Volta a Catalunya – A Brief History

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Volta Ciclista a Catalunya ranks second behind Vuelta Espana in popularity but its history predates the latter. It is the fourth-oldest stage race in cycling history, only after Tour de France, Tour of Belgium and Giro d’Italia. The race was first organized by the Barcelona club in 1911, and this year’s edition will be its 93th.

Past winners include Mariano Canardo (7), Miguel Indurain (3), Sean Kelly (2), Emilio Rodriguez (2). Most recently, Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez, Michele Scarponi and Michael Albasini each clinched a title.

Kenny Dehaes Wins Snow-Affected Handzame Classic and Crashes Afterwards

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Lotto Belisol’s 28-year-old Belgian Kenny Dehaes won the snow-affected Handzame Classic outsprinting Kenny van Hummel from Vacansoleil. This is his second win of the season after the early season sprint victory in Trofeo Palma.

The 196km original course in Flanders was turned into a 35km loop from Bredene before ten laps of 16km around Handzame after heavy snow made most of the course unsafe.

After the breakaway group got caught in the final circuit, no escape attempt succeeded and Dehaes sprinted into victory out of a field sprint. Unfortunately, crashing quite seriously seconds after passing the line while trying to celebrate the win.

“After the finish I was thrown off my bike by a sudden gust of wind when I wanted to raise my hands,” Dehaes told. “My knee is swollen, and I have a few scrapes, but my victory makes me forget about it.”

Handzame Classic 2013 Results:

1. Kenny Dehaes (Bel) Lotto Belisol 4:49:12
2. Kenny Robert Van Hummel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
3. Danny Van Poppel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
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Gerald Ciolek Made History in Milan-San Remo

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German sprinter Gerald Ciolek from South Africa’s MTN-Qubeka won the sprint from a breakaway group involving Peter Sagan, Sylvain Chavanel, Fabian Cancellara, Luca Paolini and Ian Stannard. Taloy Phinney of BMC catched the break in the last meters but was a bit late as he cross the line last.

After the snow, neutralization of a pretty long part of the route and a second start around 15:00, Milan-San Remo’s 104th edition became an instant classic. The day’s break was 7′ 10″ ahead of the peloton when the race got neutralized due to show in Passo del Turchino so in the “second start of the race”, they kept this advantage, it was like handicapped racing all of a sudden…

“We have to be ready. It was so cold. With the snow + zero degrees it was hard on the legs but mainly the hands. It was hard to brake because you couldn’t feel your hands,” told Lars Yiting Bak from the breakaway group. “We got a hot shower on the bus. Normally MSR is like 2 races because of the distance. Today it really is two races.”

After Matteo Montaguti, Diego Rosa, Filippo Fortin, Maxim Belkov, Lars Yitting Bak and Pablo Lastras got caught on the Cipressa, it was world champion Philip Gilbert‘s turn to make a break. Sylvain Chavanel later joined Gilbert along with Ian Stannard and Eduard Vorganov. On the Poggio, Chavanel attacked within the break, dragging Ian Stannard with him to the top of the hill.

Peter Sagan had to react, so he did when the slope on the Poggio hit 9%, and managed to catch Chavanel and Stannard within the final 3 kilometers. But he was not the only rider with sprinting abilities left in the front.

Gerald Ciolek outsprinted the “almost invincible” Peter Sagan and made history in Milan-San Remo today, his biggest win so far and for his new team MTN – Qhubeka; first pro-continental team from Africa.

“I think my decision says enough.This is partly a precaution, but also a statement to the organization. They knew long enough that there was so much snow on the road. What happens now is the fault of the organization’s own fault. Have you ever wanted to bicycle through the snow ridden? There are nicer things than this. I’m completely frozen,” reportedly told Tony Boonen after quitting the race.

Milan-San Remo 2013 Results

1. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) MTN-Qhubeka”5′ 37′ 20″
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling
3. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard
4. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
5. Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha
6. Ian Stannard (GBr) Sky Procycling
7. Taylor Phinney (USA) BMC Racing Team
8. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha 14″
9. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
10. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Sky Procycling
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Milan-San Remo 2013 – TV Guide and Live Streaming Options

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— UPDATE: Due to heavy snow on the Milano-Sanremo route, the riders will be transported by bus from kilometer 117 to kilometer 207 (Finale Ligure). The race will be re-started at 3.00. —

“la Classica di Primavera” starts on 17 March, Sunday 10:10 CET and is expected to finish around 17:15. It is the first monument of the season so there is quite a lot options to view the race on TV.

