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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Monday, February 23, 2015

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Chilean Cyclist Nearing Record Killed in Thailand

Juan Francisco Guillermo, a citizen of Chile, was close to setting a Guinness distance record on an around-the world bicycle ride when he was hit by a truck and killed while riding in Thailand. His wife and two-year old son were traveling with him and were were slightly injured as well.

Forty-seven year old Guillermo was attempting to ride 250,000 kilometers (roughly155,000 miles) while riding on five continents in five years to set a Guinness record.

Juan Francisco Guillermo

Juan Francisco Guillermo

The Bangkok Post related the incident this way:

"Guillermo and his family had made a rest stop at a police checkpoint in Khon Kaen's Phon district on Saturday morning before heading off to Nakhon Ratchasima with the bicycle pulling a carriage. Before they left the checkpoint, Guillermo told a policeman he would later travel to Australia.

"The accident happened when a speeding pickup truck driven by Tiwarat Ratchaipidet, aged 64, scraped the bicycle on the roadside. The cyclist was thrown from the bicycle and died on the spot."

The driver was uninjured and charged with "careless driving resulting in death and injury."

A British couple, Peter Root and Mary Thompson, making the same attempt in 2013 were also killed in Thailand.

Lots of Racing News

We had four big-time races finish today: Tour du Haut Var, Volta ao Algarve, Ruta del Sol and the Tour of Oman. As you might expect, the teams sent out a lot of info about their riders and how they saw the races. Here are the ones I found most intersting, sorted by race. I've got links to results, reports and photos of all four races on the home page.

Tour of Oman Team News

This was from BMC:

"Matrah Corniche, Oman - Tejay van Garderen finished runner-up at the Tour of Oman Sunday and joined the BMC Racing Team on the podium as winners of the team classification.

"For the third straight year, van Garderen finished runner-up in his season-opening race. He was nine seconds behind Tour of Oman winner Rafael Valls (Lampre Merida) while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) finished third, 19 seconds back. Last year, van Garderen was also runner-up at the Tour of Oman, to Chris Froome. In 2013, he was second overall to Daniel Diaz at the Tour de San Luis.

"Van Garderen said his result was both encouraging and motivating. "Sometimes when you win, you get a little complacent and you think you are where you need to be," he said. "When you get second place, it lights a fire and gets you a bit more motivated. I am going to train hard this next week and stay on track. Hopefully, I can bump it up another level at Paris-Nice."

Tejay van Garderen

Tejay van Garderen at the 2014 World Championships

"BMC Racing Team Sport Director Valerio Piva said he hoped there was a chance for van Garderen to make up time on the final 133.5-kilometer stage. But strong crosswinds that were forecast never materialized and a four-man breakaway that led by nine minutes at one point survived to the finish. Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling) took the stage win as the peloton arrived 1:16 later. "We planned to attack where there was a crosswind," Piva said. "But when we arrived in the place where the wind was supposedly going to be strong, it was not strong enough to make echelons. Then, no team wanted to chase."

"Van Garderen said the cancellation of Saturday's stage, a 151.5-kilometer race that was to feature four climbs in the last 60 kilometers, was disappointing in more ways than one. "I wasn't expecting that we were just going to win the race yesterday," he said. "But we definitely had a chance to and I would have liked to have tried, if for no other reason than to get a good race in my legs. We were here to race and I would have liked to have had the opportunity. But we have to live with it and go forward."

"Joining van Garderen on the winning team was Damiano Caruso, Ben Hermans (who finished eighth overall), Michael Schär, Dylan Teuns, Greg Van Avermaet and Peter Velits. Alessandro De Marchi was to be the team's eighth rider, but he was unable to start the six-day race due to illness.

"The victory in the team classification was the BMC Racing Team's second of the season, following a win at the Dubai Tour earlier this month. Van Garderen said he was pleased with how well the team worked around him.

"Sometimes it is funny in the first race of the year, getting to know everybody's riding style a bit," he said. "But we had no issues. Everything fell right into place. It was easy to follow the wheels. The team always knew what to do. It was super professional. It seems like we are already well into the middle of the season. There was very little I had to tell my teammates. They already knew what they had to do."

