La Flèche Wallonne review: Moreno surprises on the Huy

La Flèche Wallonne logoThe prospect of a Spaniard from Katusha winning La Flèche Wallonne wasn’t that surprising. After all, a rider fitting that exact description won at the top of the Mur de Huy last year. But this time around it wasn’t Joaquim Rodriguez who triumphed, but his teammate and loyal domestique Daniel Moreno.

Moreno crosses the line (Image: Katusha)

Moreno crosses the line (image: Katusha)

Race summary

In the day’s early break it was Pirmin Lang (IAM), Gilles Devilliers (Crelan-Euphony) and Jurgen van Goolen (Accent Jobs-Wanty) who managed to escape, with the trio opening up over nine minutes on the peloton before they started to react. Philippe Gilbert‘s BMC team were at the front doing the lion’s share of the chasing, and the gap soon began to drop.

They were brought back with over 40km to go, with Laurens Ten Dam (Blanco) and Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) spotting a window of opportunity immediately after the trio were caught. The duo attacked, and inside the final 30km Ten Dam was out front alone, though he was soon joined – and passed – by Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano).

The duo came together, though were never able to open out a meaningful advantage. The peloton looked content to let them hang a few seconds ahead, knowing they could be caught comfortably. A few attempted, unsuccessful counter-attacks took a chunk out of the leaders’ buffer, and they were caught inside the final 10km on the climb of the Côte de Villers-le-Bouillet.

Riders tried to escape in the closing kilometres, though after letting the Amstel Gold Race slip to a breakaway win, the favourites weren’t willing to run the same risk. That was until the final ascent of the Mur de Huy. Inside the final kilometre Ag2r’s Carlos Betancur made an excellent move, opening up a significant advantage. It momentarily seemed like the other riders had left it too late to close the gap.

Perhaps in a panic, Gilbert attacked early. He led the other riders up the climb towards Betancur but faded terribly and eventually finished 15 seconds in arrears. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) fired clear, catching the leader agonisingly close to the line, with Sky’s Sergio Henao finishing second. Fortunately, his Colombian compatriot Betancur did earn himself a spot on the podium for his efforts as he barely held off a charging Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp).

Analysis & opinion

Another Ardennes classic down, and another shock winner. However, it’s always good to see the unsung heroes of the peloton get their day in the sun, and this was certainly the case here. Dani Moreno has ridden as a mountain lieutenant for a couple of cycling’s best climbers of the last decade – Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez – though hasn’t had many major wins of his own, save for a stage victory at the Vuelta. This is without question his best one-day win, and a thoroughly impressive one at that.

Carlos Betancur (image: Ag2r La Mondiale)

Carlos Betancur (image: Ag2r La Mondiale)

Moving from elation to disappointment inevitably takes us to world champion Philippe Gilbert, who is still looking for his first win in the rainbow jersey. His team worked tirelessly to charge down breakaways today, though perhaps that wasn’t so helpful when it came to the final climb. He had no teammates to help close the gap to Betancur, and it seems his effort to try to bridge too early was at least partly at fault for his disappointing finish. His dramatic fade towards the top of the climb was quite remarkable and he wound up finishing 15th. On this performance, even accounting for any other excuses, he doesn’t have the legs to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

A final word for the Colombian couple on the podium – Sky’s Sergio Henao and Ag2r’s Carlos Betancur. Two more names to be added to the burgeoning list of incredibly talented riders to come out of the nation in the last few years. Of all the Colombian riders currently in the pro peloton, Betancur is one of the least recognisable. But, he’s the winner of the 2010 GiroBio, or Baby Giro, and still being only 23 he’s another one to watch.

Result

1. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) 4:52:33

2. Sergio Henao (Sky) +0:03

3. Carlos Betancur (Ag2r La Mondiale) same time

4. Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) s/t

5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t

6. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) +0:08

7. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) s/t

8. Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) s/t

9. Bauke Mollema (Blanco) s/t

10. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r La Mondiale) s/t

Links: Preview, Official website

Jakob Fuglsang takes over the lead (Image courtesy of official race website)

Tour of Austria review

The Tour of Austria finished with overall victory for Jakob Fuglsang  the first by a Dane in the Tour – providing a much-needed boost for RadioShack-Nissan, albeit from one of their (many) want-away riders. Fuglsang had seized the lead and the yellow jersey from Danilo di Luca (Acque & Sapone) on the key Grossglockner mountain stage, and never let it escape from his clutches. At the race conclusion in Vienna, he said:

It’s particularly nice that I didn’t win by merely following, but also by taking a stage win. That’s always nicer. Since I took the jersey, the team worked really hard and made it easy for me. I did what I had to do in the time trial and the team helped me with everything else.

