First Edition Cycling News, March 9, 2009
Edited by Gregor Brown
Hesjedal proves strong again on Eroica gravel roads
By Gregor Brown
Ryder Hesjedal proved Saturday in Siena, Italy, that for a second year in a row the Eroica Toscana is his type of race. The Canadian of Garmin-Slipstream helped form a select group with some of the favourites at the end of the 190-kilometre race.
"I love it, the race's blend of gravel roads with the hilly, punchy climbs. It seemed to come easy, I was a little bit surprised," said Hesjedal to Cyclingnews after the raced marked with 57 kilometres of gravel roads.
Hesjedal finished in the same spot as 2008: tenth. However, the way in which le strade bianche unfolded was completely different. Last year, he attacked solo for 18 kilometres in the finale, but the winning move of Fabian Cancellara and Alessandro Ballan caught him in the final nine kilometres. This year, he formed a select group that battled for the win.
"In the hardest section with the climbing [sector five], I got to the front and we pulled a good group out of that sector, with [Thomas] Lövkvist, [Linus] Gerdemann, [Daniele] Bennati, [Giovanni] Visconti. I was letting it go on the downhill, creating gaps and then maintaining it on the climbs."
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Hesjedal formed a move with Bennati, Visconti and Andy Schleck by the end of the seventh sector. They held ten seconds on the group of eventual winner Lövkvist with ten kilometres remaining.
"It looked like our group of four was going to go to the line. I was definitely in the action. I was looking for more than tenth, but I will take the result all the same with those guys."
It was his third race of the year after the Tour Down Under and the Tour Méditerranéen. Hesjedal will lead the USA team this week in the Italian stage race Tirreno-Adriatico, March 11 to 17. Last year he finished eighth overall.
He will complete his run in Italy with the one-day Milano-Sanremo, four days after Tirreno-Adriatico.
Lövkvist claims first one-day race win with Eroica
Swede Thomas Lövkvist of Columbia-Highroad took the biggest win in his career to date with Saturday's Eroica Toscana. He battled over 57 kilometres of gravel roads to finish ahead of German Fabian Wegmann in the famous Piazza del Campo of Siena, Italy.
"I took eighth last year in the same race, so I knew what to expect, but the gravel tracks haven't got any easier!" said Lövkvist after the 190 kilometre-race.
An escape of four marked the race, but Lövkvist entered into action at kilometre 170 with a group of favourites that included Andy Schleck, Daniele Bennati and Ryder Hesjedal. The race broke up on the final two kilometres, which included 16% gradients on the run up Via Santa Caterina.
Lövkvist's last win came in the Critérium International time trial two years ago. Last year, the 24-year-old finished the Deutschland Tour second overall and won the point's classification, and third overall in Tirreno-Adriatico.
"I've been progressing, but slowly. Last year, I had 25 top ten finishes, but I was lacking that little bit extra you need for a victory. In the future, I think I can do well not only in one-day races, but also week-long events like Tirreno-Adriatico."
Eroica Toscana was Lövkvist's second race of the season after the Tour of California. This week he will lead the USA team in Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico, March 11 to 17.
"But whatever happens in Tirreno, this win is a big bonus. It's the most important of my career so far."
Caccia on the hunt in Eroica
By Gregor Brown
Diego Caccia showed to be the strongest of the day's escape in Saturday's Eroica Toscana. The Italian of Barloworld rode in an escape of four, but the favourites caught him near 10 kilometres from the famous Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy.
"It is a beautiful race, but it can be a little bit dangerous if you are not used to racing on those types of gravel roads," said Caccia to Cyclingnews after the 190-kilometre races marked with 57 kilometres of gravel.
Caccia, Riccardo Chiarini (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) and Oleksandr Kvachuk (ISD) joined early escapee Luca Pierfelici (Acqua & Sapone-Caffč Mokambo). The four-man group immediately formed after a larger 30-man move dissolved, at kilometre 28.
"I was looking for an escape because in a race like this you spend less energy up front. In an escape you don't have to fight for position the whole day."
Chiarini and Caccia proved to be the strongest of the four. Pierfelici cracked by kilometre 143 and Ukrainian Kvachuk refused to assist towards the finale. Caccia and Chiarini broke clear on their own to hold 30 seconds on the Columbia-led group with 25 kilometres to race.
"It has been a good period for me. I have been going strong; plus, I have solved some of my problems with breathing that resulted from last year's crash in Belgium.
"Will I be the first Italian to win Eroica? Maybe but I want to keep my feet on the ground."
Caccia will race Tirreno-Adriatico this week, March 11 to 17. He then will take part in Italy's one-day Classic, Milano-Sanremo, before departing to Belgium for Driedaagse De Panne and Ronde van Vlaanderen.
