Alejandro Valverde wins men’s Fleche Wallonne

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has continued his stellar early-season form, riding clear of his opponents on the Mur de Huy to win Fleche Wallonne on Wednesday.

Fleche Wallonne - elite 2014

Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) each looked in a good position to take the victory as a reduced lead group climbed the short but steep Mur de Huy, but Valverde time his run perfectly and accelerated past them to take a comfortable victory.

It’s the second time Valverde has won Fleche Wallonne — he was the victor back in 2006, a year he also won Liege-Bastogne-Liege — and the victory makes it eight wins for the Spaniard already this season.

“The Ardennes were resisting to me in the last few years – always getting podium places, but no victories. I was coming here a bit furious. I felt strong at the Amstel, but not as today”, Valverde said via a Movistar press release.

“I had good legs from the beginning; when you feel well, you have to take all chances. It turned out perfectly well at the end, but sometimes, you’re doing well but you run out of luck, which I really had today.”

The day’s main escape was formed by Jonathan Clarke (UnitedHealthcare), Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen) and together the trio built up a lead of nine minutes. But the race was always going to be brought back together and, predictably, it was the final climb up the Mur that decided the race.

Pre-race favourite Philippe Gilbert (BMC) was caught behind a crash on the lead-up to the final climb and was later boxed in and unable to dash clear.

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VALVERDE Alejandro
Movistar Team
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Garmin Sharp
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Omega Pharma - Quick-Step

Click here to read more at Cycling Weekly.

Pauline Ferrand-Prevot wins women’s Fleche Wallonne

A little earlier in the day the 17th edition of the women’s Fleche-Wallonne was run and won, with 22-year-old French rider Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo-Liv) taking the biggest win of her career ahead of Lizzie Armitstead (Boels Dolmans) and last year’s runner up Elisa Longo Borghini (Hitec Products).

Flèche Wallone femmes 2014

A series of concerted attacks throughout the 127km World Cup race saw the lead group whittled down to just 35 riders with 40km to go. With 10km to go, Linda Villumsen (Wiggle Honda) made a bid for victory with a solo attack, using her time trialing abilities to build up a lead of 35 seconds as the end of the race neared.

But she was soon caught and on the slopes of the Mur de Huy it was Ferrand-Prevot that proved strongest. The Frenchwoman’s teammate and five-time winner of Fleche Wallonne, Marianne Vos, came sixth in her first World Cup race of the season.

After four rounds of the nine-round UCI Women’s World Cup, Lizzie Armitstead leads the series rankings with an impressive four podium finishes from four races. After winning round 1 at Drenthe, she has placed second in all three of the remaining races.

The next race in the World Cup is the Tour of Chongming Island in China, on May 18.

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Rabobank-Liv Woman Cycling Team
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Boels - Dolmans Cycling Team
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Hitec Products

Click here to read more at Bicycling and here to read more at Cycling News.

Edoardo Zardini wins Giro del Trentino stage 2, Cadel Evans takes overall lead

Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) has won stage 2 of the Giro del Trentino in San Giacomo di Brentonico on Wednesday, holding off the likes of Cadel Evans (BMC), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) and Michele Scarponi (Astana) to take his first victory as a professional.

The 24-year-old Italian, in just his second season as a professional, attacked solo with 6km to go in a stage which ended with a 15km climb. He crossed the line 19 seconds clear of Przemyslaw Niemic (Lampre-Merida) and Fabio Duarte (Colombia) with Cadel Evans in fourth place on the same time.

It was Evans that did most of the work in the chase group, trying to reel in Zardini. The Australian was successful, his efforts ensuring that he takes the overall lead by nine seconds ahead of Zardini and 17 seconds ahead of Niemic.

Evans’ teammate Daniel Oss was in the leader’s jersey on the stage after BMC won the stage 1 TTT. With two stages and two summit finishes to go Evans will continue to be a marked man.

“I’ve still got room to improve. I need to take a few more steps forward for the Giro d’Italia but I’m starting to go better and that’s encouraging”, Evans said in the post race press conference.

“I’m here to work for Giro and I hope to do well there but this is good racing and so if I get some results, that’s good too. But I’m not going to throw this chance away and if I can put the team under pressure it’s a good way to get ready for the Giro d’Italia.”

Stage 2: Limone sul Garda > San Giacomo di Brentonico - Stage Result

Wednesday 23rd April 2014

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Bardiani - CSF
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NIEMIEC Przemyslaw
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Team Colombia

Click here to read more at Cycling Weekly.

Mick Rogers cleared of doping; UCI acknowledges likelihood of contamination

Mick Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) has escaped sanctions after the UCI announced that the positive test the Australian returned for clenbuterol late last year was likely due to food contamination in China.

Tour de France 2013 - Stage 13 - 173KM - Tours to Saint Amand Montrond

Rogers is free to return to racing but his victory in the Japan Cup (where he returned his positive test) will remain void.

Here’s an excerpt from the UCI statement:

Upon careful analysis of Mr Rogers’ explanations and the accompanying technical reports the UCI found that that there was a significant probability that the presence of clenbuterol may have resulted from the consumption of contaminated meat from China – where he had taken part in a race before travelling to Japan.

