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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, April 6, 2016

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

This is the strangest life I've ever known. - Jim Morrison

Recently complete racing:

Today's racing:

Paris-Roubaix team updates

This came from Lotto-Soudal:

Last Sunday Tiesj Benoot crashed during the Ronde van Vlaanderen, today he underwent extra tests. Those confirmed the diagnosis. Yesterday Tiesj rode on his bike for one hour, today for one hour and a half and tomorrow he’ll do a longer training. On Thursday he’ll start the recon of Paris-Roubaix with the team and afterwards will be decided if he’ll ride this Spring Classic.

Team doctor Servaas Bingé: “The injury that causes most trouble for Tiesj is the injury on his elbow. He has a deep cut on his elbow. That has been cleaned and stitched but to be sure we checked that again today. Severely bruised tissue and muscles remained the conclusion. The bruised shoulder has become better and the abrasions on his face, hands, arms and legs heal pretty well. It’s of course not easy to ride Paris-Roubaix with that kind of injuries. On Thursday we’ll see how the recon goes and if racing on Sunday is realistic.”

Lampre-Merida sent this Paris-Roubaix team news:

After having deal with the hill of the Tour of Flandres, Lampre-Merida is going to face the cobblestones of the Paris-Roubaix.

Sports director Mario Scirea will supervise the blue-fuchsia-green line-up, in which there will be only one change comparing to the one which took part in the Tour of Flandres: Mario Costa will take the place of Sacha Modolo.

On Sunday, together with the Portuguese cyclist, will be at the start from Compiegne also Davide Cimolai, Chun Kai Feng, Roberto Ferrari, Marko Kump, Luka Pibernik, Xu Gang and Federico Zurlo.

Davide Cimolai

Davide Cimolai winning stage 5 in last year's Paris-Nice

The members of the operative staff will the physician Dr Ronchi, the masseurs Capelli, Gallivanone and Redaelli, the mechanics Bacchion and Baron, the driver Bozzolo and the press officers Appiani and Zhao Haoyang.

"On Sunday, Zurlo demonstrated his enthusiasm and his adaptability for this kind of races: in 2015 he already took part in the Paris-Roubaix, so this year he'll try to be as long as possible in the front group. We feel his qualities could allow him to realize a good performance, however it's important to remember that he's still young - sports director Scirea explained - The rest of the team had a bad day in the Tour of Flandres, we want to see their reaction. Xu and Feng did their best to try to join the breakaways and they'll do the same in the Paris-Roubaix".

The cyclists will cover in the Paris-Roubaix 257.5 km with start from Compiegne and arrival in the velodrome of Roubaix, riding on 27 cobblestones sectors for a total of 52.8 km.

Vuelta al Pais Vasco stage two news

This came from Tinkoff:

Alberto Contador crossed the finish line in Baranbio-Garrastatxu today in fifth position. On a stage where the outcome was going to come down to the final climb of the day, a last minute attack from the Tinkoff team leader ensured he came across the line just 11 seconds after the stage winner, and put some time into his GC rivals. The Spanish rider goes into stage 3 fifth in the GC and with every chance to take more time in the coming stages.

The conditions could be best-described as damp on the race’s second stage – while the sun came out on various points of the route, the roads were wet from rainfall and there was cloud cover for most of the stage. Covering a distance of 174.3km, the stage covered five categorised climbs – the last being a second category climb to the finish in Baranbio-Garrastatxu.

A two-man breakaway led for much of the stage, creating gaps of more than three minutes at times but as the closing kilometres loomed on the horizon, the peloton started chasing the breakaway, and pulling it in fast. The chase began at 25km out, and within just a few kilometres the gap was down to 10 seconds, before finally being caught 10km from the end, building up to the uphill finish.

With the breakaway reeled in, the teams began jostling for position at the front. Tinkoff and their leader, Alberto Contador, allowed the other teams to take control at the front, latching on to these to save their energy for the final climb, before the pace rose higher still in the final 6km. As the Garrastatxu came into view, the Tinkoff leader joined the front, and the attacks began, but with the peloton falling apart on the narrow roads, it was difficult to work together to pull the break back.

Mikel Landa

Mikel Landa wins Basque Coutry Tour stage 2

Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, was supportive of the team’s efforts to keep Alberto in the front, but was disappointed by the peloton’s reluctance to work. "The finish was really tough - really steep and every man for himself. The boys put all their efforts into getting Alberto Contador into position, and he was at the front as the road kicked up. Then there was the early attack of Kelderman and Landa, and not much interest to pull from behind. Alberto took up the chase early on but didn't want to do all the pulling so they ended up getting a gap.”

Alberto provided more detail from the finish. "It was a tough stage, mainly because of the weather as it rained in the first part and it was quite cold. We knew we had to be well-positioned ahead of the last climb and that's what we did. During the climb nobody was taking any responsibility. Although I was feeling in good form, I was reluctant to take all the responsibility by myself and pull to reach the two escapees. That's why I decided to wait. I think I erred in Catalunya by taking too much things in charge, so I was a bit more cautious here.”

