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Here’s what has been making headlines throughout the past week and what is coming up…
Aussies lead in Dauphiné; Over to Evans…; Contador to join Saxo Bank?; Sánchez leaving Euskaltel?; Nibali leaves Liquigas; Bravo Bos!
Aussies lead in Dauphiné
The Critérium du Dauphiné has not seen an Australian winner since Phil Anderson in 1985, but already this year Luke Durbridge and Cadel Evans have flown the flag.
True, Durbridge has very little chance to win the race overall. That, however, didn’t stop him from taking what he could out of the race. Sunday, around the same park in Grenoble where Evans raced and confirmed his Tour title last July, scored his biggest win since turning pro this year. The only major time trialist who isn’t racing the Dauphiné is Fabian Cancellara.
He went off early, clocked 6’39” and held off cycling star, Brad Wiggins of team Sky. It was enough for Orica-GreenEDGE’s 21-year-old to win the prologue and take the leader’s yellow jersey.
“I’ve already exceeded my expectations for the Dauphiné,” Durbridge said after his ride. “I wanted to do well today and in the TT on Thursday, that’s it. I’m not trying to ride for GC and keep the jersey.”
Durbridge took his first pro win down the road in the Circuit de la Sarthe. He won the TT and defended to win the overall title two days later.
Over to Evans…
Durbridge dropped out of contention on stage 2 and turned the race over to Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Evans jumped out of the main group with five kilometres to race and positioned himself for a stage win.
“I saw an opportunity there in the final there, a fast downhill and the group had just been thinned out behind, so I took the opportunity,” Evans explained in a post race press conference. “I just took a chance and went with it to the finish.”
It was Evans’ his first road win since the Mûr-de-Bretagne leg in the Tour de France last year. The win was important for Evans as he races towards his title defence in July.
“I’m here in the Dauphiné to work with the team, to get the feeling before the Tour. To get the race rhythm,” he said.
“Most of all, I’m happy to get a good result because I see the team is working very well and very hard already. Manuel Quinziato, Michael Schär and George Hincapie, as always, are working well.”
Wiggins says he’s ready to defend Dauphine title
Bradley Wiggins wrote in a column ahead of the race that he’s ready to defend his Critérium du Dauphiné title, no longer considering it a strain. The confidence, according to him, came from winning the Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie stage races this season.
“It was a strain leading it last year. I was constantly wondering whether I could hold out, how I would cope each day, and it was draining emotionally, but after winning Paris-Nice and the Tour of Romandie I’m used to leading stage races,” Wiggins wrote in Great Britain’s newspaper, The Guardian .
He’s benefited from training at altitude in Tenerife, Spain, with a number of his Sky team-mates, including Michael Rogers and Richie Porte.
“It’s going to be a dress rehearsal for the Tour: we will be trying out bits of kit, making sure everything is in place on the road,” Wiggins continued.
“I’m not the only one who will be doing this: Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans are riding the Dauphiné as well. They will be the most important contenders at the Tour, and they are both capable of winning the Dauphiné but they aren’t necessarily going to be in their Tour form.
“At this stage of the game everyone is at a different level of preparation, guys are hiding their form, bluffing a bit, or just racing strongly because they can. … Cadel was struggling at the Dauphiné last year but ground it out for second place, which is a mark of just how good he is. Then by the time the Tour came round he was in the form of his life.”
Shortly after Wiggins took the yellow jersey, he regretted it.
“I stayed safe, in front, which is what I wanted to do. The downside is that I took the jersey, which I didn’t really want to do,” he said, according to Great Britain’s Cycling Weekly.
The post race ceremonies and press conferences seemed to wear on him. He started to get frustrated as he answered questions.
“I can never win, whatever I do. If I didn’t take the jersey or didn’t perform here, then I’d be the biggest piece of shit in the world. If I win here then I peak too soon,” he continued. “What ever I do in cycling, I’ll never win. So, just please yourself, sod the rest.”
Towards the end of the press conference he paused and added, “This is why I didn’t want the jersey. I got to deal with this shit every day.”
More racing ahead…
The sprinters will have their only chance in stage three to La Clayette on Wednesday. The rest of the race, Thursday through Sunday is a test for the Tour. Stage four, a 53.5km TT to Bourg-en-Bresse is a dry run for the ninth leg in the Tour. Stage six covers six categorised climbs, including the Col de la Colombière and the Col de Joux-Plane.
