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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, April 25, 2016

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

Keep in mind that the true measure of an individual is how he treats a person who can do him absolutely no good. - Ann Landers

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Liège-Bastogne-Liège team reports

Here's what winner Wouter Poels' Sky team had to say:

Wout Poels produced a heroic ride in poor conditions to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege, achieving Team Sky's first-ever Monument triumph in the process.

Poels pulled ahead with Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Michael Albasini (Orics GreenEdge) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC Raing) as the race crested the penultimate climb, and then kept pace with his rivals on the long drag into Ans.

Once the quartet had rounded the final corner, Poels then unleashed his sprint and held off a late response from Albasini to seal Team Sky's biggest-ever one-day win.

The victory was also the biggest of Poels's career and came at the end of a cold, wet and wintery 102nd edition.

Wouter Poels

Wouter Poels gets the win

After the race Poels caught up with TeamSky.com and admitted it still hadn't sunk in that he'd won the oldest Monument of them all. "It's unbelievably," he said. "I'm really happy and I still can't believe I won Liege-Bastogne-Liege. It's a really nice victory that's for sure! To be able to win the first Monument for the team, especially a team like this, is really special. I'm riding with the best riders in the world. It's a huge win for the team and also for myself."

Poels was also able to talk us through the final sprint, which marked him out as the strongest man in the race. "I know I'm quite fast but I also knew that guys like Albasini were quick too. After 260km no sprint is the same. I think everyone was really tired from the cold, rain, snow and everything else the weather threw at us today. I did a good sprint and luckily it was enough to win Liege-Bastogne-Liege!"

The race also marked the first Ardennes Classic as lead Sport Director for Kurt-Asle Arvesen. Naturally the Norwegian was thrilled with the result, and told TeamSky.com: "The team were on top of everything for the whole day. The clothing we had from Rapha and fuelling was crucial, and the riders worked together really well. It was a fantastic performance. "I was really happy to see that we had numbers after the Côte de La Redoute and that meant we could start playing our cards. Lars Petter and Wout said they were feeling good Sebastian and Kwiato were doing a good job for the team.

"Wout then opened up his sprint early at the end and proved beyond any doubt he was the strongest rider in the race. He pulled off an amazing win."

Team Sky had numbers to the fore throughout the day, conserving energy in the group as conditions veered between bright sunshine, rain, sleet and snow. Working hard as a unit, every rider was present towards the front, with Chris Froome, Salvatore Puccio, Sebastian Henao, Lars Petter Nordhaug, Michal Golas, Ben Swift and Michal Kwiatkowski all working tirelessly for the cause.

With 10km remaining Kwiatkowski turned the screw with an acceleration, and on the penultimate climb, the cobbled Cote de la Rue Naniot, Poels was able to drag himself over into an elite quartet under flamme rouge.

Despite a small dig on the climb, Poels still had the strength to lead out the sprint from the front, raising his arms in celebration of a truly monumental victory.

And here's Orica-GreenEdge's report:

Multiple Tour of Romandie stage winner Michael Albasini continued his impressive run of form through this year’s classics season by sprinting to second for ORICA-GreenEDGE in a truly epic 102nd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège today.

After covering over 250 kilometres in the snow and sleet Albasini attacked on the final climb of the race - a short, steep and cobbled climb with maximum gradients of 15% - and held on at the front to lead into the descent and the final kilometres.

Wout Poels (Team-Sky) and Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida) were with Albasini through the s-curve that led into the finishing straight, each rider was now at their limit after 253kilometres of racing.

Poels was the first to attack with Albasini following. The pair gained a slim advantage on Costa with the Sky rider just beating Albasini to the line for the victory.

Albesini

Albasini (right) gets some podium time

The Swiss stalwart was exhausted but happy with the result. “It was really tough out there,” said Albasini. “In those kinds of conditions you are always thinking about staying as warm and dry as possible especially towards the end.”

“We had stripped off some layers going into the final and then it snowed again, it was really demanding. It was close at the end, I felt good and I tried a couple of times to get away but I didn’t quite have the legs in the last few metres.

“Maybe it’s too soon to be happy about second place but I think in the days to come I will pretty happy about it.”

Sport director Matt White was overjoyed with the result and performance of Albasini, another hard worker for the Australian outfit. “Michael (Albasini) thoroughly deserves this result,” said White. “Like Mathew (Hayman) he is someone who is always working for others and this was one of his opportunities to be team leader and he really produced an epic performance.”

