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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Wednesday, March 4, 2015

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

Le Samyn (1.1) race live updates now in progress

LottoNL-Jumbo Statement Regarding Kevin de Weert

Before going on to the upcoming races, I think LottoNL-Jumbo's release regarding their rider Kevin de Weert and his relationship with Doctor Chris Mertens, who is undergoing an investigation for assisting in doping, should go first:

"In response to this morning’s media reports, Team LottoNL-Jumbo issues the following statement. The Belgian climber Kevin de Weert has never been placed under suspicion in the case revolving around doctor Chris Mertens from Rotselaar. De Weert has voluntarily cooperated in the DNA investigation at the beginning of January 2014, in which no match was found. The team sees no reason for Kevin not to race, therefore he will start in the Tirreno Adriatico.

Kevin de Weert

Kevin de Weert at the 2014 Tour of Poland

Statement of Kevin de Weert: “I was a patient at doctor Merten’s practice for a short period of time in 2012, which is close to my home. At the moment I received notice of the investigation, I immediately looked for a different physician. At the end of 2013, I received a court letter with the request to voluntarily provide them with DNA-material because they wanted to close the case. In the beginning of 2014, I voluntarily gave them samples of my DNA, and I do not have to justify myself at the court or my sports federation, because I never received any summoned for hearing” says Kevin de Weert."

Team News for Upcoming Races

We've a lot of racing coming up.

First of all, today, Wednesday, the 4th, we'll have Belgium's GP Le Samyn (1.1). I plan to do live updates. I don't know exactly when the Euro broadcast will start, but it should be between 5 and 6 AM Pacific time. I'll have a link and notice on the home page to say that the updates have begun.

March 6 - 8 (Friday - Sunday) is Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen (Three Days of West Flanders) (2.1), a really important race.

And on Saturday, March 7, we'll have complete results, and lots of photos from Sirotti, of Italy's Strade Bianche with its sections of racing on unpaved roads.

Paris-Nice (World Tour) and the Tour de Langkawi (HC) will both begin on Sunday, the 8th. Originally scheduled to run on the 8th, Roma Maxima, formerly the Giro del Lazio, has been cancelled. The organizer, RCS Sport, has been reported to be suffering financial problems of late and this cancellation is probably a result of those troubles. RCS also runs the Giro d'Italia, which is hugely profitable and helps support the running of other races, as well as the Strade Bianche.

With that in mind, the teams have sent releases regarding their participation and hopes for the next competitions.

Team Sky's Rosters for upcoming Races

Team Sky has confirmed its rider line-ups for the Strade Bianche, Le Tour de Langkawi, Paris-Nice and Tirreno Adriatico:

Strade Bianche [7 March]: Andy Fenn, Peter Kennaugh, Christian Knees, Salvatore Puccio, Ian Stannard, Elia Viviani and Xabier Zandio. 

Le Tour de Langkawi [ 8-15 March]: Ian Boswell, Philip Deignan, Nathan Earle,  Sebastian Henao, Danny Pate and CJ Sutton.

Paris-Nice [8-15 March]: Bernhard Eisel, Lars-Petter Nordhaug, Richie Porte, Nicolas Roche, Luke Rowe, Ben Swift, Geraint Thomas and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Tirreno Adriatico [11-17 March]: Chris Froome, Peter Kennaugh, Leopold König, Mikel Nieve, Wout Poels, Salvatore Puccio, Ian Stannard and Elia Viviani.

Ian Stannard

Sky rider Ian Stannard wins this year's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. He'll be at the Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico

Driedaagse van West Vlaanderen Pro Team News

BMC's release:

Roster: 3-daagse van West-Vlaanderen

Campbell Flakemore and Klaas Lodewyck return to action this week for the BMC Racing Team, having recovered from broken collarbones sustained in separate crashes in January and February. The two will be part of the team's roster for 3-daagse van West-Vlaanderen, a three-day stage race in Belgium that begins Friday. Lodewyck and Flakemore - the reigning Under 23 world time trial champion - will be joined by six others, including Jempy Drucker, who finished sixth Sunday at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Rick Zabel

BMC rider Rick Zabel racing in the 2015 Giro di Laigueglia

Riders: Jempy Drucker (LUX), Campbell Flakemore (AUS), Klaas Lodewyck (BEL), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Manuel Senni (ITA), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Danilo Wyss (SUI), Rick Zabel (GER).

Sport Directors: Allan Peiper (AUS), Geert Van Bondt (BEL)

LottoNL-Jumbo's plans for West Vlaanderen:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo has several options to perform during the 3-daagse van West-Vlaanderen. Tom Van Asbroeck is the most important rider for the stages, while Martijn Keizer should be able to deliver a good general classification because of his time trial skills.

