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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, April 5, 2016

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

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. - John Muir

Recently complete racing:

Today's racing:

Paris-Roubaix news

Sunday April 10 is Paris-Roubaix. I've started putting together the 2016 Paris-Roubaix race page. Here's an update from the race organizer:

Monday, April 4: This is from the organizer: Based on the reconnaissance of the route carried out today by race director, Thierry Gouvenou, the organisers have rated the difficulty of the 27 cobblestone sectors of the race, according to their length, the irregularity of the cobblestones, the general condition of the section and their location in the race.

The Queen of Classics. The nickname given to Paris-Roubaix is suggestive: this race is different, legendary. It is played out through race scenarios established ahead of time. Only one thing is sure: to win, overcoming the daunting 52.8 kilometres of cobblestones that punctuate the course, which will test both the riders and their bikes is a must.

During the reconnaissance, which was open to the media, those present could identify the cobblestone sectors that will most likely be the highlights of the race where the favourites will be forced to show their hands. The race could be determined there. Nerves could already be on edge in the peloton at the approach of the first sector of the côte de Troisville. Soon after, the peloton will come upon the Quiévy and Saint-Python sectors (numbered 25 and 24), which some riders competed on during stage 4 of the 2015 Tour de France. A few kilometres later will be the only new cobblestone section this year, an uphill sector (number 22) just prior to the Hameau du Buat, a special “ascent” that is back after a three-year absence.

Then at km 162 the strongest riders could make a move, on the legendary cobblestones of the first five-star difficulty, the Trouée d'Arenberg. The pressure will not fall at the exit of the “Trouée”: a gap leading to the final victory could be made anywhere, including between the cobblestone sectors! But television viewers will be particularly attentive to the movements that will be triggered around the Pays de Pévèle (numbers 11, 10 and 6), which have been partially reconditioned this year. This will lead towards the legendary Carrefour de l'Arbre (number 4), the last five-star sector, which will determine the last remaining “studs” able of dreaming of raising their arms at the Roubaix velodrome.

Note, because the first sector, #27, Troisvilles was found to be covered in mud, there is the possibility that this sector will be removed. That decision will be made in a few days.

Cobbles

The 27 cobbled sectors of Paris–Roubaix

BMC Update

This came from BMC:

04 April, 2016 Roeselare (BEL): BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer, Dr Max Testa has provided the following update on Greg Van Avaermaet following his crash at Ronde van Vlaanderen.

"Greg underwent surgery on Sunday evening to secure his fractured right collarbone. The surgery, performed by Doctor Tom Claes of at AZ St Elizabeth, was very successful and Greg was out of the operating room at midnight. Greg is recovering well and we will continue to monitor his recovery over the coming days. The most important thing for Greg now is to rest and recover well so that we can have him back on the bike when he is fit to do so."

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet wins a stage a few weeks ago at Tirreno-Adriatico

Van Avermaet is focused on his recovery. "I'm not feeling too bad after the surgery and now I'll take things day by day. I want to thank the entire BMC Racing Team and all of my fans for their support. It means a lot at a time like this," Van Avermaet said.

And shortly thereafter BMC sent this note as well:

After the Dust Settles: Rebuilding BMC Racing Team

04 April, 2016, Roeselare (BEL): We know from the outpouring of messages of support from our fans around the world that no one wanted to see our riders go down like they did at Ronde van Vlaanderen. Crashes are, most of the time, an unavoidable part of cycling but what some people might not stop to think about is that a crash is never just about that particular race. It is the months of training, planning and hard work to get you to that day, the anticipation of crossing the finish line (hopefully first), and then the post-race recovery so that you can be back at 100% for the next race. It all comes crashing down, literally, in a split second.

24 hours after the crash at Ronde van Vlaanderen, BMC Racing Team General Manager Jim Ochowicz shares his perspective on the race yesterday and how BMC Racing Team will rebuild for the rest of the Classics.