As the break got away, quickly building up a 16 second gap, Alberto kept his nerve. He crossed the line 11 seconds after the stage winner, having attacked and left his GC rivals behind, and took seconds that may prove pivotal in later stages of the race.

“At the end, we lost a few seconds against some riders,” continued Alberto. “But what I take from the day is that the legs are there and the race is still open. There are still three road stages ahead and a final time-trial. Although we have to take this race day by day, given the weather conditions as well, I think that the time-trial will decide the Vuelta al Pais Vasco."

"What Landa and Kelderman showed was very impressive,” said Steven De Jongh, of the breakaway riders. “But the pressure is with them now to control the race and to defend the jersey. I think we're still in a good position for the overall with some tough days ahead and then the difficult final time trial, and there are lots of riders in the same time at the top.”

In addition to the terrain, the weather was one of the biggest challenges for the team in today’s stage, as De Jongh explained. "Unfortunately we lost Sergio Paulinho today - he was just empty. He came into the line-up at last minute, and did a strong ride yesterday but didn't have anything in the tank today. We had some horrible weather early in the stage, cold and wet, and so he stepped off the bike. The other guys all did a strong job. Jesper Hansen was already better than yesterday and we hope he can improve further tomorrow as he also comes back from sickness.”

Tomorrow’s stage is the longest of the race. At 193.5km, stage 3 crosses five categorised climbs, with three of these climbs coming in the last 30km. A flat final 10km in Lesaka creates the possibility of a bunch finish, but there’s every chance of an attack on the final climb. De Jongh gave some insight into preparation for stage 3. "Tomorrow has a bit of an easier start compared to the other days. Then in the final we have some climbs and tricky descents so we have to stay attentive and be aware of the situation on the road."

This Basque Country Race update came from LottoNL-Jumbo:

Wilco Kelderman finished second in the second stage of the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco today. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s climber attacked on the final climb and had Mikel Landa (Team Sky) for company. The two held their lead and Landa won the sprint. Behind, Robert Gesink finished ninth.

In the final kilometres before the last climb, five riders from Team LottoNL-Jumbo were in front of the peloton. Besides Kelderman and Gesink, Paul Martens Enrico Battaglin and Bert-Jan Lindeman were there to support their front men.

“It was our target to do some kind of a lead-out to the final turn before the climb,” Sports Director Addy Engels said after the stage. “It went slightly downhill, so the pace was high. The men did their job perfectly. Everyone wants to be in front at that point, so that makes it even better that they succeeded.”

Enrico Battaglin set the pace in the first part of the final climb and the first group exploded immediately afterwards. That was when Wilco Kelderman saw his chance to escape. “It was a very tough stage,” Kelderman said. “It was raining and we were riding on a plateau, so it was extra cold. Victor Campenaerts crashed in the beginning of the stage and I fell over him. That was annoying, but it didn’t change my goal. The final climb was steep, so I wanted to set my own pace, and I did. When Landa took the lead, I had to push myself immediately. He was a little stronger than me, unfortunately, but we did a good job as a team.”

Engels said after the first stage that Kelderman wasn’t aiming for the general classification, but he changed his mind today. “We know now that two of our riders are with the best, so we have to build our tactics with that in mind,” Engels added. “If you’re able to deliver this today, that means that you will be able to compete for a good result in the general classification, as well. It would be weird to say that Wilco isn’t looking for that. He has to keep on riding the way he does because that aggressive mindset works the best for him at the moment.”

The third stage normally isn’t one for the overall riders. “If Paul and Enrico are as strong as today during tomorrow’s stage, they will get a chance,” Engels said. “We’ll keep on aiming for a stage result as well this week.”

The Scheldeprijs is today

Here's Tinkoff's pre-race release:

The Classics continue with the oldest race in the Flanders calendar. The 104th edition of the Scheldeprijs takes place in Belgium on Wednesday and is set to be one of the fastest races of the year. A favourite for the sprinters – the race usually ends in a bunch sprint – teams will be aiming to carry their leader over the seven cobblestone sections to contest the finish.

As the fifth of the six Flanders Classics, the Scheldeprijs is the race where the all-rounders take more of a back seat and let the sprinters take centre stage. With a flat course, there are no significant climbs to trouble the riders, so the emphasis is on outright speed. Leading the team will be Erik Baška. The 22-year-old Slovak rider is a strong sprinter, having won last year’s U23 European Road Race Championships, and will be supported in the race by fellow Slovak, UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan.

Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, talked about the team’s plans for Wednesday’s race. "Scheldeprijs is one of the oldest races in Belgium, now in its 104th edition, often ending in a bunch sprint with cobbles on the finishing circuit. It's a good chance for Peter to test out his Paris-Roubaix set up on his Specialized before Sunday, but for our focus on the day it will be for Peter to get round safely and to ride for Erik Baška in a bunch sprint. For Erik, it will be a good opportunity for him to have the responsibility of team leader in a race like this.”

Erik will be leading a team of eight riders at the start line in Antwerp. Joining he and Peter will be Pavel Brutt, Nikolay Trusov, Juraj Sagan, Michael Kolar, Michael Gogl and Adam Blythe – all of whom have been instrumental in the team’s successes in the season so far.

