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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

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We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Cannodale-Drapac riders look back on the Tour de France's first week

This came to me from the team:

THE TOUR: A few words from the fellas on the first rest day.

PIERRE ROLLAND: “I still have my two arms and my two legs. The Tour de France continues for me.” 

LAWSON CRADDOCK: "These guys climb really fast. I said that earlier. But it's incredible. And they don't seem to slow down, either. 

MATTI BRESCHEL: “Haha. The definition of the first part of the Tour. It’s hard to describe because there’s so many impressions. I have no idea, man. At the moment I’m just filled with pain. And tiredness.” 

DYLAN VAN BAARLE: "I really enjoyed the first week. Especially the last two days. I think the altitude camp paid off really well. I’m really enjoying it. Even up the Tourmalet." 

ALEX HOWES: “We listen to the Eagles pretty much every morning. ‘Take it Easy’ has been the song, man. I think as a team we’ve been pretty lighthearted and tried to take it easy off the bike. When it comes to on the bike, it’s been all business.” 

TOM-JELTE SLAGTER: “Not every moment. But for sure every day. Most of the time we have a lot of fun. The moments in the race, we’re working together. The moments before and after the race when it’s just one team, making fun with all the guys. I think the spirit is really good.” 

Tom-Jelte Slagter

Tom-Jelte Slagter earlier this year

KRISTIJAN KOREN, ON THE BEST THING SO FAR: “Today, the rest day. For sure, after one hard week, this is an important day. I think everybody in the peloton has been waiting for this day. For sure it hasn’t been easy.” 

RAMUNAS NAVARDAUSKAS, ALSO ON THE BEST THING SO FAR: “Hahah. The rest day. Everything that keeps you here. Every day is so hard that when you finish it you’re like ‘yeah, I passed it’. And then the next day is coming. But those days when you pass the hardest stages, with the worst moments, then you finish it? This makes you so happy.” 

SEBASTIAN LANGEVELD: “We’re one week in. We started with GC ambitions for Pierre. Everything went really good. Then one stage, he crashed. But we all stayed positive, even when he had a bad injury. And then yesterday. I’ve never seen a rider beaten up like that from a crash ride that well the day after. We’re still in the game. What I see in this group is that all of our riders are fresh, and it was a hard first week. I think we’re up for a really nice second part of the tour.”

Tinkoff looks back on the Tour's first week:

We don’t think that the first week of the Tour de France could have been any more eventful for the Tinkoff team – yellow, green and polka dot jerseys, as well as crashes, climbing and a sad abandon from our GC leader, Alberto Contador.

The race got underway what seems like an age ago on the northern shores of La France, with a spectacular start at Mont-Saint-Michel before a fast and frantic race to the finish at Utah Beach. The early test for Peter Sagan’s legs was a fruitful one, as the number one rider in the UCI rankings raced to third on the line – a sign of what was to come. It wasn’t all good news on the first stage though as Alberto hit the deck after sliding out on a fast right hand corner with a few others. He was quick to get back on the bike but the shredded jersey showed the signs of a heavy fall that would take its toll.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador finishes the first stage of the 2016 Tour de France

Stage two had been earmarked as his first big opportunity, and Peter did not disappoint with a perfectly timed effort at the end of the tough drag to the line in Cherbourg. Thanks to the time gained over the other sprinters, as well as bonuses on the line, Peter swapped his world champion’s stripes for the yellow jersey – the first for both himself and the team!

“I'm really happy to have this jersey for the first time in my career. It's nice to win here again after no stage wins for the last two years. This year I'm having a really good season, from the classics to now, I'm very happy for this. Thanks again to Oleg Tinkov and Tinkoff Bank for their support and confidence, and I’d like to dedicate this victory also to Oleg for making this all possible with his support.”

Once again, the highs of a stage win were bitter sweet after another crash for Alberto, inflicting further pain on an already uncomfortable ride. By the finish line he would have lost time to his GC rivals in what was to be a tough week for the two-time winner of the race.