As a result, the UCI has proceeded with the automatic disqualification of Mr Rogers’ results at the 2013 Japan Cup Cycle Road Race (the competition during which the positive sample was taken) but, after consulting WADA, decided that he should not be sanctioned any further.

The UCI is monitoring very carefully the latest developments concerning clenbuterol, and will continue to take appropriate steps to ensure riders are properly informed.

Click here to read the full statement.

Rogers aiming to ride Le Tour de France

Just minutes after the UCI released its statement about the plight of Mick Rogers, the Australian Tinkoff-Saxo rider told CyclingTips’ Shane Stokes that he’s relieved to be able to race again and that he’s aiming to be on the team’s Tour de France squad.

Amgen Tour of California

“I’m obviously very pleased at the news,” Rogers said. “It has been a long few months, but I am just looking forward to doing my job, doing what I love best…riding a bike.

“I have continued to train the whole time. I haven’t missed a day’s training in the hope that today’s message would arrive.”

Given that the ban on clenbuterol remains in place, Rogers acknowledged he would be nervous if asked to compete in the Tour of Beijing again.

“I’d certainly be very cautious,” he said. “I don’t know what will happen in relation to riders racing there. I read in the UCI’s statement that they will continue to monitor the situation.

“It is my understanding that it is a very ambiguous situation and it will be interesting to see in the future if there are any changes to the current way of dealing with such cases.”

It is believed that Belgian rider Jonathan Breyne, who also tested positive to clenbuterol late last year, will also be cleared of any wrongdoing.

Click here to read the full article at CyclingTips.

I’m not ready to give up on racing: Andy Schleck

It will be five years ago this Sunday that Andy Schleck put in a massive solo attack and went on to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege. But a long and painful comeback from a fractured pelvis, not to mention a crash at the Amstel Gold Race last week that left him with a knee injury, has left the 2010 Tour de France winner a long way from his best.

Amstel Gold Race 2014

But Schleck is keen to have an impact in Sunday’s race.

“I do not want to stay in the pack and be 20th without having done anything,” Schleck told L’Équipe. “This is my favourite race. In my head I already have a lot of images. Fränk and I are going to attack in anticipation of the action from the favourites. Fränk is very strong. Me, I want to go well. I am going to go well. I hope that my knee will hold.”

Andy Schleck’s contract with Trek comes to a close at the end of this season and after two years with no victories (or even top-10s) to speak of, Schleck is in need of a good result.

“It is too early to begin discussions. If I won Amstel, perhaps we would be discussing today. I want to stay in the team. I’m not thinking about stopping at the end of this season, but if that were the case, I would look at what I did and I would be proud.

“Today, I still miss things […] I’m missing some sensations in races. Something to give meaning to all the work I do in training.”

Click here to read more.

Tour de France Grand Depart hosts slammed for ‘outrageous’ ticket prices

Organisers of this year’s Tour de France Grand Depart in Yorkshire have been put on the backfoot after complaints about ‘outrageous’ ticket prices for the team presentations in Leeds two days before the race begins.

Tickets for the traditionally free public event range from £45 to £85 (AUD$82 to AUD$154) prompting significant backlash from fans.

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity told the Yorkshire Post: “This is a not-for-profit event and ticket revenue will fund the event and help ensure that we deliver the biggest team presentation ceremony ever.”

Click here to read more at the Yorkshire Post.

How to make slingshot, faux, and bungee attacks

VeloNews has published an extract from a new book written by Jamie Smith and Chris Horner, in which the authors talk about the various strategies for launching attacks during bike races.

Volta  Algarve 2014 stage-2

The book is entitled ‘Reading the Race: Bike Racing from Inside the Peloton’ and here’s an excerpt from the excerpt:

If conditions are right for you to attack, then all you have to do is pick your moment and start mashing the pedals. You can jump with every sinew of your being and see if you can get something started, be it solo or a party.

But let’s think about this for a moment. We already know that the act of accelerating and hammering will burn matches, and we know that a lone rider must fight the wind. If you are neither very strong nor very lucky, your solo attack is unlikely to succeed.

Better to find a more efficient way to launch your attack. One of the best is a two-rider slingshot, where you lead a teammate to the front, fast, and send him up the road.

Here’s how it works: You are going to ride behind me in the pack in about 20th position. When your moment arrives, you will tell me to start rolling. You can use whatever command you wish. You can say, “Yep.” You can say, “Go.” You can cough loudly like Chevy Chase in the movie Spies Like Us. Just make sure I hear you.

Check out the full extract over at VeloNews.

Behind the scenes with Orica-GreenEDGE soigneurs

Here’s an interesting look at the role of the soigneurs, what goes into the riders’ feedbags and more.

Bear Development Team Tam Fondo promo video

Here’s a cheeky little promo video for the Bear Development Team Tam Fondo, put together by one of the riders on the team, Tim Aitken. Worth a look.

Riding with a flag to enforce minimum passing distance laws

Here’s one way to encourage motorists to give you enough room on the road.

I wonder if anyone in Australia has tried that yet?

Click here to

The Rocacorba Recap

And finally this morning, here are a few things you might have missed at CyclingTips:

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Today’s feature image comes from Cor Vos and shows Alejandro Valverde making his race-winning move in Wednesday’s Fleche Wallonne.