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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, March 23, 2016

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

Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it. - Steve Prefontaine

Today's racing:

Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen race will be run

Wednesday, March 23, 4:45 AM Pacific time. The race started despite the terrorist attacks in Brussels. Some riders were not able to make it to the start. Reports are that only two Giant-Alpecin riders had been able to get to the race and there were just four Movistar riders.

The riders all wore black armbands to express their condolences to the bombing victims. Before the peloton rolled off there was a moment of silence.

Peloton

Here's a picture from Team Roompot of the riders ready to go.

Hulgo Houle

Hugo Houle tweeted this picture of himself wearing a black armband.

Rohan Dennis could not start Catalunya stage two

This came from BMC too late to make yesterday's news:

22 March, 2016, Calella (ESP): Rohan Dennis will not be lining up at stage 2 of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya due to illness.

BMC Racing Team doctor, Dr Daniele Zaccaria said Dennis has flu-like symptoms and a high fever so is unable to start. "He was feeling good until halfway through stage 1 yesterday, however he then started to feel unwell. He was dropped in the final 10 kilometers which is unusual for him on such a course and this was an indication of his condition," Dr Zaccaria said.

"He has a fever and didn't sleep well last night, so it is in his best interests not to start today in order to avoid any further illness and jeopardize his long term plan for this year."

Rohan Dennis

Rohan Dennis a few weeks ago

Dennis is disappointed to not be continuing. "I was feeling good when I arrived in Catalunya on Sunday. It looked like I was 100% but obviously there was something underlying and racing yesterday has flared it up. It's disappointing not to continue racing here, but I have some big goals for this year which are still to come and my health comes first," Dennis confirmed.

Then a few hours later BMC sent this to me:

22 March, 2016, Olot (ESP): Philippe Gilbert has sprinted to third place on Stage 2 of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya in another bunch sprint won by Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).

Today's racing followed a similar format to the opening stage, with the peloton letting a four-rider breakaway go away early in the 178,7km stage. The sole survivor of the breakaway, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), was reeled in with 14km to go, setting the stage for a bunch sprint into Olot.

It's a good sign of his form on the comeback from recent illness, Gilbert said. "Yesterday I was suffering a bit as it was my first race since Paris-Nice. I've been training at home but without race speed so it's a bit different. Yesterday I was suffering but I was still there, so I was happy to be there in a good position with one kilometer to go today," Gilbert said.

"I was up there a bit too early so at 400m to go I decided to slow down a bit and take the risk, but in the end Bouhanni was just too fast."

Nasir Bouhanni

Philippe Gilbert can be seen here behind Nacer Bouhanni at the end of stage 2.

Gilbert now sits in fifth place on the General Classification, 16 seconds behind race leader Bouhanni.

Tomorrow the peloton hit the first of the mountain stages with 172,1km, starting in Girona and finishing with a double ascent of the category 1 La Molina climb, on the cards. Gilbert will be working for BMC Racing Team's two leaders, Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen.

"I knew there would be three of four stages in this race that were good for me. The next two days I'll be riding in service of my teammates. It's always a big motivation when you have guys like Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen in the team. We know they can do well, so we are all motivated to work hard."

Here's Tinkoff's report on the Catalunya second stage:

Stage 2 of the Volta a Catalunya went to plan for Tinkoff today, as the team kept their leader safe over a fast stage, finishing in the town of Olot with a bunch sprint. The GC contenders, having kept safe in the first two stages, will relish the prospect of taking on the big mountains in tomorrow’s route.

Starting from the town of Mataró on the Mediterranean coast, the second day of the Volta a Catalunya took place over a 178.7km course. Fairly flat, except for the first category Alt de Els Angels, the route invited an early escape that stayed away for much of the stage, but with a final short climb to the finish, and a downhill final few hundred metres, the stage was a perfect opportunity for the sprinters. The Tinkoff riders came over the line with the bunch, with most of the team taking the same time as the sprinters.

Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, was pleased the team got through the day without any problems. “It was another pretty straight forward day today, with no surprises and everyone getting through safe. With the stages to come we didn't want to use too much energy, so it was a day of keeping out of the wind and looking after Alberto before tomorrow and making sure that we didn't lose any time.”

While the breakaway riders weren’t a threat to the GC, Lotto-Soudal’s De Gendt was able to stay clear until the 164km mark, which made the peloton work harder to get a sprint finish, De Jongh observed. “After a small break went clear Cofidis took responsibility and won the stage again so hats off to them. And our guys did a good job in sticking to what they had to do.”

Up until now, the GC contenders have been biding their time in the peloton, waiting for an opportunity to create the bigger time gaps. Tomorrow’s stage takes in four first category climbs, as well as an uphill finish, taking place over a 172.1km parcours. Ahead of tomorrow’s stage Alberto felt his form after Paris-Nice would be tested properly in the mountains. "I feel in good form, even if it's too early to draw conclusions after two flat days. Tomorrow, a different race starts, the mountain race where we will see the first gaps. I'll have to see how much I have recovered after Paris-Nice and how I feel. My health is getting better, and that is positive. I still feel a bit congested but it is retreating and I hope it won't cause any problems. La Molina is unpredictable and you never know what will happen. It isn't an excessively demanding climb and I think the gaps there will be very slim."

