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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Friday, April 3, 2015

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories

Today's Racing

In France, the single-day Route Adélie de Vitré will be run. We'll post complete results for this 1.1 rated event.

Sunday, April 5 is the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders). Hot Diggity!

New Tinkoff-Saxo Management Structure

In the wake of Bjarne Riis's leaving Tinkoff-Saxo under, er, difficult circumstances, the team announced a new team management structure. Here is the team statement:

Steven de Jongh is named as head of the group of Sport Directors. He will be in charge of the strategic, long-term planning of the team and its race program. Stefano Feltrin, General Manager of Tinkoff Saxo, will assume a more active role in the team's sports operations.

According to Stefano Feltrin this new structure reflects the vision team owner Oleg Tinkov has on the sport of cycling and the need to adapt to modern challenges. “In order to remain at the top of the game, we need to constantly improve. We simply cannot stand still and see our competition reach our level. For that reason, we are implementing a management structure where the notion of Team Manager doesn't exist.  As Oleg Tinkov stated, that was the old way of thinking and it is no longer viable,” commented Feltrin.

Tinkoff-saxo coaches

This photo montage of Tinkoff-Saxo directors and coaches came with the press release.

“We have a very strong team of riders that is led by an excellent group of Sport Directors. Steven has a proven track record and we think he is the right person to become the head of that group, while maintaining his day-to-day activities. I will also have a more active role in the sports operations of the team, sharing with Steven the workload Bjarne Riis had,” concluded Feltrin.

For Steven de Jongh, his new role in the team is both an opportunity and a challenge. “I am delighted to be named head of a strong group of extremely competent Sport Directors. I am aware of the responsibilities but at the same time, I want to continue to raise the bar in this team.

We will not rush and turn everything upside down right now. That would not be wise at this stage. We will stick to the program we have and thoroughly assess our strengths and weaknesses. We will keep what works and try to improve what doesn't,” commented de Jongh.

“Our big goals for this season are the Giro-Tour double for Alberto Contador and the Classics for Peter Sagan. Alberto's preparation for this demanding goal is going exactly as planned. I have been in charge of Alberto for the last year and I will continue to do so this season as well. Oleg Tinkov wanted me to be the head Sport Director at the Giro and Tour, where I will have the expert backup from Sean Yates, so that bodes well with the new structure we have in place. Peter Sagan has two big races ahead, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and we will focus on improving his performance, following the difficult second part of the season he had last year,” concluded de Jongh

Three Days of De Panne and Ronde van Vlaanderen Team News

Reports from the teams came in for both the just finished 3 Days of De Panne and the upcoming Ronde van Vlaanderen. First, De Panne. Below them you'll find the Flanders news.

First, 3 Days of Days of De Panne

This from Lotto-Soudal:

As usual, the last day of the Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde was divided in two parts. There was a morning stage of 111 kilometres to start with. Pim Ligthart joined a breakaway, but in the final kilometres all thirteen escapees were reeled in. The stage ended with a thrilling sprint between André Greipel and Alexander Kristoff. The difference was invisible to the naked eye. The Norwegian became the official winner. In the afternoon an individual time trial of 14.2 kilometres was scheduled. Three Lotto Soudal riders had to defend a place in top ten.

Lars Bak and Sean De Bie were third and fourth respectively in the overall standings before the time trial. André Greipel stood on place seven. World champion Bradley Wiggins set the fastest time in De Panne. Greipel was the first Lotto Soudal rider in the stage result, as eleventh. In GC the German is tenth. Sean De Bie lost one place. The 23-year-old Belgian finishes at 58 seconds of Kristoff, who successfully defended his leader’s jersey. Lars Bak lost three places, following at one second of his teammate De Bie.

Sean De Bie: “Before the time trial it was my goal to stay in top ten, but I was hoping for a place in top five. That I actually finish as fifth in GC is really satisfying. When you look at the other names in the top ten, this is a really strong performance. I took a fast start because the first part was really technical and suited me best. At the time check after 5.4 kilometres I was only twelve seconds slower than Wiggins. At the finish I followed at fifty seconds of him. In the second half of the race I lost the most time. It came down to power, I knew I would lose time there. A time trial over a maximal distance of fifteen kilometres suits me. To show off my skills even better the time trial had to be shorter.”

