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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Sunday, March 29, 2015

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Today's Racing

Today is a big day. We wind up three important stage races and have a big-time Belgian classic.

First off, there is the World Tour ranked Gent-Wevelgem.

Then in the stage-race department, we have the final stages for:

Bradley Wiggins Will Ride Gent-Wevelgem

Bradley Wiggins will be competing almost for the last time at Gent-Wevelgem. He'll probably enter the Belgian Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde stage race. Paris-Roubaix (April 12) will be his last race in the road before he switches to racing exclusively on the track.

This release came from Team Sky:

Team Sky has confirmed its rider line-up for Gent-Wevelgem: Bernhard Eisel, Andy Fenn, Christian Knees, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, Elia Viviani and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Bradley Wiggins

Sir Bradley Wiggins riding the 2014 World Championship time trial

While we're on the subject of Gent-Wevelgem, this came from BMC:

BMC Racing Team's Greg Van Avermaet will start Sunday's WorldTour race, Gent-Wevelgem, after crashing Friday during E3-Harelbeke.

"I was a little bit sore today, but I think that is normal," Van Avermaet said after completing a one-hour training ride with the team. "The doctor checked me and said there is nothing broken so I should be OK for tomorrow. We will see how it goes."

Joining Van Avermaet on the roster for the Belgian classic is 2007 winner Marcus Burghardt, plus three riders from the BMC Racing Team's world team time trial championship squad: Silvan Dillier, Daniel Oss and Manuel Quinziato.

Roster: Marcus Burghardt (GER), Silvan Dillier (SUI), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Klaas Lodewyck (BEL), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL).

Sport Director: Valerio Piva (ITA)

Marcus Burghardt

Marcus Burghardt will join teammate Greg van Avermaet at Gent-Wevelgem

And here's Tinkoff-Saxo's Gent-Wevelgem news:

Tinkoff-Saxo, led by team captain Peter Sagan, lines up at Gent-Wevelgem ready for the “Sprinter’s Classic”. As one of the most prestigious races of the cobblestone season, Tinkoff-Saxo looks to build on the team performance at E3 Harelbeke.

Tinkoff-Saxo lines up Peter Sagan, Matti Breschel, Maciej Bodnar, Michael Mørkøv, Matteo Tosatto, Pavel Brutt, Michael Kolar and Nikolay Trusov.

Paval Brutt

Pavel Brutt will be at Gent Wevelgem

After a promising show of forte from Tinkoff-Saxo led by Peter Sagan at E3 Harelbeke, which eventually fell short of power with 3,5km to the finish line, the team is now looking to secure a result in the prominent Gent-Wevelgem.Sports director Lars Michaelsen notes that Tinkoff-Saxo will try and build on the team performance from Friday’s race.

“We’re starting Gent-Wevelgem with a good moral and ambitions to create a result. Sagan won the race in 2013 and was on the podium the year before and after. Not to forget Matti Breschel who was third in 2012. So we definitely have some experienced forces on the team, which helps to motive our squad. Of course, we want to win, but as it often happens with Gent-Wevelgem the race could very well come down to a sprint in the final, where a lot of guys will be fighting for the same target”, comments Lars Michaelsen, who himself won the race back in 1995.

“We will be at the start of Gent-Wevelgem with E3 Harelbeke fresh in memory and with a bit of mixed emotions. We saw that there’s a high level of cohesion on the team and that we’re absolutely able to ready ourselves, when we have one of the favorites in the race”, continues Lars Michaelsen.

The 239km route of Gent-Wevelgem is guaranteed to create a selection with only the most durable riders making it to the finish line in Wevelgem. After 110 somewhat flat kilometers, the riders face nine registered short but steep climbs – many of them made even tougher by the cobbled road surface. Gent-Wevelgem derives its label “The Sprinter’s Classic” from the fact that the race often sees hardened sprinters fighting for victory on the final 30km of fairly smooth roads.

“It’s going to be another kind of race than Friday’s E3 Harelbeke and Ronde van Vlaanderen next weekend. It all comes down to the constellations after the decisive Kemmelberg and Monteberg with around 30km to go. If there’s an elite breakaway, it might make it to the line, as we saw with Sagan in 2013, or it may come down to a bigger group sprinting for the win”, explains Lars Michaelsen, who details that Tinkoff-Saxo has several cards to play:

“Sagan is our team captain, but we also have a very capable lieutenant in Matti Breschel and someone like Bodnar, if he is feeling strong in the finale, could have a go as well. In summary, we aim to have as many guys in the leading group after Kemmelberg to boost our opportunities on the last 30km section into Wevelgem”, concludes Lars Michaelsen.

