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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, March 24, 2016

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

In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this. - Terry Pratchett

Racing just completed:

Today's racing:

Jens Debusschere wins Dwars door Vlaanderen

This came from Lotto-Soudal:

Jens Debusschere sprinted to the victory at Dwars door Vlaanderen this afternoon. It was an exciting finale with Greg Van Avermaet who was caught with only 250 metres left to go. Debusschere then beat the Frenchman Bryan Coquard.

Today’s early break consisted of six riders. Immediately Lotto Soudal started controlling the gap. Mike Teunissen and Jonas Rickaert jumped away from the peloton with eighty kilometres to go. Soon Luke Durbridged joined them. On the Eikenberg there were several other movements in the peloton, Sean De Bie was very attentive at that point. The next hill was the Taaienberg where Jens Debusschere and Tiesj Benoot arrived at the top with the best of the peloton. Then Jelle Wallays, last year’s winner, attacked. Seven riders accompanied him.

The group with Wallays closed the gap on Durbridge, Rickaert and Teunissen. Unfortunately Jelle punctured on the Paterberg. The Lotto Soudal rider lost contact with the group. On the Tiegemberg, in the last twenty kilometres, his teammate Tiesj Benoot raised the pace. With five others he could bridge to Kevin Van Melsen, the last member of the early breakaway at the head of the race. With ten kilometres to go they were caught up by a group with Debusschere, Ligthart and Wallays. Just before Nokereberg, Van Avermaet attacked. In the peloton the Lotto Soudal riders did all they could to let Jens Debusschere sprint for the victory. Also Trek-Segafredo still aimed for a sprint. With 250 metres to go it was over for Van Avermaet. In the sprint Debusschere was a tad faster than Bryan Coquard. Edward Theuns got third.

Jens Debusschere

Jens Debusschere wins Dwars door Vlaanderen

Jens Debusschere: “Of course I am happy with this victory. It was a race I had been looking forward to. Because of what happened yesterday in Brussels it wasn’t sure if the race would take place. It was strange yesterday and this morning: should we give in and cancel the race or do we race with respect for the victims and with attention for the safety? The atmosphere at the start in Roeselare was very serene.”

“It was the plan that Tiesj Benoot and Jelle Wallays would ride an aggressive race. I was the card to play if the race would end with a sprint. And it was a sprint, although the attempt of Greg Van Avermaet was really strong. For a long time we didn’t think he would get caught but Trek kept chasing him until the last straight line. In the last turn I was too far behind, I wasn’t part of the first ten riders. In the last straight line I could move up and I aimed for a podium place; at the end I won.”

“Everyone in the team did a good job today. In the finale we were with four in the first group: Jelle Wallays, Pim Ligthart, Tiesj Benoot and I. We had a strong team today with also Lars Bak, Sean De Bie, Jasper De Buyst and Marcel Sieberg who did their part of the work. After Strade Bianche I was afraid that I could forget about my ambitions for the Spring Classics because of the rib injury I incurred. But I could finish Tirreno and helped out Jürgen Roelandts at Milan-Sanremo. And today I win. This is yet again a next step in my career. It’s even more nice that I win in my home region.”

Here's Tinkoff's Dwars door Vlaanderen report:

A valiant display of attacking racing from 2013 winner Oscar Gatto eventually ended up with the Italian taking seventh place from a select group at Dwars door Vlaanderen. Oscar was at the front of the race in the finale when it mattered, but paid for his earlier efforts in the final push for the line, missing out on repeating his 2013 victory.

“Oscar did a very good race today, obviously we came for the win but we can take the positives out of the performance – we were there when we needed to be, and he’s looking strong to support Peter Sagan in the upcoming races,” confirmed Sport Director Tristan Hoffman. “The strategy was to look after Oscar early on and to pack him in so to speak for the first 110km, then it was about positioning with all the obstacles that came from there on. Oscar got it right. We’re happy with the overall outcome of today and the team’s performance.”

Dwars door Vlaanderen

Another view of the finish

The race got underway following a minute’s silence for those affected by the sad events of the previous day in Brussels. Once rolling, the action soon got underway with a flurry of early attacks leading to a group of six riders forming at the front of the race, setting the tempo for the day. These leaders built a lead of up to seven minutes before their advantage started to fall, under pressure from a controlling peloton behind.

The riders had a tough parcours ahead of them with no less than 12 ‘Hellingen’ to tackle, including climbs such as the Valkenberg, Paterberg and the Kwaremont on the agenda.

In a race like today, the decisive moments can come almost anywhere, and it was with 50km to race that the first main development came as a small front group prised itself clear of the peloton over the Taaienberg, including Oscar.

