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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, April 26, 2016

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

My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness. - Dalai Lama

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Heart problems force Michael Rogers to retire

Australian racer Michael Rogers annouced Monday that because of a worsening congential heart defect, he must retire.

Rogers was a damn fine racer, with three world time trial championships under his belt as well as Grand Tour stage wins and numerous stage race victories. We wish him well.

Michael ROgers

Michael Rogers on the attack in last year's Eneco Tour

Here is the letter he posted on his Facebook page explaining his need to quit racing:

It’s been a fun ride

Monday, April 25, 2016

My first recollection of professional cycling was in 1986, when I was seven years old. My family was new to cycling. At the time cycling in Australia was not a mainstream sport and the only way to follow the professional peloton was via magazine subscription. Luckily my elder brothers and I were the beneficiaries of VHS recordings of the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and the complete 21 stages of the Tour de France, posted to us by my mother’s relatives in the Netherlands.

I don’t know how many hours I spent during my childhood years engrossed in what was happening on those tapes. During my early teens my mind was solely occupied with professional cycling, so much so that my default response to the friendly request, “Let’s go hang out at the shopping mall after school” offers was plain and simply: “No”. My post-school time had already been mapped out: rush home, have a quick snack, turn on the TV and study the nuances of yet another pro race. Team names such as PDM, Panasonic, RMO – just to name a few – were the subject of long discussion during family meals. I felt like I was put on earth to become a professional cyclist. It was my dream.

Sound like an interesting dream?

It became reality. I got the job. My professional cycling career spanned 16 years.

I was the first person in cycling history to win three consecutive professional world time trial championships.

I won stages at the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia.

I represented Australia at four Olympic Games.

I worked on and off the bike with exceptionally smart and talented people, created lasting friendships, smiled and laughed lots, made a bunch of mistakes, cried myself to sleep a few times, travelled the world and learned to speak foreign languages. Did I mention that I had the time of my life? All of this thanks to one dream – to become a professional cyclist.

All great dreams eventually come to an end, and today it's time to conclude mine by announcing my retirement from racing.

Recent cardiac examinations have identified occurrences of heart arrhythmia which have never been detected beforehand. This latest diagnosis, added to the congenital heart condition I was diagnosed with in 2001, means that my competitive career must end. My last race being the Dubai Tour in February.
In hindsight I'm grateful my original cardiac condition, a malformation of the aortic valve, remained stable until recently, allowing me to compete from my humble beginnings in the Australian outback town of Griffith, all the way to top of the professional ranks.

Whilst I'm disappointed to miss my 13th Tour de France and a chance to compete at my fifth Olympic Games, I'm not prepared to put my health in jeopardy. The opportunity of being a professional cyclist is that after retirement the challenge of a whole new career beckons. And even more importantly, I married the woman of my dreams 11 years ago, and together we are raising three particularly animated daughters.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all my former team-mates, personnel and team managers from the respective teams I raced with. The endless amounts of fun we had together will always be at the forefront of my mind. Many of you have had, and continue to have, a big influence on my life. A further mention goes to my worldwide fan base. Your support during the good times and the bad is greatly appreciated.

I'll particularly miss the riders, personnel and management of Team Tinkoff. Owner Oleg Tinkov is by no means your typical cycling stereotype. He is a one-of-a-kind supporter of our sport and I hope he reconsiders his decision to leave cycling at the end of the year.

Lastly but not least, my biggest expression of gratitude belongs to my personal team – my wife Alessia, our three children, Sofia, Matilde and Emily, my parents Sonja and Ian and brothers Peter and Deane. Since leaving home at the age of 16, everything except cycling became second priority. Subsequently I missed almost every family occasion – happy and sad. While on the subject of family, I'm happy to see the youngest generation of the Rogers family starting their own journeys within the cycling world. I hope their childhood dreams become reality, like mine did.

Michael Rogers

Tour de Romandie team updates

This preview came from Lotto-Soudal:

The 70th edition of the Tour de Romandie is scheduled from 26 April 2016 till 1 May 2016. This stage race takes the riders in six days through the beautiful but hard French speaking part of Switzerland. This race, which is part of the WorldTour, will be a perfect preparation for the Giro d’Italia because of the many mountains on the route.

