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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Saturday, March 28, 2015

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

Today's Racing

Today is the sixth stage of the Spanish stage race, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. It's highly ranked, being part of the World Tour. Also, the Italian 2.1-ranked Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali is currently running and today is stage 3. And in France there is first day of the "HC" ranked two-day Critérium International.

Remember, Sunday is Gent-Wevelgem.

Les Woodland's Cycling Heroes is Now an Audio Book

David L. Stanley did a terrific job reading Les Woodland's Cycling Heroes and turning it into an Audio book. Cycling Heroes is Les' story of his trip to visit some of the great riders of the past, Rik van Steenbergen, Rik van Looy, Jan Janssen, Wim van Est, Hennie Kuiper and Peter Post, among others. I know you'll really enjoy it, in any of the forms you prefer: print, Kindle or audio. Please check it out, just click on this link. And...that's how we pay the bills here and keep the site going, with book sales.

Cycling Heroes

Cycling Heroes...check it out

Major European Company Raising Prices

Regular readers of this site know I have been posting news from European distributors and manufacturers regarding the decrease of about 20% in the value of the Euro against the US Dollar and other major currencies. How will this affect European bike pricing? I thought significant price increases were inevitable. European distributors were trying to have a wait-and-see attitude, but at some point, that eats up all the profit and capital. I was an American bicycle importer and distributor (my wife and I started and ran Torelli Imports) when the Dollar plummeted and I had to make several painful price increases that raised howls of anger from my customers.

But I had no choice if I wanted to stay in business.

Now bike-eu.cm reports that one of Europe's biggest is implementing significant price increases. I quote shamelessly from their report. You can read the whole article by clicking on the link:

"Today Accell Nederland BV notifies its dealers that it is raising the recommended retail prices for the bicycles made by the company under the Batavus, Sparta, Koga, Van Nicholas and Loekie brands.

"It is expected that next to Accell Group lots of other bike and P&A makers will also raise their prices. At last week's Taipei Cycle Show prices were a much discussed matter because of the big drop of the euro value against the US dollar. After the show the main question is how much prices for bikes and bike products will increase, or have increased already due to the euro value drop?

"Wouter Jager, MD Sales, Marketing and R&D, of Accell Nederland says in its message to its dealers, "In the first quarter of this year, we were still able to take on the burden of the costs caused by the rising value of the US dollar. By now, the currency exchange rate has had such a major impact on our procurement costs that we have been compelled to raise the prices of our bicycles, effective immediately. As of today (Friday 27 March), the prices of all bicycles made by Batavus, Sparta, Koga, Van Nicholas and Loekie, 2015 models, will go up 5%."

Fabian Cancellara's Spring Season Wrecked with Broken Vertebrae

Fabian Cancellara crashed early in the E3, fracturing two vertebrae. He will not need surgery, but racing over cobblestones in the Spring Classics is out of the question. it is thought an errant water bottle caused a crash that brought down several riders, of whom Cancellara was the most badly injured.

His team, Trek Factory Racing, had this report:

On the cobbled descent of the Haaghoek less than 40-kilometers into E3 Harelbeke an alluded dropped water bottle caused a large crash that took down numerous riders including Fabian Cancellara.

Although Cancellara was able to remount and continue he was in obvious pain, and only a few kilometers later he pulled to the side and climbed into the Trek Factory Racing team car.

Fabian Cancellara

Fabian Cancellara tried to ride after crashing, but had to stop.

Fabian Cancellara:  “It all happened so fast. Someone slammed the brakes and there was no way to go, just straight into it. I flew over a couple of riders and then landed in a pile of bikes. There were riders everywhere. I fell so hard, and felt pain everywhere. It was sort of reflex to get back on the bike but the pain was hard, in my lower back, left wrist, and my ribs on the back.

“I felt right away that it was a serious crash, but I wanted to try to keep going.  I had to stop; the pain was too much. We went to the hospital for scans and this confirmed the pain.”

Later at the hospital X-rays and CT scans confirmed the worst:  two transverse process fractures in two vertebrae bones of the lower back. The prognosis of recovery time is unknown for now, but the injury is serious enough to make definite there will be no spring Classics for Fabian Cancellara.

