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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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

You speak of Lord Byron and me; there is this great difference between us. He describes what he sees, I describe what I imagine. Mine is the hardest task. - John Keats

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Vuelta a España teams announced

Vuelta (and Tour de France) organizer ASO posted this news today:

Teams Participating in the 2016 Vuelta a España

The race organiser hereby communicates the list of teams chosen to participate in the 2016 Vuelta a España that will take place from the 20th of August to the 11th of September.

Another 4 teams have been chosen from all the applications received. These teams have been invited to participate in the 2016 Vuelta a España.

Teams ready for Giro d'Italia

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Giro update:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo goes to the Giro d’Italia with Steven Kruijswijk as its leader. The Dutchman, who finished seventh overall in last year’s Italian tour, aims for another top-10 spot.

“The general classification is our main target,” Sports Director Addy Engels said. “We want to race aggressively to reach a great overall result. That doesn’t mean that we’re just going to attack every day, but when we think that it’s possible for the breakaway to make it to the finish, we’re going to try. Steven Kruijswijk has to do that himself at times, as well.”

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk at the 2015 Giro d'Italia

That aggressive style brought Kruijswijk seventh overall in 2015, but he had some space because of an early time losses. “I have to prevent losing so much time like last year,” Kruijswijk added. “If I’m able to reach the level that I had last year, it might be another beautiful Giro d’Italia.

“My preparation has been quite the same as last year and I stayed out of trouble. My strongest point is the final week and that’s the point where you can win the most, as well. I will focus on my competitors, the first two weeks, and to strike in the final one.”

Kruijswijk will be supported by the experience of Jos van Emden, Martijn Keizer, Maarten Tjallingii and Bram Tankink. Team LottoNL-Jumbo has some riders who can win stages. “Enrico Battaglin is able to do it from a breakaway and in a small group sprint,” Engels continued. “He already proved that in the Giro d’Italia. Moreno Hofland is our fastest man and with him, we have a chance in the bunch sprints. Primoz Roglic is able to win, as well. He was already close in the Volta a Catalunya.”

The Giro d’Italia starts in LottoNL-Jumbo’s backyard on Friday, May 6th with an individual time trial in Apeldoorn. It stays in the Netherlands for three days. Jos van Eden finished fifth in the prologue of the Tour de France in Utrecht, won the time trial in the Eneco Tour and wants to show off another time in Apeldoorn. Martijn Keizer is aiming for a strong opening time trial as well. “The time trials in the Tour de Romandie gave me a positive feeling,” Keizer says. “I’m aiming for a top-5 spot in the prologue of the Giro.”

“To start the Giro in Apeldoorn is something special for us Dutchmen,” Engels said. “It’s extra motivation. I experienced the Giro starts in Groningen in 2002 and Amsterdam in 2010 as a rider and those moments gave me a special feeling. I’ve seen some villages in Gelderland that already coloured pink, so it will give us a boost.”

Line-up: Steven Kruijswijk, Primoz Roglic, Enrico Battaglin, Moreno Hofland, Maarten Tjallingii, Bram Tankink, Jos van Emden, Martijn Keizer and Twan Castelijns.

Sports Directors: Addy Engels and Jan Boven

Orica-GreenEdge, Giant-Alpecin and Tinkoff ready for the Giro

Orica-GreenEdge sent me this news:

ORICA-GreenEDGE go into this week's Giro d’Italia with a well-balanced team to support Colombian Esteban Chaves and the objective of seriously challenging for a result in the overall general classification.

2015 Tour of Abu Dhabi winner Chaves produced a stellar performance in last year’s Vuelta a Espana with two stage wins and an impressive fifth place in the overall classification.

Esteban Chaves

Esteban Chaves at last year's Vuelta

2016 marks the 99th edition of the prestigious Tour of Italy. As one of cycling’s three Grand Tours, the Giro is widely regarded as the most difficult due to the high mountains and unpredictable weather.

Taking place between the 6th and 29th of May covering 21 stages, this year’s race begins in Apeldoorn, Holland continuing the recent tradition of ‘international departs’ in various European countries.

The race begins with a 9.8kilometre individual time trial followed by two other road stages in Holland before heading to Italy for 18 stages that will cover the length and breadth of the country.

Sport director Matt White is looking forward to the three-week race and the opportunity to field a team capable of challenging for the overall general classification.

“This is the first time in the team’s history that we have a team assembled around a rider who has the genuine credentials to compete for the general classification,” said White. “Esteban’s (Chaves) performance in last year’s Vuelta a Espana has given the team another string to its bow and supporting him will be our big focus for the race.”

