Michael Matthews defends Giro d’Italia lead with stage 6 win, Evans takes time on rivals

At the end of a long and dangerous day in the saddle, Michael Matthews survived the carnage on the roads to Montecassino and delivered on his earlier promise to try to win stage six of the Giro d’Italia.

The race leader defended his Maglia Rosa in fine style, sprinting in at the head of a four man group which also included Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol), fellow Australian Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) and Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli – Yellow Fluo).

Giro-D'Itaia 2014 stage 6

Behind, several big name riders lost out, with crashes ending the general classification hopes of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff Saxo) and Julian Arredondo (Trek Factory Racing), while former race winner Michele Scarponi (Astana) dropped one minute 37 seconds. He’s now almost two and a half minutes back and almost certainly out of the hunt for the Maglia Rosa.

“It was all for the win today. Fair play,” said a content Matthews after the stage. “It was me against him [Cadel Evans] for the jersey and the stage, and I was lucky enough to have really good legs in the final after my team put me in the perfect condition at the bottom of the climb. On this sort of terrain, it’s definitely my best win, and totally a dream come true.

“Winning a hilltop finish over Cadel Evans while wearing the Maglia Rosa in the Giro d’Italia: it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Andrea Fedi (Neri Sottoli), Rodolfo Torres (Colombia), Marco Bandiera (Androni Giocattoli) and Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF) worked well together and opened a lead of 14 minutes after some 60km of racing.

The bunch worked well behind to gradually chip away at that advantage and the move was finally hauled back with 12km remaining.

The finishing climb made things nervous in the bunch and conscious of the need to be in a good position, the GC riders, stage hopefuls and their teams tried to move up prior to the start of the final ascent. However this pressure led to two crashes, with many riders hitting the deck. Katusha’s Giampaolo Caruso was particularly badly hurt, and was taken away with suspected fractures.

Evans’ BMC Racing Team continued to drive the pace, seeking to put the Australian in a position to fight for the stage and the overall lead. Matthews was riding well, though, and sat third wheel, biding his time. Eight riders were in this lead group, while behind the Movistar team was chasing hard for Nairo Quintana. Further back, Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) was losing time after his own fall.

Heading into the final kilometre Evans pushed the pace in a bid to shake off Matthews, but the younger Australian was fully committed to chasing the stage and protecting his jersey. Evans continued on, knowing he was set to gain time on his GC rivals, and had no answer when Matthews and Wellens nipped past just before the line.

Stage 6: Sassano > Montecassino - Stage Result

Thursday 15th May 2014

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Orica GreenEDGE
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Lotto Belisol
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BMC Racing Team

Click here to read a full stage report at CyclingTips.

Taylor Phinney wins stage 5 of the Amgen Tour of California

BMC’s Taylor Phinney has taken a memorable solo win on stage 5 of the Tour of California, attacking on the descent of San Marcos Pass with a little more than 20km remaining in the stage before time-trialling his way to victory.

The bunch was led home less than a minute later by Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) while Bradley Wiggins (Sky) will retain his lead in the overall classification.

Stage 5: Pismo Beach > Santa Barbara - Stage Result

Thursday 15th May 2014

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BMC Racing Team
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GOSS Matthew
Orica GreenEDGE

Caleb Ewan takes second on stage 4 of Royal Smilde Olympia’s Tour

Australia’s Caleb Ewan has finished second in stage 4 of the UCI2.2 Royal Smilde Olympia’s Tour in the Netherlands overnight, sprinting to the finish behind stage winner Wim Stroetinga (Koga).

Royal Smilde Olympia's Tour 2014 stage 4

Reports from the race are few and far between, but head coach of the Australian U23 team James Victor tells CyclingTips that Ewan finished less than half a wheel length behind Stroetinga at the finish in Rijswick after 152.4km.

Two stages now remain in the race.

Stage 4: Zoetermeer > Rijswijk - Stage Result

Thursday 15th May 2014

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Koga Cycling Team
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EWAN Caleb
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Metec - TKH Continental Cyclingteam

Mark O’Brien leads Avanti clean sweep at the Battle of the Border

Avanti Racing has dominated the opening stage of the Battle on the Border, claiming all three podium places atop Mt. Warning. Team captain Mark O’Brien, who finished the 2012 Subaru National Road Series (NRS) with three overall tour titles, added another hilltop victory to his palmares ahead of 2013 stage winner Jack Haig.

Current NRS leader Joe Cooper rounded out the podium.

Image: Tim Bardsley-Smith

Image: Tim Bardsley-Smith

“To win up Mt Warning is just fantastic,” O’Brien exclaimed. “It definitely has a name for a reason – to warn you not to come up here but it’s worked out pretty well for me today. It suited me down to the ground.”

O’Brien attacked a select group including Budget Forklifts duo Tim Roe and Marc Williams with 1.5 kilometres left to climb, edging his way to cross the finish line 20 seconds ahead of Haig and 32 in front of Cooper.

