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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

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

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk. - Thomas A. Edison

Recently completed racing:

Upcoming Racing:

Philippe Gilbert to race again in Luxembourg

BMC sent me this:

28 May 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Philippe Gilbert will make his return to racing with BMC Racing Team when the Skoda Tour de Luxembourg gets underway on Wednesday.

Sports Director Jackson Stewart said that BMC Racing Team is fielding a strong squad for the 5-day stage race. "We will be taking a strong, well-balanced roster to the SkodaTour de Luxembourg with experienced riders such as Philippe Gilbert and Jempy Drucker, who will be racing on home soil. We will also be looking for equal success from the four younger riders on the squad. Everyone is coming into this race following some good weeks of preparation and we are looking forward to being competitive in Luxembourg."

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert winning this year's Tour of Murcia

Philippe Gilbert is looking forward to getting back in the peloton after recovering from a fractured finger. "I am very happy to be back racing again and I am looking forward to lining up at the the SkodaTour de Luxembourg for the first time in my career. I have a lot of friends and fans in Luxembourg and my family are originally from Liège which is not too far away so they will be able come to see me and that gives me more motivation to be strong and do my best."

Skoda Tour de Luxembourg (1 - 5 June)

Rider roster: Tom Bohli (SUI), Marcus Burghardt (GER), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Floris Gerts (NED), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Peter Velits (SVK), Loïc Vliegen (BEL)

Sport director: Stewart Jackson (USA)

Here's Tinkoff's Tour of Luxembourg news:

To kick off the month of June, and in some ways the start of the summer racing with the Tour de France just around the corner, Tinkoff heads to the five-day Tour of Luxembourg in search of stage success. Due to the busy period the team is in, only five riders will be lining up at the race, however the lack of numbers is made up by the strong spirit and enthusiasm the riders come into the race with.

The team is shaped around taking the race day by day and seizing the opportunites that are available. With Oscar Gatto heading the roster, both as road captain and team leader, the Tinkoff team for the race is completed by four more riders who come to Luxembourg from California. Erik Baška, Adam Blythe, Michael Kolar and Nikolay Trusov all recently returned to the continent after playing a heavy role in Peter Sagan’s and Tinkoff’s success at the American tour, and will look to carry this motivation into the coming race.

Oscar Gatto

Oscar Gatto having a good day at this year's Ruta del Sol

Sport Director Lars Michaelsen explained further the team’s ambitions for the race. “Being in a busy period of the season with riders finishing the Giro, and others training at altitude in preparation for coming targets, we can only line-up with five riders but we can see opportunities for ourselves here. We will take it day by day, and the responsibility won’t be on us, so with guys like Oscar and Erik we can hopefully look for results in the sprints or finishes for the puncheurs.”

The race gets underway with a short 2.9km evening prologue in Luxembourg City to define the jersey hierarchy for the opening road stage. The technical route will require concentration for the entirety of the short, sharp effort with several twists and turns to negotiate as well as two stretches of cobblestones.

The following road stages offer opportunities for both breakaways to succeed and also group sprints to fight out the stage wins. Stage 3 in particular looks to be a good opportunity with the race culminating in a finishing circuit including a climb each lap, the last of which crests with just six kilometres left to race.

“We have Oscar for the fast finishes and also Erik depending on how he has recovered from a tough race at California,” Michaelsen added. “I think stage 3 could be a good chance for us with the climb on the finishing circuit to lose the big sprinters. But we will make a plan together for each stage and see what we can do. We don’t come into the race with any big expectations, just to get stuck into the action.”

The Race:

Prologue: Luxembourg City, 2.9km. The Tour of Luxembourg gets underway with an evening prologue around the suburban streets of Luxembourg City, covering just 2.9km meaning that it will be a flat out effort of under five minutes for the riders. A true prologue given its length, the course is not without its difficulties as there are various technicalities to tackle between the start and finish. After several left hand turns, the riders will hit the first of two cobblestone sections, after 1.95km covering just 354m. Just under 500m later they will hit the second set of cobblestones, covering 190m – despite being short lived both of these will become tougher if the weather conditions deteriorate. The first rider rolls out of the starting gate at 19:00, with the racing wrapped up at 21:05.

