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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, February 22, 2016

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

So I have had, in the course of my life, lots of encounters with lots of serious people. I have spent lots of time with grown-ups. I have seen them at close range...which hasn't improved my opinion of them. - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of The Little Prince

Racing just finished:

Lotto-Soudal medical update

The team me this rider news:

The past few days, Thomas De Gendt (hit by a car in Spain), Gert Dockx (hit by a car in Spain), Jelle Wallays (crash during first stage Volta ao Algarve, he abandoned the race after stage three), André Greipel (crash in the fourth stage of Algarve, he quit the race as well) and Sean De Bie (crash in stage four Volta ao Algarve) were all involved in a crash. A round-up by team doctor Servaas Bingé.

“Gert Dockx and Thomas De Gendt went to the hospital in Belgium for further examinations after their crash in Spain last Friday. Gert Dockx has a severe bruise on his right leg. The following days will determine if Gert will be able to restart his training and if he’ll be ready for the opening weekend in Belgium”.

Thomas de Gendt

Thomas de Gendt last year

“Thomas De Gendt has a fracture in his ring finger, a minor concussion and several bruises. We have to be careful with the concussion in particular. We evaluate the status day by day, but the symptoms need to be gone completely before he can restart his training. Based on these evaluations we will decide if Thomas can participate in Paris-Nice.”

“Jelle Wallays crashed during the first stage in Algarve. He could ride on his bike the following days, but by mutual agreement we decided not to start in stage four. Jelle has a little muscle rupture around the hip. He’s in a good shape but he’ll have to rest during the coming days. He will skip the recon of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Wednesday and in the evening we’ll decide if Jelle can participate in this race.”

“André Greipel crashed rather badly yesterday, he has some serious abrasions on his right side and has a bruised rib on his left. He won’t start in today’s stage as a precaution but he’ll do some kilometres at an easy pace. His further programme will probably not be disturbed.”

“Sean De Bie was involved in the same crash as Greipel, he has some abrasions but will start in the final stage in Algarve.”

“Marcel Sieberg had to skip the Volta ao Algarve and he won't start in the opening weekend in Belgium. He had a chronic respiratory infection and couldn’t train for a whole week. He will increase his training step by step, just to make sure that his spring and the rest of his season isn’t in danger.”

Ruta del Sol team reports

Here's what BMC had to say:

21 February, Andalucia (ESP): Tejay van Garderen has continued his tradition of opening the season on the podium, finishing in second place at Ruta del Sol. Van Garderen started the final stage in the leader's jersey after taking the win in the Individual Time Trial on stage 4, but the stage win and overall race win was secured by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) who attacked on the final ascent of the Alto Penas Blancas climb.

A late comeback by van Garderen saw him finish fourth on the stage and claim second overall, 26 seconds behind Valverde. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) rounded out the podium in third place.

Tejay van Garderen

Tejay van Garderen racing the time trial stage

"I picked my moment with about 3km to go and tried to put my head down and claw back enough time to keep the jersey, but it wasn't to be. Hats off to Valverde, that was a good move. He pulled it off with a lot of guts, it was impressive," van Garderen said after the stage. "The team showed that we were really strong. We have a couple of lessons to take away from this but in the end I think we showed that we are all in good shape and we're motivated and ready to take on the next challenge."

Damiano Caruso held onto his lead in the King of the Mountain classification and BMC Racing Team finished the five-stage race as the best team, capping off a successful first time at Ruta del Sol. "I'm really happy to have won the King of the Mountain classification. It's a great way to start my season and I hope to continue with these kind of results this year," Caruso said.

Starting the Season Well: BMC Racing Team Sports Director Valerio Piva said it was a good way to open the season.

"Of course when you come so close to winning it is a bit disappointing but I saw how strong Tejay is and the team was fantastic in controlling the race today and bringing him to the final climb. The team did a great job this week and we're happy to have won the teams classification"

"He was beaten by one of the best riders in the world so this is not something to be ashamed of. It was Tejay's first test of the season and we have big objectives this season, the next of which is Tirreno Adriatico. I think he showed good form this early in the season."

BMC Racing Team kicks off the Classics campaign in Belgium with Het Nieuwsblad in one week's time, where Philippe Gilbert will be an important leader for the team.

"Ruta del Sol was a great race to prepare for the Classics. We always need to be better and better every week, that's the goal. After a good week of racing here, I think that If I can recover well, I can do well in the coming weeks," Gilbert explained.

