Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
June 6, 2016
Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, June 6, 2016
There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare. - Sun Tzu (author of The Art of War)
Recently completed racing:
- June 5 - June 12: Critérium du Dauphiné
Critérium du Dauphiné Prologue team reports
Tinkoff sent me this:
The much-anticipated Critérium du Dauphiné began today with a formidable uphill prologue. The route to Le Mont Chery from Les Gets featured gradients of over 20% - a course that would soon mark out who was on form and who wasn’t. As one of the last riders out, Tinkoff’s leader, Alberto Contador, started out strong, first taking the provisional lead, before taking the stage win with an advantage of six seconds.
A fearsome uphill prologue started the Critérium du Dauphiné. The prologue’s 3.9km uphill time trial, featuring an average gradient of 9.7%, was one of the race’s most exciting and toughest starts in recent history – and of any race in the professional cycling calendar. The 3.9km distance was deceptive, as in spite of the short distance, the road ahead of the riders was steep and was only going to get steeper.
With a tough opening kilometre at an average gradient of 6.1%, this already difficult start swiftly rose to a maximum gradient of more than 20% before the finish in Le Mont Chery. Even for the strongest riders, this wasn’t going to be an easy day.
Alberto Contador with cycling great Bernard Thevenet
Starting his campaign as one of the last riders out, Alberto’s GC rivals had already set some incredibly strong times on the course, with the fastest coming home in under twelve minutes. With Alberto passing his minute-man with ease, the scenes on the climb resembled a full mountain stage, with spectators lining the roads to give the Tinkoff leader their full support. Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, said the atmosphere was great for the riders. “There were a lot of people on the climb. There was no room for camper vans so people had to make an effort to walk up the climb, but still there was a great atmosphere.”
Alberto’s split times showed that he was performing well, but some of the steepest sections of the day were still to come. The last hairpins out of the way, and looking comfortable, it was a straight run in to the finish line – and the crowds already knew that the Spanish rider was going to start his race with a stage win. Alberto crossed the line with a time of 11’36” and held the provisional lead by an incredible thirteen seconds. With all riders in, Alberto took the stage win with six seconds separating him and second place.
With such a strong field, Alberto was surprised to have won the stage. “I knew there was a good trial on this course but I didn't know if it were tough enough to win. My legs were missing speed, my heart was beating like crazy but I can't say it's a surprise to beat Chris Froome however, I didn't expect to win. It was a very hard time trial, especially from km 2 to 1km to go with a gradient of more than 20%. You had to do the first part really fast and keep the rhythm there as well. The fact it was hard suited me really well.”
De Jongh was pleased to see Alberto come out so strong on the first day of this important race. “We knew that the prologue suited Alberto. With such a steep climb we were hoping for a good result. It was nice to finish the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, have a good rest and then go hard here and win again. It’s good for morale so we’re really happy.”
While taking a stage win today, Alberto was well aware there was a lot of racing still to come. “Today was a perfect a perfect day. We had a short race, we had to do it a full pace and from now we will take the race day by day. The time gaps are very small and some teams, especially Sky, came here to win. They brought a team with four or five riders that could claim the GC. I think they are the ones that will go for it.”
Tomorrow’s first road stage will see Alberto wearing the Maillot Jaune of the race leader. The 186km route will see the race cross four fourth category climbs earlier on in the day, before a flat run for the last 50km. This is unlikely to be a stage the GC riders will contest, however, and so the aim will be to keep Alberto safe. De Jongh was pleased to see some time gaps early on, but there’s a lot of the race to come. “Ahead of tomorrow there are already some gaps in the GC but the most important thing is to come out better as the race goes on. Of course the GC is important, but not at any price. Tomorrow’s stage suits the sprinters so we’ll see what happens there.”
While already ahead in the GC race, the Tinkoff leader was sticking to his plan of building for the Tour de France. “My goal here is to keep building my form for the Tour de France. It will be a long week and the squad and myself will stick to our goal of fine-tuning for the Tour. Aiming at the GC here will be a big wear for us, so we will let other teams take that responsibility."
