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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Thursday, March 12, 2015

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

Today's Racing

We've got three ongoing stage races running today: the Tour de Langkawi stage 3 and Paris-Nice stage 4, as well as Tirreno Adriatico stage 2.

Ag2R Responds to Lloyd Mondory Dope Positive

Ag2R rider Lloyd Mondory tested postive for EPO, the banned blood booster, on February 17 according to a Tuesday UCI announcement.

Here is the statement from the UCI:

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) announces that it has notified French rider Lloyd Mondory of an Adverse Analytical Finding of EPO in a sample collected in the scope of an out-of-competition control on 17 February 2015.

The rider has the right to request and attend the analysis of the B sample.

In accordance with the UCI Anti-doping Rules, the rider has been provisionally suspended until the adjudication of the affair.

At this stage of the procedure, the UCI will not comment any further.

Lloyd Mondory

Accused Ag2R rider Lloyd Mondory racing in the 2014 Tour of Switzerland

His Ag2R team sent out this release. Please forgive the rough translation:

"Today, the International Cycling Union (UCI) reported an abnormal test result for Lloyd Mondory: presence of EPO in a sample collected during an out-of-competition test, conducted on February 17, 2015. This substance is banned by the World Anti-Doping Code. Once this announcement was made, in accordance with cycling team AG2R La Mondiale agreements and the regulations in force, Lloyd Mondory was immediately removed from all competition until resolution of the case.

Vincent Lavenu (General Manager of the cycling team AG2R La Mondiale) said, "One positive case is still perceived as a betrayal. Our anti-doping policy is strict and uncompromising. I thank our partners for their support. Our team spirit and cohesion will allow us to bounce back."

André Renaudin (Managing Director of AG2R La Mondiale): "We share the emotions of Vincent Lavenu and his team. They are felt deeply. The fault of one cannot weaken or undermine the historical ties that unite us. We look forward with confidence to 2015 and that the team will bring us great moments of joy".

Paris - Nice Team Reports

This from Orica-GreenEdge, team of race leader Michael Matthews:

Multiple grand tour stage winner Michael Matthews is the new leader of Paris-Nice following a perfectly executed sprint on stage three by the entire Orica-GreenEdge outfit.

The slightly uphill finish caught the eye of Matthews and his intentions were clear as a full train of ORICA-GreenEDGE jerseys proved prevalent at the front of the field in the closing kilometres.

Capping off their efforts, the 24-year-old came around the wheel in the final 100metres and never looked back, crossing the line ahead of Davide Cimolai (Lampre – Merida) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing).

“Full credit to the team for the win, it was all them,” Matthews said. “I just had to do the last 200 metres and that was probably the easy part. We had a good meeting this morning and said everyone is in good shape and if we work together we can really nail this. The way they rode was absolutely text book, it was exactly the way we talked about in the meeting, I couldn’t ask for a better lead out.

Michael Mathews wins stage 3

Michael Matthews wins stage 3

“From four kilometres to go we dominated the race and we showed our strength in the lead out and no one could come near us with the horse power we had.”

The victory puts ‘Bling’ into the yellow jersey, leading the race by one second to Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx – Quickstep).

“The last few days we have been trying to go for a few intermediate sprints and ended up with a few bonus seconds,” Matthews said. “That’s how it was possible to take the yellow jersey. To put it all together and take the win and the jersey in one day, it’s really a special day.”

The 172km stage three from Saint-Amand-Montrond to Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioul featured a strong early breakaway of Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) and Florian Vachon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement). The trio established a maximum lead of five minutes 20 seconds, and with 30km remaining held onto three minutes advantage.

The catch was made with 10km remaining but was immediately followed with a counter attack initiated by Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) and joined by Ag2r La Mondiale riders Jan Bakelants and Romain Bardet.

The new threat gained 16 seconds advantage but a determined peloton, including Orica-GreenEdge, Katusha, Team Sky and Etixx-Quickstep shut it down with two kilometres to race. Leading for much of the finale, one-by-one ORICA-GreenEDGE riders peeled off before Matthews completed a textbook perfect day in the office for the team.

“The boys were awesome,” sport director Laurenzo Lapage said. “They knew the plan and they never panicked. We knew the last seven kilometres were on a big road so we had time to come to the front and they were perfect, they couldn’t have done it better.”

