Steve Cummings and Peter Kennaugh are part of the British-based Team Sky’s line-up for the Etoile de Bessèges stage race, starting today (Wednesday).
Cummings (pictured) is already on good form, having placed fourth at the French season-opening Grand Prix la Marseillaise on Sunday. The man from the Wirral contested the bunch finish at the end of the UCI 1.1-ranked event won by Frenchman Jonathan Hivert (Saur-Sojasun).
Manxman Kennaugh, 20, made his Team Sky debut in the race, and finished 85th.
“It was really good to see Steve up there and the whole team was in the big group,” said Team Sky sports director Marcus Ljungqvist, making his debut behind the wheel of a Jaguar team car after retiring as a rider with Saxo Bank last year. “Everybody was looking good and we have a strong team for Bessèges.”
The two Brits are part of the same eight-man Sky line-up for Bessèges that rode the GP Marsellaise: Cummings, Kennaugh, John-Lee Augustyn (RSA), Michael Barry (Canada), Sylvain Calzati (France), Davide Vigano (Italy), Nicolas Portal (France) and Morris Possoni (Italy).
Ljungqvist has ridden Bessèges several times himself, so knows what is in store for his team. “Saturday looks pretty tough on paper. They have probably found all the climbs around and put then in one stage. That is going to be the hard one,” he said.
“Other stages may be windy, but I think we have a few guys here who can fight in the wind.”
“It was my first race being in the car. A couple of months ago I was still on the bike, so it was bit strange, but fun.”
Calzati has a good history at the race, having placed second overall in 2004 behind Laurent Brochard (Ag2r).
Bradley Wiggins had originally been named in Sky’s squad for the race, but will now make his debut for the team at the Tour of Qatar (February 7-12).
Lloyd gets a call up
British pro Daniel Lloyd has been named in Cervelo Test Team’s line-up for Bessèges, drafted in to replace Thor Hushovd. The Norwegian sprinter is delaying the start of his racing season due to illness. It’s Cervelo’s first outing of the 2010 season.
Etoile de Bessèges is a five-stage, UCI 2.1-ranked race held from Wednesday, February 3 to Sunday, February 7. Wednesday’s first stage is a 146km route from Aigues Mortes to Le Grau du Roi in the south of France. All of the race’s stages are relatively short.
Last year’s race was won by Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom), who will wear the number one plate in this year’s event.
Etoile de Bessèges 2010: Stages
Wednesday February 3: Stage 1 – Aigues Mortes to Le Grau du Roi, 146km
Thursday February 4: Stage 2 – Nîmes to Saint Ambroix, 141km
Friday February 5: Stage 3 – Pont Saint Esprit to Bagnols sur Ceze, 148km
Saturday February 6: Stage 4 – Ales to Ales, 148km
Sunday February 7: Stage 5 – Gagnières to Bessèges, 145km
Total distance: 728km
Etoile de Bessèges 2010: Teams
An Post-Sean Kelly
Bbox Bouygues Telecom
Cervélo Test Team
Française des Jeux
Etoile de Bessèges: previous winners
2009 Thomas Voeckler (Fra) Bbox Bouygues Telecom
2008 Iouri Trofimov (Rus) Bouygues Telecom
2007 Nick Nuyens (Bel) Cofidis
2006 Frederik Willems (Bel) Chocolade Jacques
2005 Freddy Bichot (Fra) La Française des Jeux
2004 Laurent Brochard (Fra) Ag2r-Prevoyance
2003 Fabio Baldato (Ita) Alessio
2002 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Lotto-Adecco
2001 Nico Eeckhout (Bel) Lotto-Mobistar