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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, June 29, 2016

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Always forgive your enemies - nothing annoys them so much. - Oscar Wilde

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Two more Tour de France teams announced

Tinkoff sent me this:

The most famous cycling event in the world, the Tour de France, has finally arrived. The 103rd edition of La Grande Boucle takes place from the 2nd to the 24th of July, and promises 3,519km of dramatic racing. Starting with the Grand Départ in Mont-Saint-Michel on the 2nd of July, this is the race that many in the professional peloton – from the GC riders, to the sprinters and climbers – have spent their entire season preparing for. Having won the race on two occasions, Alberto Contador will lead the Tinkoff team, while Peter Sagan, who, having won the Maillot Vert points jersey every year since 2012, will be looking to take stage wins.

As the most famous, historic and brutal stage race in the professional cycling calendar, many riders focus their entire season on preparing for the race. Early season stage races, such as Paris-Nice and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, will have given the GC riders pointers as to where they need to work on their form, while more recent races, such as the Critérium du Dauphiné, have given them a chance to tweak and fine-tune while lining up next to the riders who will be their main rivals during the twenty-one stages of the race.

"This will be a very important Tour de France for all of us," explained Alberto ahead of the race. "It will be the Tour in which we would like to show Oleg Tinkov our gratitude for his support all these years. I'm exceptionally motivated for this race and we have been working throughout the year thinking about the Tour de France. Hopefully, everything will play out the way we want."

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador at the Dauphiné before he had to give up the leader's jersey

With the race profile released last October, teams will have had an opportunity to assess the route and decide which stages suit their riders' strengths. When it comes to the actual race, however, the best made plans can soon fall by the wayside depending on how the other teams are doing, the way the GC race unfolds, and the countless unforeseen circumstances that can change the race in an instant.

With Tinkoff leading the UCI WorldTour team rankings as well as holding the top two positions, the points on offer at the Tour could see an increase in the lead in this competition.

Joining the team leader, Alberto Contador, and Peter Sagan at the race are two newly crowned national champions in Rafal Majka and Roman Kreuziger. Joined by Robert Kiserlovski, the three have all proved strong helpers for Alberto in the mountains in the past. The roster is bolstered by the new Polish time trial champion, Maciej Bodnar who will have the chance to show off his new skinsuit on two occasions. Matteo Tosatto brings his wealth of experience to the team, and he's joined by fellow Italian Oscar Gatto who will prove vital for the fast finishes around Peter. The line-up is then completed by Michael Valgren who will start his second Tour de France after his debut in 2015.

This year the Tour takes on some of the most challenging terrain France has to offer, while also challenging riders with some less traditional profiles that will encourage teams to be creative with their strategies. Looming over the race this year is the infamous Mont Ventoux - widely regarded by many riders both past and present to be the most daunting climb of the race - if not the cycling world.

While in recent years the Tour has started in a different country, the opening stage of this year's race takes place in Normandy - starting in Mont Saint Michel and finishing at Utah Beach. While Le Grand Départ remains in France, the race will leave the country on three occasions during the course of the race - with stages taking place in the Principality of Andorra, Spain and in Switzerland, where many will have had fond and not-so-fond memories of races from earlier in the season.

Having had successful starts to their respective seasons, with stage and GC wins in the Classics, the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the Tour de Suisse and the Critérium du Dauphiné, Alberto and Peter come to the Tour de France occupying the two top spots of the UCI WorldTour rankings - with Peter having recently leapfrogged Alberto into the top spot after his two stage wins at the Tour de Suisse broke the race's record for stage wins.

With such a strong GC rider in Alberto, and with Peter’s successes both in the Classics and his numerous stage wins in his season so far, Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, was confident in this two-pronged approach. “We come to the Tour with a very balanced team built around Alberto and Peter as our leaders. With Peter we can go for stage wins on the days that suit him, and then Alberto of course is targeting the GC – that’s our main overall goal.”

The team was built around providing support both for Alberto and Peter, explained Steven. “We have guys that can support both riders. With Bodnar, Gatto, Tosatto and Valgren we have strong rouleurs that will play an important role on the flatter stages, and then Gatto will be a good support rider for Peter in the finals. Tosatto’s experience will also be important in playing the bodyguard role for Alberto in these stages.”

