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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, March 20, 2016

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

Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. - Rainer Maria Rilke

Just completed racing

Today's race:

Matteo Tosatto & Eros Capecchi charge Milano-San Remo
winner with cheating

There are more Milano-San Remo stories below the SRAM story that follows this, but this news greeted me first thing this morning.

Veteran La Gazzetta dello Sport correspondent Claudio Ghisalberti posted shocking accusations today from two riders after Arnaud Demare won Milano-San Remo in a convincing sprint. Here's the story on La Gazzetta's web site.

Demae wins Milano-San Remo

Arnaud Demare wins Milano-San Remo

Ghisalberti wrote that Tinkoff Rider Matteo Tosatto was livid after the race, noting that before the Cipressa ascent Demare was off the back following a crash. Then he passed Tosatto's group "at double speed", attached to a team car. He said he could not tell if it was with the use of a bottle hand-up of if he was just holding on to a window. But that without that tow, the Demare sprint win would never have happened. Tosatto noted that several other riders saw the tow.

Astana Rider Eros Capecchi also says that while riding behind Tosatto he also saw the tow, that Demare went by them at 80 km/hr.

President of the race jury, Hervé Brocque, said he did not see anything and that there are no images of the accused tow.

Ghisalberti closed his story with asking how two different racers, with differing interests and without having spoken to each other, can come up with the same charge and story.

More than one observer has suggested that one possible solution would be for Demare's FDJ team to release his power data. Bets on that happening?

SRAM recalls front hubs and some Zipp QR levers

This was in Bicycle Retailer and Industry News:

CHICAGO (BRAIN) — SRAM is recalling nearly 57,000 Zipp front hubs sold in the U.S. and Canada because a flange can fail. Separately, the company is recalling about 6,400 quick release levers because they can fail to engage in the closed position.

SRAM and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the two recalls on Wednesday:

Zipp hubs recall

This recall includes Zipp front hubs, models 88v6, 88v7 and 88v8. The Z logo is printed on the hub. The wheel hubs come in black, silver and falcon grey. The diameter of the clinch nut is approximately 1.46 inches. Some of the hubs were sold as part of wheel sets installed on new bicycles.

SRAM will post a list of affected bicycle brands and models on its website at www.sram.com.

SRAM has received one report in the U.S. of hub flange failure that could have led to wheel collapse. No injuries have been reported in the U.S. In the U.S., 54,000 hubs were sold; in Canada, about 2,900 were sold.

Consumers are being told to immediately stop using bicycles equipped with the recalled front hubs and contact SRAM or local bicycle dealer for a free replacement hub.

Consumers can contact SRAM regarding the recall at (800) 346-2928 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET on Friday, or visit www.sram.com or www.zipp.com and click on “Recall Notice” for more information.

The hubs were sold from May 2010 through January 2015. The front hubs sold for about $215. Complete front wheels with the hubs sold for between $1,035 and $1,325. The front wheel was also sold as a wheel set with a rear wheel for between $2,300 and $2,950.

The hubs were made by Prodigy Group, of Mooresville, Indiana and Decoletaje Y Fujacion, of Spain.

Zipp Quick Release recall

SRAM is recalling the Zipp QRs over concerns they can fail to engage in the closed position, posing crash and injury hazards to the rider.

SRAM has received three reports of the quick release failing. No injuries have been reported.

The recall involves SRAM’s Zipp stainless steel or titanium quick releases. They were sold as aftermarket components or as part of the 202 DB V2, 303 DB V2, 404 Firestrike V2, 202 Firecrest V3, 303 Firecrest V3, 404 Firecrest V3, 808 Firecrest V3 or 808 NSW wheels.

Bicycle Retailer has lots of pictures and links to help you with the recall. Please click here for lots more info.

Milano-San Remo team reports

This from Etixx-Quick Step:

Well-placed inside the final 500 meters, Fernando Gaviria crashed and missed out on the opportunity to fight for the win at the season's first Monument.

