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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Saturday, May 9, 2015

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Today's Racing

Big day of racing today: First off, the first stage of the Giro d'Italia.

Plus, two other high-end men's races, the fourth stage of both the "HC" ranked Four Days of Dunkirk (4 Jours de Dunkerque), and the 2.1 Tour de Azerbaidjan.

And, the second stage of the Tour of California Women's Race.

Dorel Industries Profit Hurt By Exchange Rate

Dorel is a giant company for which its bicycle sector is just a part of what it does. But that sector includes some the the most iconic and important brands in the industry, including Cannondale, Iron Horse, Caloi, Schwinn, Sugoi, and Mongoose as well as mass-merchant behemoth Pacific Cycle.

Bicycle Retailer reported that despite revenue being up three percent, foreign exchange rates hurt profit, saying:

While worldwide currencies have somewhat stabilized against the U.S. dollar, foreign exchange rates dealt a major blow to Dorel's first-quarter earnings across all of its business divisions, officials told analysts during a call Thursday morning. The company derives nearly half of its overall revenue from non-U.S. markets.

Also factoring into first-quarter results was the West Coast ports slowdown, which cost the company $1.5 million in added transportation and logistics cost.

In its bike division, the company reported first-quarter revenue was down $11.4 million or 4.8 percent, at $228 million, down from $240 million last year. Removing foreign exchange losses, organic growth was up 3 percent due to strong sales at independent dealers in Europe and Japan, and through Caloi in Brazil. Sales across overseas markets, especially Europe, started out strong, said Jeffrey Schwartz, Dorel's CFO.

"There was a slowdown in the U.S. because of the late spring. Although spring is out there now and we're expecting business to pick up," he said.

"On the mass side, we had a big Q4. We had inventories sold in Q4 so January was a weak start on mass side. March was good and April was good. We're not off by a lot here," Schwartz added.

For the entire Bicycle Retailer article click on this link

Giro d'Italia News

Hot Diggity! The Giro starts today. We've got lots of info including pictures of the pre-race ceremonies and riders at their press conferences. We'll have complete results posted as soon as they become available. Plus Fotoreporter Sirotti will be thier capturing the action for us.

George Bennett will not start Giro:

This from LottoNL-Jumbo: George Bennett will not start in the Giro d'Italia on Saturday because of health conditions. The team made this decision since the rider from New Zealand appeared to have a low cortisol level in a regular pre-race UCI test, which could be an indication of sub-optimal health conditions. Bennett cannot be replaced by another rider.

Today the team received an email from the UCI that low cortisol levels were measured in the regular UCI pre-race test last Thursday. According to the UCI Bennett is allowed to start in the Giro. Team LottoNL-Jumbo is a member of the MPCC (Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Credible) and the MPCC’s rules state that riders with cortisol levels that are too low, should not race for eight days until these levels are within normal range.

George Bennett

George Bennett

What Giant-Alpecin riders have to say about the Giro d'Italia:

This Saturday is the first Grand Tour of the season, in the country of pasta and steep-climbs, the Giro d'Italia.

Team Giant-Alpecin will line up with a team that has opportunities for more than one rider to compete for stage victory. The team’s sprinter, Luka Mezgec (SLO), will be joined by riders with lead-out capabilities, including Nikias Arndt (GER), Bert De Backer (NED) and Tom Stamsnijder (NED), as well as riders such as Simon Geschke (GER) and Tobias Ludvigsson (SWE) who can take their chances in the breakaways if and when the opportunities arise.

This will be the first appearance in the Giro d’Italia for Americans Chad Haga and Caleb Fairly. Haga rode his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España, last year, and Fairly did the same at the 2013 Vuelta. The first Chinese rider ever to start in the Giro d’Italia, Cheng Ji, will be present again at the starting line in San Lorenzo.

Luka Mezgec (SLO): “After Catalunya I spent four weeks in full and specific preparation for the Giro, including sleeping in an altitude room and maintaining close contact with our trainer, Adriaan Helmantel. This was ideal because we could fine-tune my training plan along the way based on how I felt and by monitoring the impact the training had on my body.

“The form is good, so I am excited to start the race. I expect a hard Giro. There are a lot of hilly stages, and those are sometimes harder than mountain stages.

“We have a really strong and balanced team here, so we have several opportunities for good results. My goals are certainly the sprints in the flat stages, and I hope I will be able to repeat last year’s success with a stage win.”

