What's Cool In Road Cycling

EuroTrash Monday!

An enormous EuroTrash of cycling news to get through this Monday: Froome in Oman, Kwiatkowski in Algarve, Valverde in Andalucía, Betancur in Haut Var and Serpa in Laigueglia a full round up with results and Video. Doping at the Winter Olympics is the TOP STORY and we have full course previews of the Amgen Tour of California and the Strade Bianche. Big coffee time.

TOP STORY: Doping, Not Just in Cycling!
At the Winter Olympics in Sochi there have been five (so far) positive drug tests, with one case of the use of EPO by Austrian cross-country skier Johannes Duerr. Duerr finished eighth in the men’s skiathlon on Feb. 9 and was tested seven days later in Austria, as he had flown back for training. In Sochi he had been due to compete in the 50 kilometer race on Sunday, which is the final cross-country event.

“It is a black day for us,” Austrian Olympic Committee President Karl Stoss said at a news conference. “We are shocked by this announcement and took the appropriate measures right away. We’ve told the athlete and informed him about his rights, his accreditation has been pulled and he has been excluded from the Olympic team with immediate effect. Duerr is already on his way home.”

This is not the first time the Austrian team has had doping problems as the cross-country and biathlon teams were at the center of a major doping scandal at the 2006 Turin Olympics. Italian police, acting on a tip-off, raided the team’s rooms and seized blood doping equipment and other substances. No Austrians tested positive at those games, but several were later banned for life by the International Olympic Committee.

This EPO positive comes after an Olympics in which the Austrian team has won 17 medals, 9th in the medal rankings. Austrian Olympic Committee President Karl Stoss said. “The athlete himself confessed that he is the only one who did that and he takes all the responsibility on himself.” That sounds very familiar, how many cycle teams have made the same statement.

The four other positives were: Latvian hockey player Vitalijs Pavlovs, Ukrainian cross-country skier Marina Lisogor, German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle and Italian bobsledder William Frullani.

These positives have been described as; minor stimulants that can be found in food supplements. But if you look at the substances involved there is only one that could possibly fall into that bracket. In cycling these athletes would be given a 2 year ban.

Pavlovs tested positive for the stimulant methylhexanamine. Lisogor tested positive for trimetazidine, she said she had been taking medication for a thyroid condition but “forgot to declare” the drug on her doping form. Sachenbacher-Stehle, a former two-time Olympic gold medalist, tested positive for methylhexanamine. She blamed a nutritional supplement and said she had never knowingly taken performance enhancers. Frullani tested positive for dimetylpentylamine. The Italian Olympic Committee believes Frullani, a former decathlete, bought the stimulant on the Internet from the United States since it is not available in Italy. All excuses we have heard before.

Much like the other doping control bodies, the Olympic Committee will store the doping samples for 10 years to allow for retesting as and when new methods become available. The IOC is conducting 2,453 drug tests in Sochi, a record for the Winter Games.

Tour of Oman 2014
After his stage one victory, André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) has now added a win in Stage 3 of the Tour of Oman. In the sprint he was faster than Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr), thanks to this victory André Greipel and Lotto Belisol have already five victories this season.

The third stage in Oman was 145 kilometres long with two small climbs in the final. Four riders set up a breakaway: Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF), Kevin Ista (IAM Cycling), Martijn Maaskant (UnitedHealthcare) and Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise). They never got more than a 2:30 lead. On the first hill, the Al Hamriya, Greipel responded to an attack of Kanstantsin Siutsou. But BMC made sure they were soon caught. In the meantime the early escapees were reeled in as well.

Chris Froome (Sky), the Tour winner of 2013, attacked on the second hill. Fabian Cancellara (Trek), Peter Sagan and Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) closed the gap. The peloton, with help from Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto Belisol), kept on a high pace and a bunch sprint couldn’t be avoided. Greipel won his second stage and takes over the leader’s jersey from Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) and the German champion also has the first position in the points classification.

Stage winner André Greipel: “It was a hard final on paper today, but the headwind played in my favour. It was supposed to be a final for Gallopin, Roelandts and Van den Broeck but I could manage to stay in the front of the group and the team motivated me as well. The last 4 kilometres I was riding at the end of the bunch but Roelandts and Bak brought me back to the front. With 700 meters to go I was back at the head of the bunch and Ligthart and Roelandts gave me the perfect lead-out.”

Bart Leysen, Lotto Belisol sports director: “We had taken into account that it might turn out to be a sprint today, because the last twelve kilometres there was a tough headwind. If you could survive the first climb, it was likely you could do the same on the second and longer climb. The tempo would decrease because of the headwind. Attackers would be fighting against a wall. André Greipel was flying today. He reacted smoothly to the acceleration of Siutsou. The German champion won the sprint and he was more than two bike lengths ahead.”

Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Lars Michaelsen said after the stage: “Our strategy was to wait until the final 10 kilometres before starting our attacks. However, before the finale a group of four riders eloped and the leading team, Orica-GreenEdge took control of the pacemaking in the field. The gap was kept for a long while between two and three minutes bur 9 kilometres to go, they were caught. Then we decided to unleash Manuele (Boaro) and he launched an attack with 6 kilometres remaining and Nicolas (Roche) didn’t hesitate to make a counter-attack on a short climb soon after. Finally, Roman (Kreuziger) followed the big favourites, Nibali, Cancellara, Froome and Stybar in what seemed to be the decisive move and close to the finish line, Roman launched a surprising solo attack with 800 meters to go with the galloping field breathing down his neck. Unfortunately, he was caught by the sprinters. But it was good to see the boys in very good form and motivated to take the win.”

Tour of Oman Stage 3 Result:
1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol in 3:29:08
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
3. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr
4. Ben Swift (GB) Sky
5. Marco Canola (Ita) Bardiani CSF
6. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
7. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana
8. Zakkari Dempster (Aus) Team Netapp-Endura
9. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
10. Enrico Battaglin (Ita) Bardiani-CSF.

Tour of Oman Overall After Stage 3:
1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Belisol in 10:44:20
2. Leigh Howard (Aus) Orica-Greenedge at 0:08
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha at 0:10
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale at 0:14
5. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:16
6. Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
7. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol at 0:19
8. Alessandro Bazzana (Ita) Unitedhealthcare
9. Ben Swift (GB) Sky at 0:20
10. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Tinkoff-Saxo.

Stage 3:

Friday’s 173 kilometre long Stage 4 from Wadi Al Abiyad to the Ministry of Housing in Boshar was a hilly course and the heavier sprinters, André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEdge) were quickly left behind. It didn’t make it any easier for the sprinters that Tinkoff-Saxo were pulling the bunch in order to catch the four escapees; Evan Huffman (Astana), Yaroslav Popovych (Trek), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise). Their lead was 6 minutes at one point, but soon fell apart on the finishing circuit.

The action for began after the 4th and final KOM of the stage, the Climb of Bousher Alamrat. All four of those climbs were back-to-back late in the race. Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) attacked and opened up a gap of 15 seconds. The three leaders worked well together and the chasers couldn’t close the gap in the remaining kilometers. Sagan took the stage win and is the new overall leader. Uran was 2nd with Nibali 3rd at 2 seconds.

“Sagan attacked on top of the last climb,” Uran said. “I chased on the downhill and I caught him, and Nibali followed me. I knew probably I would be beaten by Sagan, but the goal was to try and gain a few seconds on the GC guys. Because today I saw we had 20 to 25 strong riders on the climb, so I tried to gain some time on them. We really collaborated well on the downhill and then the flat part to the finish, but there was a roundabout at 2km to go, and we took the wrong way, all three of us. Then we lost a few seconds, so we arrived with only a few seconds advantage over the rest of the guys. But OK, Sagan won and I am second. I think we did a good race. It’s a shame we didn’t gain a few seconds more, but that’s racing. In any case I am happy and feeling good. I was there on the climbs and even followed a few attacks. The team was very good and we will see what will happen tomorrow in the queen stage. It will be a difficult with a lot of strong riders at the same level of fitness, so we will see what can happen.”

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Lars Michaelsen: “The strategy was to tire out our opponents before the finale and we managed to significantly shave down the bunch. On the final climb, we still had Roman, Nicolas and Matti in the group of favourites but at the top of the slope, the fireworks began and a trio managed to slip away and took the win.”

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Roman Kreuziger: “The team rode very well and I think we can be proud about the way we handled things today. I would have liked to make a result but I simply couldn’t follow the trio on the descent. Tomorrow, there’s an uphill finish and a feel confident with the team and I’m ready to do my best.”

Tour of Oman Stage 4 Result:
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale 4:02:20
2. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 0:02
4. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-Greenedge
5. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto Belisol
6. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha
7. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana
8. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
9. Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) IAM Cycling
10. Moreno Moser (Ita) Cannondale.

Tour of Oman Overall After Stage 4:
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale in 14:46:44
2. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:10
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 0:14
4. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol at 0:17
5. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica Greenedge at 0:18
6. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana
7. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo
8. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky
9. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC
10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin.