With such a mountainous parcours, providing support for Alberto when the road turns upwards is absolutely essential, continued De Jongh. “Then for the mountains, Majka, Kreuziger and Kiserlovski will be there to support Alberto. The last week in the Alps will be very hard and they will play an important part on these kind of tough stages. I think it will be an exciting Tour, with two not so flat ITTs, and a large number of GC contenders coming into the race.”

"The Tour de France is one of the major highlights of my season, and I believe that compared to last season, where I didn’t manage to win a stage win, this year I’ll reach my goal and win something,” explained the UCI world road race champion, Peter Sagan. “I have no particular selected day that suits me, but I am convinced that this year's route includes stages that conform to my style of racing.

“Of course the green jersey is for me a big challenge. The cold and hard stages in Switzerland took a lot out of me, and the national championships was also not easy. So after the first days of the Tour I will know how I am really feeling. Our whole team has high ambitions and I am convinced that Alberto will prove successful. When I can, I’ll be there to help him. Let's see what each new day will bring and we will appropriately adjust our tactics."

The race this year forgoes its usual prologue, starting with a stage that is likely to end in a sprint. With a mountain stage so soon after the start however, it is unlikely that a sprint team will be able to hold the Maillot Jaune past this point - and nor would they want to, with the race becoming progressively harder from here, and the yellow jersey more difficult to defend.

While a great deal of planning had gone on ahead of the race, in the end it would all come down to how the race progresses – and many factors would influence this. Ahead of the race, De Jongh knew just how hard the race could be, having ridden it multiple times himself. “It’s hard to pick out what stages will be key because as we know any mountain stage at the Tour is hard! The time trial after the Mont Ventoux stage will be interesting, and then the mountains in the third week after a hard race will be tough.”

Having won the green points jersey four years in a row, many would be paying close attention to Peter’s performance in the points race, however De Jongh saw the points race as a very different one from the GC. “The green jersey is different to racing for yellow – I think its something that comes to you rather than you chasing it. If Peter rides like last year then we know he will pick up points along the way and he will be hard to beat.”

And here's Cannondale's Tour de France team announcement:

Rolland to lead, Craddock and others seek opportunities

The Cannondale Pro Cycling Team announces its Tour de France team today, placing an emphasis on the general classification with Pierre Rolland.

To the 103rd Tour de France, Cannondale sends Rolland, Matti Breschel, Lawson Craddock, Kristijan Koren, Ramunas Navardauskas, Sebastian Langeveld, Alex Howes, Dylan Van Baarle, and Tom-Jelte Slagter. The Tour de France begins on July 2 in Mont-Saint-Michel.

"We'll be centering the team around Pierre Rolland, as this back-end loaded Tour de France uniquely suits his diesel-like qualities," Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters said. "He may not be the most explosive rider, but come the last few days of the Tour de France, he will surprise a few folks. We'll also be helping Lawson Craddock realize his potential in his first Tour, and looking for opportunities to animate the race. We go into this race as a hungry mongrel of a team. But I'll take that over a poncy, over-fed poodle any day."

Pierre Rolland

Pierre Rolland at the Dauphiné this year

The Tour team is versatile, and capable of stage hunting as well as protecting Rolland. Navardauskas is a past stage winner, and Rolland has won two himself.

Rolland, 29, is in his first season with the Cannondale team. At the Tour, he’s finished 11th (2014), 10th on two occasions (2011 and 2015), and 8th (2012).

"The Tour is simply the most beautiful cycling test," Rolland said. "It is also one of the biggest sporting events in the world. From the time when I was young, I've always wanted to participate in this event and win stages. I’ve put in many days training, and with the team I have a really good feeling. Truly. I hope for a great performance, from me, from the team. What I'd really like is a new stage victory and to have the best possible overall standing. The competition is very hard, everyone is ready at 100 percent. I know it will be difficult, but I will do my utmost."

Craddock, 24, will ride in his first Tour. "This race is iconic for a reason, and I’ve been dreaming of it ever since I got on two wheels," said Craddock. "I’ve worked really hard over my career to perform to the standards that I know I’m capable of, and to see that work paying off to earn a spot in the biggest race in the world is truly a dream come true. But the easy part was making the team. Now I’ve got to prepare myself to race at a level that I’ve never raced at before and, most importantly, put the team in a chance to succeed."

