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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, March 6, 2016

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

When you give yourself, you receive more than you give. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince

Racing just completed:

Current Racing:

Groenewegen gains stage victory in West-Vlaanderen

LottoNL-Jumbo sent out this report:

Dylan Groenewegen grabbed the victory in the first stage of the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen today. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s sprinter had to put in some effort in the chase to the breakaway, but kept energy for the final kick.

The difference between Groenewegen and runner-up Van Der Sande seemed big on the finish photograph, but Dylan Groenewegen had to go hard for his stage win in the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen.

“There was a strong breakaway, which we started to chase immediately,” sports director Merijn Zeeman said after the race. “They were caught only just before the final turn and Dylan had to close the gap by himself. His sprint was impressive afterwards. This victory is a show of his mental strength.”

“With two kilometres to go, Robert Wagner crashed,” Groenewegen explained. “From that moment, I had to do it all by myself. There were three riders still in front of the peloton and because I was on the front of the peloton when we caught them, just before the final turn, I decided to start sprinting immediately. I was able to hold the lead fortunately. It’s nice to start the season in a good way, so I wanted to peak early, this season. That’s what I’m doing at the moment and my shape’s getting better every week.”

Dylan Groenewegen’s confidence made Team LottoNL-Jumbo put forth some extra effort already early in the race to catch the break. “Dylan really wants to win and he shows that as well,” Zeeman added. “That is why we decided to let some men chase the peloton who would normally have to save energy for the sprint lead-out. Dylan finished it off afterwards and gave everyone who fought for him a beautiful reward today.”

Peter Sagan fourth at Strade Bianche

Tinkoff sent me this release:

Peter Sagan continued a strong start to the classics season, taking fourth place in the 176km Strade Bianche in Italy. The World Champion was in contention at the race’s finish in Siena until the last few hundred metres, having forced the race winning move late in the day to set up a nail-biting finish.

Peter was positive about his early form. “It is the start of the season and we try our best. I'm satisfied I was able to give all I had. Finishing first, third or fourth is part of the sport of cycling.”

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan finishing fourth at Strade Bianche

Patxi Vila, Sport Director, summed up the outcome. “It was a really hard race today, with 3200m of climbing it’s nearly a mountain stage, and together with all the unpaved sectors it’s a hard day out. We saw last week Peter was riding well so we rode to bring him into the best position for the final.”

The action got underway with an early break of eight riders, pulling clear under threatening skies but without the rainfall that was previewed. They worked hard to build up their advantage but the peloton was keeping a watchful eye and with 76km remaining normality was restored at the front of the race.

Four riders then took their turn to break clear, building over a minute's gap with 40km to go. As the race headed into the final 30km a big injection of pace from behind saw their advantage fall to just 20 seconds.

The race to the finish started on the Colle Pinzuto sector with 19km to go, where the World Champion attacked to bridge the gap the last remaining breakaway rider, taking two others with him for company. A strong chase group formed behind but the leaders worked well to stretch their advantage, completing the final sector of the day with around 30 seconds to play with.

As the race approached Siena, it became clear the four-man breakaway was going to be able to hold the main group away, but with a tough climb to the finish and attacks flying, the outcome of the race was completely open until the last few hundred metres. A big move from Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) saw Peter distanced, eventually coming home in fourth, but showing strong form at this early stage of the season.

Vila continued, “Peter was looking good and made the big move on the penultimate sector to form the lead group but lacked a little something at the end. Overall the performance of the team was good, with five guys in the first main group of around 40 heading into the final, so it was a good situation.

“There were lots of crashes and punctures as you would expect in a race like this, but we managed it quite well today, despite losing Trusov. But he’s OK and is back in the bus with no real problems. So overall we are happy. Obviously we wanted to win and thought we could today, but Cancellara was the strongest at the end. We are on the right line and will keep fighting for the win in the coming races.”

“I'm happy with today's race.” Sagan said at the finish. “Weather conditions were good and it didn't rain. I was in the front group but in the finale I didn’t have the legs to go.”

Tomorrow the team turns its attention to the Paris-Nice stage race, before Peter continues his season at the Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday.

