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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, May 16, 2016

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

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. - Winston Churchill

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Giro d'Italia stage 9 video

Tour of California stage 1 video

Groenewegen grabs white jersey after third place in
Tour of California stage one

This came from LottoNL-Jumbo:

Dylan Groenewegen sprinted to third in the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California on Sunday. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s sprinter took the lead with 350 metres to go, but Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) passed for the win and Wouter Wippert (Cannondale) second.

It was unsure before the race that the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California would be a bunch sprint. Halfway, there was a long first categorised climb, but the peloton did not break up. “Katusha and Dimension Data controlled the race and made sure we’d have a bunch kick,” Sports Director Frans Maassen said. “We wanted to start our lead-out as late as possible and chose to take the lead with three kilometres to go. It was looking good, but we were blown away. Dylan Groenewegen still got his chance to show off and he did it strongly. He had a lot of power.”

“We succeeded in our aim to take the lead at the right point,” Groenewegen added. “We weren’t able to have a proper lead-out, though, because we were passed on the right and the left with one kilometre to go. In the final 350 metres, I found some space and started my sprint. I thought that I was going to win, but it was too early with the headwind in the final metres. The men worked well today and I’m satisfied with my sprint.” Groenegewen was the best young rider in the first stage and grabbed the white jersey.

On Monday, the second stage of the Tour of California features more climbs in its profile, so it will be harder to force a bunch sprint. That will give Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s climber George Bennett the chance to deliver.

Giro d'Italia Stage nine team news

Monday is a rest day. The Giro will resume Tuesday with a hilly stage ending in Setola, in the Emilia-Romagna region.

Here's what Etixx-Quick Step had to say about the day's racing:

Gianluca Brambilla retained the maglia rosa following Sunday's time trial, while Bob Jungels climbed to second in the overall classification.

Stage 9 of the Giro d'Italia was viewed by many as the first real test for the GC contenders, the 40.5-km long individual time trial being expected to shake up the rankings and give a clue on who can fight for a good result in the next two weeks. Taking the riders from Radda in Chianti to Greve in Chianti, the course was an undulating one, with short and difficult climbs and some technical sections, and as if all these weren't enough, rain began halfway through the stage, and the wet roads meant that the late starters had to pay attention when negotiating the tricky corners.

Gianluca Brambilla

A wet Gianluca Brambilla defending his lead

Last rider to roll down the ramp, Gianluca Brambilla had a good start and pushed a steady pace despite the miserable conditions, being clocked in 16 minutes at the first intermediate. In the middle section of the time trial, he conceded time, but made up for this in the final kilometers, just as the road was rising again, and by the third check he took back most of the time he lost up until that point. Step by step, Gianluca scratched off the deficit on the other GC riders and concluded this challenging test in 53:50, around two minutes behind the winner, Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), which was enough for 17th place and for keeping the pink jersey.

One of the pre-race favourites, Bob Jungels was another Etixx – Quick-Step rider to stand out on Sunday, after coming home in 6th position, a result which led to a significant leap in the general classification, from 14th to 2nd, just one second behind his teammate. Having done that, Bob also increased his lead in the white jersey standings and will go into the second week of the race with a comfortable cushion over the second placed rider, none other than his teammate, Carlos Verona, also a debutant in the Giro d'Italia.

"It was a demanding, technical and difficult ITT, and all that I can say now is that I'm very happy. I came at the start very relaxed and confident, as I was thinking of giving my all, while also staying safe. I am happy for having the opportunity of spending at least one more day in the maglia rosa, but I'm also sad for Bob, because I know how he's feeling. Probably, in normal conditions, he would have won the stage. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that the jersey remained within the team", said Gianluca Brambilla, who'll now have the chance to wear the maglia rosa in a road stage, on Tuesday. "I can't wait for that! Today was a time trial, and I couldn't fully enjoy it with my great teammates, but things will be completely different on stage 10."

At the Giro d'Italia, Gianluca is leading a stage race for the first time in his career, and he credited for his success the team behind the team, from the sponsors who always provide the best equipment to Etixx – Quick-Step's staff:

"All these couldn't have been possible without all the people who stand by our side. Take, for example, today: it was a tough stage, and many riders crashed or punctured, but we didn't have this kind of problems, as Specialized delivered us great bikes and excellent tires, perfect for this kind of conditions, which made our life easier. Also, it was very important to have Davide Bramati in the car, as he knew every single detail of the parcours. That's why I want to thank to the entire team for their help and input."