Luka Mexgec

Luka Mezgec on the podium at the 2014 Tour of Poland

Simon Geschke (GER): "I am currently much fresher mentally than I was last year at this time. Due to a broken collarbone, which I suffered in Tirreno-Adriatico, I have had fewer racing days and have spent my time mainly on training.

“Racing in a Grand Tour after a period of training will be a new experience for me, and we will see how I handle that. I hope I can compete for a stage win here in Italy. My focus will be on the breakaways or reduced bunch sprints.

“I looking forward to racing again, I am confident to back on my old level and we will see how we can convert that into some nice results here in the Giro.” 

Cheng Ji (CHN): "I came good out of the Tour de Romandie in good shape and I am ready for the Giro.I’m happy to return to the Giro d’Italia. After making my debut in 2013 as the first Chinese participant, I was disappointed to abandon the race after I got sick. For this year my goal is to support the team well, and if everything goes as planned I will be the first Chinese rider ever to finish all three Grand Tours.

“Since I have competed in all three Grand Tours already, most of the nervousness is replaced by excitement.

“We have a mixed team here that is not focused solely on the lead-out. On the flat stages I will support and protect Luka [Mezgec]. On the other stages we will aim to attack, and I will possibly be one of those attackers, but it depends on the team’s strategy, which has not been finalized for all the stages yet.” 

Cheng Ji

Cheng Ji rides stage 6 of the 2014 Tour de France.

Alberto Contador discusses Giro-Tour Double

This from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo captain Alberto Contador spoke to the press on the eve of the Giro d’Italia after having made the final on-bike adjustments together with his squad on the opening TTT parcours.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s team captain Alberto Contador took on Friday the last training ride before the start of this year’s Giro. The session took place on the course of the team-time trial, where he, together with his squad, tested the material for tomorrow's 17.6km stage.

Later, Tinkoff-Saxo and Contador held a press conference, where the former winner noted that he was motivated to the maximum and would start with great confidence in an effort to pursue the Giro-Tour challenge. However, he stressed that now is the time to “concentrate a hundred percent on the Giro” before thinking about the Tour.

Question: Alberto, from your perspective, how do you see the Giro and the Tour right now?

Answer: “I'm equally motivated for the Giro and the Tour, I give the same importance to both because for me the two are only one thing”

Q: Regarding your opponents, who do you fear the most and why?

A: “In the end, they are all the same, if we talk about Porte, Uran and Aru. I put them all on the same level. Richie has been amazing in the beginning of the season, but Uran and especially Aru have had a preparation tailored for the Giro”

Q: In the first part of the season the team did not have very good results. What does Tinkov want for this race?

A: “During the last nine years, whenever I've been in a big tour, I have had a lot of responsibility and that motivates me. Oleg Tinkov surely wants to win, but I want it just as much”

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador at the Giro pre-race press conference with the Giro d'Italia " senza fine [without end]" trophy

Q: Where do you expect to be attacked in this Giro?

A: “No, I think I should be the one to attack. In the end, it’s the race that affects your tactics depending on the classification, but initially I'll have to attack.”

Q: What is your opinion on the long time trial and the Colle delle Finestre?

A: “The time trial is really hard. After seeing it, I think you must use your energy wisely because the route has no resting points. It will be a crucial and very important day in the Giro. As for Colle delle Finestre, two things can happen. It can be a quiet day where I'll defend myself or it can become an important moment to go for the win. It is a very nice climb, very hard and I have very good memories of it”

Q: Can you compare your squad to those of your rivals? Do you miss some riders, like Jesus Hernandez?

A: “I can talk about my team because I know everything about it, but I don’t know the other teams in detail. We have three riders of great quality and experience for the mountains in Basso, Rogers and Kreuziger, two multipurpose riders in Rovny and Paulinho and three for the flat parts in Boaro, Chris Juul and Tosatto. I have a great squad and I am very happy. It is true that Jesús is not here, but you cannot be in every race”

Q: Why have you waited so long to try the Giro-Tour double?

A: “Mainly because in the past years the motivation for the Tour completely fullfilled me, but now maybe the Tour alone doesn’t motivate me a hundred percent. The double is something new and it will always motivate me more”

Q: Facing the Tour after the Giro, will that change your strategy in some way or are you just thinking about the Giro?

A: “I could say yes, but when you are at the race you cannot ponder over anything. In a big tour you don’t have many tactical options and I will be fully focused on the Giro, then I'll have time to concentrate on recovering ahead of the Tour and thinking about it”

Q: Has the crash in last year’s Tour changed anything when thinking about the double?

