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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Thursday, October 9, 2014

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Andy Schleck Retires Because of Knee injury

Andy Schleck, the 2010 Tour de France winner, announced his retirement from professional cycling today. He has been unable to recover from a knee injury that was the result of a crash in the 2014 Tour de France's third stage.

Schleck, only 29, says that sustained, hard riding is no longer possible and the doctors can see no way to repair his knee. At a press conference today, he said, "While the ligaments have healed, the damaged cartilage is another story. I have been working hard on rehabbing the knee but came to the hard realization that at the risk of irreversibly injuring it, this is the best course of action."

Though his 2014 Tour de France crash is the proximate cause of his retirement, Schleck never really came back from a fall in the 2012 Dauphiné where he injured both his spine and his knee. Schleck was unable to start the 2012 Tour de France and never again racked up a top placing in an important professional race. He did finish 20th in the 2013 Tour.

Schleck has racked up some impressive results over a career that with his being just 29, should be at its peak right now: Here are some highlights:

Andy and Frank Schleck

Brothers Andy and Frank Schleck at the start of this year's Tour de France. Photo ©Sirotti

Thursday, October 9 Races

Two important races are on tap for Thursday, October 9. Both are ranked 1.1 by the UCI. I may be a little late in posting results for Coppa Sabatini. My apologies.

Tinkoff-Saxo for Paris-Bourges

This release came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo embarks on the penultimate race of the year on European soil. We’re sending 8 riders to compete in Paris-Bourges spearheaded by Matti Breschel and Roman Kreuziger. Sport Director Tristan Hoffman comments:

“We have a strong team ready for Paris-Bourges, which is a fast race on rolling roads and with some smaller climbs in its second part. I think Matti has a good chance to do a fine result, especially if we’re able to decimate the peloton. The guys are all motivated and ready to work hard, knowing that this is the absolute season finale”.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s line-up has been strengthened by the return of Roman Kreuziger. He has shown good shape in Milano-Torino and Giro di Lombardia, and Hoffman expects that he’ll be a significant addition to the team’s chances despite the flat parcours.

“It’s great to have Roman back and he has shown that he has put a lot of effort into his training. Paris-Bourges is a relatively flat race but it kicks up about halfway. I expect him to be there on the hardest parts - maybe the peloton will split or come back together but he’ll definitely be able to create a tough race. Roman is a rider for the stage races, but he has proven himself in one-day races and he’s also fast on the flat”, adds Hoffman.

Tinkoff-Saxo ends the European season in Sunday’s more prestigious Paris-Tour. But Hofman ensures that Paris-Bourges is not a mere training ride with a finish line added at the end.

“Paris-Bourges is a goal in itself. It’s a nice race and the guys know that the season is almost done. Now is the time to give everything and finish off the season in a great way”, concludes Hoffman.

Tinkoff-Saxo will bring this line-up to France: Matti Breschel, Michael Mørkøv, Michael Kolar, Jay McCarthy, Evgeny Petrov, Nikolay Trusov, Roman Kreuziger and stagiaire, Rasmus Guldhammer.

Michael Morkov

Michael Morkov in dots after the third stage of the 2012 Tour de France. Photo ©Sirotti

Team Belkin Signs Two

The Belkin Pro Cycling team signed two new riders for the upcoming 2015 season:  experienced Belgian Kevin De Weert joins from team Omega Pharma-Quick Step and talented New Zealander George Bennett from Cannondale.

“We know Kevin thanks to his previous stint with the team,” said Sports Director Nico Verhoeven. “He has done well in grand tours and at our team, he will do his utmost to assist our classification riders in stage races. “George is a young talent, who we want to allow time to develop and adjust to our philosophy. We expect good things from him in the stage races.”

De Weert finished in the top 20 overall, 16th and 12th, of the 2010 and 2011 Tour de France. In 2003 and 2004, he was part of the Rabobank set-up, after having raced for the continental team for two years. “I’m very pleased with this move,” said the 32-year-old. “I trained under Nico when I was an amateur and always wanted to work with him again as a pro. It’s great that after twelve years that finally is going to happen. Nico brings out the best in me. “I want to assist Robert Gesink and Wilco Kelderman as well as possible in their ambitions for good overall results.”

Bennett had a turbulent year in 2014. The 24-year-old Kiwi did well by finishing ninth in the Tour of Utah, but saw his overall ambitions in Vuelta a España end after a crash. He is looking forward to continue his development with the team next year.”

Kevin de Weert

Kevin de Weert in this year's Tour of Poland. Photo ©Sirotti

Lampre-Merida's plans for Upcoming Italian Races

This came from Lampre-Merida:

Three days of cycling that will give Italian fans the opportunity to cheer Lampre-Merida in three interesting races.

Blue-fuchsia-green team will take part in Gp Peccioli-Coppa Sabatini (9 October), in Giro dell'Emilia (11 October) and in Gp Beghelli (12 October).

Sport director Orlando Maini will count on a selection with a large Italian participation:
- Gp Peccioli-Coppa Sabatini: Bonifazio, Bono, Conti, Dodi, Durasek, Favilli, Ferrari, Mori.
- Giro dell'Emilia: Bono, Conti, Cunego, Dodi, Durasek, Favilli, Mori, Niemiec.
- Gp Beghelli: Bonifazio, Conti, Dodi, Durasek, Favilli, Ferrari, Mori, Palini.

