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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, August 7, 2016

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We are all faced with a series of great opportunities - brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems. - John W. Gardner

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Pacific Northwest cycling icon returns to bike business

One of the great joys of owning Torelli Imports was being involved with the bike culture of the Pacific Northwest. The customers, shop owners and mechanics made traveling to Oregon and Washington a pleasure.

Jim Couch, who owned Spoke & Sprocket Bike Shop in Tacoma, was deeply knowledgable and passionate about bikes. In fact, I thought so highly of Mr. Couch I asked him to come with me on one of my cycling trips in Italy. He is as good a rider as he is wrench, and that's a high bar.

But, Jim had to close his shop a few years ago and cyclists could no longer benefit from his myriad abilities with bikes.

Well, I have good news. Jim Couch has come back to the bike business. He's at West End Bikes in Portland, a neat shop filled with eye candy and staffed with kind people who know their stuff. I stopped by a few days ago to see Jim and got to meet one of the owners, Mark Ontiveros. Mark is also a real bike guy and helped make the afternoon a real pleasure. Thanks for the hospitality, guys.

West End Bikes

Outside West End bikes in Portland. That's Jim on the left, I'm in the center and Mark is on the right.

Several riders suffer serious injuries in Olympic Men's Road Race

There were several bad crashes in the Olympic Men's Road Race, among them Vincenzo Nibali's broken collarbone and Sergio Henao's fractured pelvis. Cycling Weekly has a summary of the unhappy, but important news here.

Vuelta a Burgos team reports

This came from Tinkoff:

After four hard days of racing, it was all going to come down to the final stage of the Vuelta a Burgos. With forty seconds separating the top fifty GC riders, anyone could take the win on the toughest day of the race. Going into the day in 25th spot, Alberto Contador was looking confident and strong on the final ascent of the day, before a late attack earned the Spanish Tinkoff leader second position on the stage, taking the GC win by a second.

Burgos podium

2016 Vuelta a Burgos final GC podium. From left: Ben Hermans (2nd), Alberto Contador (1st) & Sergio Pardilla (3rd)

The race’s final stage – the Queen Stage – saw riders tackle a 163km route with no fewer than seven categorised climbs. The toughest ascents, not to mention some challenging downhills, coming in the final 60km, this was where the real racing would happen – riding a finishing circuit twice – before the mountaintop finish in Lagunas de Neila.

Breaking away early on, a group of six worked to build up an advantage of a little over two minutes early in the day. With the bigger climbs of the day still to come, the peloton was happy to let the group go on up the road. The difficulty of the parcours and the pace of the break eventually splintered the group, leaving only three riders up the road, with the gap between them growing as the race neared its conclusion.

The team’s Technical Coordinator, Ivan Basso, saw how hard the guys worked throughout the stage, making sure the outcome went in their favour. “We had a really hard start today - our strategy was to put the race in our way. Every big group that went, we pulled. This meant we had to work hard. At the end the guys looked after Alberto, and Trofimov was there at the end. He did a great job at the end pulling to catch the break and finally Alberto did a great ride.”

With a little over 30km remaining, the three-man break was maintaining a gap of thirty seconds on the chasers, but this was falling swiftly, and by the 25km point, as the race began to climb the first category Pasil de Rozavientos, the gap was shrinking. The long descent on the back of the climb enabled the break to hold their lead a little longer, increasing the gap to almost a minute with 15km to go, although having caught sight of the escapees, the chasers redoubled their efforts and the gap fell swiftly to forty seconds.

The breakaway riders were unable to maintain their efforts and gradually dropped back to the peloton, where Alberto Contador was to be found keeping safe before the final push on the second ascent of the climb to the finish. With it all back together, it was all going to come down to these final few kilometres, and with a little more than 5km to go, the attacks came. Countering these attacks with confidence and strength in his trademark pedalling style, Alberto showed how his recovery has continued over the five days of the race.

In the final 2km, with one rider up the road, Alberto attacked, taking a companion with him. Coming into the final kilometre of the race, Alberto went again, the Spanish rider showing strength, style and confidence as the finish line approached. Crossing the line in second, it was an anxious wait for the confirmation of the GC race, with it all coming down to Alberto, his breakaway companion and the stage’s winner. The results in, Alberto was confirmed as the race’s winner by one second – an amazing comeback from the injuries he’d sustained at the Tour de France.

Going into the final day with such a close GC group, Alberto knew he would have to make a calculated, well thought-out move. "It was an extremely close race and I knew the last kilometre would be very tough and complicated. I had to approach it in a cold-blooded way. I was very surprised when I saw the BMC rider initiate a very strong attack. Initially, I thought it was Samuel Sanchez but then I realised it wasn't him. I started calculating his time in the GC. I knew he was at 30 seconds and I was aware the final result would be very close. When I crossed the finish line, I looked back and saw 18 seconds on the board. I realised I must have crossed at 17. I won by a mere second and I'm very satisfied."

