Posts filed under ‘Interviews’
Three-time maillot vert winner Robbie McEwen rates the contenders in this year’s Tour green jersey competition.
While discussion over the battle for the maillot jaune at this year’s Tour de France has reached fever pitch, there’s still a green jersey up for grabs. We spoke with three-time maillot vert winner Robbie McEwen to get an expert’s view on who will be the man for green in 2009.
McEwen knows more than the average professional about winning the green jersey at the Tour. The likeable Australian has a triumvirate of green triumphs to his name, having won the maillot vert in 2002, 2004 and 2006. He adopts the same meticulous approach to winning the points classification as he does with his preparation in the weeks leading up to those three weeks in July.
He knows which stages he needs to take points on, how much energy to expend and where the classification can be won and lost; essentially, there’s no better man to assess the candidates to succeed where he has in the past. Furthermore, after the retirement of Erik Zabel and before the return of Lance Armstrong, McEwen possessed the highest tally of Tour de France stage wins of any current rider.
With his last win coming in the first stage to Canterbury during the 2007 Tour, Katusha‘s experienced sprinter is still searching for victory number 13, although he’ll have to wait another year before he can have a crack at what’s proving to be an ‘unlucky’ and elusive stage win. An accident during the second stage of the Tour of Belgium meant he’ll be sitting out this year’s edition of la grande boucle.
In the meantime a new world order has emerged amongst the sprinting elite. The rise of British phenomenon Mark Cavendish has ignited a fervour and inflamed the interest of those who love to watch the fast men battle it out for stage supremacy. Comparisons between Cavendish and McEwen have regularly been made and McEwen believes the 23-year-old can take his mantle – for this year, at least – and wear the green jersey in Paris on July 26.
“I still think Cav is the number one man for green this year just because there are 10 flat stages and he’s got the best team,” says McEwen. “He’s likely to build up a lot of points on those stages and it’ll be too hard to overhaul him on just one hilly stage.
“Cav’s going uphill well , too. You don’t even have to go uphill that well – you have to get to the finish in the mountains within the time [limit] and for the rest on the flat stages you’ve just got to score points. That can be enough.”
We asked McEwen what he thinks about the big names likely to be at the pointy end of the race by the finish of the sprinters’ stages at this year’s Tour. While he says it will be a tough battle, he’s clear on who his favourite is.
Injury has plagued Robbie McEwen in 2009 and the Australian has been sidelined through injury for a significant part of the season thus far. With a comeback date announced, Katusha‘s experienced sprinter has his sights firmly set on racing the second half of this season and through 2010 while remaining philosophical about missing the second Grand Tour of the year, the Tour de France.
After earlier reports of Team Katusha‘s new anti-doping contract clause being refused by Robbie McEwen and two other teammates, the Australian has issued a clarification statement.
“I am not against an addendum to my contract with Katusha in relation to anti-doping as such,” said McEwen on his website, adding that he was merely examining the new clause under legal aspects before wanting to sign them.
The addendum states that riders will have to pay a fine of five times their annual salary in the event of a sanction given for doping offenses.
“I have been legally advised that the terms of the addendum to the contract are not judicially correct as well as being too vague and broad in their definition of what constitutes a breach, as there is no reference to existing official anti-doping guidelines.”
“I fully support the principles behind the anti-doping stance of my team and when the issues concerning the details of the addendum are clarified, I will add my weight to the Katusha Team campaign.”
He also stated that contrary to what had been reported, a number of other riders of his team had not yet signed the new contract clause. “Andrei Tchmil claims that except for [Gert] Steegmans, McEwen and [Kenny] De Haes everyone else has signed which is actually not true,” he said. “A number of other riders have not signed the annex including Toni Colom and Joan Horrach.”
McEwen is currently healing a knee injury, hoping to come back to racing in the second half of the season.
Oleg Tinkov, the man who laid the foundations for what is now the Katusha cycling team, is critical of the squad’s Giro d’Italia performance. Having witnessed it first hand whilst visiting the race last week, the Russian businessman and former owner of the Tinkoff Credit Systems outfit wasn’t impressed with the latest incarnation of the team he created two years ago.
“From what I’ve seen there’s no team. They’ve five times more money, but not even the two wins we had last year,” Tinkov said on Saturday.
Tinkov transferred his former team – Tinkoff Credit Systems – to Russian Igor Makarov and became president last May. By September, Tinkov believed that he lacked complete control over the decision-making process and resigned.
The team raced as Team Katusha – with riders like Filippo Pozzato, Gert Steegmans and Robbie McEwen – starting in January. It has 15 wins to date, including Pozzato’s win in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen and Serguei Ivanov‘s win in the Amstel Gold Race.
“I understand that the Giro is preparation for the Tour de France, but for me they didn’t put in any big named riders in the Giro and it is a bit wrong towards [race director Angelo] Zomegnan.”
Prior to the Giro d’Italia Katusha was rocked by the positive doping case of Austrian Christian Pfannberger. Its star rider, Pozzato, crashed after the first week and did not start stage 14.
