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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

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Orica-BikeExchange announces Vuelta Line-up

This came to me from the team:

ORICA-BikeExchange lines up at the 2016 Vuelta a Espana this Saturday with a strong and versatile team motivated for a high general classification result. The third and final Grand Tour of the year will follow a difficult, mountainous route over three weeks of racing and cover a total of 3315.4km.

After outstanding performances in the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France, Australia’s first professional WorldTour cycling team approach the race with a well-deserved collective confidence.

Colombian Esteban Chaves returns to Spain after two stage wins, the leader’s jersey and eventual fifth overall in last year’s Vuelta before achieving an impressive second overall in this year’s Giro d’Italia. No longer considered an outside bet, Chaves has proven his credentials as one of the world’s top grand tour performers and will be targeting another good result this time around.

Esteban Chaves

Esteban Chaves having a good day at this year's Giro d'Italia

A strong team assembled around Chaves includes 24-year-old Briton Simon Yates who comes into the squad after a string of excellent results including his first professional victory at the Clasica Ordizia and fourth overall at the Vuelta a Burgos.

Australian climbing talent Damien Howson and Grand Tour debutant Jack Haig will play vital roles in the mountains with Haig receiving an excellent opportunity to gain more stage racing experience.

Sport director Neil Stephens is looking forward to the race and is excited about the team’s prospects. “We are heading into the Vuelta a Espana with one very clear objective,” said Stephens. “And that is to achieve the best possible general classification result that we can.”

“Of course, as always this will be a very difficult race and we will have to pay close attention to a very strong field of competitors. We have only the upmost respect for the race and the other teams.

“Esteban (Chaves) has proven with his performances over the last year that he deserves to be the leader of the team for the 2016 Vuelta and we are all super motivated to do all we can to support him.”

2016 Tour Down Under winner Simon Gerrans returns to the team after a broken collarbone forced him to abandon the Tour de France in July. Gerrans will occupy a more versatile role within the team, and alongside Belgian Jens Keukeleire and Dane Magnus Cort, will be on hand to provide all-round support and important speed on the flatter stage finishes.

Two of the ORICA-BikeExchange ‘Big Three’, Sam Bewley and Svein Tuft, complete the lineup and form the core of the team. Charged with the responsibility gaining and maintaining position for the team the pair will cover many selfless kilometres.

“We have a team with a great mixture of talent, experience and motivation,” continued Stephens. “The whole squad has a fantastic attitude and work ethic which is going to be hugely important over the next three weeks of racing. The guys are all clear on our aims and objectives but as with any bike race you have to be prepared for any eventuality.

“I’m happy and excited that we have such a strong and versatile squad here and I feel that we are well equipped to compete in such a challenging race.”

The 2016 route includes a staggering ten summit finishes with the most difficult stages packed into the second week of racing. The ‘Tour of Spain’ starts with a 29.5kilometre team time trial in Galicia in northwestern Spain before moving into the Basque Country and the Pyrenees.

The final week of racing crisscrosses through southern Spain taking in Valencia and Alicante before the traditional sprint finish in downtown Madrid concludes proceedings.

ORICA-BikeExchange at the Vuelta a Espana, (20th August – 11th September 2016):

Sam Bewley (NZ, 29)
Esteban Chaves (COL, 26)
Magnus Cort (DEN, 23)
Simon Gerrans (AUS, VIC, 36)
Jack Haig (AUS, 22)
Damien Howson (AUS, SA, 24)
Jens Keukeleire (BEL, 26)
Svein Tuft (CAN, 38)
Simon Yates (GBR, 24)

Alberto Contador on the upcoming Vuelta

Tinkoff sent me this:

Alberto Contador reaches the start of the Vuelta a España after overcoming all the setbacks and injuries that forced him to abandon the Tour de France in July. After a period of recovery and fine-tuning, Tinkoff's leader is optimistic a few days prior to the start in Ourense. "I think I'm well, but the good thing is that I am keen to go on the bike, which is important."

Alberto Contador raced at the Clasica San Sebastian and the Vuelta a Burgos in preparation for the Vuelta. "I haven't had many tests to see how I am, practically only in Burgos. From there I focused on recovering from the effort and doing some quality training, but that race is very different from the Vuelta, in terms of days of competition and the level of its line-up."  That was the end of the long period since he withdrew from the Tour de France, "a time that was particularly difficult until I started competing, since the Tour was my number one goal of the year and it started on the wrong foot and finished by retiring. That really comes often back to my head and is hard to beat psychologically. On the other hand, physically it has also been difficult because at first I could not train and that forced me to look a lot after my nutrition, taking into consideration how hard it is to immediately change your mindset when you come from a period of racing."