The race starts with a prologue of four kilometres in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The first stage is an opportunity for the sprinters, although four climbs need to be surmounted. At the end there’s a lap of about 42 kilometres. Stage two, which ends with an uphill finish, will be an important day for the GC riders. They’ll certainly test their legs on the three tough mountains.

The day after, the peloton needs to ride an individual time trial. In and around Sion fifteen kilometres need to be covered, a tough uncategorized climb is situated on the course. There isn’t much time to recover though, the fourth stage will be a very hard day with five climbs and an uphill finish. The GC riders won’t sit back and wait. This stage race ends with a hilly stage which contains two mountains. Most likely the sprinters will get a second chance to fight for the victory.

Lotto Soudal will participate with among others Bart De Clercq, Maxime Monfort, Rafael Valls and Louis Vervaeke. They will compete against riders such as Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot, Richie Porte, Nairo Quintana, Christopher Froome, Simon Spilak and the winner of last year, Ilnur Zakarin. Sports director Marc Wauters and Rafael Valls already look forward to the race.

Maxime Monfort

Maxime Monfort will be at the Tour de Romandie

Sports director Marc Wauters: “This race will be a good test for the condition. A few of our riders did a training week in the mountains, it will depend on how well they will be recovered. Therefore we won’t determine a GC leader beforehand. Maxime Monfort, Rafael Valls, Bart De Clercq and Louis Vervaeke can aim for a good position on GC if they feel good. The other four riders can attack or join a break and try to win a stage. Everyone will have his chance, the riders already showed this season that they’re in a good shape. A lot of great riders participate in this race but in my opinion there are several opportunities for us next week.”

“It’s a very nice race in a beautiful country and the course is very varied. The riders who want to aim for a good GC need to be attentive in the time trials and in the mountain stages. In the stages that are rather flat we have someone like Tosh Van der Sande who can ride a decent sprint. Also Thomas De Gendt can obtain nice results when he has a good day. A few tough stages lie ahead of us, but we start with a strong team. I really look forward to it.”

Rafael Valls is one of the eight riders who’ll defend the Lotto Soudal colours next week. The Spanish climber abandoned the Volta a Catalunya during the fourth stage due to a severe cold which he incurred just before Tirreno-Adriatico.

Rafael Valls: “I caught a cold before Tirreno-Adriatico. During this Italian stage race I started to take antibiotics. I was able to finish the race, but at the end I was really tired. Six days later I participated in the Volta a Catalunya and there it became clear that I hadn’t completely recovered. Together with the team I decided to abandon the race and take the rest I needed. I came to this team with the goal to set good results in the one week stage races, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that in Tirreno and Catalunya. Nevertheless, the team supported me really well in this hard period and I want to thank them for their confidence.”

“The past two weeks I was able to train well and especially during the past week I had the feeling that I’m ready to race again. The prologue and the time trial contain a climb, that’s an advantage for me. It won’t be a course for the real TT specialists. The second and fourth stage are both mountain stages with an uphill finish, these will be very important stages with the GC in mind. It will be a hard race with riders such as Froome and Quintana participating but I am looking forward to it!”

Roster Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Bart De Clercq, Thomas De Gendt, Tomasz Marczynski, Maxime Monfort, Rafael Valls, Tosh Van der Sande and Louis Vervaeke.

Sports directors: Marc Wauters and Kurt Van de Wouwer.

Stages:

Cannondale sent this Romandie news:

Its another spring classics season completed as the sport transitions from one-day races to stage-racing. Up next for the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team is the Tour de Romandie, followed closely by the Giro d’Italia.

It’s a shift in the season that suits the Cannondale team well, and the squad has made no secret of its major season objective — to win the Giro on the legs of Rigoberto Uran.

“For me, Romandie is very important for the Giro d'Italia test. We have a very strong team with Pierre [Rolland] and Talansky,” Uran said. “For sure we have to do well and be ahead in Romandie.”

