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Cavendish: Ewan was the strongest today

Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) said he finally understood why his rivals find it so difficult to come off his wheel in sprint finishes, as he failed to make any real inroads once emerging from the diminutive slipstream of Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) during stage 2 of the Abu Dhabi Tour.

"I’ve never sprinted off Caleb before, and I can understand why it’s hard for people to sit on my wheel when you’re so small," said Cavendish, who still leads the race overall, in his post-race press conference. "There’s no difference once you move out of the slipstream to actually being on his wheel."

Ewan didn’t end up winning the stage because a premature celebration – which he described as a "rookie mistake" – allowed a rapidly advancing Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) to snatch it on the line.

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The young Australian was picking himself off the floor when Cavendish was celebrating his victory on the opening stage of the race, but this time the young Australian took the fight to the more experienced man, launching first after his sprint train had led the way, and the 30-time Tour de France stage winner acknowledged he couldn’t compete.

"Today, in all honesty, without taking anything away from Marcel, Caleb was the strongest today,"  said Cavendish. "It was a block headwind finish, and I really couldn’t match him. I went to pass him, and there wasn’t much chance of doing that."

Cavendish, as he had done after yesterday’s victory – his first of the 2017 season – praised his "faultless" teammates, but admitted he perhaps found himself too near the front of proceedings than is wise for a headwind sprint.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 24th, 2017, 6:00 pm

Abu Dhabi Tour stage 2 highlights – Video

Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) bounced back from a high-speed crash on stage 1 of the Abu Dhabi Tour  - and 24 hours of polemics about the use of disc brakes - to win stage 2 with a powerful late run to the finish line.

Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) thought they were fighting for the win, and Ewan even began to raise his arms in victory, only to see the German come up alongside and beat him with a late bike throw.

Matteo Pelucchi (Bora-hansgrohe) was fourth, with Phil Bauhaus (Team Sunweb) fifth and Elia Viviani (Team Sky) sixth. Cavendish kept the race lead thanks to taking a four-second bonus for his third place. He leads Kittel in the overall by four seconds, with Andre Greipel third at eight seconds.

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A risk of echelons made for a fast stage, with the riders covering the 153km at more than 44km/h. The break of the day formed quickly, with Nicola Boem (Bardiani-CSF), Fabio Calabria (Novo Nordisk), Marco Canola (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Kristijan Durasek (UAE Team Emirates) and Kirill Sveshnikov (Gazprom-RusVelo) in the move.

The peloton eventually caught Boem and de Marchi with 2.5km to go and the leadout trains took control for the thrilling finish.

Watch highlights of the stage above and to subscribe to the Cyclingnews video channel, click here.  

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 24th, 2017, 5:30 pm

Embarrassment for Ewan as rookie mistake costs him breakthrough win

If mistakes are a necessary evil of improving, then Caleb Ewan got a mighty one out of the way on the second stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour as a premature celebration cost him a victory against the leading lights of the sprinting world.

The 22-year-old had pinged off a dominant Orica-Scott leadout and was impressively holding off Mark Cavendish but as he began to lift his hands from the bars and sit up he saw Marcel Kittel come through to snatch it on the line.

“It was a bit embarrassing more than anything,” Ewan told reporters after putting on a brave face for the podium ceremony, where he pulled on the white jersey for best young rider. “Now I have to go back to my team and explain what I did.”

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“I’m usually good at sprinting all the way to the line but he was coming with a fair bit of speed and I didn’t quite see him coming. It was a massive rookie mistake on my part.”

Ewan is now in his third season as a professional and has undergone a steady development, with his stage win at the 2015 Vuelta a España his biggest achievement to date. However, despite dominating the last two editions of the Tour Down Under, he is yet to get the better of Cavendish or Kittel in a head-to-head, and this looked to be the moment that breakthrough would come.

As it was, it was the other two who found themselves invited to the post-race press conference – Kittel for winning the stage, Cavendish for leading the race overall – and they both had plenty of sympathy.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 24th, 2017, 4:19 pm

Luke Rowe: I’ve cards to play in the Classics

The form is where it should be, the morale topped up after ending a long spell without a win; Luke Rowe is relishing the chance to impress on the opening weekend of the Belgian Classics.

Rowe, 26, will spearhead Team Sky’s challenge alongside Ian Stannard in both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. According the Welshman he has cards to play throughout the Spring as the British team search for their first Cobbled Monument.

“The form is pretty good. I’ve been back in Europe for over two weeks now and I’ve had one easy week before having one good week of training with a good few blocks. I’ve rested up this week so that I’m fresh for the weekend,” Rowe told Cyclingnews from Team Sky’s Kortrijk base in Belgium.

