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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Saturday, July 4, 2015

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Today's Racing

Today both the Tour de France and the Tour of Austria (Osterreich Rundfahrt) begin. We have Official Tour de France start list with back numbers posted. We've done the same with the Tour of Austria.

The Giro Rosa (Women's Tour of Italy) continues with a 102 km stage going from Kamnik to Ljubljana.

David L. Stanley now BikeRaceInfo.com contributor

Update: Mr. Stanley has just sent me his first piece, his prediction for the final 2015 Tour de France podium.

Few posts give me more pleasure than this one. David L. Stanley, who did such a fine job of voicing the audiobook versions of The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories and Cycling Heroes will become a contributor to BikeRaceInfo.com.

Mr. Stanley is not only a talented voice artist, he is also an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). He blogs regularly for Dads Roundtable. Here's his Facebook page.

I know you will enjoy his writing. He's planning on doing several pieces on the Tour de France for us as the race unfolds.

David L. Stanley

The golden-throated David L. Stanley

Lars Boom out of Tour? No, He Isn't

I've left the story posted late Friday, July 3 below the current report:

UTRECHT, Netherlands (AP) -- Astana team manager Alexandre Vinokourov confirmed Saturday that Lars Boom will start the Tour de France despite questions raised over his testing results.

Pre-race tests on the Dutch rider in the Kazakh-funded team showed a low cortisol level, which can indicate cortisone doping but is not conclusive proof of doping

Astana is part of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), a group of teams holding to stricter anti-doping measures than those of cycling's governing body. MPCC rules stipulate that a rider with a low cortisol level should be rested for a minimum of eight days.

After the UCI denied Astana's request to replace Boom with Alessandro Vanotti, Vinokourov decided to keep him in the race, which starts later Saturday with a time trial.

''Astana Pro Team will start the 2015 Tour de France with nine riders, including Dutch cyclist Lars Boom,'' the team said in a statement just hours before the start of the first stage, a 13.8-kilometer (8.6-mile) time trial in Utrecht.

Astana, the team of defending Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali, added that it was told by the UCI that a low cortisol result is ''no risk to the health of the rider, therefore there are no valid grounds for a late substitution.''

The team added that Boom, who won a stage on cobblestones at the Tour last year, was cleared of any wrongdoing and that his low cortisol result was linked to the use of an ''anti-asthma therapy.''

''Astana Pro Team medical staff will continue to monitor Boom to assess any potential health risk for the athlete, and will retest the athlete in the next days with independent medical supervision to clarify the origins of the results,'' Astana said.

Astana - which could have opted to start the race with eight riders - could potentially be thrown out of MPCC, an umbrella group for several teams who are working to keep cycling doping-free.

Astana has been answering many questions of its own in recent months, after five senior and development squad riders were caught doping with EPO and steroids since last August.

Cycling's governing body, UCI, has even said there were ''compelling grounds'' to request that Astana, which is backed by the Kazakhstan government, be stripped of its license altogether.

''Our license was called into question but never taken away,'' Nibali said at a news conference Friday. ''We've paid the price for the riders who doped, but we can't pay the price for mistakes we haven't made ourselves.''

Here is the late July 3 Astana story:

UTRECHT, Netherlands (AP) -- Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali's under-pressure Astana team requested teammate Lars Boom be removed from cycling's showpiece race for anomalous blood-testing results announced Friday.

Low cortisol levels can indicate cortisone doping but are not conclusive proof of doping. Astana is part of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC); a group of teams holding to stricter anti-doping measures than those of cycling's governing body. MPCC rules stipulate that a rider with a low cortisol level should be given a period of rest.

''At 2pm on July 3, Astana Pro Team received analyses from the UCI's independent anti-doping agency CADF from blood tests administered to its nine Tour de France riders on July 2,'' Astana said in a statement. ''According to the CADF notification, rider Lars Boom has a healthy and permissable level of cortisol for the Tour de France that is however too low for applicable standards from the MPCC.''

About one hour after receiving the notification, Astana held a press conference at which Boom was present alongside Nibali. There was no mention of this during the news conference.

Astana then asked the UCI to replace Boom with Alessandro Vanotti, who ''will arrive in the Netherlands Saturday morning to undergo physical and blood tests and await a UCI decision on the matter,'' Nibali's team said. Astana's request was denied by the UCI, which said the proposed swap came too late.

Lars Boom

Lars Boom at a pre-Tour press conference.

''As per UCI Regulations, teams can't change their starting list after the sports directors meeting has taken place,'' the UCI said. ''The UCI is committed to apply its regulations consistently and will therefore not authorize any team to change its starting list now.''

Because low cortisol levels are not conclusive proof of doping and his levels were within the UCI threshold, Boom can still be allowed to start Saturday's first stage - an individual time trial in the Dutch city of Utrecht - if Astana decides to go against the MPCC recommendations.

The MPCC said he should be rested for ''health'' reasons. ''In case of abnormally low cortisol levels, competition will resume after an additional 8-day rest minimum, and back-to-normal cortisol levels,'' the MPCC said.

