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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Monday, March 30, 2015

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

Today's Racing

No racing to report today. Tuesday will see the first stage of 3 Days of De Panne-Koksijde.

But Sunday was a big-time day of racing with the World Tour ranked Gent-Wevelgem plus the final stages for:

Astana to Lose World Tour License?

The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports today that Astana will lose its World Tour license. This should become official when the UCI License Commission has its April 2 meeting. Astana says it will fight any attempt to downgrade the team to Continental status.

Here is a link to the newspaper article

And what follows is a slightly modified Google translation (sorry about that, but I know no Dutch) of the Telegraaf article:

Mon 30 Mar 2015 05:59
Providing false information removes the team of Nibali, Westra and Boom
"Astana from World Tour "

Our Telesport Editors
The formation of Astana Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali and Dutch Lars Boom and Westra will lose its WorldTour license.

It can only apply for a continental license whose allotment right lies with the national federation. This means that to Kazakhstan team does not start more opportunity for all the big races.
A senior person within the International Cycling Union, UCI has Telesport last week whispered the news. The license commission decided when it met on March 20, two days before Milan-Sanremo. Only next Thursday, April 2nd, the federation will come out on the delicate issue of Astana.
An official confirmation of this news did not come tothis newspaper. But when asked the news was confirmed. The new UCI president Brian Cookson is for the first time really setting his teeth in the fight against doping.

The timing of the announcement is extremely inconvenient for Boom , who hopes to shine next weekend at the Tour of Flanders and the next week in Paris-Roubaix.

Lars Boom

Dutch Astana rider Lars Boom lead the pack at the 2015 People's Choice Classic

Bjarne Riis Out the Door

I sure didn't see this one coming, but looking back I probably should have. Bjarne Riis was fired late Sunday, the 29th, from the team he founded, now Tinkoff-Saxo, by Russian team owner Oleg Tinkoff. The pair clearly have had a relationship with more than its share of friction.

Here is the statement posted on the Tinkoff-Saxo web site:

Tinkoff Sport A/S – Managing company of team Tinkoff Saxo – and Bjarne Riis have reached a mutual agreement to terminate all contracts entered between Tinkoff Sport A/S and Bjarne Riis with immediate effect. All terms of said agreement shall remain confidential and both parties shall abstain from making any further comment‎. Early next week, Tinkoff Saxo will announce, in a separate statement, the new structure of its technical and performance group. Tinkoff Saxo would like to thank its title sponsors, Tinkoff Bank and Saxo Bank, as well as all its other sponsors and suppliers for their continued support and confidence shown ‎in the team. At the same time, the team looks forward to continuing receiving the support of its fans both on the road and on its social media platforms.

Riis has led an interesting professional life. He won the 1996 Tour de France, which he later admitted was a victory gained by using EPO. There was surely nothing unusual about a top rider of the era using that blood booster.

After retiring from racing he went into pro team management, gaining control of the Danish Jack and Jones team, that morphed into CSC-Tiscali and finally now, Tinkoff-Saxo.

Tinkoff and Riis

Oleg Tinkoff and Bjarne Riis smile for the cameras

Russian businessman Oleg Tinkoff bought the team from Riis in 2013 with Riis continuing on as team manager. Friction between the two was apparently constant, which culminated in Riis' discharge Sunday evening.

Boasson Hagen Fractures Clavicle at Gent-Wevelghem

The team put the sad news succinctly:

Sad news for MTN-Qhubeka's classics captain Edvald Boasson Hagen. The Norwegian sustained a distal fracture of his right clavicle in a crash at the Moeren part of today’s Gent-Wevelgem. He will miss out on the upcoming monuments such as the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

“In a weather affected and dangerous race Edvald was involved in a crash”, states team doctor Dr Jarrad van Zuydam. “He made impact with a pole on the side of the road and has sustained a fracture of the outside portion of his right clavicle.”

The fracture will heal well without surgery but Edvald will be unable to race for at least four weeks. The timing of this injury is very unfortunate for MTN-Qhubeka and the Norwegian who showed a good form in recent weeks and was looking forward to the upcoming classics.