"Of course there are crashes that take place in bike races every day. We had already had one earlier in the race with Marcus Burghardt going down about 20km before the second crash that we were involved in. Marcus was already on his way to the hospital but fortunately not in a serious situation. We then had the incident with Greg Van Avermaet, Manuel Quinziato, Michael Schär, Taylor Phinney and Daniel Oss. Accidents happen but this one was a little more involved than that because this crash involved almost the entire team. We had a situation where they were really not at a critical moment of the race and when you see a crash of that nature happen live on television, your stomach sinks and you take a deep breath. You're trying to get a glimpse of what might be reality and it was clear pretty quickly that reality was Greg clutching his shoulder, which in our sport is always a sign that a collarbone is injured.

That in itself was a big surprise and a big disappointment because Greg was our leader, particularly as he was going in with form that certainly made him a strong contender. It really just takes a lot of breath out of you.

The process of the Tour of Flanders starts all the way back in December when you're evaluating riders and trying to put together their programs for the season. It's certainly a lot of work for both the riders and staff so it's a blow to the organization as this is a race that we had targeted to win from the beginning of the season. And then there are the subsequent repercussions as this leads into Paris-Roubaix and the remaining Classics.

We've been through things like this before so we regrouped last night after the race and we came up with a working plan for this week. We'll be going into Paris-Roubaix with some new players on our roster who weren't necessarily scheduled to race but are prepared to do so. In the final analysis, we probably have two to three of the riders who crashed who were scheduled to race Paris-Roubaix who may not be able to start. That was the reality we had to face last night so a new plan has been put in play and we start working again today.

We're a strong team and I have complete faith in our ability to bounce back stronger than we were. Days like yesterday are what build teams and I'm extremely proud of the way our riders and staff handled the crash, picked themselves back up and got back to business as we look to the next race. We may have been four riders down but I have to applaud the way Daniel Oss, Jempy Drucker, Taylor Phinney and Stefan Küng banded together and finished the race. Each of these riders achieved a personal victory yesterday and they flew the BMC Racing Team flag with a strong team spirit.

We'll be lining up at Paris-Roubaix without Greg as our leader but we'll be just as motivated to stamp our authority on the race."

Jim Ochowicz
BMC Racing Team General Manager

Tinkoff's news from Vuelta al Pais Vasco:

Alberto Contador finished with the bunch in the first stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, followed closely by Roman Kreuziger. The Spanish rider, who has won the race on three occasions, took the same time as the bunch. While the first stage saw some early breakaways, Tinkoff worked to keep the splits in check, making sure there were no time gaps going into the second day of racing.

The 144km first stage was by no means flat, covering a route from Etxebarria to Markina-Xemein, and taking in eight categorised climbs along the way. While the expectation was that it would gently ease riders into the race, but in spite of less than perfect weather at the start, the attacks came early on and stayed clear for most of the stage.

The final 10km of the stage saw the GC contenders up the pace to test their rivals, which saw Alberto stretching his legs at the 9.3km point to test how the bunch responded. With 1.8km to go, the peloton upped the pace to try and draw the escapees in, a move that saw Tinkoff in amongst the lead bunch, looking fresh and in control. The slightly downhill finish made it easier for the peloton to pull in the break and only metres from the line, the peloton made contact, ensuring the bunch finished with the same time.

From the stage finish in Markina-Xemein, Sport Director, Sean Yates, was happy with the outcome. "At the end of the stage there's no time bonuses at this race so that's not something we have to deal with, so all favourites are still in the same situation ahead of tomorrow which is another day.”

A week of rest after a podium finish at the Volta a Catalunya meant Alberto was feeling confident ahead of the week’s racing. "I had good sensations today even though the first day is always the most difficult one to get back to race mode, especially when coming from a week of rest after Catalunya. The day started wet but, fortunately, we were lucky and got dry conditions later on.”

