It's good to have Marcel Kittel back to his best after a rough 2015 season, but you already get the impression that in any race where he's competing the rest of the best are fighting for second.

A couple of weeks ago at the Dubai Tour it was Mark Cavendish who looked off the pace in the head-to-heads, and overnight at the Volta ao Algarve it was Andre Greipel's turn.

Kittel (Etixx-QuickStep) sprinted to victory in the opening stage of the Portuguese race, his third win this month after two and the overall at Dubai.

The German beat compatriot Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) to the line after the 164km ride to Albufeira.

Though Kittel is unlikely to hold it as the race progresses, he now leads the early general classification. The bonus seconds on offer for the winner put him four seconds clear of Greipel and six ahead of Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo), who was third on the day.

“It wasn’t an easy day, and we were aware of that, but we took it as a challenge, because we wanted to prove that we can win also on such a finish," Kittel said.

"We stayed calm, came at the front before the last roundabout, and it all worked well in the end.

"My goal in Algarve was to take a stage and I did it against a quality field, which is very important for my confidence. Now, the team will be more relaxed, will take things day by day and we’ll see if we will get another shot at a win”. 

Friday 19 Feb 2016

World champion cyclist Annette Edmondson has escaped serious injury after a training crash in the Adelaide Hills. But the world champion trackie said her crash could have been much worse.

The 24-year-old was taken to hospital after colliding with a car on Wednesday at 50km/h, but still plans to race early next month at the world track titles.

The impact of the crash left a dent in the side of the car and the impact also snapped the front fork of Edmondson's bike.

Edmondson told the Adelaide Advertiser that she suffered a haematoma on her hip and a "bashed knee".

The 2-6  March  world championships at London's Olympic velodrome are a dress rehearsal for the Australian team before the Rio Games.

Edmondson is one of Australia's key track cyclists ahead of Rio.

She is reigning world champion in the omnium and is also a member of the team pursuit squad that will defend their title.

"I was pretty winded and everything hurt so I spent 30 seconds trying to breathe again, but I was in the middle of the road and trying to move," she said.

"I've had a few crashes before but never with a car ... and it could have been much worse.

"All the scans of my neck and back and knee (came back clear), but I've got a haematoma on my thigh and a bashed knee.

"So hopefully when the swelling goes down it's not too bad."

The Australian track team will take its last training session in Adelaide on Saturday before leaving for the worlds.

Edmondson had just left her home at Crafers in the Adelaide Hills when the collision happened.

She said the driver of the car was rattled and apologetic, adding the collision happened on "a really nasty intersection".

Thursday 18 Feb 2016

Alberto Contador got his season started with a quiet hit out at the Volta ao Algarve, sitting in as the breakaway specialists and sprinters put in a full work day.

"It was a good day but this being one of the first races of the season there is always some tension," Contador said.

With a peloton of nearly 200 riders the race can be tense. I understand there were some crashes but, fortunately, the Tinkoff squad wasn't affected.

"Last year, the start at the Ruta del Sol was quite similar, again with crashes and falls. It was windy but that didn't cause much trouble. The field in the Volta ao Algarve is strong, with excellent sprinters and very good time-trialists, and the race level is similar to that of the WorldTour."

Stage 2 won't be as easy for Contador and his rivals, with a few bergs to navigate before the summit finish. The stage is shaping up as a good on in which to gauge his early season training and preparation as he looks to finish his career with a bang at the Tour de France.


 
"Yesterday, we carried out the recon of tomorrow's stage and I expect it to be tough, although, in my opinion, the main GC contenders will reach the finish together. We will have to wait for the time-trail and the final stage to see how the GC shapes up", Contador said.

 

It was another sprinter who took the opening stage spoils at a race whose official title is the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol, but Ruta del Sol is so much simpler off the tongue.

There it was Tinkoff's Daniele Bennati who finished ahead of Bert van Lerberghe (Topsport Vlaanderen-Baloise) and Juan Jose Lobato of Movistar.

The sprint stage played out as it usually does. A breakaway enjoying some TV time, then a regrouping before the finale.

“Today we set out with the goal to do the sprint with me," Bennati said. Obviously, quite often the races turn out to be different than what you expect, so the breakaway took everyone by surprise.

"It wasn’t our call to bring back the escapees, because there were other teams which were more interested in that. As we had two riders in the GC, I never expected our teammates would pull and chase the breakaway, and luckily other teams did that job.

"Going into the finale my teammates were awesome. Furthermore, with 10 km to go I even had a puncture in my front wheel and my situation got even more complicated. However, luckily, thanks to my good condition I was able to get back in.

"Then (Nikolay) Trusov did an impressive job, taking me back to the front but it wasn't easy as it was a very fast-paced race, at about 60 km/h. McCarthy and Gatto were close to me in the finale and gave me a chance to sprint at the right time and win."

The idea of selling, buying and wearing world championship kit is a fraught one. Should you and would you?

Tinkoff's kit supplier Sportful think you should with the release of an exact replica of the kit Peter Sagan is wearing throughout 2016. 

It's all above board and comes with the UCI's blessing and no doubt happened with the exchange of some coin. 

“This kit will be worn with pride by cycling fans all over the world. Ever since Peter Sagan’s commanding victory last September at the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond (USA), we have been receiving numerous requests to make a replica of his very own jersey available to the general public. This is a clear demonstration of the appeal the UCI rainbow jersey has and the popularity of Peter Sagan. We are happy that we have now received the green light to give our fans the possibility to look like a champion." - Stefano Feltrin, Tinkoff Managing Director.

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Yep, this is how Cipo responded to the wowsers who criticised him for earlier posting a helmetless image. We're sure he'll be criticised for this also but can't quite figure out why.