Paris-Nice is Matthews’ first race since the world championships last year, but a strong off-season has seen the 24-year-old fit immediately back into the race environment. He kicked the week off with a strong eighth place in the opening prologue on Sunday, and followed with a tenth and then fourth place in the sprint finishes ahead of today’s victory.

“Of course you need someone like Bling to finish it off,” Lapage continued. "Like we have said and seen in the last couple of days; even after such a long time since his last competition, he is in really good shape and we have seen him sprinting better and better over the last few days.”

Tomorrow’s stage four increases again in difficulty with a finish atop category one climb, Croix de Chaubouret.

“I have been looking at tomorrow from a long way out,” Matthews said. “It’s going to be a hard climb 100%, but I’m going to do my best to try and hang on as long as possible, if not all the way to the top. If I can’t hold on, then I want to ride with respect to the jersey, all the way to the finish.”

And this release about Paris-Nice came from Lampre-Merida:

The season for Davide Cimolai started in a very interesting way and, after the victory in theTrofeo Laigueglia, he obtained the 2nd place in the 3rd stage of the Paris-Nice.

On Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioule arrival, 179 km from the start in Saint Amand Montrond, Matthews was the fastest rider of the bunch in the final massive sprint, however Cimolai was very competitive and he could obtain the 2nd position preceding Nizzolo, Kristoff and Rojas.

In the overall classification, Plaza is 15th (at 17" to the new leader Matthews) and Rui Costa climbs up two place (27th at 22").

Davide Cimolai

Lampre-Merida's Davide Cimolai winning this year's Trofeo Laigueglia

"I gave my best and I'm happy for the result: I could not do better because today Matthews was the strongest - Davide Cimolai explained - The only chance I could have to try to precede him was to start the sprint very far from the arrival, at 300 meter to go, but it was a risky solution. For today stage, the team's directors gave me the opportunity to be the captain and I thank the team mates for their support. They were all perfect in organizing a lead-out train and Bonifazio was super in driving me to the best positions in the front of the peloton".

The 4th stage of Paris-Nice will end with the summit arrival in Croix de Chauboret, 1st category climb of 10 km at 6,7%, that will be covered in the 204 km of the course after two 2nd category Kom and five 3rd category Kom.

And Tinkoff-Saxo had two releases regarding Paris-Nice:

This about the upcoming Thursday, March 12 stage 4:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s team captain Rafal Majka will enter his domain, when the road kicks up in today’s decisive mountain stage at Paris-Nice. The 10km-finishing climb to Croix de Chaubouret in the Massif Central offers plenty of opportunities to create a selection among the GC-competitors – something Rafal Majka bids welcome.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka racing in 2014.

Before the start of the race, Rafal Majka, noted that he felt confident before starting his endeavors in the mountains backed by a group of dedicated teammates.

“I feel good going into the climbs today. I’m excited to enter a terrain that suits me very well. The last climb to Croix de Chaubouret can prove decisive but I wish it were a bit steeper. I’ve come to Paris-Nice to ride my chances in the mountains and now is the time after several days in flat terrain”, says Rafal Majka, who’s currently 37 seconds off race leader Michael Matthews after having lost time on the initial flat prologue.

“My teammates have protected me very well during the race and I’ve hardly been exposed to any wind. I want to show my appreciation by doing a good job today. It’s going to be difficult, we know that, because there’s some very strong riders here at Paris-Nice. I need to take time on my rivals, but I’m sure this will be difficult, however we need to try even though the all-rounders will also have a chance on a climb like this”, adds Rafal Majka.

Stage 4 presents the riders with 204 undulating kilometers, where the parcours toughens up with 70k to go. The last 10km of the stage to the top of Croix de Chaubouret situated above Saint-Etienne kicks up with an incline of 6,7%, which should be enough to create a selection, according to Tinkoff-Saxo’s sports director Sean Yates.

“This part of the race is really what we’ve been waiting for, and also what Rafal has come for. Our guys are all ready to offer their support to him and guys like Chris Anker and especially Robert Kiserlovski, who’s in good shape, can play an important role. It’s the only uphill finish of the race excluding the final time trial, so I expect to see a tough race”, says Sean Yates, who adds:

“We have to take time on some of the strong time trialists - that’s not really a secret. But the likes of Geraint Thomas and Michael Kwiatkowski are also very capable on a climb like this. We will follow our race strategy and hope that Rafal is able to finish the job on the final part of the stage”.

