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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, March 3, 2016

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

Treat a work of art like a prince. Let it speak to you first. - Arthur Schopenhauer

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BMC set for Strade Bianche and Paris-Nice

BMC sent me this news:

March 2, 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): The 2016 season is well and truly heating up and BMC Racing Team is set to line up at Strade Bianche (5 March) and Paris-Nice (6-13 March) this weekend.

"We're bringing a strong team to Strade Bianche this Saturday including Greg Van Avermaet on the back of his win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend, so we're definitely motivated to do well. It will be a hard race but that's what we like," BMC Racing Team Sports Director Max Sciandri said.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet at the 2015 Eneco Tour

Van Avermaet is confident following his win at the opening Spring Classic. "Winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad definitely gives me more confidence going into the next races. I know my form is good so we'll see what happens," Van Avermaet confirmed.

On Sunday, BMC Racing Team will line up at the prologue of Paris-Nice ahead of the six-stage race, which will be Richie Porte's first race in Europe since joining BMC Racing Team.

"Paris-Nice is a really solid race in the early part of the season and a good way to test my form. I'm going into the race this year with less expectation than in previous years and see it as another opportunity to get some more race days in the legs," Porte explained.

BMC Racing Team Sports Director Fabio Baldato said there are numerous stages that are suited to the team. "We are bringing a well-rounded team and I think we have a good shot at stage wins with riders like Philippe Gilbert and Rohan Dennis."

Strade Bianche (5 March)

Rider Roster: Brent Bookwalter (USA), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Daniel Oss (ITA), Taylor Phinney (USA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL).

Sports Director: Max Sciandri (ITA)

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Paris-Nice (6-13 March)

Rider Roster: Marcus Burghardt (GER), Rohan Dennis (AUS), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Ben Hermans (BEL), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Richie Porte (AUS), Michael Schär (SUI), Danilo Wyss (SUI).

Sports Director: Fabio Baldato (ITA)

Alberto Contador headed to Paris-Nice

This came from Tinkoff:

On Sunday, Alberto Contador will start his second race of the 2016 season, out of the four he has scheduled for the first cycle of the year. Following his first race in Algarve, a fortnight ago, "not a lot of things have changed, apart from recovering from the effort put in, trying to step up the intensity of my training sessions and putting more speed in the legs," explains Tinkoff's leader.

Another factor which gives his return to the race a certain dimension is that he hadn't taken part for a long time. "The last time I raced was in 2010", recalls Alberto. "I return to the race that revealed me as a rider, in 2007, and which in some aspect was the springboard for the Tour de France."

For Alberto, Paris-Nice "is a special race where I have always performed well. In addition, it is a very important one in terms of preparation because it gives you pace and provides a good base for the rest of the year. On the other hand, it's also a complicated race, because of the big number of rivals, its parcours and the often tough weather conditions."

Alberto showed good early season form with a stage win in Portugal in February.

Alberto Contador

Contador winning a stage at this year's Algarve

Looking to this year's course, Contador highlights that "it is one of the toughest that I can recall, very hilly, but on the other hand it kicks off with a flat prologue that isn't technical at all, very well suited to specialists. I miss the time-trial on Col d'Eze which I have never been able to race, but instead it has two summit finishes, one for heavier riders and another for climbers."

Tinkoff's leader heads to the start line of Paris-Nice with the same mindset he had in Algarve. "I'd like this first part of the season to be as good as possible but it's certain Paris-Nice is a top-level race in which everybody wants to win, even if it's a demanding one due to the level of the rivals and the difficulty in controlling it. Tinkoff heads to Paris-Nice with the intention to race well and fight for victory."

Last, but certainly not least, Alberto highlights Tinkoff's good start to the season. "We started getting results early on a very special year for us, as it is the last one for Oleg Tinkov as owner and for Tinkoff Bank as sponsor. For that reason as well, we have been working very well, with the team split in various groups. Some riders went to Australia and Tour de San Luis, and we had high-altitude training camps on Teide and in Sierra Nevada. We all are very satisfied with the way we got off and, in my case, I'm happy with the squad that will flank me in Paris-Nice," concluded Contador.

And here's LottoNL-Jumbos' Paris-Nice news:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo races for top ten in Paris-Nice: The 74th edition of Paris-Nice starts on March 6 with a 6.1-kilometre prologue in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. Team LottoNL-Jumbo will be ready, travelling with a strong team and Wilco Kelderman as its leader.