Here's the BMC Dauphiné report:
5 June, 2016, Les Gets (FRA): Richie Porte powered to second place on the tough opening prologue of the Critérium du Dauphiné, crossing the line six seconds behind winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff).
The 3.9 kilometer course was a brutal first test of the legs, with gradients of 15 percent at the finish, and an average gradient of 9.7%.
Chris Froome set the early best time of 11'49 and remained in the hot seat until Contador arrived to clock 11'36, and Porte following just behind.
Richie Porte: "That last 500m! It was just such a hard prologue. I haven't raced for the good part of a month and a half and I've flown under the radar so much this year. No one has even mentioned my name. I think it's good to be coming into this race with less pressure. There was certainly no hiding today so I think it is good for me in the big picture. At the end of it I could hardly stand up. It's a nice way to start a race, it's a bit different to a normal stock standard flat prologue."
"I'm planning to stay out of trouble for the rest of the stages. We've got a strong team and there's no easy day here really. I think it's good that Tinkoff have to defend the jersey now. We'll save it all, as much as we can, for the weekend."
Richie Porte on the tough climb
Valerio Piva, Sports Director:
"Of course when you start a race, you start with the objective of winning. Richie finished second, six seconds behind Contador, and we put Froome behind so it was a very good performance from Richie. This is only the start. Richie feels good, he's strong. We don't have the jersey now which is less stress for the team. But of course we're going to try in the next days to get the jersey, and try and have it at the end. The prologue is done and now we look to the stages."
Chris Froome's Sky Team had this to say about the Dauphiné prologue:
Chris Froome finished third in the opening prologue stage at the Criterium du Dauphine with a strong showing on the first day in France.
Froome went early and set a time of 11 minutes and 49 seconds on the brutal four-kilometre uphill test to take a lead he then held for the majority of the stage, until Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Richie Porte (BMC) overhauled the Brit right at the death, by 13 and six seconds respectively.
Wout Poels was the last man to go in Les Gets and he couldn't match Contador's time but did come home an impressive sixth, 25 seconds down on the new race leader.
A relaxed Froome was in good spirits after the stage, and he told TeamSky.com that he was happy with how he felt following a long training stint in Tenerife. He said: "I'm happy with that. It's a good gauge of how I've pulled up after Tenerife and a long break from racing. I felt good, and although you can't read much into 4km, the feelings I'm getting are good. We'll have our work cut out this week though, with Richie [Porte] and Contador here. They are the main guys to beat.
"This week is a good chance to get some racing intensity in the legs and given that we've got a few guys here who will probably go into the Tour de France squad, it's really important for us to get through the week as best we can in terms of working together. We've got a fantastic team here: guys who are leaders in their own right, so there could be some really exciting racing."
Froome giving it his all on the climb
Mikel Landa made a strong return to racing for the first time since abandoning the Giro d'Italia due to illness, finishing 12th, 44 seconds back on Contador, while Michal Kwiatkowski recorded a time just one second slower than his team-mate to finish 13th, meaning we claimed the team classification prize.
The course had an average gradient of nearly 10% and it was clearly a tough day in the saddle for the riders as large time splits emerged on the general classification.
Sergio Henao, returning to action for the first time since the UCI announced they would take no action against the Colombian, finished 40th, while Salvatore Puccio, Luke Rowe and Ian Standard all finished safely.
Sport Director Nico Portal was also happy after the day's endeavours, and he highlighted the strength of the team in France. He said: "I'm really happy. We've got four guys in the top 15 so that shows the strength we have here. It was a really hard time trial and I'm happy with everyone.
"It's a very interesting Dauphine actually. We had a really hard prologue today, then tomorrow and Tuesday are likely to be stages for the sprinters, and the last three or four days will be really hard. Before that though, the guys need to be focused. We could have an easy day but the weather may be tough, the speed could go high - the guys need to stay alert."
