Gilbert turns it around

We were all talking down Philippe Gilbert six months ago, but that changed with his World Championship win on Sunday in Valkenburg.

“I was trying to find my best shape. I couldn’t help it, it was hard,” Gilbert said in a press conference. “I had three goals: the classics – Amstel, Flèche Wallonne and Liège – the Olympics and the Worlds. At least I won one of them.”

The Belgian joined BMC Racing on a three-year mega-contract on the heels of a stellar season. This spring though, he was far from his best and the knives came out. By the end of July, he had zero wins compared to last year when he collected 14. Last year, he had won nearly every one-day classic, including all three Ardennes Classics, and at the Tour de France, won the opening stage and wore the yellow jersey.

BMC Racing stuck with its new signing and let him get back to his best slowly.

“I was also really good in the Olympics, but I didn’t win,” Gilbert added. He formed the key escape in London. “When you have big objectives like this, it’s hard to win, but at least I won one of them, so, I’m happy.”

Australian fans will especially remember how Gilbert came close to winning the title in Geelong two years ago. He attacked on the penultimate climb of the final lap and rode away solo. His move faded, however, and ended when joined by a group of chasers three kilometres out.

“Such a defeat makes you stronger, each defeat makes you stronger,” he continued. “I thought about it [Geelong], I knew that I don’t have many opportunities like this in my life. I had to take advantage it.”

Gilbert will race his first race, the Giro del Piemonte, as world Champion tomorrow.

Freire retires on sour note, blames team-mates

Oscar Freire retires on a sour note this year after missing a chance to win a record fourth World title.

“We didn’t follow the plan,” Freire said, according to VeloNews. “We didn’t race very well.”

When Gilbert attacked to win on the Cauberg, Spain’s Alejandro Valverde kept looking back for Freire. Instead of waiting, he shot free in pursuit of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) and Alexandr Kolobnev (Russia).

Alberto Contador and Juan Antonio Flecha tried their luck in early escapes. However, when neither Valverde nor Joaquím Rodríguez attacked in the final laps, it became evident that Spain would race for Freire.

Freire won world titles in 1999 (Verona), 2001 (Lisbon) and 2004 (Verona). At 36 years old, he said that he would only continue another year if he won a fourth title. He saw that chance ride away with Gilbert and Valverde on the Cauberg climb. Valverde managed to win a bronze medal. Had he stayed put, he may have led Freire to a silver medal or perhaps a gold one.

“There were none of my team-mates with me on the Cauberg. … When you’re alone, it’s hard to neutralise an attack and finish it off. Valverde should have waited and not followed the attacks. I was good, but isolated.”

“When Gilbert got to the top of the Cauberg, the only thing left to play for was silver,” Valverde responded in the press conference. “I was covering our bases. I decided to chase a medal.”

Gilbert just too strong, says Gerrans and Nibali

Australia and Italy switched to their back-up plans when Gilbert broke free in the final two kilometres of the Worlds. They sprinted for medals, Australia with Allan Davis and Italy with Oscar Gatto.

“I stuck to my plan and waited and put all eggs in the basket of going on the last lap but Philippe was just too strong,” Gerrans said in a press release. “You can’t be too frustrated when you haven’t got the legs.”

Nibali said his chance was with one lap to go on the Cauberg. When he attacked, though, he found little support. According to Cycling Weekly, he said, “The others were all watching the wheels, even the Spaniards.” He ordered Italy to the front for the last lap for one more effort. “I wanted to try want last time, but when Gilbert took off… Ah…”

He switched gears to lead out Gatto to a possible medal. Davis too focused on his sprint. He placed sixth and said, “Once again another top ten for me in the Worlds.” Gatto placed 13th.

Urán’s BMW stolen

Rigoberto Urán (Colombia) ended his ride in the World Championships looking for his BMW car. According to TuttoBici, he was due to travel on Monday to Italy for the Piemonte and Lombardia races, but was unable find his car in the Novotel Hotel parking lot in Maastricht. After he filed a police report, he flew to Italy where he will race with team Sky.

Armstrong case: Death threats to Tygart

French newspaper L’Equipe published an interview on Monday with the man responsible for uncovering Lance Armstrong’s lies. United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) prosecutor, Travis Tygart spoke of death threats and Johan Bruyneel.

Threats

Tygart explained that since the BALCO case that stopped Marion Jones and Barry Bonds, the agency has heavily secured its offices. He explained that he started receiving death threats after Floyd Landis confessed.

“One [death threat] for me and my family when the Landis confessions came out. The FBI dealt with them. We reacted quickly. My office is now inaccessible to visitors. The blinds are down and the cameras are on 24/7. [The Armstrong case] resulted in three death threats, all made by individuals I think. Once again, the FBI is involved.”

He said that when he went after Armstrong he was he is doing his job. He has to follow the rules with Armstrong, who is “just like any other citizen.”

