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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, January 10, 2016

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

If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun. - Katharine Hepburn

2016 Vuelta a España presented

The 2016 Vuelta a España was presented and it's a humdinger. Anyone wanting to do well in the race better have a good set of climbing legs. The 2016 edition has 10 summit finishes, up from 2015's nine.

And, the climbing starts early, in the third stage. A rider won't have the luxury of riding into shape.

The race will begin with a 29.4 km team time trial on August 20 at Ourense, in northwestern Spain. The reader can see by the map below that long transfers this year are the exception rather than the rule. Surely a reaction to the loud griping from the teams during the 2015 Vuelta.

I've started building the 2016 Vuelta web page. I'll get the available stage maps and elevation profiles posted in the next few days.

2016 Vuelta map

2016 Vuelta a España map

Alberto Contador reacts to 2016 Vuelta

This piece came from Team Tinkoff:

The route of the 2016 Vuelta a España was officially presented today in Santiago de Compostela. Tinkoff's leader, Alberto Contador, provided his comments on the 71st edition of the Spanish Grand Tour that will include two time trials, one team and the other individual, seven flat stages and twelve mountain stages. After analyzing the 21 stages of this year's Vuelta a España, Alberto Contador asserts the parcours will follow a familiar pattern.

"It is a typical route of the Vuelta a España, similar to what we have seen in the recent past. From the outset, the GC contenders will have to be in the front and assume their responsibilities".

"There are a few stages with longer mountain passes, especially stage 14 to Aubisque. These stages could suit better someone like me, if I were to take part in the Vuelta. I am sure, this year's route will provide strong emotions until the very last moment. It will also be very important to see the form the main contenders will have at the start".

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador winning 2014 Vuelta stage 16. He went on to win the 2014 Vuelta

Contador points out the importance the 2016 season will have for him and the team. He would like the final bow of the Tinkoff team to be outstanding. "This will be a special year for me. I would like it to be a very good one and I'm working hard for that. There is no doubt that my focus in 2016 is, first and foremost, the Tour de France and then the Olympics".

"It will be the final year of the Tinkoff team and I would like to conclude it in the best way possible. I still have to talk to Oleg Tinkov and the team in order to decide our schedule but I don't rule out riding the Vuelta. Still, we have to figure out what is best for the team. My desire is for Tinkoff to finish in the highest step possible of the UCI WorldTour ranking and for that reason we cannot rule out my participation in the Vuelta".

"However, 2016 will be the toughest year to reach the Vuelta in good form. After the Tour, it will be very tough to rest because of the Olympic Games. It will be much more difficult, compared to previous years, to fully recover in order to start the Vuelta in top shape. In any case, the Vuelta will always be a very special race to me".

"This year's parcours has many explosive finishes that aren't ideal for me, in particular due to the bonus seconds. Nevertheless, it is what it is and if I were to race I would have to look at it on a positive way", concluded Contador.

Jack Bobridge wins Australian road championships

Here's the news from his team:

Jack Bobridge left everything out on the road. After nearly four and a half hours leading the race, he took an inconceivable solo win to capture his second National road title.

Cameron Meyer (Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka) finished in second, 2 minutes and 52 seconds behind after launching a chase that dented but couldn’t break the monster gap Bobridge had built. Patrick Lane rounded out the podium. "I reckon I will sleep pretty well tonight," said Bobridge. "To win a national title is fantastic, you can wear the Aussie stripes in Europe and show them off all year. This is a big win for me but also for my team Trek-Segafredo. They believed in me and gave me a second chance, and I cannot thank them enough."

Jack Bobridge

Jack Bobridge becomes Australian road champ

Bobridge’s incredible day off the front also had him gobbling up the mountain and sprint points to win both competitions on top of the green and gold jersey. It was one of the most daring and gutsy rides ever seen at the Australian championships. "The people in Ballarat were incredible, all around the course," added Bobridge. "I guess the way I did it today got everyone pretty excited, being off the front all day and being aggressive. It was a hard way to win it, but I managed to pull it off."

A 20-rider break that included Bobridge went clear the first time over the Mt Buninyong climb in the first of 18 laps of the 183.6-kilometer race. The gap grew fast as the big teams – BMC and Orica-GreenEdge – saw little threat in the large group.

Eventually, Bobridge got away with Bernard Sulzberger (Drapac) and the two worked well together until Sulzberger fell off the pace with nine laps remaining.  The gap to the Orica-GreenEdge and BMC led chasing group was over eight and a half minutes with five laps to go, and when the gap did not decrease over the next laps Meyer and Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) decided to give chase. But it was too late. Bobridge still had nearly seven minutes lead with three laps and slightly over 30 kilometers remaining. Behind everything had shattered. It was man against man and Bobridge wasn’t slowing down.