“I have to be at my best, now”, Martijn Keizer makes clear. “I am satisfied with my current condition. I have to show off during the prologue in West-Vlaanderen. This race suits me well enough to maintain a good position in the general classification afterwards.”

The 3-daagse van West-Vlaanderen starts with a prologue of 7 kilometres. The two stages are challenging with its tough climbs such as the Oude Kwaremont, the Rodeberg, the Monteberg and the Kemmelberg. “It’s a profile that gives all the riders a chance to show themselves”, sports director Frans Maassen said. “In Tom Van Asbroeck, we have a strong man for the stages and Martijn Keizer is able to deliver a good time trial. But maybe one of the other riders can surprise.”

Tom Van Asbroeck showed in the Algarve and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne that he is in good shape at the moment. For this reason we expect him to perform in the 3-daagse van West-Vlaanderen as well.

“But it’s premature to expect that he will win a stage”, Maassen nuances. “There will be a lot of strong riders in this race and cycling isn’t a sport in which winning is a formality anyway. I hope that everyone will give everything they have. When the whole team has fought at their maximum level, I will be satisfied with every result. The prologue will be decisive for the general classification, so I expect everyone to go all the way in those 7 kilometres.”

Bert-Jan Lindemann

Bert Jan Lindemann (shown at the 2012 Etoile de Besseges) will be at the West-Vlaanderen start in LottoNL-Jumbo colors.

Team Line-up: Tom van Asbroeck, Brian Bulgac, Martijn Keizer, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Nick van der Lijke, Barry Markus, Timo Roosen en Mike Teunissen.

Sports Director: Frans Maassen

And this from Ag2R, please forgive the loose translantion

Belgian racing continued this week with Le Samyn and the Three Days of West Flanders. After a good start to the classic campaign, Hugo Houle could do well this week. The team will also rely on racers like Alexis Gougeard on Saturday to gain positions at the front of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Houle said, "I worked hard this winter, I returned earlier to France to benefit from better training conditions. I was a little surprised to find myself on the podium of time trial of the Tour de San Luis. For me, it's still my biggest performance. I am satisfied with my first race weekend in Belgium, I can see that I have made good progress since last year. I asked for a lot of early season racing (Hugo has 15 race days so far this year). I see that it pays fruit. Concerning the coming week, I want to do well on the Prologue of the Driedaagse Van West Vlaanderen. Last year the winner of the prologue did well in the general classification."

Sebastien Turgot

Sébastien Turgot in the 2012 Tour Down Under

Sebastien Turgot powers throught

And this: Suffering from tendinitis since the end of the Tour du Haut Var, Sébastien Turgot must miss the first Belgian races. The classics rider hopes to return as soon as possible to tackle the races he loves.

Lotto-Soudal's plans for West Flanders:

Since 2011 the Three Days of West-Flanders starts with a prologue in Middelkerke. Three times the winner of the prologue became the overall winner as well. Obviously the prologue is important to get a good classification. The prologue in Middelkerke is seven kilometres long. The riders will head towards Nieuwpoort to then head back to the Casino in Middelkerke after three and a half kilometres.

The first stage, on Saturday, is 174.1 kilometres long. The peloton starts in Bruges. After hundred kilometres the riders will arrive at the Oude Kwaremont, the only hill on the route. Afterwards there are 74 flat kilometres left till the finish town Harelbeke, where the riders will have to cover four laps of 9.9 kilometres. The final stage from Nieuwpoort to Ichtegem is tougher with a total of eleven hills. The Goeberg, Rodeberg, Monteberg and Kemmelberg are halfway on the course. At the end there are three laps with the Keiberg and Ruidenberg as obstacles. After 184.5 kilometres the stage will come to an end and the winner of the Three Days of West-Flanders will be known.

Frederik Willems, sports director: “The prologue is indeed decisive in the battle for the overall win. We hope to set a fast time with Sean De Bie, who proved in the Tour of Denmark last year that he can ride a good time trial, Vegard Breen and Kris Boeckmans, who is in good shape.”

“Normally Kris Boeckmans will be our sprinter. He won a stage in the Etoile de Bessèges and proved in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne that he’s good. Kenny Dehaes is our backup. I don’t expect a real bunch sprint. With hills like the Oude Kwaremont, Kemmelberg and Monteberg a selection will be made. If a peloton of sixty riders heads to the finish, Kris should be in it. Much will depend on the other riders on the start list. Also the weather conditions will have their influence on the race.”