Stage 4:

Sky’s Chris Froome waited until the last kilometre before blowing Stage 5 to pieces on the slopes of Green Mountain to finish 22 seconds ahead of Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and take the overall lead with one flat stage left to race. Earlier in the stage; Marco Canola (Bardiani-CSF) John Murphy (UnitedHealthCare), Thomas Sprengers & Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) built up a lead of over 3 minutes before Sky and Omega Pharma – Quick-Step pulled them back at the base of the final climb. Sky were in charge on the climb and after Sergio Henao softened the lead group, Froome dealt the killer move. Froome leads van Garderen by 26 seconds and Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) is third, at 31 seconds.

Froome explained the team tactic: “Sergio put in a well-timed attack and had Gesink and Tejay van Garderen chasing. When they brought them back, it was the perfect moment for to attack. We set out with that plan and it’s a really good feeling to see it come as planned.”

Tejay van Garderen (BMC) who climbed his way into second overall said he remained patient after an attack by Froome’s teammate, Sergio Henao, with 2.5 kilometers to go, and another by Robert Gesink (Belkin), in an unsuccessful attempt to close the gap. “Everyone looked pretty tired, so I countered Gesink,” van Garderen said. “My thoughts were, if I could get away clean up to Henao, that Froome would maybe be kind of flicked because he wouldn’t be able to chase down his teammate. He would be stuck there tactically. But he was able to jump straight away onto my wheel. So it was me, Froome and Rigoberto Uran closing down on Henao.” When van Garderen pulled even with Henao, Froome countered. “That was the last we saw of him,” van Garderen said of last year’s Tour de France winner. “I just made a tempo up to the top. I didn’t even try to follow. I thought if I tried to follow, I might blow up.”

The BMC Racing Team went to work late in the 147.5-km race to make sure van Garderen was in prime position at the beginning of the 5.7-km climb of Green Mountain, which averages 10.5 percent. “The whole team was in a really good position at the front of the bunch and they did a very good job to bring the climbers into the climb in the first positions,” said BMC Racing Team’s Peter Velits, winner of this race in 2012. Sport Director Valerio Piva said van Garderen’s result bodes well for the start of his season. “In the morning, we didn’t know Tejay’s condition,” Piva said. “But he surprised me today in a very positive way. Arriving second behind Froome is a good start. If you look at the guys who are here, they are also the contenders for the Tour de France and leaders of the big teams. So I’m very happy for Tejay and the team being around him.”

Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Lars Michaelsen explains: “It was a pretty hard stage with an uphill finish over 5.7 kilometres and we knew we had to be in a good position going in on the final slope so we ordered everyone to the front of the pack at the foot of climb and they did a good job. But when Froome accelerated, Roman simply ran out of gas and fell back to tenth position and lost just over a minute.”

Tour of Oman Stage 5 Result:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 3:49:53
2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 0:22
3. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:33
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 0:38
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 0:47
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 0:51
7. Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) Fdj.fr at 0:56
8. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 0:59
9. Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Sky at 1:09
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo at 1:15.

Tour of Oman Overall After Stage 5:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 18:36:45
2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 0:26
3. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:31
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 0:48
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 0:57
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 1:01
7. Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Sky at 1:19
8. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo at 1:25
9. Johann Tschopp (Swi) IAM Cycling at 1:32
10. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha at 1:34.

Stage 5:

The Final Stage 6 came down to a bunch sprint and the big German André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) won his third stage in this year’s Tour of Oman. In the 146.5 kilometres stage from Sifah to Matrah Corniche there were many attacks with groups forming and being chased down by Sky for overall leader Chris Froome and Lotto Belisol for Greipel. The last group was pulled back with 20 K’s to go and Lotto Belisol controlled the race all the way to the line.

Chris Froome (Sky) finished safely in the peloton keeping his overall lead of 26 seconds from Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and 31 second over Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step).

BMC’s Tejay van Garderen, who was making his season debut and first career appearance in Oman, said the 146.5-kilometer final stage was the most challenging. “It was a hard start and a big group got away, which kind of put Sky under a little pressure,” he said. “Me and a couple other GC guys were in there. Then, Greg Van Avermaet got in a break. Then Orica-GreenEDGE, for whatever reason, wasn’t happy with it. So they pulled it back. It seemed like big groups kept going and going. Finally it settled down and was pretty straight-forward into the finish. But in my opinion, it was definitely the hardest day.”

Van Garderen’s runner-up placing follows BMC Racing Team’s overall victories at the Dubai Tour (Taylor Phinney) and Tour Méditerranéen (Stephen Cummings) and runner-up finishes by Cadel Evans at the Santos Tour Down Under and the Australian national road championships and with Cummings at the Dubai Tour. Sport Director Valerio Piva said he was pleased the squad in Oman could keep the momentum going. “Yesterday, Tejay did a fantastic uphill finish and we are very happy,” he said. “Everyone on the team feels the season has started well and the guys are being responsible and feel that every race we will be competitive. I hope that we can continue with that in the next races.” Van Garderen said he is already looking ahead to his next start, which comes at Paris-Nice. “I have some important WorldTour races coming up and I am also keeping focused on the Tour de France,” he said.

“I’m happy about this result and the support I had from the team during the race,” said Rigoberto Uran of Omega Pharma – Quick-Step. “I was maybe hoping to do something better, but I also have to say that it’s not a bad result for real first race of my season. The team worked perfectly for me and I have to thank them for all of their work. I come back to Europe with good sensations finishing on the podium at Tour of Oman. I will do Strade Bianche next, and I am curious about it because I have never seen the parcours before. Then, I will go to Tirreno-Adriatico as the next step of my season.”

Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Lars Michaelsen comments: “Today we decided that even it most likely would be a sprint, the race wasn’t over. Tinkoff – Saxo was a crucial part of the action today. We were in all moves and tried to take the opportunities to go for a breakaway stage win. Chris came close and with the contribution from the whole team Mørkøv tried his best in the sprint but Greipel was simply too strong.”

Tour of Oman Stage 6 Result:
1. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol in 3:25:41
2. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Fdj.fr
3. Sam Bennett (Irl) Team Netapp-Endura
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
5. Michael Morkov (Den) Tinkoff-Saxo
6. Filippo Fortin (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
7. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step
8. Jens Keukeleire (Bel) Orica-GreenEdge
9. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana
10. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale.

Tour of Oman Final Overall Result:
1. Christopher Froome (GB) Sky in 22:02:26
2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC at 0:26
3. Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:31
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 0:48
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin at 0:57
6. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 1:01
7. Sergio Henao Montoya (Col) Sky at 1:19
8. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff-Saxo at 1:25
9. Johann Tschopp (Swi) IAM Cycling at 1:32
10. Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha at 1:34.

The final stage 6:

Volta ao Algarve 2014
Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Michal Kwiatkowski earned his second victory of the season on Thursday, attacking with about 5kilometres to go on the final climb of 196km Volta ao Algarve Stage 2 and giving all he had to hold off a chasing field.

Kwiatkowski had as much as 12 seconds of an advantage with just 2km to go, and won by 6 seconds over World Road Champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). OPQS had done plenty of work throughout the race to chase back breakaways, and Kwiatkowski finished the job with his late race attack.

Kwiatkowski also takes over the race lead: “To start a season like this is always really nice,” Kwiatkowski said. “I worked so much on my climbing going into the season, I trained really hard with guys like Michal Golas in Spain, and I’m seeing a lot of improvements right now and it’s great to have wins that prove it. For this race, the last 60 kilometres were tricky. It was not easy to stay in the front, but the team kept me there comfortably. That was the key of the race, to stay in front. Tinkoff-Saxo was doing the rhythm and they had a few guys working before the last climb. I had Michal Golas at the bottom of the last climb with me. On the last climb Alberto Contador attacked with about 700 meters until the summit. I just followed him. When I looked back, no one was following us. I knew I had some energy reserved in the legs and went on my own. I knew there was a descent and a false flat after the climb, so if I attacked at the top of the climb I could get an advantage. Because, it’s not easy to chase back after that point. I did my own pace until the finish. It was really hard to get to the line, but I arrived and I am very happy with this victory. Algarve is only my second race this season and I’m thrilled as I’ve done a lot of work to get here. Since the beginning of the year I’ve also had such great support from my teammates and I want to thank them again today.”

Kwiatkowski looks to defend his overall lead in stage 3, 13.6km ITT on Friday: “As for the yellow jersey, the second, third and fourth stages will likely decide the overall classification and it will be a fight until the end,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s actually really nice to compete with guys like Costa and Contador. I have to give all I can tomorrow and the next days. Tomorrow is the time trial, which is only 13.6 kilometres, but we will see. I heard it was a bit technical, with a few corners at the end. It will be my first time trial of the year. It could be difficult, but I also worked on the time trial during the winter. Last year Tony Martin won the time trial and GC and I was 2nd, and now I will do my best to protect this jersey with the help of my team.”

Alberto Contador finished third in the same time than Rui Costa and only 6 seconds behind the
winner and current leader. “It’s a good result on the second day of competition, to face riders who have been competing more days. The winner already knows how it is to win in the Challenge de Mallorca and has that rhythm, and Rui Costa also had 8 or 9 days of competition right now and you can notice that, especially when the heart is a block”, said Alberto Contador after the stage.