Talking after the finish, Oscar said: "Overall I'm satisfied by the work we did today. At the dangerous, key sections of the race I was at the front where I needed to be and stayed out of trouble, always making the lead group. I felt in good form and had the power, but in the final sprint I wasn't too well positioned and the result was the best I could achieve from the situation.

"More importantly now, although the victory was the main goal today, another very important goal was to be in good form ahead of Friday and Sunday in order to support Peter Sagan in the best way possible. I'm happy that I'm where I want to be and feel that I will be able to perform at my best at these coming races to support Peter in fighting for the win."

Hoffman continued, “We had some guys in the big group behind, but up front Oscar had to do it by himself. When he passed the Paterberg he made it look easy and on the day’s difficulties he put in a strong performance. The plan was to be at the front from that climb onwards and he was there. He’s motivated, and into the coming classics he’s ready and riding strongly. In the end we got the maximum out of the situation I think, and if he had more legs he would be in a better position for the sprint, but he’d already done a lot.

“Unfortunately, Jay McCarthy crashed in the feedzone. He has some pain in his hips and went for x-rays but nothing was broken so he’ll undergo a few more tests before any further decisions are made.”

With just one rider left from the early breakaway all eyes were on the selection in hot pursuit. This front group soon split again, after which Oscar showed strong legs pulling a small group clear over the Paterberg. His reduced group soon made its way to the front of the race, but the chase was never far behind and with 10km to go these two groups came together, forming a front group of around 35 riders.

On the final climb of the day, the Nokereberg, BMC’s Greg van Avermaet made his move and quickly pulled out a gap, but he was never allowed out of sight. As the finish beckoned, his lead dwindled and it was in the final 250m that his chances were over, with the group sprinting past to fight out the honours. Oscar rode strongly to finish within the top ten after a hard day in the saddle, and can rest assured that he did his best to force the racing ahead of the big cobblestone classics that loom in the coming weeks, with E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem still to come this week.

Hoffman finished off by saying: “The guys did a good job today. Nikolay Trusov proved he’s riding well, and Pavel Brutt had a good first race back after injury, so both he and we were quite satisfied. Juraj Sagan also did a good job today in helping Oscar and making the second group and with the others can take confidence from today.”

Tom Dumoulin abandons Volta a Catalunya

This came from Giant-Alpecin:

Tom Dumoulin (NED) has abandoned the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya on today's third stage of racing after suffering from last week's illness.

Dumoulin explained: "At the beginning of the week, I wasn't feeling sick anymore and the plan was to try and get stronger day by day. We were going to use this week to build up my fitness, but it turned out to be different. My condition got worse over the first two stages and today I didn't have the legs to continue."

Coach Rudi Kemna (NED) added: "Unfortunately, Tom was not fit to continue today's stage. We hoped that it would get better over the week, but his condition deteriorated and, as a result, he was unable to keep racing. Tom will travel home tomorrow to fully recover and we expect he will be able to resume his training again in the next few days."

Here's Tinkoff's Catalunya report:

The mountains delivered on their promises on stage 3 of the Volta a Catalunya, where attacks in the final kilometre saw Alberto Contador take second place on the stage and move into second on GC. Looking calm and composed, Alberto pursued the wheel of Dan Martin when his rivals were unable to, coming in two seconds after the stage winner. With more mountains to come, there’s everything still to race for with only seconds separating the top contenders.

The town of Girona was the start of today’s stage, which saw the race enter the big mountains. The 172.1km course crossed three first category climbs, before ascending a final first category climb to the finish. This was the stage the GC contenders had been waiting for, and was the first of two high-mountain stages where the real time gaps would be made.

While there were breaks from the start, the bigger teams knew that the decisive climbs would come later in the stage. In spite of this, Pieter Weening of Roompot-Oranje Peloton staged a daring solo breakaway, with his gap bridged only 9km from the finish, just as the snow of La Molina was becoming visible. A second break was caught at the 5km mark, as the favourites started to show their faces at the front, and which saw Alberto Contador keeping pace.

Looking back on the stage from the finish, Sport Director, Sean Yates, summarised how things panned out. “It was the first mountain stage today, with nice weather and a good test. The early break went and the lead quickly grew to 10 minutes, then behind, Sky took control and rode the whole day. There was a counter attack later on but it was a controlled stage behind until the final kilometres. All the action really came under the one kilometre banner at which point it was every man for himself - Alberto went toe to toe, and came up just short of the win.”

