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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, May 15, 2016

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

Some guy hit my fender, and I told him, "Be fruitful and multiply," but not in those words. - Woody Allen

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Giro d'Italia stage 8 video

Marcel Kittel leaves Giro d'Italia

Etixx-Quick Step posted this news:

Winner of two stages and maglia rosa wearer, the German has put an end on Saturday to his Italian campaign.

Today's stage [Stage 8], which finished in the beautiful Arezzo, has been the last one for Marcel Kittel at the Giro, after a week I which he fought for pink and glory on the roads of Italy. Racing the prestigious Corsa Rosa for the second time in his career, the Etixx – Quick-Step sprinter left a heavy mark on the competition, as he scored back-to back victories in Nijmegen and Arnhem, confirming that he is back to his very best. These impressive and commanding wins helped Marcel don the maglia rosa for the first time in his career, thus becoming only the fifth German rider to wear the iconic jersey.

Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel winning Giro stage two

"I'm sad to leave the Giro. I really like the atmosphere I have found here in Italy and I love the support of the Italian fans, but now I feel like I need to recover after a long first part of the season. This year I kicked-off my campaign very early in order to come back after a very difficult 2015 and the season will be even longer than usual for me because of the Worlds in Qatar. It's not every year that the sprinters get such an opportunity", said Marcel Kittel, the World Tour rider with the most wins to his name in 2016.

The 28-year-old German continued: "Considering from where I came it's very important for me to pay attention to my fitness level. The Giro has been a tough and demanding race so far, even in the stages bookmarked for the sprinters. Now I feel that I need to rest before the future goals of the season. I leave from here with a brace of wins and with many great memories, two of which are wearing the pink jersey for the first time in my career and the great ride of Gianluca Brambilla on Saturday. Besides my teammates and the entire staff of Etixx – Quick-Step, I want to thank the organizers and the fans for making this race great and I want to assure them that in the future I will come back at the start with the goal of trying to get a victory on Italian soil, something which I'm still missing.

Giro d'Italia stage 8 team reports

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me this news:

Steven Kruijswijk jumped from seventh to third overall in the eighth stage of the Giro d’Italia today to Arezzo. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s classification leader finished in front of the first group with the biggest favourites. Ahead, Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx - Quick Step) soloed to the stage victory and grabbed the pink jersey.

“The team continued what they were already doing this whole race,” Sports Director Jan Boven said. “Everyone deserves a big compliment. The men were very focussed since the first day. It relaxes Steven. Everything we’re planning is working and Steven is always in the right position.”

On Saturday, the team had to position Kruijswijk for the foot of the Alpe di Poti. Its gravel roads to the top left only 20 kilometres to the finish. “Steven was riding aggressively, especially in the beginning of the climb,” Boven continued. “We wanted to watch Nibali and Valverde, and if possible, Steven had to go along with them. We knew that this climb suited Steven and we felt confident about the fact when we did a recon. Only seven riders survived on the steepest part, and those are the main favourites for the general classification.”

Steven kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk

“I was led out like a sprinter to the foot of the climb,” Kruijswijk added. “Until that moment, I barely had to do anything and that feels great. I want to be at my very best on the long climbs during the final week of this Giro, so it feels great to be able to follow Nibali and Valverde also on a steep and short climb like today’s.

“My third place in the general classification doesn’t give me extra pressure. Last year, I was 85th at this moment and that was a lot more stressful. I’m already in good position and I’m feeling confident. I’m approaching tomorrow’s time trial as a chance to win more time on my competitors, as well.”

Kruijswijk reconnoitred the 40.5-kilometre time trial, as well. “We’re excited for it in a good way,” Boven said. “We did a recon, made some notes and images. We have to use them tomorrow. It’s going to be an hour of suffering for Steven.”

Giant-Alpecin's Tom Dumoulin lost the maglia rosa today. Here's his team's report:

After a frantic start to stage eight, Nikias Arndt rode hard to force his way into the day’s 13-man move as the peloton headed towards the city of Arezzo. The group worked well together and their managed to have a maximum advantage of 5’ with our riders controlling the pace at the front of the peloton.