The leader of Tinkoff-Saxo was happy because “every day I’ll go better in this tour. Considering this is the first of the year, it’s okay. Kwiatkowski attacked and gained 3 or 4 seconds. Behind the problem was that we had no good organization, but there were more attacks than working together to get him”, said Alberto. “It was important to catch him to avoid him gaining time, but there was no good understanding, no collaboration at 100%. Now he is at 12 seconds, a very small difference, but also very large, because we know that he is a very strong rider against the clock and tomorrow it’s better for him than for any other.”

Regarding the decisive climb to Malhao, Alberto said that perhaps he will be better “because it will be the fourth day of competition. First let’s see what happens tomorrow and then will see what happens in Malhao, because in the ITT there will be no big differences, which are only 13 km and with a tailwind, although the last part is technical and there is a last km of pavé. We have to go day by day, but everything will be open to all until Malhao. Being third means that there are still options”, he concluded.

Second on the stage World champion Rui Costa: “My target was the victory, but there was nothing more to do against Kwiatowski today. Compliments to him. I’m satisfied, because my legs are good and I can rely on a team that is proving, day by day, to be perfect”.

Volta ao Algarve Stage 2 Result:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step in 4:57:57
2. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 0:06
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo
4. Eduard Prades (Spa) OFM-Quinta Da Lixa
5. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Fdj.Fr at 0:17
6. Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Katusha
7. Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre-Merida
8. Sergey Firsanov (Rus) Rusvelo
9. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Movistar
10. Edgar Pinto (Por) La Aluminios-Antarte.

Volta ao Algarve Overall After Stage 2:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step in 8:49:33
2. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 0:04
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:12
4. Eduard Prades (Spa) OFM-Quinta Da Lixa at 0:16
5. Edgar Pinto (Por) La Aluminios-Antarte at 0:27
6. Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
7. Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Katusha
8. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Movistar
9. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha
10. Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre-Merida.

Stage 2:

Omega Pharma – Quick-Step Cycling Team rider Michal Kwiatkowski won by an overwhelming margin in the 13.6km Volta ao Algarve Stage 3 ITT on Friday. Kwiatkowski won by 11 seconds over Adriano Malori (Movistar) and was 13 seconds faster than teammate and UCI World TT Champion Tony Martin.

Kwiatkowski was three seconds faster than Martin at the intermediate point, and averaged 58.078km/h for the entire parcours. “I had a good rhythm immediately,” Kwiatkowski said. “This morning I performed recon of the stage, and the last part of the stage three times as it was the most technical. My Specialized Shiv was perfect. The work we did with the team and Specialized working on the details of the time trial paid off today. Together with Specialized we worked a lot in the wind tunnel, on the track in Valencia, and in Mallorca to find the best bike position for me as well as my teammates. It was my first TT today and I could feel the difference.” The victory keeps Kwiatkowski in the leader’s jersey for another stage.

“For me the time trial was a little bit too short, but I felt really good,” Martin said. “The roads were sometimes a little bumpy, there were cobbles in the final so it was not so easy. It was a little bit like a Belgian classic. But it was the same for everybody. It wasn’t dangerous or anything. One time in the final I missed a corner and lost maybe one or two seconds, but I felt really good overall. I could push the pedals with good power all the time, and in total I am very happy with my performance. I can see I am improving day-to-day, so it just means I need a few more racing days to get my body really working.”

OPQS looks next to 164.5km Stage 4 on Saturday. The race could include some major fireworks as the finale is on Alto do Malhão. “Tomorrow is another day,” Kwiatkowski said. “I know the Alto do Malhão pretty well as I’ve done it twice in my career. Anything can happen. I think Rui Costa and Alberto Contador will try to do something for the GC, but I trust in my teammates and know they will support me in the yellow jersey. I finished 2nd last year and I always come here motivated to be in the best shape. So I am really looking forward to the challenge in the next stages.”

Alberto Contador is now second overall with a gap of 32 seconds to Kwiatkowski and one mountain stage is left in the race: “I think Alberto did a very good time trial and one if his best in a long time so obviously, I’m happy about that. But also Sergio (Paulinho) and Rafal (Majka) did solid time trials today and especially Rafal really has to dig deep every time he gets the chance to do a time trial in order to develop his skills in stage races. Now Alberto’s second overall with a time difference of 32 seconds so I guess it’s more or less needless to say that we have to rock the boat hard tomorrow to take the top spot of the podium,” said Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Philippe Mauduit after the stage.

“As the very high average speeds confirm, the time trial was very suitable for the roulers,” Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) explained. “The first part of the course was a descent, then it was important to keep a very high pace. Maybe, I could not make a progression in the final part, but in this moment of the season is not so simple to work on this detail. I’m sure I’m going to improve this side in the next weeks. I’m quite satisfied with the result and I’m very happy for the feelings with the Merida Warp TT: during training, I had good feedback that today was fully confirmed.”

Volta ao Algarve Stage 3 Result:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step in 14:03
2. Adriano Malori (Ita) Movistar at 0:11
3. Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:13
4. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxoat 0:20
5. Alex Dowsett (GBr) Movistar at 0:25
6. Jan Barta (Cze) Team Netapp-Endura at 0:28
7. Rick Flens (Ned) Belkin at 0:29
8. Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:30
9. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin
10. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Fdj.fr at 0:33.

Volta ao Algarve Overall After Stage 3:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step in 9:03:36
2. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:32
3. Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 0:38
4. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Fdj.fr at 1:00
5. Sergei Chernetski (Rus) Katusha at 1:03
6. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 1:08
7. Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 1:20
8. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 1:23
9. Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre-Merida at 1:24
10. Eduard Prades Reverte (Spa) OFM-Quinta Da Lixa at 1:25.

Michal Kwiatkowski winner of the TT stage 3:
Volta  Algarve 2014 stage-3 ITT

It was all or nothing for Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador on Saturday’s Stage 4 of Volta ao Algarve. Being second overall with a time gap of 32 seconds to the leading rider, Michael Kwiatkowski (Omega – Pharma Quick-Step) was not enough to keep the Spaniard satisfied so there was nothing to do but attack.

Contador demonstrated brilliant form as he launched a solo attack on the uphill finish on Alto do Malhao and no one was able to keep up with the high pace even though world champion, Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) followed him closely and race leader Kwiatkowski lost 10 seconds to the fast-going Spaniard.

Naturally, Tinkoff-Saxo DS, Philippe Mauduit was happy about experiencing the first win of the season from the team car: “Not only Alberto but the whole team did an amazing job today and started putting on the pressure with 45 kilometres to go. At the foot of the uphill finish, only 8 riders were left in the first group and Alberto put the icing on the cake by pulling away on the final kilometre to take a stunning win. As I said, this a victory for the whole team but also indicates that Alberto is in better shape than at the same time last year and I think that’s promising in terms looking ahead at the rest of the season.”

Of course, Alberto Contador was one big smile on the top spot of the podium after the terrific team effort and stage win: “I’m happy because the team worked very hard and what better way to pay back than finishing with a win. My physical condition is getting better each day and the hard work during the winter now pays off. Actually, this climb was too short to make a big difference but I wanted to concentrate on the stage win rather than the overall. But I’m happy because the team really sacrificed themselves for me and when you finish the work with a win, it leaves a very good taste in your mouth,” said Alberto. He is now 16 seconds away from the overall lead behind Michael Kwiatkowski.

“What a fight on the final climb, I think cycling fans appreciated it very much, World champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) commented. “When Contador and Kwiatkowski attacked, I tried to use; first my head than my legs, studying without hurry the best moves. I thought Kwoatkowski was the strongest today too, but he suffered the last attack by Alberto, so I had to speed up my chase, but it was not enough. I’m satisfied, even if I did not win: my feelings are good, I still can improve my condition, so I think I’ll be able to hit the target soon.”

Volta ao Algarve Stage 4 Result:
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo in 4:02:08
2. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 0:03
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 0:10
4. Eduard Prades (Spa) OFM-Quinta Da Lixa at 0:13
5. Tiago Machado (Por) Team Netapp-Endura at 0:14
6. Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre-Merida
7. Edgar Pinto (Por) La Aluminios-Antarte at 0:16
8. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
9. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Fdj.fr
10. Sergey Firsanov (Rus) Rusvelo.

Volta ao Algarve Overall After Stage 4:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step at 13:05:50
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:16
3. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 0:29
4. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Fdj.fr at 1:10
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 1:29
6. Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 1:30
7. Eduard Prades (Spa) OFM-Quinta Da Lixa at 1:32
8. Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre-Merida
9. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 1:38
10. Edgar Pinto (Por) La Aluminios-Antarte at 1:41.

Alberto Contador wins stage 4.

Omega Pharma – Quick-Step controlled the Final Stage 5 all day, working hard on the front to bring back the breakaway with 15km to go and putting the Manx Missile in ideal position on the right side inside the final kilometre. Michal Kwiatkowski also took home the yellow jersey following a solo victory and a blistering paced ITT win that solidified his leadership. The Polish rider even finished on the podium in the queen stage, further proving his strength as he rode well alongside all the top GC contenders on Alto do Malhão.

“I’m very happy,” Cavendish said. “We came here to win the yellow jersey, and to win the stage would be a bonus. We controlled the race and everybody rode incredibly well. Super strong lead-out, everybody did their part. Alessandro Petacchi was the last guy and he dropped me off at about 170 meters, more or less. Perfectly executed. I’m very happy that Omega Pharma – Quick-Step could come away with three stage wins. We won the GC two straight years now. So, it’s really good. I think this is good motivation for my next races.”

