By Andrew Hood
Australian Tour de France hope Cadel Evans isn’t going to become Mr. July.
The ex-mountain biker – fresh off finishing a solid seventh at Paris-Nice – is eyeing two form peaks this season, with the first one coming just around the corner, in time for next month’s Ardennes classics.
“I’ll race Pais Vasco to get ready for the Ardennes,” Evans told VeloNews. “I want to be good in April this year. Last year, I had some headaches in the races. I am hoping for some good results in the spring classics.”
The bumpy Ardennes races obviously best suit Evans’ explosive climbing capabilities and he’s especially keen on shining at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. His best result so far in the Ardennes was fifth at Liège in 2005 and he’s hoping to better that this year.
“Liège is probably the most prestigious,” he said when asked which Ardennes classics he’d like to win most. “Flèche [Wallone] probably suits me a little better, but those are the races I am good at.”
Evans, 30, rode away satisfied with his Paris-Nice performance. He was fourth at the decisive summit finish at Mende and then finished with the lead group after eventual winner Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) rode away on the Col d’Eze.
“It was a pretty good result. This is my first real test of the year,” he surmised. “I’m not going flat out for a result, but I like to come to races that suit me, if I can get a good result, then it’s a bonus. I think the team believed in me more than I did in myself. Right now, I’m working on my April and July form.”
Evans remembered with a laugh his arrival at the Mende summit during the 2005 Tour de France. Spanish rider Marcos Serrano won while Evans pipped Tour king Lance Armstrong for a bunch sprint for 11th place in the lead group of favorites.
“I rode this climb in the 2005 Tour and remember the finish well. He [Armstrong] didn’t like that very much,” Evans said with a laugh. “I know this climb well. I’ve done it a few times. It’s a stage that suits me well, but I came to this Paris-Nice just to make a test, not to really challenge for the overall.”
Speaking of July, Evans isn’t sure if he’ll defend his title at the Tour de Romandie in May and then he’ll take a short break before returning for the Dauphiné Libéré in June and then a run at the Tour de France podium.
July, of course, is Evans’ second form peak he’s shooting for.
Slipstream/Chipotle earn Critérium bid
Slipstream/Chipotle earned an important invitation to start in the Critérium International later this month in northeast France.
The two-day, three-stage is organized by Tour de France owners Amaury Sports Organization, which released its list of 20 teams on Thursday. The U.S. team is among 11 ProTour and nine continental teams earning invitations to the important spring date.
“Critérium is certainly the most prestigious race we’ve done in Europe to date, so we’re very keen on proving our worth,” said team director Jonathan Vaughters in a team release. “I think we’ll see Danny Pate somewhere in the top 15 on the GC and I’m hoping for a breakthrough performance, worthy of his multiple French Championships, from Kilian Patour.”
The invitation to start the prestigious race is an important milestone for Slipstream/Chipolte as the team continues to build its European presence.
The team will stay in France and Belgium for most of April, including stops at Three Days of De Panne (April 3-5), Route Adelie de Vitre (April 6), GP Ville de Rennes (April 8), Paris-Camembert (April 17), GP Denain (April 19) and perhaps even an invite to Paris-Roubaix.
Slipstream/Chipotle for Critérium InternationalDanny Pate Kilian Patour Will Frischkorn Steven Cozza Huub Duyn Ben Johnson Taylor Tolleson Ian MacGregorTeams for Critérium International (March 31-April 1)Ag2r Agritubel Astana Barloworld Bouygues Telecom Caisse d’Epargne Ceramica Panaria-Navigare Cofidis Credit Agricole Euskaltel FDJeux Gerolsteiner Karpin-Galicia Lampre Landbouwkrediet Skil-Shimano Team CSC LPR Slipstream/Chipolte Wiesenhof-Felt
Liberty Seguros won’t be back in cycling
Liberty Seguros – the Spanish division of insurance giant Liberty Mutual – says it has no intention of returning to cycling despite the official closure of the Operación Puerto doping investigation in Spain.
The insurance company pulled its multi-million dollar sponsorship last May in the wake of the Puerto investigation and said it has no intention of returning to sports sponsorship, the Spanish daily MARCA reported.
