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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Saturday, August 15, 2015

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

Today's Racing

In France the 2.1-rated Tour de l'Ain finishes today as does the women's 2.1-ranked La Route de France

Continuing through Sunday the 16th are the Eneco Tour and the Arctic Race of Norway.

The next big race will be the HC-ranked USA Pro Cycling Challenge, starting Monday, August 17 and running through the 23rd.

O.P. Munjal, Hero Cycles boss and co-founder, dies at 86

To those of the western world, the brand Hero Cycles might not mean much. But Hero Cycles is, in fact, the largest maker of bicycles in the world. Company founder Om Prakash Munjal was a giant in the bicycle industry and an extraordinarily successful entrepeneur. His passing must be noted.

His passing was reported thus in The Times of India:

LUDHIANA/NEW DELHI: India's 'Cycle Man' and founder of Hero Cycles, Om Prakash Munjal, died at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital in Ludhiana on Thursday morning after a brief illness. He was 86 and is survived by a son and four daughters. 

Munjal not only gave Ludhiana the unique identity of being the city of cycles, but also shaped the industry in the country by entering the international club of leading cycle manufacturers. 

Born in a small business family in Kamalia on August 26, 1928, Munjal, along with his three brothers — Brijmohan Lall, Dayanand and Satyanand — started a bicycle spare parts business in Amritsar in 1944. Later they moved to Ludhiana and set up Hero Cycles in 1956. He was married to Sudarshan, who died in February this year. 

Entrepreneurs looked at him as an example of grit and determination. Munjal's success story bears testimony to the fact that a business empire can be created from scratch by sheer hard work and the spirit to take on challenges.

OP Munjal

O.P. Munjal

From a production capacity of 639 bicycles a year in 1956, Hero Cycles now manufactures over 18,500 cycles a day, the highest in the world. With 48% share of the Indian market, this volume catapulted Hero Cycles, which has four manufacturing units with 7,000 employees, into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1986. Since then, the brand has been able to maintain its leadership in the cycle manufacturing industry. 

The 86-year-old industry legend was facing health issues for the past few months. Munjal had last month ceded chairmanship of Hero Motors group and retired from active role in the business. His son Pankaj Munjal succeeded him as the chairman and managing director of the Group. 

Eneco Tour team reports

Understandably pleased, LottoNL-Jumbo sent this news:

Wilco Kelderman swapped out the overall lead in the Eneco Tour on Friday with Team LottoNL-Jumbo team-mate Jos van Emden in a tough stage over the hills in Dutch Limburg. Van Emden led the race after his victory in Thursday’s time trial in Hoogerheide.

FDJ’s Johan Le Bon won the stage out of a breakaway formed with Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Garmin) that made it to the line in Sittard-Geleen. In the closing moments of the race, Kelderman hunted down the two leaders with a small counter-attack. He managed to limit the time loss to nine seconds, just enough to take the lead. The difference with Van Baarle, who slots into second overall, is only one second.

“It was a successful day,” Kelderman concluded. “I’m pleased that the leader’s jersey remained within the team. I’m in white now, which is a nice boost. As a team we will defend the jersey over the coming days as a team. The final stages suit me, but there are a lot of strong riders here. We’ll try our best. It’s going to be hard. Anything could happen.”

Rain created messy conditions in the stage, and when water started pouring down, the race exploded. Kelderman saw an opportunity, and took it. “When we started the local laps, it began to rain and it got hectic. Ultimately, the chase never really got on, and when Wellens and Greipel went, two strong riders, I knew I had to jump. It proved to be a good move.”

Wilko Kelderman

Wilco Kelderman in his leader's jersey

Sports Director Nico Verhoeven complimented Kelderman with his move. “As we were the leader’s team, we led the chase for a long time. When it started raining it became a different race, several riders started believing they had a chance. Wilco’s move was what we needed; he saved the jersey. He perfectly knew what to do. Moreover, he took time on some rivals.”

Jos van Emden lost the white jersey in Sittard-Geleen, but nevertheless looked back on a great day. “I’ve enjoyed it. The start was three kilometres from my home in Veldwezelt, and so the local fan club showed up this morning. The fact that I’ve lost the jersey does not feel like losing. I would have liked to wear it another day, but this is fine. I fought for what I was worth and the jersey is still with the team. It was a beautiful day.”