Astana has been answering many questions of its own in recent months, after five senior and development squad riders were caught doping with EPO and steroids since last August.

Cycling's governing body, UCI, even said there were ''compelling grounds'' to request that Astana, which is backed by the Kazakhstan government, be stripped of its license altogether.

''Our license was called into question but never taken away,'' Nibali said at a news conference earlier Friday. ''We've paid the price for the riders who doped, but we can't pay the price for mistakes we haven't made ourselves.''

Lotto-Soudal's Tour preview

This came from the Belgian team:

Tomorrow the 102nd Tour de France can finally start. The individual time trial in Utrecht is the only one for the riders during the three Tour weeks. Sunday there is a completely flat stage along the possibly windy Dutch coast, the day after it’s a short stage in Belgium with start in Antwerp and finish on the Mur de Huy and on Tuesday it’s a very long stage with some tough cobblestone sections. That’s going to be a spectacular start of the Tour.

The team and its riders already shared their ambitions the previous days: winning a stage with sprinter André Greipel  and giving the other riders an opportunity to race aggressively in other stages so they can aim for a victory as well. For Marc Sergeant the Tour may start.

ndre Greipel

André Greipel

Marc Sergeant: “I know for sure that we came to Utrecht with a homogeneous team. I thought that when we made the selection, but you immediately feel it those first days. Everyone, the riders and staff, do what they have to do. Not stressed, but focused. That’s why the experience in our team is very important. Riders like Greipel, Henderson, Sieberg, Bak and Hansen are riding the Tour together for the fourth consecutive year. The others can easily join in. For guys like Tim Wellens and Jens Debusschere it’s fun to be part of this team as a debutant. And that has to become one of our strengths the next weeks. One for all, all for one.”

“Each team has its objectives. But we want to be one of the teams who have managed to achieve those when we get to Paris. That’s first of all a stage win with André, a goal where the other riders can play a part in. It’s true that the amount of bunch sprints will be limited to about five, but it’s more realistic to aim for a victory on one of those days than to predict that one of our other riders will win a stage. That’s our second goal: animate this Tour by racing aggressively but in a sensible way. I don’t find it necessary to be in the break of the day each day; we want to play a role in the finales. And if that means we have to join a breakaway early in the stage, then we will.”

“The first days might cause tension and sensation. I’m curious to see which of our riders might surprise us in the time trial, but for us the ‘real’ start is on Sunday. We did a recon of the last part of that stage and perfectly know what we can expect. On Monday we start in Antwerp and finish in Huy. What’s more beautiful than riding such a stage as Belgian team? There will be a lot of people at the side of the roads and we have riders that know the finale and are capable of setting a good result. The stage to Cambrai will be a bit different. Very long, but because of the cobbles in the finale there will be a race inside the race. On the one hand between the GC riders, who want to lose as little time as possible, and on the other hand between the specialists who will strive for the stage win. We have a lot of riders who have experience in the spring classics, so I hope we can show ourselves that day.”

Giant-Alpecin Tour de France news

This was sent to me by the team:

This Saturday the Grand Départ of the Tour de France takes place in Utrecht, The Netherlands, a country with as many bicycles as people. Team Giant-Alpecin will line up once again with the goal of achieving stage wins in sprint stages with difficult finales, intermediate/transition stages and mountain stages.

German sprinter John Degenkolb will lead the team, with a focus on obtaining good results in reduced sprints. With Warren Barguil (FRA), Georg Preidler (AUT) and Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), the team brings three Tour debutants to Utrecht. Barguil’s challenge will be to discover his capabilities in the Tour, which will be an important step in his development as a GC rider.

Other riders representing Team Giant-Alpecin in the team’s fifth start at the Tour include road captain Roy Curvers (NED), who is starting his fourth Tour, and reliable lead-out men Koen de Kort (NED) and Albert Timmer (NED), who have both participated in all the editions of the Tour de France that the team has competed in thus far. The lineup is completed by Tom Dumoulin (NED), who is aiming for a good result in the opening time trial, and Simon Geschke (GER), who together with Dumoulin returns for his third Tour.

John Degenkolb

John Degenkolb enjoyed the 2015 Milano-San Remo.

John Degenkolb (GER): “I think we will have lots of opportunities, and it would not be smart to focus on only one kind of stage. A lot of people say that the cobblestone stage 4 could be an opportunity for me, but I think we have the flexibility to compete also in other kinds of stages, so we should be prepared for every scenario.

“In the sprint stages with a difficult finale we have a good chance to get a result. I am maybe not the number one favorite in the flat stages, but I see myself as one of the contenders. I have a great team around me, so the chances are pretty good and I am confident. I would be very satisfied with one stage win. I’ve tried hard the last two years, and this year I am in a really good form and feel relaxed.

“Regarding the green jersey, we have to consider that day-by-day. If I want to compete for it I will need to mix it up in the intermediate sprints as well, which costs a lot of extra energy, so we’ll have to see.” 