“It’s my first stage race victory, so I’m really happy,” Kwiatkowski said. “I have been aiming for the GC in the stage races, so to start my season like this is a good sign. It’s going to be a good spring coming for not just me, but the whole team. I’m really happy about it. As for today, Cav was super thankful for the lead-out, so I think he is just as happy as I am with the performance of the team. We controlled from the beginning to the end and we really did it well. I was safe, I even took three seconds at the intermediate sprint just to be calm if something were to happen in the final. Also, OPQS was successful beyond Algarve. I heard Rigoberto Uran finished 3rd in the Tour of Oman GC, which only adds to the reasons to celebrate this successful day. I am really motivated now and will spend the next day’s training in Spain in preparation for Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico. I’m progressing very well as I move on to what’s next on my race schedule.”

Second overall Alberto Contador: “It was a very important week for me that each day of competition I have gone better,” said the leader of Saxo-Tinkoff after the podium. Alberto replied wryly to the question of whether this result means he is back to the best Contador. “You shall know”, he told reporters; “if you believe that I once was not, then perhaps yes”. And more seriously, he compared his current form with a year ago, where he was in not bad condition, either. “At this point in the season in 2013 I was also at a high level in the Tour of Oman, where I finished second. This year the work has been done better, I have a good feeling and I’m happy with this way of working.”

Finally, he answered questions about Froome, his victory in Oman and his chances to beat him in the Tour. “In Oman we knew he was in a great form. He spoke with great confidence and what would be strange would be him not taking the victory”, he said. And about the Tour de France, Alberto concluded that now the most important thing “is keep working to reach 100% at the start and then we’ll see the results.”

Volta ao Algarve Stage 5 Result:
1. Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step in 3:24:10
2. Arnaud Demare (Fra) Fdj.fr
3. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar
4. Jose Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar
5. Sacha Modolo (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6. Alexey Tsatevitch (Rus) Katusha
7. Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
8. Igor Boev (Rus) Rusvelo
9. Thomas Leezer (Ned) Belkin
10. Yoann Offredo (Fra) Fdj.fr.

Volta ao Algarve Final Overall Result:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma – Quick-Step in 16:29:57
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 0:19
3. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 0:32
4. Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Fdj.fr at 1:13
5. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Belkin at 1:32
6. Ruben Fernandez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 1:33
7. Eduard Prades (Spa) OFM-Quinta Da Lixa at 1:35
8. Christopher Horner (USA) Lampre-Merida
9. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha at 1:41
10. Edgar Pinto (Por) La Aluminios-Antarte at 1:42.

Mark Cavendish takes stage 5.
Cycling: 40th Volta Algarve 2014 / Stage 5

Vuelta a Andalucía-Ruta del Sol 2014
Alejandro Valverde claimed back-to-back victories in Jaén and keeps control in the Vuelta a Andalucía after outstanding work from the whole Movistar Team in the most demanding Stage 1.

Alejandro Valverde’s love story with Jaén and the Vuelta a Andalucía had yet another chapter today on the slopes of the Castillo de Santa Catalina, the finish of the 60th Ruta del Sol’s hardest stage over 187 kilometres and six rated climbs, no rest allowed from the very start in Vélez Málaga. The Movistar Team’s leader, already winner in the province with two stages of the Vuelta a España; finishing atop La Pandera (2003) and in the capital (2008), took advantage of the work by his team to take the second win.

Erviti and Capecchi were the first two men in charge of keeping control of an 11-man attempt that rode through the opening ascents up-front; after that, with about thirty kilometres from the end, Plaza picked up the pace and José Herrada and Javi Moreno offered their strength to catch every single attack against the Blue Movistar train. Finally, Ion Izagirre moved up to the small front group, with about ten riders resisting the pace, to keep Valverde calm and confident so the Murcian could prove his impressive legs in a twisty, steep final section next to the castle.

Valverde is now 19 seconds ahead of Richie Porte (Sky), with Luis León Sánchez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) in third at 21 seconds and team-mate Ion over half a minute behind his fellow countryman in the eve of the second and last mountain-top finish of this year’s Andalusian stage race: a long (197km), a one-climb day finishing atop the Santuario de la Virgen de la Sierra de Cabra (Cat-1.)

Race leader and double stage winner Alejandro Valverde: “It was a really hard day, always up and down, we climbed 4,000 meters in just 185 kilometres, which considering which time of the year we’re in, it’s quite brutal. We didn’t want to let such a big break go away, but when they attacked we were starting the climbing, and going after them would have meant to increased the speed too much for that point of the race. To be honest, Erviti and Capecchi impressed me; they made amazing work pushing almost all stage. Same goes for the rest of my team-mates in the finale: Plaza, Herrada and Javi in the last climb. Chapeau for all of them. In the uphill finish, Ion’s (Izagirre) work was crucial because, when Porte sent Thomas ahead, he bridged the gap and later led me out for the sprint – a genius. I wasn’t having super legs at that point, because we were all dead tired after such an effort, but they were good indeed. It seems like tomorrow’s will be the Queen stage, but today’s seemed to me even harder. The thing is, today’s wear and tear will pay off, and the climb is longer, so gaps might be made there. It will be hard to stay calm as we’re holding the lead, but we’re hopeful we can work a little less than today.”

“Of course I would have loved to win, but Valverde was simply too strong in the last hundred meters,” said Belkin’s Bauka Mollema. He lost connection with the group after the peloton split in front of him on a steep part of the climb. “Luckily, I was able to close the gap as it stayed small. Right when I bridged the road flattened out which gave me the opportunity to recover a bit for the sprint. Unfortunately, Valverde was in a league of his own.”

Vuelta a Andalucía-Ruta del Sol Stage 1 Result:
1. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar in 5:08:57
2. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 0:04
3. Davide Rebellin (Ita) CCC Polsat Polkowice
4. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky
5. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
6. Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis at 0:11
7. Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis at 0:12
8. Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar at 0:15
9. Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 0:16
10. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 0:17.

Vuelta a Andalucia-Ruta del Sol Overall After Stage 1:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 5:17:19
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 0:19
3. Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:21
4. Jon Izagirre (Spa) Movistar at 0:24
5. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Trek at 0:37
6. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 0:38
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 0:39
8. Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis at 0:40
9. Davide Rebellin (Ita) CCC Polsat Polkowice at 0:43
10. Geraint Thomas (GB) Sky at 0:44.

Stage 1:

Alejandro Valverde and the Movistar Team’s ambitions didn’t find any response from their rivals in Stage 2, the telephone squad has been unbeatable fo far. The Spaniard raised his arms victorious again atop the Santuario de la Virgen de la Sierra de Cabra at the end of the longest day in this year’s Ruta del Sol. The 197 kilometre route from La Guardia de Jaén was on rough, hilly roads, forcing the Movistar team to permanently lead the bunch.

The constant, effective work by Erviti, Capecchi, Plaza, Moreno and Herrada kept the day’s seven-man breakaway always under five minutes’ advantage, the Movistar Team keeping their pace steady to chase them down with 10K remaining. The help by Ion Izagirre, in that less steep point of the ascent and on the most demanding roads, kept Valverde calm as Sky led the bunch all the way to the finish. Alejandro only had to jump himself for the attacks of Navarro (Cofidis) and Scarponi (Astana) and launch his fearsome sprint for a third hat-trick in his career, after claiming three consecutive stage wins in the Vuelta a Castilla y León and the Vuelta a Burgos.

Alejandro’s 20-second gap in the overall standings after today’s victory, his own 76th win as pro cyclist, allows him to take an easier day tomorrow. The only flat stage in the race will lead the race westbound, with 182 kilometres between Sanlúcar la Mayor and Sevilla prior to Sunday’s showdown near Málaga.

Alejandro Valverde: “It’s true that today’s break wasn’t so numerous, but we had to work the same way. Until the last climbs, there was no single stretch where my team-mates could take some rest, and that’s much wear and tear. At the foot of the final ascent, Sky went on a very hard pace, but I felt well climbing. I was feeling better and better, I was very confident I could win the sprint. When you feel like I did, your body changes a bit, you end feeling tiredness a little less. When you have the chance to win, you must take advantage of every opportunity, that’s why I contested the sprint. But above all, I did it for my team-mates. After all they did for me these two days, always there, they deserved this victory. Theoretically, the two stages left are the least dangerous in this year’s race, but we can’t lose focus, we must keep full attention to win this Vuelta.”

Vuelta a Andalucia-Ruta del Sol Stage 2 Result:
1. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar in 5:02:53
2. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:01
3. Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis
4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana
5. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky
6. Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 0:05
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin
8. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana
9. Marcos Garcia (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:09
10. Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa) Movistar.

Vuelta a Andalucia-Ruta del Sol Overall After Stage 2:
1. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar in 10:20:12
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 0:20
3. Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:22
4. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 0:43
5. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 0:44
6. Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 0:51
7. Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Cofidis at 0:55
8. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 1:02
9. Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Cofidis at 1:24
10. Marcos Garcia (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 1:27.