Earlier in the race, a breakaway duo of Jake Magee (CharterMason) and Matthew Ross (Jayco/John West/VIS) gained a comfortable two minutes 20 seconds advantage before rejoining the peloton 40km later.

Almost immediately, a counterattack ensued with nine riders breaking clear on the second king of the mountain before being thinned to seven.

The group, containing O’Brien’s teammate Mitchell Lovelock-Fay and Budget Forklifts’ Kristian Juel topped their advantage at one minute before a puncture claimed Lovelock-Fay’s chances of staying away. Fellow escapees Juel and Daniel Fitter (CharterMason) took advantage, attacking the group at the 129km mark before the determined peloton swallowed them up 15km later.

Avanti Racing ensured the pace was kept high as they led the group to the base of the final ascent.

“Hopefully we keep the leaders jersey now, especially with Joe’s amazing time trial ability,” O’Brien concluded.

Murwillumbah hosts the second day of the Tour today, with the men tackling a 129km road race while the women’s event begins with a 86km race.

The Battle on the Border doubles as the third event in the women’s series and runs from May 15 – May 18, featuring 200 cyclists.

Click here for results from stage 1 of the men’s Battle on the Border. Text via Cycling Australia press release.

Katusha hit hardest in Giro d’Italia crash

Due to the massive crash at ten kilometers from the finish in Cassino at the Giro d’Italia, three Katusha riders had to abandon the race. Angel Vicioso and Giampaolo Caruso finished the stage in the ambulance. Joaquim Rodriguez finished the race but fractures, revealed later in the Santa Scolastica Hospital of Cassino, put an end to his race, too.

Angel Vicioso suffers the worst injury. A threefold complex right femur fracture was diagnosed. Vicioso will be transported to Rome where he will undergo an operation. Joaquim Rodriguez suffered a rib fracture, as well as a left thumb fracture. The doctors feared for a left elbow fracture too, but that appeared not to be the case.

In addition, Giampaolo Caruso underwent X-rays to check his left hip, left leg and left collarbone. No new fractures were diagnosed for Caruso, but he will not start in stage 7 because of large contusions.

“It hurts to leave the Giro, but there is no other option,” said Joaquim Rodriguez. “The crashes were bad for all of us. The road was very slippery and we were going 60K an hour. Just touching your breaks was enough to crash. But that is a risk we always take. It is part of our job to try to be in the front to fight for the victory. I really cannot blame the organisation or the local roads. After the crash I got back on my bike immediately, more full of agression and determination, but after a while I clearly felt what the problem was, as I could not breath anymore.”

For Rodriguez the Giro d’Italia was his biggest goal of the season.

“I have to say that before the Giro I already had two broken ribs (numbers 9 and 10) because of my crash in the Amstel Gold race. We did not want to communicate about it as we were afraid that our competitors would attack me in the first Giro days, but now I have broken another rib (number 8), as well as my thumb. There is no other option than to stop. After the Amstel I suffered so much and I worked so hard to arrive in top condition at the Giro. It was already a hard task to do it after my earlier rib fractures.”

Giampaolo Caruso said:

“Fortunately I have no extra fractures besides my scaphoid fracture from my Belfast crash. I flew 20 meters and came to stillstand against a traffic island. I cannot move my left leg anymore. It is swollen because of big contusions. This is a black day for us all.”

Meanwhile a crash to Orica-GreenEDGE’s Brett Lancaster sees the Australian out of the race with a broken hand which will require surgery. Svein Tuft suffered significant abrasions and will continued to be assessed throughout the evening before it is determined if he will start stage seven.

Text via press releases.

Dubai start for the Giro d’Italia branded ‘impossible’

There had been rumours in recent months that the organisers of the Giro d’Italia were considering a start in Dubai but the general manager of RCS Sport, Paolo Bellino has squashed such suggestions.

Stage-4  of the Dubai Tour 2014

“They say we are starting in Dubai? That’s not the information I have,” Bellino told Cycling Weekly. “We are already doing the Dubai Tour. It’s not an option to start there. Besides the time difference, it’s 40°C in May or June. It’s impossible.”

RCS Sport organised the inaugural Dubai Tour this year, fuelling suggestions that the Giro could make the long trip to start there one year, possibly in 2016.

“Dubai is more complicated than Ireland, where we can arrive with our trucks and buses, but we know that events like to take recourse – money. They need to go where the resources are,” team Trek’s general manager, Luca Guercilena said.

“It wouldn’t be that bad to have a couple for stages far away, if the logistics are well organised and we are notified well in advance.”

Compared to the three-hour flight and one-hour time difference for the transfer from Ireland in this year’s Giro, coming from Dubai would be a six-hour flight and a two-hour time difference.

Click here to read more at Cycling Weekly.

Time could be running out for Alonso’s cycling project

As reported earlier this week there are concerns that the cycling project of F1 star Fernando Alonso might have stalled. Now, Paul De Geyter, a rider agent with more than 15 years experience, has told Cycling News that unless the team starts confirming riders for next year soon, then it will be too late for the project.

Stage-2  of the Dubai Tour 2014

“We’re already in mid-May and it doesn’t look good unless things become concrete very quickly,” De Geyter told Cycling News.