Rai Sport 2 will start live broadcasting in Italy around 14:00, whereas the rest of the TV channels, including Eurosport, Sporza and RTBF in Belgium, ETB in Spain, NOS in Netherlands, RDS in Canada and SBS in Australia will start the live broadcast at 15:00.

For live streaming options, check out the below links though some may be geo-location restricted;

RTBF, Rai Sport 2, ETB, SBS, Eurosport (unofficial)

Also check race preview and pre-race interviews.

Milan-San Remo 2013 – Pre-Race Interviews

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Winner of five stages so far, all in sensational fashion, Milan-San Remo is Cannondale’s Peter Sagan‘s to lose, and all the teams will put some tactics on the field to overcome the Slovakian.

“I feel like I have two chances to win: either a sprint from a group or by following an attack on the Poggio,” says Sagan. “It’s my third attempt here and I have learned that the Cipressa and Poggio are key to understand if you can win or not. I’ll see for myself and not think too much about what the others can do, and I’ll count on my teammates. They can help make the difference.”

Whereas Manx-Missile Mark Cavendish played the underdogs, just like the year he won the race: “I was obviously asked if I want to target this and I honestly don’t want to target this. So, the pressure just on myself has been a lot less.”

Tom Boonen was a bit more confident, “Milan-San Remo is the next step in the evolution to my target races. It’s not the biggest objective of the Spring Classics, but I think maybe I will be ready to do a good race on Sunday. I’ve started to feel like my normal self and it is about time.”

And Vini Fantini’s Mauro Santambrogio, after his great run in Tirreno-Adriatico spoke even more boldly: “I will have to do well, this is the Carpe Diem moment for me and I don’t want to miss it. I know that the weather could seriously impact on the race, but I am ready for anything and in Tirreno the possibility of competing in the water was certainly not missed.”

“So many strong riders have a plan for this race: Cancellara, Sagan, Hushovd – in any normal circumstance they can all win,” said Astana’s general manager Giuseppe Martinelli. “But our strategy for the race is 100 percent behind Vincenzo Nibali, and if the weather is bad, then for us this is optimal, because everybody knows he rides better in the rain and cold.

Paris-Nice 2013 – Race Report

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Despite losing the top dogs to Tirreno-Adriatico, this year’s Paris-Nice was once again full of drama. We saw the maillot jaune crash and quit, SKY’s dominance on the climbs and a classicist in top form early in March.

The race started with a very short prolog, won by Europcar’s Damien Gaudin – a big surprise for everyone, even within the pelaton. Next day, in French road champion colors Nacer Bouhani won the opening sprint stage, but unfortunately later crashed and had to quit the race, this time wearing the yellow jersey. Argos’ German sprinter Marcel Kittel later won sprint frenzy in Stage 2.

As the climbs starting to appear one after the other, the general classification started to shape up. In Stage 3, Garmin’s American rider Andrew Talanksy stepped in to the maillot jaune after winning from a successful breakaway that formed on the ascent of Cote de Mauvagnat. Michael Albasini won Stage 4 while Talansky managed to keep his jersey the day after.

As we approached the queen stage of the race, Talanksy was leading the GC only by 3 seconds, and a record number of 6 riders were following him all under 10 seconds behind. It was Richie Porte attacking to the yellow jersey, thanks to SKY’s climbing lieutenants. Porte kept his lead in the 6th stage, which was won by Sylvain Chavanel in sensational fashion.

As we approach the decisive time trial on the ascent of Col d’Eze, Porte was leading with 32 seconds which proved to be more than enough as he won the stage 17 seconds ahead of runner up Andrew Talansky. Jean-Christophe Peraud moved to the last spot of the podium with his last day performance, moving on top of Chavanel and last year’s runner-up Lieuwe Westra.

Sylvain Chavanel won the points classification, Johann Tschopp of IAM Cycling won the mountains classification whereas runner-up Talanksy finished on top of young riders’ classification and won the white jersey. It was Katusha, leading the teams classification with 4 riders in the top 30.