Kris Boeckmans

Kris Boeckmans race the West Flanders stage race as part of the Lotto-Soudal team. Here is earlier in the year at the Etoile de Besseges

Team Selection Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Kris Boeckmans, Vegard Breen, Sean De Bie, Kenny Dehaes, Gert Dockx, Boris Vallée and Tosh Van der Sande.

Sports directors: Kurt Van de Wouwer and Frederik Willems.

Tinkoff-Saxo's Plans for Tour de Langkawi

Tinkoff-Saxo is heading to the eight-stage Tour of Langkawi in Malaysia starting on March 8. Young climbers Edward Beltran and Jesper Hansen will get the chance to prove themselves on the new and more undulating route of Langkawi, which has traditionally favored the sprinters. With the stars of Tinkoff-Saxo racing in Europe, the team’s participation in Malaysia makes way for other riders to see action as well as proving themselves.

Sports director Tristan Hoffman says, “We have two important programs in Europe coming ahead with Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico and we will use Langkawi as a way to have the remaining riders take part in a race. It's important that they race in this period of the year”.

Besides Edward Beltran and Jesper Hansen, the team is fielding Bruno Pires, Pavel Brutt as well as Michael Kolar and Nikolay Trusov, who will be targeting the sprints.

Pavel Brutt

Pavel Brutt at this year's Tour Down Under

“As for the GC, we have two young riders, Beltran and Hansen, and we would like to see them try for the GC. Many of the stages are flat except for stage seven that finishes on the Genting Highlands with a serious climb to 1,650m, while stage three and six also features a hilly parcours”, says Tristan Hoffman and continues: “Then, we have Kolar and Trusov for the sprints. Kolar is getting back into full form after struggling a bit with illness and Trusov is in good shape as well. These are the two riders that will do the sprints. We’ll decide who will do the lead out and who will spearhead the sprint depending on who feels the best on the day”.

Jesper Hansen, 24 year old, who is doing his second season in the WorldTour, looks forward to representing the team’s GC ambitions at Langkawi. “I’m focused on giving my best and doing a good job for my team. I also rode Langkawi last year, where I felt well on the traditional queen stage of the race to Genting Highlands. It looks like this stage will once again decide the GC, so Beltran and I will have to stay at the front, be aware of breakaways and do our best on the final 19.6km climb”, explains Jesper Hansen.

Jesper Hansen will be co-GC captain together with Edward Beltran

The Tour of Langkawi is known and dreaded for its tropical temperatures and humidity, which can zap a rider’s energy, if dehydration sets in.

“It’s a tough race due to the climate. Last year, we rode in 40° C throughout the race with a high humidity. Hydration is absolutely essential, so it’s normal to see everybody drinking 10 bottles per stage. And it’s just as important to be in good shape in order to cope with the conditions. I got some really important speed into the legs at Tour of Qatar, so I’m looking forward to getting started”, adds the young Dane.

For this year’s edition, the race has been brought down from ten to eight, slightly shorter stages to allow for more intense racing. With only six riders per squad, it is therefore crucial to stay alert, underlines Tristan Hoffman.

“It might be less demanding, but it will not be much easier, since the shorter stages will be raced at a faster pace. We have to be careful with the big breakaways and be present in them. With the teams being smaller and consisting of only six riders, we have to be ready to go into the breakaway. If you want to protect a few riders it is important to be there, since you don't have many riders to pull at the front”, concludes Hoffman.

Race Preview

Dates: 8 – 15 March
Number of stages: 8
Total length: 1,118 kilometers
Kind:  Predominantly sprinter’s stage race with few mountain stages
First edition: 1996
Last year’s winner: Samad Pourseyedi
Best GC result of Tinkoff-Saxo: 18th – Jesper Hansen (2014)

Race Route
This year’s edition of Tour of Langkawi features eight stages. Despite its name, the race only spends a single day on the island of Langkawi before heading to the main part of Malaysia. Stage 1 will suit the sprinters, while the GC riders will have to be aware already on stage 2 and 3.

Stage 4 and 5 once again favor the fast men looking to reach the finish line for a high-speed battle on the final straight. The fight for the GC will resume on the short but punchy stage 6, with 97km of constant up-and-down racing in hilly terrain.

Stage 7 to Genting Highlands is the absolute queen stage of the race, where Tour of Langkawi will be settled among the climbers. The stage finishes atop a 19.6km climb of 5.5 percent. However, large parts of the climb challenge the riders with an incline close to 10 percent.

Tour of Langkawi is concluded on stage 8 to Kuala Lumpur, which will again see the sprinters in action.

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