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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, April 7, 2016

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

Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity. - Christopher Morley

Recently complete racing:

Today's racing:

LottoNL-Jumbo's Paris-Roubaix news

This note came from the team:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo starts with nearly the same squad in Paris-Roubaix this Sunday as it had in the Tour of Flanders. The only difference is that Twan Castelijns replaces Bram Tankink, who isn’t recovered enough from his crash in Flanders. Sep Vanmarcke, after placing third in Flanders, is Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s front man again.

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke finishes the 2016 Tour of Flanders

“It’s a pity that Bram Tankink isn’t able to start,” Sports Director Nico Verhoeven said before the Hell of the North. “Bram has a lot of experience, but it’s also important that you are a 100 per cent fit -- and Twan Castelijns is.”

Team LottoNL-Jumbo is looking forward to the race in northern France confidently after Vanmarcke’s Flanders ride. “What we learned from Sunday is that Sep was one of the best in the race,” Verhoeven continued. “And the race didn't go so smoothly with two crashes and a bike change. Besides that, Paris-Roubaix might suit him even better than the Tour of Flanders.”

Vanmarcke is ready for the 257.5-kilometre monument. “With the last weeks in mind, I feel confident and I'm looking forward to this race,” he said. “I want to play a key role another time to deliver another great result.”

Paris-Roubaix might turn out into a very selective race because of the weather forecast. “If it’s raining, there will be a selection earlier,” Verhoeven added. “It’s going to be harder. The riders’ helpers will fade away earlier so it will be a man-against-man-situation even more. I think that Mike Teunissen secretly laughs about those circumstances. He raced cyclo-cross in the past and is a former winner in the Under 23 version Roubaix. He might surprise everyone this year.”

Sep Vanmarcke’s choice for Paris-Roubaix is the Bianchi Infinito CV. This is the bike he rode to third place last weekend in the Tour of Flanders. Infinito CV is the best endurance racing machine to tackle the cobbles of the Northern Classics. Infinito CV is engineered with the exclusive use of Countervail® vibration cancelling technology. Countervail® is a patented viscoelastic carbon material with a unique fiber architecture that cancels up to 80% of vibrations while increasing the stiffness and strength of Infinito CV’s frame and fork. Maximized are the rider control and the handling while muscle fatigue is reduced. At the same time the peak power output on long distances is increased. Endurance Racing geometry provides higher head tube, longer chain stays and longer wheelbase to guarantee maximum performance with minimum stress for the rider.

Line-up: Sep Vanmarcke, Maarten Wynants, Maarten Tjallingii, Twan Castelijns, Timo Roosen, Mike Teunissen, Robert Wagner and Tom van Asbroeck.

Sports Directors: Nico Verhoeven and Jan Boven.

Scheldeprijs team reports:

Here's Etixx-Quick Step's happy report:

Marcel Kittel recorded his seventh victory of the season in a race which will now be forever linked to his name.

With two kilometers left of the 104th Scheldeprijs, Etixx – Quick-Step hit the front with three riders, who were working to bring Marcel Kittel in an ideal position for the bunch sprint. Up until that point, the race had two breakaways in the spotlight, but neither has posed any danger to the peloton who was controlled by the sprinters' teams. Unlike other seasons, this year's edition of the Belgian event was much calmer, without any incidents or crashes to take some riders out of the ecuation.

Scheldeprijs finish

Marcel Kittel is just a bit faster than Mark Cavendish this day

After his teammates formed a strong lead-out and escorted him up until the final 300 meters, Marcel Kittel – who has already enjoyed success this season at Driedaagse De Panne – opened his powerful sprint and went down to the line against Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), winning for a tire's width and scoring his seventh victory since joining Etixx – Quick-Step, which makes him the most successful rider of the season. Marcel, who made no secret of the fact that Scheldeprijs is one of the biggest goals of the season for him, has written history by finishing first, as he has now became the only rider to win the oldest Flemish race on four occasions.

This came from Lotto-Soudal

Today it was time for the 104th edition of the Scheldeprijs. The start was given in Antwerp, then the riders needed to cover 208 kilometres. Six riders were part of the break, after that the situation remained the same for a while. Several teams controlled the gap at the front of the peloton, the lead of the front group was maximum five minutes. The escapees were caught while entering the first of three local laps. After that several riders tried to get away but no one managed to obtain a significant gap. In the second lap echelons were formed and so the peloton split. Therefore the expected bunch sprint took place with a seriously reduced peloton. It was a thrilling sprint won by Marcel Kittel just ahead of Mark Cavendish. André Greipel sprinted to the third place and completes the podium. The German was able to compete in the sprint and is happy with the result.