The race hotted up on the tough gravelled Alpe di Poti climb as Dumoulin was in some difficulties following the attacks of his main rivals. On the descent, Dumoulin had the help of Arndt to try and bridge the gap to the main GC group. In the end, he crossed the finish line in 38th place, 2’50” behind the winner Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx Quick-Step).

Tom Dumoulin

Tom Dumoulin on the Alpe di Poti ascent

In the overall classification, Dumoulin dropped out of the top 10. He is now 11th heading into Sunday’s time trial.

Tom Dumoulin said: “If you look at the situation right now, we are going back to plan A and that was winning the time trials. But right now I am just disappointed and I don’t want to think about it.

“Concerning the general classification, maybe tomorrow I am back in pink and we will think differently about the situation. It is difficult to say at this moment. It wasn’t the plan before to go for the general classification and now at least 20 riders were better than me on the climb today. Maybe it makes no sense to go for the overall classification but we will see.

“It was just a bad day for me today. I am already having a little saddle sore, since a few days. Yesterday I didn’t feel too good, but it wasn’t really a problem. Today it wasn’t like a big problem, but I just had no energy during the race.

“For tomorrow, if I have the same power that I had today, for sure I won’t be winning the time trial. I hope to recover well and I have a good performance.”

“We went for it with the team to try to keep the jersey. Everybody did his job in a good way, but in the end, Tom didn’t have the best day,” explained coach Marc Reef.

Here's the stage eight news Tinkoff sent me:

Rafal Majka showed today that he is a force to be reckoned with at the Giro d’Italia, after a strong performance saw him matching every pedal stroke of his GC rivals as they attempted to create time gaps on the Alpe di Poti gravel climb. Rafal’s excellent ride earnt him eleventh on the stage, and sees him move into the top ten of the GC, climbing to eighth overall.

Stage 8 saw the much-anticipated gravel climb at this year's Giro d’Italia. The 186km route from Foligno to Arezzo looked innocent enough on the profile, with two categorised climbs and an otherwise flat parcours, but today all eyes would be on the Alpe di Poti – the second category ascent cresting a little under 20km from the end of the stage. It was here that gradients would reach up to 14% and riders would have the added challenge of gravel to contend with.

The day’s racing started nervously – the unknown quantity that was the late climb forcing teams to reconsider their strategy for the day. While a break attempted to get away early on, it wasn’t until almost 70km had passed that a second had built enough of an advantage to keep the peloton at bay. This group of thirteen started to build their advantage, reaching more than 4’30”.

The pace was exceptionally high from the drop of the flag, as Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, noted from the finish. “It was full gas to start and there was a little climb that wasn't even mentioned as an official one, but the peloton split. There were 30 or so guys in front, and some GC favourites in the second group, but they pushed hard and came back, and then the break went. We didn't get anyone in the move, but we stayed in the front after and got Rafal into position for the climb.”

At such a high pace – with speeds averaging 46.9km/h – the break started to splinter as the day went on, and with 38km remaining, riders began to be dropped, a little before the Alpe di Poti.

It was on the final climb of the day that Rafal Majka made his presence known – joining a select group of GC favourites with the Maglia Rosa absent, quickly creating a gap. While Rafal’s GC rivals in the group repeatedly attacked to try and go clear, the Polish Tinkoff leader managed to match every pedal stroke, so no-one was able to break free.

With the Maglia Rosa minutes behind, the end of the stage would bring with it some changes to the GC standings. As the solo breakaway took the stage win, the fight for the leader’s jersey raged behind as the chasers hit flat roads. Rafal finished the stage just outside the top ten, in eleventh position, after an exceptionally strong ride that saw him jump up to eighth place on GC.

Hoffman knew the team was prepared for the race’s challenging final climb and made sure Rafal had support if he needed it. “We had a lot of people on the climb with wheels but in the end they weren't needed, and all was OK.”