The Vuelta a Burgos being the Tinkoff leader’s first stage race after the Tour de France, Basso was pleased to see the Spanish rider perform so well in the race. “Our pre-race plan was respected – we wanted to go day-by-day and we finished on top, so it's the best way to finish the week. I think we saw today how well Alberto has come back from injury. He was out of training for many days and yet he arrived here in good shape. Yesterday we saw in the crosswinds he was there and today he did a perfect job. He couldn't win the stage but the GC is a great result.”

Having only raced in a one-day race before the Vuelta a Burgos, Alberto was unsure of how his form would be in a stage race situation. “I wasn’t able to train much before coming here because I had to recover after the Tour. In the first four stages we were able to take it calm and I knew in the final stage we could have options. In the end, we did it, and I’m very happy”

The race having previously been absent from his list of victories, Alberto had unfinished business here, having crashed in the race earlier in his career. "It was a victory missing from my palmares and I was looking forward to it. I also see it as a victory that compensates in a certain way the crash that I suffered here in 2006. When I told my family that I would race here to prepare the Vuelta they didn't like it."

The outcome of the race was once again an example of the Tinkoff team’s strong teamwork – both for the riders and for the management – as they prepare for their next big race, Basso explained. “We are happy as we go towards the Vuelta with confidence. What Alberto’s done here is big. Once again thanks to all the boys and the staff - my second race as first Sport Director, and another great result. Thanks to Jan Valach and also to the support of Steven De Jongh and Sean Yates.”

Alberto, as well, was full of praise at the level of support he had received. "I'd like to thank the spectators and fans from the bottom of my heart. My teammates and myself were greatly surprised by the warm welcome we received here. It was a wonderful feeling"

With the next race in Alberto’s calendar being the Vuelta a España, he was now looking to work on his form and final recovery before the race. “This race was undoubtedly a positive test heading to the Vuelta. With regard to my form, I’m gradually improving. I am still racing with my heart beating fast but this is a sign I am fresh. We now have to fine-tune my preparation before the Vuelta.”

Here's the Burgos Vuelta report BMC sent me:

6 August, 2016, Lagunas de Neila (ESP): Ben Hermans showed off his climbing legs on the queen stage of Vuelta a Burgos to battle it to the line to take third place, and move into second place on the General Classification.

After three sprint stages and a Team Time Trial, the General Classification came down to the tough mountainous stage with seven category climbs, which sees Hermans secure his best stage race result for the season.

Six riders eventually formed the breakaway of the day and were eventually reeled in within the last 20 kilometers of racing. The summit finish of Lagunas de Neila set the scene for the final battle with stage winner Sergio Pardilla (Caja Rural - Seguros RGA) launching a solo attack, and Hermans and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) leading the chase.

Hermans and Contador went head to head in the final kilometer, with Contador edging clear from Hermans in the final 300 meters.

BMC Racing Team concludes a successful first time racing at Vuelta a Burgos with four top three stage results, Jempy Drucker second on the Points Classification, and Hermans' second place overall.

Ben Hermans: "I was just waiting until the last 1.5km to go because it was there that the road kicked up to more than 10 percent. I was sitting pretty easy in the wheels but then Pardilla attacked and nobody responded so he took 40 or 50 seconds quite quickly. I actually wanted a really hard introduction to that last 1.5km but everybody could recover a bit so it was really explosive when we hit the steep climb. I attacked straight from the bottom with 1.5km to go and only Contador could follow, but he didn't pull. Then at 500 meters to go he attacked and gained four or five seconds on me. I thought he would fly away from me but he stayed there and then I realized that I was in contention for the GC, so I gave it everything I had."

"I can go into the Vuelta a Espana confident. It's always better to have a win rather than looking forward to a win but I make out of it and we'll see what happens."

Max Sciandri, Sports Director: "It's a good result for Ben Hermans and for the team. It was more or less the plan going into today to have Ben as our main option for the climbs. We had the guys on the look out for the breakaway but in the end it went at 60 or 70km and mostly with small teams, so we didn't jump in it. We knew that it would come down to the last lap and that it would be a tempo ride. It was a hard pace so it cleaned the group out and we had Ben and Samuel Sanchez in there. Ben knew he had the legs and could hang on, whereas Samuel had already said that he felt good but wasn't at 100% form as he is building up for the Vuelta a Espana."

"It was our first time racing at Vuelta a Burgos and we are leaving fairly happy with our results. We were up there in every stage and it was a good way of getting some much-needed race days in the legs for a lot of the guys who are going for Vuelta a Espana selection. There's no such thing as an easy race and today's stage was definitely a good indication of where everyone is at in terms of form."

