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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, March 7, 2016

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

We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology. - Carl Sagan

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Michael Matthews wins Paris-Nice Prologue

Orica-GreenEdge sent me this update:

Multiple grand tour stage winner Michael Matthews has made a perfect start to 2016, taking out the Paris-Nice prologue in his first race of the season.

Matthews stopped the clock on the predominately flat 6.1km city centre prologue in a time of seven minutes 39seconds to take the victory and yellow jersey on day one of the WorldTour stage race.

"It's my first race of the season so to beat a guy like Dumoulin who is one of the best time trial specialists in the world, it's definitely very special," said Matthews. "It wasn't really on the top of my goals list for Paris-Nice. I was hoping for a top five today to be around the guys and then try and take the yellow in one of the next stages. It obviously all came together and I am happy I was able to take the win.

"We will take it day by day and now that I have the jersey we will just try and look after it for as long as possible."

As Matthew's first race for 2016 sport director Laurenzo Lapage wasnt suprised with the world championship silver medalist's form, praising the 25-year old's professionalism in the off-season. "Michael was really relaxed and confident before the race," said Lapage. "Last year we did the same thing, he started here for his first race of the year."

"With Michael we always know he is coming into races prepared and we expected him to possibly be in the top three, but it takes a special talent to win a prologue especially in the first race of the season. With Tom Dumoulin (Team Giant Alpecin) coming here as one of the specialists and Michael beating him, that says enough about his form."

After taking the victory against tough competition, Lapage expressed how the win creates a positive start to Paris-Nice for the team and the rest of the season. "Today could not be better," he continued. "All the team had a good prologue, Daryl Impey had a strong ride, also Sam Bewley and Simon Yates, so we are very happy with the team performance today and it's a positive going into the next stages that's for sure."

"There is a big chance of a bunch sprint tomorrow, we hope so and of course are going to control the race. I think the second part of the race we are going to have help from some of the sprinter's teams anyway."

How it happened: After a downpour of snow from the previous day had cleared, the riders set off to the start line relieved but still facing bitterly cold temperatures. Things soon heated up as 175 riders one by one rolled down the start ramp to take on the short, sharp 6.1km course.

Jérôme Coppel (IAM Cycling) set the fastest time early on with a time of seven minutes 48seconds. Over 80 riders finished but it no one could match his time and it was only until the final 45 riders took to the start that his time was eventually beaten.

As the final few riders completed the distance, the gap between each rider was significantly close. Matthews' time put him one second ahead of Dumoulin in the closing stages to give him the victory and head into stage one as the race leader.

Tomorrow the race proceeds with a 198km stage from Condé-Sure-Vesgre to Vendôme, the flat route has the potential to be a bunch sprint finish.

Paris-Nice Prologue Results:

1. Micheal Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 7:39
2. Thomas Dumoulin (Team Giant Alpecin) +0:01
3. Patrick Bevan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) +0:02

Contador and Majka at Paris-Nice

This news came from Tinkoff:

Alberto Contador started his Paris-Nice in good form, finishing the opening prologue in a time of 7’55”, two seconds behind teammate Rafal Majka, Tinkoff's fastest finisher. The Spanish rider, who has won the race twice before, goes into the next stage looking to build on his strong performance in the opening time trial.

The opening prologue took place over a 6.1km course in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine in north-west Paris. Covering a fairly flat parcours, there were a number of twists and turns that had the potential to catch riders out. All of the team’s riders crossed the line without incident, with Rafal finishing in 17th, with a time of 7’53”.

Alberto Contador

Contador starts his time trial ride

Talking about his performance, Alberto said, "I felt in good form. In the first part, the prologue had a lot of cobbles and in that sense, I wanted to make sure I stayed out of trouble, so I took my hands off the extensions as well as in most of the curves. I am happy because when I had to accelerate, my legs were responding well.”

Finishing 16 seconds behind the eventual stage winner, Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEDGE), Contador was confident about the coming days. “I lost time compared to most of the GC contenders but there are still so many kilometres ahead of us. The first sensations were good, we now have to take each day as it comes."

Sport Director, Steven De Jongh was pleased with the day’s outcome and was looking forward to tomorrow’s racing. “We’re happy with the result today. We don’t have any real specialists here for this kind of prologue so Rafal and Alberto did a really good job to be in the mix with the other GC riders, so I’m happy with the outcome.”

