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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Sunday, May 24, 2015

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Racing Today

Three races today: The Giro d'Italia's fifteenth stage with a hilltop finish at Madonna di Campiglio. Big stuff!

Plus the Tour of Norway's (HC) fifth and final stage and the second stage of the two-day World Ports Classic.

Giro d'Italia News

This note came from the justifiably happy Tinkoff-Saxo squad:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador put in a top performance on the highly anticipated 59km time trial of Giro d’Italia. The team captain reclaimed the pink jersey and now leads the Giro by 2’28” over Aru after finishing third on the wind-swept parcours.

After a visit to the podium, where he could pull on the pink jersey yet again, Alberto Contador comments that he was very satisfied with his performance.

“I’m really happy. My legs are absolutely killing me as I had pain from the crash. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be today. The wind change was difficult but I’m really happy with today's performormance. The result is a big surprise to me. I gave it all I had, and paced myself carefully all the way. I have to keep my focus. There is still a lot of this Giro ahead of us”, says Contador and adds: “The team has been really impressive. Yesterday, just 3.2km from the finish we had the crash. Tosatto was very attentive and quick, giving me the bike and making sure I got across the line as fast as I could to limit my losses. Every day they’ve been working hard and they’re going to continue to do so”.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador turned in a surperb time trial to regain the Giro lead.

After losing the jersey on stage 13 due to a crash in the bunch, Alberto Contador was on a mission to take back the lead. He did so by finishing third, 14 seconds behind stage winner Vasil Kiryienka. Team Owner Oleg Tinkov underlines that he had full confidence in his captain and adds that Alberto’s performance could have been a winning ride had it not been for the late shift in wind direction.

“Alberto took back the pink jersey and I was hoping for that to happen. Surprisingly, not many people were expecting a top performance from him today and thought that Porte and Uran would deliver the best times. But I had full confidence in Alberto and his performance didn’t come as a surprise to me. I’m very pleased and I’m happy for the team and for Alberto”, comments Oleg Tinkov, who followed Alberto’s TT effort from the team car.

“I thought he was going to take the stage win but he lost because of the wind. The wind changed direction in the late afternoon and it wasn’t to his advantage. Without the wind, I’m sure that he would have been the fastest. If you ask me, Alberto is the strongest here. Now we’re back in the pink jersey and that is indeed very good. I hope that he will keep it but it will be very tough”, says Oleg Tinkov, who also sends his warm regards to the squad at Tour of Norway, where Jesper Hansen retained the race lead: “I would like to add that it was also a very good day as our guys in Norway are performing well. I’m very proud of them and send my regards to Jesper Hansen. I cross my fingers and hope that he can take the overall win tomorrow”.

Alberto Contador went into the 59.4km time trial to Valdobbiadene having suffered two crashes during this year’s Giro d’Italia. But Tinkoff-Saxo’s Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh tells that any concerns silenced, as Contador delivered top times from the get go.

“We are really happy for the win. Alberto has done great time trials in the past and today was not an exception. He did a nice job on the flat part and on the uphill section later on he had a lot of power. After his crashes on stage 6 and on yesterday’s stage we were of course paying close attention to his knee and shoulder, but he showed without a doubt that he could manage it. In the morning on the rollers, he complained a bit about his knee but I saw he could maintain a good aerodynamic position and perform”, tells Steven de Jongh before adding about the 2’28” lead Contador now holds in the GC.

“For sure it’s better to have this margin to Aru than the one he had before, which was only a few seconds. We are happy but we have some hard stages and tough weather conditions so we need to keep our focus and take it day by day. The team is without doubt motivated as we head into a very important part of this year’s Giro”, finishes Steven de Jongh.

Here's Lotto-Soudal's Giro time trial report:

The individual time trial of 59.4 kilometres between Treviso and Valdobbiadene has changed a lot in the general classification of the Giro. Jurgen Van den Broeck set the seventh time, 1’25” behind stage winner Vasil Kiryienka. The Belgian moved up six places in GC and is now fifth at 4’17” of Alberto Contador who took over the pink jersey from Fabio Aru.

Also Maxime Monfort did well. The Lotto Soudal rider was twentieth at 2’37” and moved up from the thirteenth to the eleventh place at 6’01” of Contador. Tomorrow there is a new test for the GC riders with a summit finish at Madonna di Campiglio.

Jurgen Van den Broeck: “This morning I did a recon of the course, so I knew what to expect. I did the first ten kilometres and the last thirty kilometres, which were the hardest because of the climbs. Together with sports director Bart Leysen I decided to take a fast start. If you don’t start at one hundred per cent it’s difficult to take back time in the tough part. I wanted to hang on to that rhythm as long as possible and ride a constant time trial. It went smoothly right from the beginning, I didn’t have to force anything. When the GC riders had to ride the wind had changed. I had to compare my time with that of my opponents and I noticed that I was doing well. I had a good feeling during the time trial, but still I was surprised that of the GC riders only Contador finished ahead of me.”