Here's Tinkoff's release:

Team co-leaders Rafal Majka and Roman Kreuziger put on a strong performance on the closing stage of Ruta del Sol, being in the select group of riders on the final, 16km-long climb to Peñas Blancas. Tinkoff caps off the Spanish race on a positive note with two stage victories by Daniele Bennati and Oscar Gatto and with Majka and Kreuziger, claiming 5th and 6th in the GC.

Ruta del Sol came to a conclusion with a spectacular and fascinating battle on the final ascent where both Rafal Majka and Roman Kreuziger kept a strong pace and were in the mix in the ferocious battle for the podium spots.

The entire Tinkoff squad worked brilliantly to position the two team's two climbers at the bottom of the climb, where the peloton had been reduced to a group of approximately 30 riders. With 10 km to go, just a select group of riders remained in front, dwindling as the steep climb put a strain on their legs.  Rafal Majka kept a steady pace and although unable to follow Valverde's attack, he crossed the finish line with a solid third and Roman Kreuziger close behind in fifth. The team's co-leaders advanced to fifth and fifth in GC, capping off a very positive week.

Sport Director Bruno Cenghialta commented after the finish of stage 5, "Today's stage was the toughest one and we rode a bit by taking advantage of the work of the other teams because we couldn't do otherwise. It was the last climb that was going to be decisive depending on the energy that was left. Rafal took a good third and Roman a good fifth, so they did well considering this was their first race after several training camps. They went very well although it's crystal clear we have to improve our time-trial skills to fill in the gap that we currently have. However, in what regards the future, we are on a good path for the next races."

Team co-leader Rafal Majka was positive on his performance at the Ruta del Sol. "My condition is improving and although  I still haven't reach a top level,  it is definitely better than last year. The whole team was good, especially after all the altitude meters tackled today. The whole squad took a lot of the wind to protect Roman Kreuziger and myself until the end of the stage, an arduous task, considering all the climbs that had to be faced."

"We can be pleased with both the fifth place in the GC and the two stage victories. I think this week went well and I can't think of anything that stands out where we could have done better. It's important now to get the right form for the season's big goals, which for will be the Giro d'Italia," concluded Majka.

"We had a very positive week in every sense, both in terms of victories with Daniele Bennati and Oscar Gatto, as well as  in terms of feedback we had from the boys regarding their form. All these things make us very optimistic in view of the upcoming races," concluded Bruno Cenghialta.

Lotto-Soudal had this update on both the Ruta del Sol and the Volta ao Algarve:

This year’s Ruta del Sol ended with a tough stage and an uphill finish. Lotto Soudal rode a very attractive race. Tosh Van der Sande, Bart De Clercq and Tomasz Marczynski tried to join an early breakaway but they never got much advantage. Tim Wellens managed to get away together with two riders. After that he was alone in front for a while and then two other riders joined him. They were caught just before the start of the final climb. At about eight kilometres of the summit Alejandro Valverde attacked. The Spaniard won the stage and he's also the overall winner. Tejay van Garderen is second at 26 seconds, Bauke Mollema third at 52 seconds. Lotto Soudal returns to Belgium without a stage win but obtained a few nice results. Bart Leysen reviews a tough week in Spain.

tim Wellens

Tim Wellens in 2015

Bart Leysen: “In general we are happy with the performances during this stage race. We came to win a stage but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. But we’re very pleased about the final stage. The riders really did their best to animate the race. In every break we had one or two riders but BMC controlled every attempt. Eventually Tim Wellens managed to get away, although it wasn’t intended that he would attack so early in the stage. But we’re really happy with the efforts of the team during this stage.”

“Tim Wellens was in a good shape during several stages and I think he had a decent preparation towards Paris-Nice. He tried to get away in one or two stages. Also Bart De Clercq rode really well. He was a bit sick in the beginning of the race but in every stage he felt better and better. Today he managed to stay with the GC group and that’s good with regard to Tirreno-Adriatico. We return to Belgium with a positive feeling and I think we can go to the next stage races with a lot of confidence.”

Also in the Volta ao Algarve the final stage was scheduled. At the final climb with an uphill finish, Alberto Contador was the strongest. Fabio Aru finished second, Thibaur Pinot third. Geraint Thomas is the overall winner. Ion Izagirre ended at 19 seconds, Alberto Contador at 26 seconds. Tony Gallopin became sixth on GC at 50 seconds. Lotto Soudal didn’t manage to win a stage but finished two times on the podium. André Greipel and Jelle Wallays had to leave the race earlier, they were involved in a crash. Herman Frison gives a little review.

Herman Frison: “The goal was to win a stage of course. In stage one we were close but Kittel was simply the best. On day four we couldn’t sprint according to plan due to unexpected circumstances. Jens Debusschere sprinted to a nice third place though. Also Tony Gallopin obtained a few good results. He rode a very decent time trial and in the final stage he managed to follow the GC riders. His sixth place on GC proves that his form is good. The GC wasn’t a goal beforehand, but we’re very happy with the end result.”

