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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Monday, May 25, 2015

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No Racing Today

Next race: The Giro d'Italia's sixteenth stage on Tuesday, the 26th

The Tour de Belgique/Ronde van Belgie and the Tour de Fjords in Norway start Wednesday, the 27th.

With all the racing this past week, the teams had lots to write about today. We'll start with the Giro d'Italia.

Giro d'Italia Team News

Richie Porte Quits Giro:

I think this news surprised exactly no one. Sky's Richie Porte had been having a dreadful Giro d'Italia that just seemed to get worse each day. Today, a rest day in the Giro with a ferocious stage coming on Tuesday, he announced he was quitting the race.

While he never really seemed to be enjoying good form in the Italian grand tour, things started to come unwound in stage ten. There he got an illegal wheel change and was penalized two minutes

In stage 13 he crashed with about twenty other riders, hurting his knee and hip. That day he finished two minutes behind the winner.

The stage 14 individual time trial was a catastrophe for Porte where he lost four minutes. And then things got still worse. Sunday's mountaintop finish at Madonna di Campiglio cost him nearly a half hour.

After that stage fifteen Porte was sitting in 27th place, down 35 minutes 57 seconds on leader Alberto Contador.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte finishes Giro stage ten.

Clearly injured and unable to compete at his usual high level, nearly all knowledgable sportswriters seemed to be expecting him to withdraw.

Porte had this to say, “The Giro has been my main goal this year and I have worked incredibly hard all season with this race in mind. I have had a lot of bad luck this week with the puncture and the time penalty, but it was the crash on Friday that has taken its toll.

“I fell heavily on my knee and hip, which caused me a lot of pain on Saturday’s time trial and yesterday’s stage. I just wanted to keep trying and give it everything, but now the medical team have advised me not to continue."

Sky is not completely without hope in the Giro. Their Leopold Konig is in fifth place. The team will work to help him in in the final week, plus aid sprinter Elia Viviani in the race's two upcoming flat stages.

Sky Sports says Porte will now get ready for the Tour de France so that he can help teammate Chris Froome win his second Tour.

This note came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo and team captain Alberto Contador can take a well-deserved rest day after having defended and additionally extended the overall lead at Giro d’Italia on stage 15. Contador faced strong competition from Astana on the final climb to Madonna di Campiglio but managed to gain 7 seconds on main rival Fabio Aru.

The fight for the win on stage 15 came down to just four riders, Contador, Trofimov, Aru and teammate Landa after a fast pace throughout the stage had whittled down the group and scattered the pre-race favorites. Mikkel Landa ultimately took the win on the mythical climb, while Alberto Contador kept his attention on Aru.

“Everyone would like to win a Giro stage, especially on a climb like Madonna di Campiglio, but the race situation was complicated. The gradient wasn't exceptionally steep, which made it complicated, and Landa was very good, so it wasn't to be. There is still a long way to go, and everyone has good days and less good days. Today, Landa was stronger than Aru - that much was clear. But, as I said yesterday, I have to look carefully at each stage and, perhaps, instead of defending, attack, if my legs allow it”, says Alberto Contador before adding about the stage with strong ties to the late Marco Pantani.

“I have a lot of respect for my rivals but I'm happy with the good sensations I have. It is true that Astana have two riders in-form and I knew that when the attacks began Landa was strong. It was quite complicated to control but I looked after Aru and looked after the GC. As for Pantani, he was an inspiration for me because I started late in cycling, and I remember that, after seeing him ride some stages, I went out on my bike and tried to imitate him on the climbs”.

Alberto contador and Mikel landa

Alberto Contador leads Mikel Landa on the climb to Madonna di Campiglio

Following the race from the team car was Oleg Tinkov, who notes that he was pleased to see Alberto Contador extend his lead by 7 seconds to a total of 2’35”.

“I’m very excited and I’m glad that we still have the pink jersey. Tomorrow is a rest day, which is good after the long TT and this mountain stage. I think Alberto did a good race and he had a lot of rivals against him on the final part of the stage but he was strong”, says Oleg Tinkov.