Stage 1, Luxembourg – Hesperange, 170.6km. After the previous night’s effort, the peloton will have some time before the first real climb of the day to refresh their legs. The category two ascent of Consdorf after 59km. The next climb falls after 110km, the 5.6% average gradient Syren ascent. Shortly after this climb the bunch will arrive on the 18.5km finishing circuit, a lap that covers the Syren climb each time around. The fourth time the riders will see the finish will be the real deal.

Stage 2: Rosport – Schifflange, 162.8km. The day’s opening categorised climb falls after 29km, and if a breakaway hasn’t gone clear by this point then the near 8% average gradient may be the perfect launch pad for attacks. The bunch covers nearly 100km before the next climb of the day, Poteau de Kayl, on a finishing circuit from which the race turns off for the final ramp to the line. The finish comes atop the 12.8% average gradient slopes of the first category Schifflange climb, a perfect finish for the puncheurs waiting to strike out.

Stage 3: Eschweiler – Differdange, 177.4km. After a short 1km neutralised section, the riders will take off just after 13:00 on the penultimate stage heading for a first intermediate sprint after 28.7km. This far in we can expect to already see a breakaway, but with four categorised climbs en route to the finish, three falling in the final 25km, there is sure to be fireworks later on. The riders enter the finishing circuit after nearly 150km and then tackle three ascents of the Col de l’Europe, at 9% average gradient. The finish line sits 6km from the top of the final time up the climb – will we see another shake up on GC?

Stage 4: Mersch – Luxembourg, 178.2km. After rolling out from the centre of the town of Mersch, the peloton faces just 3.8km before the first intermediate sprint. The next difficulty lies after 35km of racing, with the first category Côte Gralingen, followed 25km later by the Côte de Vianden. The climbs keep coming with the second category Beringerberg after 90km, which is followed by a lull in action before the riders hit the finishing circuit in the final 22km. The circuit includes five ascents of the Pabeierbierg climb, the last of which will be the finish. With an average gradient of over 9%, the climb will see the riders giving everything all the way to the finish of this year’s Tour of Luxembourg.

Lotto-Soudal sent me this note:

Tomorrow, Tuesday, and the day after tomorrow, Wednesday, Lotto Soudal will start in Gullegem and Luxembourg.

Manager Marc Sergeant: “The past days have been a rollercoaster of emotions for all of us. It is very difficult to cope with the helpless feeling we all have. I have experienced that staying home doesn’t help to cope with the uncertainty and restlessness. After deliberation, with amongst other the team’s mental coach Nathan Kahan and a trauma psychologist, we decided to race the next days. Not as much to set a result, but as a team, together, for each other and for Stig [Broeckx, who is in the hospital in serious condition following a bad crash]. We can best support each other and give each other strength, show resilience and fight, by coming together and talking to each other, with riders and staff. Hope connects us now. Or like Stig’s girlfriend put it: “Despite everything I keep thinking in the most positive way, that’s something he really taught me after all those years together.”

And this came from Lotto-Soudal a while later:

Lotto Soudal will ride the Tour de Luxembourg this week, a five-day Europe Tour stage race from Wednesday 1 June until Sunday 5 June. Like you could read in yesterday’s statement by team manager Marc Sergeant, it’s important for riders and staff to be together in this difficult time. Results are of minor importance.

Mario Aerts, sports director Lotto Soudal: “The entire team is shaken by what happened to Stig Broeckx and we want to deal with this together. It’s important to be there for each other now. Our thoughts are with Stig, who is fighting hard at the moment. Results don’t matter this week.”

Sander Armée: “This situation is terrible, we are powerless and can’t do anything, we can only hope he pulls through. As riders we are much more than just colleagues, because we spend so much time together. When Stig joined the team he was my roommate for a while. This situation will have its influence on all of us this week, but I think it’s the right decision to race, now we can support each other.”

The stages in Luxembourg are partially flat, but some tough hills at the end of the stages could get in the way of a sprint. The race starts Wednesday evening with a prologue of 2.8 kilometres in Luxembourg City. The roads on the course are mainly straight, except for a sharp hairpin turn in the descent at the start of the prologue. The descent and the cobbled climb leading to the finish, make it a very technical prologue.