Yates continued, providing an insight into how the team responded to the breakaways. "After the early break went we contributed to the chase together with a few other teams, and always kept the lead under 3:30 minutes so it was under control. On the final climb Navarro was strong and kept going after an attack, and Luis Leon joined over the top with the two of them just staying away. Behind, Alberto finished in the front group with Roman Kreuziger.”

Many of the teams were recovering from sickness after the season’s first races were held in cold and wet conditions, said Yates. "Sergio did a good job today on his first race back - when you're riding on the front you have extra motivation and was good to see him back in action, while Jesper Hansen is still recovering from sickness and did what he could to survive here. Thankfully the weather turned out well today. It was raining at the start but it did clear up and wasn't too cold. Potentially tomorrow could be a different picture but we will be ready."

Alberto was pleased with the team’s support, but with the earlier wet conditions, was keen that the team stayed healthy. “I felt in quite good shape, the squad was also good today and supported me at all times. We had the stage more or less always under control. I'm happy overall with the day and now the most important thing is to avoid getting a cold and recover as tomorrow we have an important day.”

Stage 2 will take the riders from Markina-Xemein, where today’s stage finished, to Baranbio-Garrastatxu. This 174.3km stage is where the first big time gains are expected to take place, with an undulating course that could break up the peloton, before an uphill finish. Yates believes tomorrow’s stage will be very different from today’s. "Tomorrow will be much different and at the end we'll be doing our utmost to win the stage. Astana will have to control the race now they have the lead and it's a question of being at the right place at the right time, principally at the end when we hit the final climb. We've recce'd the stage, and the finish is evil - 2.7km averaging over 13% so it's going to be very, very hard.”

Of the coming days, Alberto was eager to see how the race panned out, and how his rivals would perform. “There is no doubt the line-up has a very high level with some very strong riders that came here with the intention to win. We will have to take it a day at a time and see our position. Tomorrow we have the first summit finish but, honestly, I don't know it well. I saw it has a tough profile and I don't know what factors will make the peloton break. Obviously, we will have to be at the front in order not to lose because as we saw in Paris-Nice and Volta Catalunya, every single second is very important."

And here's Etixx-Quick Step's Basque Country tour news:

Returning to the race after a four-year hiatus, Irishman Dan Martin finished in the top 10 on the opening day.

The 56th edition of Vuelta al Pais Vasco began with a break of four, which took off in the first kilometers and included Gianluca Brambilla, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural) and Marcel Wyss (IAM Cycling). On a day (Etxebarria – Markina-Xemein, 144 km) which counted no less than eight categorized climbs, the escape wasn't allowed to take more than two minutes and a half on a peloton that was hoping to see a reduced peloton fighting for victory.

The day's break was finally nullified by the attacks which came on the penultimate climb. Immediately, Dario Cataldo (Astana) attacked and went over the top with a 20-second advantage over the chasers, but Orica-GreenEdge and Sky reeled him in, so it was all together with less than 10 kilometers to go. On the final ascent, Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) made their move and opened a gap which they managed to keep until the finish, where Sanchez prevailed over his countryman, while Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) rounded out the podium.

Dan Martin

Dan Martin having a good day at this year's Tour of Valencia

Etixx – Quick-Step's top finisher was Daniel Martin, the 29-year-old who is racing Vuelta al Pais Vasco for the first time since 2012. Coming here after finishing Volta a Catalunya in the top three, where he also notched a win, and supported by a strong squad, Martin was always in the upper part of the peloton and responded to every move of the pre-race favourites, before sprinting to seventh in Markina-Xemein, where he arrived in the same time as the winner.

Another tough stage awaits at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco on Tuesday, when the peloton will travel from Markina-Xemein to Amurrio-Baranbio, over 174.2 kilometers and four categorized climbs, the last of which comes right at the finish. Alto de Garrastatxu will be brutal for many riders, and will see the favourites fire their attacks on the 2.7 kilometers which are averaging 11.6%.

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