Tinkoff Credit Systems won two stages in the 2008 Giro d’Italia.
“There were only six teams at the Giro who won stages this year,” directeur sportif Serge Parsani told on Sunday. “You need a little bit of luck; Tinkoff had men in two escapes last year that the group let go. Unfortunately, this year the escapes did not go.
“I would say overall the Giro was a disappointment for us. The positive thing is that Ben Swift, a young talent, participated in his first Grand Tour and he was up there in the sprints and had some decent results.”
The British rider finished third in stage two and eighth in stage 13.
Tinkov’s current focus is back home in Moscow. He runs a credit agency, Tinkoff Credit Systems, and a chain of 12 micro-brewery restaurants.
“It was a good decision to leave for me [cycling], it was too political and too much structure, that is not my way,” said Tinkov. “I am an independent businessman.”
Despite three hard weeks of racing, Britain’s Ben Swift was a key protagonist in the main break of the Giro d’Italia’s penultimate stage to Anagni. The Team Katusha rider led the charge from the peloton and slipped away at kilometre four with Robert Förster (Team Milram), Felix Cardenas (Barloworld), Angel Gomez (Fuji-Servetto), Pablo Lastras (Caisse d’Epargne), Anders Lund (Team Saxo Bank), Francesco De Bonis (Diquigiovanni-Androni) and Guillaime Bonnafond (AG2R-La Mondiale) for company. “I actually attacked first and I got away on the cobbled climb. I wasn’t expecting to get a gap but the roads were really tight and I almost over-cooked it on the corners,” Swift told Cyclingnews at the finish in Anagni. “After I attacked a group came across and we worked well but the bunch never really wanted us to get away.” The break worked together smoothly, its lead peaking at over three minutes, before a fast moving train lead by LPR Brakes and Silence-Lotto began to chase. “I was caught just as Menchov and started sprinting for some bonus points, but I’m happy that my Giro ended on a bit of a high.” Swift is competing in his first Grand Tour after a having a strong start to the season with his new squad. And after a string of promising places in the sprints over the last three weeks, and surviving the tough parcours the race threw at him, he’s learnt a lot about himself. “The last three weeks have definitely been a good experience and I’ve really enjoyed it. Okay, the last five days have been tough and that eight hour stage really, really hurt me, but now I can rest before the national championships and I’ll crack on from there,” he said.
Filippo Pozzato missed repeating his 2007 win in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday in Gent, Belgium, due to a crash in the final 100 metres of the one-day race, won by Thor Hushovd.
“I would have won today,” the Italian Katusha rider told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I started at 200 metres out and had passed Hushovd when [Sebastian] Langeveld moved and bumped my handlebars.”
Langeveld apologised to Pozzato for the manoeuvre that came at the end of the 204.5-kilometre race.
was disappointed because he felt ready to challenge alongside favourite Tom Boonen and last year’s winner Philippe Gilbert, which he claimed was harder than the edition he won two years ago.
Pozzato will seek revenge in the Eroica one-day race this Saturday in Siena, Italy. He will then have another chance in the Tirreno-Adriatico (winner in 2003) and the Milano-Sanremo (winner in 2006).
“Unfortunately victory at Het Volk [renamed Omloop Het Nieuwsblad this year – ed.] slipped away as it did in the Trofeo Laigueglia. I have confidence going into the coming races; I will win something of importance.”
It will be the third edition of the Montepaschi Strade Bianche – Eroica Toscana. The race is held on le strade bianche (white gravel roads) roads in and around the Tuscan city of Siena. The Tirreno-Adriatico, March 11 to 17, comes in the next week as a lead-up for Milano-Sanremo, March 21.
Danilo Napolitano missed his second career Tour of Qatar stage win by one position Tuesday. The Italian discovered that the tactics of the Belgians – like winner Tom Boonen – gave that extra bit of advantage needed to take the victory in stage three.
“Team Quick Step did well; they had good representation with three men. They are more accustomed to this wind since they are from Belgium,” said Napolitano of Team Katusha.
The 137.5-kilometre stage from Al Zubarah in Qatar’s north to the country’s capital city of Doha featured a strong north wind that helped split the race into small groups. Napolitano made the select move of 26 riders with teammates Filippo Pozzato and Denis Galimzyanov.
“I did this race last year and I know that the stages can be windy every day. It is a strange race. In Qatar it is a race of the wind.”
Pozzato followed the early move of a Cervélo TestTeam rider in the stage’s finale. Napolitano positioned himself well for the sprint behind Boonen.
Steven de Jongh led teammate Boonen to the finish line. Napolitano found himself boxed in when De Jongh’s work was finished. He finished second to Boonen and ahead of Jürgen Roelandts (Silence-Lotto) and Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam).
Napolitano also finished second in stage two to Briton Roger Hammond, but then it was a late break by the english riders.
The six-stage race, February 1 to 6, continues Tueday with a 141-kilometre stage from Doha to Qatar’s north, in Madinat Al Shamal. It will be another flat stage that is suited for the sprinters.