Stage 2:

In an extremely fast and exciting finish, Gerald Ciolek reigned supreme at Stage 3 of the Ruta Del Sol. The Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung sprinter managed to out sprint Roy Jans (Wanty- Groupe Gobert) and Moreno Hofland (Belkin) to take his first victory of the season. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), winner of three stages so far, remains the overall leader. In a day that was destined to come down to a bunch sprint, 4 riders still tried their luck in an early escape. The break never got more than a 5 minute gap as a number of teams had an interest in bringing the race down to a bunch sprint. The early leaders were inevitably brought back inside 12km to go.

Team Sky were at the helm with 10km to go but Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung could be seen to have strength in numbers in the final kilometres. Timing its lead out to perfection, Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung took control of affairs with 4km to go when Daniel Teklehaimanot brought the black and yellow train to the head of the race.

With a number of teams fighting to get something out of the race, the final kilometre became slightly messy but Team MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung still had enough fire power left in the form of Andreas Stauff. He dropped Ciolek off in the prime position to start his sprint with just 500m to go. In an exhilarating final few meters, Ciolek finished with the most speed and crossed the line first.

Directeur Sportif, Manel Lacambra was ecstatic with the team’s performance today. “You know, this result is very good but the most important is to see how well the team was working together today. Already yesterday I was happy, not because of the result of Sergio but because of how the team was working together. When we race together like that we are powerful and today you can see how powerful with Gerald winning,” Lacambra said joyously.

Ciolek had nothing but praise for his teammates after the race. “I am very happy to take this victory but today it was great work by the whole team. Andy did such an incredible job for us in the final kilometre. This is a very important victory for us and I am happy to start the season this way,” Ciolek said.

The Belkin team rallied around its young sprinter Moreno Hofland; Bauke Mollema, Laurens ten Dam and the rest of the team hauled the 22-year-old Dutchman to the line in Sevilla for 3rd place. “I am impressed with the team’s job and it’s special to have Mollema and Ten Dam riding for me,” Hofland said. “Then, Dennis [Van Winden] and Nick [Van Der Lijke] impressed me in the final kilometre with their lead-out. I came very close but a little too late for the sprint. Third place is good but I like to win so it’s a mixed feeling.”

The Belkin green and black team prepared for the stage finish. Sports Director Merijn Zeeman analysed the road book and drove the final kilometres of the 182.7-kilometres stage in Spain’s south. “We analysed the course well, the wind direction and we did a recon this morning,” Zeeman explained. “The guys were well prepared and knew the roads.”

With the sprint in the cards, Mollema, Ten Dam and the remainder of the Belkin team lined out the pack for Hofland. “Guys like Mollema, a GC contender, were committed to our young sprinter. Everything went according to the plan,” Zeeman added. “At five kilometres out we were all there, seven guys keeping Moreno in position. The whole team. In the last kilometre, Dennis and Nick took over. Nick is a neo-pro and did awesome. It was a good job up against the good sprint teams here. I was happy to see that they could do their job to work for our young sprinter. It is what I wanted to see.”

Zeeman echoed Hofland, he said that he was proud of the team’s work but disappointed without a win because it was so close. “The mid-mountain stage should produce a successful escape tomorrow”, said Zeeman. The overall classification appears settled and the mountains appear too tough for the sprinters. “The start is harder than the finish of the stage,” Zeeman said. “We want to be in the escape and we are going to try, probably with Lars Petter Nordhaug or Laurens ten Dam.”

Vuelta a Andalucia-Ruta del Sol Stage 3 Result:
1. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN-Qhubeka in 4:17:39
2. Roy Jans (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
3. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin
4. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Giant Shimano
5. Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
6. Jens Debusschere (Bel) Lotto Belisol
7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky
8. Fabio Silvestre (Por) Trek
9. Kenneth Van Bilsen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
10. Davide Vigano (Ita) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA.

Vuelta a Andalucia-Ruta del Sol Overall After Stage 3:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 14:37:51
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 0:20
3. Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:22
4. Jon Izagirre (Spa) Movistar at 0:33
5. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 0:43
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 0:44
7. Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 0:51
8. Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis at 0:55
9. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 1:02
10. Luis Angel Mate (Spa) Cofidis at 1:24.

Stage 3:

Moreno Hofland of the Belkin Pro Cycling Team began his season with a win today in the Vuelta a Andalucía. He sprinted to victory in the Final Stage 4 in Fuengirola ahead of Nikias Arndt (Giant-Shimano) and Kenneth Vanbilsen (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise). Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished 10th on the stage and extended his overall lead to 31 seconds over Sky’s Richie Porte and 33 seconds ahead of his good friend Luis Leon Sánchez (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA).

“It has special meaning taking the first win of the season for the team,” Hofland said. “And of course it means a lot to me to win in my first race of the year.” Hofland, 22 from The Netherlands, relied on heavy hitters like Bauke Mollema to deliver the win. He also had Dennis Van Winden and first year professional, Nick Van Der Lijke guiding him to the close of the 159.8-kilometres stage in southern Spain. Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said, “He’s a winner and wanted to come away with something. He wasn’t happy with yesterday’s third place.” The win starts his season how Hofland ended last year, with success. In October in China’s Tour of Hainan, the he won three stages and the overall.

Zeeman explained that the team planned for every scenario. He believed an escape would succeed today so he had Laurens ten Dam ready. Ten Dam stayed away for some time but Movistar controlled the escape’s advantage and brought the race to a sprint. Belkin planned for that too. “We talked about that scenario before the stage,” Zeeman said. “We reconnoitred the final kilometres and know the crucial points. Tom Dumoulin [Giant-Shimano] was strong and we were afraid he was going to stay away.”

“The guys supported me, first with Laurens in the escape,” added Hofland. “With Tom Dumoulin in front, Lars Petter Nordhaug and Jonathan Hivert worked to reel him in. Bauke led-out and Nick finished it off. “That work makes the win mean so much more,” said Zeeman. “Nick finished it off in the final kilometre. He put Moreno in the perfect position.” Hofland and Van Der Lijke raced together in the Rabobank Development team. Hofland explained that they know each other well and that it helps. He also complimented Van Der Lijke, who “hit the front at the right moment.”

Hofland travels home ahead of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on Sunday and Paris-Nice in two weeks. With Barry Markus, Belkin has many options if the Belgian semi-classic finishes in a sprint. “We have an important weapon,” Zeeman explained. “We have a lot of classics riders but with Moreno they know the team has options if it comes to a sprint.” Hofland agreed. He explained, “Kuurne suits me with its hills and possible cross-winds.”

Overall winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): “It was indeed a hard stage, but it went a bit calmer than we expected. We were planning to face a harder opposition, especially in the finale, but seeing how we all in the team as well as myself were doing, they might have thought twice, I guess. The week has been impossible to beat for me – simply brilliant. Three stages, the overall, and especially how I felt on the bike, myself and all my team-mates. The work by them and their focus on digging deep to reach our goals are amazing. They were all where they were needed, in every single moment. I’m proud to have conquered that record of victories here, three in a row. I looked at the palmarès the other day and I saw I already was 3rd in 2003. Ten years are gone since then and we’re still here, willing to fight and suffer. Confidence and calmness are needed to be able to do that, and the work I did during the winter paid off. I ended the last season really strong and I’m starting this one in the same way. My next goals? Next week, Almería and Murcia, then in Italy: Strade Bianche, Roma Maxima, GP Nobili and Milano-Sanremo. I want to make a special dedicatory in this victory, because there’s another baby on the way for my family, the fourth one. Let’s hope he or she is healthy – actually I hope it’s a girl at last! It’s true that the top guns are getting used to win early in the season – this is not as it used to be anymore, we all want to find sensations early. It’s a matter of getting to the season goals in good condition, but not ruling out chances in other important races – you can’t leave it all to the Giro or the Tour.”

Vuelta a Andalucia-Ruta del Sol Stage 4 Result:
1. Moreno Hofland (Ned) Belkin in 4:03:53
2. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Giant-Shimano
3. Kenneth Van Bilsen (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
4. Tom Van Asbroeck (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise at 0:01
5. Edward Theuns (Bel) Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise
6. Davide Vigano (Ita) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky
8. Jon Izaguirre Insausti (Spa) Movistar
9. Daniel Hoelgaard (Nor) ETIXX
10. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar.

Vuelta a Andalucia-Ruta del Sol Final Overall Result:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 18:47:45
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 0:31
3. Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 0:33
4. Jon Izagirre (Spa) Movistar
5. Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana at 0:43
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 0:55
7. Thomas Degand (Bel) Wanty-Groupe Gobert at 1:02
8. Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis at 1:06
9. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Astana at 1:13
10. Luis Angel Mate (Spa) Cofidis at 1:24.

Stage 4:

Tour du Haut Var 2014
The Sky team were able to start the Tour du Haut Var on training bikes and one borrowed bike after thieves had stolen sixteen bikes and wheels from the mechanics truck outside the teams’ hotel during the night.

Colombian Carlos Alberto Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) opened his 2014 season by winning Stage 1 from Le Cannet des Maures to La Croix Valmer in 149.1 kilometres. Betancur breaks a 17-month drought without a victory, but the Colombian raised his arms after accumulating kilometres in the Tour de San Luis and the Tour of the Mediterranean.