“The team obtained a few nice results in general. The riders for the opening weekend in Belgium are in really good shape, that’s the most important thing. Debusschere, Benoot and Roelandts have shown that they’re ready for the spring classics. They will be the main riders in these races. We return to Belgium with a good feeling, that’s for sure. Now the riders need to stay healthy and prepare themselves for next Saturday. But they know what they’re doing so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

Tinkoff's Volta ao Algarve news:

Alberto Contador put on a climbing exhibition in the second ascent to Alto do Malhao with a late attack. Thanks to the committed effort of the squad to keep the race under control and position Contador for the climb, Tinkoff's leader took the stage win while securing third place overall.    

Despite a slow start to the Volta ao Algarve, Contador fired today his first warning shot of the season, on the fifth and final stage that took the peloton from Almodôvar to the famous climb of Alto do Malhão. After 169km and four climbs, it was on the second ascent of the 45km loop that Contador took matters into his own hands and staged his attack.

A group of nine escapees was formed in the early kilometers of the race and Tinkoff together with Movistar set a ferocious pace, working hard to haul back the breakaway. Paulinho, Trofimov and Kiserlovski then protected Contador until the final three kilometers in a compact group, when Contador staged a solo attack and powered ahead. Fabio Aru responded but Contador went on and crossed the finish line victorious, with 20-second lead over the Italian.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador wins Algarve stage 5

"There was a breakaway of nine riders early on," stated Sport Director Steven De Jongh, "nothing really important for the GC. As a result, we decided to work together with Movistar and we each put one rider. First it was Jesús Hernández and then Michael Valgren, who did a lot of work, while the rest of the squad did their part. In the finale Sergio Paulinho, Yuri Trofimov and Roberts Kiserlovski took the reins to support Alberto and put him in a good position for the climb. Alberto showed his form and did one very good attack, which was enough to net him the stage win. He rode away and there was nobody that could follow him.”

"The mountain finish on the second stage was a little bit disappointing of course," continued de Jongh, "but it's also seven months since Alberto did his last race, which was the Tour de France. You can't expect him to be in excellent form from the start and today he showed he was really a lot better. I think this is surely promising for the upcoming races and I believe it is all good."

"I knew I was coming to Portugal in good form," commented Contador after today's stage win. "I hadn't raced since a number of months and on the second stage, I probably lacked a bit of energy in the final part, that's why I lost more time than I would have lost under normal conditions. For that reason, for me, today was an important day. I had the legs and I was feeling I could win. That's why the squad worked together with Movistar and we clinched the win. I'm very happy with this victory and I'd like to dedicate it to Oleg Tinkov and Tinkoff Bank for their backing and the trust they have shown through their sponsorship during the last four years. It's, obviously, easier to win when you have that kind of support. We will keep fighting, with our sights always set on the big goal of the year, the Tour de France.”

"I'd also like to thank the whole team for their hard work at the Volta ao Algarve, some days with no payout, but today we topped it off and grabbed the victory. I'm happy I stepped on the podium and as I said, the last time I raced was at the Tour de France last year, so it's always encouraging to debut with a victory. It boosts your confidence but at the same time we shouldn't rest on our laurels. We have to stay concentrated and deliver," continued Contador.

“My next goal is Paris-Nice, a race in which I last competed in 2010. I'll be back this year and I hope I'll be able to obtain a good result", concluded Contador.

Lampre-Merida's Tour of Oman final report:

Lampre-Merida comes back from Oman with the 5th place obtained by Rui Costa in the general classification of the Arabian race.

As it was expected, the 6th stage of the Tour de Oman (130.5 km from The Wave Muscat to Matrah Corniche) did not change the overall classification, so Rui Costa could maintain his position in the top 5, after having competed during the past days against top riders: the Portuguese champion missed the winning move, however he demonstrated a good condition which for sure will get better in the next races. His next appointment will be Paris-Nice.

Rui Costa

Rui Costa winning a stage in the 2015 Dauphine

After that the breakaway of 7 riders, which had began in the first part of the course, had been neutralized at 7 km to the arrival, the bunch began the operations of approach to the massive sprint.

Lampre-Merida supported Kump, who tried to reach his top speed on the right side of the road, but he had to face the amazing sprint by Kristoff, who won the stage preceding the duo of Team Giant-Alpecin Waeytens and Andersen.
The blue-fuchsia-green Slovenian rider was 8th.

In the final general classification, Rui Costa was 5th at 54" to Nibali.

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