“This is new territory for us. We have enjoyed success at the Giro d’Italia in recent years with stage results and consecutive days in the leader’s jersey in 2014 and 2015 but we have never realistically gone into the race looking to challenge for the overall.”

“Esteban is super motivated and he has prepared very well for the race,” continued White. “We are confident that we can provide real support for Esteban. We have a well balanced team around him and the experience of our Spanish riders Ruben (Plaza) and Amets (Txurruka) will be important on the mountain stages.”

21-year-old Australian sprinting sensation Caleb Ewan will be starting only his second Grand Tour and White is excited at the prospect of seeing how the youngster will perform on the big stage against the best sprinters in the world.

“Caleb (Ewan) is really fast,” White said. “We are well aware of that and it’s going to be an exciting prospect for the team to see him make the step up in this kind of race. He has made a great improvement over the last twelve months, I’m looking forward to seeing how he will perform against the big guns of the sprinting world.

“There is going to be some strong competition there but we will be aiming to support Caleb on the stages that have the possibility of ending in a sprint finish.”

2014 Giro d’Italia stage winner Luka Mezgec and multiple world track champion Michael Hepburn will provide the vital speed required to support Ewan whilst New Zealander Sam Bewley and former Canadian road race champion Svein Tuft are the strong diesel engines of the team.

2013 under-23 world time trial champion Damien Howson completes the Giro d’Italia line up for ORICA-GreenEDGE.

The young Australian comes into the team directly off the back of an impressive performance in the Tour de Romandie, wearing the best young rider’s jersey on stage four and finishing in 16th position overall.

The Giro d’Italia begins in Holland on Friday the 6th of May and concludes in Turin on the 29th of May.

ORICA-GreenEDGE at the 2016 Giro d’Italia (6-29 May): Sam Bewley (NZ, 28), Esteban Chaves (COL, 26), Caleb Ewan (AUS, NSW, 21), Michael Hepburn (AUS, QLD, 24), Damien Howson (AUS, SA, 23), Luka Mezgec (SLO, 27), Ruben Plaza (ESP, 36), Svein Tuft (CAN, 38), Amets Txurruka (ESP, 32)

Here's Giant-Alpecin's Giro news release:

This year's Giro is very special as it starts in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, on Friday with a 9.8km individual time trial, only a few steps away from the team's Service Course. This is followed by two more stages in Holland before the race moves back home to Italy.

In his first Giro, Tom Dumoulin (NED) will be primarily aiming for the time trials. With Nikias Arndt (GER), there are a few early chances to go for success with the flat stages in the first week of racing. The opportunists in the line-up include Chad Haga (USA), Tobias Ludvigsson (SWE) and Georg Preidler (AUT), who are all capable of getting in the breakaways and fighting for a stage victory, as well as proving their strength against the clock.

Tom Dumoulin

Tom Dumoulin at this year's Tour de Romandie

Coach for the Giro d’Italia, Marc Reef (NED) said: "Our target is to go for a stage victory. We'll have different opportunities in the time trials and the sprint stages. On top of that, we will apply an offensive strategy to aim for stage results from possible breakaways that survive until the finish."

Tinkoff sent this extended letter about the team and the upcoming Giro stages:

Already a triple stage winner at the Tour de France, Tinkoff’s Polish climbing talent Rafal Majka is looking to build on his leadership performance at last year's Vuelta a España where he finished on the podium. Having finished sixth at the 2014 Giro d'Italia, Rafal is vying for another podium performance at this year's race.

Joining Rafal at the three-week is a mix of climbers and all round riders able to support the team leader over the varied terrains of the race. The experience of Matteo Tosatto, Evgeny Petrov and Pavel Brutt, starting their 13th, 11th and 7th Giro d’Italia respectively, will be valuable. They will race alongside Jesús Hernández and Pawel Poljanski who will play a role in the mountains, along with Jay McCarthy, Ivan Rovny and Manuele Boaro, the latter of whom will be keen to shine against the clock in his national race.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka at the 2015 Vuelta

Talking about Tinkoff’s line-up for the Grand Tour, Sport Director Tristan Hoffman said: “Rafal Majka is the absolute leader here – if you look to the parcours, his history, how he has been riding in Romandie – so he will be our main card and our protected leader. We have a strong team around him including Pavel Brutt, who after his injury rode a good classics campaign, and will be a strong guy who can pull hard on the flats and go in the breakaways.