“The conditions were so hard today - wind, snow and rain it was never more than six degrees all day long. So many riders abandoned that just to finish the race would be impressive but Michael is a hard man and when he has got good legs in a good position he is going to produce the goods.”

White praised the team on what was a tough day on the road. “The team rode well throughout the race,” continued White. “We still had four guys up there going into the last 35kilometres and we all knew Michael was our protected rider. They did a great job keeping him at the front for as long as possible.”

“Liège-Bastogne- Liège is a super hard race at the best of times but today was beyond that. I’m over the moon for Michael. He is a traditional bike rider and I think he is one of the few guys in today’s race who can actually thrive in such adverse weather conditions.”

How it happened: The riders signed on for today’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège in freezing cold temperatures kitted out in full winter clothing with the firm guarantee of an arduous 253 kilometre race ahead.

As the flag dropped seven kilometres outside of Liège the peloton upped the pace and the attacks duly began to form. Twenty kilometres later and a group of eight riders had broken away and began to develop a lead over the bunch, after 43kilometres of racing the group had a nine-minute advantage on the peloton.

Throughout the build up to the race the forecasted heavy snow and low temperatures looked set to have an effect on the day’s events and this proved to be the case after an hour of racing.

Due to the adverse snowy conditions the race organisers changed the route with a deviation between kilometres 45 and 75 before the riders tackled the first climb, La Roche-en-Ardennes. The leaders were still nine minutes ahead going into the altered section of the parcours.

With 125 kilometres to go and on the second climb of the day, the Cote Saint-Roch, the lead group still had eight minutes over the peloton.

The wintry conditions made racing difficult and forced many riders to abandon, a crash in the peloton with under 100kilometres left to race saw more riders call it a day.

Half the field were left on the road with 85kilometres to go and the advantage of the eight leaders was now down to four minutes.

It started to snow heavily again with 70kilometres to go as the race hit the Cote de la Haute-Levee climb. Team Movistar were leading the chase at the front of the peloton steadily closing the gap to the leaders. With the breakaway now only two minutes ahead, Thomas Voeckler (Direct-Energie) broke from the front of the peloton and began to bridge the gap to the leaders.

Only four riders remained together at the head of the race as Voeckler began to pass the dropped escapees. With 40kilometres to go the peloton were still two minutes behind the group of four leaders.

Voeckler was caught by the Movistar led peloton on the Cote de la Redoute leaving only Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) and two companions up the road less than a minute ahead.

The field came back together with under 25kilometres to go, with Chris Juul-Jensen and Albasini working at the front for ORICA-GreenEDGE alongside Etixx-Quickstep and Lotto-Soudal.

With sleet and snow falling and the last two climbs still to come the final twenty kilometres were set to be brutal for the peloton, now made up of around forty riders. Inside the last ten kilometres, on the Cote de Saint Nicolas, tentative attacks were beginning to spring from the peloton, Albasini was ever present at the front for ORICA-GreenEDGE never more than second or third wheel at this point.

A selection of around twenty riders headed into the final climb of the day inside the last three kilometres and Albasini attacked. Cresting the climb at the front and powering away on the descent Albasini had three riders with him going into the finale.

Poels and Costa were hung onto Albasini’s wheel as they hit the final 500metres and with the peloton closing behind Poels attacked managing to gain one or two metres. Albasini reacted valiantly but could not quite close the gap on the line, coming home in a hard fought second place.

ORICA-GreenEDGE are in action again on Tuesday 26th of April at the 2016 Tour of Romandie.

Tinkoff sent me this:

Brutal weather conditions at Liège-Bastogne-Liège as Kreuziger takes 7th 

In one of the more memorable editions of ‘La Doyenne’ in recent years, riders were treated to awful conditions in addition to the demanding parcours and ten climbs before the uphill finish in Ans. In a hard-fought Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Tinkoff’s Roman Kreuziger rode a strong race, crossing the line in seventh position, with teammate Michael Valgren close behind in 14th.

Widely regarded as the toughest of all the classics, the 102nd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège didn’t fail to live up to its reputation today. While the route itself was exceptionally tough already, climbing the infamous La Redoute and a selection of some of the hardest climbs of the classics, such as the Côte de Saint-Roch and the Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons, finishing on the 10.5% Côte de la Rue Naniot, the day’s weather added another element of difficulty to the race.