Stage 15 took the riders from Marostica and deep into the Dolomites finishing atop Madonna di Campiglio after 165km of mountainous racing. Tinkoff-Saxo’s Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh underlines that yesterday’s long TT was felt by many riders.

“It was a tough day today and some of the guys were affected by the time trial yesterday. In general, a lot of riders lost time and looked tired. Alberto was a bit isolated in the last part of the stage, but it could have been different had Rogers and Kreuziger not crashed on the descent after Passo Daone. But Alberto is strong, he kept his cool and maintained his position and even gained seconds in the GC. We are in a good position before the rest day and the final very hard week”, states Steven de Jongh before elaborating.

“Aru felt that Alberto was strong in the final kilometers so they aimed to move Landa into third place in the GC and they did a good job. Of course Alberto would like a stage win but the most important aspect is to win the Giro and prepare for the Tour. At the end of the day, it’s the pink jersey in Milano that matters the most and we still have some very demanding stages ahead of us, where Alberto will be in his element”.

Lampre-Merida had this to say about the stage:

In the 15th stage, 165 km from Marostica to the summit arrival in Madonna di Campiglio, with the climbs of La Fricca and of the Passo Daone, Lampre-Merida counted on Przemyslaw Niemiec's vivacity. The Polish rider was very dynamic in the early part of the stage, joining various escape attempts.

"In theory, today's stage could have been suitable for a breakaway, that's why my target was to be present in the escape attempts in the early part of the course" - Niemiec explained - "I tried 5 times to attack, unfortunately the bunch did not allow the attempts to gain time. The evolution of the stage was not positive for the attackers."

Przemyslaw Niemiec

Przemyslaw Niemiec earlier in the year (obviously), riding in the Tirreno-Adriatico

Tomorrow, during the rest day, I'll recover in order to be ready for the last week of the race".

The other cyclists from Team Lampre-Merida did not do anything remarkable. In the next 6 stages they are waiting to be protagonists as they've been until now.

The team manager Brent Copeland pointed out that "Niemiec was very active in the first part of the course, he tried hard to escape but he could not do the decisive action. Anyway, it's important to highlight that the rest of the stage became unsuitable for the attackers, so our riders saved energy because they want to liven up the race".

The stage was won by Landa in front of Trofimov and Contador, who retained the pink jersey. Niemiec crossed the finish line in 30th position (+7'50").

LottoNL-Jumbo sent in this stage 15 report:

LottoNL-Jumbo captain Steven Kruijswijk fought his way to a great fifth place in the difficult mountain stage to Madonna di Campiglio. Kruijswijk won time on his rivals and moved up seven places from 21st to 14th place in the standings. Mikel Landa of Team Astana won the stage and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) stayed in pink.

It was like flying low in the first 60 kilometres of the mountain stage because LottoNL-Jumbo leader Steven Kruijswijk was well supported and wasted little energy until the first mountains.

"From the start, it was a race and speeds went to 60 kilometres per hour," said sports director Jan Boven at Madonna di Campiglio. "It was flying low, but our men rode well in those circumstances. Bert-Jan Lindeman, Martijn Keizer and Nick van der Lijke went with the best to the foot of the penultimate climb, and positioned Kruijswijk well in the group with Contador. It's especially good for Van der Lijke, who is in his first Grand Tour. The others have done a tremendous job in the run to the mountains. I’m satisfied with the team."

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk races down a mountain in stage 11.

The Giro d'Italia has taken its toll and some had to pull the plug early in the mountains.

“Every day, I move up slightly with my car in the caravan," continued Boven. "We knew the ascent and descent. Steven went solo in the downhill, that was as planned. He was able to do his own speed and took control. After the descent, the group with Steven was considerably thinned and riders in front of him in the standings lost time. If we can continue to do so then a top ten is possible. It was a realistic but also a quite ambitious goal, that top ten.”