Gert Joeaar (Cofidis), Thomas Rostollan (La Pomme Marseille 13), Florian Guillou (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Joe Perrett (Raleigh) and Rodolfo Torres (Colombia) formed the break of the day and were not caught until 25 kilometres from the finish. When they were caught; Quentin Jauregui (Roubaix-Lille Métropole), Remy Di Grégorio (La Pomme Marseille 13) and Bruce Feillu (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) tried their luck, but the work by Ag2r-La Mondiale and Giant-Shimano brought the bunch together for a sprint. In the final duel, Betancur was too fast for John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) to the line.

After the finish Betancur said: “Today everything was good. Ag2r-La Mondiale is a team that knows how to race for their leader, the understanding is excellent and the results follow. I often finished in second place in 2013 and knew in my heart I had to bring a win for the team as soon as possible this season. This success is for the whole team! As for the general classification, it will be difficult to win but not impossible. In any case, we will do everything to succeed, but we’ll see tomorrow. ”

Ag2r-Lamondiale team director Julien Jurdie commented on the result: “We saw great collective work, we want to devote this win to Kristof Goddaert who died this week, he spent three seasons with us, we are proud to have achieved this victory to his memory.”

Tour du Haut Var Stage 1 Result:
1. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale 3:42:00
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano
3. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
4. Armindo Fonseca (Fra) Bretagne-Seche Environnement 0:00:03
5. Mikael Cherel (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
6. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar
7. Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar
8. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC
9. Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Roubaix Lille Metropole
10. Jérôme Pineau (Fra) IAM Cycling at 0:06.

Tour du Haut Var Overall After Stage 1:
1. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale in 3:42:00
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano
3. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
4. Armindo Fonseca (Fra) Bretagne-Seche Environnement at 0:03
5. Mikael Cherel (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
6. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar
7. Francisco José Ventoso Alberdi (Spa) Movistar
8. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC
9. Maxime Vantomme (Bel) Roubaix Lille Metropole
10. Jérôme Pineau (Fra) IAM Cycling at 0:06.

Haut Var Stage 1:

Amaël Moinard won the final stage of the Tour du Haut Var Sunday to register the BMC Racing Team’s sixth victory of the season on his way to placing third overall.

Moinard beat Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) in a two-up sprint after the pair broke away on the final climb of the 203.4-kilometer race. Moinard said he knew the Côte des Tuilières ascent “perfectly” and waited until it flattened out slightly with 500 meters to go. “Then I jumped and made it pretty hard,” he said. “Betancur came up to me and we went full out on the downhill. I didn’t touch the brakes – I just went full gas. He was interested in winning the GC and I wanted the stage, so it was perfect to go together to the line.” Betancur, winner of Saturday’s Stage 1, won the race overall ahead of teammate Samuel Dumoulin. Moinard’s teammate, Cadel Evans, finished fourth on the stage, 12 seconds back, and placed fifth in the final standings.

Earlier in the 203.4-kilometer race BMC Racing Team’s Thor Hushovd set the stage by soloing out of an eight-man breakaway with about 55 km to go. The reigning Norwegian national road champion enjoyed a nearly two-minute lead before the peloton overtook him inside the final 20 kilometres. “With Thor in the breakaway, it was easier for the team,” BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said. “I also think it was a good for Thor because it was good preparation for the classics. I am also very happy for Amaël. He is always working for the leader and now he is a winner himself.” It was Moinard’s first victory since joining the BMC Racing Team in 2011, the season he helped Evans win the Tour de France. His last victory before Sunday had also come in a two-up sprint, in the final stage of the 2010 edition of Paris-Nice.

Tour du Haut Var Stage 2 Result:
1. Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC in 5:23:30
2. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale
3. Emilien Viennet (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:10
4. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 0:12
5. Armindo Fonseca (Fra) Bretagne-Seche Environnement
6. Egoitz Garcia Echeguibel (Spa) Cofidis
7. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Giant-Shimano
8. Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar
9. Mark Christian (GB) Raleigh
10. Miguel Angel Rubiano Chavez (Col) Colombia.

Tour du Haut Var Final Overall Result:
1. Carlos Alberto Betancur Gomez (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale in 9:05:30
2. Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 0:12
3. Amaël Moinard (Fra) BMC
4. Armindo Fonseca (Fra) Bretagne-Seche Environnement at 0:15
5. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC
6. Mikael Cherel (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
7. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar
8. Emilien Viennet (Fra) FDJ.fr at 0:16
9. Jérôme Pineau (Fra) IAM Cycling at 0:18
10. Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar.

Stage 2:

Trofeo Laigueglia 2014
José Serpa of Lampre-Merida got the better of his break away companion Patrick Sinkewitz (Meridiana-Karmen) at the end of the 181 kilometre race in Liguria. Earlier in the race Robinson Chalapud (Colombia), Simone Petilli (D’Amico-Area Zero), Songezo Jim (MTN-Qhubeka) and Christophe Laborie (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) went clear on the climb of the Balestrino and gained seven minutes before they were chased down. Sinkewitz attacked on the last climb of the day, the Cima Paravenna and only Serpa and Matteo Rabottini (Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo) could follow. Rabottini couldn’t hang on and by the summit he was 34 seconds down and the peloton were 48 seconds back with 35 kilometres to the finish line. With 25 kilometres to go the pair had just over 1 minute, the chasing bunch pulled them back to 12 seconds, but couldn’t get any closer.

These are the words of the winner José Serpa (Lampre-Merida): “I’m really happy and proud of my first victory in the jersey of Lampre-Merida! Really I have to say thank you to all the team that had confidence in me, checking and stalking the group behind me. I really suffered on the last climb due to Sinkewitz, who admittedly was much smarter than me on the uphill. I managed and I played all out in the double sprint. Sinkewitz tried to beat me in a long sprint, at that point I thought only to the work done by my colleagues who gave me the necessary energy to overcome the opponent in the last few meters.”

“It’s another great result for me and for our team,” said 3rd placed Andrea Pasqualon (D’Amico-Area Zero), who comes from Enego in the Veneto region and turned 26 on January 2. “I’m happy, but it’s also a shame because I showed that I was the fastest in the group, and if we had succeeded in bringing back the two escapees I could have gone for the win. I’d like to thank my teammates, who worked very hard, especially Mengardo and Leonardi, who put in an exceptional performance before the last climb, closing a gap that had formed and pulling me back up to the leading group. Then in the sprint I gave it everything, and I found room along the barriers to come by everyone. It’s too bad, but that’s OK. The form is good, we’re a great team and we’ll try again Sunday in Slovenia.”

Trofeo Laigueglia Result:
1. Jose Rodolfo Serpa Perez (Col) Lampre-Merida in 6:17:43
2. Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Meridiana Kamen
3. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) D’Amico-Area Zero at 0:12
4. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bardiani-CSF
5. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
6. Davide Villella (Ita) Cannondale
7. Matteo Montaguti (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale
8. Marco Marcato (Ita) Cannondale
9. Matteo Rabottini (Ita) Neri Sottoli-Yellow Fluo
10. Franco Pelizzotti (Ita) Androni Giocattoli.

Trofeo Laigueglia 2014:

Largo handed precautionary suspension by Team Colombia
Team Colombia has been informed by their rider; Luis Alberto Largo Quintero about a notification from the UCI of a “Potential Anti-doping Rule Violation” due to an adverse analytical finding after an out-competition anti-doping test made in Villongo (Italy) on January 22nd, 2014, which was right after his arrival in Italy for the start of the new season.

Pending further clarifications and eventual examinations, General Manager Claudio Corti has issued the immediate precautionary suspension of the rider’s activity, reserving right to take any other action as soon as the circumstances will be clarified.

Europcar to the Tour de Langkawi
The Asian stage race starts on the 27th February and finishes on the 8th of March 2014.

Europcar Line-up:
Natnael Berhane, Antoine Duchesne, Romain Guillemois, Christophe Kern, Morgan Lamoisson, Yannick Martinez.
DS: Andy Flickinger.

2014 Amgen Tour of California Route Announced
Early Time Trial and Queen Stage Pave the Way for Leader Board Shakeups and Unprecedented Racing Excitement

Press Release: The route for the ninth edition of America’s largest and most prestigious professional cycling stage race, the Amgen Tour of California, was revealed today at a press conference presented by Visit California. Once again, this challenging race will bring elite cyclists from all over the world to California May 11-18 for more than 740 miles of all-out battle through 12 host cities. Returning to a north-to-south route that will include two mountaintop finishes and a picturesque but difficult ride along iconic Highway 1, this year’s race is designed with an early time trial and Queen stage, meaning the winner will be anything but clear-cut as the week progresses.

The peloton will face the longest stage, the fast and flat time trial, and the hardest stage in the first three days of racing. In past races, the time trial and Queen stages – which typically shape overall standings – came late in the race, and the leader after that point had to defend his top position for only one or two remaining days. This year, with several days of difficult racing to follow, it is likely 2014 race fans will see the coveted yellow leader jersey change hands throughout the week with top performers in close contention and challenging each other until the very finish.

“Every year we look to incorporate new destinations, as well as vary technical aspects of the race,” said Kristin Bachochin, executive director of the race and senior vice president of AEG Sports. “With the time trial on day two, followed by the most difficult course the next day, we’ve set the stage for thrills early in the race. There are no easy days, and teams will have to be strategic about when to take the lead and how to protect their positions through the rest of the week, so we’ll see some really exciting racing to the end.”