RadioShack also claimed the team classification while Fuglsang’s Austrian teammate Thomas Rohregger was the best-placed young rider to cap a successful week of racing. Team Type 1’s Georg Priedler won the mountains classification while teammate Alessandro Bazzana claimed the points jersey. VeloVoices was keeping an eye on young Colombian Carlos Betancur (Acqua & Sapone) who, having ridden in support of team leader di Luca, finished 19th overall and second in the young rider’s competition.

Jakob Fuglsang winner Tour of Austria 2012 (Image courtesy of RadioShack-Nissan)

Jakob Fuglsang, winner of Tour of Austria 2012 (image courtesy of RadioShack-Nissan)

Stage 1: Innsbruck Circuit, 153km

Team Type 1’s 28 year-old Alessandro Bazzana took his first professional victory in the bunch sprint at the end of the circuit race around Innsbruck. Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) was runner-up and Marco Canola (Colnago-CSF Inox) finished third, while fourth-placed Georg Preideler was the best-placed Austrian.

Stage 2: Innsbruck to Kitzbuheler Horn, 157.4km

Danilo ‘the Killer’ di Luca (Aqua & Sapone) took the rain-soaked stage two, which included the climb of the Kitzbuheler Horn, ahead of Steve Morabito (BMC) and Thomas Rohregger (RadioShack). The stage started with the inevitable breakaway which was reeled in before the final climb thanks to work done by the WorldTour teams, notably RadioShack hoping to set up Jakob Fuglsang. He was part of a ten-man group which attacked on the climb but was ultimately distanced by the leading trio.

Having taken the  leader’s jersey, the 36-year old Di Luca said after the race:

This was one of the hardest mountains I have ever ridden. The start of the stage was hectic and here up to the Kitzbuheler Horn I felt very comfortable. Right from the start I drove my tempo and slightly increased it on the last 2km and that was enough for stage victory.

Stage 3: Kitzbuhel to Lienz, 141.8km

Stage three finished in another bunch sprint, won this time by 25-year old Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF) ahead of Austrian Daniel Schorn (NetApp) and Francesco Gavazzi (Astana). Di Luca still held the overall from Morabito by 11 seconds.

Stage 4: Lienz to Skt. Johann/Alpendorf, 141.3km

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again and that’s what RadioShack-Nissan did on stage four. They animated the race from the start and Jakob Fuglsang delivered the team a fine victory to take the race leader’s yellow jersey.

The team sent four riders up the road forcing Acqua & Sapone on the defensive. The junction was made on the major difficulty of the day, the Grossglockner, 95km from the finish, at which point Fuglsang made his escape along with NetApp’s Leopold Konig. The duo managed to push the gap up above three minutes and with Fuglsang unsure whether his breakaway companion was sandbagging, he soloed off with 20km remaining to finish with more than a minute’s advantage over Konig. Afterwards he said:

I’m super happy with this win and the overall. It is certainly defendable and we’re going to do everything we can to bring the yellow home. It’s cool that the team has the yellow jersey in two different stage races [here and the Tour de France, where Fabian Cancellara was overall leader at the time – Ed].

Here’s how the stage was won:

Stage 5: Skt. Johann/Alpendorf to Sonntagberg, 228.3km

The race’s longest stage saw a successful breakaway go all the way to the line with victory for 27-year old Fabio Taborre (Acqua & Sapone) – the biggest of his career – ahead of compatriot Marco Bandiera (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Austrian Matthias Brandle (NetApp). The stage start was hectic with numerous attacks in the first 90km until a break formed that contained a dozen riders, none of whom threatened RadioShack’s GC lead. RadioShack patrolled the front of the peloton keeping the gap at a constant 12 minutes and covering moves by second-placed Di Luca and third-placed Morabito. The pair managed to gain back a few precious seconds on the leader, who finished in the pack some nine minutes down on the winner to remain in the leader’s jersey.