The first stage takes the riders from Luxembourg City to Hesperange (170.6 km). The last 65 kilometres there are three local laps of 18.5 kilometres in which there’s a climb (Rue d’Alzingen). However it is very likely that the first stage will end in a bunch sprint. The second stage from Rosport to Schifflange (162.8 km) is a stage for explosive riders. The last hill has a gradient of 12.8%. The third stage is 177.4 km long and goes from Eschweiler to Differdange. Just like the first stage, there are three local laps in the finale, with the Col de l’Europe on the route this time. This climb with a gradient of 9% is perfect for punchers. In the fourth and last stage, which is also the longest (178.2 km), the peloton goes back to Luxembourg City. The riders need to overcome six climbs of first and second category. In the finale the peloton will head four times over the Pabeierbierg, a first category climb with a 9% climbing rate. The stage finishes on this climb and is perfect for a late attack or victory of an explosive rider.

Mario Aerts: “The last two years the Tour de Luxembourg really suited our team. This edition is harder than the previous ones, though. The prologue is the same as always and is quite technical with a hard descent in the start and a cobbled climb towards the finish. Even though the first stage might end in a bunch sprint, the following days will be hard. The second and third stage have a climb at the end, but a sprint with a small group is still possible. On the last day, the riders have to cover local laps in the city of Luxembourg and they have to surmount a steep climb. Last year Sean de Bie won this stage, but then the finish was one kilometre after the climb and in 2014 it was André Greipel who won as the last survivor of a long day in the break.”

The past weeks Sander Armée set some nice results. He conquered the KOM jersey at the Tour de Romandie and he got fifth overall at the Tour of Norway, where he also finished three times in the top ten of a stage.

Sander Armée: “The Tour de Romandie was really good for the confidence. I almost rode the entire first stage solo in front. It was the beginning of my fight for the KOM jersey. It proves that every attempt can be successful. At the Tour of Norway the condition was still fine and I aimed for a good GC. Some riders who finished ahead of me on GC had gained some bonus seconds, uphill I really was one of the best. I never rode the Tour de Luxembourg before, but in the youth categories I did race in that country. When I take a look at the profiles I could compare it to the Tour of Norway where we also had to cover a lot of local laps with a hill. I like the course: tough finales in which the route goes up and down all the time with no time to recover. The first stage seems to be one for the fast guys, but the stages afterwards all suit me. The third stage is one I really like with the Col de l’Europe in the local lap. In that lap it just goes to the top of the climb and then there’s a descent towards the finish line, no time to take a breath.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Jasper De Buyst, André Greipel, Greg Henderson, Marcel Sieberg, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Kurt Van de Wouwer.

Giant-Alpecin's mid-season plans

This came from the team:

As the Giro d’Italia reached Turin, Italy, the first Grand Tour of the season came to a close. For Team Giant-Alpecin it is a moment of reflection and a chance to offer insight into the team’s performance plans as it prepares for the season targets that lie ahead.

Team Giant-Alpecin experienced a dramatic preseason with the training accident in Calpe, Spain, eliminating six of its riders from racing for the first months. With Max Walscheid (GER) returning to action in the Baloise Belgium Tour last Wednesday, all riders involved have now returned to competition and the team is slowly coming back to full strength, leaving the most challenging period in the team’s history behind. However, there were also positive signs to report in the first part of the season, as the team saw its talented riders showing their potential for the future.

As the “Fight for Pink” kicked off in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, the team saw four of its riders finishing in the top 15 on the opening stage, with Tom Dumoulin (NED) taking the victory on home soil. This ideal beginning was followed by a total of six days defending the maglia rosa, which unfortunately ended on stage 11 for Dumoulin. The Giro continued with strong rides from Nikias Arndt (GER) who twice came close to winning a stage and he finally took a fantastic victory on the closing stage, and from Georg Preidler (AUT), who finished third on the queen stage, one of three top-10 results in the Giro for him.