Uran heads to Romandie with a talented team around him, including Rolland, Davide Formolo and Ramunas Navardauskas.

Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran

“For Uran, Romandie is about showing himself before the Giro. There are plenty of opportunities for Rolland as he continues his progression toward the Tour de France,” said Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters.

A bulk of the roster is coming off a large altitude block and needs to sharpen form after the controlled-state of training, head sport has director Charly Wegelius said.

The Tour de Romandie begins on Tuesday, April 26 in La Chaux-de-Fonds with a 4-kilometer prologue. It ends Sunday May 1 in Geneva and includes two summit finishes and a 15.1 kilometer individual time trial. The parcours is testing, as is the forecasted weather. Snow and cold rains are expected throughout, with highs in the 30s Fahrenheit.

“The weather’s going to play a big part in the race, unfortunately. And it’s a nasty part of the world when it gets bad weather,” Wegelius said. “We’ll have to be sharp to stay out of trouble.

Cannondale Pro Cycling for the 2016 Tour de Romandie: Nate Brown, Joe Dombrowski, Davide Formolo, Moreno Moser, Ramunas Navardauskas, Pierre Rolland, Andrew Talansky, Rigoberto Uran

And here's what Tinkoff had to say about Romandie:

Taking place in the beautiful Romandy region of Switzerland, the Tour de Romandie is a six-day race that covers 712km through some stunning scenery. This year’s race – the 70th in its history – brings together Grand Tour hopefuls, eager to use the race either as preparation for the Tour de France, or to test their form for the Giro d’Italia. Starting on Tuesday with a prologue, Rafal Majka will lead Tinkoff in a race that sees him joined by some of the biggest names in cycling.

Rafael Majka

Rafael Majka

A relatively young race, which was introduced in 1947 to celebrate 50 years of Switzerland’s national cycling federation, the race is popular among Grand Tour riders owing to the varied terrain and the relative absence of sprint stages. The undulating profile means stage racers, climbers and all-rounders alike have a good chance to take stage wins.

Talking after a tough Liège-Bastogne-Liège which saw him hit the deck, Rafal commented: "Together with some of the other guys that are heading to the Giro I had a good few weeks training at altitude in Cyprus and now I hope that I can arrive at Romandie with some good shape before heading to Italy. It's a race that I like and I hope to improve on my seventh place from last year.

"Unfortunately I suffered a bit from my crash on Sunday so this may complicate things slightly and we will see how it affects my form. I will see day by day how well I've recovered from both Cyprus and the crash but I will look to show myself and test my legs over the week, and to fine tune my form ahead of the first grand tour of the season. We have a strong team to both support me at this race and to take our opportunities where we can."

Having improved steadily in the past two editions of the race, taking a top ten finish in last year’s GC, Rafal Majka comes to Romandy ready to race. After taking part in a training camp in advance of his ride in the Giro d’Italia, Rafal Majka comes to the Tour de Romandie eager to test his legs.

Ahead of the race, Sport Director, Patxi Villa looked forward to seeing how riders performed following the training camp. “Romandie will be an important race for the guys going to the Giro and for those that are coming to the race from the high altitude training camp in Cyprus. It will be a good indicator to everyone’s shape, with the team built around Rafal Majka, for whom it will be his last test before Italy.”

It was important to check the team’s form before the Giro, owing to the effects of training at altitude, as Villa explained. “After altitude training you can have some ups and downs so this won’t come as a surprise if it happens, but hopefully it won’t affect our hopes of a strong GC finish and of fighting for stage wins.”

The race had attracted a strong field, with some of the favourites for the Grand Tours scheduled to start the race on Tuesday in La Chaux de Fonds in northwest Switzerland, near the French border. Given the strong competition, Villa gave some insight into Rafal’s goals. “If you have a look at the start list there are some of the biggest names here, it’s a really strong field so we will see how things progress but I think we can definitely aim for a podium finish overall.”