Sport Director Bruno Cenghialta commented on the race from the team bus saying: "We obviously wanted a better result than what we achieved as we always go to a race with the aim to win, and when we had two riders in the front in the finale things looked good for us but it is not always that easy. At the point of the race with the new cobblestone climb the four riders that pulled clear were the strongest, and Roman missed the extra needed to attack at that point. The chasing group lacked collaboration as they waited to see who was going to do the work to bridge the gap and these four riders got the gap they needed."

The weather was atrocious, with mist and rain over the whole course, and there was an expectation that there would be snow at the finish. Indeed, at the 45km mark, the route was altered, bringing the riders out at the 75km point at the foot of the first climb, the Côte de La Roche-en Ardenne, taking 5km off the overall distance. As the day went on, the weather changed from snow, to rain, to sunshine, and while the snow failed to stick to the road, the wet, slushy conditions made conditions treacherous, and crashes much more likely.

Roman Kreuziger was clear at the end of the race that the conditions contributed to an already difficult course, and the team’s aim was to stay safe as the weather conditions worsened to arrive at the finish able to contest the win. “I think that we tackled a very tough race today. With the weather it was very hard, but we raced well together in position and stayed pretty safe, so from this point we can be satisfied.”

Pavel Brutt escaped with the first breakaway to stick, but with the changeable conditions, riders found it hard to hold on. The break decreased in size gradually, until Pavel was dropped from the front. Conditions were hard and what started as a group of eight riders was whittled down to two.

With 40km to go, the attacking duo’s advantage, which had originally been allowed to grow to more than eight minutes, had been reduced to just a minute and a half. Just 10km later, and with 30km to go, the peloton had brought down the lead to fourteen seconds and this gap was growing smaller as each kilometre passed.

With the conditions as bad as they were, it was remarkable that there weren’t more riders down, but with 25.5km to go, Rafal Majka was unfortunate enough to be involved in one. The Polish rider was lucky to escape with just scrapes, and will still be riding next week’s Tour de Romandie.

At the 10km to go point, Tinkoff were close to the front, with the jerseys of Roman Kreuziger and Michael Valgren visible, but rather than taking charge and wasting precious energy, the duo were letting other teams do the work. Even at this early stage of the finishing stretch, riders were looking around waiting to see who would attack first.

While the attacks eventually came, Roman Kreuziger stayed at the front looking calm – not allowing the break influence him but concentrating on pulling the attack back in. With the race’s final climb looming, the Côte de la Rue Naniot, a small break of four riders was a little way up the road, but never out of sight of the chasing group. As a splintered lead group crossed the line, Roman arrived at the finish twelve seconds after the winner, in seventh position.

Cenghialta added: "It is not always that simple to get the results that you want, especially after over 240km and nearly six and a half hours in tough, cold conditions with rain, snow and low temperatures to deal with. When you reach the finale and the final climbs in these conditions you have very little in the legs and so I think that we made the most of what we could do in this situation."

From the finish, Tinkoff’s leader for the race was disappointed by the lack of work in the chasing group. "Me personally, I waited until Saint-Nicolas to play just one card. But on the new climb with cobbles, in the first half I couldn’t find my rhythm and couldn’t follow the other guys that attacked so I’m disappointed with this because nobody wanted to pull and really make the race to help catch the break. I'm very disappointed, as I saw in the last 500m that even into a head wind I was making up ground. I expected more than seventh, but that’s how the one-day races go – you need some luck.”

With the race over, and a chance to look over the events of the day, Roman was pleased to have been in a position to contest the win, and looked to the future races, confident of his condition now that the Spring Classics were over. “For sure, I can go into the coming races and look positively to the second half of the season as I saw today that I am in good shape and was able to fight for the victory."

And here's what Etixx-Quick Step had to say about the race:

The horrendous weather conditions left their mark on the 102nd edition of the Belgian Monument.

Dark sky, cold temperatures, heavy snow, sleet, rain jackets, leg and arm warmers for the riders, these were the "ingredients" of the Spring's final classic, Liège-Bastogne- Liège. The harsh conditions meant that not too many riders were willing to have a go and book a place in the breakaway once the race began; eventually, Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Pavel Brutt (Tinkoff), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Jeremy Roy (FDJ), Vegard Stake Laengen (IAM Cycling) and Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) took off and built a gap of 9 minutes, before Etixx – Quick-Step and Movistar began controlling the affairs.

