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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, March 21, 2016

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

Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong. - Ayn Rand

Just completed racing

Today's race:

Arnaud Demare defends Milano-San Remo win

After Arnaud Demare won Saturday's Milano-San Remo, a couple of riders accused him of getting an illegal tow following a crash.

Unsurprisingly, Demare vigorously defended his ride. This being the first French win in the early season Italian race since Laurent Jalabert outsprinted Maurizio Fondriest in 1995, one would expect this response. In fact, to paraphrase Charlton Heston, they'll have to pry this race from his cold, dead hands.

He told L'Equipe, “I have done nothing wrong. There are judges in cycling. If I had done something forbidden, I would have been disqualified.”

Demare noted that Michael Matthews also fought to get back on terms with the fast-moving peloton, remarking, “He rode like me in the line of cars. It’s always been part of cycling. We benefit from the slipstream of cars. We are sheltered from the wind there.”

Demare's point being that riders have long been allowed to use the shelter of the follow vehicles to get back up to the pack after a crash.

Demare's director, Frédéric Guesdon also denied that Demare had held on to a bottle to get to the top of the Cipressa. Guesdon said a bottle was passed, but there was no prolonged holding of the bottle.

Nothing like a good polemica to give life to an Italian race.

Lotto-Soudal on Milano-San Remo:

This came too late to be included in yesterday's news.

On Saturday it was time for the first big Classic of the cycling season with the 107th edition of Milano-Sanremo. The break of the day was formed after a few kilometres, eleven riders were part of it. They remained ahead for a very long time, they were caught on the Cipressa. After that several riders attacked but they never managed to obtain a significant gap. Just before the Poggio everything came back together and after that it was calm at the front of the peloton, at least for a few moments.

What followed was a very exciting finale with a lot of attempts. Tony Gallopin tried to attack twice but he never got a big advantage. Eventually a sprint with a small group took place. After almost 300 kilometres Jürgen Roelandts went full gas but he got passed by Arnaud Démare, who wins Milano-Sanremo for the first time. Ben Swift sprinted to the second place. Roelandts obtained a very nice third place in this Primavera.

Jürgen Roelandts: “I was a bit disappointed just after the finish because I was in pole position at about 30 metres from the finish. But I’m very happy with this podium place of course. It was a hectic sprint because everyone was isolated except for our team; Jens Debusschere was still in the group. Gaviria crashed just before me, he rode against the wheel of Greg Van Avermaet. I managed to avoid the crash and I decided to sprint immediately. Last year I started a bit too late and I finished eleventh. I’m happy that I took the initiative and that gains me a very nice third place.”

2016 Milano-San Remo podium

The 2016 Milano-San Remo podium. From left, Ben Swift, Arnaud Demare and Jurgen Roelandts

“My legs felt really good during the race, I had no troubles on the Cipressa and the Poggio. The team did a tremendously good job by taking me to the finale in the way they did. Tony Gallopin said that he would try to attack in the finale. If that wouldn’t work, we would focus on the sprint. It’s difficult to compare this performance with other results such as my second place in Harelbeke a few years ago or my third place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen. But it’s very nice to stand on the podium in Milano-Sanremo.”

Marc Sergeant, manager Lotto Soudal: “We expected that the race would explode after 240 or 250 kilometres. Tony Gallopin tried to attack but there were too many riders in the peloton. After that we decided to go for our strongest and fastest rider and today that appeared to be Jürgen. He did a very good job. All the riders in the team did their work on the right moment, and so we go home with a podium place.”

“Jürgen wasn’t named as a favourite before the race. In my opinion, this has something to do with the fact that Tiesj Benoot got a lot of attention. In that way, Jürgen was able to prepare himself entirely for the Spring Classics. Despite the misfortune we had the past few weeks, we were able to ride a few nice results. And a podium place in a monument is certainly a good thing!” 

Alberto Contador headed to Catalunya

This came from Tinkoff:

Alberto Contador is currently putting the final touches to his participation at the Volta a Catalunya, the third of four races in which he will participate in the first part of the season. For that reason, he considers the Volta to be "a very important race in this first block of the season and so I would like to perform well," says Tinkoff's leader.

In addition, he will be on the start line alongside some of the peloton's most important riders. "The level of the line-up can only be matched, probably, by the Tour de France," says Contador. "There are so many rivals that there isn't any in particular that can be singled out, because virtually all teams will bring a favourite, who will be flanked by a very strong squad."

After finishing second at Paris-Nice where he starred in a thrilling race finale, Contador hopes to "head to the race well, because it was very cold in France, and one of the stages had to be cancelled due to snowfall. A lot of us that were there got a cold. I was one of them and for that reason, this week I focused myself, above all, on trying to recover in order to be able to take the start at the Volta a Catalunya."

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador on the attack at this year's Paris-Nice

Tinkoff's leader states that the cold "causes me to doubt a bit, but I hope to have totally recovered at the start, even if it might cost me a bit more in the first days. However, I have a good foundation and I trust my body will respond well."

In what regards the course, without any time-trial and with two summit finishes, Alberto Contador hopes, especially, "to be lucky and have good weather, because otherwise here as well something similar to Paris-Nice or the Tirreno could take place and be forced to cancel a summit finish. Apart from that", continues Contador, "the two summit finishes will mark the race. La Molina isn't really tough and differences there are always slim, although this year there are two mountain passes. As far as Port Ainé is concerned, I'm not familiar with it. I think it's quite an irregular climb but since the previous day we would have already climbed various mountain passes, it will be the stage to mark the race the most. However, three more days will remain in which we will have to be very attentive."

Finally, regarding the squad that will flank him in Catalonia, Alberto highlights "the trust I have in them. It's a good group and the only regret is that one of the teammates that was due to race, Sergio Paulinho, cannot do it because of an injury, while we have another one with a cold like me, but I hope he recovers and finds himself in form at the start."