General Classification

1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 29:59:47
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 55″
3. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 1′ 21″
4. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 1′ 44″
5. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 1′ 47″
6. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha 1′ 48″
7. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 1′ 54″
8. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 2′ 17″
9. Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack Leopard 2′ 22″
10. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 2′ 28″

Points Classification

1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 88 pts
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 83 pts
3. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 68 pts

Mountains Classification

1. Johann Tschopp (Swi) IAM Cycling 64 pts
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 27 pts
3. Thierry Hupond (Fra) Team Argos-Shimano 24 pts

Young Rider Classification

1. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 30:00:42
2. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 49″
3. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 59″

Teams Classification

1. Katusha 90:06:49
2. Ag2R La Mondiale 1′ 23″
3. RadioShack Leopard 3′ 38″

Tirreno-Adriatico 2013 – Race Report

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Tirreno-Adriatico attracted many big names for its 2013 edition, but eventually it was last year’s winner Vincenzo Nibali victorious once again, in Astana colors this time. Team Sky’s Tour De France GC hope Chris Froome finished the podium in second place whereas Team Saxo-Tinkoff’s Alberto Contador finished third.

In the initial team time trial stage, it was Omega Pharma Quick-Step to cross the finish line fastest, putting Mark Cavendish into the overall lead. Australian sprinter Matthew Goss from Orica GreenEdge won the first sprint stage of the tour, and it was Cannodale’s Peter Sagan outsprinting Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel in the third stage.

In the queen stage of the race, the pelaton arrived to the mountains for a mountaintop finish in Prati di Tivo, which was goodbye to Maglia Azzura for Cavendish. Froome won the stage and shaked the general standings dramatically and thanks to the TTT performance of OMQ in the first stage, Polish rider Michal Kwiatkowski stepped into the overall lead. Despite having only an overnight lead and losing time afterwards, Kwiatkowski still managed to finish the race in fourth place and on top of the young riders’ classification; pretty impressive for the 22-year-old Polish.

The fifth stage had Peter Sagan’s name written all over it, but he cracked on the drag of Pietragrossa with 6 kilometers to go before the finish line and Joaquim Rodriguez was then unrivaled in Chieti. it was Froome’s turn to wear the leader’s jersey this time.

The sixth stage, a transition stage in paper, proved once again how spectacular pro cycling can be. Peter Sagan won his second stage of the tour and Vincenzo Nibali advanced to the overall lead. Nibali now had 34 seconds lead over Chris Froome before the penultimate individual time trial, which he easily defended and won the Tirreno-Adriatico for the second year in a row.

Alberto Contador led the points classification, thanks to mostly his attacks for seconds modifications in the sprint gates; and some were positioned very elegantly indeed. Damiano Cunego of Lampre-Merida won the mountains classification with his breakaway performances in the fifth and sixth stages. Finally, congratulations to Movistar, they finished on top of the teams classification with four riders in the top 40.

Andy Schleck, meanwhile again failed to finish the tour. After Tour Down Under, Tour Mediterraneen and Strade Bianchi, his retirement in Stage 6 was his fourth quit this season. So far, he only managed to finish G.P. Camaiore, 5:30 behind winner Peter Sagan; not promising at all for the grand tours ahead.

General Classification

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 28:08:17
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 23″
3. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 52″
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 53″
5. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 54″
6. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 1′ 21″
7. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 2′ 03″
8. Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team 2′ 42″
9. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 3′ 19″
10. Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 3′ 35″

Points Classification

1. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 27 pts
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 26 pts
3. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 25 pts

Mountains Classification

1. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre-Merida 20 pts
2. Cesare Benedetti (Ita) Team NetApp-Endura 13 pts
3. Garikoitz Bravo Oiarbide (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 10 pts

Young Rider Classification

1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 28:09:10
2. Tom Jelte Slagter (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 16′ 34″
3. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ 16′ 47″

Teams Classification

1. Movistar Team 83:57:42
2. Sky Procycling 2′ 30″
3. Katusha 15′ 40″

Nibali defended Maglia Azzurra in Penultimate ITT

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World time trial champion Tony Martin won the 9.2km individual time trial 6 seconds ahead of Lampre-Merida’s Adriano Malori but it was Vincenzo Nibali‘s day, making it two in a row at Tirreno-Adriatico in front of his home crowd.

Nibali, yet winless in 2013 season, finished the stage in 12th place, 11 seconds slower than Chris Froome but enough to defend his Maglia Azzurra. Omega Pharma-Quickstep’s young polish rider Michal Kwiatkowski finished in 8th place, only 1 second short of his 2nd possible podium of the year, after his strong place finish in Volta ao Algarve. Katusha’s  Joaquim Rodriguez drifted away from the podium with his poor time-trialing skills but it is good to see him steadily improving over the past few years. This time, he was only 13 seconds slower than his biggest rival Alberto Contador who finished the race in third place.

“I was really, really happy with this Tirreno. It was really important to win,” said Vincenco Nibali. “This was more important than last year because of all the riders who came, like Chris Froome and Alberto Contador.”