Race details:

Dates: 29 March
Total length: 239 kilometers
Kind:  Cobbled World Tour Classic
First edition: 1934
Last year’s winner: John Degenkolb
Best result of Tinkoff-Saxo: 6th  - Fabian Cancellara (2006)

Wait, there's more! Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Gent-Wevelgem release:

The Team LottoNL-Jumbo-riders will face an infernal edition of Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday with storms and 10°C predicted. In that fight, Sep Vanmarcke will rely on a strong team.

“It’s going to be a serious war this Sunday,” Tom Van Asbroeck said.

“There’s no reason to complain the way I handled the bad weather last week. I’m not always able to endure those circumstances, but at this point, I can. That reinforces my hope to keep improving my form after my crash in West-Vlaanderen. I kept getting stronger in the last races, and I hope that I’m able to take the next step in Gent-Wevelgem.”

Gent-Wevelgem should be interesting for Team LottoNL-Jumbo after the rollercoaster ride in the last two Flemish races.

“Nico Verhoeven and I are always able to put things in perspective,” Sports Director Jan Boven added. “But last Wednesday even left us speechless. The fact that we finished Dwars door Vlaanderen with only one rider was bad luck.

“E3 Harelbeke went very well on the other hand. We were in the front of the race a lot. It’s extra nice to see that Bram Tankink did such a great job and Sep Vanmarcke was terrific, too.”

E3 gives the team hope for Sunday in Gent-Wevelgem, a longer race at 230 kilometres. “It’s going to be a battle of survivors,” Boven said. “You have to be very strong to be in the final sprint in Gent-Wevelgem. It would be nice if we were in the final with Sep and two other riders. Tom Van Asbroeck, Maarten Wynants and Bram Tankink are the ones to watch for that.”

Team line-up: Tom van Asbroeck, Rick Flens, Moreno Hofland, Tom Leezer, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii, Sep Vanmarcke and Maarten Wynants.

Sports Directors: Jan Boven & Nico Verhoeven.

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke, shown riding at this year's Tirreno-Adriatico, will be at Gent-Wevelgem

Tinkoff-Saxo News

Tinkoff-Saxo sent me two releases, one about the Volta a Catalunya and another regarding the Critérium International

First the Volta a Catalunya:

Tinkoff-Saxo kept fighting on the fast crosswinds stage 6 in Catalunya despite being four men down due to a stomach influenza. While Ivan Basso and Jesus Hernandez were forced to withdraw from the race, Alberto Contador was brought down by a crash within the 3km marker – Contador, however, remains 3rd overall, while Chernetckii took stage glory in the breakaway.

Stage 6 of Volta a Catalunya was carried out in a fast pace with crosswinds affecting the finale. In a roundabout less than 3 kilometers from the finish a rider entered at full speed and touched Alberto Contador's rear wheel, which resulted in the team captain crashing. Contador sustained superficial wounds on his left thigh, leg, knee, arm and hand but will, according to team DS Steven de Jongh, most likely start the final stage 7.

“Alberto was brought down in a crash, luckily it happened within the last 3 kilometers, which means that he keeps his 3rd place in the GC. Right now, he has some pain in his back and superficial wounds but he is OK. We expect Alberto to start tomorrow, for the moment we do not see any concerns in letting him do so and then we hope that he has a good day”, tells Steven de Jongh.

Alberto Contador subsequently received treatment from the team doctor after arriving at the team hotel. Furthermore adding to the misfortune on stage 6, two important pieces in the Tinkoff-Saxo race puzzle, Ivan Basso and Jesus Hernandez, were forced to abandon Volta a Catalunya before and just after the start of Saturday’s stage. Just like Rafal Majka and Michael Rogers, the two had suffered from fever and what is expected to be a stomach influenza.

Marino Basso and Alberto Contador

Marino Basso leads Alberto Contador at this year's Tirreno-Adriatico

“We are happy that Alberto is OK. But on the downside, Ivan Basso and Jesus were really ill today and abandoned the race. They were also sick yesterday, and it was the right thing to do, as their symptoms didn’t subside. The last three teammates Paulinho, Valgren, Kiserlovski did a hell of a job and worked the entire day to keep Alberto well-positioned in the crosswinds. I’m pleased with their performance”, adds Steven de Jongh.

