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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 19, 2016

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

I hate housework! You make the beds, you do the dishes and six months later you have to start all over again. - Joan Rivers

Just completed racing

Today's racing:

Landslide on Milano-San Remo route

Posted 4:32 AM, Pacific time. A landslide near the coastal town of Arenzano around 130km into the race route has blocked the road and caused minor devastation in Luguria. There will be a route change: the section of road involved comes soon after the first major climb, the Turchino pass. You can see a map of the route here.

blocked coastal road

Photo of blocked coastal road showing crushed car

Kris Boeckmans finishes Handzame CLassic

This good news came from Lotto-Soudal

The fourteenth edition of Handzame Classic was scheduled today. The speed was very high right from the beginning of the race but eventually two riders managed to set up a break. Gijs Van Hoecke and Tom Devriendt got a maximum advantage of three minutes, they were caught at 90 kilometres from the finish. After that a new attack occurred, this time seven riders were able to obtain a significant gap. At 25 kilometres from the finish Marcin Bialoblocki attacked in the front group. Nonetheless, the expected bunch sprint took place, the Polish rider was caught at eleven kilometre from the finish. In Handzame, the young Slovakian Erik Baska  was the fastest. He won just ahead of Dylan Groenewegen and Gianni Meersman in the bunch sprint.

Erik Baska

Erik Baska wins the Handzame Classic

Today, Kris Boeckmans made his comeback in the professional peloton. Kris managed to finish the race without any problems, at the end he pulled at the front of the peloton in order to position his teammates for the sprint.

Kris Boeckmans: “Everything turned out well today, the pace was very high but I didn’t have any problems to follow. I tried to surround Tosh Van der Sande during the race and at the end I helped to position him at the front of the peloton so he was able to have a good position in the sprint. After that my work was done.”

“The goal is now to ride a few stages in the Tour of Catalonia, after that I’ll go training for a week in Calpe. There I’ll do some preparations for the rest of the season. It will depend of course on how everything will evolve. I’ll just start in the first stage and then we’ll see.”

“It was very pleasant to participate in a race again. Many riders came to me during the race to ask how everything was going and many riders were happy that I was back in the peloton. I got a lot of encouragements and that made me feel very good. I really look forward to the next race because this race went so fluently.”

And here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Handzame Classic news:

Dylan Groenewegen finished second in the Belgian one-day Handzame Classic. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s Robert Wagner led out Groenewegen, who was passed by Erik Baška (Tinkoff).

“We wanted to do a good sprint lead-out today,” Dylan Groenewegen said after his second place. “But I punctured with 13 kilometres to go. That forced us to use two men already to get me back in front in time. Those riders were too tired in the final.”

Groenewegen was in front in the final kilometre of the race together with Robert Wagner. “Robert gave me a great lead-out. I had to take off with 300 metres to go afterwards, which was too early in the end. We faced headwind in the sprint, as well. Baška was a bit faster than me, unfortunately.”

Merijn Zeeman didn’t blame his team after the race. “The race was uncontrolled,” the sports director said. “We had to work hard to make sure that it was going to end up in a bunch sprint. We succeeded. The lead-out ran quite smoothly, as well. When Dylan punctured, Bram Tankink gave him his wheel, so Bram wasn’t able to play a role in the sprint preparation anymore. Twan Castelijns also had a flat tyre within the final three kilometres so he also faded away. Victor Campenaerts and Maarten Wynants picked it up well afterwards and Robert did everything he could to make sure that Dylan didn’t get boxed in.”

The moment Groenewegen began his sprint was the right one in Zeeman’s opinion. “This was the only way to win the race. If he had waited longer, the riders would have passed him like a wave and that would have ruled him out. Of course, we’re fed up about not winning, but everyone is working on the development of the sprint train. We still have to improve, but I think that the team deserves a compliment for today’s performance.”

Teams are getting ready for the Volta a Catalunya

Here's BMC's update:

18 March, 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen will race together for the first time in BMC Racing Team when they line up at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya from 21-27 March.

After testing their legs at Paris-Nice (Porte) and Tirreno-Adriatico (van Garderen), the two riders will headline BMC Racing Team's roster, BMC Racing Team Sports Director Yvon Ledanois said. "With Richie and Tejay set to captain the team in Cataluyna, we're going in very motivated. They'll be supported by a strong group of riders and it will be a good opportunity for the two of them to race together for the first time."