Etixx-Quick Step posted this Dauphiné update:
The Criterium du Dauphiné got underway on Sunday with a short, steep and challenging prologue, which saw the riders tackle Mont Chéry, a 3.9-km long climb averaging 9.7%. Racing his home event for the third season in a row, this time as the winner of the Tour of California, Julian Alaphilippe was among the early starters and rode full gas on the tough slopes of the ascent to the Les Gets ski station, clocking a time of 12 minutes. This result was enough to see Julian take the hot seat, where he stayed for a fair amount of time, before being dethroned by Chris Froome (Team Sky).
Alaphilippe wasn't the only Etixx – Quick-Step rider to drive hard on the climb of Mont Chéry, as Dan Martin – who was returning to competition following a break he took after the Ardennes Classics – produced his best ever individual time trial and sloted into fourth, just 21 seconds off Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), who won the prologue ahead of Richie Porte (BMC) and Froome. Obviously, the result left Dan satisfied at the end of the day: "I felt good on the course, enjoyed it and I'm content with my place at the finish. We'll see what will happen next, but Dauphiné is always a super aggressive race, difficult to control and every day will be a tough one."
For 24-year-old Julian Alaphilippe, the end of the prologue brought a visit to the podium, where he was rewarded with the white jersey, which he'll wear on Monday, during the 186-km long stage between Cluses and Saint-Vulbas, a new addition to the French race. This wasn't the first time he managed to impress this season in a time trial, the performance on Sunday coming after another strong one, albeit on a different parcours, at the Tour of California.
"Now I'm more relaxed, but it wasn't easy out there, especially as it was for the first time that I rode such a prologue. I think everybody suffered today, the climb was a nasty one, but luckily it suited me, so I could get this top 5. I am happy for myself and for Dan, these results are really good for the team. Now I hope to have a good week and maybe go for a stage win at some point", said Julian, the best young rider of the Criterium du Dauphiné.
And this came from Lampre-Merida:
An unusual time trial prologue opened the Criterium du Dauphiné 2016: the riders covered a steep hill of 3.9 km, with average gradient of 10% and maximum gradient of 15,2%.
Lampre-Merida succeeded in entering in the top 20 with two riders, both very young: Valerio Conti (23 years old, photo Bettini), recorded the 18th best timing, covering the climb in 12'28", 52" more than the winning performance of Contador; Louis Meintjes (24 years old) completed the prologue in 2" more than his team mate.
The blue-fuchsia-green riders pedaled on the Merida Scultura bikes, which granted them the necessary lightness and comfort in climbing the steep ascent.
The first stage (Cluses-Saint Vulbas, 186 km) could be suitable for the sprinters, in fact the course will be characterized by 4 easy categorized climbs (4th category) which will be covered by the riders in the early part of the race.
Tour de Luxembourg final reports
This from stage winner Philippe Gilbert's BMC team: (also posted on the 2016 Luxembourg results page)
5 June 2016, Luxembourg (LUX): It was victory number two for Philippe Gilbert in Luxembourg as he won the bunch sprint for the line on the fourth and final stage of the SkodaTour de Luxembourg.
After only 20 kilometes of racing, five riders were able to distance themselves from the peloton. They were able to extend their advantage to eight minutes before the peloton started to turn up the tempo and put pressure on the race leaders.
Eventually, with the main bunch all together for the final finishing lap, the stage came down to a sprint for the line with Gilbert proving he was the strongest on the day. There was also a podium finish for BMC Racing Team's Dylan Teuns as he put in a strong ride to cross the line third.
Today's victory sealed Gilbert's position on top of the Points Classification and saw him move into second place on the General Classification, behind Maurits Lammertink (Roompot - Oranje Peloton).
Gilbert wins the fourth stage
Winner's Interview with Philippe Gilbert:
Congratulations, Philippe! How do you feel after today's win?
