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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Thursday, April 9, 2015

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Today's Racing

Two races today, both are stage races that started a few days go. The Spanish World Tour Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), and in France the 2.1 ranked Circuit Cycliste Sarthe-Pays de la Loire.

Paris-Roubaix is Sunday

BikeRaceInfo's links to complete results for every edition of Paris-Roubaix

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Paris-Roubaix news:

Sep Vanmarcke will arrive eager at the start of Paris-Roubaix in Compiègne, France. The Belgian Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider wants to set the record straight after a disappointing Tour of Flanders last weekend. “I’m ready to give it a go again,” said Vanmarcke. “The Tour of Flanders didn’t go as I hoped it would, I would’ve liked to get a better result.

“I have something to make up for on Sunday. I’ll be extra eager. Especially since Roubaix is my last chance. I will answer everyone with my bike. I’ll do everything to achieve a good result.”

Vanmarcke and some of his team-mates are preparing for the 'Hell of the North' in Wednesday’s Schelderpijs [note, already raced, won by Alexander Kristoff, VanMarcke finished more than five minutes down].

“The Scheldeprijs is a good race to get some racing kilometres under the belt with the team ahead of Paris-Roubaix. I hope to do my job for the team and dot the I’s for Sunday.”

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke at last year's Paris-Roubaix

Nico Verhoeven thinks his team has learned from the Tour of Flanders. The sports director evaluated the race extensively along with Jan Boven and the riders.
“We talked about the things that didn’t go well on Sunday during the race’s debriefing,” Verhoeven said. “We have closed the book, but taken the key improvement points with us for next Sunday.   

“The series of races beforehand went just fine,” Verhoeven continued. “We see it as a separate incident. Our confidence is still high and we’re aiming to fight for a podium spot until the very last second in Roubaix.”   

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.

Lampre-Merida sent this note about their Paris-Roubaix plans:

Cyclists and bikes from Team Lampre-Merida are ready to face the Paris-Roubaix.
The eight riders that have been selected to race in the Hell of the North are: Niccolò Bonifazio, Davide Cimolai, Chun Kai Feng, Manuele Mori, Nelson Oliveira, Luka Pibernik, Filippo Pozzato and Maximiliano Richeze.

In the team car there will be sport directors Mario Scirea and Daniele Righi.

The race will start in Compiegne and will end in Roubaix after that the riders will have covered 253.5 km and 26 cobblestones sectors (52,7 km).

On Thursday, Lampre-Merida will pedal on the most demanding cobblestone sectors by starting at the the Arenberg sector around 10-10:15 am.

In the blue-fuchsia-team there will be one athlete who has made it to the race podium (Pozzato, 2nd place in 2009) and there will be the first Taiwanese ever to take part in the Paris-Roubaix (Feng).

Boonen and Pozzato

Filippo Pozzato follows Tom Boonen in the 2009 Paris-Roubaix

Some notes about the bikes that the team's mechanics prepared for the cyclists:
- 17 Merida Ride
- 8 Merida Reacto Evo, as third spare bike
- 40 pairs of wheels - tires inflated to 5 - 6 bar
- chainrings of 53/44 or 46 and cassette sprocket 11/25
- Prologo saddles with CPC technology

Team Reports from the Scheldeprijs

This came in from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Co-captain Michael Mørkøv reported great shape after crossing the finish line of Scheldeprijs out of contention for the win due to a massive pile-up that struck the front of the pack in the final sprint. Both of the team’s captains Mørkøv and Trusov were dragged down as the sprinters detonated towards the line. Only 12 riders escaped from the crash, where Alexander Kristoff went on to win.

A massive crash at the front of the pack sprinting for glory threw a spanner in the works for Tinkoff-Saxo and the team’s chances at the Belgian one-day race Scheldeprijs. After more than 199km of racing, team aces Michael Mørkøv and Nikolay Trusov were dragged down in a big pile-up, as they initiated the sprint for the line. For Michael Mørkøv the disappointment was just as big as the relief of escaping unharmed.

