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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Monday, March 23, 2015

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

Today's Racing

Today is the first stage of the Spanish stage race, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. It's highly ranked, being part of the World Tour.

Sunday's big race was Milano-San Remo. Fotoreporter Sirotti was there, so we have posted lots of pictures of the racing action. And... we have posted results for Sunday's 1.1 ranked Cholet-Pays de Loire.

UCI on Bad Weather Racing

On the 21st I wrote that the teams and organizers were working on an agreement to give racers and their teams more say about racing in extreme conditions. the UCI put out a statement on Sunday about the situation:

"Representatives from the UCI – notably commissaires –, riders (CPA), teams (AIGCP) and organisers (AIOCC) have agreed, on the occasion of a meeting in Milan, Italy, on Friday March 20, the need for an action plan in the event of extreme weather conditions in professional races.

"The group considers the safety and the health of riders as an absolute priority.

"The members will convene again in the coming weeks to establish a baseline for the weather criteria (rain, snow, wind, temperature, humidity and visibility) that can be used to determine if a modification is required in the running of a race.

"An initial working agreement is expected for the start of the Giro d’Italia, on May 9."

Tirreno Adriatico

2015 Tirreno-Adriatico stage five final kilometers. Larry Theobald /CycleItalia photo

Milano-San Remo News

Phillipe Gilbert's crash yield no broken bones.

BMC racer Philippe Gilbert had a spectacular crash on the Poggio, the last obstacle before before Milano-San Remo's finish line. Gilbert was following Michal Kwiatkowski, Zdenek Stybar and Gerald Ciolek. "There is nothing broken," Gilbert said, "It is still a missed opportunity."

Phillipe Gilbert

Gilbert after the race

After Sunday's Milano-San Remo, many teams sent out their takes on the race. Here are a few:

Giant-Alpecin, team of winner John Degenkolb was clearly pleased:

With a huge sprint over the final 200m of the 293km Milan-Sanremo, John Degenkolb has raced to a huge victory at the end of the opening monument of the season in Italy. The race came down to a small bunch sprint after the ascents of the Cipressa and the Poggio, and after being supported by Tom Dumoulin in the final stages, Degenkolb timed his move perfectly in the finishing straight to take the win in Sanremo.

The race got underway with the usual early breakaway, with 11 riders pulling clear in the early stages to spend the day out front. Their lead quickly grew to over ten minutes but the peloton wasn’t letting the lead get out of hand and they quickly brought it under control.

Team Giant-Alpecin headed into the race with a clear plan – to look after John and keep him as fresh as possible until when the fireworks kicked off on the final two climbs of the 293km race. They did this perfectly and with the race back together ahead of the Cipressa John was in a good position near the front of the bunch with support in numbers.

The front group continued to shrink over the Cipressa as the attacks came and the pace continued to rise. At the bottom of the descent two riders pulled clear and spent the following kilometres building a 30 second advantage. Up the Poggio their advantage started to fall and over the top the front of the race was back together once again.

John had Tom Dumoulin for support ahead of the Poggio and down the other side on the run in to the finish. Once on the final flat run-in to the finish, the pace was raised by Katusha once again with last year’s winner Alexander Kristoff in second wheel, but John was where he needed to be in fourth wheel waiting for his moment. As Kristoff opened up the sprint John followed and then made his move just when needed to pull through for a convincing win by 3/4 of a bike length.

“I still can’t believe it,” admitted John after the race. “Today was amazing. It was really fast on the Poggio and I had to dig in and suffer there but my shape was good and the hard work over the past weeks and months paid off here. I managed to make it into a good position over the top of the Poggio and avoid the crashes and then in the final two kilometres it was just fighting for position and relying on instinct. Everything came together today.

“The whole team team were great today in keeping me out of the wind and making it as easy as possible. Then at the end Tom [Dumoulin] did a great job in getting me into position for the Poggio. I’m really proud of the result today.”

John Degenkolb wins Milano-San Remo

John Degenkolb wins 2015 Milano-San Remo

After the race, team coach Marc Reef: “I’m really proud of the the whole team today, everybody had their role and we did a really good race. We pin-pointed a few moments in the race where we needed to be in position and the boys did an incredible job to get John in the right position at the right time. It’s an extra special feeling to get the team’s first ever monument victory. This was John’s first real goal of the season and his preparation for the race was really good, and disciplined. Hard work will always pay off.”