Etixx – Quick-Step concluded the first nine stages of the Corsa Rosa with three wins in the bag, two jerseys and at the top of the team standings, and Bob Jungels is one of the riders who played a big role in the success of the opening week: "After Tirreno-Adriatico, I came here with Davide Bramati and Koen Pelgrim, our trainer, and did a recon of the time trial course. Of course, it was different today, because of the weather conditions, but making an idea on the key points of the stage earlier this year really helped me a lot. I'm very happy considering how today was. I managed to extend my lead in the best young rider standings and to return to the top three of the general classification. It's great to be up there with Gianluca, the team spirit is incredible and we hope to continue like this."

Tinkoff sent me this Giro update:

After cementing his position as a challenger for the podium on yesterday's testing climb, Rafal Majka aimed to hold onto his top ten place in the GC in today’s ‘Chianti Classico’ time trial. After 40.5km on undulating roads in tough weather conditions, that soaked riders to the bone and made for slippery racing, Manuele Boaro finished just outside the top ten, in eleventh position, with Tinkoff’s leader finishing the day in 31st position, keeping hold of his top ten place in the GC.

After the tough gravel climb of stage 8, the individual time trial for stage 9 was no less challenging, with a technical circuit and some testing climbs. The 40.5km route started in the town of Radda in Chianti and took in some of the famed Tuscan landscape along the way, but as the day progressed, riders would have no chance to take in the view as rain clouds formed.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka riding the stage 9 time trial

Forty minutes after the first rider left the start, the rain started to fall, and with it came slippery, treacherous conditions. With many riders soaked to the skin and suffering with the cold, they had the choice of pushing the limits and risking crashing, or holding back in the hope any losses could be re-gained on the later stages.

On a day where the parcours meant the time trial specialists wouldn’t necessarily have an advantage, the wet conditions were an additional equaliser for the riders on the road. With the crowds spurring them on though, fast times continued to be set throughout the day, with Manuele Boaro setting a time of 53’16”, which for a while propelled him into the top ten.

After his ride, Manuele was pleased with his performance. "It was a tricky time trial with a rainy first part. I was careful and tried not to take too many risks because I wanted to go strong in the finale. The last climb was tough, and a 40km time-trial after the effort of the first eight stages isn't easy"

As the GC top ten made their way onto the course, conditions were still challenging, with wet roads still to contend with. Rafal Majka started his ride with the aim of getting home safely. After a ride that saw him working hard throughout, and finishing with a time of 54’41”, the Tinkoff leader finished the day in 31st position. With all riders home, Manuele finished just outside the top ten, in 11th position, after his strong ride over the difficult stage in tough conditions.

Having finished strongly, Manuele was looking forward to supporting his leader in later stages. "As I said, today wasn't a day to take unnecessary risks for me. I'm not winning the Giro, I'm here to support our leader, Rafal Majka. We still have a long way to the finish in Turin. I gave my best and if that brings a good result in this stage, I'm happy."

Rafal Majka was pleased with his ride, retaining his top ten position in the GC. "I think I did my best today. It was a hard time trial and the rain made it even tougher. I was going pretty well in the climbs but lost some time on the descents as I wasn’t risking it on the slippery roads. I didn't lose too much overall and I’m still in the top ten so it was quite a good day.”

The Polish team leader continued. “We still have a long way to go and I hope my shape will keep improving. It is important to put on a strong performance in the last week. Tomorrow will not be a complete rest day as I will turn the legs over so that I feel better in the coming days.”

Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, had a great deal of praise for his team after a hard day on the roads. “I think Rafal did a fantastic job today as it was very tricky in the rain with the difficult descents but he competed at a high level and held his own in the GC. Manuele did a strong ride to finish 11th - we saw yesterday that he was up there with the pink jersey group on the climb and riding strong and he showed it again today. It's a good sign for the two weeks to come, as he will be a strong help for Rafal.”

After a tough week that saw sprint stages, mountains and a long time trial, riders will be taking a well-earned rest day tomorrow. The racing starts again on Tuesday with another tough stage – stage 10 takes riders to the mountains on a 219km route from Campi Bisenzio to Sestola, which is flat only for the first 25km. The remainder of the route takes in three third category climbs and the first category Pian del Falco, with the final climb of the day an uphill finish.

Here's BMC's Giro time trial report:

The second individual time trial on Stage 9 of the Giro d’Italia was slated as an important stage for the General Classification contenders, even more so with the wet and slippery conditions that caused havoc on the course.

The early riders enjoyed relatively dry conditions which become progressively worse as rider after rider rolled down the start ramp, with eventual heavy rain and hail creating difficult conditions on the course.

Stefan Küng was hoping to make amends for the opening time trial where a crash ruined his chance of victory, but the slippery conditions saw him cross the line with the seventh-fastest time.