After the hard time trial yesterday, Kruijswijk had little to no problems today. His legs felt good. "My performance yesterday was no coincidence. Today I had a good feeling in my legs,” said a satisfied Kruijswijk on the massage table. "Jan Boven had warned me for the descent and so knew I had to be at the front there and I gained time on some competitors."

The LottoNL-Jumbo leader knew that Astana would set the pace on the final climb of the Madonna di Campiglio. “After the descent to the Campiglio, Astana began to push hard in the front. It was predictable,” continued Kruijswijk. "The pace was hard but then with ten kilometres from the finish, Tanel Kangert started pulling a murderous pace and behind me, a lot of riders dropped off. I could stay there until three to the end, but when Contador attacked, I couldn’t follow."

The top ten looks close, but is still far away. Kruijswijk remains realistic. "I look at it day by day. When I can continue to perform around a top five in the stages then a top ten is possible. But again, I want to take it day by day. The last week was very hard and also I have to spread my energy. First thing tomorrow is to enjoy the rest day and put the legs up in the air."

Tomorrow is the last day of rest before the brutal closing week of the Giro. "Tomorrow our men have to rest and save their legs as much as possible," said Boven. "We go ahead with confidence."

The World Ports Classic ended Sunday

This Giro/World Ports Classic/Tour of Norway news is from Lotto-Soudal:

In the Giro: The riders had to cover a mountain stage with finish at Madonna di Campiglio today. Maxime Monfort and Jurgen Van den Broeck  reached the top of the Passo Daone – with 31 kilometres to go – in the maglia rosa group which had been considerably reduced. In the descent Jurgen Van den Broeck crashed and lost precious time. In GC he’s now eleventh at 10’05” of Alberto Contador. There is not much physical damage, only some abrasions on his arm. He hit his back as well in the crash. Maxime Monfort was strong today and finished as eleventh at 2’18” of stage winner Mikel Landa. In GC he moves from the eleventh to the eight place at 8’20”. Tomorrow it's a rest day for the Giro peloton.

Bart Leysen, sports director Lotto Soudal: “It was looking good for us until the top of the Passo Daone when Jurgen and Maxime reached the top in the maglia rosa group, but halfway the descent Darwin Atapuma missed a turn and Jurgen crashed as well. Jurgen got back on his bike pretty quickly, but Astana was setting such a high pace that he couldn’t close the gap of about three to four hundred metres. Jurgen was the only one in the chase group who needed it to take back time. On the final climb he didn’t get quite in his rhythm.”

“A check-up in the hotel showed that the physical damage isn’t too bad, he only has abrasions on his arm. He hit his back in the crash, but the physiotherapist will help him with that. The rest day is extra welcome for Jurgen. He’s still eager to fight and wants to get his position of this morning back, when he was fifth. There are still four tough mountain stages to come, other than the top three nothing’s sure yet.”

“Maxime survived the Passo Daone well. He wasn’t involved in the crash. We deliberately didn’t ask Maxime to wait for Jurgen so he could secure his own place. He did that really well with a nice eleventh place in the stage and the eighth place in GC after today.”

Jurgen Van den Broeck

Jurgen Van den Broeck

Boeckmans wins World Ports Classic: This afternoon Kris Boeckmans won the second stage of the World Ports Classic, from Antwerp to Rotterdam, he was also the best overall. That means he has eight victories so far this season.

Jetse Bol was the last escapee to be reeled in. A bunch sprint was coming up, but there was a crash in the last kilometres. Jens Debusschere was one of the riders involved, but he has no injuries. A small group got in front. The Lotto Soudal riders led teammate Kris Boeckmans to the victory. He beat Danilo Napolitano and Alessandro Bazzana. The Belgian also won the points classification and Lotto Soudal was the best team. With Tiesj Benoot a second Lotto Soudal rider finished in the top ten of the overall standings, he was sixth at fifteen seconds.

Kris Boeckmans: “Fifteen kilometres after the official start we had the first intermediate sprint. It was my goal to win it and move closer to Andrea Guardini who led the GC. I was third at six seconds before the stage. I won the sprint, Guardini got third and that way I came two seconds closer. Then we let go of a breakaway. Among other Thomas De Gendt helped to chase later in the stage.”