Thousand Oaks-based Amgen returns as the title sponsor for the ninth consecutive year for the heralded 8-stage race, which will conclude there after three race days in Los Angeles County. Beginning at the state capitol in Sacramento, the route will include three new host cities: Folsom, Cambria and Pismo Beach. The latter two will play a part in highlighting the beauty of the Central Coast, providing sweeping ocean vistas along California’s iconic coastal route, but looks can be deceiving; these stages will be anything but relaxing with head winds, tons of climbing and relentless effort to stay in contention. Starts and finishes will also be hosted in San Jose, Mount Diablo State Park, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Santa Clarita, Mountain High and Pasadena.

The peloton will be tested with more than 40,000 feet of climbs this year, with a categorized climb on every road stage. Stage 3 arguably will be the toughest in race history with two categorized climbs – up Mount Hamilton just five miles into the stage, and the final ascent to the summit of Mount Diablo, which will be a trying end to the day after 95 miles of racing. In the 10.8 miles of the Mount Diablo climb alone, riders will gain nearly 3,300 feet in elevation at an average six percent grade. Other notable climbs throughout the week include San Marcos Pass before the descent into Santa Barbara; a long, restless climb to finish at the summit of Mountain High North; two technical climbs heading into Pasadena; and the infamous short and steep “Rock Store” climb in Thousand Oaks, which the riders will have to scale four times during the final stage. These climbs throughout the later days of racing will make life difficult for the sprinters and could allow small groups of strong climbers to break away from the peloton before the finish, making for exciting viewing opportunities for fans who historically turn out in droves to cheer on the riders as they toil uphill.

A total of 16 world-class teams, including nine previously announced UCI Pro Teams and seven Continental and Pro Continental teams added earlier today, will comprise a field already considered the best collection of teams from top to bottom ever to compete in a stage race on U.S. soil. Additionally, earlier this week, race organizers also announced that the 2014 Amgen Tour of California will feature more professional women’s racing than any previous race of its kind with two days of action-packed competition presented by SRAM. Invitations are now being extended to an elite international roster of female cyclists to compete in a circuit race surrounding the state capitol building in downtown Sacramento when the Amgen Tour of California begins on May 11. The following day, a field of nearly two dozen of the world’s top-ranked women time trialists will race the clock during a time trial in Folsom over the same course the men will ride later that day.

As one of the most anticipated professional cycling races on the international calendar, the Amgen Tour of California draws top cyclists from the ranks of Olympic medalists, Tour de France contenders and world champions, including last year’s winning team, BMC Racing. When a victor is named May 18, the cyclists will have experienced three new host cities, two mountaintop finishes, a bevy of twists and turns, climbs and sprints galore, and the most beautiful and varied scenery the state has to offer. From lush forests to desert roads to oceanfront finishes – and even a historic start on a pier – this year’s route promises breathtaking moments for riders and fans alike.

For video highlights of the 2014 route presented by Visit California including a special guest appearance by Amgen Tour of California stage win record holder Peter Sagan of Cannondale Pro Cycling, visit https://www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/social/youtube. The 2014 Amgen Tour of California will have no shortage of excitement day by day*:

Stage 1, Presented by Visit California: Sunday, May 11 – Sacramento
Start/Finish Location: State Capitol Building, L Street
Start Time: 10:50 a.m.
Stage Length: 123 miles

The inaugural stage of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California – the longest of the race at 123 miles – will begin and finish at the steps of the State Capitol building. As the route heads north out of the city, it will hug the east bank of the Sacramento River. After a ride through Pleasant Grove and a sprint in Lincoln, the racers will blaze into Auburn to contest the second sprint of the day. After a fast descent to the American River, the peloton will be confronted with a difficult climb up Highway 49 for the day’s KOM. The riders then will head southwest for a fast and flat run back into Sacramento. Once the peloton passes by what is sure to be a large and loud crowd gathered at the steps of the State Capitol Building, the race day will conclude with three circuit laps. Past circuit finishes in Sacramento have delivered some of the most thrilling finishes in the race’s history, and history is sure to repeat this year.

Stage 2: Monday, May 12 – Folsom (Individual Time Trial)
Start Location: Sutter Street
Finish Location: Liedersdorff Street & Wool Street
Start Time: 1:05 p.m.
Stage Length: 12.5 miles

Day two will see the teams in nearby Folsom, for the 2014 Amgen Tour of Californiaindividual time trial, where riders race the clock one by one. Though the race has visited the historic gold rush town in the past, this will be the first time the city is hosting a stage. A short, flat course will reward the strongest rider and prove an honest test of who is riding well and who is not. Designed for speed, the 12.6-mile route will begin and finish in Folsom’s historic district. A start on Sutter Street will be followed by a turn onto Riley and a short downhill run onto the Rainbow Bridge and over the American River. The route will then turn north toward Folsom Lake. A right turn onto Folsom Lake Crossing will take the riders past the main entrance of California’s second oldest prison. A turn onto Green Valley will lead the riders to a 180-degree turn back over the same route to finish downtown. While there is a good chance Stage 2 will result in a new race leader, expect results to be close – no one can afford to lose time on this stage so early in the week, and racers will have to ride all out, even with the Queen stage in their sights the next day.

Stage 3: Tuesday, May 13 – San Jose to Mount Diablo State Park
Start Location: Lake Cunningham Regional Park
Finish Location: Mount Diablo Summit
Start Time: 10:45 a.m.
Stage Length: 110 miles

The Queen stage will come early in the 2014 Amgen Tour of California. Stage 3 will begin at the Lake Cunningham Regional Park on the east side of San Jose, which has the distinction of hosting a stage of the Amgen Tour of California for each of the nine years of the race. While the racers won’t see the south face of Mt. Hamilton from the start line, they will feel the beginning of the climb just five miles into the stage – the first time the course has winded this way to the summit of Mt. Hamilton. With 22 switchbacks, the long and steep climb is sure to be lined with thousands of spectators. The descent route will be shorter than the ascent, but steeper and much more technical. The long, rolling San Antonio Valley Road will quickly give way to twisty Mines Road, where it will be easy for a breakaway to form and quickly be out of sight of the peloton.

As the riders skirt the east side of Livermore, the race will hook into last year’s route to Danville and the approach to Mt. Hamilton. The race up Mt. Hamilton in 2013 will still be fresh in many of the rider’s minds – the initial climb, the flat run to “The Junction“ and the final relentless push to the summit. The winner of the stage will almost certainly wear yellow on the podium. The question for the teams will be whether to defend the leader jersey for the rest of the race or save themselves for the race’s second mountaintop finish during Stage 6.

Stage 4, Presented by Visit California: Wednesday, May 14 – Monterey to Cambria
Start Location: Monterey Municipal Wharf
Finish Location: Main Street & Cambria Road
Start Time: 11:50 a.m.
Stage Length: 105 miles

While Stage 3 can be dubbed the most difficult stage of the 2014 race, Stage 4 is arguably the most beautiful. Monterey returns to host its second Amgen Tour of California stage, with a start on beautiful Alvarado Street. After heading out along Monterey Bay, the riders will head south on one of the most iconic roadways in the world – Highway 1. Riders will vie for one sprint in Big Sur and three KOMs on the way to first-time host city Cambria for the stage finish.

Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Cambria has an ideal mix of beaches, wineries, shopping and great restaurants. The route will feature spectacular ocean vistas, crashing waves, lighthouses, state parks, elephant seals, herds of zebra and Hearst Castle. It sounds like racing through a postcard, but the reality will be punishing on riders since there are very few stretches of flat road. The race last visited these roads in 2009, when rain and gale force winds stretched a four-hour race into more than six hours.

Stage 5, Presented by Breakaway from Cancer®: Thursday, May 15 – Pismo Beach to
Santa Barbara
Start Location: Pismo Beach Pier
Finish Location: Cabrillo Boulevard & Garden Street
Start Time: 11:45 a.m.
Stage Length: 108 miles

The third new host city for the 2014 Amgen Tour of California is Pismo Beach, where the beauty of the Central Coast takes center stage. In the most unique start in race history, the riders will begin the day over the waves on the 1,200-foot long Pismo Beach pier before heading east past several vineyards and ranches, and the first sprint in Arroyo Grande. As the route turns south toward a beachfront finish in Santa Barbara and the racers approach Los Olivos on Highway 154, some may be deceived into thinking they are in for a flat run to the coast. The experienced riders will know the final climb up San Marcos Pass waits just ahead, with a steep and fast descent into Santa Barbara.

Stage 6: Friday, May 16 – Santa Clarita to Mountain High
Start Location: Main Street & Market Street
Finish Location: Mountain High North
Start Time: 11:35 a.m.
Stage Length: 97 miles

Stage 6 will include the second true mountaintop finish of 2014. Racers will begin the day in the Newhall area of Santa Clarita. For those who remember screaming down Bouquet Canyon to finish Stage 3 in 2013, they will know they have a long and steep climb up this year. A left turn onto Spunky Canyon will lead through the small town of Green Valley. The race will continue through the familiar host city of Palmdale and onto the route used in 2010 to reach Big Bear. The Big Pine Road climb was the first of many that year, and it will serve as the final climb of Stage 6. When the riders reach the top and have Mountain High Ski Resort in their sights, the leaders will find that the route makes an unexpected 180-degree turn up Table Mountain Road and another steep 1.2-mile climb to the remote finish at Mountain High North. Many will assume that the race will be won on this stage, but don’t count on it!