Here's Tinkoff-Saxo's take on the Tour of Oman:

"This year’s edition of Tour of Oman came to a conclusion on Sunday’s stage 6. The stage saw a breakaway making it to the finish line ahead of the peloton, where Peter Sagan won the sprint in the main bunch. Rafal Majka was the best-placed Tinkoff-Saxo rider, as the talented climber finished 4th in the general classification 32 seconds behind race winner Rafael Valls.

"The short 138km Stage 6 to Muttrah Promenade was decided among the riders of the early breakaway, as the peloton never managed to close the huge nine minute gap that had opened up with only 50km to go. In the front, it was Matthias Brändle that powered to stage victory, while Peter Sagan won the bunch sprint for fifth place shortly after.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan leads in the 2014 Elite Mens World Championship road race.

“In the past, this has always been a sprinters stage. However, it was harder than in previous years. The break went early and the sprinter’s teams left the chase too late. They didn’t really start pulling hard before the 25km marker, which was of course too late. We decided not to take up the chase alone, as we’ve been riding a lot in the front. In the bunch sprint, nevertheless, Sagan proved to be the fastest, so that was unfortunate for us”, says Sean Yates, sports director of Tinkoff-Saxo.

"Despite the absence of stage wins, Sean Yates was satisfied, as he summed up the overall race. “Obviously, we would have preferred to take home a stage win from Oman. However, our season is not defined by our results at this point of the year. We want to start steady and we have our eyes fixed on the major races of the season. At the end of the day, it’s the big stage races and Classics that matter for a team of our caliber. As a group the guys have been riding really well”, says Sean Yates and elaborates:

“Sagan has been up there on several stages, also today, where he won the subsequent sprint in the peloton. So we know that he’s on the right track with his preparations ahead of the cobbled classics”.

Rafal Majka finishes as 4th in the overall standings after strong performances on stage 2 and stage 4 up Green Mountain, where he was among the best on the final, steep climb. It was the first race of the season for the young double Tour de France stage winner, which Yates sees as a positive sign ahead of the European stage races.

“If you look at the history of the race, Rafal was among the all-time fastest up Green Mountain. And considering the big names, such as Rodriguez and Nibali, who were dropped on the climb, I think it bodes well for his possibilities in the spring stage races. He’s a rider on the ascendancy and his teammates obviously respect him as a team leader, as his potential is quite obvious”, finishes Sean Yates, who together with fellow staff and riders seals Tinkoff-Saxo’s Middle Eastern campaign and heads back to Europe for more racing.

And of course, this from Lampre-Merida, the team of race winner Rafael Valls:

"The blue-fuchsia-green cyclist Rafael Valls Ferri won the 2015 edition of the Tour de Oman.

The Spanish rider from Team Lampre-Merida preceded in the overall classification Van Garderen for 9" and Valverde for 19", giving to his team the first success in its history the Tour of Oman: for what concerns the Arab zone, the blue-fuchsia-green team ahd won in 2003 the Tour of Qatar.

"In 2015, Lampre-Merida celebrated victories in three different continents: in addition to the Asian success of Valls, in Europe Cimolai won the Trofeo Laigueglia and in Africa Grmay won the continental time trial title.

Rafael Valls

Rafael Valls wins stage 4 of the 2015 Tour of Oman

"In the last stage of Tour de Oman, Valls defended the red jersey he had worn on Friday on the Green Mountain: the stage had become crucial especially after that the 5th stage had been deleted because of a sand storm.

"Lampre-Merida's riders pedaled for the whole stage next to Valls and allowed 4 rider, who were not dangerous for the overall classification, to escape from the bunch and to reach the arrival (victory for Brandle).

"BMC and Movistar, the teams of Van Garderen and Valverde, tried to prepare some attacks but Lampre-Merida could avoid problems and sport director Philippe Mauduit could celebrate with his rider an amazing victory.