“It's a huge disappointment to race well for 200km and then be stopped by a crash 300 meters before the finish. The race went very well, it was an easy one with nice weather and we could take it a bit more relaxed than the past races. Both Nikolay and I tried to go for the sprint and we were in a very good position, thanks to the hard work by all our teammates who helped us in the last kilometers”, says Michael Mørkøv and continues:

“Unfortunately, we were both involved in the crash but on the positive side, I didn't suffer any injuries. I felt really well today. I had a sensation that I hadn't felt in quite some time now and that added even further to my disappointment. I had very good legs, I was ready to go for the sprint but the pile-up put an abrupt end to that”.

Michael Morkov

Michael Morkov enjoying the 2013 Vuelta a Espana

After catching the long breakaway of the day, Peter Sagan rode in support of Tinkoff-Saxo’s designated sprinters Michael Mørkøv and Nikolay Trusov, who were delivered at the front of the pack before the sprint. Eventually, it was Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff, who sealed Scheldeprijs in front of Edward Theuns (Topsport Vlaanderen) after 200 fast and flat kilometers of racing in Northern Flanders.

Of Tinkoff-Saxo’s seven riders, Nikolay Trusov was affected the most by the crash as he hit the deck at high speed. Fortunately, the strong Russian didn't incur any serious injuries. Team DS Tristan Hoffman explains the situation.

“It truly is a pity that the crash took place in the final sprint. We raced all day in the front and stayed out of trouble, especially in the many turns that this parcours has. Trusov was in a good position for the sprint, seventh or eighth, but with the huge crash in front of him it was impossible to brake or go around. He went full speed over the handlebars but he doesn't seem to be too bad. I was shocked when I saw the crash and I feared for the worst but, fortunately, we got away without any serious trouble”, says Tristan Hoffman, who now, while breathing a sigh of relief, looks ahead to the “Queen of the Classics” Paris-Roubaix:

"The focus is now on Sunday and the Paris-Roubaix. The guys looked good today, and they were in the front during the race showing good signs. They also rode their Roubaix bikes and we are ready for the Queen of the Classics”.

Here's Cult Energy's Scheldeprijs report:

Today’s 200-kilometer long and cobbled Belgian semi-classic, Scheldeprijs was dominated by a long-lasting breakaway but a bunch sprint was in the cards from the get-go. CULT Energy's Michael Carbel was in a solid position with 2 kilometers to go but a big crash kept him out of contention and destroyed the finale for CULT Energy.

Laurens De Vreese (Astana), Frederik Backaert (Wanty), Kenneth Van Blisen (Cofidis), Matteo Busato (Southeast), Vincent Jerôme (Europcar), Huub Duyn (Roompot) and Tanner Putt (UnitedHealthCare) formed the initial breakaway in today’s 200 kilometer long semi-classic, Scheldeprijs. But in the peloton, the interests in a bunch sprint were stronger than the breakaway riders’ combined power and for a long while it was simply a game of cat and mouse.

Entering the first of three crossings of the finish line with 50 kilometers left, the gap was only 2 minutes and ten kilometers later, Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Martin Mortensen launched an attack on a cobblestone section trying to bridge across and undoubtedly wanted company. However, no one was as eager to jump as he was and he decided to drop back to the chasing pack animated by Katusha and Tinkoff-Saxo.

With 8.3 kilometers remaining, the gap was shaved down to merely 15 seconds and Sky took over the reins of the pack and immediately brought back the escapees. The Cult Energy riders were sitting in a very comfortable position behind the Katusha train with two kilometers to go but going under the red kite, a massive crash marred the finale and only about 20 riders made it to the finish line. Here, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took another superb win.