As the race prepared to enter the mountains, De Jongh was keen to see how the race would unfold on stage 3. “Tomorrow we will see what happens - it's the first stage where the GC riders will play their hands, and we're ready for this with Alberto. The guys are motivated, only Pawel Poljanski is still suffering from a bit of sickness but we're hoping that he'll fight through and come good for the second half of the week. So we're just looking forward to tomorrow's stage now.”

Lotto-Soudal's plans for Dwars door Vlaanderen

The team sent me this update:

Tomorrow Dwars Door Vlaanderen is scheduled. The peloton will start in Roeselare and then it needs to cover about 200 kilometres. There are twelve hills and three cobbled sections on the route.

The race starts with a long run-up of 90 kilometres before the riders need to climb the first hill, which is the Nieuwe Kwaremont. After that it goes towards the Kattenberg and the  cobbled sections Holleweg and Haaghoek. Then the riders will arrive at the most important part of the race. In the final 80 kilometres ten hills need to be climbed, like the Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. These are expected to determine the race. The final hill, Nokereberg, is situated at eight kilometres from the finish, which is again in the centre of Waregem.

Sports director Frederik Willems: “It’s a very nice course. A lot of the hills are also part of the course of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. At Dwars door Vlaanderen, it’s very important to be attentive at the front starting from the Eikenberg and Taaienberg, where there will be a first selection. Then it’s about thirteen kilometres to the Oude Kwaremont and there the race will explode. Several riders will certainly try to attack and then we need to react.”

Lotto Soudal will participate with among others Tiesj Benoot, Jelle Wallays and Jens Debusschere. The main competitors for the victory will be riders such as Greg Van Avermaet, Niki Terpstra and Jasper Stuyven.

Tiesj Benoot

Tiesj Benoot will be on the start line

Frederik Willems: “A lot of riders are in a very good form and that’s also necessary with regard to the coming races. We start with a strong team and we have a few leaders who can be present in the finale. That’s an advantage, the more riders a team has in a finale, the better. Other teams can pull at the front of the peloton but nevertheless we’ll have to be attentive at the front. When someone attacks from BMC or Etixx – Quick-Step we have to be there as well.”

“Guys like Tiesj Benoot and Jelle Wallays are able to attack or react on attempts from other teams. If a sprint takes place, we have a strong rider like Jens Debusschere. We lost some useful riders such as Gert Dockx, Stig Broeckx and Frederik Frison due to crashes, that’s a pity. But luckily our team consists of enough strong riders so we’re able to handle that.”

The winner of last year, Jelle Wallays, really looks forward to this race and he wants to show himself in the shirt of Lotto Soudal. Wallays rides in his home region and that’s always a reason to be extra motivated.

Jelle Wallays: “The feeling to ride in your home region is just incredible. I really like it when a lot of fans are standing along the course. Their encouragements really make you perform better. The next three races are partly held in West-Flanders and that’s fantastic. I look forward to Wednesday, it’s a race which suits me. I’ll certainly make the best of it.”

“After the crash in the Volta ao Algarve I had some troubles with my knee and my hip. The past two races in Nokere and Handzame were very useful to do the final preparations towards the coming races. I was able to do my work for the team and I had a great feeling during the race. We start with a strong team on Wednesday, everyone is in good shape. The Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg are still far from the finish though. It’s possible that this year’s Dwars Door Vlaanderen ends in a sprint with a large group, partly because the weather conditions won’t determine the race. If that’s the case, we have a good chance with Jens Debusschere. He’s very fast and has proven in Milano-Sanremo that he’s fully recovered from his crash in the Strade Bianche.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot, Sean De Bie, Jasper De Buyst, Jens Debusschere, Pim Ligthart, Marcel Sieberg and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors; Frederik Willems and Herman Frison.  

Julien Vermote will miss classics

This is Etixx-Quick Step's confirmation about Vermote:

The doctors have confirmed that the nature of Julien's injury will not allow him to race the cobbled one-day races.

After undergoing surgery on Sunday in order to close the wound he had on his left knee after crashing in Milan-Sanremo, Julien Vermote went this morning to the H.-Hartziekenhuis clinic in Roeselare together with the team's doctor Toon Cruyt for further medical examination, which revealed that he also has a small muscle tear on the vastus lateralis of his left quadriceps. Because of these injuries, he has to rest for up to 8-9 days before returning on the bike to resume his training, and as a result, he will miss the upcoming cobblestones Classics.

Julien Vermote

Julien Vermote in better days

"It's a tough moment for me. Everybody knows how much I love the Classics, which this year I am forced to watch on TV. After riding E3 Harelbeke and Driedaagse van De Panne last season, this year I was on the list for E3 Harelbeke, Gent-Wevelgem and Tour of Flanders, which came as a reward for the hard work of the past months. It's a pity that I won't have the possibility to ride them, but the situation is as it is. Still, Etixx – Quick-Step has a strong squad for these races and I will support my teammates. The positive thing is that the recovery is going into the right direction. After I will return to training, I will discuss with the staff to see how's my schedule going to change and in what races I'll go."

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