The stage was decided amongst a 19-rider breakaway, where only a group of eight entered the finishing straight after a tough battle in the wind. Katusha’s Sergei Chernetckii was the fastest on the line. The GC remains unchanged going into the final stage of Volta a Catalunya, where Richie Porte remains in the lead, 7 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador.

And this about the Critérium International:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Manuele Boaro was close to taking the win on the intensive 7km time trial of Criterium International. In the end, a mere 2 seconds separated the Italian from the win. Earlier on the day, Jay McCarthy finished 9th on the fast stage 1. The race conclusion is eminent, as the peloton takes on Col de l’Ospedale Sunday.

Manuele Boaro was in form as he rolled down the start ramp and entered the 7km TT circuit in Porto Vecchio. On the line, the Italian Tinkoff-Saxo rider was only two seconds from the win – despite having been forced out of his aerodynamically position due to equipment breakage.

“Manuele was really sharp today and did a very strong ride. But after just 2km of the TT, his arm pad broke and he was forced to ride in the handlebars. If not, I believe that he would have won. In any case, this just proves what Manuele has already showed throughout the early part of 2015, which is that he’s performing well. Today suited him and we know that he’s good in these short, intensive time trials”, says Nicki Sørensen, sports director at Tinkoff-Saxo, after the conclusion of the dual race day.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s climber Jesper Hansen is found further down the list of results from the TT after an unfortunate lack of signing caused the Dane to miss a turn and lose 1:06.

“Jesper is in good shape, so it’s unfortunate that he lost this much time today. He started out well but in a corner he continued straight forward, as there were no instructions from the race officials. So he had to turn around and he naturally lost quite a lot of time on that”, notes Nicki Sørensen,

Earlier on the day, the riders had tackled the short and fast 92,5km stage 1, where the peloton ultimately had to succumb to a two-man breakaway in form. Jay McCarthy was 9th on the stage – a satisfactory result for the young Australian, according to Nicki Sørensen.

Jay McCarthy

Jay McCarthy was ninth in stage 1

“In general, the boys showed promising signs in both the TT and earlier on stage 1, where Jay finished 9th in the sprint after the favorite’s teams had underestimated the breakaway”.

“Tomorrow, we’re heading into the final stage, which takes us into the mountains. I believe we have some good possibilities. We’ve seen that Jesper is in shape just like Manuele and also Pawel Poljanski. Chris Anker was a bit ill today, so we will see about his shape tomorrow. Tomorrow is a terrain, where we have some good riders. However, we are not the favorite, so we will have to play our cards right”, adds Nicki Sørensen about the finishing stage 3 to Col de l’Ospedale.

And Cult Energy sent this note about the Critérium International:

Saturday morning, Cult Energy Pro Cycling took on the 92 kilometer short first stage of the French stage race, Criterium International on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Two escapees were dangling in front of the lurking peloton and the powerful tandem managed to hold the big beast of the bunch behind all the way to the finish line.

The flat stage, besides the short climb, Cote de Conga halfway through the course, was an obvious target for the sprinters but Ben King (Cannondale) and Saint Martin (Team Marseiile) really had a good run for the finish line and eventually made it. In the sprint, King was the faster of the two. Cult Energy Pro Cycling's Michael Carbel finished 11th while the team's hope for the GC, Linus Gerdemann finished in the peloton as well 48 seconds behind the stage winner.

Ben king

Ben King wins stage 1

The seven kilometer short time trial Saturday afternoon was won by Fabio Felline one second ahead of teammate Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing). Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s hope for the GC, Linus Gerdemann finished with a time loss of 32 seconds but yet ahead of some of the main contenders for tomorrow’s queen stage covering 189.5 kilometers with a mountain top finish.

Ben King (Cannondale) still leads overall before tomorrow’s final stage. Linus Gerdemann is 38th overall - 59 seconds away from King.

DS, Michael Skelde states: "It was a typical first stage where everybody wanted to get away and nobody wanted to take charge of the peloton and the escapees had perfect conditions on the run-in with tailwind and slight downhill. So when the bunch ignited the engine, it was too late. This afternoon, Linus lost a little more ground than expected on the TT but he's in good condition and very motivated. If everything goes well, I still reckon he can finish among the best on tomorrow's mountain stage. We know we're up against some of the best climbers in the world but we remain optimistic."

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