Andre Greipel and Jurgen Van de Broeck

André Greipel and Jurgen Van den Broeck at a pre-Giro press conference

“Before the start of this time trial I said the Giro began today. It went well for me, but there are still tough days to come. I have faith and want to confirm in the next stages. I now feel more relaxed. I had to take back time, before yesterday’s crash I was sixteenth. In the first week I had some difficult moments uphill. It has always been the plan to be at my best in the second part of the Giro, that might be the cause. I’m in a good position now, that’s nice to continue the Giro with. In the Tour de Romandie and here I gained time in the time trial. I worked a lot on this discipline and I’m really happy I could show this today.”

The Tour of Norway is also going on

Tinkoff-Saxo has an embarrasment of riches:

Full of motivation after claiming his first pro win on the previous stage, Jesper Hansen defended his overall lead in the only uphill finish of the Tour of Norway. After a demanding day of work for his Tinkoff-Saxo teammates controlling dangerous breakaways, Hansen initiated the final array of attacks to finish 4th on the penultimate stage.

Coming off the back of a prominent solo win on stage 3, Jesper Hansen successfully defended his yellow jersey finishing 5 seconds behind winner Amets Txurruka but extending his overall lead to Boasson Hagen. Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Nicki Sørensen was satisfied with the effort made.

“Jesper rode a good finale after a big effort from the team to control the stage. Jesper stuck to the script and he did well in defending his lead. We had planned that he should try to win the stage if he could sense that his rivals were in difficulties. After the stage he said that he saw a good moment to accelerate but it might have been just a bit to early”, says Nicki Sørensen about Hansen’s attack with 1.2km to go on the uphill finish to Geilo.

Hansen wins Norway stage 3

Jesper Hansen wins Norway stage 3

“But his attack created gaps in the group of favorites and as a result he was able to gain nine seconds on Boasson Hagen ahead of tomorrow’s final stage. The overall win is within reach but it’s not over yet and we remain very focused on the task that awaits tomorrow”, adds Nicki Sørensen.

However, securing the successful defense of the jersey on the 167km stage 4 from Rjukan to Geilo had required laborious work from the entire squad, underlines Nicki Sørensen.

“The guys had to work very hard to defend the jersey today. Today, in contrast to earlier stages, we saw several breakaways with dangerous riders that posed a threat in the GC. Our job was to control these breakaways but it’s definitely not an easy thing to do in a race, where you only have six guys on the team. At some point I must admit that I got a bit edgy but the guys worked very well together. Tomorrow, we’ll have to do that again as it requires a complete team effort to bring home the win”, finishes Nicki Sørensen.

Cult Energy sent this Tour of Norway news:

The 167 kilometer long fourth stage of Tour of Norway from Rjukan to the uphill finish in Geilo was dominated by a breakaway that split up along the way but the pack was complete hitting the foot of the uphill finish where CULT Energy Pro Cycling's Gustav Larsson managed to limit the losses and hold 5th overall.

Pim Ligthart (Lotto) and Bob Jungels (TREK Racing Team) formed the breakaway duo but along the way, Jungels managed to drop his companion while Tinkoff-Saxo were on the chase behind. MTN-Qhubeka lended the Russian team a hand as the gap was difficult for them to bring down.

With 19 kilometers to go, the gap was still hovering around three minutes in spite of a huge effort from the two teams. Meanwhile, the CULT Energy Pro Cycling overall third, Gustav Larsson was sitting comfortably behind the chasers, well-supported by his teammates.

Entering the final 13 kilometers, Ligthart was short of fuel and was brought back less than one kilometer later. Instantly, new attacks were launched from the bunch but as the sprinter teams approached the front, no one was allowed to go and the pack was complete before the short and steep uphill finish.

On the steep ramp, race leader Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff-Saxo) decided to attack in order to defend his jersey and only a few riders were able to follow the strong Dane. Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) was however the strongest on the line and took the stage win. Behind, CULT Energy’s Gustav Larsson was followed to the finish line by teammates, Rasmus Guldhammer and Fabian Wegmann and thereby managed to limit the losses but eventually dropped from 3rd to 5th overall.

DS, Michael Skelde states: "We did what we could to support Gustav in the finale and with a stage finish like this, I'm happy that he's still in the top-5. We'll try to defend this position tomorrow where another uphill finish is in store for us but we have both Rasmus and Fabian to play as well. This race is rather unpredictable and everything can still happen tomorrow even though Jesper Hansen is looking strong," concludes Skelde.

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