"I looked at the route and saw that it is a difficult race," said Kelderman. "I also put in some time trial kilometres last week as we start with a prologue. Later in the week, we climb on the Mount Ventoux. That's exciting because I've never done it. I can still remember that attack of Robert Gesink with Cadel Evans in Paris-Nice on Ventoux. The two pulled away from the pack, and I was watching it on television then.”

Paris-Nice is the first WorldTour race after the season began in the Tour Down Under and the first major clash on French territory between the classification riders. Last year’s winner Richie Porte (BMC) and former winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) stand out. Along with Kelderman, Sep Vanmarcke begins ‘The Race to the Sun’ to fine tune his form towards the classics.

"We have a good team here for the start," Kelderman continued. "Sep Vanmarcke will put the finishing touches on his classic form and with Steven Kruijswijk and George Bennett, I have two important men along for the mountains in the challenging final weekend. I'm really looking forward to this race. After the Ruta del Sol, I gained a lot of confidence. I’ll go for a top 10 in the ranking.”

Paris-Nice is only the second race of the year for the Dutchman. In his first race, the Ruta del Sol, he finished fourth overall. Kelderman added that he is relaxed, though suffering from a slight cold last week.

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke

Frans Maassen: "We expect to see a strong Wilco in Paris-Nice," said Sport Director Frans Maassen. "We want to start with a good prologue. We will line up three specialists. Jos van Emden underlined in Qatar once again that he can time trial and Victor Campenaerts has already shown it, too. And of course, Wilco also has a good time trail in his legs.”

The 74th edition of Paris-Nice has a difficult route with many climbs. "The first stage could fit Sep Vanmarcke and he can go for it. But afterwards, the parcours becomes seriously difficult. The Mount Ventoux and the uphill finish at La Madone d’Utelle on the penultimate day are special. Everyone needs to go strongly for the classification. We built the team around Wilco and we need to get him in the top, and keep him there. But one thing is certain, this Paris-Nice is very difficult."

Line-up: George Bennett, Victor Campenaerts, Jos van Emden, Wilco Kelderman, Steven Kruijswijk, Paul Martens, Bram Tankink and Sep Vanmarcke

Sport Directors: Addy Engels and Frans Maassen

Lotto-Soudal's Paris-Nice plans

This update came from the team:

From Friday 4 March till Sunday 6 March the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen is scheduled. During a prologue and two stages the peloton will ride across the windy West-Flemish landscape. Several well-known hills and cobbled sections from the spring Classics are on the course so this stage race has a rather Classics profile.

Sports director Frederik Willems: “Firstly, it will be important to ride a good prologue. During the stages on Saturday and Sunday there are still some possibilities to do something, but during the prologue the main positions in the GC will already be determined. We’ll try to obtain a good result with Sean De Bie or Frederik Frison, who can perform well in such type of short time trials. Afterwards we can set the strategy for the next two stages.”

Traditionally, this race starts with a prologue of seven kilometres along the shore of Middelkerke. The second day, the riders need to ride a tough stage from Bruges to Harelbeke. This stage is also called the ‘Vlaamse Pijl’. During that stage the peloton has to surmount four hills, among them the Oude Kwaremont, and one cobbled section, the Varentstraat. At the end there are three local laps of about ten kilometres. The race ends with a stage between Nieuwpoort and Ichtegem, the ‘Omloop der Vlaamse Ardennen’. The riders will then need to cover eight hills, such as the Kemmelberg and Monteberg, and five cobbled sections. At Ichtegem, three local laps of about thirteen kilometres are on the course.

Frederik Willems: “We'll try to obtain a stage victory in the following two stages with Tosh Van der Sande or Jelle Wallays. Tosh finished second in Harelbeke last year so it’s certainly possible, he feels good as well. We give Jelle some freedom, although we’ll have to see if he’s recovered from the opening weekend. After his crash in Algarve he had a torn muscle in his hip and he had some troubles this weekend, especially in Kuurne. Hopefully he can start without any problems in his own region.”

Sean De Bie, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Wallays are part of the Lotto Soudal team. They’ll compete against riders such as Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, Dylan Groenewegen, Danny Van Poppel and Anton Vorobyev. Last year’s winner, Yves Lampaert, won’t take part in this edition.

