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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, September 7, 2016

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Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. - Isaac Asimov writing in the Foundation Series

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Tinkoff's Vuelta a España rest-day race wrap-up

The second week of the Vuelta a España has seen an action packed middle-section of the race filled with mountain climbs, GC tests and excitement from start to finish. In total, from the six stages, three ended with a mountain-top finish, two were intermediate days with several categorized climbs to tackle, and finally the most recent stage, yesterday, was one with a nervous and technical run-in threatened by crosswinds.

After the first rest day, the team had to come out fighting from the off, with a tough uphill finish on stage 11. They had a relatively flat parcours for much of the day to re-awaken the legs before the climb to the line that saw the GC battle reignited and a fifth place finish for Alberto Contador, reassuring his fifth place on GC.

From the finish, Alberto wasn’t sure how he would perform after the rest day, and while he had finished strongly, he felt he didn’t have the legs. “Today we had a summit finish and we didn't know how we would feel after the rest day. We tried to control the breakaway despite the fact it was composed of 25 riders, which made things complicated. We tried but then the legs didn't respond. There were riders stronger than me.”

The following day saw a rare sprint opportunity, but only after much of the peloton had been left chasing over the four climbs of the day. A front group of just 45 riders fought out the stage win, with the team safely looking after Alberto ahead of some tough days in the saddle.

Alberto contador

Alberto Contador heads to the start of Vuelta stage 16

The longest stage of the race came on stage 13 and it was a day for the breakaway to take the stage. Knowing that this would likely be the case, the team focused on placing a rider in the day’s move, and Michael Gogl was the one who got himself into the escape. Still a neo-pro, Michael put in a superb performance making the winning split in the final kilometers before sprinting to fourth on the stage – his best career result to date.

Sport Director Lars Michaelsen commented on Michael’s strong performance on the day: “Since there was no chase behind everyone came quite fresh into the final. Michael took a chance going away with Jelle Wallays with 30km to go. It was a good chance, something to try. One thing to say is that he could have finished second, but he had a gap to close, which cost him. Of course we’re racing to win and today there was one guy stronger. Still, chapeau to Michael. Behind in the bunch there were no issues for the guys and they finished safely after a steady day.”

After the longest day came the toughest day – the Queen Stage of the race. Covering 196km, stage 14 took in three first category climbs before the final ascent to the finish line atop the Col d’Aubisque. The action started early in the day with a huge breakaway pulling clear including Daniele Bennati, who managed to stay in front for a long period of the stage.

The race for the stage honors was fought out by the remnants of the early break, while behind the GC battle kicked off with Alberto digging deep to fight for his place. He put in a strong attack in the final kilometers, but in the end settled into his own rhythm and finished a handful of seconds behind the leading GC contenders – narrowly slipping down a spot on GC to sixth.

The following day was to see the race turn on its head, thanks to a brave move from the start of the race by Alberto and the team. With an uncategorized climb on the parcours proving an early test, the team, led by Alberto, pushed the pace at the front and forced a split of, eventually, 14 riders. This split included Ivan Rovny and Yuri Trofimov, as well as the race leader, but no other riders from the top 10.

Driving the pace, the three Tinkoff riders helped forge a gap of up to three minutes, with the final climb of Formigal set to decide the stage and also the final time gaps on GC by the end of the day. Moving clear from the rest of the break in a select group, Alberto continued to drive the group before finishing the climb at his own pace behind those fighting for the stage win. It was a heroic effort that saw him move back up to fourth on GC, and also saw him awarded the most combative rider on the day.

Alberto himself said after the race: "I'm happy with the stage today. When I crossed the finish line yesterday, I was gutted because the form of my legs didn't correspond to the result. I had a very strange sensation after the stage and I wanted to put it behind me and focus on today.”

With just one day left before the rest day, the sprinters were in with another shot at victory. But a hot and fast stage meant that the peloton had to stay alert all day and there was no letup in the narrow, twisting finale. After Alberto lit up the stage previous, it was over to Daniele Bennati to take center stage, with a powerful solo attack 2,200m out nearly seeing him seal victory. On the long finishing straight the sprinters had to dig deep to catch Daniele, eventually overhauling the Italian with just 200m to go, leaving him empty handed.

“It was well-timed and he very nearly made it – it was the guys that made the decision there and it’s good to see them thinking like this in a hectic finish like today,” explained De Jongh.

“Now we have a rest day. With the warm weather and the hard days in the legs we’ll have an easy ride, really trying to recover. Then after that we have some more very tough days ahead."