In his third sprint in three days, Peter went close again on stage 3 finishing just outside the podium places in fourth. With the result he successfully defended his first day in the yellow jersey, and added more points in the green jersey competition. The stage also gave Alberto a chance to keep his head down and recover ahead of some tough days to come.

Another sprint on stage four saw another third place for Peter, extending his lead in the yellow jersey as well as re-taking the top spot in the green jersey competition, a jersey he would soon be wearing after losing his GC lead on a tough fifth stage. Tinkoff were again represented in the top five as Rafal Majka finished third after a long breakaway effort, but over the course of the day’s six classified climbs Peter was to lose contact, switching to energy saving mode. There was still more action for Alberto as he lost contact with the GC favourites in the final few hundred metres of the stage following a flurry of attacks, showing that he was still suffering from his earlier crashes.

Peter started stage 6 in green but with his sixth place finish in the stage’s bunch kick he would relinquish his lead in the competition ahead of three days for the climbers. Stage 7 saw a large fight for the day’s breakaway with Peter amongst those trying to go clear, but in the end the team switched its efforts to looking after Alberto ahead of the Col d’Aspin late in the day. He would eventually finish safely in the GC favourites group along with Roman Kreuziger who was showing signs of strong form early in the race.

Two tough days in the Pyrenees presented themselves before the first rest day of the race, and both were equally eventful for the team, both for the bad and good. On the Saturday, Rafal Majka again went on the offensive and with a stellar ride did enough to take the KOM jersey, the jersey he won back in 2014. After a strong ride, Roman Kreuziger was also taking his turn to finish in the top five, but with the climbs sparking attacks from the GC favourites, Alberto was again under pressure behind and on the final climb of the Col de Peyresourde he lost 1’41” to his rivals – a real blow to his GC hopes. However, the following day he was to finally succumb to the struggles his body was dealing with. Having gone on the offensive early in the day, Alberto lost contact with the breakaway and slipped back through the peloton. On reaching the team car it was clear that there was little benefit in pushing on and Alberto stepped off, admitting defeat to a fever that morning as well as the after effects of the crashes earlier in the week.

Speaking after the stage, Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, explained the difficult decision for Alberto to withdraw. “Obviously it was hard to see Alberto leave today. He had a lot of fever when he got up this morning but still wanted to try and change the situation. He went for the break early on, but was empty and then got dropped. He came to the car and we discussed with him and then with the doctor and decided it was better to stop and leave the race to recover. It made no sense to keep pushing on.”

“I did my best today. I tried to attack earlier on in the race but it was impossible – my legs simply couldn’t go after the two earlier crashes,” Alberto added. “Earlier this morning I had a little fever as well as throat pain, but nonetheless I decided to give it a shot. After I tried to attack my legs were really empty, so I dropped back to team car and talk to the Sport Directors. We agreed that the best decision was to abandon the race in order to rest and carry out further medical examinations, and we’ll assess my racing calendar now until the end of the season.”

With the situation for the team changing at the back of the race, up front Peter was on the offensive together with Rafal once again. Peter survived two first category climbs to take all 20 points at the intermediate sprint before leaving Rafal to continue chasing KOM points. Rafal eventually finished the day in third place for the second time in the week, but fell just short of defending his polka dot jersey.

After a hectic week, Tinkoff can spend the rest day reassessing the team’s goals for the rest of the Tour, and despite the misfortune and disappointment in losing Alberto, the team can look back on a successful first week that saw spells in three of the four leaders’ jerseys, as well as a stage win and placing in the top five on seven of the nine stages so far. There’s still a long way to go in this Tour, and there’s much still to look forward to.

Tinkoff headed to Tour of Poland

Here's the BikeRaceInfo 2016 Tour of Poland page

This also came to me from Tinkoff:

With much of the cycling-world’s focus on the Tour de France, it is easy to neglect the importance and toughness of the Tour of Poland, a WorldTour race in its own right. The seven-stage race, won by Tinkoff’s own Rafal Majka back in 2014 and Peter Sagan in 2011, gets underway this coming Tuesday and Tinkoff heads to the race with a balanced team to compete over all terrains offered up.