Porte and van Garderen are looking forward to their first race in the same team. "We've trained together a fair bit so it's nice to finally be able to race together. It's also a good chance to get some more race days in the legs following Paris-Nice," Porte said.

"It's a race that suits Richie and I well and we're going in with a strong team. I didn't get the opportunity to really test myself on the climbs at Tirreno-Adriatico with the cancellation of the queen stage, so it will be good to do so in Catalunya," van Garderen explained.

Riders: Darwin Atapuma (COL), Brent Bookwalter (USA), Rohan Dennis (AUS), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Ben Hermans (BEL), Richie Porte (AUS), Samuel Sanchez (ESP), Tejay van Garderen (USA).

Sports Directors: Yvon Ledanois (FRA), Jackson Stewart (USA)

Cannondale sent this about the Spanish race:

Cannondale Pro Cycling Team to focus on the general classification while sharpening grand-tour form

The early season march of stage races continues, with the challenging Volta A Catalunya rolling out Monday in Spain. There should be a few fleet finishes, but the jaunt into the Catalan Pyrénées ensures that one of this season’s GC contenders will win the week-long race.

To that end, the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team brings a squad dedicated to the overall standings while allowing for crucial experience. Rigoberto Uran will captain the team, with support from the likes of Joe Dombrowski, André Cardoso and Michael Woods.

“Rigoberto is looking to pop off a good performance at Catalunya,” Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters said. “It’s super mountainous. Every stage is hard. You’ve got some climbs that genuinely go into the Pyrénées. Rigo’s got to be in there. He needs to be in the hunt to really push his body to be able to perform at the Giro.”

It’s no secret that one of the team’s objectives for the season is the Giro d’Italia GC on the legs of Uran. The early season stage races are notable rungs on the grand-tour ladder.

Joe Dombrowski is also on the books for the Giro, and is racing with Uran for the first time since their days together at Team Sky in 2013.

Joseph Dombrowski

Joseph Dombrowski at the 2015 Tour of Utah

“I'm looking forward to it,” said Dombrowski. “As a professional rider, I might be less likely to be a fan of riders in the sport, but I am a fan of Rigo. He races with panache, and he exudes cool. Plus, I think he's a guy you want to ride for. He can call the shots when decisions need to be made, but he's pretty ‘tranquilo’ when things are more relaxed.”

For the 24-year-old American, Catalunya is a chance to test his training and progress. “I'm feeling good,” Dombrowksi added. “I’m just coming off a short trip to the US. Training has been going well. I might not be at my sharpest yet, but I'm confident I can go well. This is my first WorldTour race of the season, and we aren't too far off from the Giro, so the aim is to be there supporting the guys on the mountain days, and hopefully be there at all the crucial times.”

Joining the party will be Michael Woods, a first year WorldTour rider who has already aroused fanfare with his notable results at the Tour Down Under in Australia. In his debut with the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team, Woods scored two third place stage finishes to claim fifth in the overall.

“The original plan coming in to this season was to come in flying for Tour Down Under, and then back off for a week, and get settled here in Spain,” Woods said. “I am glad I had the week off to get adjusted here, as setting up an apartment in Spain is no small task. Fortunately, I am all settled in now. It has been a nice break from racing, and a great opportunity to build a base for the many races to come. However, I have been getting antsy to actually race, so I am looking forward to Monday.”

Woods described his arrival at the highest level of the sport as “surreal.” “Four years ago, I was working at a bike shop in Ottawa and watching races like TDU on TV, wishing I could be there, and thinking how exotic the life of a pro rider must be,” added Woods. “To get to fly to the other side of the world, race bikes, and then be celebrated for that is crazy and something that I am really enjoying. Also, being on Cannondale Pro Cycling Team has been pretty special, as the team has such a strong fan base, so I have been getting a lot of cool messages.”

“The team has high expectations for this race,” Woods continued. “We have a super strong group of guys and my job is to protect our team leaders and try to set them up as best I can for a top result.”

The Volta a Catalunya starts Monday in Calella and runs through Sunday ending in Barcelona.

And here's Lotto-Soudal's Catalunya release:

The Volta Ciclista a Catalunya will take place from Monday 21 March 2016 till Sunday 27 March 2016. The 96th edition of this stage race, which is part of the WorldTour, takes the riders in seven stages through the North of Spain. This race is something for the real climbers in the peloton because of its mountainous profile.