Tom Dumoulin

Tom Dumoulin in pink during this year's Giro

After returning from Italy, Dumoulin has recovered well. Team Giant-Alpecin trainer/coach Adriaan Helmantel (NED) explained: “Tom took a rest week at home and gradually restarted his training in the second part of last week. He will be able to further build up duration and intensity throughout this week.”

Looking ahead in preparation for the middle block of racing this season, Team Giant-Alpecin is using high-altitude training for the fourth consecutive year. The team’s French climber, Warren Barguil, who will be racing in the Tour de Suisse, is already in his second of three weeks at 2,300 meters’ altitude at the top of the Sierra Nevada mountains. He will be joined by Dumoulin later this week and Dutchman Albert Timmer shortly after.

“This year we are taking a slightly different approach in terms of planning in comparison to the last years,” Helmantel said. “With Warren we’ll focus on making sure he’s at his best in July, whereas with Tom we will focus on his second big season target, the time trial at the Rio Olympics in Brazil in August. Because he missed the first part of the season, the focus with John [Degenkolb] is more on racing in this period rather than joining the altitude camp as he did previous years. For him it is crucial at this stage to regain racing rhythm.

“During the altitude camp we work on the endurance base, which is crucial in building toward top form and to reach race finales as fresh as possible. With Tom we will focus on specific time trial efforts, which we did last year as well. This approach is science-based and, more important, built on experience.”

With regard to Dumoulin’s road to the Olympics, Helmantel said: “We designed our plan based on a closer analysis of Tom’s physiological output from the Giro. For now it looks ideal to combine specific training, selected rest periods and an altitude camp with the Dutch championships in June and the Tour de France in July. In terms of a physiological buildup we’ve identified this as the ideal calendar for Tom’s middle block of the season, which ends with Rio as a highlighted goal. We’ll keep monitoring at every step, and the analysis of his training sessions in June will be the crucial factor in assessing whether we can stick with this plan.”

Richie Porte's & Tejay van Garderen's racing plans

BMC sent this release:

30 May 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): BMC Racing Team is set to target the General Classification at the two upcoming UCI WorldTour races, which will see Richie Porte headline the Critérium du Dauphiné roster and Tejay van Garderen lead the Tour de Suisse team.

BMC Racing Team is lining up with multiple objectives at both races said Sports Directors Valerio Piva and Fabio Baldato. "Of course you go into any race to win, but the main goal of the Critérium du Dauphiné is for Richie to really test his legs and see where his form is at, as it's one of the biggest tests before the Tour de France. It's a great opportunity to race together as a team, especially for the riders who will be there to support Richie and are hoping to be selected for the Tour de France roster," Piva said.

"It's great to have a rider like Tejay for the General Classification at the Tour de Suisse, where he'll have some very strong support on the climbs with Darwin Atapuma and Samuel Sánchez. Riders like Philippe Gilbert and Silvan Dillier are well-suited to breakaways and stage wins, so we are looking forward to seeing what we can do there," Baldato explained.

Porte is looking forward to returning to racing after illness forced him to withdraw from the Tour de Romandie.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte at this year's Tour Down Under

"Since the Tour de Romandie I've put in some really good training blocks at home and with the team at training camp, so I'm ready to put that training to the test at the Critérium du Dauphiné. It's always a tough race and knowing that it will be my last race before the Tour de France, I want to show what I can do."

Lining up in Switzerland is always extra motivation, van Garderen said. "With BMC Switzerland as our title sponsor, it's always motivating when we race in Switzerland as we want to do Andy Rihs proud. It will be my third Tour de Suisse and a really good opportunity to test myself and after some solid training recently, I'll be able to get those final race days in the legs before the Tour de France."

Critérium du Dauphiné (5-12 June)

Rider roster: Brent Bookwalter (USA), Marcus Burghardt (GER), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Rohan Dennis (AUS), Ben Hermans (BEL), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Richie Porte (AUS), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL).

Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Yvon Ledanois (FRA)

Tour de Suisse (11-19 June)

Rider roster: Darwin Atapuma (COL), Silvan Dillier (SUI), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Samuel Sánchez (ESP), Michael Schär (SUI), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Tejay van Garderen (USA), Danilo Wyss (SUI).

Sports Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA), Max Sciandri (ITA)

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