André Greipel: “We knew for sure it would be a bunch sprint because a lot of teams participated with a strong sprinter. The initial plan was to give a small group some advantage, then Frederik Frison could control the gap together with a few riders of other teams.”

“After that it was important to be at the front of the peloton in the finale with as many riders as possible, because of the strong wind that wasn’t easy. We decided beforehand that we wanted to participate in the sprint. A victory would be fantastic but we also needed to be realistic. Due to a severe rib injury (which André incurred in Volta ao Algarve, LTS) the spring season got disturbed for me. I was unable to do specific sprint trainings and I never had a great feeling on the bike. Today I just wanted to participate in the bunch sprint. Because of the tailwind in the final road to the finish line I’d planned to take the initiative. But then it became clear that I can’t compete with Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel at this moment.”

“I can’t complain about the way I did my sprint today, I’m very happy with this third place. Sunday I’ll participate in Paris-Roubaix, that’s always a special race. You can’t predict what will happen and I really look forward to this race. After that I’ll have a short rest period and then I’ll prepare myself for the Giro d’Italia. I know what to do, optimizing my sprint speed.”

In the Vuelta al País Vasco the third and longest stage was scheduled today. Five riders were part of the break of the day, they remained ahead for a while. At 30 kilometres from the finish several riders accelerated in the peloton, therefore two remaining escapees got the company of five attackers. After that several attempts occurred but everything came back together in the final kilometre. That’s when Stephen Cummings attacked and he managed to stay ahead. Tony Gallopin sprinted to the seventh place in the background. Louis Vervaeke maintains his twelfth place on GC at fifteen seconds of leader Mikel Landa.

Mario Aerts, sports director Lotto Soudal: “The race has no doubt already been a very difficult one so far. However, the really hard and decisive stages are still yet to come over the next few days. What is most crucial for us is that Louis is still up there in the general classification. So the team will be trying hard to defend his placing over the coming stages. That’s the most important thing for us in the race, that he can stay up there with the favourites."

And here's the release from Tinkoff:

The Classics continued today with the Scheldeprijs – the oldest race in the Flanders calendar. The 104th edition was again one for the sprinters, and after a fast, frenetic and testing final kilometre, the expected bunch sprint took place, with Tinkoff’s Erik Baška finishing in 20th, shortly after the race winner.

The 208km course was flat, encouraging a fast tempo, but weather conditions made racing treacherous at times, especially over the cobblestone sections. In a change to previous years, where the final kilometre has been notorious for crashes, the route was changed this year, leading to a safer finish to the race.

A break of six riders got away early in the stage. With the intention of keeping the finish as a sprint, the peloton started chasing from 120km out, bringing the gap down considerably, although at 3'30" there was still a lot of work to be done. Tinkoff worked to drive the pace, steadily reducing the break's advantage, bringing it to under a minute, before the break was finally caught with more than 50km of the race remaining. With plenty of racing still to go, more attacks came and a second break managed to get 30 seconds on the peloton.

Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, explained how the race unfolded. "From the start was a steady breakaway so the bunch cruised behind as the race headed towards Schoten and once the pace picked up behind it was soon coming back together. The break was then caught quite early and from here it was very fast on the first few finishing circuits as there was some wind, but it calmed down a little on the last lap ahead of the sprint."

At this stage of the race, the sprinters’ teams had no intention of allowing a break to stick, and so upped the pace again. As the race entered the final circuit, the break was caught and the jostling for position began. No team had control of the front, with all the riders looking around nervously to see who they would be up against in the final sprint.

Erik Baška was at the front of the race in the closing stages. "All day there was quite a good tempo and no strong winds. Then in the last three laps it all started - I had a good position on the first few laps when it was hard, and Peter helped me a lot in this. Then coming into the last lap, I had a good position on the cobblestones but from there the pace dropped and no team was really pulling so it was really nervous with an easy tempo.“

The final kilometre came, and while Tinkoff were near the front, it was tough to find position, as Erik observed. "I had a few near misses with crashes and lost position. I then followed Katusha and Kristoff but he was also out of the positions at the end." Erik was blocked by the other teams’ sprint trains and was unable to find a clean line to the finish, coming across the line in 20th position, three seconds after the leaders.

On the final circuit, the speed in the peloton became noticeably slower – something Erik felt affected his finish in the race. "I'm disappointed that no teams were pulling, as with an easy tempo everyone was fighting for position and it got quite nervous in the bunch. If it had been faster then I would have been able to get into a better position and have been further up there at the end. It was great to have the team helping me today though, and good to learn from having the responsibility in the race."

Hoffman was pleased with the team’s performance in the race, and how Baška performed as leader. "Erik Baška was up there all day and at the end the guys tried to get him up into the right wheels but he lost his at the end and wasn't in the sprint. It's good to see that he gave it a really good shot and pushed hard but he's still young and learning, and sprinting at Scheldeprijs against the guys here is different to what he has had before. The pressure will be good for his development and it was a good experience.”

