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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, February 19, 2016

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

You know how advice is. You only want it if it agrees with what you wanted to do anyway. - John Steinbeck

Today's racing:

Esteban Chaves has high ambitions for the Giro

This came from Orica-GreenEdge:

After a breakthrough 2015 season Esteban Chaves aims to reinforce his credentials as a genuine general classification contender when he lines up for the Giro d'Italia in May.

After a stage victory in the team time trial at the Giro d’Italia in May, the Colombian rider developed a taste for Grand Tour podiums and went on to take two individual stage victories and fifth overall at the Vuelta a Espana, followed by the victory on stage three and subsequent overall victory at the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour.

Esteban Chaves

Esteban Chaves in the red leader's jersey at the 2015 Vuelta

The 26-year-old lit up the climbs at the Vuelta with numerous attacks and won the hearts of fans and the respect of his rivals.

Coming back from a career threatening injury, Chaves made huge inroads in 2014, his first full pro season, winning stages in the Tour de Suisse and at the Tour of California.

One of the biggest objectives for the 2016 season will be the Giro d’Italia in May. Having an experienced team around him and the freedom to stage a serious assault on the general classification looks to be a challenge well met by Chaves.

"I'm really looking forward to doing the Giro d'Italia this year and it's a really important objective for me and the team," he said. "I hope to be able to race at a really good level and we are targeting a result in the GC."

"I really love racing in Italy and the Giro is always something very special. We're all looking forward to continue ORICA-GreenEDGE's great experiences at this amazing race."

Spending six days in the red leader's jersey at the 2015 Vuelta has given Chaves invaluable experience as a team leader and as a serious general classification contender for future Grand Tours and the smaller week-long stage races.

“Esteban is rapidly growing into a real GC contender and for every big race he does, he adds a lot of experience," sports director Matthew White said. "We saw him do a fantastic Vuelta last year and this year he’ll be our protected leader in the Giro."

"He still has a lot of development potential in the Grand Tours, but he’s definitely ready to take another big step towards the GC. The Giro is a race that means a lot to us as a team and with Esteban in top shape, we’ll have a strong card to play over the course of three hard weeks."

ORICA-GreenEDGE are no strangers to success at the Giro, winning three stages of the 2014 race including the opening team trial stage and the retention of the pink jersey going into stage three. In 2015 the team again won the opening team time trial and went on to keep the pink jersey for four days with another stage win by Michael Matthews on the third stage and three more podium finishes by the team.

Contador feels form improving at Volta ao Algarve

Tinkoff sent me this info:

Tinkoff led a good part of a very tough and windy stage, bringing Contador in the lead at the penultimate climb. The huge and prolonged effort took its toll on the Spanish champion who feels his condition improving, ahead of the season's big goals.

Racing got off in full earnest and things got serious at the Volta ao Algarve, with the longest stage, starting from Lagoa and finishing atop Alto da Foia. The peloton faced a complicated route, 198.6 kilometers long with four mountain climbs in the last 60 kilometers and a final 7km climb.

The stage was marked by strong crosswinds, giving the peloton a hard time. Well into 100 kilometers, Tinkoff took the lead and imposed its pace on the race, which became more intense until the first climb.

Right from the onset, a 7-rider breakaway was formed and Tinkoff played an important role in chasing it. It was eventually brought back, one by one, as kilometers went by, and the peloton was finally reunited back together with 40 km to go.

“Today the team worked hard to put Alberto in a good position", stated sport director Steven de Jongh. “It was a very tough day with a lot of wind of course, and in the finale Alberto was super. The result was not what we hoped for, and he was a bit isolated because some riders left him a bit earlier than we planned. It wasn't a top day but some of our riders did their work really well, that was good work. Tomorrow, we have a time trial and Alberto wants to have a good race. We will see how it goes."

Alberto Contador

Il Pistolero doesn't have the suds yet to stay with the good climbers, but it's early days.

“I think Alberto was going well", added sport director Sean Yates, "but he took too much wind. It was a long day, a very windy day and he tried his way until the final climb but in the end the strongest man won and he was excluded. We had hoped for better."

Alberto Contador commented on his performance in the second stage: "It was a complicated and quite hard stage. We wanted to keep the breakaway under control in order to fight for the stage but, in hindsight, it was probably an error to stay in the front throughout the day under such windy conditions. We probably spent more energy than necessary.”