“There is nothing you can do with this injury – no cast, no surgery – but just biting the pain,” said Cancellara.

It is a big blow to Trek Factory Racing ahead of the big Monuments of Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. “These are things that happen in cycling, and that everyone has to deal with sooner or later,” said general manager Luca Guercilena when we reached him by phone. “But we know how much Fabian is important for us, so we are of course very dejected to hear this news.

“First what is the most important is his health, and that he takes care of that so he can return 100 percent again. And then for the rest, it’s time for all the other riders to step up  - as they now have possibilities - and perform well. Certainly it’s not great news for our team, but that does not mean it’s over. We have some very good riders that will now have their chances.”

Lampre-Merida on Friday's E3 race:

Unfortunate performance by Lampre-Merida in E3 Prijs Vlaanderen - Harelbeke, the first World Tour appointment in the charming Belgian landscape.

The 17 walls, 4 of which in cobblestones, staggered along the 215 km of the course with start and arrival in Harelbeke, returned this verdict: Thomas won the race preceding Stybar and Trentin.

In addition to Pozzato (he did not start because of a viral illness), Lampre-Merida lost also Pibernik and Bonifazio, who got involved after 35 km in the race in a crash of a lot of riders (in photo, Bettini, the moment of the crash): Pibernik quit the race, but he did not suffered serious physical consequences, while Lampre-Merida's doctor Guardascione preferred that Bonifazio undergos x-rays for his right hand, arm and shoulder, that fortunately did not detect fractures, but strong contusions, especially at the elbow.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas wins E3

With three key riders out of the race, Lampre-Merida did not succeed in reversing the negative trend, but Mori could complete the race in the second group, obtaining the 38th place at 3'21" to the winner. Blue-fuchsia-green colors were in the main group for most of the race thanks to the good form of Cimolai and Oliveira, but they were dropped when the pace became faster in the approach of the Paterberg and of the Oude Kwaremont.

And LottoNL-Jumbo also sent their E3 report:

Sep Vanmarcke finished fifth in the E3 Harelbeke today behind winner Geraint Thomas of team Sky. Thomas finished solo after attacking a leading group of three with Zdenek Stybar (Etixx) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Stybar stayed ahead of the first group, but Sagan was caught before the line. Stybar’s team-mate Matteo Trentin sprinted to third in Harelbeke, just before Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Vanmarcke.

“The whole day I felt strong, just like the past few days,” said the Belgian. “That makes me happy. Thanks to my team-mates, I was well-positioned on the crucial points.”

Vanmarcke chose Trentin’s wheel in the final. "I know that he can sprint well in a hard race like today’s. I didn’t dare squeeze into small gaps in the sprint because I didn’t want to cause any crashes. It took very long before a big enough gap emerged and so I had to settle for fifth.”

Vanmarcke was frustrated by a moment on the Paterberg climb when he went to the front to force a break. "I made a mistake by riding on the side of the road. I suddenly shot through the mud and my clip broke loose. I was only able to push, I couldn’t pull afterwards. It was like riding a city bike. I had to limit the damage until I could change my shoe in the last 20 kilometres.”

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke racing in the 2014 Paris-Roubaix

Vanmarcke feels strong in the run-up to the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but the team worries him. Robert Wagner crashed out of the race on Friday and will be replaced by Rick Flens in Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. "While on Wednesday, we already lost Jos van Emden. Hopefully the tide will turn soon for us."

Sports Director Jan Boven is optimistic despite the setbacks. “Our leader has shown that he is in a good shape and looking at the circumstances, the others performed well. They supported Sep really well. Hopefully, we can improve some more.”

Rick Flens for example, wasn’t fully fit from Milano-Sanremo. “But he carried out his task perfectly today. He helped Sep start the Eikenberg in the front. Maarten Tjallingii kept the break in check. Maarten Wynants woke up with a sore throat this morning and wasn’t sure about whether he should start or not, but nevertheless, he was able to contribute in the final. Just like Bram Tankink. Tom Leezer was very strong today, I think everybody saw that.”