Lars Bak

Lars Ytting Bak riding the first stage of De Panne.

“I notice I’ve made a big evolution since last year. I feel good and can play a role in my type of races. I proved that in Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke. These Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde are actually three mini classics in a row. In the first stage I laid the foundations for a good GC, by bridging to Lars Bak and Jens Debusschere together with Bystrøm, Devolder and Kristoff. If you want to get a good overall result you have to be very concentrated and be attentive all the time for the corners, wind and all other obstacles on the course. It is tough mentally. That’s why I’m so glad I set such a good result.”

BMC's De Panne report:

De Panne, Belgium - BMC Racing Team's Stefan Küng was runner-up to world time trial champion Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) in the final stage time trial Thursday on the way to a fourth-place finish overall at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.

Aboard his BMC timemachine TM01, Küng was 10 seconds off Wiggins' winning time of 17:49 on the 14.2-kilometer course.

"In the last five kilometers, I struggled a little bit and that might have cost me a few seconds," Küng said. "But in general, I am very happy. I didn't know how my condition was when I came into this race, so to finish it off like this gives me a lot of morale for the upcoming races."

Küng enjoyed his best result since winning the world individual pursuit title on the track in France in February. He had raced only once since then (at Dwars door Vlaanderen), but managed to solo away from the peloton on Stage 1 as it was chasing a six-man breakaway. That performance earned the former BMC Development Team rider a seventh place result, two seconds ahead of the bunch, and set the stage for his high finish overall.

"You could tell he was really hungry for the time trial," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Jackson Stewart said. "At the time split, we had him only two or three seconds down on Wiggins and he managed to keep that second place. It is really impressive to have such a young guy who can do a time trial like this. For us, it shows a lot for the future."

Stefan Kung

Stefan Kung on his stage 3a second-place ride.

Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha) won the race overall on the strength of a record three straight stage wins on the three road stages and a third-place finish in the time trial. In the final standings, he was 23 seconds better than runner-up Stijn Devolder (Trek Factory Racing), 42 seconds in front of Wiggins and 50 seconds ahead of Küng.

Cult Energy's 3-Days of De Panne report:

19 year-old Cult Energy Pro Cycling rider, Mads Pedersen surprised everyone by crossing the finish line in third place in this afternoon’s individual time trial over 14 kilometers. As the afternoon went by and the experienced TT specialists took on their race against the clock, the young Pedersen steadily dropped down the ranks.

No one was stronger than the time trial World Champion, Bradley Wiggins (Sky) who destroyed all competition and conquered the stage win. But Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) defended the overall lead and put the trophy in the pocket for good after three stage wins.

Mads Pedersen

Mads Pedersen

DS, André Steensen comments: "Taking Mads' young age into consideration, I reckon that he pulled a good result in today's time trial. He still had solid power in the legs after three demanding days of racing and I couldn't have asked for more. This morning, Troels was in the breakaway and they managed to stay out there until three kilometers to go. In the pack, Mortensen, Reihs and Russell put Mads in a splendid position right behind Katusha but in the final corner, they lost ground. Naturally, we need more experience to perform better in these kind of finals but we're getting stronger and better all the time."

Team News about Ronde van Vlaanderen

Of course the Ronde matters big time to Belgian squad Lotto-Soudal

It’s the 99th edition of the Tour of Flanders this year. On Sunday 5th April, Easter Sunday, the riders will start at a quarter past ten in Bruges. After a neutralization of 9.2 kilometres the WorldTour race officially starts in Loppem. The peloton then starts a ride of 264.2 kilometres over Flemish roads, full of cobbles and hills.

Nineteen hills to be precise, starting with the Tiegemberg after 86.5 kilometres. Then the peloton heads to the Oude Kwaremont for the first of three times. The first cobblestone sections turn up after the Wolvenberg, the fifth hill of the day. The race then takes the riders over the cobbles of the Ruiterstraat (800m), Kerkgate (2650m) and Holleweg (350 m). After an intermezzo on the Molenberg it’s time for the well-known Paddestraat (2300 m) and Haaghoek (2000 m). Racing over hills like Berendries, Valkenberg and Kanarieberg the riders will reach the start of the second loop.

