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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, June 3, 2016

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

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The Tour of Luxembourg is the current big race. Starting Sunday, the 5th, is the Critérium du Dauphiné, one of the last big tests for the Tour contenders.

Tour de Luxembourg team reports

Stage winner André Greipel's Lotto-Soudal team sent me this:

André Greipel has won the first stage of the Tour de Luxembourg. The German beat Adam Blythe. This victory is one for Stig Broeckx!

After a wet prologue yesterday evening, the race continued with the first stage. The peloton started in Luxembourg City and finished in Hesperange. Thomas Deruette, Brice Feillu and Etienne van Empel set up a breakaway. In the third and last local lap of 18.5 kilometres the peloton, with Lotto Soudal at the head, closed the gap on the three leaders. Once again, Greipel finished off the teamwork.

André Greipel: “The stage today was a bit cat and mouse with the breakaway at times, but in the end, the team took responsibility to chase it down and set up the sprint. Sander Armée pulled hard at the front to catch the breakaway, but the finale was rather sketchy due to the wet roads and many corners. I found myself a bit too far back at one time and became slightly boxed in. However, I was able to find the wheel of my teammates and we were able to launch our lead-out train.”

“I think we performed a textbook lead-out, and it went just like we had planned. I was really happy that I could be there right at the finish to complete all the hard work of the team. In the current circumstances, it isn’t always easy to gear the mind towards racing and to ride aggressively, which is the frame of mind you need to have during the sprints. It is difficult during these times to always be in race mode, but I think that this victory today was an important way for us to show our support for Stig. It also shows how we come together as a team and keep fighting.”

And here's Tinkoff's Luxembourg news:

After a wet and miserable prologue in the streets of Luxembourg, the race broke out of the city for the Tour de Luxembourg’s first road stage. In conditions marginally better than those yesterday, a group of three struck out in the first few kilometres and held the peloton at bay for most of the stage. With a fast finishing circuit and a finish that encouraged a bunch sprint, Adam Blythe contested the win and crossed the line in second – narrowly beaten in the run for the line.

Andre Greipel

André Greipel was the fastest man at 2016 Luxembourg's first stage

The race’s first stage proper, which started in Luxembourg City, covered an undulating 170.6km route and took in two categorised climbs over the course of the day – the second of which was covered four times. After the torrential rain of yesterday evening’s prologue, riders were hoping for better racing conditions on today’s first road stage. While the weather was by no means as bad as the prologue, the day was overcast and cloudy and there were rain showers throughout the day, making the roads damp and conditions slippery – something that could have a huge impact on the finishing circuit.

At 59km, the race would reach its first climb of the day – the second category Consdorf. While too early in the stage to make any significant impact on the race, it was enough of a climb to mark out which riders were going to be the contenders, both for the stage win and the GC race. Then 60km later came the Syren – a 5.6% second category climb that formed part of the finishing circuit in the commune of Hesperange, south east of Luxembourg City. This 18.5km finishing circuit was raced four times, crossing the Syren on each occasion, with the final kilometre featuring a winding circuit with some hard bends in the last few hundred metres. The stage would likely end in a bunch sprint, but with both the climb and the challenging street circuit, this was by no means guaranteed.

Almost from the start, a small breakaway group of three had formed, and with half the stage covered and the first climb out of the way, they had gained almost two minutes on the bunch. With the fast finishing circuit however, it was unlikely this group would be able to stay clear all the way to the finish. The peloton managed to keep the gap down to under four minutes as the day progressed, working hard in the final 20km to bring the breakaway group in.

With 7km left of the race, it was all back together as the sprinters’ teams massed at the front and the predicted bunch sprint was on. It was a matter now of staying safe in the final circuit – something the guys did perfectly – before the sprint for the line. With the final few turns negotiated safely, up against strong competition, Adam Blythe took second in the bunch sprint, having worked his way in between the sprint trains of the other teams, coming out of the last corner in fifth position. Starting his sprint after the bend, Adam was in front with 250m to go, but a last surge from Andre Greipel took the win. This remained an excellent result for the British rider, given the calibre of his competition in the sprint.

It was a team effort to bring Adam Blythe to the final bends of the finishing circuit to contest the sprint

Sport Director, Lars Michaelsen, saw the stage pan out exactly as he’d planned. "It was a nice outcome today - our strategy was to sit back and wait for the race to come back together as we expected for a sprint, which would work in our advantage as we'd be transported into the finale. It's easy to say and hard to execute, but it worked out well today.”

Adam was pleased with the result after racing hard at the Tour of California. "It was a good race today - the stage was pretty chilled then got quicker and quicker in the final 25-30km. In the finale there were lot of corners and I was fighting my way up, and I came out of the last corner about 350m to go in a good position. With about 300m left there was a little lull, and I hit them then and it nearly worked out. California was good for me – it was a hard race and I'm still a bit tired from the travelling but it was a good one to build on. We'll continue to take it day by day, but I think there are other opportunities for us here."

