News Shorts – 4th April, 2012

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Last week’s headlines in Pro Cycling news and what’s coming up…

Record – Tom Boonen Wint Voor Derde Keer; Tommeke takes pole position; Cancellara crash ‘a disaster’; Langeveld – let’s show some respect; Hincapie makes history; What’s next? The Scheldeprijs!; A Sunday in Hell: Boonen v. Pozzato; País Vasco – one-day relief; Saxo Bank continues at WorldTour level;

Record – Tom Boonen Wint Voor Derde Keer

Tom Boonen won the Tour of Flanders on Sunday in Oudenaarde, Belgium, prompting the county to go mad. “Record – Tom Boonen Wint Voor Derde Keer” or Boonen wins record third Flanders read the headline in leading Flemish newspaper, Het Nieuwsblad.

With his win, he joined the club of three-time winners that includes Johan Museeuw (1993, 1995, 1998), Eric Leman (1970, 1972, 1973), Fiorenzo Magni (1949-1951) and Achiel Buysse (1940, 1941, 1943).

Tom Boonen celebrating his third Tour of Flanders victory.

“It’s amazing, it’s only now entered my thoughts that I’ve done it,” Boonen said after his win. “I knew at the start of the season if I had a good winter without crashing I’d be okay. It’s an important year and this race, the third time, shows you have a nice career.”

Boonen won Flanders in 2005 and 2006, Paris-Roubaix in 2005, 2008 and 2009, and the World Championships in 2005. After a few difficult years, he’s once again reached the same 2005-2006 heights.

His wins this year:
Tour de San Luis (stage)
Tour of Qatar (overall and two stages)
Paris-Nice (stage)
E3 Harelbeke
Ghent-Wevelgem
Tour of Flanders

He is the only cyclist ever to win E3 Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem and Flanders in the same year. It’s easy to see why Belgium is going mad.

“Maybe when I’m in the shower it will hit me because, so far, I’ve not had a moment to relax,” Boonen said. “After racing for 11 years as a pro, though, this is nothing new.”

Tommeke takes pole position

‘Tommeke’ Boonen surpassed Simon Gerrans in the UCI rankings thanks to his win in Flanders. He gained 100 points and jumped from fourth to first. He leads Gerrans, who won Milan-San Remo, by 56 points.

1 Tom Boonen (OmegaPharma-Quick Step) 266
2 Simon Gerrans (GreenEDGE) 210
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) 182
4 Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) 179
5 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) 167

He also leads CQ Rankings, which also counts HC, .1 and .2 races.
1 Boonen 1163
2 Nibali 718
3 Gerrans 711
4 Sagan 639
5 Valverde 633

Cancellara crash ‘a disaster’

Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) went from top favourite to a hospital bed after a crash in Flanders. He fell in a feed zone and ahead of the Mariaborrestraat cobble sector at 193.6 kilometres into the race. The crash resulted in a fractured right collarbone.

“That’s really a shame, but at the same time, it’s bike racing,” team manager, Johan Bruyneel said in Oudenaarde’s main square after Flanders. “It’s a big loss, but on the other hand, it’s only a collarbone. In three weeks time, it’s healed and he can start to think about other objectives.”

The Swiss Champion won the race in 2010. He was the top favourite heading into Flanders and this Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix.

“He was our guy. Luckily he got that second place in San Remo, but these two races are really his races, so it means basically it’s a disaster.”

Fabian Cancellara on the coblestones of the Koppenberg.

Yesterday, Cancellara spoke in a press conference from the hospital in Basel. He first announced he and his wife are expecting their second child.

“My goal now,” he said, “is to relax and spend time with my family before building for the Olympics.”

On Sunday night, doctors pinned his four separate fractures.

Langeveld – let’s show some respect

GreenEDGE won the women’s Tour of Flanders on Sunday with Judith Arndt, but saw its leader Sebastian Langeveld crash out in the men’s race with a broken collarbone.