BMC's Tour of Utah stage 6 report

6 August 2016, Snowbird Resort, Utah (USA): Today's queen stage at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah saw the riders tackle the only summit finish of the week. Darwin Atapuma showed strong form and launched a late attack on the way to Snowbird Resort to eventually cross the line second behind stage winner and new race leader, Andrew Talansky (Cannondale - Drapac).

As soon as the race hit kilometer zero attacks started to fly off the front of the peloton. BMC Racing Team worked hard to mark every move before a group of ten riders, including Rick Zabel, was able to cement an advantage over the peloton which at one stage reached a maximum of 4 minutes 25 seconds. 

The breakaway started to split as they headed over the top of day's first categorized climb, Guardsman Pass, before the race came back together for a decisive final climb.

Eventually only a select group of riders were left to battle it out on the steep slopes up to Snowbird Resort. Taylor [TJ] Eisenhart made a move off the front of the main General Classification group before Darwin Atapuma launched an impressive attack that could only be matched by Talansky. The duo went under the flamme rouge together before going head to head in a final sprint for the line.

Andrew Talansky beats Darwin Atapuma to the line

Atapuma's second place finish saw him move up in the General Classification and he now sits in fourth place going into tomorrow's final stage, 1 minute 23 seconds behind Talanksy

Joey Rosskopf and TJ Eisenhart were also riding strong on the final climb and crossed the line in seventh and tenth place respectively to remain inside the top ten on the General Classification.

Darwin Atapuma: "Today was a tough stage and I'm grateful for all of the work that the team did. I previewed this climb before the race with TJ and gave it a go at tempo so we knew what was coming up. I have been climbing really well this season, especially at the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de Suisse, so I came in to this race confident in my abilities."

"The team did a great job all day to put me in a position where I could attack and get in a good position to go for a podium result. It's just a shame I couldn't get the win. It was definitely not an easy stage especially with the headwind but in the end I was happy with the form I showed and we are still really motivated and focused for tomorrow's final stage."

Sports Director, Jackson Stewart: "We had an idea to try and set up a dangerous move today that could pass the first climb and then help at the front when the race came back together. Again, every single person wanted to be in the breakaway today so it was really hard at the beginning. Rick was able to be part of the successful move and he has shown this week that he is climbing super well which is really interesting. He did such a good job and was able help the team for the final climb."

"With Rick in the break we could sit up a bit in the peloton and over the first climb we still had six strong guys up at the front. We were then able to attack on the final climb and really light the race up with Darwin. The only guy who could stay with him was Talansky so that made it a proper duel for the win and to finish in second made it a good day. We lost the race by about a tyre width which is a bit of a shame for Darwin as he is really confident here and everyone is really working well for him. We are just waiting for the elusive stage win.

"The whole team was super active again. Joey was caught behind a moto crash, a situation that is definitely un-called for, but he was able to get back up to the front of the race which was great to see and also be up there in the top ten with TJ."

Bike giant Dorel Industries (owner of Cannondale, GT, Schwinn, Caloi) announces layoffs:

This was posted in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News:

MONTRÉAL (BRAIN) — Dorel Industries announced Thursday it is trimming the payroll at its Dorel Sports division — which includes its mass market and IBD bicycle businesses. The company said it would reduce its global workforce in the division by about 4 percent. Officials declined to comment any further on the number of people laid off or what areas of the company are affected.

Dorel also said it would "exit" its three Cannondale Sports retail outlets. Two of the stores are in the Boston area and one is on Long Island.

"We've exited retail and other areas that were distractions. We're a bike company first and let's be really good at that before we start getting into other areas like retail," Dorel's Jeffrey Schwartz told investors during a conference call Thursday. "We're really just focusing."

Dorel Sports' second quarter revenue decreased by 5.8 percent to $236.5 million, compared to $251.1 million last year. After removing the impact of foreign exchange rates, organic revenue declined by approximately 4.8 percent.

Schwartz noted during the call that declines during the period are explained by decreases in sales in North America and reduced margins from discounting. "We experienced lower IBD sales in North America. Consumers shifted toward opening price point bikes and and there was a decline in Caloi sales as economic challenges in Brazil hurt us and raised prices there significantly. We protected margins, but that's coming at the cost of declining sales. That was partially offset by increased sales in Europe to our IBD accounts as that business is picking up," he said.

Dorel Sports' IBD division, Cycling Sports Group, saw global revenue decline in the quarter and in the first half. The company said the North American market was "soft and competitive," with continued high inventory at the wholesale and retail levels. However, the company said Cannondale market share increased in the first half.

"Even though we increased our market share in North America, according to industry statistics, we've been affected by industrywide discounting due to significant inventories at the supplier level and that's caused us to have a serious impact on our margin," Schwartz said.

You can read the entire story here.

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