“We have Jay McCarthy who proved himself again at the Vuelta last year, and he has got results from the breakaway at the Giro before. Evgeny Petrov and Matteo Tosatto have a lot of experience and perform well at the Giro. We have guys who can pull hard on the flats and others who can hopefully stay with Rafal in the mountain stages, like Pawel Poljanski. Everyone has had a good preparation and is excited to be racing here.”

The 99th Giro d’Italia gets underway on May 6 in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, with an opening individual time trial over 9.8km before coming to a conclusion over 3,400km later in Torino, at the end of a 163km road stage where the 2016 winner will be crowned. As ever with the Giro, tough mountain stages are interspersed with many other difficulties and it seems at this race that even the straight forward days are never that.

With three time trials, one being a mountain climb, four possible sprint stages, five mountain-top finishes and countless stages in between, the course is for the real all-rounders. There’s even another off-road stage in the race this year, with the climb of Alpe di Poti on stage 8 featuring double digit gradients over dirt surfaces to further complicate things.

"I really look forward to tackling the Giro now, after months of preparation towards one of my biggest goals of the year,” Rafal Majka confirmed when looking ahead to the race. “As a team, we had a good winter, training and getting ready for the season and we have had strong results since starting racing which has built a good momentum. Now we are ready for the first Grand Tour and I'm excited to be leading the team in Italy. I want to do my best for myself, Tinkoff and all my fans.

"We've got a strong line-up for the race and it's really good to be able to draw on the experience at this race from the guys like Tosatto, Petrov and Brutt, and to race alongside Poljanski. I think this is an important strength to have in the team. We have guys that can help me on all the various stages that the race has and then it's up to me to be there when it matters.

"I've seen in Romandie that my form is where it needs to be after a solid period of altitude training in Cyprus with the team and ahead of the Giro. I'm happy with how I'm climbing and I think this is where the real differences will be made.

"Keep your fingers crossed for me!"

As well as the push for the overall classification, the team will be looking to take what opportunities come their way for stage successes over the 21 stages. Manuele Boaro in particular will be looking to get at the sharp end of the results in the individual time trials, of which there are two flat and one uphill stages.

Rafal can draw heavily on the experience of Matteo Tosatto, Evgeny Petrov and Pavel Brutt, with 28 Giro starts between them. From positioning to saving energy, to when to make your move as a team within the race, experience within the team is vital over 21 days of racing.

“In my eyes you can divide the race into three parts – the first days in flat, windy Holland, the rest of the first week in Italy with some tough early tests, and then the final week. You need to be good over the whole three weeks here, but especially for the last tests before Torino, with two tough mountain stages in the last days. Rafal is a rider who recovers well from hard efforts so hopefully he’s still have the legs to challenge here.

“I’m really looking forward to the race now and we can fix a podium spot as our objective, with a stage win also important for us. Everybody is ready to support Rafal, from the riders to the mechanics, the soigneurs and the rest of the staff.”

The Race:

The opening stage is the habitual individual time trial procession around the city streets, allowing all the riders in the race to be presented to the public one by one as they pit themselves against the clock over just short of 10km around Apeldoorn. It is the second race start in the Netherlands since 2010 and, much like most of the racing in the country, the stage is set to be a flat, fast affair.

Two more stages are to be tackled in the Netherlands before an early rest day on the first Monday of the race. Stages 2 and 3, 190km and 189km a piece, should on paper be perfect days for a bunch sprint, however if the wind blows the race could see some early splits and the riders will need to be on their toes and racing at the front.

Following a similar parcours to the previous day, stage 3 marks the final stage in the Netherlands before the race returns to Italy for the remainder of the action. Much like the previous day, although there are no real difficulties en-route, if the wind is blowing, the peloton will have to be ready to fight in the echelons.

After a flight back to the race’s home in Italy, action resumes on Tuesday with a rolling 200km leg from Catanzaro to Praia a Mare, which with its two small categorised climbs and rolling roads in the finale could see a reduced group sprint. The latter of the two, Via del Fortino, falls with 10km to go and with ramps of up to 18% it will surely shake up the stage.

A long stage 5 is again classed as rolling, but has no categorised climbs and could see the sprinters have another shot at glory before the race’s first uphill finish on stage 6. The road rolls for much of the stage, but with the only classified climb falling early in the stage after 35km, the outcome should be one for the fast men.

Racing from Ponte to Roccaraso over 165km, stage 6 features a short climb right from the drop of the flag before two further climbs, the latter of which ascends for 17km with an average gradient of 4.8km, and will decide the stage, most probably dictating a new wearer of the pink leader’s jersey.