"Positive Tour de Oman for Rui Costa too, 11th in his first seasonal competition, "This victory makes me so happy, I want to share my joy with my team mates and with the team's staff members: I received from them a huge support - Valls explained - Today stage put pressure on our team, but the things went in the best way for us: the four attackers were far from the head of the classification and they prevented my direct opponents to obtain seconds on bonus.
In the final part of the stage, the strong front wind helped us to neutralize the attacks.I'm glad I can give to my team and to the sponsors the victory of the TOur de Oman".

"Rafael Valls Ferri was born in Cocentaina (Spain) on 25/06/1987. He turned pro in 2010 and he joined Lampre-Merida in 2014. Before the victories in Oman, he had obtained the success in the Mirador del Potrero stage in Tour de San Luis 2010."

Tour du Haut Var Team News

This from Giant-Alpecin:

"Luka Mezgec  dug deep to make a select front group on the final stage of the Tour du Haut Var before sprinting to his first victory of the 2015 season. Mezgec also had Chad Haga for company in the front group to help position the Slovenian fast man ahead of the sprint, but Mezgec had to work for it first, jumping across to the lead group after slipping back on the final climb of the day.

Luca Mezgec wns stage 2

Luka Mezgec wins stage 2 of the Tour du Haut Var

"However once in the front group he was fully focused on the final sprint and with Haga's help recovered before the finish to take the win in front of strong company. "It was hard today and at first look at the stage profile I didn't think I could be present at the finish but coach Aike [Visbeek] and the team had confidence in me and looked after me all day so I have to thank them all.

"We made a plan for me to save my legs right until the end where it would matter, and the confidence of the others really motivated me to be there. The guys got me into position at the bottom of the final climb, and at first I couldn't follow the front group but I wasn't giving up there.

"Together with two others I attacked from the second group and managed to jump across to the leaders where Chad was already present. It was a big effort but I managed to recover just before the sprint. Chad then got me into the right wheel and I could do a really good sprint.

"I knew from feelings and the analysis of the numbers in training that I am at a higher level compared to last year but you always need a big result to confirm this for the confidence, so it's good that I've got this win so early in the season." 

And BMC had this to say:

Draguignan, France - On the strength of a runner-up finish in Sunday's final stage, BMC Racing Team's Philippe Gilbert placed runner-up overall at the Tour du Haut Var to Ben Gastauer (AG2R La Mondiale). Gilbert followed up his third place in Saturday's rain-soaked stage with second place behind Luka Mezgec (Team Giant-Alpecin) in the 194.7-kilometer race that was run under sunny skies and warmer temperatures. He also took home the points classification title of the two-day race.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert after stage 2 of this year's Haut Var

The past world road champion said he received good help from several teammates down the stretch. First, Amaël Moinard worked hard over the top of the final climb to help Gilbert's group stay away. Then, Brent Bookwalter attacked in the last five kilometers. Still, Mezgec and a few others were able to rejoin the leading group.

"It is too bad he came back with four or five kilometers to go," Gilbert said. "If Mezgec doesn't come back, I have an even better chance to win. But all of the guys were working well and then Joey Rosskopf really helped me in the sprint by doing a nice lead-out. "This result is good for my confidence because it is a good result in a hard race."

Gilbert's runner-up placing in the stage and the overall were the BMC Racing Team's sixth and seventh second-place finishes of the season, to go along with two victories (both by Rohan Dennis at the Santos Tour Down Under) and four third-place results.

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said he took some positives away from weekend. "Of course for us, most important is the victory," Ledanois said. "But this is not bad for Philippe. This shows he is ready for the classics. He is at a good level and he has had good recovery after his small health problem that kept him out of Trofeo Laigueglia. "Bookwalter, who finished sixth, was the BMC Racing Team's other rider in the top 10 on the final stage.

And there was the Volta ao Algarve

This came from Lotto-Soudal:

"André Greipel has won the final stage of the Volta ao Algarve. It’s the fifth victory of Lotto Soudal this year. For Greipel it’s the first win of the season. In a bunch sprint the German champion beat Tom Van Asbroeck and Rüdiger Selig.