Stage 7: Saturday, May 17 – Santa Clarita to Pasadena
Start Location: Town Center Mall
Finish Location: Holly Street & Arroyo Avenue
Start Time: 11:40 a.m.
Stage Length: 91 miles

As in 2013, Santa Clarita will host two stages this year. Stage 7 will start at the popular Town Center Mall. The route will follow a familiar high desert path to a sprint in Acton and into the Angeles National Forest. A slight twist from the previous routes through the forest will be the addition of Upper Big Tujunga. This means a second KOM and several additional miles on the picturesque Angeles Crest Highway. After passing Mount Wilson Observatory, the riders will quickly begin a long, steep and very technical descent into La Cañada Flintridge. In Pasadena, riders will pass the Rose Bowl and cross the iconic Colorado Street Bridge. After some quick turns in Old Town Pasadena, the leaders will see City Hall, the finish line, and three laps to go. The three-mile circuit will follow many well-known Pasadena thoroughfares, including the route of the famous Rose Parade along Colorado Boulevard.

Stage 8, Presented by Amgen: Sunday, May 18 – Thousand Oaks (Circuit Race)
Start/Finish Location: Townsgate Road and Village Glen Road
Start Time: 8:30 a.m.
Stage Length: 84 miles

Thousand Oaks, home to title sponsor and biotechnology pioneer Amgen, will host the overall finish for the 2014 Amgen Tour of California, where the race winners will be decided and jerseys awarded. The final stage will be contested over the same circuit used for the race finale in 2010. That means four ascents up the infamous “Rock Store” climb on Mulholland Drive and a sprint at the finish line each lap. Each 21-mile circuit will pass through Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, past the Rock Store at the foot of the climb, and finally, a very technical descent of Westlake Boulevard. If the race is close coming into Stage 8, there is a strong likelihood that the yellow jersey will change on the final day of the race. It will have been a very difficult race, and unlike most stage races, riders can make up significant time on this course. The yellow jersey almost changed when the race finished on this course in 2010. Will it happen this year?

Cycling fans can experience the excitement of America’s biggest professional stage race from the inside by becoming a race volunteer. Race organizers are looking to fill nearly 5,000 volunteer positions. Registration and further information about the various duties available is now available online at www.AmgenTourofCalifornia.com.

Amgen is leading the race to dramatically improve people’s lives through its national initiative, Breakaway from Cancer®. Founded in 2005 by Amgen, Breakaway from Cancer aims to raise awareness of important resources available to those affected by cancer – from prevention through survivorship. Four individuals – one from each of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California communities of Sacramento, Cambria, Santa Barbara and Thousand Oaks – will ultimately be selected as the Breakaway from Cancer Champions and lead a celebratory walk on the race course in those cities on race day. Members of the communities will be invited to participate in the Breakaway Mile walk. In addition, throughout the race Amgen will recognize and celebrate cancer survivors. Learn more about Breakaway from Cancer at www.breakawayfromcancer.com.

Highlights of stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California 2013:

2014 Strade Bianche by Limar New Race Route Unveiled
San Gimignano is the new starting location while Piazza Il Campo in Siena remains the traditional race finish.

Press Release: The new Strade Bianche by Limar race route was unveiled today in Siena. The famous Italian dirty roads classic, organised by RCS Sport/La Gazzetta dello Sport will be ridden on Saturday March 8. The great news for the 8th edition is the new start from San Gimignano.


50km of ‘white road,’ in ten sections, with stretches rated ‘5 stars’ for difficulty.
On Saturday 8 March, the peloton takes on an extremely hilly race route at the famous ‘Strade Bianche.’ The race may lack long climbs, but in their place it offers a long series of formidable inclines, some of them tremendously steep. What makes this race distinctive is the inclusion of approximately 50km of dirt tracks, the famous White Roads or Strade Bianche, divided into ten sections. The White Roads are metalled and compacted into a hard, durable surface, with a small amount of loose gravel and largely free of vegetation.

From the race start at San Gimignano, the first 33km is on rolling, asphalted roads. The route passes close to the splendid medieval village of Monteriggioni, before the first White Road section begins (Section One: 2.2km, difficulty **). After another 13km of asphalt, the second White Road section follows (Section Two: 2.1km, difficulty *). Perfectly straight and on the slightest of descents, this section is probably the least challenging of the race. 5km separate Sections Two and Three, the latter being the first real difficult part of the race. 5.9km long and rated ****, it begins with a short, gentle descent, before ramping upward for a longer climb at a gradient of around 10%. The fourth White Road section begins at the village of Radi. 4.4km long and with a difficulty of **, this is the second part of what used to be the first section of White Road on the old race route. Section Five, the old Section Two, starts immediately afterwards, in woodland, over less demanding gradients (Section Five: 5.5km, difficulty *).

Beyond Buonconvento lies the climb to Montalcino, the longest of the day (4km at 5%). After the descent that follows, the race joins Via Cassia, an ancient Roman road (now Strada Statale 2) for the feed zone (km 105 to 108) on the way to San Quirico d’Orcia. At Pienza, the sixth section of White Road begins. This 36km stretch of asphalt is the longest of the race (Section Six: 9.5km, difficulty ***), and begins with a climb over a rougher surface, leading to the village of Lucignano d’Asso, and then returning to asphalt roads towards Asciano. At Ponte del Garbo (Asciano, km 147), Section Seven of White Road begins; it’s the hardest of the race at 11.5 m and with a difficulty rating of *****. Mostly climbing, it also comprises a number of abrupt ramps and hollows, especially on the roads around Monte Sante Marie, where the gradients are extremely high over short stretches. At Castelnuovo Berardenga, a very short stretch of flat White Road (300m) precedes Section Eight, beginning just after Monteaperti, which covers 800m and includes a steep ramp where the gradients reach double figures. Then, the route regains asphalt roads at Vico d’Arbia, and pursues them as far as Pieve a Bozzone, where the penultimate section of White Roads starts (Section Nine: 2.4km, difficulty ****) on the climb up to Colle Pinzuto, with gradients of up to 15%. The final section begins at km 183.8 (Section Ten: 1.1km, difficulty ***), with a sharp descent followed by a steep ascent (maximum gradient 18%) which finishes at the village of Le Tolfe. From there, 12km remain to the finish line at Siena’s Piazza del Campo.

Demanding final kilometres: gradients up to 16%
The final kilometres approach the city of Siena along broad, straight sections of road, connected by sweeping curves, first descending, and then climbing slightly. 2km from the finish line, the route joins Via Esterna de Fontebranda, where the gradient touches 9%. 900m from the finish line, the race route passes beneath Fontebranda Gate where the road surface becomes paving slabs. The gradient exceeds 10% until 500m from the finish line, reaching its highpoint of 16% in Via Santa Caterina. A sharp right hand turn leads to Via delle Terme, and then Via Banchi di Sotto. With 300m to go, the road continues to climb slightly then, 150m from the line, a right turn leads into Via Rinaldini. The route enters the Piazza del Campo just 70 m from the finish line. The final 30m descends at a gradient of 7% and the finish line itself is flat.

Bruno Valentini, Mayor of Siena
“We are very pleased to have this Classic on our territory. Siena and the area hosting this event has become a world-famous postcard image. This year the race will start and will finish in two UNESCO heritage cities and I think this is a trump card to promote our beauty through sport”.

Simone Burgassi, Deputy Mayor and Councillor for Sports of the Municipality of San Gimignano
“For us sport is a means of promotion for our area. We need to join forces with other institutions to make the most of an important event such as the Strade Bianche. This is the debut for San Gimignano and hopefully it will be the first year in a long series.”

Mauro Vegni, RCS Sport Cycling responsible
“The Strade Bianche is a jewel in the international cycling scene. This year the route is technically more difficult than in the past, given the greater number of sections of earthworks at the start, while the end is modeled on the traditional route, with the finish in the Piazza del Campo in Siena. We are confident that by working together with all the institutions involved we can get the best possible outcome for all.”

Race website, Follow on Twitter, Like on Facebook.

Moreno Moser 2013.

18 teams at the start (8 riders each): 11 teams are UCI ProTeams and 7 are UCI Professional Continental Teams:

2007 – Aleksandr Kolobnev (RUS)
2008 – Fabian Cancellara (SWI)
2009 – Thomas Lovkvist (SVE)
2010 – Maxim Iglinskiy (KAZ)
2011 – Philippe Gilbert (BEL)
2012 – Fabian Cancellara (SWI)
2013 – Moreno Moser (ITA).


Take a look at our new Instagram page for a live feed of #PeloPics, #DailyDistractions, and giveaways straight from your phone: https://www.instagram.com/pezcyclingnews


Don’t forget to check the “NEWSWIRE” section, you can find it down the right hand side on the home page, just above the EuroTrash section. The bits of news that missed the EuroTrash deadline are in there, plus any news as-it-happens will be added there too.


Any comments drop me a line, email address: [email protected] or Twitter. And there is the PezCyclingNews Twitter and Facebook Fan Page.

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