“The course was a bit bumpy and twisty, and had a bit of everything. It wasn’t super fast, with some technical bits and a short, sharp uphill after a few kilometres before a headwind stretch, so you still had to pace your effort.”

The ‘Race to the Sun’ now moves to Condé-sur-Vesgre, where the second day’s racing will cover a flat 198km route with a gravel section and exposed roads.

Sean De Bie wins 3 Days of West Flanders

Lotto-Soudal was no doubt quite happy to send this release:

Sean De Bie has conquered the overall victory of the Three Days of West-Flanders. At the end of the last stage he had the support of teammate Tosh Van der Sande.

At the start of the last stage, between Nieuwpoort and Ichtegem (182.7 km), Sean De Bie was fifth overall at twelve seconds of leader Tom Bohli who had won the prologue on Friday. Today’s stage started in the pouring rain and soon the peloton fell apart. Sean De Bie, Frederik Frison, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Wallays all were part of the first group, Bohli had to chase. The peloton finally came back together, but four riders remained at the head of the race. On the Kemmelberg the quartet got reduced to a duo: Dries De Bondt and Kenneth Vanbilsen.

Fifty kilometres from the finish they got reeled in by a group with again the Lotto Soudal riders De Bie, Frison, Van der Sande and Wallays. Seven riders could escape from this new front group, De Bie and Van der Sande were in that new front group. Bohli didn’t play along for the overall victory anymore by then. Only Lukasz Wisniowski could take the victory away from Sean De Bie who had won two rushes, where he had gained three bonus seconds each time. In the last kilometres Tosh did all he could to lead Sean to the overall victory. Timothy Dupont won the sprint, Sean De Bie was second and Nils Politt third. Sean De Bie became the overall winner, with an advantage of seven seconds on Wisniowski. Lotto Soudal has won the team classification, both Tosh Van der Sande (7th) and Jelle Wallays (9th) finished in the top ten of the overall ranking as well.

Sean De Bie: “After the finish I was disappointed at first instance because I had missed out on the stage win, but soon I realized I had won the GC and of course I am over the moon now. In the sprint I maybe was too much focussed on Wisniowski who was only one second behind me on GC and whom I had to look out for.

“Our team raced at the front all day long. On the cobblestones in Diksmuide, at about fifty kilometres from the end, we raised the pace. The wind had made the race hard right from the beginning, after one hundred kilometres everybody was tired and when we set a higher pace the peloton split again. With four teammates we were part of a new front group of twenty. When entering the local circuit, with about forty kilometres to go, there was a rush. Tosh and I sprinted for the bonus seconds and then immediately forced a new selection. The new break had the perfect composition, with riders who were interested in GC and others who were keen on winning the stage.”

“My teammates all did a great job yesterday and today. After five kilometres echelons had been formed in this last stage. At first I wasn’t in the first group, but I remained calm. My teammates helped me to close the gap. Yesterday, they already led me to one of the rushes in a good position and today they did it again. Those seconds turned out to be very useful. Tosh was a great support in today’s finale. First as motor of the group and afterwards to keep an eye on my opponents.”

Simon Clarke wins GP Larciano;
Paddy Bevin impresses with third place in Paris-Nice prologue

This came from Cannondale:

Cannondale Pro Cycling Team scored its third win of the season when Simon Clarke soloed to victory in Larciano to win GP Industria & Artigianato on Sunday. A strong team effort netted Clarke the victory on a day that saw four Green Argyle riders finish in the top nine.

Simon Calrke wins GP Industria Larciano

Simon Clarke comes in alone in Larciano

“I went in knowing we had an awesome team,” said Clarke. “We all knew with the team we had there, we should come away with the win if we did everything right.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Paddy Bevin put in a brilliant performance on the opening stage of the Paris-Nice. The Kiwi time trial champ powered to third place with a time of 7:41 over 6.1km in the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine prologue. Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) won by one second over Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin). Bevin was a mere two seconds off the winning pace.

“Last year I watched this race. I was on the ergo at home in New Zealand training in the rain,” said Bevin. “To be here a year later and pretty close to the top guys is a good feeling. That’s what you train to do – to be a part of that race.”

Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters expressed pride in both new signings who he sees flourishing at Cannondale Pro Cycling Team. “Simon’s victory was just a matter of time. He’s an experienced and talented rider who just needed the right chance,” said Vaughters. “On the other hand, Paddy’s prologue ride was a surprise. A very pleasant surprise! First time the kid has done a WorldTour race in Europe, and he makes the podium. That is damn impressive.”