The Dutch cyclist ran into a spectator racing down the bike path and flew violently. Neither one was solely responsible, but the spectator acted poorly afterwards. He backed off to the side of a house, failing to offer Langeveld help or even an excuse.

Langeveld said on his website that he didn’t blame the spectator for the crash. “It’s important that you stand still, but I can understand it was a natural reflex,” he wrote. He did not mention the fan’s post-crash actions.

Watch the video for yourself.

Hincapie makes history

Alessandro Ballan made the racing winning escape on the Oude Kwaremont, but his BMC Racing team-mate George Hincapie made history. When he rode into Oudenaarde, he broke Briek Schotte’s record and became the only cyclist to complete 17 editions of the race.

“This is one of the hardest races in the world so a guy from New York jumping in and breaking the record for the Tour of Flanders is pretty cool,” Hincapie said in a team press release. “Unless you really know about cycling or racing in Belgium, it’s hard to describe how big this race is or how important it is in the cycling world.”

George Hincapie rolling to the start line in Burgge last Sunday.

He rode his first edition in 1994 when he was 20 years old. His best result was third in 2006. Last year, he also tied the record of 16 Tour de France participations. During that time, he helped Lance Armstrong win seven editions.

What’s next? The Scheldeprijs!

The mid-week Scheldeprijs celebrates 100 editions this year and holds us over until Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.

The riders face a 202-kilometre course today around Antwerp with a finish in Schoten. This race fails to live up to the excitement of Flanders and Roubaix, but it does highlight sprint talent.

Robbie McEwen won here, Erik Zabel won here, Tom Boonen, Tyler Farrar and three times Mark Cavendish. Cavendish will miss a chance to win a record fourth title this year as he’s at home waiting for the birth of his first child.

The favourites this year are Boonen, Farrar (Garmin-Barracuda), Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and Baden Cooke (GreenEDGE).

“It’s my goal,” said Kittel. “It’s too bad Cavendish won’t be there.”

Kittel won two sprints in the Tour of Oman, when Cavendish finished eighth and 14th.

A Sunday in Hell: Boonen v. Pozzato

Boonen will likely face more questions about Paris-Roubaix than the Scheldeprijs today. It’s the next big appointment on the calendar, the third of five cycling monuments after Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders.

“I race the Scheldeprijs and train in the coming days,” Boonen explained. “Maybe I’ll recon the Roubaix parcours, but I’m not sure yet.”

The three clear contenders for the 2012 Tour of Flanders

With Cancellara out, the 31-year-old Belgian is the heavy favourite to win the race. Bookmakers give him 6:4 odds, or 1 in 1.5 chance in winning. His strongest rival, at least on paper, is Italian Filippo Pozzato.

The odds:
Tom Boonen (OmegaPharma-Quick Step) 1.5:1
Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini) 7:1
Sylvain Chavanel (OmegaPharma-Quick Step) 12:1
Thor Hushovd (BMC Racing) 14:1
Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing) 14:1

“It’s a pity for Fabian,” Boonen said. “I know to do all that work and not be there is tough, but it’s life, you crash sometimes. He would have been there in the final, now there is one less favourite to help control the race.”

Pozzato threatened Boonen until the last metre of Flanders and proved to be ready for Roubaix. He’s had a string of top 10 placings: sixth in San Remo, sixth in Dwars door Vlaanderen, ninth in Ghent-Wevelgem and second in Flanders.

His results are more impressive when you consider he suffered the same injury as Cancellara and Langeveld in February at the Tour of Qatar. He returned nine days later in the Trofeo Laigueglia fresh from surgery and pushed through Het Nieuwsblad, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and Tirreno-Adriatico. It paid off in Belgium, where he scored a second place on Sunday.

He Tweeted on Monday, “So near but so far. Stay tuned and see u soon in Roubaix!”

“The courage that he showed to race a week after his operation… I followed it all, from his desperation to his return,” Luca Scinto, the team’s sports director said. “We were luckily because he worked very hard over the winter and had a good base.”

Pozzato finished in second place behind Boonen in 2009 and seventh in 2010.