The second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont takes place with 55 kilometres to go, while the Paterberg lies on the route for the first time that day. Then the peloton heads to Oudenaarde and the Koppenberg where the final can really begin. Then the riders race over the cobbles of the Mariaborrestraat (2000 m) to the Steenbeekdries, immediately followed by the Taaienberg at the end of loop two.

The Kruisberg is the seventeenth hill of the day, at 27 kilometres from the end. Then only two hills are left; first the Oude Kwaremont and immediately afterwards the Paterberg. The last thirteen kilometres there are no cobbles or hills anymore. If the riders want to get rid of their opponents they’ll have to choose the right moment to leave them behind and rely on their time trial capacities to triumph in Oudenaarde.

There are many favourites for the Tour of Flanders like John Degenkolb, Stijn Devolder, Alexander Kristoff, Peter Sagan, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Geraint Thomas, Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke. In 2013 Jürgen Roelandts stood on the podium as third. This year the Belgian wants to set another unforgettable performance. He is really confident after his breakaway in Ghent-Wevelgem.

Jürgen Roelandts: “I’m happy with my current shape and I’m still growing stronger. In Ghent-Wevelgem I gained extra confidence for the next two weeks. Being ill at the beginning of the season hasn’t really affected me. I restarted my season in Tirreno-Adriatico and from then on, I had no stress. I was quite relaxed in the run-up to the Tour of Flanders. It was a better preparation than the past years. I even feel more fresh compared to the same period last season.”

Jurgen Roelandts

Jurgen Roelandts racing the 2013 edition of the Tour of Flanders.

“I expect an open race on Sunday, with a wide range of favourites. The riders who were active in the final of Ghent-Wevelgem, will be there on Sunday too. I think Geraint Thomas is the main favourite. Alexander Kristoff won’t be able to leave me behind on the hills, but I don’t want go to the finish with him. Stijn Devolder is also in good shape. He dares to go for an early escape. Etixx – Quick-Step is a strong as a team, but we are not less strong, the last races we were present in each final. We have got very good riders to race aggressively. We have to trust in our own strength. It’s important to anticipate.”

“I will race certainly more tactically than in Ghent-Wevelgem and I won’t attack that soon. To determine the right time to attack, you have to watch everyone around you: which riders are in this group, how do they feel, do they have teammates with them,…? The Oude Kwaremont is of course one of the most important points on the route, but that climb doesn’t have to be decisive. Although on the second ascent of the Oude Kwaremont we will see fireworks. It would be nice to finish on the podium again. Nevertheless it will be tough to be second or third at a minimal distance of the winner.” 

Ag2R pro Johan Vansummeren had this to say about the Ronde:

"Even though for now it does not really show in my results, I feel good. To prepare for this important race I lengthened my race days as was the case during the Tour of Dubai. Wednesday I have completed a very long day of training. In addition to my own desires, I also want to share my experience. A young rider like [teammate] Quentin Jauregui will ride his first Tour.  

"He is young, it will be very hard going, afterwards it is a thoroughly enjoyed experience. All that can he can learn during this first attempt will serve him for the rest of his career. At the start and along the course, there are always lots of people. This can be very impressive for a beginner.

Johan van Summeren

Johan Vansummeren racing Paris-Roubaix for BMC in 2014

LottoNL-Jumbo sent this Ronde van Vlaanderen note:

Sep Vanmarcke, after third place last year, is embracing his favourite status for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders. “It’s only normal that there is pressure, I put myself under pressure, as well,” said the Belgian classics specialist. “Already since last year, I feel that I can win this race.

“I have no fear, although some of my rivals seem to be in a very good shape. Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara are out, but there are many other contenders left. Geraint Thomas is the fist who comes to mind. He is a very dangerous opponent.