The layout of the stage gave the team a chance to assess their options for the sprint, owing to the finishing circuit giving riders a chance to check out the final stretch, as Michaelsen explained. “The route was typical of this race - it started with roughly 100km up and down roads with a few valleys in-between, before we came into the finishing circuit where we did three and a half laps, covering a climb four times. This gave the guys time to see the finish, but we already knew from the beginning that it was quite technical and Adam is good at these finishes. Second behind Greipel is a good result - he's a top sprinter who comes here after three wins at the Giro, so it's a good result for the guys and now we look to tomorrow's stage.”

Tomorrow sees the race hitting similar terrain, with the first categorised climb – the first category Michelsbierg – coming at the 29km mark. This 8% average climb could give riders the opportunity to launch a breakaway attempt that could stick for the rest of the 162.8km stage, with the next climb coming almost 100km later. The uphill finish in Schifflange will be the final test – the 12.8% average gradient, while short, will give the puncheurs of the peloton a chance to push hard to take the stage win in the last couple of kilometres.

Etixx-Quick Step headed to Dauphiné

Here's the team's posting:

One of the biggest and most prestigious races in the World Tour calendar, the Critérium du Dauphiné will start on Sunday with a short and steep prologue, which will see the riders go to Les Gets on the punishing Montée du Mont Chéry (3.9 kilometers and a 9.7% average gradient). On the second day, the sprinters will have their chance, before the peloton hits Chalmazel-Jeansagnière, where the spotlight is going to be again on the overall contenders. If on Wednesday the terrain will be one suited to the attackers, on stage four the course will smile to the fast men of the bunch once more.

In the final three days of the French race, it's going to be all about the climbers, as no less than 18 categorized ascents and three altitude finishes (Vaujany, Méribel and Superdévoluy) will make up the menu. Of these, stage six – which includes the mythical Col de la Madeleine (19.2 kilometers, 7.9% average gradient) – should be the toughest and have the biggest impact on the general classification.

Fresh off the Tour of California, where he scored an emphatic mountain stage win on his way to conquering the overall, Julian Alaphilippe will return at the Dauphiné, a race which saw him get a top 10 last year, in Sisteron. Here, he'll team up with Daniel Martin, who's coming back to racing after taking a break following his strong Ardennes campaign, in April. Also riding the 16th World Tour event of the season will be Maxime Bouet, neo-pro Laurens De Plus, Niki Terpstra, Stijn Vandenbergh, Martin Velits and Tony Martin, the only rider in the past 11 years to have won two individual time trial stages in the French race.

Julian Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe having a good day at this year's Tour of California

"A tough prologue awaits on Sunday, but otherwise is a balanced course, more or less the same to what we've seen in the past years. It's a race that brings us closer to the Tour de France, having some of its flavor, so the guys are very motivated. Will be important to see where we stand and to tune up the condition. We come here with a team focused more on stage wins, and less on the GC, with Julian and Dan being two of the ones who can notch a victory. Still, if the right circumstances will be there, then Dan, who has a lot of experience, could leave his mark on the overall", said sport director Brian Holm ahead of the Critérium du Dauphiné's 68th edition.

European Parliament's analysis of cycling

This was posted in Bike Europe:

BRUSSELS, Belgium – The European Parliament (EP) has analyzed the current state of cycling mobility in the European Union and the benefits stemming from cycling as a means of transport. Here’s EP’s overall conclusion as well as the complete report.

The Executive Summary of the EP analysis says, “Over the past 20 years, European society has positively embraced cycling, which has become an everyday activity for millions of Europeans. In economic and social terms, cycling influences or has an impact on transport, mobility, health, environment and climate change, as well as the economy and tourism.”

“In the European Union (EU), cycling policies are a matter for the Member States, which provide the regulatory framework as well as, in many cases, country-wide cycling programs; while practical measures are generated mostly at local or regional levels, notably in cities. Nevertheless, the EU has taken an active role in promoting cycling, trying to make the best use of this mode of transport by including it in its efforts to achieve the Europe 2020 strategy targets.

EU support consists principally of guidance, the exchange of best practice, and financial support, oriented towards local and regional authorities promoting a stronger cycling mobility culture. Everyday bicycle usage varies significantly across Europe. While in some countries as much as 36% of daily trips are made by bicycle, this figure is less than 5% for a third of EU countries. The proportion of regular cyclists is higher in cities, where the most visible cycling development is also taking place.”

“As a means of transport over short distances, cycling brings significant economic, environmental and health-related benefits in terms of reduced congestion and pollution, less dependence on fuels, new jobs and better public health. However, it also involves some challenges, namely the need to improve cyclists’ safety, the complexity of mobility planning and the importance of securing financing for cycling infrastructure. A spectrum of action is needed to reach out to different groups of would-be cyclists, to encourage the shift towards a cycling culture and to raise the next generation as a cycling generation.”

You can read the entire article here.

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