MSR: Pettachi, Zabel lead Milram
With no less than five victories between them, Alessandro Petacchi and Erik Zabel of Milram should count among the favorites for victory down the Via Roma. But it’s hard to read how the aging sprinters are on form, at least through the early going this season.
Petacchi said he’s still plagued by doubt dating back to last year’s catastrophic crash in the third stage at the Giro d’Italia when he smashed his kneecap. Even though the 2005 Milan-San Remo champ has reeled off six wins this year, including the overall at the Tour of the Algarve, Petacchi was blanked at Tirreno-Adriatico. Four-time winner Erik Zabel, though quiet so far this year, should never be counted out in Milan-San Remo.
Milram for Milan-San RemoAlessandro Petacchi (I) Erik Zabel (GER) Igor Astarloa (SPA) Mirko Celestino Alberto Ongarato (I) Fabio Sacchi Marco Velo (I) Christian Knees (G)
FullMilan-San Remo Start List
No MSR for Vino
Alexandre Vinokourov is leaving nothing to chance in his run-up to July’s Tour de France and he’s giving the chaotic finale over the Cipressa and Poggio a wide berth. Instead, the Astana captain will target the Ardennes for some early season goals following his third-place overall at Tirreno-Adriatico.
“Liège will be my first real test of the season and I am hoping for a good result,” Vinokourov told L’Equipe. “Milan-San Remo isn’t a race for me. The past few years it’s come down to a sprint.”
Astana for MSRKoen de Koort (Nl) Rene Haselbacher (G) Sergui Ivanov (Rus) Aaron Kemps (Aus) Mattias Kessler (G) Ginnady Mikhailov (Rus) Dimitri Muravyev (Kz) Gregory Rast (Swi)
No Di Luca, Pippo yes
Former ProTour winner Danilo Di Luca won’t be racing, but defending champion Filippo Pozzato will be. With Di Luca down with the flu, Liquigas will bring a solid team to support Pozzato, who’s already scored some big early season wins such as Het Volk.
“I’ve trained well; the Tirreno-Adriatico gave me the answers I hoped. I believe I’m pedaling better than last year,” Pozzato said in a team statement. “Having strong and motivated team-mates at my side makes me more serene.”
Despite Di Luca’s bout with the flu, the team will count on the support of such riders as Luca Paolini, Enrico Gasparotto and Franco Pellizotti.
“The contribution of Paolini, Gasparotto and Pellizotti will be very precious. Pozzato raced the Tirreno-Adriatico in view of the Sanremo and will be our forward. Having more alternatives will play in his favor and makes Liquigas one of the strongest team,” said general manager Roberto Amadio. “There are at least other five teams aiming at the win and which could use the same strategy as us. So the management of the race could depend on us, but also on the Quick Step, Lampre and Milram, for example.”
Liquigas for MSRPatrick Calcagni (I) Enrico Gasparotto (I) Luca Paolini (I) Franco Pellizotti (I) Roberto Petito (I) Filippo Pozzato (I) Manuel Quinziato (I)Alessandro Spezialetti (I)
Kirchen leads T-Mobile
Luxembourg champion Kim Kirchen will lead the T-Mobile charge at Saturday’s Milan-San Remo, the German team announced on Thursday.
Kirchen arrives in Milan, for the longest one-day race on the calendar and the traditional season opener, fresh off a strong ride and an excellent second place overall at this week’s traditional Milan-San Remo warm-up race.
“Kim is very much in form at the moment,” says sporting director Valerio Piva, who is banking on a “a big all-round team performance” from his chargesat the weekend.
Indeed, the seven-hour slog over the grueling 294km course is very much a team effort, and Kirchen will be supported by distance specialists Lorenzo Bernucci, Andreas Klier, Jakob Piil, Roger Hammond and Bert Grabsch.
Agence France PresseT-Mobile for MSRLorenzo Bernucci (I) Gerald Ciolek (G) Bernhard Eisel (A) Bert Grabsch (G) Roger Hammond (GB) Kim Kirchen (Lux) Andreas Klier (G) Jakob Piil (Dk)
No Basso at MSR
Discovery Channel’s Ivan Basso has been ruled out of Saturday’s Milan-San Remo classic cycling race, Gazzetta dello Sport’s website reported on Thursday.
The 29-year-old is still feeling pain from a sprained left wrist which he suffered in a fall last Friday in Tirreno-Adriatico.