Edvald Boasson Hagen

Boasson Hagen riding the 2014 Amstel Gold Race

“Paris-Roubaix was obviously one of the main goals of Edvald’s spring campaign”, adds the team’s Performance Manager Jens Zemke. “He was coming into shape and was very focussed on performing well in the upcoming cobbled monuments.”

Edvald will be sidelined for the moment but is motivated to return stronger than ever.

Gent-Wevelgem Team Reports

Lotto-Soudal sent this news:

Epic, that’s how you can call the 77th edition of Ghent-Wevelgem. A strong wind literally blew riders off their bikes and in the first half of the race there were heavy showers as well. Jürgen Roelandts made a strong impression by riding almost sixty kilometres alone in front. A chase group with teammate Jens Debusschere reeled him in with 17.7 kilometres to go. Roelandts eventually crossed the finish line as seventh. Debusschere was fifth today. Luca Paolini won the race.

Already after a few kilometres the peloton was split in three. The circumstances didn’t seem to scare off seven riders who decided to set up a breakaway. They had a maximal lead of almost nine minutes. The effect of the wind was even bigger at the Moeren, there were echelons as far as you could look. Debusschere, Greipel, Roelandts and Sieberg were part of the first group that caught up with the leaders. That was at 130 kilometres from the end. Thirty kilometres further Maarten Tjallingii thought it was his time to attack. After the first ascent of the Kemmelberg Jürgen Roelandts accompanied him. The Lotto Soudal rider soon went solo.

Jurgen Roelandts

Jurgen Roelandts in 2013

When Roelandts got alone in front he still had 75 kilometres to cover. The chase group consisted of five riders: teammate Debusschere, Oss, Thomas, Vanmarcke and Vandenbergh. Later Paolini and Terpstra would join them. For a long time things were going great for Jürgen Roelandts. He had a stable advantage on the chasers of two minutes. The peloton didn’t play a role anymore.

After the second ascent of the Kemmelberg the lead of Roelandts decreased to one and a half minutes and it continued going down. 17.7 kilometres from the end his solo adventure came to an end. Roelandts made a strong impression just one week before the Tour of Flanders. Several attacks followed. Luca Paolini became the winner and arrived solo in Wevelgem. Terpstra beat Thomas in the sprint for the second place. Debusschere was fifth at 26 seconds. One and a half minutes later Roelandts finished on place seven.

Jürgen Roelandts: “The weather didn’t scare me off today, it was as forecasted. Although I have to say I can’t remember it was ever so bad in a race. We had to be very attentive because of the echelons. I felt really good today and after the first ascent of the Kemmelberg I closed the gap on Tjallingii. Not much later I rode alone in front. I had hoped more riders would follow me. For a while I thought about holding back, but eventually I continued. I wanted to make something of this race. If I had one other man with me, this could have worked. Now it was one against four and then one against six.”

“I hoped to benefit from the tailwind in the last part of the race, but in Ypres I got tired. Until 25 kilometres from the finish I still believed in it. Not much later I had no energy left, although I had eaten and taken sufficient fluids. It was a long time ago since I had done such an effort. If I had pulled this off it would have been a crazy performance. Now I’ll focus on my recuperation for the Tour of Flanders.”

Jens Debusschere: “I come from Dadizele and know the area very well. It was really important to get a good position today, it helped that I knew the route. First I could tag along with the favourites, although I didn’t feel great. Of course I didn’t have to help in the chase. I could keep calm and wait how the story would develop. In the final I couldn’t follow the best anymore. Together with Vanmarcke I closed the gap on Terpstra, Thomas, Paolini and Vandenbergh, but then it was over for me. It was a strong performance of Jürgen today, he showed sense of initiative. We both end up in top ten, but we miss the icing on the cake.”

Tinkoff-Saxo had this to say about Gent-Wevelgem:

Gent-Wevelgem evolved into a crash-marred affair with most of the team riders hitting the deck in the 80km/h crosswinds that created havoc on the 239km road to Wevelgem. In the end, Peter Sagan finished 10th in the main chasing group behind winner Luca Paolini, after having been isolated due to the numerous crashes. Only 39 riders completed the race.

