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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, February 27, 2016

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

I never thought much of the courage of a lion tamer. Inside the cage he is at least safe from people. - George Bernard Shaw

Current Racing:

Upcoming racing:

Lotto-Soudal previews Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

The team sent me this notice:

Traditionally Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (28 February) is scheduled the day after the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. This year it’s the 68th edition of this second race of the Belgian opening weekend. The riders will have to cover 200.7 kilometres this time and conquer eleven hills.

After thirty kilometres the peloton will reach the first hill, the Edelareberg. Then small roads with many turns will lead the riders towards La Houpe and Kanarieberg. With about 100 kilometres to go there is another hill section with Hotond, Oude Kwaremont and Nokereberg. That last one is situated at about fifty kilometres from the end. Afterwards the riders pass the finish line a first time and then they have to cover two laps of about fifteen kilometres. At the end of the last lap it will probably be the sprinters who will fight for the victory.

André Greipel of Lotto Soudal won’t take the start, as he has a fractured rib after a crash in the Volta ao Algarve. The team can rely on among other Jens Debusschere and Jürgen Roelandts. They will compete against a bunch of fast men like Alexander Kristoff, Elia Viviani, Caleb Ewan, Nacer Bouhanni, Bryan Coquard and Peter Sagan. What does Jens Debusschere expect of the race?

Jns Beusschere

Jens Debusschere

Jens Debusschere: “I am not one hundred per cent sure that it will be a real bunch sprint at the end. It could be that teams like Etixx-QuckStep want to force things on the Oude Kwaremont for example and then create echelons. That’s definitely a possibility considering the weather forecast. That’s not a disadvantage for me. I will have to ride attentively at the front, but I’m capable of riding in echelons.”

“If the race does end with a sprint I have a strong team around me. Marcel Sieberg can’t start and that’s a pity. But there are other guys that know the course by heart and can steer very well, Sean De Bie to mention one. Jürgen Roelandts and Greg Henderson are perfect lead-outs for the sprint. My expectations are higher than last year. Then I finished seventh but I had hoped for more.”

“I feel like I have set a step forward compared to last year. I’m not the same Jens anymore as two years ago. Especially in the classics races I realize that something is possible and that I can battle for the victory. In the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad I never had a great feeling, but I think I will now start the opening weekend stronger than ever.”

“Now André Greipel can’t start I can have a go myself and I will do all I can to grab this chance with both hands. If something happens to me in the Omloop, mechanical problems or a bad day, I won’t do all I can to finish twenty-fifth for example. But that doesn’t mean I will already be thinking of Kuurne before either. I take it day by day and see what the weekend brings. With the team we have, we can do something great I’m sure of that.”

Team Lotto Soudal: Eleven riders have been selected, final roster will be revealed after the Omloop. The options: Lars Bak, Stig Broeckx, Sean De Bie, Jens Debusschere, Gert Dockx, Frederik Frison, Greg Henderson, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

Peter Sagan will lead Tinkoff at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and
Kuurne- Brussel-Kuurne

World champion Peter Sagan will kick-start his European season this weekend with the two opening races of the Belgian cycling calendar. Hard and challenging, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, will provide the prefect ground for a prelude to the revered Classics.

With the famous cobblestone races considered a key point during the season for Tinkoff and Peter Sagan, it will be important to get going on a positive note ahead the next intense weeks of racing.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan putting on the Tour de France's green jersey at last year's Tour (with a little help from 5-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault behind him).

Tinkoff will field a squad of strong riders that have proved their early-season form with solid performances and three stage victories in January and February. Flanking Sagan will be Maciej Bodnar, Daniele Bennati, Oscar Gatto, Jay McCarthy, Manuele Boaro, Nikolay Trusov and Adam Blythe.

"Peter Sagan will, obviously, be our leader," commented Sport Director Lars Michaelsen. "However, he comes from a high-altitude camp and his last race was a month ago in Argentina, so we will need to keep him fresh and safe. I feel convinced that the rest of the squad will rise to the challenge and work hard to support him."

For Peter Sagan, these two races will be an indication of his current form. "I am curious to see how my first two starts in Europe will be. The race in San Luis was held a month ago, so it has been a long time. I prepared diligently, I spent a lot of time at the training camp in Sierra Nevada and I know I'm doing well. I am interested in seeing how strong my opponents are."