“I think there are five, a maximum of ten riders, who can win on Sunday. The Tour of Flanders is such a heavy race that the favourites will always be up there in the end.”

Vanmarcke hopes to avoid bad luck in the “holy week” that is Flanders and Paris-Roubaix next Sunday. Punctures thwarted him in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Strade Bianche, while in E3 Harelbeke, he was hampered by a broken cleat.

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke racing in last year's Paris-Roubaix

“If I don’t have any bad luck, I can go a long way. Hopefully, I’ll have many team-mates at my side.” He shrugged off Gent-Wevelgem, where he lost ground on the winning group in wind gusts up to 80kph. “It’s never fun if you have to let other riders go, but it happened under exceptional circumstances.” 

The team’s problems with injuries and sickness left Sports Director Nico Verhoeven scratching his head. However, the situation has improved. “The boys trained in nice weather conditions on Wednesday. That was good. They seem to be in a good shape, especially Sep,” Verhoeven said. “That’s a real confidence booster, because a team is as good as its leader.”

Verhoeven expects an open race, where they will mark the major moves for Vanmarcke. “An open race is normally a good thing for Sep. The fact is that he always wants to race, and so he is often up there in the battle for victory. That’s very important. And it won’t be a warm Sunday, which is not a disadvantage for Sep.”

Team line-up: Tom Van Asbroeck, Rick Flens, Tom Leezer, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii, Sep Vanmarcke, Robert Wagner & Maarten Wynants.

Sports Directors: Jan Boven & Nico Verhoeven.

Tinkoff-Saxo will be at de Ronde:

Tinkoff-Saxo, led by team captain Peter Sagan, lines up at Ronde van Vlaanderen ready for “Flanders’ Finest”. As a monument and the most prestigious race of the cobblestone season, together with Paris-Roubaix, Tinkoff-Saxo aims to deliver a team effort to reap the benefits of captain Sagan’s mounting race shape.

After a promising team effort at E3 Harelbeke and a gritty and grueling race at Gent-Wevelgem, Tinkoff-Saxo spearheaded by team captain Peter Sagan now confronts Ronde van Vlaanderen and the 264-kilometer parcours of multiple cobbles and bergs.

Sunday morning, at the start in Brugge’s famous main square Grote Markt, Tinkoff-Saxo will line up Peter Sagan, Matti Breschel, Maciej Bodnar, Matteo Tosatto, Pavel Brutt, Nikolay Trusov and finally Christopher Juul-Jensen, who returns from his hand injury sustained at Milano-Sanremo. Sports director Tristan Hoffman says that Tinkoff-Saxo trust in the race shape of team captain Peter Sagan.

“We really believe in Sagan. I know he has the shape, we’ve seen that, and it has increased steadily over the last weeks, however he has also lacked a bit of good fortune in some random situations during the last races. I’ve talked to the boys and they’re all ready to support him fully”, comments Tristan Hoffman before elaborating on the stature of the race: “De Ronde is the king of the Classics and it’s always decided amongst the biggest favorites. Of course, surprises can happen, favorites can crash or suffer mechanicals, but normally it’s the kind of race, where the strongest goes toe-to-toe in the finale. However, a strong team is crucial in order to arrive at the last 50km fresh before the race explodes on the two times up the Oude-Kwaremont and Paterberg combination and the Koppenberg in between”.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan leads Alberto Contador at this year's Tirreno-Adriatico

Tristan Hoffman sheds light on the team duties in the effort to reach the finish line in Oudenaarde first: “We are ready to work together and take responsibility like we did in E3 Harelbeke. And when it all comes down, if you sit at the front you’ll be less exposed to crashes than if your team is scattered all over the peloton on the narrow roads. Guys like Michael, Pavel and Nikolay will have to pay attention in the first half of the race and then I expect that Matti, Chris and Maciej will be around Peter, when we enter into deeper sections of the race”.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s strong Dane Chris Juul-Jensen is expected to play a central part in the team’s effort to set up Peter Sagan in the finale. However, he was set to race Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke as well as Gent-Wevelgem, but a hand injury sustained in a hard crash at Milano-Sanremo has kept him out until now.

