Backspin: Lance Armstrong alive, Hayden critical and other non-Giro happenings you need to know
While the cycling world continues to ‘think pink’ heading into the third and final week of the Giro d’Italia, we catch you up on a few things you may have missed…
“The rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated” posted Lance Armstrong on his official Instagram account and quoting Mark Twain along with a clip of the 45-year-old Texan shaking his head in disbelief while holding mobile device displaying the headline: ‘BREAKING NEWS: Road racing cyclist Lance Armstrong has died.’
According to the fake story, Armstrong died in a Texas hospital following a secret battle with colon cancer. The story claimed Armstrong’s “daughter” Anna Armstrong posted the news of his death on Facebook. While the real-life cancer survivor does indeed have a girlfriend named Anna (Hansen), he does not have a daughter named as such.
Hayden in intensive care
The 35-year-old Kentucky native suffered head and chest injuries in the accident and has been placed in a coma after being transferred from a local medical facility to the Bufalini hospital in Cesena. The hospital is reporting that Hayden has most likely suffered brain damage as a result of the trauma.
Hayden's team issued a statement on Thursday afternoon, which read: "Red Bull Honda World Superbike Team rider Nicky Hayden was involved in an incident while cycling near Rimini, Italy yesterday afternoon.
"Following the incident, Nicky was treated on site by medical staff and then taken by ambulance to a hospital near Rimini for immediate treatment. Once Nicky's condition was stabilised, he was transferred to Maurizio Bufalini Hospital in Cesena and remains in the hospital's intensive care unit.
"Members of Nicky's team and his fiancee are with him in the hospital.
"We would like to thank everyone for their kind wishes and messages of support and the assistance of emergency and medical services. Once an official statement regarding Nicky's condition is released by the hospital or Nicky's family, a further update from the team will be issued.”
Valentino Rossi, who Hayden narrowly beat to win the 2006 MotoGP world title, was among numerous riders who expressed their best wishes.
Rossi wrote on his Instagram account: "Nicky is one of the best friends I've ever had in the paddock.”
Australian champion Miles Scotson (BMC Racing) was also hit head-on in Belgium just two days before racing against Scarponi at the Tour of the Alps last month. Tour of the Alps would mark Scarponi’s final race and stage win.
Under obviously different circumstances, both Adam Yates (GBR) and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), who has since withdrawn, saw their Giro d’Italia general classification hopes dashed due to a freak run-in with a parked motorbike on the side of the road on Stage 9.
“Seeing the Scarponi death was a bit freaky, partly because I had just raced against him at the Alps, but also because I had a car kind drive in to me head-on [prior to the race in Austria],” Scotson recently told Eurosport during a joint interview with the Australian edition of Cyclist Magazine.
“Somehow I bounced and my bike was in 10 pieces and broke the windscreen on the car. I was essentially unharmed aside from cuts, bruises and stuff, but like Scarponi, it can happen so easily and it made me realise if I had landed a bit differently what could have happened.”
In more positive news, the men’s and women’s pro cycling season is in full swing — even outside the confines of the Italian border.
Following a sensational homegrown win from Synergy-Baku Cycling Project’s Kirill Pozdnyakov at the 6th edition of Tour d’Azerbaijan on May 7th, the UCI calendar opened at the Amgen Tour of California with the four-day women’s race first up.
Reigning Olympic champion Anna van der Breggen (Boels-Dolmans) took valuable intermediate sprint bonus time on the final stage, which was won by former two-time world champion Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-High5), to take the overall victory over previous leader and stage 2 winner Katie Hall (UnitedHealthcare) by one second.
“For me it was not a nice day, I mean I’m not a sprinter and I had to sprint for those seconds. And it was scary … Of course the UnitedHealthcare team was really up for me not taking seconds and they tried hard to avoid it, so I’m really happy my team was with me and they gave me the confidence that I could sprint for seconds, and I got the seconds,” said Van der Breggen. “It was a really tough victory — we really fought for it. I needed my team so badly here this day … This is really one [a victory] from the team, and that makes this victory really special.”
“Speaking to both of them, I can tell you that they are both very motivated,” claimed McCarthy. “Peter is always motivated to win and feels like at home here in California.”
Sagan, who is the reigning two-time world road race champion, won Cali in 2015.
As for Majka?
“Rafał has had good form early this season, but has yet to nail a big result,” explained McCarthy. “So he’s pretty hungry to do so now leading into the more important races heading into the Tour de France.
“He’s obviously a pure climber, but the climbs here are a bit more for a punchy rider,” he continued. “Rafał has shown he has the ability on the climbs and he’s a pretty good time trialist for the GC guys, so we will see how it goes. The ambition is definitely to be on the podium.”
But perhaps the most biggest buzz from Cali continues to be the brutal crash of Latvian Toms Skujiņš, who took a heavy spill on stage 2 on Monday.
The 25-year-old two-time ATOC stage winner, who was clearly injured, bravely attempted to remount his bike and finish the race, was forced to withdraw after doctors discovered the xx-year-old had sustained a concussion, a left collarbone fracture and severe road rash.
“I’m feeling all right,” said Skujiņš following the crash. “I’m really bummed, of course. Besides that, I’m healthy. I’m good. We’ll assess with the team doctors and figure things out moving forward. Thank you to all the messages from my fans and my friends — but I won’t be able to answer them because I shouldn’t be looking at my phone.”
Van Vleuten sharp following Middle East Peace Tour break
One rider who has well and truly put her own terrible crash behind her is Orica-Scott’s Annemiek van Vleuten, who showed no signs of rust following an ambassadorship trip to the Middle East Peace Tour, a seven-stage UCI-sanctioned sportive set in Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine in March 2018.
The 34-year-old Dutch cyclist won the 121km Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria on Tuesday (May 16) and continues to show the stellar form that netted her three top 5 finishes during the Ardennes Classics, including a podium at Amstel Gold Race (third), a fourth at Flechè Wallonne and fifth at Liège-Bastogne-Liège all within a span of eight days in April.
“I really didn’t expect to take the victory today, I was disappointed that I was sick during the training camp and I thought I wouldn’t be the strongest today,” explained van Vleuten. “Of course sometimes with cycling you don’t have to be the strongest to win.
“It was definitely better than I expected, we always had control with the whole team.
“Georgia Williams opened an attack on the final climb but she was brought back and then myself and Garfoot could follow Shara Gillow (FDJ) and Eider Merino (Lointek),” she continued. “It was a super steep climb and at that moment I could no longer follow but we had a small downhill so when I came back to Garfoot, Gillow and Merino on the small descent half-way through the climb I attacked right away.
“I led the race solo all the way down the final descent to the finish and I was thinking about last time I was in this position (Rio Olympics), so I did not want to make any mistakes,” van Vleuten concluded.
“I think everyone here is in really good form so I am looking forward to the races this week. At a race like this everyone in the team can have their own shot and of course this is a really good way to start the racing here.”