País Vasco – one-day relief

País Vasco or the Tour of the Basque Country offers relief to those who are sick of one-day classics (it’s hard to imagine this is the case – ed.).

José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar) sprinted to victory on the opening leg yesterday. Daryl Impey won the stage to Vitoria-Gasteiz today.

Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) and Tony Martin (OmegaPharma-Quick Step) are favoured in the mountain stages starting tomorrow and for the overall win. Most of those riders will go on to race in the Ardennes Classics starting next Sunday with the Amstel Gold Race.

“The Basque country was the best win of my career,” said Horner, the 2010 winner. “In my opinion, the Basque is the biggest and best race in the world next to the Tour de France.”

Horner narrowly missed victory in Tirreno-Adriatico last month, losing to Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) on the final day.

GreenEDGE Goes 1-2 on Pais Vasco

GreenEDGE is back to its winning ways in Spain with Daryl Impey and Allan Davis going 1-2 on the second stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco. The South African opened up a gap as the peloton negotiated a roundabout 1.2 kilometers from the finish. He managed to hold off the charging field to take his first WorldTour win. Two bikes lengths behind, Davis won the field sprint for second.

“I didn’t come into today’s stage expecting to win,” said Impey. “We were riding for Allan. When I found myself with the gap, I decided to take it. The boys worked so well early in the race and held it all together in the sprint. It’s a massive victory — definitely the biggest moment in my career.”

“It was one of those situations where experience prevailed,” added Davis. “I didn’t want to open up my sprint early even though I had good legs. With Daryl out front, I knew we had the option of going 1-2.”

The second stage was dominated by an early break. Movistar controlled the chase in the interests of race leader Jose Joaquin Rojas.

“Eventually we started to collaborate with Movistar,” said Sports Director Neil Stephens. “We put Christian Meier and Travis Meyer on the front towards the last 50-60 kilometers. The break was caught up the last climb and then we marked the few moves that followed.”

The field was together heading into the final roundabout.

“I told Daryl to go full gas when he opened the gap on the roundabout,” explained Stephens. “This put the pressure on the other teams to chase.”

“We went through that corner really quickly, and I guess I just went a bit quicker than the rest,” added Impey. “Sprinting involves a lot of luck, so I was happy to take a chance with the gap. I was lucky to have enough left in the tank to hold it to the line. I kept thinking the field would blow past me in the final 100 meters, but they never did.”

Behind Davis patiently bid his time before he pounced

“I waited until I felt someone try to pass me, and then I started my sprint,” Davis explained. “It was a progressive sprint instead of going explosively from the start. I wanted to give Daryl as much time as possible.”

“Straight after the line, I realized Allan had won from the bunch,” Impey added. “I still had my hands up in the air when he passed me, and I knew straight away. It was a super team effort from GreenEDGE today. It doesn’t get much better than this.”

The win has allowed Impey to leapfrog up to fourth overall. Rojas continues to lead the race with the top ten on general classification all on the same time. The remaining four stages will favor the climbers.

“The next two days are really hard,” noted Davis. “We’ll look to put another GreenEDGE rider up for stage results. The climbers take over after today, so we’ll see what the next stages bring.”

Saxo Bank continues at WorldTour level

The UCI’s licence commission confirmed on Monday that team Saxo Bank could keep its WorldTour licence. The decision came despite the Danish team losing 68 per cent of its points after Alberto Contador’s doping ban.

In a press release, it said that it agreed that “without its star rider the team does not reach UCI WorldTour level,” but that does not “justify the withdrawal of the licence.”

It noted that the licence expires at the end of this year, when Bjarne Riis’ team will have to meat the commission’s four criteria: sporting, ethical, financial and administration.

The sports high court, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled in favour of the UCI’s appeal and banned Contador for two years on February 6. He also was stripped of 12 wins, including his 2010 Tour and 2011 Giro titles.

Saxo Bank is ranked 20th in CQ Rankings and last, 18th in the UCI’s WorldTour rankings.

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