And here's the Lotto-Soudal E3 report:

Jürgen Roelandts was the first Lotto Soudal rider at the finish of E3 Harelbeke, on the seventh place. Together with Tiesj Benoot, who rode a strong race again, he was part of a group that sprinted for the third place. Three of their teammates were involved in a crash.

With Sean De Bie in front a Lotto Soudal rider was part of the early breakaway. Sean was accompanied by five other riders, among them Dries Devenyns. The leaders had a maximal advantage of more than nine minutes, also because the peloton had to wait at a closed railway crossing. On the cobbles of the Haaghoek there was a big crash. Gert Dockx and Vegard Breen were involved and abandoned the race. Dockx has a bruised tailbone. Breen broke his elbow on two places and underwent surgery last night. The Norwegian will be out for several weeks. Later in the race also Dennis Vanendert crashed, he bruised his left elbow and shoulder.

Like often is the case, the Taaienberg was a sign for the peloton to start racing. Tiesj Benoot, who rode a strong race again just like in Dwars door Vlaanderen, was one of the riders that accelerated. On the Paterberg Devenyns left his last two companions behind, one of them was Sean De Bie. On the Oude Kwaremont Devenyns was overruled by Sagan, Stybar and Thomas. This trio would contest the victory of E3 Harelbeke. The chase group with Benoot and Roelandts couldn’t close the gap anymore. Thomas arrived solo at the finish in Harelbeke. Sagan was reeled in by the chase group at the end and that’s why the group with Benoot and Roelandts sprinted for the third place. Trentin was the fastest. Roelandts finished on the seventh place, Benoot was eighteenth.

Jorgen Roelandts

Jurgen Roelandts at the 2013 Tour of Flanders

Jürgen Roelandts: “Our chase group wasn’t able to close the gap on the leading trio. Eventually we still could sprint for the third place. Three hundred metres from the finish I was riding next to Trentin, but with the headwind I thought it was too early to start sprinting, that turned out to be the wrong decision.”

“My legs weren’t as good as in Milan-Sanremo. I was eleventh there while I had better legs. I already felt it early in the day and tried to save energy. On the Kapelberg I wanted to be in front and I succeeded in it, but I couldn’t compete with the best. Now I have to recuperate for Ghent-Wevelgem. Together with Jens Debusschere and André Greipel we’ll aim for a high result. The strength of team will be very important on Sunday, because bad weather is forecasted.”

Marc Sergeant, manager Lotto Soudal: “It was our goal to have someone in the front group and we did. Sean De Bie, who is riding well for some weeks now, was part of the early breakaway. He rode in front until the Paterberg, when Devenyns accelerated. Benoot, this week’s revelation, was strong again. On top of the Kortekeer he changed his front wheel, on the road from Ronse to Oudenaarde he could return to the peloton.”

“Unfortunately three of the eight guys crashed. Roelandts said he didn’t feel great today. On the decisive moment he didn’t have enough power in the legs to follow the best. The seventh place isn’t a top result. We hope we have a top result in the upcoming races.”

Lampre-Merida on Volta a Catalunya

This also came in from the Italian team:

During the 195,4 km 5th stage of Volta a Catalunya from Alp to Valls, the bunch pointed towards the coast and the overall classification changed.

Maybe inspired by the name of the city where the arrival was set, Valls (photo Bettini) could exploit a good opportunity to climb the overall classification, but he was not the only one competitive cyclist in the Team Lampre-Merida: Polanc was the first protagonist for the blue-fuchsia-team, leading the race for more than 110 km together with Watson and Bagot.

Polanc, who came back to races in Volta a Catalunya after a one month stop caused by a fracture of the scaphoid, tried several times to escape from the bunch in the early kilometers of the stage and finally, after 45 km, he could start with two riders the main breakaway of the race (maximum advantage: 5').
Their action was neutralized on the climb of Beltall and immediately after the end of the breakaway an echelon broke the peloton: ten riders were left in the head of the race and Valls was in this group, while top riders such as the leader De Clercq and Martin were forced to chase, but their efforts did not reach the goal, because the ten riders in the front reached the arrival.