As of day one there are a few mountains on the course. Five climbs need to be surmounted, the final one is situated at about fifteen kilometres from the finish. The second stage will be something for the punchers, the final kilometres go slightly uphill. The next two stages will determine the positions on GC. Four climbs are on the menu in each stage, all of them are very tough. Both stages end with an uphill finish.

After that the riders have to cover a transition stage which contains two climbs, the final one is at thirteen kilometres from the finish. The sixth stage is the longest one of this stage race and will most likely end with a bunch sprint. This Volta Ciclista a Catalunya finishes with a very short stage in and around Barcelona. At the end there are eight local laps, in each lap the Alt de Montjuïc needs to be climbed, a hill of third category.

Bart De Clercq and Rafael Valls are part of the Lotto Soudal team. They will compete against among others Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana. The winner of last year, Richie Porte, will also start. Riders Louis Vervaeke and Bart De Clercq and sports director Mario Aerts are looking forward to a tough week in Catalonia.

Bart de Clercq

Bart de Clercq at last year's Tour of Poland, stage 5

Louis Vervaeke: “I’m already more than a week in Spain, in the house I share with Sean De Bie, Jasper Stuyven and Tim Wellens. This week I’m on my own, in that way I can optimally prepare myself. This is a splendid environment to do the final trainings before the Tour of Catalonia, last Wednesday I did a long training of six hours. There's no specific way to prepare for a stage race, it’s just a matter of training in the mountains as much as possible. Long and tough endurance trainings are the key. It’s also very important to maintain the same weight in order to remain in perfect shape.”

“This stage race is part of the WorldTour and that’s always a different type of race. All the great riders are present and they have a strong team. The big teams such as Team Sky or Tinkoff set a very high pace at the crucial moments, then you need to be attentive. Everyone will be in a good shape, so many riders will be able to play along in the finale. A good position on GC will be difficult for me, I’ll mainly support our leaders as well as I can. There are some stages which suit me and hopefully I can try something during these days. My housemates Jasper Stuyven, Sean De Bie and Tim Wellens already won a race this season. It’s my turn today, I already was close at the Three Days of West-Flanders.

Bart De Clercq: “I didn’t perform as I well as I would during the past Tirreno-Adriatico. In the stage on Thursday I almost lost one minute. Due to the cancelled queen stage on Sunday, that time loss appeared to be very bad with regard to the GC. The remaining stages were something for the sprinters or something for the punchers. Nevertheless, this Tirreno has been a good preparation for Catalonia, three stages of more than 200 kilometres were scheduled and that was very useful with next week in mind.”

“Of all one-week stage races, the Volta Ciclista of Catalunya suits me best. It’s a race which contains a lot of long climbs without high gradients. Also the wide roads are a big advantage for me, I don’t like pushing. I start with ambition and want to ride a strong race. During the third stage, no one will be able to play hide-and-seek. This stage will certainly determine whether a top ten place is possible or not. Otherwise I’ll aim for a stage win the day after. I’m very motivated to give my all next week.”

“I have good memories of the Tour of Catalonia. I finished third in the first stage last year and later that week I could wear the leader’s jersey for one day. If the first stage of this year with finish in Calella inspires me? Last year’s race was extraordinary and it will be difficult to repeat that performance. The other teams will be extra attentive and they won’t give the escapees too much space. I’ll have my chances later that week.”

Mario Aerts: “The course is a bit tougher compared to previous year. First of all, we’re going to try to obtain a stage win. We have a few riders who can attack such as Tomasz Marczysnki and Thomas De Gendt. Also Louis Vervaeke will have his opportunities. For the sprints we have Tosh Van der Sande. Aiming for a good GC will be difficult, there are a lot of strong participants. Bart De Clercq and Rafael Valls are our leaders, they will be guided by Sander Armée and Vervaeke, who can go for a good position on GC as well.”

“Also Kris Boeckmans will participate. He returns to competition in the Handzame Classic, after that we’ll see. The goal is that Kris rides the first two stages in Catalonia and then he’ll go on a training week in Calpe. But it will depend on how Kris is feeling, we absolutely put no pressure on him. The purpose of those two stages is to obtain race rhythm. We arrive in Spain on Sunday, later that day we’ll do a recon of the final 40 kilometres of the first stage. The whole team really looks forward to this race.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Kris Boeckmans, Bart De Clercq, Thomas De Gendt, Tomasz Marczynski, Rafael Valls, Tosh Van der Sande and Louis Vervaeke.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Marc Wauters.

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