After crossing the finish line, team captain Peter Sagan notes that the day had been extremely dangerous due to the weather conditions.

“It was an extremely tough and dangerous race. After 70km we had forceful wind gusts and at the same time we were going full gas, which created echelons and made the race really tough. I have now had two demanding races, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, and I have spent a lot of energy. So I need to recover from today and I’ll be looking forward to Ronde van Vlaanderen”, says Peter Sagan, who took second spot behind Kristoff in the big chasing group.

After setting out from the start town of Deinze accompanied by heavy rain, the riders entered a long section of extreme crosswinds, which turned the pro riders into kites being carried away in the wind. Lars Michaelsen tells that Tinkoff-Saxo was heavily affected by crashes during this part of the race.

Gent-Wevelgem crash

A hard day on the cobbles at Gent-Wevelgem

“This year’s edition was very unique and very hard for the riders and it was very dramatic for Tinkoff-Saxo, as we had so many riders crashing. It happened after 70k, where the riders turned left, and some places they hit 80km/h winds, which simply sent the riders flying. Trusov had to pick his bike up from a small river or watery ditch and Bodnar also crashed around this part. Then Matti broke his nose in a fall and Sagan even hit the deck”, tells Lars Michaelsen, who adds that Breschel managed to get back to support Peter Sagan.

“Matti fought his way back to the front but with 75km he had to let go, which meant that Sagan was alone without teammates and support. It’s not what we came for and I’m sure that we are all a bit disappointed, actually a lot. But we will be back in a week for the remaining Classics starting with Vlaanderen”, adds Lars Michaelsen.

This Gent-Wevelgem report came from Lampre-Merida:

Very demanding 2015 edition of the Gand-Wevelgem because of the strong wind and of the rain that felt on the 240 km of the course of the World Tour race.

These weather conditions did not help two of the most awaited Lampre-Merida's riders for the Belgian race, namely Pozzato and Bonifazio: Pozzato had to face in the eve of GP Harelbeke a gastrointestinal virus and Bonifazio crashed during the same race, so today they were at the start of the Gand-Wevelgem with many doubts that the rain and the wind did not solve.

Pozzato quit the race after 70 km and Bonifazio, who was suffering for a contusion on the elbow, also quit the race. The other blue-fuchsia-green cyclists tried to do their best, but the echelons and the selection cut them out from the race.

Kilometer after kilometer the selection became heavier and heavier and so only 6 riders were left in the final 10 km in the front of the race battling for the victory, which was obtained by Paolini.

Riders battle winds

Riders form echelons to battle the race's strong winds

Critérium International Ended Sunday, the 29th

This came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Manuele Boaro delivered a strong performance on the final day of Criterium Internationale finishing 10th atop the 14k climb to Col de l’Ospedale. The fast Italian concludes the race as 10th in the overall GC. Confirmation of a strong shape, says team DS Sean Yates.

Manuele Boaro, not often seen at the front on tough mountain finishes, delivered a sturdy performance in the fight for a good result in the general classification. After a powerful TT performance Saturday, Boaro claimed 10th overall, 46 seconds down on race winner Jean-Christophe Peraud and only 6 seconds of the GC top five.

“Manuele’s performance was very surprising. He was really strong and finished in the top ten on the final 14km climb, which is testament to his current form and the fact that he has prepared very well. His performance means that we reach our target, which was to have a guy in the top ten after today’s last stage”, says Sean Yates, who is still frustrated with the fact that Boaro missed out on the TT win with just two seconds due to equipment breakage:

Manuele Boaro

Manuele Boaro

“Our other target was to get a stage win, and Manuele did a bloody good job yesterday and he would surely have won the TT hadn’t his arm pad come off. It bothers me and Manuele was also disappointed because he had looked forward to that stage for four months”.