“Thursday, I rode nearly six hours at full speed. My hand is sore but after my training ride, I did a test ride on the cobbles in inner Copenhagen and it was OK. Of course it’s not ideal to ride Vlaanderen with an injured hand but I just have to accept the pain and I think the adrenaline rush you get from riding this race will also numb the pain. I think I’ll have my focus elsewhere, when we find ourselves on the cobbles”, tells Chris Juul-Jensen on his way to the team hotel.

“I was out for around two weeks, but shape-wise I don’t feel as if I have lost power. Maybe I’ve just freshened up a bit in fact. It would have been exciting, if I had been able to ride the other cobbled races, but my forced break also gave me a respite after Tirreno-Adriatico, where I felt strong and therefore also used a lot of energy. Now, I’m just excited about joining the team and helping Sagan on Sunday. Ronde van Vlaanderen always feels like riding through a big party and the atmosphere in Brugge at the start is crazy”, finishes Chris Juul-Jensen.

Race details
Date: 5 March
Total length: 264.2 kilometers
Kind: Cobbled World Tour Classic
First edition: 1913
Last year’s winner: Fabian Cancellara
Best result of Tinkoff-Saxo: 1st  - Fabian Cancellara (2010), Nick Nuyens (2011)

Orica-GreenEdge sent this report about their Flanders plans:

After the past couple of races in Belgium, particularly the Gent – Wevelgem last weekend, it’s hard to believe that the race considered the ‘hardest one-day race of the year’ is still to come. But it is.

The second ‘monument’ of cycling, the Ronde van Vlaanderen or Tour of Flanders, will be raced and won this Sunday and Orica-GreenEdge has named a reasonably young, but strong, eight-man lineup to tackle it.

The carnage of recent weeks has seen two of the big-name favourites in Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen forced to miss due to injury, leaving a more open than usual race for those remaining.

“There are generally only a handful of guys in the world that can win this race,” sport director Matt Wilson said. “They have select attributes that even some of the best guys in the peloton don’t have – guys like Cancellara and Boonen, they just have something else. But with those two guys out, the race is wide open this year.

“We have a couple of guys who are going well in Jens Keukeleire and Mat Hayman. With Mat, the course doesn’t necessarily suit him well, but depending how the race plays out and as I said with a lot of the big players out, anything can happen and he can be there. But really, we have a team here looking towards the future and the big picture so a top ten would be a great result and a success story for us on Sunday.”

Hayman and Keukeleire will be supported by the power of Luke Durbridge and Sam Bewley. The speed of classics specialists Mitch Docker, Leigh Howard, Adam Blythe and Danish neo-pro Magnus Cort complete the roster.

The 264.2km Tour of Flanders course negotiates 19 ‘hellings’ or hills, many of which are cobbled. On a day where a lot can go wrong, the bunch has a high attrition rate and only few will survive to contest writing their name in the history books.

“It encompasses basically every iconic climb in the Flanders region,” Wilson said. “You have a long time before you even hit the climbs from the coast. Generally you have bad weather and then once you hit the climbs for the nuts and bolts end of the race you’ve got 100km or more of just constant up and down, one after the other.

“Together with the cobble sections, it makes a pretty epic race.”

The challenging parcours is one major obstacle but as one of the biggest days of the year in Belgium, the atmosphere can also add a significant volume of stress, particularly for younger riders.

“This race is huge in Belgium,” Wilson said. “It’s like any national sporting event that everyone in the country knows and identifies with. Everyone has their favourite riders and favourite teams and half of Belgium tries to get out a see some of the circuit and that feeling is felt from within the bunch.

“Even at sign on you have 20,000 people there to watch it. And every metre of road, you can be going down a ‘nothing’ part of the race and the crowd will be ten deep.”

ORICA-GreenEDGE at Ronde van Vlaanderen (5 April): Sam Bewley, Adam Blythe, Magnus Cort, Mitch Docker, Luke Durbridge, Mathew Hayman, Leigh Howard, Jens Keukeleire.

Jens Keukeleire

Jens Keukeleire is scheduled to ride the Ronde

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