Joining Rafa in Switzerland on Tuesday will be Manuele Boaro, Jesús Hernandez, Robert Kiserlovski, Pawel Poljanski, Ivan Rovny, Yuri Trofimov and Adam Blythe, who have all had strong starts to their season, working in support of both Peter Sagan in the Classics, and Alberto Contador in his early season successes. Villa felt the team had the strength required both to support Rafal in the GC race, but also to take some stage wins. “We have a strong team to support Rafal over the week, including Manuele Boaro who will look towards the time trials too. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and racing for results here.”

Race Route

While not as steep or demanding as some of the season’s earlier stage races, the Tour de Romandie is still a race that will suit the climbers, all-rounders and stage race specialists. Each stage has an undulating profile, and even the first day’s prologue has a third category climb to negotiate over its 3.95km length.

Stage 1 is where the race starts proper, with a 169km route that takes in four categorised climbs. With a downhill towards the finish, this is a stage that the all-rounders will win, if the bunch manages to stay together over an undulating final 50km.

Stage 2 is one for the climbers, with the stage finishing on the first category Pas de Morgins and a maximum gradient of 9%, made all the more difficult by the second category Les Champs preceding it, leaving little time for recovery.

The mountain stages are punctuated by an Individual Time Trial – but even this 15.11km route has a climb that will make the stage less one for the outright time trial specialists. Villa looked to the time trials as a chance to fine-tune equipment and the riders ahead of the Giro d’Italia. “The time trials will also be a good opportunity to test the materials, the positions and the whole process ahead of the Giro.”

Stage 4 is the Queen Stage, and worthy of the name. With no fewer than three first category climbs throughout its 172.7km route, as well as two third category climbs, this stage. With its mountaintop finish, will be the stage where the race is either won or lost. In a circular finishing circuit, the stage will climb the Barboleusaz twice, finishing on its summit the second time round.

While stage 5 crosses two third category climbs and an undulating parcours, the 177.4km stage – the race’s longest – was almost certain to end in a bunch sprint – the long downhill towards the finish would give riders ample opportunity to chase and regroup, ready for the finish.

Of these stages, Villa was sure which would have the most impact on the GC standings. “Looking at the course, the key stages will be the two mountain top finishes and the time trial. In terms of the mountains stage 4 will be key and I think that Rafal is quite suited to the ascent so it will be interesting to see how he is going.” 

Bardiani-CSF announces Giro d'Italia squad

This news came from the team: 

The countdown to the 99th edition of Giro d’Italia has started. The first Grand Tour of the season, who will start in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, on May 6 and will finish in Torino on the 29th, is the most important event of the season for Bardiani-CSF that today is ready to announce its roster.

The nine riders of the #GreenTeam selected by Roberto Reverberi and Stefano Zanatta will be Sonny Colbrelli, Stefano Pirazzi, Nicola Boem, Manuel Bongiorno, Nicola Ruffoni, Simone Andreetta, Paolo Simion, Giulio Ciccone and Mirco Maestri.

Sonny Colbrelli

Sonny Colbrelli wins in Lugano earlier this year

“During last races we had the chance to check the real form of the riders, a key factor to make our final decision” explained Reverberi. “It’s never easy to make choices, all the riders did their best to earn the call, but we’re confident we assembled the best team possible. Giro d’Italia is our most prestigious stage and we have already strong motivations to stand out”.

The Bardiani-CSF squad includes two Giro’s stage winners, Stefano Pirazzi (2014, stage 17, Sarnonico-Vittorio Veneto) and Nicola Boem (2015, stage 10, Civitanova Marche-Forlì). Pirazzi is also the most experienced rider of #GreenTeam at the Corsa Rosa with six editions completed and the climbers classification win in 2013. Simion and Andreetta, together with neo-professionals Ciccone and Maestri, will make their own debut in a Grand Tour.

“We’re satisfied for what we did until today and for the approach we had to the Giro d’Italia” said Zanatta. “During these months we made our choices considering also this important event. Riders have the form we expected and we have a good balance between experienced and rookies. We need to be a solid team because every day we’ll have goal: attacking. Pirazzi, Bongiorno, Ciccone will be the men for the climbs. Boem, Andreetta, Maestri and Simion the riders for mixed stages, while Ruffoni the leader for the sprints. At the end, we have the joker Colbrelli for finisseur or mixed stages. We’ll have fierce competition around us, and we won’t have fears to fight for a win. But being protagonist will depends only from our willing.”