The finishing stage 3 of Criterium Internationale took the riders 189,5km from Porto Vecchio to Col de l’Ospedale. The peloton kept the early breakaway within safe distance and it was up to the climbers to decide the stage on the final climb, where Jean-Christophe Peraud took both stage win and GC. Sean Yates was torn in his assessment of the overall team effort on the final day.

“Chris Anker couldn’t start as he was sick, which was a shame, since he had been targeting this race. Pawel was also ill but managed to finish as our third best guy. Boaro was obviously good and Jay also finished up there, but I had expected to see more from the rest of the guys, who put in a disappointing display today”, finishes Sean Yates.

Cult Energy's Critérium News:

Christian Mager represented Cult Energy Pro Cycling in the long-lasting breakaway during today’s 186 kilometer long queen stage of Criterium International from Porto Vecchio to the mountain top finish on Col de l’Ospedale. But eventually, the break was caught and the top favorites were to battle for the stage and the overall win.

In the peloton, Ben King’s Cannondale-Garmin team were chasing the breakaway riders and they managed to neutralize the remains of the breakaway a few kilometers up the climb. Soon, riders started to drop from the back of the bunch and with 9 kilometers to go, the leader of the race, Ben King was dropped on the slope and the overall lead was up for grabs. From that moment, the French teams took over the reigns of the pack and with 7 kilometers to go, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) launched an attack taking four other riders with him.

But in a counter-move, the defending champion, Jean-Christophe Peruad (AG2R) created a big gap leaving FDJ and Cofidis on the chase while Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Linus Gerdemann ultimately was in the select group of riders chasing the Frenchman.

On the final part of the climb, the gradient rose to 12 per cent and Thibaut Pinot seized the moment and picked up the pace to explode the chase group and unfortunately, Gerdemann had to let go. But Thibaut started his chase too late and Peraud managed to take both the stage and defend his title from last year overall.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Linus Gerdemann finished 15th on the uphill finish and DS, Michael Skelde was about the result as well as the team effort:

linus Gerdemann

Cult Energy rider Linus Gerdemann in 2013

"I’m content with what I saw today from the boys. First, four riders went away and Christian (Mager) single-handedly bridged across to take part of the breakaway. Christian is young and still unexperienced so I’m very impressed by his effort today. Moving in to the finale, Fabian Wegmann was an excellent co-driver for Linus and he delivered him perfectly at the foot of the climb. Eventually, Linus was up against some of the best riders in the world counting Pinot and Peraud and I couldn’t have expected more from Linus today. If only he hadn’t been so unfortunate on yeaterday’s TT, he might have finished in the top-10 overall,” says Skelde.

Volta a Catalunya Team Reports

Tinkoff-Saxo sent this:

With the conclusion of Volta a Catalunya, Tinkoff-Saxo can look back on a week of challenging racing with sickness and a hard crash, which ultimately ended with a 4th place overall for Alberto Contador. The team captain now focuses on recovering from his crash and continuing his preparations ahead of the big goal of Giro d’Italia

As Alejandro Valverde won the last stage of Volta a Catalunya and took full bonification, Alberto Contador moved out of the podium places and into 4th in the overall GC. According to Alberto himself, he was affected by his stage 6 crash.

“This was the toughest stage of the Volta a Catalunya because of the injuries I sustained in yesterday's crash. The only injury that worries me a little bit right now is in my back. I think that when I crashed yesterday a nerve must have been affected. I felt a sensation of intense heat in my back and I noticed it a bit today going over speed bumps”, says Alberto Contador, who remains confident in his preparations ahead of Giro d’Italia:

“The Volta a Catalunya is over and, again, I now have to recover and focus physically and mentally on the season's first big target, the Giro d'Italia. Our preparation schedule this year is spread over a longer period in all aspects and right now everything is going exactly as planned”.

In the end, racing in Catalunya came down to a few seconds in the search for overall glory. Alberto Contador finished 7 seconds behind race winner Richie Porte and only 2 seconds off the podium.