Valls gave a thrill to his team when he crashed in the final kilometer: he could come back on his bike and he could reach the arrival (11th position) . The jury assigned him the same gap to Valverde of the first chasing group (+5").

In the overall classification, the Spanish climber from Lampre-Merida entered in the top ten at the 8th place, at 43" to the new leader Porte.

"Unlike what happened two days ago, today Valls sized the moment and did not miss the opportunity to be in the head of the race in the key moment of the stage - Orlando Maini, Lampre-Merida;s's sport director, underlined - "Rafael was having good feelings and he was brilliant enough to understand that the wind could have create problems, while other top riders were surprised by the echelon.
The crash in the final kilometers worried us, but Valls is ok and he achieve the goal to enter in the top ten of the overall classification.
Another one great performance by Polanc, who is perfect in joining the breakaways".

Tinkoff-Saxo on the Catalonian Stage:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador was in the first group of seven riders to cross the finish line on stage 5 of Volta a Catalunya after a furious pace in the crosswinds. As a result, Contador climbs to 3rd overall in the GC, while Tinkoff-Saxo loses Rafal Majka to what seems to be a stomach flu in the peloton.

Stage 5 of Volta a Catalunya was carried out in a roaring pace with crosswinds creating havoc and gaps. Ultimately, only 7 riders, including Alberto Contador, made it in the first group of favorites. Stage winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) crossed the line 5 seconds before his rivals after a late attack on the final stretch of the descent. Alberto Contador moves up two spots into 3rd place overall.

“It was a very fast stage and the peloton was cut. The final breakaway was good for all of us because some riders in the general classification were left far behind. In the end, I had to be careful, when Valverde attacked and I didn’t want to follow, because there were others who had to close the gap and for me it was also better that Alejandro, who is a friend, won instead of any other rider”, comments Alberto Contador after the stage finish in Valls.

Asked for an evaluation of his performance on stage 5, Alberto Contador noted that he was once again content with the progress made in his final race before Giro d’Italia. “Today, I am happy with the feelings I had on the bike, it was above all a good day of work, in the light of especially Giro d’Italia. The split in the pack was created by the sum of all of us, and there wasn’t any team that caused the echelons, although perhaps the most interested of the teams were Etixx, Sky and somewhat Movistar as well”, says Alberto Contador, who finished 7th on the stage in the group just behind Valverde.

Stage 5 from Alp to Valls was made hard by a surging crosswind on a fast, mainly downwards facing, stage. Before the final category 2 climb Alt de Lilla, the peloton and favorites were split up and race leader Bart De Clercq was left behind. On the climb, enough power was put into the pedals in the front group to keep the chasing group at bay. Contador caught an attacking Valverde on the descent but decided to leave the chasing to his rival, when the Movistar rider attacked for the second time.

Further down the road, Tinkoff-Saxo was struggling as several riders suffered from a stomach flu, which already before the stage forced Rafal Majka to abandon the Volta a Catalunya. Tinkoff-Saxo DS Steven de Jongh explains: “It was a hard day for many of the guys. Rafal was sick and didn’t start and Basso was throwing up during the stage, as were a number of guys in the bunch today. Despite that I’m satisfied with the fact that Alberto gained two positions and he’s now 3rd, which is very good. With the crosswinds, splits and the attacks on the final climb and down to the finishing straight, today evolved into a hard stage”, explains Steven de Jongh, who hopes that his riders can recover for tomorrow’s penultimate day

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka in better times. Here he leads the 2014 Tour of Poland

“Tomorrow, we hope to stay in our current position in the GC and we also hope that some of our sick guys can recover a bit. For sure, it’s going to be a hard stage taken the conditions we’re racing under into consideration”.

Team Plans for Critérium International

Saturday and Sunday will see the French Critérium International. Here's what the one team had to say:

Tinkoff-Saxo sent this release:

Several Tinkoff-Saxo riders, who normally play the part as trusted teammates, will get the chance to shine in the two-day Critérium Internation on Corsica. Tinkoff-Saxo won the race six times in a row from ’04 to ’09 and will be at the start Saturday with a bag of good memories and an ambition to perform well across the versatile three stages.