“He is and will remain a hero to many. I love sports. Shattering dreams and legends doesn’t excite me. … But the mandate of the Agency is clear: we are there to defend clean athletes and that’s what we do.”

Bruyneel

Armstrong admitted defeat rather than face an arbitration panel. However, long-time friend and team manager Johan Bruyneel will be heard before the end of the year.

“I don’t know what he hopes for, he has everything to lose. … The hearing will be public. Lance Armstrong also may be called to testify, under oath. Like all the others. In this game there is no safety net. If he lies under oath, it’s serious.”

The USADA stripped Armstrong of every win, including all seven Tour wins, from August 1, 1998. Before doing so, Tygart spoke with him on the telephone twice – they never met – and offered him a chance to cooperate. The investigation files, he said, will be sent to the Union Cycliste International (UCI) by the end of the month.

Read full translation of Travis Tygart’s interview with L’Équipe

Tour 2013 to climb Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez?

The Tour de France next year will climb the Mont Ventoux and the Alpe d’Huez two times, according to French newspaper Le Dauphiné Libéré.

The Tour last visited the Ventoux climb in 2009, when Spain’s Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank) won. According to the newspaper, the “Giant of Provence” will feature at the beginning of the third week.

The riders will climb up the Alpe d’Huez twice on July 18, according to the article. The stage will start in Gap, climb the mountain continue to the Col de Sarenne and down the other side. (Crews will need to asphalt the roads.) The stage will then loop back around for another go at the Alpe’s 21 hairpins.

Two days later, one day before the finish in Paris, the race may visit Semnoz for a time trial. ASO will present the official route on 24 October in Paris. It already announced that the 100th edition will start and stay in Corsica for three days.

Giro 2013 to climb Galibier

Organiser RCS Sport will present the 2013 Giro d’Italia on Sunday, one day after Lombardia. Last week, it announced the race will visit France to climb the Col du Galibier on May 19.

The 15th leg will start in Cesana Torinese and travel towards Susa to climb the Colle del Moncenisio. It takes on the Col du Télégraphe and then, from Valloire, climbs 18 kilometres to the summit of the Col du Galibier at 2642 metres.

According to Cycling Weekly, the day before the race will climb the Jafferau at 1908 metres. This week, RCS Sport released a 2013 preview video to wet our appetite:

Cavendish ends year and (possibly) Sky contract

Mark Cavendish ended his year as world champion on Sunday, bowing out after 156.3 kilometres. He said he his season is over and that “hopefully” it is the start of something new.

“On to new things now, hopefully,” he told VeloNews. “So, we’ll see what happens.”

The Brit is speaking with Sky’s top brass about annulling his three-year contract. After one year, he realised that his aims clash with the team’s general classification push. Brad Wiggins won the Tour this year, but also won the Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné stage races.

Cavendish added, “I’m never happy unless I can get the maximum amount out of myself. I don’t think I got the maximum amount of myself this year.”

According to some reports, team OmegaPharma-Quick Step and Cavendish have agreed already and that the announcement is imminent.

Australian McCarthy signs for Saxo -Tinkoff

Queenslander Jay McCarthy will make his pro debut with team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank next year. The team announced on Monday the 20-year-old signed a two-year contract, through 2014.

“His future in cycling looks bright, if he can continue developing as a rider,” team owner, Bjarne Riis said in a press release. “It is crucial for him and us to now focus on his progression rather than results.”

McCarthy won the prologue of the Tour de l’Avenir while racing for Team Jayco-AIS. The French stage race is billed as the Tour of the Future and it highlighted McCarthy’s talents for Riis.

“I know it will be tough at times and I’m ready to work hard to progress,” McCarthy added. “I will be pushed, but it is part of a bigger plan. So I’m really looking forward to next season.”

The fastest bike change ever

Blink and you’ll miss it…

Orthokine therapy OK for footy

The Age reported yesterday about the use of Orthokine therapy within six AFL clubs to treat which involves injecting of player’s own blood to treat soft tissue injury and to speed up recovery. The blood is incubated in a test tube containing small glass beads before it is re-injected to the injured area over a series of three or four injections. At first this may seem akin to blood doping however ASADA has released a statement saying, “WADA has previously advised ASADA that it considers Orthokine a variation of the Platelet-Derived Preparations (PRP) method, commonly referred to as blood spinning. Under WADA’s Prohibited List, Orthokine is not prohibited for use in sport.” In simpler terms, it’s permitted for use in sport.

It’s unclear by looking at the ASADA substance database whether or not Orthokine therapy is permitted for cycling, however UCI Regulations prohibits injections that have the aim of artificially improving performance or helping recovery. It means riders can not inject vitamins, sugars, enzymes, amino acids or antioxidants to aid recovery. It is hoped this ban will contribute to the eradication of doping by greatly reducing the use of injections in cycling.