Jesper Hansen leads the roster in search of a strong GC finish, and he comes the tour that he raced for the first time last season after a season of progression. Jesper finished the Tour of Croatia in second spot this spring, and had a good showing at the Tour de Langkawi where he ended up fifth overall.

Danielle Bennati will also make his return to racing in Poland, following his crash at Milan-Sanremo which saw him fracture his L4 vertebra. He will be joined by the hugely experienced Sergio Paulinho, a rider capable of results on the tough climbing stages himself, as well as the Russian trio of Pavel Brutt, Evgeny Petrov and Yuri Trofimov.

Danielle Bennati

Danielle Bennati winning the first stage of the 2016 Ruta del Sol

Tinkoff will have a new national champion lining up at the race too, with Juraj Sagan showing off his Slovakian road race champion’s jersey. Juraj will be hoping to test his legs in the breakaways, looking for results from a smaller group. Jesús Hernández completes the roster, with the Spanish rider looking to play a roll in the hills.

Ahead of the race, Sport Director Jan Valach explained more about the line-up. “Poland will be Benna’s first race back, and it’s a good race for him as it’s not super hard and there are some chances to test himself early on, but with no stress either. We have a balanced team with Jesper heading the GC fight. He has shown already in Malaysia and Croatia that he is good for this and hopefully we can push for a good result but this is a WorldTour race and a step up so there won’t be too much pressure there.”

“Hernández, Petrov and Trofimov will be a good help for Jesper in the hills, and then for the breakaways we have Pavel Brutt, who was up the road a lot at the Giro, and also Juraj Sagan. Then finally we have Paulinho as a captain to guide the team. It’s an important race for us and we will take our opportunities with all our riders, looking for stage results day by day and supporting Jesper too.”

After two initial stages that suit large group or bunch sprints, the Tour of Poland gradually gets harder as the race progresses. Stage three struggles to offer much flat at all over the long, 240km parcours, while a succession of hills in the second half of stage four may also thwart the sprinters’ efforts.

The key stages for the GC come later in the week on days five and six, with the latter being a very heavy stage of climbing, with continuous back-to-back categorised climbs to tackle over five laps of a large circuit. The race then culminates with an individual time trial on stage 7 after which the 2016 winner will be confirmed.

“The first two stages aren’t too long but after that all the days are around 200km or over so it will be a good race to build from,” Valach added. “Stages 5 and 6 will be key for the overall, key days for the climbers, but we have to pay attention every day.”

LottoNL-Jumbo's Tour de France rest day anouncements

Team LottoNL-Jumbo extends contract with main sponsor Lotto:

Lotto will continue as the main sponsor of the speed skating and cycling team LottoNL-Jumbo for the next two years. The company signed an agreement with Team Oranje, the management group for the sport teams this week. Jumbo Supermarkets and BrandLoyalty extended their contracts with the teams’ managers Jac Orie and Richard Plugge already.

Lotto took the initiative to form a combined speed skating and cycling team in the summer of 2014 and became the foundation of success. Sven Kramer won six world titles (twice allround, twice 5000 metres, the 10,000 metres and the team pursuit) and Robert Gesink finished sixth overall in the 2015 Tour de France. Dylan Groenewegen won the Dutch Championship and Steven Kruijswijk wore the pink jersey in the Giro d’Italia several days.

Arno de Jong, director brands and portfolio management of the new Dutch combined Lottery company said, “The last years proved that this new concept is a successful one. You can see that on the sports results, but also on commercial level. That is at least as much as important for Lotto as the title sponsor. We’re proud to be engaged with these two beautiful sports for the upcoming period.”

Speed skating general manager, Jac Orie looked to the next two years with Lotto onboard. “The last two years were very successful and we brought our organisation to a higher level, as well,” he said, “That process isn’t finished yet, so it’s great that we can build on it further on with Lotto, Jumbo Supermarkets and BrandLoyalty.”