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador won the Vuelta a Burgos

However, all that is behind and now Contador focuses only on his next challenge. "Certainly, my goal at the Vuelta is to fight for victory. That's the idea with which I am going to Galicia, we will then see if we can achieve it, because I will have to face very strong opponents with powerful squads. We will have to take it day-by-day and I just hope I'm a little bit luckier to enjoy the race and the fans. At the Vuelta, the affection of the public has always been amazing and reliving that is something I look forward to. Furthermore, this will be my last Grand Tour with Tinkoff and I would like to finish it in the best way."

On this year's race course, Alberto thinks it is "a typical Vuelta parcours, with many short and explosive finishes, without any previous mountain passes, a little bit like the Classics, which will be made complicated because you might have a bad day or rivals that are more explosive. They will be difficult to manage, but overall I like the course because it is designed to bring forward the show and it is important that people engage in the race."

Alberto's rivals will be the ones of the Tour with some additions, a line-up that for Alberto is "a great motivation. The level is very high, because in the end, each year the favourites of the Tour are in the Vuelta and that makes me happy. This marquee line-up will raise great expectations." On the other hand, this will not be a revenge of the Tour. "No, it's not a matter of revenge, the Vuelta is another race that starts from scratch and I just hope to start on a better footing than the Tour."

Alberto Contador does not forget the riders that will flank him at the Vuelta. "We will have a Tinkoff squad, very balanced between youth and experience, with many riders that already know what it means to race at the Vuelta a España. There are very good riders for the team time trial and the climbs, but the best part is that they are all very motivated to race at the Vuelta and that's fundamental."

The full Tinkoff line-up for the 71st Vuelta a España will be announced tomorrow morning, with the race getting underway with a team time trial on Saturday.

Giant-Alpecin & Liv-Plantur upcoming racing

This update came from the teams:

CRESCENT WOMEN WORLD CUP VÅRGÅRDA (WWT):

Team Liv-Plantur is back in WorldTour action this week with a twofold of Vårgårda races in Sweden. The action kicks off with the team time trial on Friday, before the riders tackle the road race on Sunday.

Starting in the evening, teams will head out for their efforts at three minute intervals over the 42.5km route that although mainly flat, can often be subject to testing crosswinds.

The course for the road race features a slight change to last year, with the peloton tackling four short laps before moving to the large 55km loop. The large circuit contains four gravel sections that will test the riders' bike handling, before the race returns to five laps of a final short circuit to finish.

Coach Mattias Reck (SWE) said: "It's an interesting course for the road race here and out on the big loop there are the gravel sections which can prove critical, so you have to be alert all the time. The final small circuits are quite demanding around Vårgårda with lots of corners and a climb each lap.

"For the time trial a top five would be a good result for us here, and the result will depend a bit on which competitors are present after Rio. Then looking to Sunday, with Leah we have a rider who can win the race. She's currently sat third in the WorldTour rankings and this parcours is made for her, so we will support her for a result."

RACE: Crescent Women World Cup Vårgårda (WWT)

DATE: 19-21/08/2016

COACH: Mattias Reck (SWE) 

LINE-UP: Leah Kirchmann (CAN) , Riejanne Markus (NED), Sara Mustonen (SWE)
Rozanne Slik (NED) , Julia Soek (NED), Molly Weaver (GBR)

VUELTA A ESPAÑA (WT):

Following successful campaigns at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, winning two stages at each, the team heads to this year’s Vuelta with confidence. Team Giant-Alpecin returns to Spain after being close to the overall podium with Tom Dumoulin (NED) last year and after having won three stages. For this year the team will once again focus on stage success in the sprints and in the breakaways when the opportunities arise.

Like last year, the race gets underway with a team time trial of 29.4km, in the province of Ourense. The first mountain stage comes on stage three with a summit finish in Mirador de Ézaro. The rest of the race presents a plethora of different opportunities and should give the team with chances for more than one rider to compete for a stage result.