“There have been talks, but by now you have to consider the riders, the staff, the cars, sponsors big and small, materials and if there’s nothing concrete by now then it’s not a good sign. It’s a question of days now and if you don’t here anything positive soon then it’s a no-go. However I’m not on the board of directors for the Alonso team, so that’s just my opinion based of my experience in these matters.”

According to De Geyter there aren’t many top riders coming out of contracts at the end of this year, which could make it tough for the setup to sign at least five riders with enough UCI points to attract a WorldTour license.

“If you go through the list of top riders in the WorldTour like Cancellara, Boonen and most of the top sprinters, they’ve all got contracts for next season. The top five at the Tour like Froome, Contador, van Garderen, Quintana, they’ve all got contracts. Nibali too. Most of them are blocked. One who is important and a top transfer for next season is Tony Martin. You could say that he’s one of the top transfers for next season.”

Click here to read more at Cycling News.

WADA proposes Tramadol remains a monitored rather than a banned substance

Although there is growing concern about the use of the powerful painkiller tramadol in cycling, the World Anti Doping Agency has confirmed to CyclingTips that it is not currently envisaged that the substance will be added to the prohibited list in 2015.

According to a WADA spokesperson the painkiller, which has been described by some professional riders as having performance enhancing capacities and which has been anecdotally linked to a number of crashes in races, could retain its current status as a monitored substance rather than being banned.

“Tramadol was added to the monitoring programme back in 2012,” he told CyclingTips. “It has remained on our programme for 2014 and the latest is that it has been added to our draft monitoring programme for 2015. So we propose that it remains on our watch list, that it continues on the monitoring programme.

“That is open for consultation over the next few months until September. That programme would then be approved at our executive committee meeting, along with the prohibited list.”

Read the full story here as well as WADA’s statement on Xenon and Carbon Monoxide use.

Alex Dowsett: it’s time to stop professional cycling’s pill culture

Speaking to Cycling Weekly’s Sophie Smith for an interview in their magazine, Movistar TT specialist Alex Dowsett has spoken out against the use of strong painkillers, saying he once tried tramadol in a training session.

Volta  Algarve 2014 stage-3 ITT

“I tried [tramadol] once in a training time trial as I didn’t want to try anything new in a race,” Dowsett said. “I didn’t actually like it at all and I completely disagreed with it as well because of what it did.”

The pill apparently gave Dowsett a hangover the next day and made it difficult for him to judge his training efforts.

“It’s not present in other sports to rely so heavily on that sort of thing. While we’re now one of, if not the cleanest sport, there is still this reliance on things that come in tablet form,” said Dowsett.

Click here to read more at Cycling Weekly.

Hour record regulations ‘simplified and modernised’

The sport’s governing body, the UCI, has announced that the rules for the Hour Record are to be modernised and simplified. Riders attempting the hour record can now use any bike that confirms with the endurance track bike regulations of the time.

The previous rule, set in 2000, stated that riders had to use a bike with the same riding position as used by Eddy Merckx when he set a distance of 49.431km in 1972, or the position used by Cornelia Van Oosten-Hage in 1978 when she set the women’s record of 43.083km.

Commenting on the change UCI President, Brian Cookson said:

“This new rule is part of the modernisation of the UCI Equipment Regulation. Today there is a general consensus that equipment used in competition must be allowed to benefit from technological evolution where pertinent. This kind of evolution is positive for cycling generally and for the Hour record in particular. This record will regain its attraction for both the athletes and cycling fans.”

Click here to read more at the UCI website.

More information SRAM electronic shifting – wireless

If this is to be taken at face value, it looks like SRAM electronic shifting is in fact set to be wireless:

Cycling could lead to heart arrhythmias in old age

Research funded by the British Heart Foundation appears to show that cycling and other endurance sports could be to blame for arrhythmias in old age.

The study, which was carried out at the University of Manchester, showed that long periods of exercise in mice change the heart’s rhythm-setting characteristics at a molecular level. While there’s no guarantee the results are replicable in humans, if they are the study could have implications for the health of older athletes.

Author of the study Professor Boyett said: “This is important because although normally a low resting heart rate of an athlete does not cause problems, elderly athletes with a lifelong training history are more likely to need an artificial electronic pacemaker fitted.”

But he added: “Although endurance exercise training can have harmful effects on the heart, it is more than outweighed by the beneficial effects.”

Click here to read more at road.cc.

Quadcopter footage from the Tour of California

This footage was taken by Vimeo user Eliott J. and shows the riders in the Tour of California making their way through the Big Sur region.

The Rocacorba Recap

And finally this morning, here are a few things you might have missed at CyclingTips in the past week or so:

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Today’s feature comes from John Pierce at Photosport International and shows the peloton of the Amgen Tour of California winding its way down California Highway 1 through Big Sur on Wednesday. UPDATE: We were mistaken about the feature photographer and it was Oran Kelly. We have since taken this photo down and we apologies for the misunderstanding with permissions.