“I had  a flat tyre in the finale, but could soon take back my place in the front of the bunch. With four kilometres to go there was a crash and Guardini got held up after he had had a puncture as well. It was over for him. It was only a small group that was in front. Tiesj Benoot, Marcel Sieberg, Jürgen Roelandts and I were in it. Jens Debusschere would have been our sprinter for today, but he had crashed, so it was up to me. The guys did a perfect job. I waited long enough, started sprinting with 150 metres to go and won. I have eight victories at this moment, that’s wonderful.”

Kris Boeckmans

Kris Boeckmans the World Ports Classic

Vegard Breen in breakaway in Tour of Norway: On the last day of the Tour of Norway Vegard Breen joined a breakaway. He was the strongest of a front group of eight, but in the finale his fellow countryman Andreas Vangstad closed the gap and won. Breen was reeled in by the chase group. Pim Ligthart sprinted to the fourth place, Tosh Van der Sande finished as seventh.

Vegard Breen: “I was the last to join the breakaway. We worked together really well, but didn’t get much lead because one of my companions stood high in GC. If he hadn’t been with us that probably wouldn’t have made a difference because Katusha wanted a sprint for Alexander Kristoff. On the hill, which we had to climb four times in the finale, the front group fell apart during the first ascent. I stayed in front with two others. We kept up a high tempo. I felt I was the strongest. By the beginning of the last lap we didn’t get any info about the time gaps anymore. Half a lap before the end Vangstad closed the gap. I couldn’t follow him on the climb and got caught.”

“I’m happy I could show myself, but it would have been better if I had won. I believed in it until the penultimate lap. I felt I could leave the others behind. If I had known the time gaps I would have waited for Vangstad and saved some energy that way. The past days I got back in the race rhythm after I had been out for a long time with an elbow injury. The condition can be better, but the basic condition is good so it won’t take long before I’m in top shape.”

Tour of Norway Reports

This letter came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo took the overall win at Tour of Norway with young climber Jesper Hansen, who laid the foundation for his victory with a solo win on the queen stage. Hansen won the race by 47 seconds to runner up Boasson Hagen after the team had managed to control the situation on the last two eventful stages. “I knew I was strong, but I’m still surprised”, says Hansen about his first GC win of his career.

After having crossed the line in Hønefoss as the overall winner, Jesper Hansen states that it is a big deal and thanked his teammates for the support.

“This is of course a big day for me. It’s a really great feeling to win Tour of Norway overall. The team has made a massive effort during the last days and today they once again controlled the attempts and breakaways while keeping me well positioned ahead of the final lap, where Boasson Hagen attacked. I followed him and bridged the gap on the top of the last climb. And by then I felt that the win was within reach. I am very happy”, says Jesper Hansen, who adds that he knew that the shape was good prior to the race.

“I was aware that my shape was good before travelling to Tour of Norway. I had done a series of promising tests in Italy and my performance at Tour de Romandie had also been good. So I knew that I was as good as ever, but I had not counted on winning the race. I believe that I’ve made some progress as a rider and it’s most likely because another year as a pro has given me more strength and endurance. I hope that I can maintain my shape until Dauphiné, where I want to perform. After that I can take a period of rest”.

Jesper Hansen

Jesper Hansen wins Tour of Norway stage 3

Stage 5 from Flå to Hønefoss was the closing day of racing in Norway and saw several breakaways and attempts along the 175km parcours. In the end, it was Andreas Vangstad that soloed to victory 14 seconds in front of the decimated group of favorites. According to Tinkoff-Saxo’s sports director Nicki Sørensen the team had made a dedicated effort to support Jesper Hansen.