“We have seen a very strong Rafal today - it's very good to see him move into the top ten and racing at the front. When the bigger mountains come it will be even better. He was there with the big guys and looked easy when covering the moves, and now he's eighth on GC so he's moving up and it's going to plan.”

Matteo Tosatto echoed his Sport Director’s comments. "It was a tough stage with a high pace right from the start. It rained in the first climb and descend and that made it tricky. We managed to keep Rafal safe and in the front and that was important. I see he's in good shape and is moving in the GC. However, we will take it a day at a time."

There was another reason to celebrate today, with a birthday on the team, as Hoffman explained. “It was also a nice day with Matteo's birthday - we had Pawel's birthday in Holland, and our kitchen truck driver's birthday yesterday too so it's nice for the team here. Everyone is in good spirits.”

Matteo was pleased with his birthday performance, having suffered with some illness recently. "Today was, obviously, a very important day for me because I turned 42. I'm not at my optimal form because of the cold I have and my fall. Tomorrow, I will have to be careful and I'm confident I will be able to give my best after the rest day."

Tomorrow, riders will contest the first Individual Time Trial since the Giro’s start in the Netherlands. Unlike the flat roads of Apeldoorn, the 40.5km ‘Chianti Classico’ route from Radda to Greve covers an undulating course with fast descents over twisting roads, punctuated by short, sharp climbs. Riders will have no time to rest on the stage, having to give it their all to keep GC rivals in check. Hoffman added: “Tomorrow we have the time trial, we will go and have a look at the parcours in the morning and then see how it goes. Rafal will lose some time to the specialists but he has good legs so I think he can hold his own in the GC.”

This piece came from Lampre-Merida:

The 8th stage of the Giro d'Italia, 186 km from Foligno to Arezzo, could inspire the appetite for victory in Diego Ulissi thanks a fairly demanding final part and the rising final straight.

Moreover, Lampre-Merida's cyclist had won the latest Giro d'Italia stage which had started from Foligno (2014 edition, 8th stage, arrival in Montecopiolo).

However, the epilogue of the stage did not smile on Ulissi: the top climbers approached the Alpe di Poti (2nd categoy climb, 8,6 km at an average degree of 6,5% and maximum 14%, with one dirty road sector) at a very high speed, which forced the blue-fuchsia-green cyclist to lost contact to the group of the general classification contenders; he set a regular pace which allowed him to reach the summit of the climb with less than 1' of gap.

Diego Ulissi

Diego Ulissi on the Alpe di Poti

In the downhill to Arezzo, the chasing group of Ulissi could not bridge the gap and Diego completed the stage in 18th position at 51" to the top climbers.

The stage was won by Brambilla, who completed with a solo action a breakaway of 13 riders which had led the race for most part of the course. He's also the new pink jersey.

"The first part of the climb was very demanding and, moreover, the top climbers approached it at full speed - Ulissi explained (photo Bettini) - Only the climbers were in the main group on the climb, I tried to limit the gap and I did it fairly well, however in the descent we reduced the gap not as much as I would have liked because the pace of the main group was very high.

"It's a pity that the race unfolded in this way that was more suitable for the pure climbers, because I really liked the final straight, which could have been very inspiring for me".

Giant Bicycle Company issues cautious forecast for 2016

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News posted this:

TAICHUNG, Taiwan (BRAIN)—Giant executives are forecasting a generally flat year of growth in Europe and caution that sales in the U.S. could be hampered by excess inventory. On the other hand, Giant's first quarter report notes that e-bike sales in Europe, especially in the Netherlands, Germany and France, offer a bright spot in a generally downbeat report.

In releasing its first quarter report, the Taiwan manufacturer said its revenue dipped 1.4 percent to NT $14.35 billion ($441 million) when compared to the first quarter of 2015 when it reported revenue of NT$14.58 billion. Net income before taxes also dropped 9.1 percent to NT$1.08 billion when compared to NT$1.19 billion last year.

Giant, the world's largest manufacturer of bicycles, said 2016 will be a "challenging year." Giant faces what it considers a soft global economy, fluctuating foreign currency rates, high inventory levels and weak domestic demand in China.

You can read the entire story here.

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