And this about Wednesday's stage 3:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Matti Breschel was in the mix in the sprint finish at Paris-Nice featuring a steep section within the last kilometer. Both Breschel and sports director Sean Yates noted that they were pleased with the team performance after crossing the line.

Tinkoff-Saxo had given Matti Breschel free rein to try his chances in the tricky stage finish. The Dane finished 6th behind stage winner Michael Matthews and acknowledged the fact that he had given his best.

“It was a hectic sprint today, where the road kicked up with 400 meters to go before it flattened around the last bend. I was among the first ten riders to exit the corner before the finishing straight, which showed that I had some power on the short hill. Then I found myself on the wheel of Kristoff and I tried to catapult myself forward in the turn but it was hard to gain positions on the final meters”, says Matti Breschel.

Stage 3 featured 179 lumpy kilometers to Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioule. After 74km of riding a trio formed out in front, which ultimately started crumbling with 20km to the finish line. In the finale, the riders had to tackle a short 200m climb of more than 10% just before the finishing straight, which meant that several puncheurs joined the fight for the stage win. Ultimately it was Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), who beat Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) on the line with Matti Breschel just behind in sixth place.

Matti Breschel

Matti Breschel finished sixth in the third stage of Paris-Nice

Tinkoff-Saxo’s leading directeur sportif at Paris-Nice, Sean Yates, stated that the pace and intensity had picked up after a slow start to Paris-Nice.

“The stage today was definitely faster than the previous two days, but the terrain was also more undulating. The guys rode well and protected Rafal Majka throughout the stage. Rafal told that he was very satisfied with the support he got from his teammates, as he wasn’t exposed to the win at a single point during the stage. I’m, of course, pleased to hear this”, comments Sean Yates, who adds that Breschel’s performance didn’t go unnoticed.

“Matti’s performance today confirms that he’s getting into a strong shape and that he definitely has some punch in the legs. He crossed the line before the likes of Degenkolb, Bouhanni and Demare, which shows that he can fight for the win on stages like this and it’s also a good confirmation before the next month of racing”.

Tomorrow sees the riders enter totally different terrain, as they have to face the mountains of Massif Central with stage 4 ending atop a 10km-finishing climb to Croix de Chaubouret.

And this about Paris-Nice from BMC:

Philippe Gilbert's day in the breakaway Wednesday at Paris-Nice earned the past world road champion the King of the Mountains jersey while a part of BMC Racing teammates remain within striking distance of the lead with four days to go. Gilbert said it was not his intention to chase the special classification. But the past world road champion seized the opportunity to escape in the first 10 kilometers of the 179-km race and went on to grab maximum points on the day's three categorized climbs.

"We started really easy, like the two previous days, and I wanted to do some efforts," Gilbert said. "So I just passed the bunch - not too fast - hoping someone would follow me. But just one guy (Florian Vachon of Bretagne Seche-Environment) came with me.

"I am proud to have this climbers jersey because Paris-Nice is one of the nicest races of the season. I think it is very important also for the BMC Racing Team to have this jersey."

Gilbert's breakaway with Vachon was far from ordinary. After nearly 70 kilometers of freedom, it appeared the pair would be brought back when their lead dropped to less than a minute. But Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) used the opportunity to jump across to the two, and, with fresh legs in the escape, the trio rapidly built the lead back to more than five minutes.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert

"When the peloton first chased us, we thought we had no chance to go and we almost stopped," Gilbert said. "But when Voeckler came up, we decided to go faster and try. But it was a lot of headwind so it was not really possible to go against the bunch. But at least we tried and the good thing is I was able to get the points for the climber's jersey."

Eventually, all three riders were brought back in the final 20 kilometers. Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) won the uphill finish ahead of Davide Cimolai (Lampre-Merida) and Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) to take a one-second lead and the yellow leader's jersey from prologue winner Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step). Gilbert's teammate, Rohan Dennis, is third overall, tied on time with Kwiatkowski, while BMC Racing Team leader Tejay van Garderen, sits 12th overall, 15 seconds off the lead.

"Tomorrow is a stage for the general classification," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said. "Philippe took the jersey and for us it is perfect. We do not have the pressure for tomorrow and Tejay is very motivated."

Tour de Langkawi News

We've had four stages in Malaysia's Tour de Langkawi. Orica-GreenEdge's Caleb Ewen leads.