Mads Pedersen

Mads Pedersen at this year's Three Days of De Panne

DS, Michael Skelde reports: "Our plan was to support Michael Carbel throughout the race so he could join in on the expected bunch sprint but Mads Pedersen was given permission to play along as well. Unfortunately, the first riders on the deck crashed right in front of Mads and it was a matter of two or three positions and he would have made it in the first group. Carbel was obstructed by the crash as well but was a little further behind. I'm happy about their effort in the finale but of course not about the result. But these kind of things happen in cycling and that's why it's crucial to stay as close to the head of the field as possible in these situations. Fortunately, none of our riders are injured other than the usual loss of skin after the close encounter with the asphalt."

And We Can't Forget the Tour of the Basque Country Stage 3

This is from Lampre-Merida:

A lot of climbs in the 3rd stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco and a course that was not suitable for the characteristics of Rui Costa. Despite these facts, the Portuguese rider from Team Lampre-Merida could limit the gap using his huge determination and exploiting the support by an outstanding Polanc.

The stage started in Vitoria and finished in Zumarraga after 170.7 km and 8 KOMs: its major moment was on Alto de la Antigua, 2500 meters with maximum slopeof 13.5 % and averageing 9.6%.

Despite the fact that this climb was not completely suitable for the Portuguese cyclist from Lampre-Merida and that his condition did not allow him to be protagonist, Rui managed to limit the gap at the summit of the GPM (3 km to go) and he was able recover seconds in the downhill to the arrival.

Rui Costa

Rui Costa in last year's Tour of Switzerland

Lampre-Merida’s's captain crossed the finish line in 21st position at 26" to the winner Rodriguez, who beat Henao and Quintana in the sprint.

It is important to point out that Polanc realized once again a superb performance, giving his support to Rui Costa in the very final kilometers, after that during the stage the help of the team mates had been very good

Polanc, 22 years old from Slovenia, recently was force to stop in March because of a fracture of his scaphoid.

This Pais Vasco (Basque Country) news is from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Rafal Majka followed up on a team effort at Vuelta al País Vasco by finishing fifth on the highly undulating third stage, 7 seconds behind stage winner Joaquim Rodriguez. Bouncing back from a stomach flu, Majka showed that his form is on the ascendency and, together with his Tinkoff-Saxo teammates, he now approach the queen stage finishing atop a first category climb.

After no less than eight categorized climbs, stage 3 of País Vasco was concluded in a decisive second ride up Alto de la Antigua and the subsequent, short descent down towards the finish line in Zumarraga. Rodriguez, Quintana and Henao broke loose on Antigua and had 7 seconds to a four-man chasing group including Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka upon crossing the line.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s sports director Patxi Vila was pleased with the outcome of the stage and notes that the importance of positioning in the pack had called for strong teamwork throughout the stage.

“It was a very hard stage and our guys made a big effort to ensure that we were in a good position for the critical parts. Majka’s fifth place is a fine result for him and the team, as it shows that he’s getting better. He said that he felt strong during the stage, of course he lacked the last power to keep up with the trio on the final part of the last climb, but he is definitely getting there”, explains Patxi Vila.

Stage 3 of País Vasco presented the riders with 170.7km of climbing combined with fast downhill sections – a typical and tiring combination for racing in the Basque Country. After crossing the line, Patxi Vila identifies the key point of the race and sheds light on the team strategy.

“Constant climbing and windy conditions meant that there was a lot of tension in the peloton. Positioning was crucial and we had six guys at the front of the pack in an effort to protect Rafal and make sure that he stayed out of crashes. A critical point was the first ascent of Alto de la Antigua, where we knew that it was very important to enter the climb among the first”, tells Patxi Vila and adds: “As we witnessed, riders eventually had to walk up the last steep part and the main group split into pieces. However, we had issued the whole team to enter the climb in the front and afterwards Pawel Poljanski made a great effort on the steep part by setting a hard tempo and we eventually made a selection of around 30 riders including Rafal and Pawel”.