"I feel great! It's been a successful day for me; winning today's stage, moving into second on the GC and winning the points classification!"
"I was really only thinking about the stage today and not the classification. I stayed really focussed throughout the whole stage and then when we hit the final 5.5km final lap, I never moved out of the first top ten positions. It was a very tricky lap and I started the last climb strong but I knew that I needed to wait for the final hundred meters to make my effort because it was really steep at the end."
Going into today's stage, did you have a stage victory in mind?
"I was definitely hoping that I would win today's stage. All the guys who had raced here before said that this was a finish for me, so that gave me added motivation to do well going into the stage."
And then looking ahead to your next race?
"I have two days rest and then I am heading to Tour de Suisse. After this race I definitely think that I am in good form so we will see what I can do there."
Sport director, Jackson Stewart said: "It's always great to see the riders win stages and we knew it would be a good stage for Phil today. Not only was he able to win but he also took maximum time bonuses and moved back up into second place on the GC. One of the other highlights from today was that Dylan [Teuns] finished third and it's really good to see some of our younger riders getting results."
"I think over the past 5 days we have had some of the worst things that can happen in a race, with a crash taking out the leader's jersey and sickness with [Tom] Bohli, but we've also had some of the best things, like winning three out of the five stages and finishing with a good place on the GC."
And here's Stölting Service Group's Luxembourg update:
Ahead of the final stage of the Skoda-Tour de Luxembourg (2.HC), Alex Kirsch was fourth overall in the same time as third-placed Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team). With a strong team effort and his own attentive riding in the final, Alex could make up a few seconds and finished his home race on the podium.
The 178.2 km stage from Mersch to Luxembourg started with a bonus sprint after only 3.8 km. Team Stölting Service Group took control of the affairs and gave a perfect lead-out to Alex who could secure three bonus seconds.
After that, a group of five riders got away and built an advantage of eight minutes until Team Stölting Service Group and Roompot – Oranje Peloton, the team of overall leader Maurits Lammertink, took up the chase. At the start of the four laps of the 5.5 km finishing circuit the peloton was less than a minute behind.
The stage finish was at the top of the 825 m Pabeierbierg that had to be climbed five times in total. Its average gradient of more than 9% quickly made the peloton break up into small groups; Alex was always at the front, rode with his head and even put in a few attacks. In the end the stage was decided on the final climb, though; here, Gilbert and Lammertink proved to be the strongest. The Belgian took his second stage victory while Lammertink won the race overall. Alex finished in sixth place three seconds later, due to his bonus seconds he moved up to third place overall.
After the race, Alex described the all-important intermediate sprint: “I had the same time as the third-placed and was only one second ahead of the sixth and seventh. With the first sprint after only three kilometres, you have to go for it, otherwise someone else will. Our team did a good job, leading me out perfectly with the whole team, and I could take the three seconds. In the end, my advantage on fourth place overall is exactly three seconds – so this sprint turned out to be very important.
“The finishing circuit is known to be very, very selective,” continued Alex. “As soon as you’re on the circuit, the peloton is down to the strongest riders. My attacks weren’t for the race overall or the stage win; I simply didn’t want to lose control of the race. Everyone does the climb at 100%, and I quickly realised that I was one of the best today. So I didn’t want to get into a position where I’d have to close a gap. It was very likely that we would go into the final climb in a small group, so I never went all-out on the attacks, but focused on the last lap.”
This third place overall at the Tour de Luxembourg is the best result in Alex’ career so far: “It’s incredible,” he said. “I’ve never had a result that would be close to this, and of course the Tour de Luxembourg was a big goal for me. I’ve trained incredibly hard in the last seven weeks where I only had one race; I almost can’t describe how hard I trained. I’m very happy that it paid off like this. It’s a success for the whole team – if they hadn’t prepared the intermediate sprint for me, I would have been fourth despite my good performance today. I really can’t praise my team enough.”