“Jesper had the full support of the team today. Everybody lived up to the expectations but it was certainly not easy today, especially not due to the fact that we only have six riders on the squad to control the race. But the team stuck to the script and controlled the stage, while keeping a cool head. Jesper knew that he came to Norway in shape, but to transfer a good shape into an overall win is another matter. He did very well and it is a stronger Jesper than ever”, underlines Nicki Sørensen before adding: “It has been a good race for Tinkoff-Saxo. We have won the GC and a stage and the guys showed that they are improving ahead of the next challenges. Chris Anker did well as road captain and Trusov did a great work for the team after he had been our go to guy in the sprints during the first two stages. Everybody contributed and that is very important to me and the team”.

Cult Energy was at the Tour of Norway and sent this report:

Today’s fifth and final 175 kilometer long stage of Tour of Norway took the peloton from Flå to Hønefoss after circling an undulating lap around the finish town. Three Norwegian escapees stole some time in the sun forming the breakaway before the real finale set in and the Katusha team were very active on the front of the pack aiming to bring the escapees back for Alexander Kristoff. But ultimately, they did not succeed.

Setting out on the final lap with 12 kilometers to go, the gap was still one minute but the breakaway riders kept pushing the pace and on the final kilometers, it could go either way as the GC favorites started attacking on the short uphill finish. But it was too late. Andreas Vangstad (Sparebanken Sor) managed to keep everyone behind to take a rather sensational victory.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Rasmus Guldhammer finished 5th in this final stage, Gustav Larsson finished 9th overall while Cult Energy won the team classification.

Rasmus Guldhammer

Rasmus Guldhammer

“I think we have performed well in Tour of Norway and our overall win in the team classification is what I’m most proud of. Rasmus finished 5th, Linus 11th and even though Gustav lost a few seconds, he still retains a spot in the top-10 overall. This bodes for more and I’m looking forward to Tour de Fjords next week where we’ll see Rasmus highly motivated once again,” says DS, Michael Skelde.

Jesper Hansen (Tinkoff-Saxo) won the race overall.

Cult Energy's World Ports Classic News

One of the most active riders in the peloton this spring, Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Alex Kirsch once again hit the long-lasting breakaway during today’s second and final stage of World Ports Classic covering 164 kilometers in flat terrain between Antwerp and Rotterdam. What started as a hopeful stage for Cult Energy Pro Cycling ended quite unfortunately.

Kirsch shared the breakaway duties with five other riders in front of the race and going under the 20 kilometer to go banner, the gap was down to around 45 seconds and with a herd of sprinter teams chasing on the front of the peloton, the odds were pretty much against the front group.

On the final 10 kilometers, the breakaway split up and Alex Kirsch dropped back to the pack where Cult Energy Pro Cycling now went to the front of the pack to catch the last standing escapee and set things up for Michael Carbel.

With four kilometers remaining, the Danish team succeeded and a bunch sprint was coming up. However, a terrible crash marred the finale and Cult Energy Pro Cycling had no riders in the first group of 16 riders going across the finish line.

Kris Boeckmans (Lotto-Soudal) took the stage win and conquered the leader’s jersey as well. Unfortunately, Cult Energy Pro Cycling sprinter, Michael Carbel went down in the crash:

“Everything was going well for us. Alex had swept up a few bonus seconds and was the overall top-10 if only he finished in the bunch. At the same time, Michael Carbel was in a good position for the sprint but then lightning struck. The crash happened just outside the 3 kilometer banner and Alex’ overall position was gone. Michael hit the deck pretty hard and he lost a lot of skin but nothing’s broken and he should be ready for Tour de Fjords later next week,” said DS, Luke Roberts after the stage.

BMC Tour of Belgium Roster

Greg Van Avermaet, twice a runner-up at the Baloise Belgium Tour, leads the BMC Racing Team into the five-day race that starts Wednesday. Van Avermaet was runner-up in 2011 and 2008. A winner of a stage of Tirreno-Adriatico, he has eight top-three finishes on the year. Santos Tour Down Under winner and past world hour record holder Rohan Dennis is also on the team's roster and will be making his first start in the event.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet at the 2015 Tour of Flanders

Riders: Rohan Dennis (AUS), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Campbell Flakemore (AUS), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Manuel Senni (ITA), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL).

Sport Directors: Noël Dejonckheere (BEL), Max Sciandri (ITA)

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