"The stage to Vilamoura was flat with only one climb of third category. The situation changed a few times. First there was a front group of three riders, then it were five and finally seven escapees. The front group was caught in the final kilometers, thanks to the chasing of among other Lotto Soudal. The train of Greipel rode to the front and the German could finish it off perfectly. The overall victory of the Volta ao Algarve is for Geraint Thomas.

"André Greipel: “It’s always a nice feeling to get that first win of the season. The team set up the sprint perfectly for me. They did a great job all day long. A lot of Portuguese teams tried to get in the breakaway. The situation changed a few times, at the end seven riders were in front. We were worried that if they would all work together, they could stay ahead until the finish. Sean De Bie and Stig Broeckx controlled the breakaway. We knew the finish area, which really suited us. We had a plan and it worked out well.”

Andre Greipel wins stage 5

Andre Greipel wins stage 5

“The Volta ao Algarve is a good race for us to lay the foundations for the next races. My condition is good, the same goes for the teammates. The spirit is good, we all worked for one goal. We look forward to what’s coming.”

“It was not easy for me to skip the Tour Down Under this year, I participated seven years in a row. I started the competition later than usual. I had a calmer start and hopefully that pays off during the season and I’ll be more fresh. The same goes for the others who rode a different programme. The next few days will be more relaxed and next weekend the classic season can begin. I will ride Kuurne – Brussels – Kuurne. I’m ready for it, hopefully the weather will be good.”

"It was also race day in Spain. The final stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía was won by Lobato, his second victory this week. Pim Ligthart sprinted to the fourth place. Chris Froome is the overall winner. He beat Alberto Contador with two seconds. Maxime Monfort is the first Lotto Soudal rider in GC on the twelfth place.

"After the first stage of the Ruta del Sol the team had mixed feelings. Pim Ligthart won that day. He attacked with two kilometres to go and he could keep the chasing group at a distance. He became the first GC leader. On the other hand five Lotto Soudal riders were involved in a crash at four kilometres from the finish. On the third and fourth day there was lots of climbing to do and Contador and Froome won a stage. At the end Froome was the best overall.

"Bart Leysen, sports director: “We came to the Ruta to win a stage and get a good GC. With riders like Contador and Froome it was impossible to win the overall. We already won a stage on the first day, a marvelous victory of Pim. But the same stage five Lotto Soudal riders crashed. Louis Vervaeke had to abandon because of a concussion, the others were seriously harmed. We could forget about GC and had to see day by day.”

“It was only on Saturday that most of the riders who had crashed showed signs of recovery. Jurgen Van den Broeck had finished on the eleventh place the day before and finished in top ten on Saturday. Also Maxime Monfort and Bart De Clercq performed better in the second mountain stage and that’s how Maxime has ended up as twelfth in GC. The Ruta del Sol was a success, but without the crash on the first day more would have been possible.”

And LottoNL-Jumbo sent this:

Van Asbroeck second in Volta ao Algarve: ‘Incredible teamwork’. LottoNL-Jumbo’s Tom Van Asbroeck really enjoyed himself during the final stage of the Volta ao Algarve on Sunday, taking an opportunity and sprinting to second behind André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) in Vilamoura.

“Today was incredible,” said LottoNL-Jumbo’s new Belgian. “My team-mates kept me out of the wind all day. They did everything to help. Unfortunately, Greipel was too strong, but everything else was perfect.“I’ve never experienced that before. It made me emotional. I thanked everyone personally.”

“Sep Vanmarcke, Paul Martens and Robert Wagner helped me get in the wheel of Greipel,” Van Asbroeck said. “I started to get a little bit nervous around that moment, because the team had worked so hard for me and now I had to finish it off. I was able to get next to Greipel, but that was it. He found his second gear and won.”

Sports Director Nico Verhoeven really believed in Van Asbroeck’s abilities today. “Our strategy was clear: we put everything on Tom. We knew that he could be a serious contender today. He lost to Greipel, but there is no disgrace in that. Greipel is among the three best sprinters in the world. “I’m pleased that everyone was able to contribute today. We can look back on this stage with a smile. “We were on the right track with Robert Gesink and the classic riders really improved this week, which was one of our main goals.”

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