Ballan training after fever
World Champion Alessandro Ballan returned to training yesterday after recovering from the fever that prohibited his start in Saturday's Eroica Toscana. The Italian of Lampre-NGC trained on the roads near his home of Castelfranco Veneto, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Ballan plans on racing in this weeks Tirreno-Adriatico, March 11 to 17, in Italy. He is a favourite for Milano-Sanremo, four days later.
Sánchez pleased with third in Paris-Nice's time trial
Sunday in Paris-Nice, Luis León Sánchez was unable to repeat the feat of one month ago in the Tour Méditerranéen when he took the time trial stage and overall lead. The Spaniard of Caisse d'Epargne is pleased with his third place result behind Alberto Contador despite his intentions to win in the 9.3-kilometre stage.
"Even if I started in this first stage with the goal of winning it, which was not possible, I believe that I must be very happy because in front of a super Contador there was nothing else I could do," he said.
Sánchez finished third at seven seconds behind Contador (Astana) and two seconds behind Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream). His win in Méditerranéen and his stage one win in the Tour du Haut Var motivated him.
His team will support him for the overall win in the eight-day stage race known as the race to the sun, March 8 to 15. He is the past winner of the overall classification in the Tour Down Under and Vuelta a Mallorca.
"I came to Paris-Nice with the intention of trying to win the overall classification or at least finish amongst the top riders. My performance today [yesterday] increases my motivation."
The stage race covers three flat and rolling stages before the hard mountains of stages four, six, seven and eight.
"The fact that Contador is now the leader is a good thing for us because the team Astana is the one which will have to control the race. We have to take it easy during the next stages because from Friday on the race will be very hard."
The riders will face 195.5 kilometres to La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin today. Contador leads the overall by seven seconds over Brit Wiggins.
Cervélo poised for Paris-Nice road stages
Cervélo TestTeam is ready for the first road stages of the 67th Paris-Nice after Sunday's opening time trial in Amilly. Sprinter Heinrich Haussler placed highest in the 9.3-kilometre stage – 30th – but the team will not rely solely on bunch gallops.
"The time gaps at the top of the classification are very small so the riders in the right breakaway can take the victory and the leader's jersey," said Directeur Sportif Jean Paul van Poppel.
Haussler finished thirty seconds behind stage winner Alberto Contador (Astana) on the rainy day. The team vied for the stage win with Hayden Roulston, who finished 35 seconds off the Spaniard.
"On the intermediate check at the 5.3 km point, Hayden Roulston was 6 seconds behind Bradley Wiggins who had the fastest intermediate time to that point. But in the turn there was front wind and Roulston choose the wrong gear and ended in 30th place."
Cervélo TestTeam has five wins to its credit this season. Brit Roger Hammond won a stage in the Tour of Qatar, Thor Hushovd won a stage in the Tour of California and the one-day Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and German Heinrich Haussler won two stages of the Volta ao Algarve.
Today the race will cover 195.5 kilometres from Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire to La Chapelle-Saint-Ursin. Contador leads the race by seven over Bradley Wiggins (Slipstream). He is the 2007 winner and the winner of all three Grand Tours.
LPR confronts Tirreno-Adriatico with Di Luca and Petacchi
LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini will face Italy's Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, March 11 to 17, with a two-pronged attack: Alessandro 'Ale-Jet' Petacchi and Danilo 'The Killer' Di Luca. The former seeks to dominate the opening sprint stages in Toscana and Di Luca will take over once the race travels into Le Marche.
"The race is challenging and will be lively from start to finish, not to mention the quality of the adversaries," said Directeur Sportif Giovanni Fidanza.
The race, which begins in the west along the Mar Tirreno, will travel east to the Mar Adriatico. The first three stages are all in Tuscany, near the home of Ligurian Petacchi: Capannori, Marina di Carrara and Santa Croce sull'Arno.
Stage four starts in the Umbria region and ends in Le Marche region with two climbs up Montelupone. The first Montelupone passage comes at 13.9 kilometres to the finish. Its sections of 21% gradient should suit Di Luca, who finished second last year to Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne).
"The mountain stages are very difficult and Di Luca will definitely want to leave his mark on Montelupone."
Monday's stage to Camerino will be the second of two mountain stages. The 235-kilometre day takes in the Cingoli and Sasso Tetto passes before the 200-metre unclassified finishing climb.
Di Luca finished 24th overall last year racing for his new team. Petacchi, then in Milram colours, won stage four.
(Additional editorial assistance provided by Antonio J. Salmerón.)
(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2009)