“Yesterday we laid out a good plan for the race, and everybody was behind this to fight for the best possible outcome,” explained road captain Roy Curvers. “All the guys kept their focus even when the weather was really bad and there were lots of crashes to avoid, but we stayed focused and everyone contributed.

“We wanted to keep John and Tom [Dumoulin] as fresh as possible until the Cipressa and from there Tom did a great job to look after John and guide him through the bunch before the end. Then at the finish it’s really awesome how he finished it off. It’s a classic that suits John and it’s great to take this opportunity.”

With a huge sprint over the final 200m of the 293km Milan-Sanremo, Degenkolb raced to a huge victory at the end of the opening monument of the season in Italy.

The race came down to a small bunch sprint after the ascents of the Cipressa and the Poggio, and after being supported by the entire team and finally Tom Dumoulin (NED) in the final stages, Degenkolb timed his move perfectly in the finishing straight to take the win in Sanremo.

John Degenkolb: "I still can't believe it. Today was amazing. It was really fast on the Poggio and I had to dig in and suffer there but my shape was good and the hard work over the past weeks and months paid off here. I managed to make it into a good position over the top of the Poggio and avoid the crashes and then in the final two kilometres it was just fighting for position and relying on instinct. Everything came together today."The whole team team were great today in keeping me out of the wind and making it as easy as possible from it. Then at the end Tom [Dumoulin] did a great job in getting me into position for the Poggio. I'm really proud of the result today." 

Roy Curvers: "Yesterday we laid out a good plan for the race, and everybody was behind this to fight for the best possible outcome. All the guys kept their focus even when the weather was really bad and there were lots of crashes to avoid, but we stayed focused and everyone contributed.

"We wanted to keep John and Tom [Dumoulin] as fresh as possible until the Cipressa and from there Tom did a great job to look after John and guide him through the bunch before the end. Then at the finish it's really awesome how he finished it off. It's a classic that suits John and it's great to take this opportunity." 

Marc Reef: "I'm really proud of the the whole team today, everybody had their role and we did a really good race. We pin-pointed a few moments in the race where we needed to be in position and the boys did an incredible job to get John in the right position at the right time. It's an extra special feeling to get the team's first ever monument victory. This was John's first real goal of the season and his preparation for the race was really good, and disciplined. Hard work will always pay off."

Here's the report from Orica-GreenEdge, the team of third-place Michael Matthews:

2015 Paris-Nice stage and points classification winner Michael Matthews has sprinted to a podium position at the first Classic of 2015, the Milano-Sanremo, in Italy today. After 293km in the saddle, the longest race on the calendar, Matthews arrived at the finale with a reduced bunch of just 40 riders and worked his way to third in a blanket finish behind John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha).

Orica-GreenEdge went in with high ambitions for Matthews and despite achieving the desired podium result, the 24-year-old was a little disappointed not to claim a higher step at one of cycling’s great ‘monument’ races.

“It was a pretty cold and wet day today but we did what we had to do,” Matthews said after the finish. “The Orica-GreenEdge team supported me really well. As you could see on the Cipressa and Poggio climbs I had really good legs today so I am a little bit disappointed in the final.

“I guess I have got to believe that it’s Milano-Sanremo and it’s my first attempt at going for a result here, so I have to be positive about that. I'm really thankful for the team in believing in me and helping me deliver this result.”

Sport director Matt White was more positive about the performance at one of the world’s biggest one-day races. “As a team we are very happy with the result,” White said. “We had a target of a podium and we have achieved that and you can’t take anything away from the way the boys rode.”

“They committed to looking after Bling (Matthews) and he had a good sprint. At the end of the day Kristoff and Degenkolb are great sprinters and you have to be happy with a result like this at Milano-Sanremo.”

Cipressa

The pack attacks the Cipressa climb in this year's Milano-San Remo

Eleven riders formed the day’s major breakaway, establishing an advantage of over ten minutes in the first 40km of racing. The gap had reduced to just five minutes as the peloton entered the final 100km and again to two minutes 30seconds with 50km remaining.

