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By Andrew Hood
Cervélo TestTeam has been the surprise of the 2009 spring classics.
The new squad has been racking up impressive results, including podiums in the opening three classics with Thor Hushovd (third at Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix) and the sensational Heinrich Haussler (second at Milan-San Remo and Flanders).
That trend continued this week with Dominique Rollin notching his first European podium with third at the Belgian semi-classic Scheldeprijs on Wednesday.
“We are very happy with the classics. We are content with the performances of all the riders,” sport director Jean-Paul van Poppel told VeloNews. “We are very happy; we couldn’t complain even before this race started. We wanted to do do well because it’s the last big race in this first period.”
Van Poppel said Hushovd’s third-place podium at Paris-Roubaix helped erase the disappointment of watching his team leader crash into the barriers on the Carrefour cobblestones when he was pulling clear with eventual winner Tom Boonen.
“Unfortunately it happened to Thor when he was in a good position. I think he could have gone with Tom to the finish. I think he was strong enough for that,” he said. “We are super-happy with the podium spot, but without that crash, it would have been more. It happened at the wrong moment in the race.”
Driving in the team’s lead car, the Dutch director had a front-row seat for the chaos and mayhem along the late, decisive cobbletstone sectors, but he stopped short of calling for more restrictive crowd control.
“That’s how it is in Roubaix. I think it’s good that there were a lot of spectators, but it’s also super dangerous,” he said. “I had to move my mirrors a few times back in. I don’t think I hit people, but I think I hit a few flags. It was all too fast to know what’s going on. We had the crash with Thor, we couldn’t move up.”
Van Poppel said the biggest surprise has been the outstanding performances by Haussler, who just missed victory in Milan-San Remo and sprinted to second at the Tour of Flanders.
Haussler was also strong at Paris-Roubaix, but held back to mark the wheel of Sylvain Chavanel when the moves went late.
“He keeps surprising us. We’re all waiting until he cracks down, but he doesn’t,” Van Poppel said. “He was pretty good again (at Roubaix). When Thor came into a good position, there was no reason to chase with Haussler.”
The team switches gears this weekend ahead of the Amstel Gold Race, where Simon Gerrans and Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre will try to pick up where Haussler and Hushovd left off.
American Ted King, back from an injury suffered during the Tour of California, is expected to start, along with Rollin.
Looking ahead to the Giro, the team also released a list of 12 riders that are preparing for the May grand tour.
Van Poppel said he’s confident Sastre will be ready to make a run for the Giro final podium despite a quiet start to the 2009 season.
“He’s just doing his preparation, doing his training and living healthy, and getting into good shape for the Giro,” he said. “We think Carlos can do a good Giro, it will be tough. The goal is the podium. We’re going to try. We will support him there.”
Cervélo for Amstel Gold Race:
Philip Deignan, Simon Gerrans, Ted King, Daniel Lloyd, Serge Pauwels, Gabriel Rasch, Dominique Rollin, Carlos Sastre
Pre-selection for Giro d’Italia (nine will start)
Iñigo Cuesta, Philip Deignan, Simon Gerrans, Volodymir Gustov, Jeremy Hunt, Thor Hushovd, Ted King, Ignatas Konovalovas, Daniel Lloyd, Serge Pauwels, Hayden Roulston, Carlos Sastre