Van Emden praised the teamwork during the stage. “My team-mates surrounded me all day long. In the finale, when Wilco was gone, I tried to shut down the chase, which worked. I was strong uphill and able to counter attacks from some of Wilco’s competitors .”

This is from Lotto-Soudal:

The fifth stage in the Eneco Tour was announced to be a little Amstel Gold Race. Between Riemst and Sittard-Geleen, the peloton had to ride 179.6 kilometres and 27 hills needed to be climbed. At first, the speed was very high in the peloton so the riders weren’t able to get away. Eventually two riders managed to set up a breakaway, Johan Le Bon and Dylan van Baarle were in it. When the riders entered the local laps, it started to rain tremendously hard. Because of that and also due to the hard work of BMC, the peloton split in several groups.

Tiesj Benoot, André Greipel and Tim Wellens were very attentive and they were in the first peloton. Greipel then attacked at the end. His teammate Wellens, Preidler, Cort Nielsen and Kelderman joined him. Greipel really did a great effort to close the gap to the leaders but they remained at the front. Le Bon won the stage after a late attack. Lotto Soudal animated the stage and finished with three riders in the top ten. Due to the enormous effort of mainly Greipel, Wellens is now fifth in the GC at nineteen seconds of the new leader in this Eneco Tour, Wilco Kelderman. Greipel reinforces his red points jersey, he has now 79 points in that classification. Sports director Herman Frison reviews this heroic stage.

Andre Greipel finished Eneco Tour stage 6

A wet André Greipel finishes Eneco Tour stage 6

Herman Frison: “It was impossible for the riders to escape in the beginning of this stage because of the high pace in the peloton. Eventually two riders got away, from that moment on we waited. BMC had to ride for Van Avermaet and Gilbert so we could step back a bit. When it started to rain, the peloton split in several groups but Tim Wellens as well as Tiesj Benoot and André Greipel were very alert and were in the first peloton. Greipel attacked but then waited for Tim and his companions. Together they tried to bridge the gap on the two leaders, but unfortunately that wasn’t possible. Tiesj was in a group behind them and could slow down a bit. André really gave his all, also Tiesj and Tim were very strong. I’m really proud of these guys. Certainly in the way they raced, with a lot of dedication and willing to do it well.”

“The goal remains the same. We already won a stage, so that goal is fulfilled. For the general classification, we will see who will be the favourite. We have two candidates at this moment, Tiesj and Tim. Tim has a better position in the GC for the moment but we’re going to aim for the best possible classification. Both of them are in good shape, they’ve showed that again today. It’s difficult to predict who will become the main leader, we’re going to wait how the race will evolve and then we’ll see.”

And here is Tinkoff-Saxo's Eneco Tour report:

Together with the rest of the field, Tinkoff-Saxo faced difficult terrain of twisting roads and punchy climbs on stage 5 of Eneco Tour won by Johan Le Bon. The squad made multiple attempts to fragment the diminishing bunch and finally had Valgren, Juul-Jensen and Rogers in the decimated main group.

Rogers still sits 10th in the GC after stage 5 in Belgium, where Kelderman took the overall lead. According to team sports director Patxi Vila, Tinkoff-Saxo rode an active stage with several attempts to split the pack.

Johan Le Bon wins Eneco Tour stage 5

Johan Le Bon wins Eneco Tour stage 5

“The stage started out in a frantic pace on tiny, narrow roads that went up and down. Before the stage, I described it as a mini Amstel and we also saw that many riders were very active. We did the first part of the stage at 51km/h, so it was very, very intense. Our strategy was to put Brutt in the break and as it was brought back in, Boaro did another attack. Both of them spent much energy but made it to the finish safely, so they are obviously in a good shape”, says Patxi Vila before adding about the final part of the stage.

“As we went into the second half, we tried to save as much energy as possible with Rogers, Valgren and Juul-Jensen, who made a move as we entered the final circuit with 35km to go. We wanted to create a small, select group and ramp up the pace but nobody went with him. He had a 35 second advantage but let himself get reeled back in. Then the rain started. At some point the visibility was very low and everybody simply tried to survive”.

Despite the attempts, a two-man breakaway made it to the finish, while Rogers remains in the GC top ten.

“A group of five riders chased a breakaway of two guys and they made it to the finish less than half a minute ahead of the main group, where we had Valgren, Juul-Jensen and Rogers. Mick is still in the top ten in the general classification. We will naturally continue to seek the opportunities tomorrow, where the stage also offers difficult terrain”, finishes Patxi Vila.