By the finish Bobridge’s gap was cut to under three minutes; he still had plenty of time to savor his incredible effort.  Behind Meyer dropped Dennis to claim second, while Lane caught and also overtook Dennis for third.

Bobridge: "It's always a hard course to judge your effort: 10kms with a nasty little climb every lap. The wind direction was different than other years; it was a tailwind up the climb which helped the breakaway riders. In the first lap when a big group of 20 riders got away I managed to put myself in there, and then later slipped away with another guy who couldn't quite go with it. From that point on I had to give my all and move on; I had used too much energy to go back - I would have lost the race if I went back. I managed to hold it off. Yeah, it's the second time in my career, and it's a great feeling."

Five years ago as a 21-year-old, Jack Bobridge won his first Australian title in similar fashion: he attacked from the breakaway and soloed the final 30 kilometers. Sometimes, history really does repeat itself.

Amanda Spratt takes second Australian road race championship

Orica-AIS sent me this news:

2012 national champion Amanda Spratt has claimed her second green and gold jersey, taking out the Mars Cycling Australia National Championships today in Buninyong.

Amanda Spratt

Amanda Spratt wins Australia road nationals

Spratt approached the finish line of the ten-lap, 102km race with Ruth Corset (QLD) but got the jump with an early sprint from 300m to go to claim victory. “I was feeling really strong out there,” Spratt said. “I know in a really hard race I can actually sprint pretty well in the end. I know Ruth is a strong sprinter so I had to be really really smart with the way I rode. We had the numbers behind if it came back together so I knew I could play that card a little bit too.

“I was trying to be patient and I think I still went with 300metres to go. It’s one of those finish straights - you can see the finish from so far out and you know it’s a national championship - I got a little bit excited. I knew for me I had to make it a bit of a longer sprint because Ruth is quite punchy. I had to make it more of a drag race and getting the jump on her also helped.”

The 28-year-old was confident she came into the championship with strong form, and backed herself right to the finish. “The first (title) was probably a little bit unexpected,” Spratt said. “This one I came in knowing that my form was really good.”

“Certainly through the Bay Crits I could feel that, although I certainly kept a low profile heading into today which was fine for me.” With seven starters, ORICA-AIS’ numerical advantage was hyped up in the lead up to racing, but the tactics had to be smart to pull off a final result.

2014 national criterium champion Sarah Roy went on the move on the third lap alongside Louisa Lobigs (NSW) and the duo remained in front until they were joined by four chasers, including Spratt, on the penultimate lap.

Spratt praised the work of Roy who rose herself into the ground for the team. “Coming into the race we obviously had a good numerical advantage and we were really able to use it this year,” Spratt said. “Having Sarah Roy out there in the early break was a great situation for us. We didn’t have to panic, we could sit in the peloton and relax and have the other teams wondering what we were going to do. Once we started those moves, we really meant business.

“Getting across to Sarah was great. She was cramping, she was absolutely done but she just said ‘what do I do?’, she gave me every last bit of energy she had and then I knew it was up to me to finish it off.”

Sport director Gene Bates was thrilled to take the jersey to Europe with the team. “It was a massive team effort today,” Bates said. “It could have been any one of seven riders out there and they really supported each other and backed each other right to the end. It’s great the jersey is going to be raced in Europe and is going to be really prominent. That’s a good mark of respect for the national championships and Australian racing.”

How it happened: It was a settled start to the elite women’s road race championship, a steady pace keeping the bunch together for the first two of ten laps. On the third time around, Roy escaped alongside Lobigs and the duo rode out to a two-minute 40second advantage with four laps remaining. As the peloton rode around to receive three laps to go, their pace quickened as the main contenders started to think about the final to come.

Four chasers, including Spratt, bridged across to the lead pair on the penultimate lap but once they hit the climb for the last time, the strength of Spratt and Corset shone through and they distanced their companions.

The pair approached the final kilometres with a handy advantage as three chasers, including ORICA-AIS’ Rachel Neylan and Katrin Garfoot. As Spratt raised her hand over the line for victory, Neylan crossed shortly after Corset to claim the bronze medal.

Mars Cycling Australia National Championships -
Women's Road Race Results:
1. Amanda Spratt (NSW) 2:56:45
2. Ruth Corset (QLD) ST
3. Rachel Neylan (NSW) 0:02                                      

Mikel Landa wants to race Giro and Olympics

Having moved from Astana to Sky, Mikel Landa wants to race the Giro and then the Olympics at Rio. He wants to participate in race where he won't be in the shadow of teammate Chris Froome.

As to whether he rides the Tour and the Vuelta, that will depend upon his Giro performance and whether of not he's selected to ride the Olympics.

He did note that the 2016 Vuelta suited him, but added that 2016 is going to be a very special season with several possible big appointments and he can't be everywhere at once.

Mikel Landa

Mikel Landa climbs in the 2015 Vuelta

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