Cycling general manager Richard Plugge is proud of the extension. “It’s wonderful that we’re able to move on with these sponsors in our Road to 2018 project,” he said. “The collaboration with the speed skaters continues to increase our knowledge and commercial opportunities. Together, we’re able to keep on developing and innovating within our 2018-vision.”

Timo Roosen renews for two years with Team LottoNL-Jumbo:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo extended its contract with Timo Roosen for two more years, through 2018. "I am very content with the assurance and confidence of the team," said Timo Roosen, who joined the Dutch team in 2015. The 23-year-old rider helped Sep Vanmarcke in the cobblestone classics. During the Tour, Roosen is one of the lead-out men for sprinter Dylan Groenewegen.

"I want to develop myself further as a classic rider who can ride well on the cobblestones." This year Roosen raced in the E3 Prijs, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, where he assisted Vanmarcke.

Technical director Nico Verhoeven is happy that Timo Roosen extended his contract. "Timo has raced a very good early season. He's solid value for the spring classics and in the sprint lead-out train, he delivered the preparatory work for as many as six of the seven wins by Dylan Groenewegen."

In the Tour, Roosen is working for Dylan Groenewegen. "Despite the crash, I had a good feeling in the first week of the Tour. Hopefully, we can sprint next week again with Dylan." Verhoeven added, "The crash in the first stage was obviously disadvantageous, but he survived. He fits into our vision with young talent and he is still developing. I expect a bright future for him in the Flemish classics."

Giant-Alpecin gets new title sponsor:

Here's the team's press release:

Zurich, Switzerland, 11th of July 2016 - Sunweb, one of the leading tour operators in Europe, announced that it has signed an agreement for a minimum of 3 years to become the major partner of the currently called Team Giant-Alpecin.
As from the 1st of January 2017, the team will start competing with Sunweb as first name partner.

Sunweb has been a partner of Team Giant-Alpecin since 2015 and experienced this partnership as a great tool to strengthen the synergy between the cycling community, their holidays, and their expanding target group in Europe.

Becoming first partner of the pro cycling team will generate a wider exposure and a tremendous value for Sunweb’s brand awareness. However, according to Sunweb, the benefits of this partnership are not only linked with the team and its victories. Sunweb sees its primary benefit in the opportunity to connect in a close and personal way with all cycling fans. The company’s main target will be to create meaningful content in a digital world and drive conversation with the "tech savvy" European fan base, who follow the sport of cycling very closely.

Sunweb will be more than a business partner, they will become part of a common dream. A dream not only about a successful team and tomorrow’s victories, but also to transform the team into a life-time institute. The team will start a world-class development program from a hypermodern team base in Germany, to build the next generation of stars. Today's promise at 2000 meter altitude is that in the year starting at exactly 2000 days from now, from the 1st of January 2022, the next generation of German and international stars will start creating memories in the UCI WorldTour.

Gert De Caluwe, CEO of Sunweb says: “We see this partnership as a natural fit. For 25 years is has been in our DNA to take care of millions of travelers. Our aim is to fulfill this caretaker role also for this team and the whole cycling community.”  

He continues: "We will be able to connect with a new audience of passionate cycling fans, especially in our growth countries. We will use the power of this team to roll out Sunweb's strategy for future growth across Europe with a special focus on Germany, the country with the biggest outbound travel market in Europe. As from now, we will set "the wheels in motion" to secure a bright future for Sunweb as well as for the team."

Iwan Spekenbrink, CEO of the team says: “We’re extremely proud to join forces with Sunweb, which we believe is one of the best partnerships in cycling. We share a common dream and big ambitions. Sunweb supports us 100% and does not only look at today’s victories and the day to day support. As a real partner they are also willing to invest in the future, to move forward the sport of cycling together with us, to support our vision, our road to the top, our 2000 Tage zur Spitze..."

Speaking for the whole team, Spekenbrink adds: "The athletes and the staff are very excited because Sunweb shares their “Keep Challenging” approach. This “elite sports approach” is built on cooperation and innovation as the key growth drivers within a framework of non-negotiable values. And last but not least, our people are convinced about Sunweb’s true commitment to their future and the future of the next generation of German and international talents and staff."

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