Team Giant-Alpecin will be targeting the sprints with Nikias Arndt (GER), and he will be looking to win his second Grand Tour stage victory after his success at the Giro d'Italia. The team has strong lead-out capabilities to support Arndt with experienced Koen de Kort (NED), Tom Stamsnijder (NED), Tobias Ludvigsson (SWE) and fast Zico Waeytens (BEL). The 23-year-old Norwegian Sindre Skjøstad Lunke is set to make his Grand Tour debut in Spain, while Warren Barguil (FRA) will focus on stage results in his third Vuelta appearance. The opportunists in the line-up include Chad Haga (USA) and Ludvigsson who are capable of proving their strength against the clock, and German road captain Johannes Fröhlinger will be using his experience to lead the team through the 21 stages, as he starts his 13th Grand Tour.

Speaking about the line-up for the Vuelta, coach Luke Roberts (AUS) said: "Our objective will be on stage results. Firstly in the sprints where there should be plenty of opportunities for a fast finish during the three weeks. In parallel, we will apply an offensive strategy when the stages become more difficult to target results from the breakaways. Finally with Warren, we will see how the race evolves to give him the best chances for stage success."

RACE: Vuelta a España (WT)

DATE: 20/08-11/09/2016

COACHES: Arthur van Dongen (NED), Luke Roberts (AUS) 

LINE-UP:Nikias Arndt (GER), Warren Barguil (FRA), Koen de Kort (NED), Johannes Fröhlinger (GER), Chad Haga (USA), Tobias Ludvigsson (SWE), Sindre Skjøstad Lunke (NOR), Tom Stamsnijder (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL)

CYCLASSICS HAMBURG (WT)

With the third and final Grand Tour underway over in Spain, another Team Giant-Alpecin line-up will be in action in Germany at the 21st Cyclassics Hamburg, the one-day WorldTour race in the German city.

Following the mass participation ride in Hamburg, where tens of thousands of cyclists will take to two wheels around the city, the professionals then take centre stage. Looking at the past winners, the race is often decided in a bunch sprint, however, the rolling nature of the parcours will not be easy and a bunch finish is never assured.

Leading the way for Team Giant-Alpecin is 2013 winner, John Degenkolb (GER), who comes to the race off the back of his first win of the season on the final stage of the Arctic Race of Norway. He will be supported by a strong team able to set him up for the finish with a powerful lead-out.

Coach Marc Reef (NED) gave some more insight into the team ahead of the race. "It's a really attractive parcours here, and the four ascensions of the Wazeberg will make it selective. However, often in the finale it comes back together and will be decided by a sprint.

"We will be focused on John in the sprint here and we have an excellent lead-out to get him into the best position to finish it off. He showed with last week's racing in Norway that he's in strong form with a victory and two second places in the sprints, so it looks promising for Sunday."

RACE: Cyclassics Hamburg (WT)

DATE: 21/08/2016

COACH: Marc Reef (NED) 

LINE-UP: Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), John Degenkolb (GER), Simon Geschke (GER), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Albert Timmer (NED), Max Walscheid (GER) 

TOUR DU POITOU CHARENTES (2.1)

The four-day Tour du Poitou Charentes gets underway in the French department of Charente, south western France, with five stages in total after double stages on the penultimate day of racing.

Getting underway with 189.6km to Puilboreau, the first race leader will be decided over a parcours featuring four classified climbs, but one that should conclude with a bunch sprint. The final climb of the day, 1km at 6% average gradient, crests with over 67km to race giving the peloton plenty of time to regroup and reel in the day's escape.

The following days offer a mix of parcours, including an uphill drag to the line on stage 3, as well as a rolling 23km individual time trial on stage 4. The race then comes to a close over a difficult day with the fifth stage, over a succession of short sharp climbs in the final part of the race.

"We will go for the sprint opportunities with Max here in France, and then for the more difficult stages we have Simon who is capable of getting results and also moving up in the GC," explained coach Adriaan Helmantel (NED). "For Sam it's still a learning experience and we'll see how he tackles the difficult stages after competing well and taking the overall win at the Tour de l'Ain last weekend.

"For the fight for GC the time trial will be important, and Simon showed at the Olympics that his shape is very good so he can test himself well here. For Sam, the TT will be good for his development as he continues to grow and impress."

RACE: Tour du Poitou Charentes (2.1)

DATE: 23-26/08/2016

COACH: Adriaan Helmantel (NED) 

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