year, Kwiatkowski was one of the revelations in the Ardennes, riding to fourth at Amstel Gold Race and fifth at Flèche Wallonne. The 23-year-old has been on a tear so far this season and wants to keep the momentum going across the Ardennes classics, which click into gear Sunday at Amstel Gold.
He skipped racing on the pavé, instead choosing to race at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), where only an on-form Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) could beat him.
“I love racing the Flemish classics, but, with the lineup Omega Pharma has for these races, I don’t think they missed me,” he said. “I think it was a good move to skip the cobblestones. After Tirreno I was optimistic, and I did specific training for the Ardennes. Last year, I wasn’t sure of my form … but this year, I am confident that things are going well for the Ardennes.”
Kwiatkowski has been prolific since the start of the 2014 season, winning in his debut at the Mallorca Challenge. He then won two stages and the overall at the Volta ao Algarve, knocking back a challenge from Contador to claim his first professional stage race title. He then beat Peter Sagan (Cannondale), his nemesis since their junior days, at Strade Bianche.
Things were going well at Tirreno, with Omega Pharma winning the opening team time trial, but he faltered and finished a disappointing 18th. He rebounded with a strong performance at the Basque Country and is ready to challenge for victory in the Ardennes.
Kwiatkowski is ambitious, and will return to the Tour de France later this summer with GC aspirations as well.
“I don’t know how far I can go, but I want to be the best, and I will work hard to get there,” he said. “Last year, I was 11th, so I will return to try to fight for the GC. But you never know, it will only be my second Tour. I learned a lot last year, and to be up front in all the key stages will be my objective. Also, to help Cav [Mark Cavendish], which is another big goal for the team.”
After the Ardennes, he will skip Tour de Romandie, take a break, and regroup for the Tour, with the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Polish national championships slated before the race through France. This year, he’ll return to the Tour of Poland, with ambitions of winning his national tour.
The post Kwiatkowski wants to continue Omega Pharma’s spring success at Ardennes appeared first on VeloNews.com.
Fabian Cancellara’s plans to take on the hour record are on hold following a revived debate within the UCI over rules governing one of cycling’s most vaunted records.
The hour record was on Cancellara’s radar for later this season, most likely after the Tour de France, but now officials at Trek Factory Racing are waiting until the UCI clarifies its definition of the hour record.
Trek manager Luca Guercilena told VeloNews on Sunday the team is waiting for word from the UCI before moving forward.
“Right now we are standing still, because the project was almost ready, then we saw comment that the track commission is looking to have a new set of rules for the hour record, so we cannot go on,” Guercilena said before the start of Paris-Roubaix. “There is a big investment that we need to do, so we do not know which direction we are going. We cannot spend money for nothing.”
Since 2000, following a wave of hour attempts with ever more extravagant time trial bikes in the 1990s, the UCI instituted two definitions of the hour record.
Cycling’s governing body said the technological advantages pushed the sport too far from its tradition roots, and moved to separate the old from new.
Since 2000, the UCI set the official hour record based on what it called the “Merckx position,” using a similar track bike setup and geometry as Eddy Merckx used to set a record of 49.431km in 1972. That position does not allow aerodynamic modifications to handlebars, wheels, frames, position, or helmets.
It defined the more aerodynamic, time trial attempts as “best human effort,” currently held by Chris Boardman at 56.375km, set in 1996.
After the new rules were instituted in 2000, Boardman returned to the boards in October that year in Manchester with a traditional setup, bettering the Merckx mark at 49.441km. In 2005, Ondrej Sosenka bettered that on a track in Moscow with 49.700km, but a subsequent doping positive in 2008 for the Czech rider cast doubt on the validity of the record, although the distance still stands in the record books.
The arrival of Brian Cookson to the UCI presidency in September revived a debate within the cycling federation about what should constitute the official hour record.
Speaking to VeloNews in February, Cookson confirmed there was interest in opening up the rules to new technological advances.
“My own view is that the so-called athletes hour, the record on the old traditional track bike, I think it was a nice idea, but frankly I think it’s an idea whose time has passed,” Cookson told VeloNews’ Ryan Newill. “So what we’ve asked the track commission is, look, what’s the step forward out here? We aren’t going to allow anyone to ride the hour record in the superman position. But we think that the old, traditional track bike athlete’s hour record is probably a little bit of an outdated idea. Where do we go from here?”
In late March, the UCI track commission met to discuss the issue again, but has yet to make an official announcement. Until then, Cancellara’s hour attempt is on ice.
“The key point for us is, which would be [the] record to beat? Until we know that, we cannot go on,” Guercilena said. “We were working on the Eddy Merckx position, that was the goal we had in mind. And we were almost ready for that, but now we are waiting to see what happens. This is a big project. This is not something we can pull together in 15 days.”