Ramunas Navardauskas set the scene for a Cannondale Pro Cycling Team victory in Larciano when he made the early selection. The Lithuanian champion flew the Green Argyle flag in an escape of 20 riders at the start of the 200-kilometre day.

“The guys were not working together,” explained sport director Fabrizio Guidi. “Four from that group went away, and we had Ramunas inside. The bunch catch the rest, and Ramunas and his group get the lead with four minutes.”

The peloton struggled to catch the breakaway riders when they began to chase. It took a concerted effort by Astana to close the gap. With the breakaway’s advantage waning, Ramunas set off alone.

“The climb is really steep in the first half and the second half is quite flat, false flat, like two or three percent,” explained Clarke. “We got to the last 100 metres of the really steep part to get to the false flat, and I saw Ramunas in the front. I looked around, and we still had five guys from the team in a very small group. I know it’s better to be in front of a race than trying to play catch-up, and that’s when I decided to jump across to Ramunas.”

By that point, Navardauskas has spent nearly 200-kilometres at the front, but Clarke was confident in his teammate’s ability to help him get a gap over the reduced bunch.

“We all know how strong Ramunas is,” Clarke said. “If he saw me coming across, even though it was in the break all day, I knew he could give me a couple more strong turns. It’s exactly what he did.”

Clarke had 20 seconds over the peloton at the top of the climb. There were 6km remaining – a 4km descent followed by a 2km flat run-in. “I only needed to hold it to the finish,” said Clarke.

Clarke didn’t just hold the gap, he stretched it out even further, crossing the finish line 33-seconds ahead of a trio of riders including teammate Rigoberto Uran.

“I knew if I was given the opportunity, if I saw the opportunity, I could deliver,” said Clarke. “The team’s just had a really good camp in Tenerife. We all worked really hard over there. I did everything I thought was right these last couple weeks, and I knew I had good condition.” 

First WorldTour race in Europe. First WorldTour podium. Bevin delivered a blistering fast ride in the 6.1km Paris-Nice prologue on Sunday to finish in third place against a field in which nearly 20 riders were expected to contend for the top-three. The Kiwi time trial champion said he’s delighted with the effort.

“I didn’t know how good I was going,” said Bevin post-race. “It’s hard to know in these kind of time trials. They’re so short and the margin is so small.”

“I felt good, and the rhythm was right, and I was handling the course fairly well,” he added. “I took a couple of corners really hot and carried some pretty good speed. It’s hard. It’s hard to know what kind of ride you’re delivering on a course like that.”

By race end, two seconds separated third from first. Is Bevin lamenting what could have been? “No. I can’t change it. It is what it is," he said pragmatically. "Two seconds between third and a WorldTour win is not a lot, but there will be plenty more time trials during the season. It’s a discipline I’ve worked on a lot, and I still have some refining to do, I think. As the season rolls on, and I’ve got a few more under the belt and find that race rhythm, we’ll see how it goes.” 

Here's Lampre-Merida's Larciano news:

Lampre-Merida was looking for interesting feedback from its young talented riders and they had a good result from Simone Petilli.

The 22 year-old Italian climber obtained a place in the top 10 for the first time in this season, reaching the arrival in 9th position in the second group of chasers of the winner Clarke. The gap of Petilli from the Australian rider, who obtained a solo victory, was of 43".

Cold and rainy day in Larciano, however the riders were not discouraged and they began immediately the battle after the start. Twenty cyclists escaped from the bunch in the early kilometers, there was too the blue-fuchsia-green jersey of Mattia Cattaneo; unfortunately the cooperation among the attackers was not good, so the breakaway was soon over, except for four athletes who counter-attacked and could had a maximum advantage of more than 7'.

Behind them, the situation in the peloton shifted several times in the second half of the course, when the riders covered the four laps of the San Baronto circuit. The key moments for the selection of the bunch were the downhills from San Baronto to Larciano: at each passage, the peloton was reduced to no more than 20 riders and Lampre-Merida was always present thanks to Mori, Ulissi (despite the efforts made on Saturday in the Strade Bianche), Cattaneo and Petilli.

This latter rider was brilliant enough in the final lap of the San Baronto circuit to be in the chasing grouop of Clarke, who attacked on the climb. Petilli used the left energies to obtain a place in the top 10, his team mate Mori was 26th.

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