Arctic Race of Norway team reports

This came from Cult Energy:

The 162.5 kilometer long second of Arctic Race of Norway from Harstad to Setermoen was dominated by a six rider breakaway but the stage was controlled by the Katusha team and  another bunch sprint decision in the Setermoen military camp was expected.

With 35 kilometers to go, the breakaway was split in half and in the meantime, Cult Energy Pro Cycling moved near the front of the field and helped reeling the last standing escapee back in. From then on, IAM Cycling took over the front seat of the locomotive keeping the pace up not allowing any counter-attacks.

In the furiously chaotic bunch sprint, Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon) suddenly found his way through and took the stage win ahead of Federico Zurlo (United HealthCare) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) who retained the overall lead before tomorrow’s 183 kilometer long hilly stage.

Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett wins Artic Race of Norway stage 2

Cult Energy's Rasmus Guldhammer is 11th, Fabian Wegmann 14th and Linus Gerdemann 26th - all three are 11 seconds behind the leader's jersey before tomorrow's uphill finish:

"The team did what they could to join today's breakaway but we just didn't make it. There was a lot of action in the beginning of the stage as everyone seemed immensely interested in getting away. But as the ship sailed off in the distance, we stayed near the front to avoid mishaps. Tomorrow's stage seems to be a better fit for us with the uphill finish and we have three cards to play in the finale and eventually we'll support the one with the best legs in the finale," says DS, Michael Skelde.

Here's Tinkoff-Saxo's Arctic Race update:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Michael Kolar placed 4th behind Sam Bennett on stage 2 of Arctic Race of Norway. Following a keen leadout from team stagiaire Michael Gogl, Kolar launched his sprint from afar but lost positions on the final 300 meters.  

After the stage 2 finish, team sports director Sean Yates says that he noticed improvements on the stage.

“Once again Michael Gogl did a very good job and made a strong leadout for Michael Kolar, who was obviously feeling better than yesterday. Today was more straightforward than yesterday although we witnessed a fast sprint and run-in towards the finish line. The break went early, Katusha and IAM controlled the race and we focused on delivering Kolar in a good position”, says Sean Yates and adds:

“Gogl brought Kolar to the front going into the final kilometer. That took a lot of energy. We can see that Kolar began losing a bit of energy with 300 meters to go after a hard approach to the sprint but today was definitely a much better team effort than yesterday”.

The 155km stage 2 saw Sam Bennett (Bora) take the sprint win before the race heads into the decisive third day, where the riders will face a 3.7km uphill finish.

“Today was not that eventful, it was quite tough although, but tomorrow will obviously be harder with the summit finish. Kristoff is still in the race lead with Boasson Hagen breathing down his neck. We’ll see the riders gunning for the GC coming to the fore tomorrow and we’ll try to stay put in the finale”, finishes Sean Yates.

BMC annouces USA Pro Challenge roster

Santa Rosa, California - The BMC Racing Team's roster for the USA Pro Challenge includes Tour de France stage winner Rohan Dennis, Damiano Caruso - who finished eighth at the Giro d'Italia - and 2012 USAPC stage winner Taylor Phinney.

Dennis won the Stage 1 individual time trial at the Tour de France last month and wore the yellow leader's jersey for one day. The former world hour record holder later helped the BMC Racing Team win the Stage 9 team time trial. Caruso, who was also part of the winning team time trial squad at the Tour de France, makes his third appearance in the race after finishing 12th in 2012 and 14th in 2013. Phinney, who recently made a comeback 16 months after a serious crash, won the 2012 Stage 7 individual time trial in the race that takes place in his home state.

Joining them is Brent Bookwalter, who finished third overall and won the sprints classification Sunday at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and Peter Stetina, who made his comeback to racing in Utah following a serious crash in Spain in April. Past Swiss national road champion Michael Schär, Manuel Senni and stagiaire Kilian Frankiny round out the team's roster for the seven-day race that begins Monday.

Brenk Bookwalter

Brent Bookwalter riding the 2015 Giro's final stage

Riders: Brent Bookwalter (USA), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Rohan Dennis (AUS), Kilian Frankiny (SUI), Taylor Phinney (USA), Michael Schär (SUI), Manuel Senni (ITA), Peter Stetina (USA).

Sport Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA), Jackson Stewart (USA).

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