Two days of racing packed with three stages of terrain for the sprinters, time trialists and climbers await Tinkoff-Saxo and the rest of the field on Corsica for this year’s 84th edition of Critérium International. It’s safe to say that it will require a show of tenacity to secure the top spot on the podium, when the race finishes Sunday on top of the 14km Col de l’Ospedale.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s team for Critérium International is Chris Anker Sørensen, Manuele Boaro, Jay McCarthy, Jesper Hansen, Pawel Poljanski, Oliver Zaugg, Bruno Pires and Evgeny Petrov. Sean Yates, sports director of Tinkoff-Saxo, explains that a number of riders, who are normally in a supportive role, will get a chance to ride their own chances.

“Ultimately, we are looking to put a couple of guys in the GC top-ten, while trying out for a stage win. With much of the GC team away in Catalunya and the Classics riders in Belgium, we’re fielding a mixture of guys, who normally carry out a big amount of work in a supportive role, but now they have a chance to shine and seek out a personal result. Guys like Chris Anker and Hansen seems to be going well and their focus is on the GC. Then we have other guys like Boaro and McCarthy, who’ll focus on the first two stages”, says Sean Yates.

Racing starts Saturday with an early stage of just 92,5km from and to Porto Vecchio in almost completely flat terrain. A few hours later, the riders will be back in the saddle, only this time in a slightly more aggressive position, as they go contre-la-montre on an intensive 7k route.

“Stage 1 is short and will inevitably end in a sprint. The climbers will need to stay out of trouble and we’ll try to support Jay McCarthy, who is our fastest guy in a sprint. Then in the afternoon, Boaro will come to the fore in what is his highlight stage. We hope that he can do a good result in the time trial, while the GC guys limit potential time losses”, tells Sean Yates, who underlines that the GC will be decided on the 189km mountain stage to Col de l’Ospedale with a 14k finishing climb of 6,2 %.

“It’s not a monster climb but it will definitely be tough enough to create gaps. However, the race might come down to seconds, so that’s why the TT is important. The likes of Thibaut Pinot and defending champion Péraud are probably the favorites, but we believe that guys like Chris Anker and Jesper Hansen stand a fair chance of hanging on far up the finishing climb. We’ll keep those two in a protected role, while we’ll try to cover our options by putting guys like Zaugg, Petrov or Pires in the breakaway”

Chris Anker Sørensen returns to racing two weeks after showing promising signs in Paris-Nice with a long breakaway in the mountains. The Dane tells that he heads to Corsica and the start of Critérium International with a confident approach.

Chris Sorensen

Chris Sorensen climbs in the 2013 Vuelta a Espana

“I think I finished Paris-Nice on a fairly good note. I recovered well and I had some productive days of training, where my focus was on adding a further level to my shape. Now, we’ll have to see how it goes on Corsica, if my shape is spot on or if there’s still some work to do. I wasn’t completely satisfied after Paris-Nice, so I hope to do a good result here, especially on the final mountain stage”, explains Chris Anker Sørensen.

“I think we’ll see some of the bigger French teams take control from the start and we hope to get a good result with Jay, who is perhaps not a pure sprinter, but he is fast. Boaro can do well in the time trial and for guys like Jesper and Zaugg and me it’s about focusing on stage 3. I think some of the GC favorites will take initiative and have their teams lay down a fast pace on the final climb. Maybe it will then turn into a stop-and-go affair or 4-7 guys will reach the summit and decide it in an uphill sprint. It very much depends on the tactics of each team. It’s safe to say that we will do our best and maybe there will be an opening”, finishes Chris Anker Sørensen.

Race details

Dates: 28-29 March
Total length: 289 kilometers
Kind: Short stage race
First edition: 1932
Last year’s winner: Jean-Christophe Péraud
Best GC result of Tinkoff-Saxo: 1st  - Jens Voigt (2004,07,08,09), Bobby Julich (2005), Ivan Basso (2006)

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