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“I’m targeting the weekend but I’m fully focused on Saturday and not really thinking about Sunday. As soon as we get Saturday out of the way I’ll fully focus on Sunday. It’s too early think about Kuurne, and we just want to take it one day at a time.”

Despite having not yet won either Paris-Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders since their 2010 inception Team Sky have had a successful run in both Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with Stannard winning the former in both 2014 and 2015. Rowe finished fourth in last year’s edition of the race and backed that up with an impressive fifth place in the Tour of Flanders.

“We’ve got Stannard who has won the race twice and is in really good form but I’ve got my own role to play. I’ve got a free role to play and I finished fourth last year, eighth the year before and 11th the year before that, so I’ve been there or thereabouts. I’ve got my own cards to play,” he pointed out.

Peter Sagan’s strike rate

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 24th, 2017, 1:28 pm

Marcel Kittel stops using disc brakes at Abu Dhabi Tour

Marcel Kittel has confirmed he will not use a bike with disc brakes during stage 2 of the Abu Dhabi Tour following accusations that the rotors of his disc brakes cut into Owain Doull’s shoe in a high-speed crash on stage 1.

Kittel was the only rider using disc brakes in the Abu Dhabi Tour and has opted to switch back to a caliper brake Specialized Venge ViAS bike.

Kittel and Doull locked handlebars and crashed at high-speed with a kilometre to go. Other riders also went down, crashing into the roadside barriers.

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"My shoe was cut to pieces. That's definitely a disc brake that has done that," said Doull. "Nothing else could cut like that, it's like a knife, it cut straight through it. You can see that thin line, it's exactly in line, cut there and cut there on my shoe and both straight through in an arrow-straight line."

Kittel went to see Doull before the start of stage 2 and then confirmed his decision to change bikes.

“I will not use my disc brake bike today out of respect for my colleagues because I understand the safety issues,” Kittel told media, including Cyclingnews, before preparing for stage 2.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 24th, 2017, 10:41 am

Chris Froome: Disc brake debate shows riders are not being heard

Tour de France winner Chris Froome has called on the CPA riders association and the UCI to resolve the safety concerns over disc brakes in the peloton. Froome was speaking after his Team Sky  teammate Owain Doull claimed that he was lucky to escape serious injury in a fall at the Abu Dhabi Tour. The Welshman believed that the disc rotor on Marcel Kittel’s Quick-Step Floors Specialized bike slashed open one of his shoes, and that the blade could have caused a serious injury.

"If a hot blade like that cuts an artery then a rider could be in big trouble," Froome told Cyclingnews. "I hope that we don't get to that point before we stop and take stock."

The CPA and the UCI are currently at loggerheads over the use of disc brakes, with the riders association last week calling for the current test – which involves mixed braking systems in the same peloton – to be immediately halted. A survey it conducted in November showed that 40 per cent of riders were against disc brakes, while another 42 per cent were unhappy until three conditions – rounded discs, protective covers and a homogenous peloton – are met. 

The UCI, which re-started the trial this season with rounded discs the only modification, has staunchly refused the request to end the trial, casting doubt on the legitimacy of the CPA's survey and highlighting that the CPA agreed with the original decision to restart the trial.

"The issue over disc brakes is really down to what the CPA are doing and how they've not represented the peloton's views properly," Froome told Cyclingnews.

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Froome pointed to the timing of the CPA's actions, questioning why the union had taken until the winter before canvasing rider opinions on the subject, but he also questioned the UCI's role, believing that the sport's governing body should have met the riders' concerns over disc brake covers. At present, covers are not mandatory and the issue is only in a research and development phase.

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"All riders were given the opportunity to vote but only at the end of November once the CPA had already agreed to the trial going ahead on our behalf," Froome pointed out.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 24th, 2017, 10:04 am

Dennis digs deep to fend off Provence challenge

Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) went into the third and final stage of the Tour la Provence on Thursday in the overall lead but tied on time with three other riders.

When an attack on the final climb in the closing kilometres threatened his lead, the BMC leader dug deep and reeled back stage winner Mattia Cattaneo (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec) to save his victory by two seconds over the Italian rider.

"I am really happy with the form I have shown here, and of course, to take the win," Dennis said. "Normally I am not in the best condition at the early races in Europe, so this race has definitely been a big confidence boost for what's to come over the rest of the season."

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The 171.4km final stage from Aix-en-Provence to Marseille started with a three-rider breakaway that provided the impetus for the BMC-led chase for most of the day. BMC's Tom Bohli did the lion's share of the work, eventually reeling in the escaping trio with about 20km left to race.

Attacks from all sides quickly ensued, with Cattaneo launching his successful late challenge on the final climb into Marseille.