“Despite the crash, I'm happy with my performance and my current form. A lot of people might compare my performance with that of last year but they are two completely different years. Last year my main goal was the Tour and the first peak in my performance took place in spring. This year this peak has to take place later. I now have to fully recover from my injuries and focus on the Giro d'Italia, which is what obsesses me right now and what I think about every day”, adds the team captain.

With six out of eight riders falling ill from a stomach influenza during the course of the race and having to abandon altogether, it’s safe to say that Catalunya proved a challenge for Tinkoff-Saxo. Despite the depleted team, team sports director Steven de Jongh underlines that the remaining riders fought hard.

Alberto Contador

Contador climbing at this year's Ruta del Sol

“Once again the remaining teammates of Alberto did their very best and Kiserlovski and Valgren proved important today, as Paulinho was also ill today. Despite taking all measures, such as eating separately, he was also feeling bad, when we started this morning”, says Steven de Jongh, who adds that it was difficult to prevent Valverde from taking bonus seconds on the last stage in Barcelona.

“After the crash yesterday, Alberto was not feeling well at all, as he was quite bruised. So he was just happy to stay in the first group. Of course, we would have preferred to finish on the podium, but we knew that Valverde was a big favorite and today, he once again proved his class in the final sprint. Now, we focus on making sure that all the boys recover and we continue to prepare for the Giro d’Italia”, concludes Steven de Jongh.

LottoNL-Jumbo's Catalonia report:

Wilco Kelderman took home the young riders classification in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. The 24-year-old Team LottoNL-Jumbo Dutchman finished ninth in the overall classification today after a challenging week.

The stage race in the north of Spain finished with a traditional ride in Barcelona and just as Sports Director Frans Maassen predicted. “It was a sprint with a group of around 40 riders,” Maassen said. “For a moment, it was a little bit doubtful if Wilco would be part of that group because of some mechanical problems. Fortunately, we remedied those problems quickly enough and he finished just out of the top 10 [in 12th]. The only thing, due to that bad luck, he wasn’t able to get in the front to attack.”

Wilco Kelderman

Wilco Kelderman at the 2015 Vuelta a Espana

The top of the general classification stayed the same. Kelderman saved his ninth place and his lead in the youth classification. “I’m quite satisfied with that,” Kelderman said. “I’m glad that I was able to finish top ten another time in a stage race with such good participants. I was looking for some confirmation after Paris-Nice anyway. I have always been confident about my preparation and my form. I do everything I can and that will pay off sometime.”

Kelderman leaves the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya with good sensations, which will help him during the Ardennes Classics. “Those classics are my first big targets,” he added. “It will be the first time for me to compete in those races. It’s hard to predict how I will perform there, but I’m curious to see.”

This Catalonia news came from Lampre-Merida:

Barcelona was the theatre of another one seasonal goal for Rafael Valls.

The Spanish rider from Team Lampre-Merida achieved at the end of the last stage of Volta a Catalunya (126,6 km in Barcelona) a top 10 placing in the final overall classification, 8th place at 43" behind winner Porte.

The 8 laps of the circuit of the Montjuic did not create problems for Valls, despite the fact he could not rely on the support by the team mate Niemiec, who did not take part in the race because of the crash he was involved in during yesterday's stage (hip contusion). Lampre-Merida's captain crossed the finish line in 9th place, at the end of a sprint that was won by Valverde.

Rafael Valls

Rafael Valls at the 2015 Tour of Oman

Valls added the final 8th place to a good series of top results obtained in 2015: the victory in Tour de Oman, with the queen stage success, and the 8th final place in Paris-Nice.

"I'm very happy I could obtain once again a place in the top ten of a World Tour race, giving to the team important points for the ranking - Valls explained - The Volta a Catalunya has been very demanding: the breakaway in the first stage was conditional forthe overall classification, but in each stage there was a battle.

"Under this conditions, it was important to realize regular performances and I think I succeeded to do it, despite the crash in the final kilometer of the stage with arrival in Valls. I thank the support I received from my team mates, which allowed me to battled against the top riders. My next appointments will be the Ardenne Classics and the Tour de Romandie".

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