Stefan Kung

Stefan Küng time trialing in 2015

Stefan Küng: “There was so much water on the road when I was on the course. I think it was five centimeters deep in some sections and then it started hailing at one point. When we did the recon of the course we had identified different sections and corners where I could go full gas but in the end you couldn’t at all, because you had to constantly sit up and stay safe. When you’re going 45 kilometers an hour on a dry road you don’t even think about it and just tuck into a good position, but when it’s wet you feel your wheels slipping and you can’t go as hard as you would like.”

“I ride time trials with no socks and my shoes were just full of water. There’s nothing you can do when you have conditions like this. I think there were times when I had to slow down to 20 kilometers an hour just to get around a corner safely, so you lose so much time. You lose focus when you know that you are losing time, so it really wasn’t ideal for anyone.”

Max Sciandri, Sports Director: “More than anything it is a real shame that the conditions became so bad, not just for us, but for all of the teams with riders hoping to do well. We did a recon of the course early in the morning when the road was dry and it was a completely different race. When you do a time trial and can’t go in a straight line for more than 200 meters that tells you what it was like.”

“Stefan still did a great job to safely manoeuvre his way around the course and come home in seventh place, but we know he could have produced a better time had the conditions been different. It was the same for everyone though. It’s a wasted opportunity when the weather plays such a role in determining the outcome of a race, but that’s cycling!”

Dimension Data was there and had this to say about the stage:

Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) won the stage 9 individual time trial of the Giro d’Italia. 2nd place went to Matthias Brandle (IAM Cycling) and 3rd position was taken by Vegard Stake Laengen (IAM Cycling). The leader’s jersey would stay with Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quickstep).

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka went into today’s stage with the primary objective being for Kanstantsin Siutsou to keep his general classification hopes alive. For the rest of our African Team, the time trial discipline is not particularly their forte and so the team aimed to get around the technical 40.5km course in Chianti without expending too much energy.

The early starters all enjoyed some good weather conditions and Jay Thomson, our South African strongman, was even able to hit 90km/h on some of the descents after being one of the first riders off. Just as Thomson reached the finish though, the rain started to fall out on course and this would make things particularly difficult for the main contenders who started later in the day.

Jay Thomson

Jay Thomson racing in 2015

Siutsou was one of the riders who had to bear the brunt of the worst weather and reaching speeds of 90km/h was no longer an option for the GC contenders on the wet roads. Roglic was one of the fortunate riders to do most of his time trial on dry roads and so his mark of 51’45” would not be beaten. Siutsou, like many others, had a tough time on the wet roads and finished 4’35” down on Roglic. Igor Anton was our African Team’s best placed rider on the day, as he finished 4’07” down.

After today’s time trial, Siutsou retained his 17th position on the overall classification as we head into the 2ndrest day of this year’s Giro d’Italia.

Jay Thomson – Rider: "Today’s individual time trial was actually a really nice course but when the GC boys had to do their stuff it was kind of monsoon type weather. For myself it was just a day to get through but for Kanstantsin and Igor the weather didn’t play so nice for them. At least they stayed upright and everybody made it through to the rest day. So now we can rest and recharge the batteries for what is to come because the next 12 stages are pretty tough on the GC side of things. We need to recover and reset, and look forward to going with Kristian for the next 3 days, aiming for a stage victory and then all attention on the mountains for Kanstantsin."

Caleb Fairly to retire after Tour of California

This news came from Giant-Alpecin:

Team Giant-Alpecin announces the retirement of Caleb Fairly (USA) from professional racing with this year's Amgen Tour of California being the last race of his 10-year career. Fairly has played an integral role in helping and supporting the team throughout the races in order to achieve success.

His decision came after much thought and discussion with people closest to him. "The past 10 years spent racing bikes has been an incredible journey,” said Fairly. "I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to race my bike at the highest level of the sport. I will end this chapter of my time in cycling far richer for the incredible people I've gotten to know and work with. A huge thank-you to all my teammates and every staff member who joined me along the way. You are the ones who made this journey so amazing.

"I will be forever appreciative to the team owners who afforded me the opportunity to race for their teams, including Iwan Spekenbrink. Now, I will take some time to enjoy the birth of our first child after California with my wife, and I am very excited to begin the next phase of my cycling career."

"Caleb has been an important member of the team and we fully support his decision," explained coach Rudi Kemna (NED). "He has been part in Team Giant-Alpecin's major successes and has offered a great deal of experience to the team. It was a pleasure to watch his commitment and passion towards his teammates and to the sport that he has given so much to, and we want to thank Caleb for that. We understand everything must come to an end at some point and we wish him all the best for the future and in his career."

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