Giant-Alpecin, Liv-Plantur race preview, April 25 - May 8

The teams sent me this update:

TOUR DE YORKSHIRE (2.1)

Team Giant-Alpecin heads to the United Kingdom this week to compete in the Tour de Yorkshire. The second edition of the three-day race will be held on hilly roads with the first two stages expected to end in a reduced bunch sprint. Stage three is where the race will be decided with six ascents and a final climb less than 10km from the finish.

Coach Luke Roberts (AUS) said: "The Tour de Yorkshire was a very successful and well-received event last year, boasting huge crowds similar to those seen at the Tour de France depart in Yorkshire. We are very much looking forward to competing in the race. The course can be quite brutal, with small roads and some very steep climbs throughout the stages.

"We are heading there with Warren Barguil, who is showing some good form at the moment after his 6th place at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and will be looking to test his legs on the harder stages. Also, Nikias Arndt is in his final preparation phase leading up to the Giro and will be a real contender for a stage win in the sprints. The general classification is not a specific focus for us in Yorkshire."

RACE: Tour de Yorkshire (2.1)

DATE: 29/04-01/05/2016

COACH: Luke Roberts (AUS) 

LINE-UP: Nikias Arndt (GER), Warren Barguil (FRA), Bert De Backer (NED), Koen de Kort (NED), Carter Jones (USA), Lars van der Haar (NED)

THE WOMEN'S TOUR DE YORKSHIRE RACE (1.2)

Team Liv-Plantur will be in action this weekend with the Women's Tour de Yorkshire Race. The women’s race will be held on the same course as the men with a parcours of 136km long that is expected to end in a bunch sprint but with tricky weather conditions it could end up being a really hard race with a reduced group of riders making it to the finish.

"It is the first time we are competing in Yorkshire and we are really looking forward to taking part in this edition," explained coach Rudi Kemna (NED). "Leah is going to be our leader and she will have strong support from the team. We will aim to put Leah in a good position before the key moments of the race but we have to aware of the weather conditions, which can be tough in Yorkshire.

"The parcours contains a lot of hills and narrow roads making it a difficult finale. If the race comes back together for a sprint we will go for Leah who is in good shape at the moment and can aim for a podium finish."

RACE: The Women's Tour de Yorkshire Race (1.2)

DATE: 30/04/2016

COACH: Rudi Kemna (NED) 

LINE-UP: Leah Kirchmann (CAN), Floortje Mackaij (NED), Sara Mustonen (SWE), Riejanne Markus (NED), Carlee Taylor (AUS), Molly Weaver (GBR)

RUND UM DEN FINANZPLATZ ESCHBORN-FRANKFURT (1.HC)

The 55th edition of Germany's one-day race is 206km long and features a steep climb, the Mammolshainer Berg with a 26% ramp in sections. The peloton has to climb it four times before hitting the finishing circuit in Frankfurt, which will make it a lot harder compared to previous editions.

The one-day race will see the return of John Degenkolb (GER) to his home race for the first time since the accident and the team is extremely pleased to have him back in the line-up.
Coach Mattias Reck (SWE) said: "It has been a challenging few months but we saw in the Ardennes classics that the results started to get better and I hope we will continue in the same direction. It's great to have John back in the team since the training accident. It 's been a long period of recovery and working hard on his comeback. For Sunday, it's just about regaining the feeling of racing again with no immediate pressure on him for results.

"I expect it to be a tough race and the weather can be a factor throughout the day so we will have to be vigilant. The last time the riders tackle the Mammolshainer Berg will be a key moment so we need to be in a good position before it begins. If the race becomes really hard and uncontrolled, we have Simon and Sam who are able to follow the attacks. If the riders are still all together then we will prepare the sprint for Ramon and we can aim for a top 10 result."

RACE:Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt (1.HC)

DATE: 01/05/2016

COACH: Mattias Reck (SWE) 

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