With two categorised climbs that should only really trouble those in the day’s breakaway, stage 7 could see another day for a sprint before a tough eighth day of racing that features two climbs, the second of which crests with 41km to race, all over a gradual downhill to the stage finish in Arezzo.

Combining both flat and mountain roads, the eighth day of racing features two climbs, a third and then a second categorised ascent. After passing the finish line for a first time, the peloton will climb the Alpe di Poti climb, one that features 6.4km on dirt roads and step gradients of over 10% before a fast drop down to the finish in Arezzo after 186km of racing.

Stage 9 is the second race against the clock for the peloton, with a 40.4km individual test which will see the Tinkoff riders back on their Specialized S-Works Shiv TT bikes, looking to cover the course as fast as possible. The rolling route in the Chianti region features a gradual drag of five kilometres in the second half of the stage but should be one for the specialists.

A second rest day follows before heading back to the mountains on stage 10 with an uphill finish in Sestolla, climbing to 998m altitude after 216km of racing. Without a single metre of flat, the riders will be thankful for the rest day before but will be hoping that they re-find their race legs quickly as the tough stage could again cause splits.

Giro stage 10 profile

Giro stage 10 profile

The sprinters will have thought that stage 11 was another for them, until they saw the final 15km, and its short, sharp climb cresting with just under 12km to race. This may prove the launch platform for late attacks, and do enough to shed the fast men before the race finishes in Asolo.

The sprinters will have their shot again on stage 12 with a pan-flat 168km leg which will allow the GC riders a day in the wheels, out of the wind ahead of a tough climbing test on stage 13. At 182km, the stage isn’t overly demanding in distance, but after nearly two weeks of racing in the legs, fatigue will be kicking in.

Unlucky for some, the 13th day of racing features four categorised climbs, two in the first half and two in the second half of the day, with the top of the final ascent coming just 11km from the finish line. A fast descent and a flat five kilometre run in to the finish will decide the victor today.

The profile for stage 14 climbs gradually but incessantly for the first half of the start to reach the first of the day’s six classified climbs in the Dolomites. The finish falls nearly 20km after the final summit of the day so the honours could still be stolen from the pure climbers, and also with an uphill TT looming, how hard will the favourites go. You can expect action on any of the day’s climbs, but the hardest slopes fall on the Passo Giau with an average of 9%.

The third of this year’s time trial at the Giro d’Italia is one for the pure climbers and will turn into a real GC battle. Rafal Majka will be looking to put his skills racing uphill to good use today as the 10.8km stage features a 9km climb averaging 8.3%. Expect spits in the GC today.

After another rest day the peloton will start out on a rollercoaster of a stage which descends, climbs, descends and then climbs once more before reaching the finish 133km later in Brixen-Andalo. A stage for the breakaway, or will tired legs be exposed on the tough slopes of the Fai della Paganella, cresting at over 1,000m?

The sprinters will finally get to have another shot at stage glory and at scoring towards the points classification on stage 17, but how many sprinters will still be left in the peloton for the 196km leg from Molveno to Cassano d’Adda?

The race organisers nearly gave the sprinters back to back chances, albeit for the final sting in the tail of stage 18, with the short, sharp classified climb of the Pinerolo sure to cause splits before the race flies downhill to the line just 17km later.

Stage 19 presents the penultimate chance for the GC contenders to really try and stake their claim, and there’s plenty of opportunity for change on the 161km route that climbs the Colle dell’Agnello – the highest point of this year’s race at 2,744m – before then going on to finish atop the 11km ascent to Risoul.

Stage 19 profile

Stage 19 profile

There’s no rest for the wicked though as the road rears upwards once more on stage 20 with four classified climbs, the first coming straight from the drop of the flag up the Col de Vars. The infamous Col de la Bonette follows, scene to many a famous battle over the years, before the riders then tackle the 20km long Colle della Lombarda. A short descent follows with a final kick up to the line in Sant’Anna di Vinadio. Could we see the 2016 Giro d’Italia champion decided on the slopes of this brutal stage? Time will tell.

The final stage is, as always, more of a procession than a chance to shine, but it does give the sprinters one last chance to get their arms in the air. The 163km stage from Cuneo to Torino finishes with eight circuits of a 7.5km circuit giving the riders plenty of opportunities to scope out the finish. The stage will bring the curtain down on the first Grand Tour of the season, and it is here that the winner of the 99th Giro d’Italia and its Maglia Rosa will be crowned. 

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