Stage 6: Waidhofen/Ybbs to Melk, 185.2km

Friday’s stage was harder than it looked, with riders battling for position and trying to get into a breakaway from the off. It was full gas on the undulating course with breaks getting away and then being pulled back by teams looking for a stage win, which rather suited RadioShack. In the end it came down to another bunch sprint and once more Modolo prevailed this time ahead of Daniele Colli (Team Type 1) and Danilo Napolitano (Acqua & Sapone). 21-year old neo-pro Marco Haller (Katusha) was the best-placed Austrian in fourth.

Stage 7: Podersdorf am Neusiedler See, 24.1km individual time trial

Four days after his place in the Italian team for London 2012 was confirmed, Marco Pinotti (BMC) beat Kristof Vandewalle (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) by some 32 seconds to take victory in the individual time trial. Frantisek Rabon (OPQS) was third, a further 20 seconds back. Race leader Fuglsang finished over a minute off the pace but had a sufficiently large enough cushion to retain the yellow jersey by 1:24 over Morabito. Robert Vrecer (Vorarlberg) was 28 seconds further back in third while di Luca – 46th on the day – dropped to fourth.

Stage 8: Podersdorf am Neusiedler See to Wien, Burgtheater, 122.8 km

The final stage was another circuit race, this time around Vienna, where the Italians recorded their seventh stage win with victory for Daniele Colli ahead of Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha) and Blaz Jarc (NetApp). The day’s breakaway, which never gained more than three minutes, was hauled back before the final two circuits setting up another bunch sprint finish. The podium was unchanged.

As anticipated, Fuglsang became the first Danish winner of the Tour, retaining the leader’s jersey which he’d won on the Grossglockner stage. It was his second overall win of the season after earlier prevailing in the Tour of Luxembourg.

General classification:

1. Jakob Fuglsang (RadioShack-Nissan) 28:13:09

2. Steve Morabito (BMC) +1:24

3. Robert Vrecer (Vorarlberg) +1:52

4. Danilo di Luca (Acqua & Sapone) +2:15

5. Alexandr Dyachenko (Astana) +2:16

6. Marco Pinotti (BMC) +2:41

7. Thomas Rohregger (RadioShack-Nissan) +2:42

8. Marcel Wyss (NetApp) +2:53

9. Petr Ignatenko (Katusha) +2:55

10. Sergio Pardilla (Movistar) +3:04

Links: PreviewOfficial website

Tour of Austria preview

The 64th edition of the Tour of Austria [you mean not everybody’s at the Tour de France?!? – Ed] – or the Osterreich Rundfahrt to give its correct name – kicks off on Sunday 1st July and finishes eight stages later the following Sunday. It attracts a mix of World Tour (six), Pro Continental (eight) and local Continental (four) teams and provides an attractive alternative for those riders more at home in week-long stage races, those teams that didn’t get Tour invites, racers that have already ridden the Giro and young up-and-coming talent.

What kind of race is it?

An eight-stage race covering 1,153.9km, the Tour provides a number of challenging, mountainous stages but also gives the sprinters and time-triallists an opportunity to shine. The Tour is classified as a 2HC race, just below a ProTour race, on the UCI Europe circuit.

The past five winners are:

2007: Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel)

2008: Thomas Rohregger (Elk-Haus Simplon)

2009: Michael Albasini (HTC-Columbia)

2010: Riccardo Ricco (Ceramica Flaminia)

2011: Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana)

What happened last year?

While it was a bleak day in France where team leader Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) crashed out of the race, the sun was shining in Austria as Fredrik Kessiakoff took the final general classification, having assumed the lead after a brilliant victory on stage two  – his maiden professional win – which the team, and he, staunchly defended. The GC podium was completed by runner-up Leopold Konig (NetApp) and former Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (Geox).

RadioShack’s sprinter Robbie Hunter took the first stage before the GC was turned upside-down on the second day’s summit finish on the HC Kitzbuheler Horn, when Kessiakoff soloed off to victory and the leader’s jersey over a minute ahead of Mauro Santambrogio (BMC) and Konig. On day three, Astana preserved their man Kessiakoff’s lead as Jens Keukeleire (Cofidis) won the sprint from a group of over 20 riders on the uphill finish.