Tosh Van der Sande

Tosh Van de Sande will be on the start line for Paris-Nice

Selection Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Sean De Bie, Gert Dockx, Frederik Frison, Tosh Van der Sande, Louis Vervaeke and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors: Frederik Willems and Kurt Van de Wouwer.

Stages:

Tinkoff's Strade Bianche news:

The so-called Classics come in all different shapes and sizes, but one stands out from the crowd with its own uniqueness – Strade Bianche, with its now infamous Tuscan white gravel roads. This Saturday sees the 10th edition of the iconic one-day race in Siena, Italy, at which Tinkoff will arrive with a powerful line-up capable of results across the board.

Peter Sagan headlines the team at this race following a strong start to his European campaign in Belgium last weekend, taking second and seventh at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne respectively. The World Champion and twice runner-up at the race leads a strong eight-rider roster that includes two others who have both finished in the top ten at Strade Bianche before, in Oscar Gatto and Roman Kreuziger.

"It’s a pretty special race Strade Bianche, even though it doesn’t yet have the history of some of the other classics it is becoming an important race in the calendar,” explained Sport Director Patxi Vila. “It’s a nice objective for our team and we go into the race with a strong team led by Peter Sagan."

Joining Peter, Oscar and Roman, is winner of a stage of the Ruta del Sol in February, Daniele Bennati, as well as 2016 Tour Down Under stage winner, Jay McCarthy. Adam Blythe, Maciej Bodnar and Manuele Boaro complete the team.
Peter Sagan gave his thoughts ahead of the race he’s flirted with victory at before, saying: “I have already raced Strade Bianche several times and I must say that I really like it, it’s a really unique race. The terrain is close to my heart and if all goes to plan on the dirt roads I could do well again here.”

Daniele Bennati

Daniele Bennati will be riding the white roads this year.

Teammate Roman Kreuziger added: “The Strade Bianche is a demanding race because of the climbs as well as the tough gravel sectors. However, these aren't the only decisive parts. You have to be focused from the outset until you bring back the breakaway – you can't allow a breakaway to become too big because it will then become very difficult to control.”

He continued by saying: “You have to be attentive and prepared for anything during the entire five hours. Last year, the wind was a factor to take into consideration, and weather conditions could come into play again this year. Unlike other races, you can't relax, thinking you can hide in the first 100 kilometres and race afterwards. I consider it to be very good preparation for the big Classics, not only in terms of building your form but also on how you move inside the group and how you handle the small details."

The race, slightly shorter than last year’s edition, covers 176km and will start in the spectacular city of Siena for the first time before covering a total of nine sectors, totalling 52.8km, of the white gravel roads that symbolise this race. The first sector comes after just 11km meaning positioning and attention are vital from the off.

The riders that are left after battling through the dust storms and over the energy sapping, rolling Tuscan roads will have one final obstacle to tackle, with the traditional cobbled climb to the finish line in the centre of Siena. Previous editions have proved this a perfect launch pad from which to strike out for victory at this prestigious prelude to the Spring Classics.

Assessing the team’s chances for the race, Vila continued by saying: “Peter has shown previously that he can fight for the win here, and although it’s still early in the season he showed last weekend despite only just returning to racing from a period of training that he’s already in good shape. He will be supported here by riders who could also play their part in the outcome if the situation on the road changes, including Oscar Gatto and Roman Kreuziger."

The Sectors: The first of the day’s difficulties falls after just 11km with the 2.1km straight gravel sector leading into the day’s first climb, the paved Passo del Rospatoio. The second gravel section is one of the most iconic of the race, following the town of Murlo. The town of Torrenieri signifies the start of two back-to-back sectors, the first of which runs for 11.9km, with only 1km of tarmac between. The fifth and sixth sectors are both nearly equally as long, with the latter probably the toughest of the day, gradually climbing most of the way.

The seventh sector is short at just 800m, but it ramps up punishingly at the end for a sting in the tail. There’s not much respite before the penultimate sector inside the final 20km which sees gradients reaching double figures before levelling off towards the final sector of the day, the rolling 1.1km ninth sector with uphill and descent to navigate. From this point there’s only 12km remaining to the line in Siena, but who will be left at the front of the race?

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