The successive hills in the final 50km saw the demise of the break after a long day in front and by the Capo Berta climb just four remained, but with under one minute advantage to a chasing peloton. Matteo Bono (Lampre Merida) began the penultimate Cipressa climb as a solo leader as a nervous peloton, marred by a number of crashes, swept up his former breakaway companions. Half way up the ascent the race was back together and the much-anticipated attacks began.

The major move of the finale involved Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and Daniel Oss (BMC Racing Team), as the duo quickly established a threatening 30second lead after the Cipressa. As the peloton reacted to close, Thomas attacked solo heading in the famous last climb of the Poggio only to be captured shortly after.

Matthews crested the top of the final climb safely in fourth wheel as the heavily reduced bunch began the technical descent toward the finish and prepared for the impending final kick on the Via Roma

Lotto-Soudal's Milano-San Remo report:

The Lotto Soudal riders rode a really attentive race between Milan and Sanremo. On the Via Roma a group of about twenty-five sprinted for the victory in the 106th edition. Three riders of the team finished in the top fifteen: Tony Gallopin as ninth, Jürgen Roelandts as eleventh and Tim Wellens as fifteenth. German John Degenkolb won. Kris Boeckmans couldn’t defend his chances as he crashed in the descent of the Capo Berta. He has abrasions and hurt a knee, but it seems the damage is not too bad.

Around ten o’clock the riders got on the bike for a race of 293 kilometres. Eleven riders were part of the traditional long breakaway. The peloton gave them a maximal advantage of 10’25”. By the time the riders reached the Capi, they got more nervous. On the Capo Berta, the front group was reduced to four riders. In the descent there was a big setback for Lotto Soudal when Kris Boeckmans crashed and had to abandon.

The day's break

The day's break had a maximum lead of 10min 25sec

Lotto Soudal didn’t hide and helped to close the gap. On the Cipressa all escapees were caught. Tim Wellens and Tony Gallopin were riding attentively in the front and reached the top with the first eight riders. In the descent the Frenchman set the pace. Daniel Oss and Geraint Thomas attacked. On the Poggio Thomas left his companion behind. He reached the top solo, but was caught in the descent. About twenty-five riders rode to the finish line together. John Degenkolb was the fastest on the Via Roma. Alexander Kristoff was second, Michael Matthews third. Tony Gallopin was the first Lotto Soudal rider, on place nine.

Tony Gallopin: “I had a good feeling during the race. We were strong as a team and had different riders who could play a role. On the Cipressa and Poggio we could attack, after the Poggio we would see if we still had a sprinter with us. That wasn’t the case. Just before the end of the Poggio descent I wanted to attack, but I realized it would be too difficult with the sprint teams that were getting organized. The sprint didn’t go smoothly for me. I got hindered twice, so I had to accelerate again each time. I have mixed feelings. Just like the past two weeks I’ve proven that I’m good, but I don’t have a top result. Now I’m continuing my preparation for the Ardennes classics.”

Marc Sergeant, manager Lotto Soudal: “We end up with three riders in the top fifteen. It shows we were strong, but there’s no high ranking. We could have been really satisfied with someone in top five. We shouldn’t blame anyone. André Greipel lost contact on the Poggio and we lost Kris Boeckmans because of his crash. That was a pity, if he could go to the finish with the first group a top five would have been possible. There were positive signs. Gallopin rode a strong race and Roelandts proved he’s ready for the Flemish spring classics. Tim Wellens rode Milan-Sanremo for the first time. It obviously suits him. He was in front on the Cipressa and Poggio. This is hopeful for the future.”

Tinkoff-Saxo's Milano-San Remo report:

Tinkoff-Saxo was more than a man down, when the front group had to decide one of the big five monuments, Milano-Sanremo, in a final sprint. Peter Sagan ultimately had to settle for a position just outside the podium after an unfortunate starting position in the sprint. However, the Slovak champion notes that he felt strong throughout the race, which was won by John Degenkolb.

Despite finishing just off the podium, Peter Sagan was in good spirits after the 293km parcours, which had started in pouring rain in Milan but ended in a true spring time setting in the costal town of Sanremo.