Because of the snow and the severe conditions, the organizers decided to alter the course, so between kilometer 35 and kilometer 75, the peloton went on another route, heading south, before returning on the planned route just before the first categorized climb, Côte de La Roche-en Ardenne. Once the race hit the steep and arduous hills, the advantage of the escapees began to drop, but in the same time many riders called it a day, some because of crashes and some due to the bad weather.

On Côte de Rosier, the longest ascent of the day, Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Thomas Voeckler (Direct Energie) and Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) attacked, but it was to no avail, and they were soon caught. At the front, the escapees' group began to disintegrate, only De Gendt and De Marchi managing to stay in the lead, but their adventure came to an end after Côte de la Redoute (2 kilometers, 8.9% average gradient), where the peloton rode full gas, despite the hail and the strong wind.

Etixx – Quick-Step took command of the pack with four men and not only that it reeled in the breakaway, but it also neutralized all the attacks which came inside the final 20 kilometers, when Carlos Betancur (Movistar), Andriy Grivko (Astana) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) tried their chance. On Côte de Saint-Nicolas everyone rode together, waiting for the last climb, Côte de la Rue Naniot, a new addition to the oldest Monument of the calendar. 23-year-old Julian Alaphilippe was the first to hit the cobbled slopes of this 600-m long hill and his strong stretched what was left of the peloton.

Before the top of this last categorized climb, four riders broke clear and got a small gap on the main group: Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Wout Poels (Team Sky) and Samuel Sanchez (BMC). Taking advantage of the fact that the chasers failed to work together, they entered in the final kilometer and fought for the win in a reduced sprint, which saw Poels record his maiden victory in a Monument, a bike length ahead of Albasini, while Rui Costa rounded out the podium.

All the riders in Liège-Bastogne-Liège endured a real ordeal on Sunday, and it wasn't any different for Julian Alaphilippe. Despite not getting the result for which he came for and finishing only 22nd, the Frenchman wasn't sad in Ans and insisted to look on the bright side of things: "I am happy for completing the race. It was terrible today: snow, hail, rain, you name it, we had it all. I gave everything and finished the race empty on the inside.”

The team showed again how united it is and rode really strong. Unfortunately, I couldn't finish the job, but I have no regrets. For sure, it's a race that I will never forget.

"Honestly, I wouldn't change anything I did today. I just missed some power in the legs at the finish, as the cold took its toll on me. It was important to keep believing you'll feature in the final, which I did, but in the end this wasn't enough, as all of the sudden my legs stopped working and I had no more power left, so I got dropped", said Dan Martin, the 2013 winner, at the end of a sodden day which reminded many of the 1980 edition of Liège-Bastogne- Liège.

Also Etixx – Quick-Step CEO, Patrick Lefevere, shared his thoughts on the weather-affected race which drew the curtain on the Spring Classics: "We can't be disappointed, because the guys gave everything. We came here with a young team and until the end they were protagonists. Of course, the real protagonist today was the weather, and the riders paid for every little effort they made in such fierce conditions. Unfortunately, Dan suffered because of the cold, but he did a great race on Wednesday, at Flèche Wallonne, just as Alaphilippe, who has a bright future ahead of him. Congratulations to every rider who finished the race!"

BMC for Tour de Romandie

Here's the email I got from the team:

24 April 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen will team up once again at the Tour de Romandie where their sights are set on the General Classification.

The Tour de Romandie is an important race for BMC Racing Team for numerous reasons, Sports Director Yvon Ledanois said. "With a Swiss title sponsor in BMC Switzerland, the Tour de Romandie is a home race for us so we are motivated to do well. In addition, it is an important race for any Tour de France contender so with Richie and Tejay there we are going in with a strong and determined team. I'm confident that we can get a good result," Ledanois said.

For Porte and van Garderen, it is another chance to work together in preparation for the Tour de France. "We raced for the first time at Vuelta a Catalunya and showed that we could really ride well as a team, so I'm going in motivated for Tour de Romandie knowing that it is one of the first big tests of the season," Porte said.

"We've just come out of altitude training so a race like Tour de Romandie is the perfect chance to put this training to the test. Richie and I have a strong team supporting us and with the two of us together I think we can show what we can do," van Garderen confirmed.

Tour de Romandie (26 April - 1 May)

Rider roster: Tom Bohli (SUI), Brent Bookwalter (USA), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Richie Porte (AUS), Tejay van Garderen (USA), Peter Velits (SVK), Danilo Wyss (SUI).

Sports Directors: Yvon Ledanois (FRA),Valerio Piva (ITA)

 

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