Fernando Gaviria

A teammate helps a heartbroken Fernando Gaviria across the line

Almost 200 riders gathered in the shadow of Castello Sforzesco – the 15-century construction which was for centuries one of Europe's largest buildings – for the season's first big appointment in terms of one-day races, Milan-Sanremo, the longest and, for many, the most difficult to win Classic of the calendar. Sunny conditions and warm temperatures welcomed the peloton, just as the cyclists were starting the nine kilometers on the neutralized roads, before the race really took off from via della Chiesa Rossa.

Not long after, 11 riders made it into the breakaway and opened a 10-minute gap: Gediminas Bagdonas (AG2R), Jan Barta (Bora-Argon 18), Matteo Bono (Lampre-Merida), Marco Coledan (Trek-Segafredo), Samuele Conti (Southeast-Venezuela), Roger Kluge (IAM Cycling), Adrian Kurek (CCC-Sprandi Polkowice), Mirco Maestri (Bardiani), Andrea Peron (Novo Nordisk), Maarten Tjallingii (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Serghei Tvetcov (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec).

As it usually happens in Milan-Sanremo, who this year was celebrating its 107th edition, things calmed down for the next couple of hours, the only noteworthy event being a change of course which occurred 130 kilometers inside the race, because of a landslide that took place before the riders were due to pass. As a result of the falling boulders and this rather unusual incident, the organizers decided that the pack should go on the motorway for 9 kilometers, and then rejoin the original route, at Arenzano.

On the Passo del Turchino – the race's first ascent – Dimension Data, Katusha and Tinkoff came at the front of the pack and began chewing into the advantage of the escapees. On Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta, the peloton upped the pace and many began to suffer, being left behind, while other riders were distanced after being involved in several crashes. First one to wave the white flag from the break was Kurek, who was quickly followed by Tvetcov.

At the foot of Cipressa, it was crashes galore, among those involved being Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Alan Marangoni (Cannondale), Daniele Bennati (Tinkoff) and Julien Vermote. The 26-year-old Belgian sustained a deep wound in his left knee and was taken to the Sanremo hospital, where the medical staff took care of him and cleaned his wound. Tonight, Julien will go back to his home country, where on Sunday he'll undergo further examinations to determine the nature of his injury.

As expected, the screws started getting really turned on the penultimate climb (5.6 km, 4.1% average gradient), when the teams who were interested in a bunch sprint tried to control things, while the others sent their riders to the attack. Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) and Ian Stannard (Team Sky) were the ones to light up the race, but even though they had 23 seconds at the top of Cipressa, they were easily reeled in on the Poggio.

The final ascent of Milan-Sanremo witnessed an all-or-nothing attack of former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky), who took five seconds in hand by the time he crested the climb and began flying on the descent, ahead of a peloton led by Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), who eventually reabsorbed him. On the flat section leading to Via Roma, others tried their luck, but without any success, so in the end the race came down to a bunch gallop, just like in the previous two years.

The last 500 meters were chaotic and tense, as almost all the riders coming into the run-in were ahead of their biggest victory to date. Etixx – Quick-Step had three men there: Gianluca Brambilla, Matteo Trentin and Fernando Gaviria. Our Colombian neo-pro was well-placed for the sprint, but unfortunately he hit the deck and couldn't fight for victory. With the finale altered due to the crash, it was Arnaud Démare (FDJ) the one who took advantage of this situation and crossed the line ahead of Ben Swift (Team Sky) and Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto-Soudal), after seven hours in the saddle.

Best placed Etixx – Quick-Step rider in Milan-Sanremo was Matteo Trentin, who came home in 10th place. Fernando arrived a couple of minutes later, while Zdenek Stybar concluded the season's first Monument almost one quarter of an hour behind the winner, because he too was struck by bad luck on Saturday. The Czech, winner of a Tirreno-Adriatico stage last week, was on the Cipressa descent when he crashed because of a loose dog and although he climbed back on the bike, he couldn't return to the peloton.

Victorious in three races this season, the 21-year-old Fernando Gaviria experienced the toughest day of his pro career, one in which he came very close to a huge result, but was eventually left in tears. Despite the crash, which saw his effort come to an abrupt end, Fernando was keen on taking the positive things out of this race: "I am very sad for what happened. It was my fault, as I was in a perfect position, but then I lost my focus for two seconds, because I began thinking on how to sprint, and touched Van Avermaet's wheel. This was enough to throw away all the hard work of the team. I have mixed feelings: I missed an important opportunity, but on the other hand I am happy that I could cope with a 300-km long race and felt good throughout the day. It's not the crash that hurts, but the outcome, especially as I was thinking of this race since January."