"The course of Gp Peccioli-Coppa Sabatini will give us the opportunity to count on many athletes: Durasek can be a protagonist if the race becomes demanding, on the contrary Mori and Favilli can use their speed in the final part if there won't be a heavy selection. Don't forget the young gun Conti! - sport director Maini said - Giro dell'Emilia's course is the toughest one, that's why I think Cunego, Durasek and Niemiec will be our main riders for this race.

For what concerns Gp Beghelli, it will all depends on how the riders will cover the final circuit and the climb of Zappolino: if the pace will be intense, we can count on Mori and Favilli, who both were on the podium in 2014 edition; if the race will be less demanding, fast cyclists such as Bonifazio and Ferrari can aim to a good result".

Damiano Cunego

Damiano Cunego at the start of stage seven of this year's Vueta a España. Photo ©Sirotti

Team Plans for Tour of Beijing

I won't be posting individual, same-day results for the Tour of Beijing (October 10 - 14), but I will post the final GC.

From Lotto-Belisol:

On Friday, 10th of October, the Tour of Beijing kicks off. This last WorldTour race of the season lasts five days, until Tuesday 14th of October. In Beijing it’s six hours later than in Belgium. That means the finishes are expected between a quarter past ten and twenty to eleven in the morning CEST.

In the opening stage lie three official climbs, the last forty kilometres it’s mostly downhill. On day two it goes uphill immediately after the start, afterwards there are two climbs of third category. The final is flat. On Sunday it’s a really hilly stage, with seven climbs to take points for the mountain classification.

A day later the GC riders will have to go full gas, then there’s a summit finish after a climb of 12.6 kilometres at 5.7% average. On the route lie another climb of first category, two of second and two of third category as well. The final stage takes place in the centre of Beijing, with start on the Tienanmen square and finish at the Bird’s Nest stadium. After 17.5 kilometres the peloton will enter the local circuit where thirteen laps will have to be covered.

Lotto Belisol has selected among other Kris Boeckmans, Adam Hansen and Louis Vervaeke. Beñat Intxausti will defend his title. He will have to compete against men like Rui Costa, Dan Martin and Rigoberto Uran. Fast guys at the start are Luka Mezgez, Moreno Hofland, Sacha Modolo and Danny van Poppel. Sports director Mario Aerts explains the selection and ambitions of Lotto Belisol.

Mario Aerts: “We go to China with a good and motivated team. Adam Hansen and Louis Vervaeke will battle for a top ten place in the overall classification. Kris Boeckmans is our sprinter, he will get the support of Greg Henderson and Boris Vallée. Stig Broeckx, Gert Dockx and Tosh Van der Sande can join a breakaway in one of the stages and work for the team.”

“The stages of the Tour of Beijing aren’t too long. The first two days there’s a possibility for a sprint. We can race offensively by sending a rider in a breakaway. Tosh Van der Sande for example is in good shape and showed himself a few times the past races. I expect something of him. The third stage will be tougher and in the fourth stage the GC will be determined. The fifth stage, a criterium, is of course a big opportunity for the sprinters.”

Selection Lotto Belisol: Kris Boeckmans, Stig Broeckx, Gert Dockx, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson, Boris Vallée, Tosh Van der Sande and Louis Vervaeke.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Jean-Pierre Heynderickx

Stages:

Adam Hansen

Adam Hansen in stage two of this year's Tour Down Under. Photo ©Sirotti

From Team Belkin:

The Belkin Pro Cycling team hopes to show well again in the final World Tour race of 2014, the Tour of Beijing. Sports Director Nico Verhoeven will aim for a stage win and a strong overall with Steven Kruijswijk and Paul Martens.

“We travelled to China with a good sprint train,” said Verhoeven. “A stage win is our goal. We also want to do well in the overall. There is a tough uphill finish where I’ll be thinking about Steven and Paul. As always, we have to wait and see what type of form the riders are in at the end of the season.”

Sprinter Moreno Hofland returned to China this week. Last year, as a neo-professional, he was extremely successful and enjoyed a breakthrough in Asia. In the final stage of the Tour of Beijing, the Dutchman finished on the podium, in third place, for the first time in a WorldTour race and went on to the Tour of Hainan, where he recorded his first victories as a pro.

“China suits me apparently,” Hofland said. ”It’s nice to be back. Hopefully, I can get in the mix for stage victories in Beijing. If you are motivated at the end of the season, there’s still a lot you can accomplish.

“I still want to race. My morale is high and physically I feel fine. Because of bad luck, I haven’t raced a lot this season. I was side-lined for quite a while after my crash in the Tour of California, during the Tour of Utah I suffered an infection and I was forced to abandon the Vuelta a España after nine days due to sickness. I’m excited to race again!”

Team line-up: Dennis van Winden, Graeme Brown, Moreno Hofland, Steven Kruijswijk, Tom Leezer, Nick van der Lijke, Barry Markus and Paul Martens.

Sports Directors: Nico Verhoeven and Frans Maassen.

Moreno Hofland

Moreno Hofland rides the 2014 Tour of Romandie prologue. Photo ©Sirotti

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