Craddock is in his first season with the team as well, and will look to support Rolland in the mountains and take a chance himself, should the opportunity present itself. He took a break to rest after a heavy spring calendar and then spent time at altitude in Nederland, Colorado with teammate Mike Woods. The team then spent time at altitude in Europe preparing for the Tour. This spring, Craddock finished in the top 10 at the Tour of the Basque Country, Critérium International, and the Amgen Tour of California.

"With it being my first Tour it’s hard to place certain expectations on myself," Craddock said. "I’ve heard stories about the Tour with the stress both on and off the bike. My main goal is to come in and show that I can race consistently at a high level throughout the whole race. Personally, I think that’s the next step in my development. If I can do that, and just be able to put the team in the best possible position for success, then I will be happy. Just lining up on the start line of the Tour is a dream come true, so if I were able to wear a jersey there then I think my mind would just explode. That being said, I’m a born and bred bike racer, and I line up to every race I do with dreams of winning. I’m not just going to the Tour to be pack fodder."

"The anticipation to race is huge, and I can’t wait to get to France and put the race wheels on," Craddock added. "I imagine that the few days leading up to the start I’ll have a few more nerves than normal, but at the end of the day it’s just another bike race. Once the neutral flag goes down on the first stage I’m sure those nerves will be replaced with pure adrenaline."

Cannondale Pro Cycling Team for the 2016 Tour de France:

Caruso re-signs with BMC

The team sent me this news:

28 June 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): As he approaches two years with BMC Racing Team, Damiano Caruso has extended his contract beyond the 2016 season.

Caruso joins a number of his fellow BMC Racing Team riders who will remain with the team, General Manager Jim Ochowicz said.

Damiano Caruso

Damiano Caruso

"Damiano in an exceptional rider and one who is very important to our Tour de France team. He's one of our best climbers and we expect him to do a great job of supporting our leaders in the coming three weeks. It was a natural decision to extend Damiano's contract. After almost two years with BMC Racing Team, Damiano has become an integral member of the organization," Ochowicz explained.

Caruso is looking forward to continuing his relationship with BMC Racing Team. "After almost two years riding for BMC Racing Team I am really happy to confirm that I have extended my contract. After talking with team management it was very easy to find a mutual understanding as to why continuing with BMC Racing Team is the best solution for me. I am really happy with the decision and I hope to give some satisfaction to the team," Caruso said.

UK eBike sales grow amidst poor 2015 overall bike sales

Bike Europe posted this report:

LONDON, UK – The bigger picture for bike sales in the UK, as reflected by HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) figures shows a stable picture despite a decline in 2015 in both units and value imported, with the value per unit staying almost identical. The vast bulk of bikes sold in the UK are imports, but recent figures for exports also show a healthy, stable growth trend.

In the UK the premium price point territory is of expensive road bikes has been fought over by two main contenders, Halfords and latterly Evans Cycles. – Photo Bike Europe

The number of bikes exported continued upwards but puzzlingly the value of bicycle exports took a downturn. UK bike manufacturing remains dominated by Brompton and Pashley, who both export to dozens of countries, the former announcing a new London-based factory for 2016, nearly twice the size of its current operations. HMRC figures are a very crude tool for analysis. Though the bulk of sales in the UK market are low to mid-priced MTB style bikes, the situation with the higher priced, larger margin models appears to be increasingly fluid.

Recent years has seen the rise of the typical category of MAMIL or so called ‘middle-aged man in lycra’ in the UK, thanks to Olympic successes and the first time ever British victory at the Tour the France by Bradley Wiggins. This group is typically riding an expensive road machine. This premium price point territory has been fought over by two main contenders, Halfords (through Boardman Bikes) and latterly Evans Cycles (with Hoy Bikes), each boasting a wide range of Olympic star-branded machines.

Online retailers such as Wiggle and Chain Reaction Cycles are also major players. The slight decline in 2015 import figures, showing drops of 2.7% and 3.7% from the 2014 figures, may indicate a slowing of the mini MAMIL-fuelled sales boom. Indeed, Halfords reported a 1% drop in annual cycle sales for 2015, blaming poor summer weather. Halford’s CEO Jill McDonald also commented that discounts from other retailers on high-end bikes had had some effect.

You can read the entire story here.

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