Stage four saw Alexandre Geniez (Skil-Shimano) leave his six breakaway companions behind on the monster climb of the Grossglockner. Sky’s hard-as-nails Ian Stannard won stage five by outsprinting his breakaway companions, while Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) took a welcome victory on stage six – his first since a stage in the 2008 Vuelta a Espana – narrowly beating new Irish champion Matthew Brammeier (HTC-HighRoad) and Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek).

Newly crowned German time trial champ Bert Grabsch (HTC-Highroad) took stage seven’s 30km individual time trial ahead of young New Zealander Jesse Sergent (RadioShack), while Kessiakoff rode the time trial of his life to finish fifth, putting more time into the competition. Sprinter Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) claimed the final stage, while Kessiakoff finished safely in the pack to secure an unexpected victory. Astana were top team while Van Avermaet won the points jersey, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) the mountains jersey and Konig was best young rider.

1. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) 26:59:26

2. Leopold Konig (NetApp) +2:28

3. Carlos Sastre (Geox) +3:05

4. Thomas Rohregger (Leopard-Trek) +3:59

5. Denis Menchov (Geox) +4:02

6. Mauro Santambrogio (BMC) +4:34

7. Morris Possoni (Sky) +4:36

8. Jan Barta (NetApp) +4:46

9. Geoffroy Lequatre (RadioShack) +4:59

10. Andrey Mizurov (Astana) +5:09

This year’s race

The Tour of Austria debuts for the first time in Innsbruck before ending, eight days later, for the 55th time in the capital, Vienna. Riders will  cover 1,153.9km – including a 24km time trial –  and 12,900 metres of climbs including the famous Kitzbuheler Horn and the Grossglockner.

The first stage, with both the start and finish in Innsbruck, features five laps of a 30km long course. The climbing starts on the second stage, which finishes atop the Kitzbueheler Horn. Stage three is undulating but finishes on the flat, offering the sprinters a chance of victory.

Day four heralds the queen stage, with the HC Grossglockner midway. That marks the end of the major climbs, although the fifth stage, the longest at 228.3km, ends with a short but steep (up to 22%) climb up to Sonntagberg.

The sprinters will have a further opportunity on the sixth stage, and the time trial specialists the following day. The race finishes as usual in Vienna, where the overall winner will be crowned.

Who to watch

Defending champion Kessiakoff is taking part in the Tour de France, but nonetheless Astana are looking to mount a strong defence of the title with Tour of Turkey runner-up Alexandr Dyachenko supported by newly crowned road champion of Kazakhstan, Assan Bazayev and every commentator’s nightmare, Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy. [Every editor’s nightmare too! – Ed]

We'll be watching Carlos Betancur  (image courtesy of Acqua & Sapone)

We’ll be watching Carlos Betancur (image courtesy of Acqua & Sapone)

BMC are pinning their hopes on Brent Bookwalter, Steve Morabito and Ivan Santaromita. Following his third place in the Italian national time-trial championships, Marco Pinotti – winner of the final time trial at the Giro d’Italia – will be looking to take the 24.1km time trial on the penultimate day.

The race also features last year’s runner-up Czech Loepold Konig (NetApp) and a number of Austrians who will be out to impress in their home race including former race winner Thomas Rohregger (RadioShack-Nissan). Those high mountains are going to suit the diminutive climbers such as Giro del Trentino winner Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF-Colnago) and young Colombian and recent Trofeo Melinda winner Carlos Betancur (Acqua & Sapone). At VeloVoices we’re going to be keeping an eye on the latter, number 91. Let’s see what he can do.

Race details

July 1st: Stage 1 – Innsbruck Circuit, 153km

July 2nd: Stage 2 – Innsbruck to Kitzbuheler Horn, 157.4km

July 3rd: Stage 3 – Kitzbuhel  to Lienz, 141.8km

July 4th: Stage 4 – Lienz to Skt. Johann/Alpendorf, 141.3km

July 5th: Stage 5 – Skt. Johann/Alpendorf to Sonntagberg, 228,3km

July 6th: Stage 6 – Waidhofen/Ybbs to Melk, 185.2km

July 7th: Stage 7 – Podersdorf am Neusiedler See, 24.1km individual time trial

July 8th: Stage 8 – Podersdorf am Neusiedler See  to Wien, Burgtheater, 122.8 km

The Tour of Austria starts on Sunday 1st July and concludes on Sunday 8th. For live coverage check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website