"These races in Belgium are set to kick off the final phases of my preparation for the spring monuments, which, yet again, will be a great challenge to me. Both races are quite long and difficult and they nearly always indicate who will succeed in the spring part of the season. It will be the first test and I expect a sharp confrontation with the best riders," concluded Sagan.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (Saturday, February 27th)

For the Belgian opening weekend, Tinkoff will face on Saturday at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the fantastic classic style of racing that marks the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The 201km-long race starts in Ghent, takes the riders through the Flemish Ardennes with lots of ascents and flat cobbled sections and finishes again in Ghent.

According to Lars Michaelsen, "this will be similar to a rehearsal for the team's 2016 classic season. We will do a lot of the known climbs in Ronde van Vlaanderen and since this is a race where all the Belgian riders finally are able to go racing on home soil, the start is normally extremely fast."

Thirteen climbs, including the famous "Kapelmuur van Gerardsbergen" 85km into the parcours, and no less than ten cobblestone sections will test the peloton as it rides under usually cold and wintry conditions.

"A breakaway is likely to be formed within the first 20 km, so we will have to stay alert," stated Michaelsen on the race. "We will have to be very careful and never let our guard down, as all of the race's climbs, such as the Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Wolvenberg, Leberg or the Boembekeberg, are crucial. The battle will be intense and there will not be any easy section."

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (Sunday, February 28th)

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne has always been a nice race and many big names have stepped on its podium over the years. With a similar length to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 200km, the Sunday race features less climbs but is by no means a stroll in the park. Just like every other one-day classic in Belgium, racing has always been very hard.

The race starts in Kuurne, heads towards Brussels and 25km before the Belgian capital it turns around. On the way back, ten hills are climbed, including the famous "Oude Kwaremont", before finishing in Kuurne, after a 15.3km loop that is circled twice.

According to Lars Michaelsen, "a breakaway often forms in the beginning of the race and just like Saturday, we will have to stay alert. The first categorized climb is 30km after the start, followed by quite a long distance until the riders face the other ten climbs. Again, all of them will be important in terms of tactics and a hard, fast-paced battle is a given for the final two hours of the race."

Judge rejects Giant's request to lower $3 million award to Florida retailer.

Bicycle Retailer posted this news:

TAMPA, Fla (BRAIN) — A federal court judge, in a stinging review of an ongoing case involving Giant Bicycles and Florida retailer Frances Kane, has denied appeals by Giant's attorneys to overturn a jury's verdict.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Steven D. Merryday said no to Giant's request for a new trial and a request that he reduce a $3 million punitive award to Kane.

In a separate decision, Merryday also denied Giant's request to keep documents and testimony about Giant's finances confidential.

The judge's rulings, part of an ongoing appeals process, is the latest round in a more than two-year-long battle in which a Florida jury awarded Kane $250,000 in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages.

Last September, a nine-person jury, in a unanimous verdict, concluded that Giant had fraudulently induced Kane, owner of Flying Fish Bikes, to order $120,000 worth of bicycles to be sold in the spring of 2013. At the same time Giant executives were planning to terminate their relationship with Kane and open a Giant store less than two miles from Kane's operation.

Giant's lawyers said at the time that they would appeal. Giant executive director John Thompson told retailers that BRAIN's [Bicycle Retailer] coverage of the verdict failed to tell both sides of the story. "We want to assure you that the picture presented by the media coverage of this case is not the way Giant Bicycle does business. We sincerely hope you agree,” Thompson said in the letter. Giant executives have declined to comment on the case because of the ongoing litigation.

Merryday, in a 43-page order, pointed out that Kane had been a Giant dealer since 2006 and that Giant could have terminated its dealer agreement with Kane with a 90-day written notice.

Instead of terminating Kane, Giant's then general manager, Elysa Walk, along with Thompson, regional sales manager Geoffrey Godsey and Florida account executive Mickey Singer induced Kane to order inventory for the upcoming 2013 season. Last October, Walk left Giant for a job at Burton Snowboards and Thompson was promoted to general manager.

You can read the entire story here.

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