“It was a tough race, also due to the rain. But at least the weather was better than last year and in the final part of the race, the roads dried and the sun came out. I would like once again to thank my teammates because they worked really hard during the race. But at the end, although I was feeling very well and in form, I think I made a mistake, when I approached the final sprint too far down in the pack”, says Peter Sagan, who adds that his starting position made it difficult.

“I was too far down after the last corners, which meant that I had to overtake too many to be successful at the end. However, now I focus on the Cobbled Classics ahead and I must admit that I feel well and in good form. We will see how the next races play out”.

A select group of 26 riders reached the final sprint, where it was John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin), who catapulted himself out of the slipstream of Alexander Kristoff to take the win. Peter Sagan came fast from behind and finished fourth in Sanremo, while Matti Breschel was 12th.

Poggio

The peloton approaches the famous Poggio climb, just a few kilometers before the Milano-San Remo finish.

It was no less than the 106th running of Milano-Sanremo that the riders faced at the start in Milan Sunday morning. As one of the big monuments of cycling, no quarter were given – not from the route, the weather or the rivals battling it out on the 293km route to Sanremo. Tinkoff-Saxo DS Bruno Cenghialta comments after the race that several crashes made it difficult to stick to the team strategy.

“Unfortunately the race didn’t play out as we had planned. We needed a strong rider in the last kilometers and our strategy had been to position and assist Peter Sagan during the last kilometers after the descent from Il Poggio with a few kilometers to go. But due to crashes in the peloton, we lost two riders from our tactical plan, as Maciej Bodnar and Roman Kreuziger were obstructed”, says Bruno Cenghialta.

“Matti Breschel didn’t have the final power for push towards the line. So with Roman, Maciej and Chris gone, Peter wasn’t delivered in the final sprint, which is so important because of the frantic fight for positions. Here, you can lose many positions in a split second. This is the difference between the win and a secondary placing at Milano-Sanremo, also since the final kilometers are so important”, adds Cenghialta.

Asked whether Sagan made a mistake, when he hesitated after having created a small gap with 1.5km to go, Bruno Cenghialta notes that it would have been a very difficult mission to finish had he continued. “I don’t think it was a mistake, and he did the right thing in waiting for the sprint. He got a few meters, which he could have exploited, but at the same time the sprinters and lead-out men came fast from behind”.

Due to the wet or damp road surface, Milano-Sanremo once again saw its fair share of crashes. For Tinkoff-Saxo, strong Dane Chris Juul-Jensen had it worst and had to abandon the race just before the finale.

“Chris had done a great job up until he was brought down by a crash in front of him on a fast descent with around 40km to go. He had a blow to the head and scratches and pulled out of the race. He needed a few stitches and went to the hospital, where the initial report was that he had not suffered any serious injuries”, finishes Bruno Cenghialta.

Cholet - Pays De Loire

Milano-San Remo wasn't the only Sunday race, there was also the Cholet-Pays de Loire. Cult Energy sent their report on the French race:

Cult Energy Pro Cycling were on the move from the gun in today’s 208 kilometer long French one-day race, Cholet – Pays De Loire where Christian Mager and Linus Gerdemann represented CULT Energy in the long-lasting breakaway. Home turf favorite, Pierrick Fedrigo won the race.

The first front group including Christian Mager made it last until 70 kilometers to go where they were swept up by the chase group with Linus Gerdemann but the peace didn’t last long as Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Pierrick Fedrigo (Bretagne-Séché), Jérôme Pineau (FDJ), Julien Duval (Armée de Terre) and Timothy Dupont (Roubaix-Lille Métropole) launched a counter-attack and started building up a new gap to the big chase group.

Linus Gerdemann

Linus Gerdemann racing in 2013

Entering the final 25 kilometers, Fedrigo decided it was time to go and was now hammering on alone in the front of the race while the remains of the break were caught by the chase group including Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Linus Gerdemann. However, no one was able to bring back Fedrigo who made it all the way to the finish line to celebrate his well-earned victory.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling German rider, Gerdemann finished 13th, DS, Michael Skelde reports:

"It was good to see both Christian (Mager) and Linus (Gerdemann) on the front of the race today. Being a neo pro, Christian was challenged with the hardness of the race and he was in a situation where he was forced to take responsibility in the chase and he simply lost power eventually. Linus was looking strong, worked a lot as well and I'm sure he'll be doing well in next weekend's Criterium International." 

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