“I think it's evident I still lack a bit of pace. In the penultimate climb I was feeling better but the finish was tough because of the strong wind. It was difficult to keep the rhythm and behind me, the group had a better pace. When the race accelerated in the final kilometer, I was unable to follow and I lost time. For me, the important aspect is that the sensations I have keep improving.”

“In the penultimate climb, I tried to make the race a bit harder because the group was quite big but it was difficult to break the race with so much wind. There are riders with better legs here because they already have races under their belts. However, the Volta ao Algarve serves as a preparation towards Paris-Nice, where my goal is to have a good result. The sensations I have are what I expected. The work we carried out in Tenerife focused on building force and what I lack is race rhythm. That's precisely what I'm here for".

"Tomorrow, we will tackle a time-trial and although it will be long and flat, it will be a very useful training towards my upcoming objectives," concluded Alberto Contador.

An 18k-long individual time trial around Sages, is scheduled for tomorrow, and will very likely bring changes to the GC.

And here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Algarve report:

Roglic and Gesink give the Volta ao Algarve queen stage colour.

LottoNL-Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic followed the strongest riders on the final Alto da Foia climb and placed third in the second stage of the Volta ao Algarve. When his aggressive team-mate Robert Gesink was caught with one kilometre to go, Roglic fought to finish third. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) won.

“Before this race, we planned to go all in during the two mountain stages,” sports director Merijn Zeeman said after the queen stage. “Robert is here to find out how good he is and is trying to win a stage. Today was one of those two tough days, with many climbs in the end, so that offered him a chance to do that. He followed his intuition and chose to attack. That was a beautiful attack, but the collaboration in the breakaway wasn’t perfect, so they got caught with one kilometre to go.”

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic having a good day at the 2015 Tour of Azerbaijan

Until that moment, Primoz Roglic was in front of the chasing group. It was his job to mark the others to allow Gesink space. He showed he was able to follow the top riders until the finish line. “He did a terrific job,” Zeeman added. “It surprised us. We already saw that Primoz has depth in the winter. Today, he showed that he is able to stay strong among the very best climbers and that’s a magnificent performance from a man who comes from a continental team.”

“Today, I proved that I’m able to ride strongly,” the Slovenian said. “The best riders in the world are in this race and I was able to compete with them. That makes me very happy. It surprised me that I was able to stay strong. I know that I’m good, but riders like Alberto Contador and Fabio Aru were around me. I wasn’t nervous, though. When I had the chance to win the stage, I just tried to finish as well as possible. Unfortunately, two riders were faster than me.”

Roglic’s performance is one in a cluster of strong performances for Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s new riders and that gives Zeeman a good feeling. “We started this season very eagerly,” he added. “We have some feelings of revenge after last year. The start is good, but we only have one victory so far. We will need many more wins. Tomorrow, Victor Campenaerts and Primoz are going all in during the time trial. Victor wants to grab a good result and Primoz has some ambitions for the general classification.”

Here's Lampre-Merida's Tour of Oman report:

After two stages whose final parts turned out to be selective, the 3rd stage of the Tour de Oman left space to the sprinters.

The 176.5 km from Al Sawadi Beach to Naseem Park were quite easy for the bunch, but it gave the surprise of the rain which fell on the race in the second half of the course.

After few kilometers in the race, five athletes (Dehaes, Slik, Kerby, Van Goethem and Van Rooy) escaped from the bunch but their move was under the control of the bunch, which neutralized the breakaway at 10 km to the arrival.

Lampre-Merida awaited the sprint, considering the good quality of the team members, but the expectation were not fulfilled.

Kump was the designated sprinter for the blue-fuchsia-green team, but his lead-out train derailed at 3 km to go, so the Slovenian rider could not partecipate in the sprint. He was 24th, just behind his team mate Pibernik (23rd).

Rui Costa is 6th in the general classification (10" to the leader Boasson Hagen) and he's ready to face the 4th stage, which will be probably crucial for the victory of the Tour de Oman: the stage will end on the summit of the Jabal Al Akhdar (Green Mountain), on the top of a 7 km of lenght climb with maximum gradient of 12,4% (between -3 km and -2 km to the arrival, which will be at 1435 mt of altitude).

LottoNL-Jumbo sent out this Tour of Oman report:

Moreno Hofland placed second in the third stage of the Tour of Oman behind Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) today. The placing was a result of Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s great lead-out to Naseem Park.