Looking at having the team's support tomorrow, Erik Baška said: "I'm excited to be leading such a strong team at Scheldeprijs. It's not every day that you have the UCI World Champion, leader of the individual rankings and winner of the Tour of Flanders, working for you. It's crazy! I'm really looking forward to the race. It's a flat parcours and it's the only Belgian classic really suited for sprinters, so I'm happy I will be given this opportunity tomorrow. We will have strong opponents but I will give my best as I feel in very good form. We will go there with the goal of achieving a very good result but at the same time we will have to ensure that Peter Sagan stays safe and protected for Paris-Roubaix."

At 208km, the Scheldeprijs is one of the shorter Classics and, taking place over a flat course, is bound to be one of the fastest. In the past five years, the race’s average speed has been around 44km/h, but this may well change depending on the day’s weather. Currently, the forecast is that the race will stay dry, but cloudy, although there is a chance of rain, which will make racing hazardous, especially over the cobbled sectors. Tristan was prepared for any eventuality. "Of course there's the chance of crosswinds in the earlier stages of the race, and we will be ready to react for this but we aim to stay out of trouble. Over the past few years we've seen that the final few kilometres are quite dangerous, and there have been a few crashes so that's why we are focusing on keeping Peter out of trouble. He's happy to get the race kilometres in and we're happy to have him in the line-up too."

After a crash in training before last week’s Ronde van Vlaanderen race, Maciej Bodnar is recovering well. Peter dedicated his win to the Polish rider, and the team hopes to see him at the finish line in Schoten on Wednesday.

Giant-Alpecin's and Liv-Plantur's upcoming races:

The teams sent me this notice:

RACE PREVIEW: APRIL 4 - 12 

SCHELDEPRIJS (1.HC): Sandwiched between Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix is Scheldeprijs, a great opportunity for the sprinters to have a clear shot at victory and for others an ideal way to fine-tune their condition towards the weekend. The 207.8km race starts in Antwerp with a 157.4km loop, then the riders tackling three finishing circuits of 16.8km each to finish in Schoten. The race will also see the start of Lars' road season, his first race with the WorldTour team after his cyclo-cross campaign.

"Scheldeprijs is an important race for the team and we will focus on a sprint finish as this is the most likely outcome," explained coach Arthur van Dongen (NED). "We come here with a strong sprinter in Nikias and to aim for a top 10 finish. The change of route in this year's finale, making it less technical, could increase our chances to attain this result.

"On the final circuit, we also have to remain in a good position during the tough cobblestone section of Broekstraat which is 1.7km long. After that, the sprint preparation starts and we need to be in position to battle for a good result."

RACE: Scheldeprijs (1.HC)

DATE: 06/04/2016

COACH: Arthur van Dongen (NED) 

LINE-UP: Nikias Arndt (GER), Bert De Backer (BEL), Lars van der Haar (NED), Chad Haga (USA), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Tom Stamsnijder (NED) 

ENERGIEWACHT TOUR (2.2): This Wednesday Team Liv-Plantur return to Holland and to stage racing as they take part in the sixth edition of the Energiewacht Tour. The five-day race starts off with a team time trial of 11.3km to decide the first wearer of the leader's jersey before the riders have their first two road stages. This is followed by a short road stage and ITT of 14km on day four before the final flat stage on Sunday.

Coach Hans Timmermans (NED) said: "For the general classification, a lot will depend on our performance during the opening team time trial on Wednesday evening. For the flat stages, we have two sprinters in Sara and Floortje who will get their opportunities throughout the race.

"Last year, the team rode an offensive race and we would like to see the same tactics used by the team again when the stage is suited for that kind of racing. After last weekend's performance in Ronde van Vlaanderen, we have got something to prove as a team." 

RACE: Energiewacht Tour (2.2)

DATE: 06-10/04/2016

COACH: Hans Timmermans (NED) 

LINE-UP: Floortje Mackaij (NED), Sara Mustonen (SWE), Riejanne Markus (NED), Rozanne Slik (NED), Julia Soek (NED), Kyara Stijns (NED) 

PARIS-ROUBAIX (WT): This Sunday, Paris-Roubaix marks the final cobbled classic before the peloton heads to the hillier Ardennes region. The 'hell of the north' features 52.8km of cobblestone sections with a total distance of 257.5km. After taking a superb victory in the Roubaix velodrome last year and second place in 2014, John Degenkolb will unfortunately not line up as he is still recovering from the training accident in Spain, but the team will be looking to finish with a strong result in France.

Looking ahead to the race, coach Marc Reef (NED) said: "Paris-Roubaix is a race that suits us the most over the classics season. We have some specialists within the team with Bert and previous winners in the under-23 category such as Koen and Ramon, and we will be aiming for a top 10 result. The first key moment of the race is the Arenberg section and it will be a big fight for positions. From there on the race comes alive and it will be tough until the finish."

RACE: Paris-Roubaix (WT)

DATE: 10/04/2016

COACH: Marc Reef (NED) 

LINE-UP: Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN), Nikias Arndt (GER), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), Koen de Kort (NED), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Tom Stamsnijder (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL) 

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