Here's Lotto-Soudal's Strade Bianche & 3 Days of West Flanders report:

This afternoon Fabian Cancellara won the Strade Bianche for the third time ever. Tiesj Benoot finished eighth on the Piazza del Campo in Siena, it was his début in this Italian race.

Lotto Soudal could soon be found at the front today. Jens Debusschere and Pim Ligthart were part of an early breakaway of eight. They had up to six minutes advantage, but it was already over for them at more than sixty kilometres from the finish. Five new riders turned up at the front, one of them was Maxime Monfort. The Belgian was accompanied by Bookwalter, Brambilla, Grivko and Puccio. But Puccio had mechanical problems on the long gravel sector of Sante Marie, so only four leaders were left. In the peloton Monfort still had three teammates: Benoot, De Clercq and Polish champion Marczynski.

On the sector of Monteaperti, with 25 kilometres to go, Brambilla decided to attack. On the penultimate sector world champion Peter Sagan accelerated and what was left of the peloton now fell completely apart. Sagan, Stybar and Cancellara closed the gap on Brambilla. These four would battle for the victory. Tiesj Benoot was riding in a chasing group of seven, with among other Greg Van Avermaet.

Cancellara could triumph for the third time at the end of Strade Bianche, he beat Stybar in Siena. 41 seconds later Tiesj Benoot crossed the finish line as eighth.

Tiesj Benoot: “It was a hard day, but I knew that before I started. I have mixed feelings because I had hoped for a better result. On the other hand I was in the finale at the side of top riders. I can conclude that I didn’t have a great day, but that I was good, otherwise I wouldn’t have finished eighth.”

“The team was strong today with Jens, Pim and Maxime who joined a breakaway and in the peloton the others kept me out of the wind, I’m grateful to all of them. At the end the strongest riders in the race took off. The images are clear, we had to pass. I was riding in a good position, but the first four just had more punch. With the chasing group we came pretty close, but everyone was riding à bloc. When Nibali and Kwiatkowski get dropped you know that we were setting a high pace as well. I’m definitely looking forward to the next editions of Strade Bianche. This is a beautiful race and I want to come back for more. Next week I’ll ride Tirreno-Adriatico where I will further prepare myself for the Classics and assist our GC riders.”

At the Three Days of West-Flanders the first stage was scheduled today, between Bruges and Harelbeke (176.3 km). It took a while before a front group was formed. Eventually eight riders got a gap in the hill zone after more than eighty kilometres of racing. Louis Vervaeke was part of the break. He could stay ahead until 400 metres from the finish. A bit further also the last of the escapees got reeled in and the peloton sprinted for the victory. Dylan Groenewegen won ahead of Tosh Van der Sande and Baptiste Planckaert.

Lampre-Merida sent me this Strade Bianche update:

Diego Ulissi's form is excellent, his legs are very good but he still missed the winning strike.

The rider from Lampre-Merida demonstrated his brilliant condition in the Strade Bianche, covering the 176 km (9 dirt roads sectors, for a total distance of 52.8 km) of the competition with a good attitude which allowed him to be with the top athletes in the key moments of the race, waiting for the final kilometers for performing the decisive move.

After an engaging race, during which different groups of attackers alternated in the head of the competition and some crashes or mechanical troubles added unpredictability, the 8th sector of white roads, Colle Pinzuto, became the crucial moment: Ulissi and other 14 riders started to chase the four attackers Sagan, Stybar, Brambilla and Cancellara.

The group of Ulissi controlled the four leaders, who had a maximum advantage of 15" in the approach to Siena, but could not complete the chase because of a common lack of energies which gave to the attackers the opportunity to increase their advantage.

Ulissi, who was still brilliant, could not bridge the gap, so he had to renounce to a winning move: he was 7th, at 41" to the winner Cancellara (2nd place for Stybar).

"I had very good feeling, I could race as I wanted and I thought I would have been able to be in the head positions in the final kilometers in order to battle for a top results, maybe with an action in the hilly road in the approach to Siena - Ulissi explained - When Stybar, Cancellara, Sagan and Brambilla took the head of the race, we could organize a good chase, which limited the gap to the four attackers, but the last sector of dirty roads drained all the energies and the chase became weak.

I missed a good opportunity, especially because I was still brilliant and I succeeded in realizing an interesting performance".

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