The results of the third stage – with Hofland in second and Mike Teunissen in fourth – indicated things are going well, but did not tell the entire story. “We were able to carry out around 85 per cent of our plan,” sports director Jan Boven said after the race. “At the turning point of the stage, with six kilometres to go, we didn’t want to be in the front of the peloton, but we wanted to be close to it. It was all about having the courage to wait until the final 2.5 kilometres. We succeeded partly because of our soigneurs who were at the finish. They previewed the stage final for us and gave us information about the actual final.”

The final did not run without hitch. “There was a road divider with 800 metres to go and not everyone chose the same side,” Boven added. “Tom Van Asbroeck and Moreno chose Kristoff’s wheel. Mike was somewhere else and wasn’t able to fulfil all of his tasks.”

Moreno Hofland

Moreno Hofland winning a stage in the 2015 Ster Toer

Hofland explained that part of the lead-out was the most successful moment of the race. “You’re never able to do it completely the way you planned it,” said Hofland. "It’s about anticipating when you’re not expecting something and that’s where we made some mistakes in the last weeks. Today, we dared to change plans and everything ended up very well.”

Hofland’s second place felt like a win for him. “This gives me confidence and it’s good for the team’s morale, as well. We showed that we are able to aim for stage wins. Of course, I want to win them as well, but this second place is a nice step for us. Kristoff is really strong at this moment, as well.”

Hofland will not have the chance to sprint again tomorrow. A tough mountain stage is waiting for the riders in the Tour of Oman. “We’re going to find out how good George Bennett is,” Boven said. “We’re going to lead him out until the foot of the final climb and afterwards, the team needs to rest as much as possible.”

And there was the Ruta del Sol

Here's Tinkoff's press release:

In the longest stage of the Spanish race, the Italian rider of Tinkoff crossed the finish line in the leading group. Team co-leaders, Rafal Majka and Roman Kreuziger, didn't lose time in the GC, ahead of the weekend's decisive stages.

Roman Kreuziger

Roman Kreuziger

The second stage, from Palomares del Rio to Cordoba (186.3 km) was marked by an early breakaway, similar to the previous day, with four riders gaining a maximum gap of about 4 minutes on the peloton. In the front group, several teams, including Tinkoff, kept the break under control.

Unfortunately, a fall, early into the stage, affected Nikolay Trusov, who suffered from road rash on his right leg. Nevertheless, the Russian rider was strong and powered up back to the peloton, working hard in the front to chase the break.

With 30 km to go, a compact group caught the escapees, before the complicated finale, with a third category climb, Alto de Trassiera,  22 km from the finish line. The climb, with a 5.8% average incline, was tackled by the peloton at a steady pace, although of course it did make a selection, with a group of several dozen riders who rode past the final summit.

Soon after that the riders had to face a series of twisting false flats and a fast descent to Cordoba which caused a further selection prior to the finishing sprint where unfortunately Daniele Bennati was squeezed out and therefore he was unable to sprint. The Italian rider now sits 8th in the GC and third in the Points Classification.

"Today we were a bit unlucky before the descent because Oscar Gatto had a puncture and was left behind.  In addition, the descent was approached at a very fast pace and the group was split," said Sport Director Bruno Cenghialta. "Kreuziger and Bennati got back in with 3.5 km to go and in the last kilometer we brought Daniele in the front positions of the group to try and do his sprint but unfortunately he was closed and couldn't carry out. However, today it went quite well because we had good feedback from the guys. As I said before, in the end we were just a little bit unlucky because we were able to do the things the way we wanted to".

According to Daniele Bennati, luck wasn't on the team's side in today's stage. "Today we weren't that lucky because there were four of us in the first group, and Oscar Gatto was probably a little bit better suited than me to try and get a result. Unfortunately, he punctured in the last descent, and so in the end it was just me, Rafal and Roman in the first group. I tried to do a good sprint but I was squeezed out in the final 500 meters, so I couldn't really start sprinting. Anyway my condition, as well as Majka's, Gatto's and Kreuziger's is good, and this is very promising for the next few days".

Tomorrow, the third stage, 157.9 km long, will take the peloton from Monachil to Padul. "Tomorrow, it will be another stage which, in theory, is meant to end with a final sprint, but a breakaway with six-seven riders could also get to the finish line. It will depend on weather conditions and on the wind. But a bunch sprint is very likely to happen," concluded Bruno Cenghialta.

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