A: “It has not changed me at all, but I can say that it had a great influence on my decision to do the Giro and Tour. Because after the fall I went to the Vuelta a España not at my full strength but in the end I got a great victory. It gave me confidence to try this”

Q: Alberto, you are very popular in Italy. How have you changed as a rider and as a man since the last time you rode the Giro?

A: “I have not changed much except that I have more experience and have tried other situations. Perhaps what's changed since then is that my shape and my tests are better now than in the past. And about Italy, what I can say? Only thanks, thanks and thanks. Everybody encourages me and it’s always a pleasure to be here because I know I will enjoy being here with these people”

And Tinkoff-Saxo has Tour of California plans as well

This from Oleg Tinkoff's team:

Tinkoff-Saxo embarks on the 10th anniversary edition of Amgen Tour of California with a fast team headed by team captain Peter Sagan. The focus is on stage wins during the 1,156km quest but talented Jay McCarthy could equally have a go in the search for a GC result on the decisive Mt. Baldy.

Come Sunday in Sacramento, Tinkoff-Saxo aligns a squad consisting of riders returning from a break after a long stint at the spring classics as well as teammates coming fresh off the back of racing in Turkey. Sports director Tristan Hoffman notes that the clear team leader is Peter Sagan aiming for stage wins, while other riders could have a dig along the way.

“Peter Sagan is our leader in California following a break after the Classics. We think he had a good buildup towards this race and our goal this year is for him to win stages, having had in the past nice victories as well. We have a very strong train and all our riders are in good shape. A number of stages are a little bit harder, where we could try to drop some sprinters, giving Peter the opportunity to win but he will also try in the flat stages from the onset. I saw the final starting lineup and there’s a number of equally fast riders, so we expect a high-level, competitive peloton”, says Tristan Hoffman and adds: “Jay McCarthy comes directly from the Tour of Turkey, where he made a very big step forward and he might make another one here. Stage 7 with the climb to Mt. Baldy will prove very tough for him but he could be able to survive and stay as long as possible with the best. He must also do a good individual time-trial on the 24.2km stage 6. For the TT we also have Maciej Bodnar, who is a proven time-trialist”.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s squad for Amgen Tour of California includes Peter Sagan, Maciej Bodnar, Jay McCarthy, Daniele Bennati, Michael Mørkøv, Michael Kolar, Matti Breschel and Jesús Hernández.

Daniele Bennati

Daniele Bennati will start the Tour of California.

Spanning 1,156 kilometers over the course of eight stages, the 10th edition of Tour of California takes the riders from Sacramento to Southern California and Pasadena for the final stage. Besides fully supporting Peter Sagan on flat and hilly stages, Tinkoff-Saxo is also eyeing opportunities with 22-year old Jay McCarthy, who tells that he has returned to California with a morale boost in the luggage.

“I was surprised with my first good result in Turkey but that acted as a boost to my confidence which in turn led to more good results. As my confidence in myself grew the good results continued and hopefully I can hold on here in the Tour of California. The team has given me a chance and I might be able to go for the GC but of course our leader here is Peter Sagan and we will all have to look after him in the sprints”, says Jay McCarthy, who participated in his first Tour of California at the age of 20.

“My first Tour of California was two years ago with Tinkoff-Saxo and Mick Rogers as our leader, who finished second overall. I was in pretty good shape as well and I felt I had supported Rogers as much as I could. I look forward to racing once again here. There’s only one hard uphill finish and together with the time-trial it will be the two days that will affect the GC.  However, even the early stages can be open and very windy, so we will have to look at the race day by day and see what possibilities arise", concludes Jay McCarthy.

Cult Energy's 4 Days of Dunkerque report

It was finally a day for the escapees in Four days at Dunkerque where a breakaway trio managed to keep the peloton behind on the 175 kilometer long third stage from Barlin to Saint Omer. However, Cult Energy Pro Cycling's Mads Pedersen finished 11th and is now 7th overall in the French stage race.

In spite of a series of fierce attacks in the finale, the escapees entered the finish line together and in the sprint, Alexis Gougeard (AG2R) was the fastest and took the stage. Only 14 seconds later, the peloton thundered across the finish line with Pedersen in 8th position.

Alexis Gougeard wins stage 3

Alexis Gougeard wins Dunkerque stage 3

DS, Michael Skelde says: It was a good stage for us. Mads was well-protected throughout the entire day and he was strong enough to finish among the best and is now in a very good position before tomorrow's rather big challenge. We have to remember that Mads is only 19 and we can not expect him to finish among the best tomorrow but we are going to do what we can to limit the losses and see how far we can take it but he's already shown that he is a very promising rider for the future" says Skelde.

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