This note came from Tinkoff-Saxo about the race:

With stage 4 now completed, the Tour de Langkawi is ready to enter the second and last part of the race. It does so with 4 Tinkoff-Saxo riders in the top forty and all within reach of the top GC. Today’s stage saw yet another bunch sprint, where Andrea Guardini took stage glory for the third time.

When asked for a midway status update, Tinkoff-Saxo DS Tristan Hoffman replied: “So far all stages have been decided among the sprinters, however the majority of the peloton has lost time during the last four days. So right now, we have four guys in the top forty, where the majority of the riders are around twenty seconds off the leader due to bonus seconds. We have our two young captains Jesper Hansen and Edward Beltran up there in the GC but also Pavel Brutt and Bruno Pires, who are showing good shape. I can’t say how the GC will end, but we have a decent starting position with several tactical options before the decisive stages”, says Tristan Hoffman.

Caleb Ewen wins stage 4

Caleb Ewen wins Langkawi stage 4

Stage 4 from Kota Bharu to Kuala Berang took the riders on a hilly 165km parcours. However the severity of the climbs was not enough to shake off the sprinters, who arrived at the finish line ready for a final burst for the line. Andrea Guardini (Astana) was the fastest man on the day in front of Jakub Mareczko (Southeast) and Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge). Tinkoff-Saxo focused on saving energy and staying safe, tells Tristan Hoffman:“Today, we wanted to consume as small amount of energy as possible, and I expect it will be the same situation tomorrow as well. However, we enter more demanding terrain on stage 6 and 7, which is where the GC will be decided”.

Tirreno-Adriatico News

Tinkoff-Saxo also sent a note about Tirreno-Adriatico:

Tinkoff-Saxo got off to a fast start at the short and windy 5.4km prologue in Tirreno-Adriatico, with both Maciej Bodnar and Peter Sagan powering their way into the stage top-ten. Bodnar finished 4th just two seconds off stage winner Adriano Malori – a result that pleases him as well as team manager Bjarne Riis.

“We did okay and we had Bodnar in 4th place and Sagan in 9th. That was a good result and I'm very happy with the performance of these two guys. Overall, all our riders did okay”, comments Bjarne Riis after the stage. “Alberto was not in top form and we could see it while he was racing. We expected a little bit more from him today but there are days like this and that isn't a problem”, adds Bjarne Riis.

The short, powerful 5.4km prologue in Lido di Camaiore was carried out in gusty conditions on a fast circuit, which meant that the riders had to keep pressure on the pedals at all times without throwing caution to the wind. Fastest Tinkoff-Saxo rider on the day, Maciej Bodnar, notes after the stage that he had achieved a satisfying result.

“I feel the race went quite well for me and I finished two seconds behind Malori, who was very strong. The course had four quite fast turns with one of them a bit riskier than the other three. You had to be more attentive in order to avoid a stupid crash” Bodnar says and adds: “However, compared to last year, I feel much stronger and I am confident about my current shape. My form gets better every week that passes since the start of the year and this is a very important factor. Although we are still at the early stages of the season, I feel that a good year is ahead for me. The best is yet to come”.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador riding the opening time trial of this year's Tirreno-Adiratico

The 5.4km prologue kickstarting Tirreno-Adriatico was a last-minute solution, since the original and longer team time-trial had to be scrapped due to heavy winds that knocked down trees, creating debris on the parcours. Bjarne Riis says that the conversion was an anticlimax.

“It is a bit of a disappointment for us that the team time-trial was scrapped and replaced by an individual time-trial. We were really looking forward to that as we had prepared very well and we felt we had a chance to win”.

Alberto Contador finished 19 seconds behind stage winner Adriano Malori (Movistar) on the flat parcours. Subsequently, the team leader told that he was not content with his performance but hoped to regain the 8 and 9 seconds he, respectively, lost to GC-rivals Nibali and Uran.

"I would have liked to perform better, but there are days where you have good legs and others where you don’t. Right from the start, I wasn't able to get my rhythm but it was a day of only 5 kilometers and although I lost time to some rivals, in particular Urán and Nibali, I hope I can recover it", says Contador and adds: "Nibali was good, we all know he's a great rider. His form is getting better and I'm sure it will be one of the main candidates to win. In a race like Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, eight seconds carry a lot of weight. I do not know if there will be enough margin to recover them”.

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