Warren Barguil (FRA): "I think I am ready for my first participation in the Tour de France, which is special for me as a French rider. My goal is to continue the progress I have made in this team and see if I can fight for a stage victory.

“In 2013 I won two stages in the Vuelta, and last year my aim was to go for a GC result, which went quite well with eighth overall. Now the aim is to continue this trend at the Tour de France.

“My expectation is that it will be a hard and stressful race and I would love to reach Paris in my first participation at the Tour.” 

Tom Dumoulin (NED): “It is very special to start the Tour de France in my home country and I hope for a lot of support along the roads, the presentation was already a great event yesterday.

"Wednesday I did some last intensive training and today we went out on the time trial bike around Utrecht. Tomorrow morning I will do a last recon of the course as part of the final preparations for the prologue. I am getting more and more excited and I am really looking forward to it.

“I prefer not to consider myself as the one and only favorite, because that is simply not the case. Of course, the yellow jersey is interesting. But I don’t think about it all day and force myself to win. I can also be satisfied with second or third." 

Simon Geschke (GER): "I am happy to be here at the start of the Tour and to leave my spring season behind, which was not easy because I was focusing on the Ardennes classics and crashed a couple of week before, breaking a collarbone.

"Missing the classics gave me the chance to combine the Giro and the Tour, though, which is the good side of it. I hope to play an important role in helping the team achieve success. Especially with our focus on the sprint stages with a difficult finale I can have my share in the sprint preparation.” 

Roy Curvers (NED): “I want to be part of a successful team, as we aim at a stage win. The only way of realizing this is through teamwork, and I want to have an important share in that as a team captain.

“In general, I will have my regular role as team captain in this Tour de France and guide the tactical plan we make as a team every day. In sprint stages I will have my spot in the sprint preparation.” 

Koen de Kort (NED): "This year I went to Sierra Nevada for altitude training for the first time. This is usually what climbers do, but it turned out to be very helpful for sprinters as well.

"The team worked hard trying to find specific points where we can improve, and I’m happy I got the opportunity to try it. I actually feel better than I ever have at the start of the Tour, and it’s exciting to start in my home country. I’m looking forward to a great opportunity for us.” 

Marc Reef (NED): “We are ready and we can't wait to get started. In everything that happens here in Utrecht you notice that something big is about to happen. It is really nice to see all the events that are organized in the city, which is totally in style for the Grand Départ.

"We get a lot of attention from both press and fans and we expect a lot of people in Utrecht, which motivates and inspires us a lot.

"At the upcoming opening weekend we will immediately have some goals towards which we have been working all season, and we will look to accomplish them with a lot of confidence.” 

BMC plans for Tour of Austria

This came from BMC:

Santa Rosa, California - Peter Velits of the BMC Racing Team makes his return to competition Saturday at the Tour of Austria following successful surgery to correct an overuse injury to his left leg.

The past Slovakian national time trial champion and rider on the BMC Racing Team's world champion team time trial squad underwent the procedure April 2. He said his rehabilitation and training has been slow, but with steady progress.

Peter Velits

Peter Velits

"The process is long, but my power is coming back," he said. "You need a lot of patience and to listen to the doctors and their advice. I didn't want to rush anything and that was a good decision. I am happy how supportive the team has been in giving me enough time to recover and build again. In Austria, I am going to take things day-by-day. But I am very much looking forward to being with the team again and racing."

Among the riders joining Velits at the Tour of Austria is Brabantse Pijl and Tour de Yorkshire stage winner Ben Hermans. The nine-day race begins with a 5.4-kilometer team time trial.

Riders: Brent Bookwalter (USA), Ben Hermans (BEL), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Manuel Senni (ITA), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Peter Velits (SVK), Rick Zabel (GER).

Sport Directors: Allan Peiper (AUS), Valerio Piva (ITA).

Cult Energy's Tour of Austria news

This note was sent to me today:

Saturday 4th of July, Cult Energy Pro Cycling take on the Tour of Austria starting in Vienna with a team time trial covering 5.4 kilometers. Besides from the initiating time trial, the race offers a rather diverse range of terrain and stage finals with two mountain top finishes on stage 4 and 6.

Cult Energy will be on the start line with a strong line-up consisting of Linus Gerdemann, Romain Lemarchand, Christian Mager, Gustav Larsson, Troels Vinther, Alex Kirsch, Joel Zangerle and Karel Hnik.

Linus Gerdemann

Linus Gerdemann enjoying the 2015 Tour of Luxembourg.

DS, André Steensen states: “It’s a race of great tradition and considering the rough terrain, it's a race that we enter with great respect. We bring a homogeneous line-up and they are all free to target a stage win. From stage to stage, the race prepares the ground for different types of riders and in that way our riders will get their chance during the stages fitting their characteristics,” says Steensen.

The race was on the calendar for the first time in 1949 and Austrian riders have dominated the race through history although in recent years, the vast majority of winners are spread out on a number of nationalities. Peter Kennaugh (Sky) won the race overall in 2014 and Tom Danielson, Cadel Evans and Fredrik Kessiakoff have been on the top step of the podium.

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