BMC's Brent Bookwalter went off in pursuit with two other riders, but when Cattaneo's gap extended to 25 seconds, it was up to Dennis to take control and finish brining him back. By the line, Dennis had clawed back all but two seconds from the stage winner.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 24th, 2017, 1:15 am

'Bloody awesome' Langkawi debut for IsoWhey sports SwissWellness

Australian Continental team IsoWhey sports SwissWellness have ridden an Asian racing programme for the better part of the last decade but until this year were yet to line out at the Tour de Langkawi. In an attempt to earn an invite, the team transferred its license from Australia to New Zealand although the move would prove unsuccessful.

In 2017, the team finally secured its invitation and on day one unleashed its pent up frustrations from years of watching from the side-lines, justifying its selection with victory for Scott Sunderland.

"It has taken us so long to eventually get to a HC race. It's one we have always wanted to do," team manager Andrew Christie-Johnston told Cyclingnews and Eurosport. "It has been hard sitting at home watching for so many years, thinking maybe we'd have a decent crack over here. To see 'Sundo' take stage 1 is bloody awesome."

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In Asia, the team has enjoyed overall success at the Tour of Taiwan, Japan Cup and numerous stage wins at the tours of Korea, Taiwan, Korea, and China. However, the fact they are an Australian and Oceania team is not lost on Christie-Johnston who explained the challenges getting race starts in Asia.

"We feel that we are definitely good enough, it's just been difficult to gain the starts here. We understand that we are part of the Oceania tour it is always hard in a race that is an Asian tour of this stature but I think we have shown that we are competitive here straight away and the boys are pretty positive about starting off with a win."

While celebrating success on the bike and the results his riders have put endless hours of dedicated training into to achieve, for Christie-Johnston the greater success is developing his riders and sending them into the WorldTour. Something he has achieved with the likes of Richie Porte, Nathan Haas, and Will Clarke among many more, almost on a 'one rider per season' regularity.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 24th, 2017, 12:30 am

Pozzato escapes serious injury to take first podium of 2017

After an innocuous crash at kilometre zero of the longest stage in this year's Tour de Langkawi in Jerteh, it initially looked like Filippo Pozzato's first participation in Asia's premier race was over. However, 208 kilometres later in Gerik, Pozzato was only narrowly beaten to the stage win by American Travis McCabe (UnitedHealthcare).

The result is Pozzato's first top-10 of the 2017 season, with the Wilier-Triestina rider coming close to ending his victory drought that extends back to 2013's GP Ouest France-Plouay.

"Another rider hit a cat eye on the road and took out my front wheel," Pozzato told Cyclingnews of the incident, with his chin and hand still bloody almost six hours after his fall.

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"I don't understand why I crashed, because I was sat in the front and three metres in front of me, the bicycle of the rider hits my wheel and I crashed. For the first 10 minutes after the crash, I didn’t understand and didn't feel good, but now I feel good."

Wilier-Triestina started the race with Jakub Mareczko as its designated sprinter and Pozzato a key man for the lead out. With stage 2 featuring two challenging hills that proved too tough for Mareczko, a stage winner here last year, Pozzato became the man for the finale.

However, the 35-year-old was betting on a taking a flyer rather than mixing it up the sprint. Though Pozzato was unable to get the better of McCabe, he showcased his current form and condition by holding off the new race leader Ryan Gibbons (Dimension Data) for second place after the late tactical change.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 23rd, 2017, 11:30 pm

Trust and confidence deliver McCabe to Langkawi stage win

Travis McCabe's 2017 is shaping up as his best season yet after the American again validated his move to the Pro Continental ranks with UnitedHealthcare via a stage 2 victory at the Tour de Langkawi.

The team's visit Down Under and to Malaysia for the Tour de Langkawi has been one of dual purposes: Dial in the new sprint train ahead of its key American races and repeat its 2016 success. On both fronts, the team and McCabe are hitting their targets after opening their shared account at the Herald Sun Tour earlier this month.

"We are using these races to really perfect the lead out train and establish that trust and the faith that I have in all the riders and one another," McCabe told Cyclingnews.

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Having made a "rookie mistake" in starting his sprint too early during stage 1, McCabe explained that the calming influence and experience of Greg Henderson was key to Thursday's victory.

"I wanted to work on the patience and just trust the guys in what they are able to do," he said. "I am rooming with Greg this whole week, and he's the one breaking everything down. You can see it is paying off."

While McCabe was signed by the 'Blue Train' as the man to finish off the job in the sprints, Henderson has been an equally important off-season acquisition as an experienced lead-out man. Over the past few seasons, McCabe emerged as one of the top Continental sprinters on the American scene, with his results earning a contract to the Pro Continental squad. Henderson, meanwhile, was a crucial cog in Andre Greipel's Grand Tour stage winning sprint train prior to re-joining the team.

You can read more at Cyclingnews.com

Posted on February 23rd, 2017, 9:10 pm

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