Critérium du Dauphiné, 1052km
Prologue, June 3, Grenoble ITT, 5.7km – RESULTS
Stage 1, June 4, Seyssins – Saint-Vallier, 187.0km – RESULTS
Stage 2, June 5, Lamastre – Saint-Félicien, 160.0km – RESULTS
Stage 3, June 6, Givors – La Clayette, 167.0km (live on SBS TWO @ 11:05 pm)
Stage 4, June 7, Villié-Morgon – Bourg-en-Bresse ITT, 53.0km (live on SBS TWO @ 11:10pm)
Stage 5, June 8, Saint-Trivier-sur-Moignans – Rumilly, 186.5km (live on SBS TWO @ 11:10 pm)
Stage 6, June 9, Saint-Alban-Leysse – Morzine, 166.5km (live on SBS TWO @ 9:30 pm)
Stage 7, June 10, Morzine – Châtel, 126.0km (live on SBS TWO @ 9:30 pm)
Contador to join Saxo Bank?
Alberto Contador’s doping ban ends on August 5 and allows him to start racing immediately in the Eneco Tour and the Vuelta a España. He’s likely to do so with his former team, Saxo Bank.
The 29-year-old Spaniard seems to be heading back to his old employer, Bjarne Riis based on recent indications.
1. On Thursday at the launch of his book in English, he said, “When Alberto comes back, I believe he’ll be racing with us. But, I’m unable to say for sure.”
2. If you consider Riis’ likely Saxo Bank team for the Tour de France, it suggests he’s preparing for an assault on the Vuelta a España.
Chris Anker Sørensen will head the Tour team with likely support from Nicki Sørensen, Michael Morkov, Nick Nuyens, Karsten Kroon, Sergio Paulinho, Jonathan Cantwell, Juan José Haedo and Lucas Sebastian Haedo.
Where are Jesús Hernández, Benjamin Noval and Daniel Navarro? It seems they are being held back to help Contador win the Vuelta.
Sánchez leaving Euskaltel?
Samuel Sánchez may leave Euskaltel-Euskadi if he fails to receive a good offer from the team ahead of the Tour de France.
He told Spain’s Marca newspaper yesterday, “I want to stay here, but I have two offers. It’s taking too long. The offers have deadlines. I don’t want to make ultimatums, but it’d be better if things were sure about the team’s future ahead of the Tour.”
The team’s future has been uncertain since last year. Over the winter, top sport director Igor González de Galdeano left and the team barely made it into the WorldTour status.
In April, the team confirmed to the staff and riders that it’d continue, but likely with a reduced budget and in the second division. The team is based in the Basque country and since its start 20 years ago, signs only Basque riders. The team’s top rider, Sánchez, ironically, is the only exception.
He won the Olympic road title in 2008 and placed in the top five of Grand Tours, but would like to make it to the podium this year. He said he’s not concerned about the 100 kilometres of time trials. He explained, “When I have form, I am good in the time trials.”
This year, Sánchez won one stage and placed second overall in the Volta a Catalunya. He won the País Vasco, winning one road stage and a TT along the way. If he left the team, he’d take his UCI points, which would surely see the team race in the second division in 2013.
Nibali leaves Liquigas
Vincenzo Nibali will leave Liquigas-Cannondale at the end of this season following a seven-year run that includes a win in the Vuelta a España.
“I won’t stay with Liquigas,” he told VeloNews. “There was an offer, but we said, ‘No.’ It was a significant offer, but there are many other aspects that need to be looked over.”
He has reportedly signed with team Astana for the next two years at €2.8m annually. He said that he would reveal his team until August 1, when the transfer period opens.
His team is trying to renew its sponsorship and losing Nibali comes as a blow. He is one of Italy’s most promising stage racers. Besides the Vuelta, he placed third in the Giro d’Italia and seventh in the Tour de France.
His goal is to win the Tour this year. He said that news of his contract can wait.
“I’ll continue to race how I have been doing. It’s not a thought that runs through my head and holds me back, thinking I need to sign for more or less. I’m relaxed with what I’ve done and I’ll remain that way throughout this year.”
Theo Bos (Rabobank) raced most of the Giro d’Italia with a broken vertebra. He crashed in stage three, but didn’t realise the damage until after he abandoned the race two weeks later.
“I was still suffering after the Giro. I guess I was not crazy, but had reason,” Bos said in a Rabobank statement.
“This is really frustrating, but at the same time I’m happy that it is clear where the pain is coming from.”
He said that he fractured his L3 vertebra in his lower spine and that he needs to just rest without any specific treatment.
Rabobank is taking mostly a classification team to the Tour, led by Robert Gesink, Steven Kruijswijk and Bauke