Trek has been working on the Cancellara hour project since last winter. The company has invested time and money testing materials, and Guercilena said it simply doesn’t make sense to move forward until the rules are clearly defined.
Cancellara’s plan to tackle the record was the first serious attempt in nearly a decade. The UCI’s strict rules took the luster off challenging the hour record, at least from a technological point of view. Others recently have expressed interest, including 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and three-time world time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
Cancellara has been reticent to speak publicly about the hour attempt, insisting that he wanted to focus on the spring classics before becoming distracted with the intense effort to better the hour mark.
Guercilena insisted that Cancellara is enthusiastic about the project.
“He is excited. OK, first come the classics, but we made lots of tests over the winter, and he was motivated,” the Italian manager said. “He wants to do it.”
With everything in a holding pattern, Guercilena cautioned the attempt might not happen this year. Physically, Guercilena said Cancellara would not need that much time to reach a peak level, especially if he was coming off the Tour de France. It’s the technological side of things that would need more time to prepare, especially if the rules are modified.
“Once he’s 100 percent for the road, he’s not too far off top form to make the attempt. The main thing is to prepare the materials, the setup with the bike. That is what takes more time,” Guercilena said. “But now, everything is on hold, so we are waiting.”
The post Cancellara’s hour record attempt enters holding pattern over UCI rules appeared first on VeloNews.com.
GENT, Belgium (VN) — Ted King, who suffered a heartbreaking exit from last year’s Tour de France, will likely see a second shot to make it to Paris.
Cannondale manager Roberto Amadio confirmed to VeloNews that the team is planning a Tour return this July for King, who was forced out of last year’s race after he missed the time cut in the team time trial by seven seconds.
“Ted will be returning to the Tour this summer,” Amadio told VeloNews. “The Tour is still a long way away, and anything can happen, but, yes, he is part of our plans for the Tour.”
Last summer, the popular New Englander realized a dream when he earned a spot among Cannondale’s Tour nine. He worked hard to improve his condition, and slotted into an important support role for team captain Peter Sagan.
Disaster struck during the crash-marred, chaotic first stage on Corsica, when King fell in a frenetic finale. The Orica-GreenEdge team bus was stuck under the finish-line awning, creating mounting tension as race officials and commissaires struggled to safely manage the arrival of the fast-charging peloton.
Battered and bruised, and nursing a separated shoulder, King made it across the line to stay in the race. He survived the following two stages on Corsica, hoping to mend up and stay in the race, and lend a helping hand to Sagan later in the Tour.
The team time trial in stage 4, when the Tour returned to mainland France, proved his undoing, however. King was dropped in the first kilometer of the technical 25-kilometer course around Nice, and rode the entire course alone in a vain effort to make the time cut.
UCI officials were merciless when they calculated the time cut, and kicked King out of the race after missing the limit by just seven seconds. King suggested that he made the time cut, claiming the his power meter was more accurate than the official timing. UCI officials could not be swayed, and forced King to make an emotional farewell to the Tour.
King’s exit was even more bittersweet because his father, hampered by health problems, had traveled to France that day to watch his son race.
Amadio said King deserved his spot on the short-list of riders who are penciled in to start the Tour this summer.
“He is very important to protecting Peter,” Amadio said. “He is a very strong rider, and he is gaining more and more experience. We need riders like Ted in the Tour.”
Cannondale will return to the Tour this summer intent on winning a third consecutive green points jersey with star rider Sagan. There should be a heated battle for green, with Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) likely skipping the Giro d’Italia to arrive as fresh as possible to the Tour.
Cavendish’s priority will be winning the opening stage, and the yellow jersey that goes along with it, but the green jersey is also part of Omega Pharma’s plans. Cavendish has only won the green jersey once despite winning 25 Tour stages.
Sagan has proven so consistent in the bunch sprints that he can pick up points throughout the Tour to secure green, even when he cannot win against the pure sprinters. Last year, he only managed one stage victory, but easily won his second consecutive maillot vert.
King, meanwhile, has earned the trust of both Cannondale and Sagan, and has proven a steady hand in both the northern classics and longer stage races. King’s role in the one-day events and stage races is to protect Sagan’s flanks and then help chase down dangerous breakaways to set up the Slovak champion.
Since getting his full-time start in Europe with Cervélo in 2009, King has become one of the most experienced and strongest engines on the Cannondale team.
Lately, King has been focused on helping Sagan in the spring classics, and hasn’t talked much about the race in July, but there’s a sense he wants nothing more than return to the Tour, and ride all the way to Paris.
The post Ted King likely to see second shot at Tour de France appeared first on VeloNews.com.
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