As the last kilometre loomed, the final attacks came and while his rivals weren’t able to follow, Alberto managed to match the pace of Dan Martin of Etixx-Quick Step, finishing the stage two seconds after him in second place. Alberto goes into stage 4 six seconds off the top of the GC with gaps forming below him.

Dan MArtin

Dan Martin wins Catalunya stage 3. Alberto Contador is 2 seconds back.

Of the day’s outcome, Alberto was pleased with the result. "At the end, unfortunately, stage victory wasn't possible. However, I'm happy even if my form wasn't very good today and I wasn't riding comfortably. Still, I was present in the attacks, I was alert in the finale and I was able to take second.”

"Of course the win would have been better than second," added Sean Yates "but the fact that we don't have the jersey means that we don't have to take control tomorrow. Alberto said he didn't feel particularly great, and only came round when the real racing kicked off. But the time gaps at the finish show how hard it was today."

Stage 4 tomorrow is set to be a decisive one. After the thrilling climax of today’s stage, the seconds separating the top of the GC classifications, and the imposing peaks of the top category Port de Canto and Port Aine dominating the 172.2km stage profile, anything can still happen. Sean Yates looked ahead to tomorrow’s racing. “There's now a six second gap, and the GC will come down to tomorrow, being the last summit stage after which final days only offer up some time bonuses. All in all it was a good result for Alberto. The guys did a good job during the stage, and it was a case of following the pace as long as possible in the wheels. We're happy with the performance, and tomorrow will be tougher which should be to our benefit - so all is still to play for.”

Having come to the Volta a Catalunya suffering from a cold, Alberto was concentrating on his recovery before stage 4. ”What is important now is to see how I recover ahead of tomorrow. I came here with a cold from Paris-Nice and in that sense it's positive. The worst of it is behind me, otherwise I couldn't have achieved this result. Tomorrow's stage, in principle, is more suited to my characteristics and we'll try to perform better. Daniel Martin is a strong rider and knows what it is to win on tomorrow's climb since he took the GC there in 2013. It isn't a surprise either, that he won today, and right now he's the one best placed for the GC. Nevertheless, I think that we can't draw many conclusions from the climb today. We rode in a group, the wind was blowing strong and the climb, with the exception of the first three kilometres, was quite tolerable. Still, I think Martin has the best chances for the GC right now."

Louis Meintjes Crashes at Catalunya

This came from Lampre-Merida:

At 13 km to the arrival of the 3rd stage of the Volta a Catalunya, Girona-La Molina at 172.1 km with four 1st category KOMs, Louis Meintjes was trying to recover positions in order to be in the front of the peloton.

The bunch was becoming smaller because it had approached the climb and the speed was high: the South African athlete was following his team mates when a contact with an opponent made him crash.

The impact on the ground was heavy and the young talented cyclist from Lampre-Merida lay for some moments suffering from the injuries; however, he succeeded in riding again his bike and he reached the arrival, 13min 2sec behind winner Martin.

At the end of the stage, Meintjes went to the nearest hospital with the team physician Dr Beltemacchi: the x-rays did not reveal any fracture. In the evening, Meintjes was still suffering for the pain caused by the contusion on the trunk and on the legs and he'll decide on Thursday morning about the partecipation in the 4th stage.

Vanmarcke leads team LottoNL-Jumbo in E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem

This news came from LottoNL-Jumbo:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo races the E3 Harelbeke on Friday and Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday with Sep Vanmarcke as its front man. For the Belgian hard-man, the upcoming period is about delivering results.

The big cobbled classics start this week, and Vanmarcke planned to be on form for them. “I’m in good shape and these races are my main targets,” the he said. “E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem are always beautiful races. I want to compete with the best. This is the start of the period that’s about delivering results for me, and I will have my first chance to do so on Friday.”

The team will support Vanmarcke fully. “Sep is our front man and we have to cover him,” Sports Director Nico Verhoeven added. “E3 Harelbeke has a very tough final. The decisive part of the race comes in the end.

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke

“There is a bigger chance of a bunch sprint in Gent-Wevelgem two days later, but the group that will sprint for the victory is not going to be a group of 130 riders. If we have an easy Gent-Wevelgem, a maximum of 70 riders will have the chance to sprint. In that case, Sep still will be our front man. He can deliver a good result in a sprint, as well.”

Line-up E3 Harelbeke: Twan Castelijns, Jos van Emden, Tom Leezer, Timo Roosen, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii, Sep Vanmarcke and Maarten Wynants.

Line-up Gent-Wevelgem: To be confirmed.

Sports directors: Nico Verhoeven and Jan Boven.

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