"Tactically, the team was flawless. We had three guys at the front in the final kilometers, and we could have had four, if not for Styby's crash. Brambilla was a key rider there, as was Matteo, who closed the gap twice, once on the Poggio and once when Cancellara attacked. We didn't get the result we were hoping for, but everyone could see that the team was strong and could adapt to all kind of situations. Fernando came really close to writting history today, and even though he didn't win, other opportunities will come for him, as he has a very bright future ahead", concluded sport director Davide Bramati.

Tinkoff told of Peter Sagan's misfortune:

As the first Monument of the season, the racing at the 107th Milano-Sanremo was always going to be fast and frenetic. In a race that saw strong efforts from the team to deliver Peter Sagan to Sanremo, a crash a few hundred metres before the finish threw the World Champion off his line and saw him come in outside the top ten.

In a race like Milano-Sanremo, the outcome is never going to be certain. While the course was flat by the standards of other races, the fact that the race takes place over a 291km route means anything can happen – especially over the race’s final climbs, the Cipressa and the infamous Poggio, where riders will be on the edge of exhaustion. The longest one-day race in the world, ‘La Classicissima’ was made 4km longer after a mudslide forced the race’s organisers to divert the route.

As was expected, a breakaway formed early on, but in a race like Milano-Sanremo, the teams know how unlikely it is for a break to stick. 45km before the finish and just before the ascent of the Capo Berta, Tinkoff, who had already been controlling the race from its start, upped the pace to bring the break in, ultimately catching them on the Cipressa with 25km to go.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan in the big ring during this year's Milano-San Remo

The breakaway caught, the big names started to attack, looking to create some ground on the peloton before the Poggio in the hope their attacks might stick. While the attacks came thick and fast, Tinkoff kept their heads and worked to bring their team leader to the top of the Poggio before starting the long downhill to the finish – a move that put Peter Sagan in the bunch for the final sprint. With just a few hundred metres remaining, a crash in front of Peter forced him to deviate from his line as the bunch sprint started.

"As I have always said the Milano-Sanremo is unpredictable and that's why I find it futile to talk about my goals two-three days in advance.” said Peter Sagan, after the race. “I did my best, the squad did a very good job but that's racing.”

Giving some insight into the last kilometres, Peter continued. “When Fabian attacked, I said to the others that if we let him go, the Milano-Sanremo is over. I think I was the only one able to catch him and then we broke away with Boasson Hagen, Gaviria and then, I think, Trentin. With 400-500 meters to go, Gaviria turned to check upon the group that was coming from behind and fell. That was it. I barely avoided crashing myself but I lost so much speed that I was unable to catch up in the closing 300 metres. That's why, even if you are in excellent form, a race will never be easy."

Sport Director, Patxi Villa, had high hopes for the team after a strong performance during the earlier stages of the race. “It’s a real shame, but we did everything that we could have done today. Until the first big crash everything was going well for us. We took control of the race from the beginning, with Manuele Boaro doing an amazing job, pulling for 240kms. Everything was under control.”

The team had been riding strongly throughout the day, protecting their leader and making sure he was where he needed to be. Patxi continued. “But then Daniele Bennati was involved in the crash. He was the guy who we had planned to bring the guys to Poggio, and then it was Roman Kreuziger and Oscar Gatto to go from there. But Roman had to take his place to the climb, leaving only Oscar for the Poggio.”

After the race, Oscar Gatto, who had played an important role in getting Peter to the top of the Poggio, said "As I said a few days ago, victory is made of a number of components and luck is one of them. Unfortunately, this component is taking time to come. We will stay focused on the path we have been so far. The team is performing well and I'm convinced the results will come. The beautiful but unfortunate fact about the Milano-Sanremo is that it remains wide open. We are strong, Peter is strong but again we need a bit of luck. We will keep fighting and I think that before mid April we will get the result we look forward to."