Ahead of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, Hoffman felt the team as preparing well for this important race. "Peter stayed safe and everything was OK with the boys. They tested their Paris-Roubaix bikes here and they're feeling good ahead of Sunday. They changed the finish, making it safer in the final few kilometres today, which I think worked well. So I'm pleased overall that the guys stayed out of trouble, and got some good kilometres in the legs ahead of Sunday. We'll have a steady day tomorrow before a recon ride of Roubaix on Friday."

Vuelta al Pais Vasco team news

This also came from Tinkoff:

Over a course that encouraged a quick tempo and even quicker descending, stage 3 of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco got progressively faster in the race to the finish. With multiple breakaways and splits over the full distance of the stage the aim was to keep Alberto safe and to ensure he came over the finish in Lesaka with no time lost to his rivals. After a strong effort by the whole team, Alberto crossed the line with the bunch, taking the same time as the stage winner.

Steve Cummongs

Steve Cummings wins stage 3

On the race’s longest day, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco covered 193.5km, taking in five categorised climbs along the way. With a mix of tough climbs and tricky descents on damp roads, racing was hard, and a break formed early in the day – a group of five managed to quickly gain five minutes on the peloton, staying clear for much of the stage.

With 40km to go, the leader’s group upped the pace, eager to draw in the escapees, with the gap falling to less than a minute with 34km to go. As the gap decreased, attacks came and splits formed, but with only one climb left on the stage, the 3rd category Agina, it was important to catch the break before the run in to the finish. With the breakaway caught, a solo attack took the win, but not enough to take any time, with Alberto Contador crossing the line with the same time as the stage winner.

The pace throughout the stage was fast and frenetic, as Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, reported from the finish. "It was a very fast stage with a hard final as we had mentioned yesterday, with a very twisty and technical descent and not a straight forward run in. Despite this the boys did well. Evgeny Petrov, Matteo Tosatto & Michael Valgren worked hard to keep Roman Kreuziger, Robert Kiserlovski and Alberto Contador out of wind and in position, and then on final three climbs those two guys did the job for Alberto who was looking good again today."

"The first part of the stage was the calmest so far in the race." said Alberto after the race. "The pace then picked up as there were teams interested in getting to the finish in a group. That resulted in a fast race but in the end what counted was to be well positioned in order to avoid having any surprises. We finished the day without any problems and the weather was on our side."

After suffering on yesterday’s stage, the team lost another valuable member today. "Unfortunately we lost Jesper Hansen today," said De Jongh. "He was already sick in Catalunya and he was one of the riders we had to bring in at last minute in the hope that he improved as the race went on but today he was empty and it was best for him to stop the race."

While the race so far has been far from flat, tomorrow it takes in its first official mountain stage. The 165km route from Lesaka to Orio takes in six categorised climbs, with three second category climbs in the final 35km before what’s expected to be a fast descent into Orio. De Jongh was clear that the team’s first priority was not to lose any time in tomorrow’s stage. "Tomorrow is going to be another day like today where we focus on defending the position that we have now and not losing any time or making any silly mistakes. After this we have two hard days still to come which will be important for the overall."

While the mountains presented the opportunity to create time gaps, Alberto was expecting the time trial to have the biggest impact on the GC. "Tomorrow will be similar to today with maybe less favourable weather conditions. We will have to be attentive, especially in the finale, but in my opinion it is the time trial that will decide the race."

And here's Lampre-Merida's Basque Country report:

Rui Costa and Ulissi completed the 3rd stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Vitoria-Gasteiz - Lesaka of 193,5 km) in the head group.

The Portuguese champion succeeded in managing in a perfect way his position in the final part of the stage, also thanks to the support of an impressive Petilli.
Rui Costa could avoid dangerous splits in the group in the last hill of the course, which was the Alto de la Piedad whose summit was at 9,1 km to the arrival, and in the subsequent descent to the finish line.

Lampre-Merida's rider completed the stage in 15th position, in the main group which was selected to 52 members.

Diego Ulissi was more active in the final part of the race, counting on good legs and on a course which could have been suitable for his skills.

The Tuscan rider tried to anticipate a potential sprint by attacking at 2 km to go in order to reach 4 riders which were leading the race with few seconds on the peloton. Unfortunately, the action of these cyclist was running out and neither the contribution from Ulissi could avoid the recovery of the chasing group.

Ulissi was reached by the peloton at -1 km and he crossed the finish line in 31st position. The race was won by Cummings thanks to an attack in the final 1000 meters.

In the general classification Rui Costa is 7th at 15" to the leader Landa.

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