The full line-up and team goals will be announced tomorrow.  

In fact, that announcement came while I was working on this page...

The fourth-oldest stage race in the world, the Volta a Catalunya – or Tour of Catalonia – takes place over seven days in north-eastern Spain from Monday. This year’s edition – the 96th in its history – has attracted some of the top riders of the World Tour and is set to be a thrilling race. Alberto Contador will lead Tinkoff after an incredible ride at Paris-Nice, where he finished second in the GC after blowing the race wide open in the closing stages.

The Volta a Catalunya, which comes after the Tour de France, Tour of Belgium and Vuelta a Espana, as the fourth oldest stage race in the world, begins in Calella on Monday with a 175.8km loop that takes in five categorised climbs. This is a race with only one flat stage, with the remaining being categorised as either hilly or mountainous. This is a race for the climbers, where only the best all-rounders will have a chance to take a stage win.

Taking a fourth place finish in last year’s race, and second place in the 2014 edition, this is a race Alberto Contador has history, and a race where the contenders for the Grand Tours will come together for the first time in the season. It will be an excellent indicator of form and a chance for them to assess their rivals over a challenging course in one of the season’s earlier stage races.

Talking of his chances, Alberto cites the high level of competition at this year's race. "The level of the line-up can only be matched, probably, by the Tour de France," says Contador. "There are so many rivals that there isn't any in particular that can be singled out, because virtually all teams will bring a favourite, who will be flanked by a very strong squad.

"I hope to head to the race well, because it was very cold in France, and one of the stages had to be cancelled due to snowfall," he continues. "A lot of us that were there got a cold. I was one of them and for that reason, this week I focused myself, above all, on trying to recover in order to be able to take the start at the Volta a Catalunya."

Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, was looking to assess Alberto’s form after some sickness following his strong showing at Paris-Nice. “With Alberto we have a clear leader here for Catalunya together with a strong team to support him in fighting for the GC. After Paris-Nice he was a bit ill but nothing serious and hopefully that won’t affect him too much in his preparation for this race. We will see how the racing is in the early stages, and how Alberto has recovered.”

Joining Alberto in Calella will be Matteo Tosatto, Pawel Poljanski, Ivan Rovny, Jesper Hansen, Yuri Trofimov, Jesús Hernández and Evgeni Petrov, making up a team that can support their leader over a mountainous course and make an impact on the GC.

Jesper Hansen

Jesper Hansen will be at Catalunya

“Stage 3 and 4 are where the GC will be decided, I think.” continued Steven. “Stage 3 has two ascents of La Molina, and on Stage 4 we have a mountain top finish at 1,975m altitude. Hopefully the weather will be fine with no problems with snow here. After that on the other stages it will be about not losing time in the finals and being watchful of the bonus seconds. It could be another case of seconds separating the top riders here again.”

“We have a strong team that can support Alberto across all terrains here, Pawl Poljanski, Matteo Tosatto and Yuri Trofimov who supported him at Paris-Nice.”

Regarding the squad that will flank him in Catalonia, Alberto highlights "the trust I have in them. It's a good group and the only regret is that one of the teammates that was due to race, Sergio Paulinho, cannot do it because of an injury, while we have another one with a cold like me, but I hope he recovers and finds himself in form at the start."

Race Route: The race covers over 1,219km over the race’s seven days, and while the official route guide states that there are two mountain stages, the remaining five are far from flat. Only one stage, which is also the race’s longest stage at 197.2km, is classed as flat – stage 6, which travels from Sant Joan Despí to Vilanova i la Geltrú, while stage 2, which is mostly flat, still takes in a first category climb and an uphill finish over its 178.7km length.

Stages 3 and 4, at 172.1km and 172.2km respectively, are the ones that will have the biggest impact on the GC. Stage 3 takes in four first category climbs and a mountaintop finish, while stage 4 takes in the top category Port de Canto, which has a maximum gradient of 7.4% and an average gradient of 5.4% over 19.3km.

This does not mean that the latter stages will be without incident, however. While teams will be looking to protect their team leaders, if the time gap between the GC contenders is small enough, teams will be looking to make up this time wherever possible. Stage 5 has a 2nd category climb close to the finish in Valls at the end of its 187.2km parcours which may yet shake up the GC rankings.

The final stage, stage 7, which starts and finishes in Barcelona, takes in the Alt de Montjuic no fewer than eight times. The climb, which is a comparatively easy 3rd category and just under 2km in length will sap the riders’ energy before a downhill finish in Barcelona.  

Campagnolo introduces new group

This came from Bike-EU:

VICENZA, Italy – To take its Super Record technology to a wider cycling audience, Campagnolo developed a new mid-end 11-speed group set; the Potenza. “We want to make the features of the Super Record more accessible,” says Campagnolo in a press release.

Long-time focused on the top-end of the market, the Italian drive train component manufacturer has adjusted its market approach by offering a groupset at the mid-end of the market. According to Campagnolo, “the main difference between Potenza and the other group sets is a mere change in material.” For example the design of the upper body of the front derailleur of the Potenza is nearly identical to that of the mechanical Super Record. One of the differences is the newly developed one-piece steel cage with a similar shape to the Super Record version.

The same goes for the Potenza rear derailleur. Campagnolo has only changed the materials used in its construction so it, “is capable of shifting with the precision and speed of the Super Record version with the only compromise in the weight. Also the ‘Embrace Technology’, introduced on the Super Record, Record and Chorus groupsets launched last year has been implemented in Potenza rear derailleur.”

You can read the entire story here.

And the good guys at VeloNews road-tested the Potenza gruppo. You can read that review here.

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