“We can now embark on the queen stage tomorrow in sixth place overall and we will try to fight for the GC, since Rafal is doing well. It’s a different stage tomorrow with a much longer final climb and we still have a lot of racing in front of us”, underlines Patxi Vila.

Rafael Majka

Rafael Majka climbing in the 2014 Tour de France

Pawel Poljanski witnessed the effect of the short but steep Alto de la Antigua, which the riders had to confront twice with 32 and 4 kilometers to go.

“Today, it was important for us to stay at the front and when we reached Antigua the first time, Rafal said to me that I should pull hard at full gas to secure a good position. We created a group of around 16 guys on the top with only 30km to go, but together with a Katusha rider, I was the only one who pulled and Movistar didn’t seem to be interested. A group bridged the gap from behind, which was a shame”, says Pawel Poljanski, who reckons that it’s possible to further the position of team captain Rafal Majka.

“Personally, I feel better than Paris-Nice, still my shape is not at 100 percent but I’m working to reach top shape. However, today was motivating and we want to keep doing our best on the next important stages. Our work is definitely not done and the race is still very open, as we try to bring Rafal higher in the GC”.

Ahead of the queen stage, Rafal Majka sits sixth, 7 seconds down on race leader Sergio Henao.

And finally there's the Circuit de la Sarthe

Tinkoff-Saxo was busy today. Here's their Sarthe news:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Manuele Boaro put in an effort on the TT in Circuit de la Sarthe and came home with a fifth place behind stage winner Adriano Malori. Michael Valgren finished 9th and enters the top ten alongside Boaro ahead of the hilly GC-deciding stage Thursday. Earlier, team sprinter Michael Kolar had finished 6th on the flat, fast morning stage.

After the TT, team DS Nicki Sørensen declared that he was satisfied with the result and the starting point the team captains now have going into the final two decisive stages.

“We had hoped for a victory today in the TT, but we are satisfied with how Boaro rode. He took fifth place but I think he could have done better at the end of the day. We are very pleased with Michael Valgren’s performance, he is strong but TT’s aren’t his favorite discipline. However, he showed that he is capable in short intensive time trials and he starts tomorrow as leader of the youth classification”.

Zaugg and Kolar

Michael Kolar (right) with Oliver Zaugg earlier this year

Two stages remain in Circuit de la Sarthe. Sørensen believes that there’s still more to gain. “We are definitely optimistic before the last two stage, with tomorrow being a very hilly and challenging route. We have two strong cards to play and I believe that they can do well. Hansen, Kolar, Juraj Sagan and Jay McCarthy will play an important role in supporting our two captains and they are up for the task”, adds Nicki Sørensen.

Manuele Boaro finished 5th in the individual time trial in Angers and now sits 7th overall with 20 seconds to Adriano Malori (Movistar), who won the TT with a 9-second margin. Also within the top ten is young Danish champion Michael Valgren, whose 9th place conte-la-montre was enough to put him in 10th place overall, 2 seconds further behind.

Earlier on the day, the riders had to tackle a short 83.9km stage. Here, Michael Kolar showed good signs by finishing 6th on the stage, which was decided amongst a three-man break, with FDJ’s Anthony Roux proving the fastest.

“I take it as a good sign that Michael was the third fastest in the peloton, especially since he didn’t reckon that he had done an optimal sprint. Circuit de la Sarthe is not the biggest race on the calendar with all the biggest sprinters but he’s definitely showing signs of improvement in terms of his sprint”, tells Nicki Sørensen, who adds that the sprinter’s teams left it too late on the stage.

“The peloton nearly caught the breakaway. It was down to five seconds on the line, but it was up to the sprinters teams to catch the trio. Michael Kolar got some assistance from McCarthy and Juraj Sagan but otherwise he found the right wheel himself and showed that he should continue to work dedicatedly on this aspect of his riding. But for tomorrow, he and the rest of the boys will focus on supporting Boaro and Valgren”, finishes Nicki Sørensen.

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