This was Tony Martin’s second ITT win of the season and his form keeps building ahead of the bigger and harder races, where he’ll be an integral part of Omega Pharma’s; both in the classics and the grand tours. “I was looking for this day because the mountains weren’t for me, I had full focus for the day and I’m happy I won. It’s my first time here. My climbing has been getting better day by day, but I still need some time to improve. It’s still early in the season but I’m happy with the stage win. It’s been a good race for the team, ” told Tony Martin. Movistar’s Costa Rican rider Andrey Amador Bakkazakova finished the stage in 3rd place, 10 seconds slower than Martin.

Final General Classification

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 28:08:17
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 23″
3. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 52″
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 53″
5. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 54″
6. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 1′ 21″
7. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 2′ 03″
8. Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team 2′ 42″
9. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 3′ 19″
10. Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 3′ 35″

Stage 7 Results

1. Tony Martin (Ger) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:10:25
2. Adriano Malori (Ita) Lampre-Merida 6″
3. Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team 10″
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Tirreno-Adriatico 2013 Preview – Stage 7

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It is the last day of Tirreno-Adriatico and in the penultimate stage will be an individual time-trial, in one of the most important touristic centers of Adriatic Coast, San Benedetto del Tronto on 12 March, Tuesday. The stage is flat and relatively short, 9.2 km in length. And it won’t be enough for Chris Froome or Alberto Contador to close the gap.

Both Froome and Contador are excellent time-trialists but Vincenzo Nibali in maglia azzurra will not lose his 34 seconds margin unless he slips in a corner. We may have rain showers in the afternoon but they’ll all start back to back and suffer equally and to be honest, I don’t think Nibali will risk it much.

There are no time bonuses, and most recently Nibali finished the Tour de San Luis 19 km time-trial stage in fourth place, Michal Kwiatkowski was third, 3 seconds faster than Nibali and Contador was 43 seconds behind.

It’ll be Froome’s first time-trial this season. Last year in TdF, he came second after Bradley Wiggins where Nibali was in the Top 20 of both time-trial stages. And within the 90 km combined, Froome managed to make a difference of 3:52. If you do the math, with last year’s performance repeating itself, Froome will still only ride 23.5 seconds faster than Nibali; that won’t be enough…

The stage suits Tony Martin very well and he should be written down as the strongest candidate to win the time-trial, Fabian Cancellara and Lars Boom are also close to winning.

And finally, podium prediction:
1. Vincenzo Nibali
2. Chris Froome
3. Michal Kwiatkowski

GC before Stage 7

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astan a Pro Team 27:57:26
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 34″
3. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 37″
4. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 48″
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 58″
6. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 1′ 05″
7. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 1′ 20″
8. Pryzemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 2′ 54″
9. Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team 2′ 58″
10. Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM 3′ 08″

Sagan wins Stage, Nibali in Maglia Azzurra!

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Despite the quite strong 16-rider early breakaway today, SKY and Cannondale worked in the front all day long and as the riders approached Muro di Sant’Elpidio for the last time, whatever was left from the break finally got erased. Last year’s winner Vincenzo Nibali attacked on the technical descent followed by Peter Sagan, and later joined by Stage 5 winner Joaquim Rodriguez and formed a very strong late break.

Alberto Contador as well attacked on the descent but got stuck in the chasing group. Race leader Chris Froome, losing all his SKY lieutenants, found sanctuary by catching Cadel Evans‘ group. SKY now owes Thor Hushovd a big “thank you” for his efforts in the final kilometers.

The leading trio entered the final kilometers with more than 30 seconds ahead of Contador’s group and it came to a sprint finish between them to decide the winner. Sagan easily blasted home to grab his second win in this year’s Tirreno-Adriatico.

“In the breakaway were too many riders. Sky was on the front all of the race. When I felt good to make a good stage, I told my riders t to bring back Cunego and the other riders in the breakaway,” told Sagan. “Anyway, I am very happy. Vincenzo did a very good attack on the climb and afterwards on the descent, then we did the last climb also with Joaquim who came on the front. From there it was only ten kilometres to the finish – I am very happy.”

Vincenzo Nibali took the race leader’s jersey from overnight leader Chris Froome and will wear the blue jersey – Maglia Azzurra in the penultimate time-trial.

GC after Stage 6

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astan a Pro Team 27:57:26
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 34″
3. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 37″
4. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 48″
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 58″
6. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 1′ 05″
7. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 1′ 20″
8. Pryzemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 2′ 54″
9. Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team 2′ 58″
10. Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM 3′ 08″

Stage 6 Results

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling 5:45:17
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 2″
3. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
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