Patxi was quick to praise the team for their efforts throughout the race. “They all did a fantastic job regardless, and at the end when Peter had to respond to the attacks he was in control. But after almost seven hours of racing you can lose everything in just 300m. When the crash at the end happened the sprint was opening up on the other side of the road and Peter’s chances were over. But I have to say that the guys did a fantastic job today. Everyone was 200% committed to executing the plan and doing what we had to do. Today we were unlucky.”

And here's Team Sky's Milano-San Remo report:

Ben Swift sprinted to a magnificent second place at Milan-San Remo after the Monument Classic came down to a breathless finish.

Team Sky attacked multiple times in the closing stages, but as the longest one-day race in cycling concluded in a bunch kick, it was the Yorkshireman who had the strength left in his legs to secure a second podium at La Primavera.

Despite having to swerve in the final metres to avoid a crash Swift was still able to lock onto the wheel of Arnaud Demare (FDJ), but was just unable to come around the Frenchman at the line.

Milano-San Remo podium

The 2016 Milan-San Remo podium: from the left, Ben Swift, then Arnaud Demare and Jurgen Roelandts

Team Sky's best Monument result to date came as a result of a huge team effort, with Ian Stannard and Michal Kwiatkowski both attacking out of the peloton during the race's famous undulating finale.

Kwiatkowski launched a rousing move with six kilometres to go on the Poggio, cresting the climb with and taking a slender advantage onto the fast, switchback descent. With the big names behind starting to look at one another it looked good briefly for the Pole, but a surge from Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) saw 'Kwiato' caught tantalizingly in sight of the flamme rouge.

Standing behind the podium for the second time in three seasons, Swift admitted that coming so close to the victory was a bittersweet moment. "Obviously it's quite disappointing to get second - so close to the win," he told TeamSky.com. "That said I've got to be happy and I'm back on the podium in a Monument. I'm slowly chipping away. We've had a second, a third and we'll keep on trying in the next few years.

"The team was brilliant today. Unfortunately we lost Pete (Kennaugh) and Geraint (Thomas) in that crash. It was a super stressful day and we lost a lot of horsepower there. We rode a great attacking race and we did what we wanted to do. When Ian went on the Cipressa it set it up perfectly. Then Michal went on the Poggio so we couldn't have done it any better.

"I just tried to stay as relaxed as possible in the last kilometre and I tried to follow Jurgen Roelandts. Last year I think I stressed a little bit too much. This year I was a bit more relaxed. I was close to a crash at the finish there but it is what it is."

Kwiato: "I was going full gas". Eventually crossing the line on his own in 40th, Kwiatkowski was painfully aware how close he'd come to staying away. "I attacked and tried to gain an advantage before the descent," he confirmed. "I was going full gas to the finish. I think we can be happy with second place with Ben. It was a really difficult, nervous last 50-60 kilometres.

"The race really starts before the Capis. Everyone was trying to get to the front, and with the weather this year the whole bunch were there fighting. We all committed to go for the win. I was not too far away at the end. Stannard was in a great move on the Cipressa, I was there on the Poggio and then Swifty was waiting for the sprint.

"We had a few ways to try and win the race and that is what Milan-San Remo is all about. You have to try with a few options as sometimes there are crashes and you don't know what is going to happen or control the situation."

Team Sky had kept their powder dry for much of the mammoth event, sitting in the pack before moving forward in a nervy peloton on the approach to the decisive climbs. Despite riding up front Geraint Thomas' bad luck in the Monuments continued, with the Welshman taken down in a crash on the approach to the Cipressa with 30km to go.

Pete Kennaugh was also caught up in the sizeable spill, which also held up Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) and eventual race winner Demare. Stannard moved to the fore on the Cipressa, jumping on the attack of Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) to go clear in a dangerous move. More riders bridged to the duo but the break was caught just ahead of the Poggio.

It was Luke Rowe who then led Team Sky and a larger than normal peloton onto the climb, with the sprinters' teams quickly looking to control the pace. After being tee'd up by Swift, Kwiatkowski launched his move, hurtling full speed down the descent that ended his race 12 months previous.

Everything came back together inside the final kilometre, with Swift coming from deep to suddenly be right in contention on the Via Roma, pulling off a superb podium finish, barely a metre away from an elusive Monument victory.

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