The action resumes tomorrow with an uphill finish atop the Alto Mas de la Costa, featuring ramps of up to 21% in the final kilometers of the 177.5km stage. It will be another battle for the GC riders, and one that will see who has recovered well on the race’s second rest day.

While we're at it, here's Tinkoff's report of Alberto Contador's press conference:

Tinkoff's GC leader at the Vuelta a España, Alberto Contador, sat down with the press on the second rest day of the race to discuss the past days' racing, along with other goals. Read what he had to say below.

Q: In the various assessments of the chances the GC contenders have, you are always a reference in what regards the various outcomes, whether you are going to wreak havoc again, what strategy you will follow, etc. How do you feel right now? What will your strategy be and what is your ultimate goal?

A: Well, I'm not sure myself. I can see there are possibilities and at certain times I could try something. On the other hand, it is true there are many interests, probably common, that can come together and make your bet very complicated to achieve. I'll take it day-by-day, and keep trying. The goal I have isn't the podium. Obviously, winning is very difficult because Nairo Quintana has a very strong team, he's very strong himself and has an enormous difference over me.

In addition, there are two more riders ahead of me. I'll keep giving all I have in the race and see how we end up in Madrid. It's true that every day there is a different story and a thousand things can happen, so, in that sense, sometimes you can come out disadvantaged while at others you can be advantaged.

Q: Do you contemplate forming an alliance with Froome in order to isolate Quintana the way you did with Quintana on Formigal? Will you try to find other allies or will you race on your own?

A: No, I don't form alliances with any rider or team. In the end, I do my own race and once you see the composition of the group in which you are, you can see what common interests could exist. Probably, the one pondering about doing something right now is Froome. Unless he invents something, it will be complicated to overturn Quintana, despite the fact we still have two summit finishes and a time trial. Last time it was with Quintana, next time, if there is a next time, it could be with somebody else. 

Q: If you hadn't made that move two days ago do you think Quintana would have tried it in that stage?

A: I think you should ask him but in my opinion it would have been a quieter stage.

Q: You have always been a leader in the Vuelta, you’ve won three times. For a week now you find yourself in a complicated situation that you probably haven't faced before, with the exception of 2012. How would you assess this Vuelta?

A: It's true it's a wrong-footed Vuelta. We started in a worse way than we would have liked, already losing one minute to the main rivals on the first day. Just like everything else, that adds up. I had a bad day on Ezaro and then a crash just before the first three summit finishes. It's probably a wrong-footed Vuelta, not the way I would have liked. Then, in what regards our climbers, we don't have the potential some other teams have but I will keep enjoying every day as much as I can. Two days ago we didn't reach victory but at times you get much more satisfaction even if you don't win. Very often, this is what fans remember.

It's true that until this year my success rate at the Vuelta was 100% and it now seems it will drop to 75%. However, we still have a week ahead of us in which a lot of things could happen. The race finishes in Madrid, not before, but it's true it will be very difficult.

Q: What are your plans after the Vuelta? Have you established you racing schedule?

A: No, not yet. I still have to talk with the team and I'm 100% focused on the Vuelta right now. We will then see what schedule we set.

Q: Have you studied tomorrow's climb (stage 17)? Did you recon it? Do you think the differences will be of a few seconds or do you think there is a possibility of much greater gaps?

A: I know the climb and recently rode it. I think the differences will be bigger than Peña Cabarga. Tomorrow's stage is extremely hard from the outset. The start will be very tough and there is close to 3,700 meters of elevation gain, combined with temperatures of 40 degrees centigrade. In my opinion, tomorrow will be an extremely hard day, one of the hardest of the Vuelta and the differences will be much bigger.

Q: What is your view on the fact the 90 riders out of time limit were readmitted?

A: Well, there can be many opinions. When a rule is applied or isn't applied, there will always be varied views. Your view depends on whether you suffer or you gain from the decision. In this particular case, I suffered from it. On the other hand, it is true these kind of readmissions are not uncommon. Nevertheless, I think we have to assess the situation and, I don't know in what way, we have to find a solution. The fact that 100 riders come together doesn't mean they can go at such a slow pace.

I compared my powermeter two days ago with that of my teammate Jesús Hernández, who was in that group, and he did exactly less than half the effort I did! Afterwards, in a day like yesterday or tomorrow, that will be noticed. It is much easier to understand if you are 1-2 minutes over the limit after giving your maximum. However, if you finish out of the limit by so many minutes because you were riding too calmly, we either have to send a warning or make a rule because it isn't acceptable.

All riders fighting for the GC are battling it out at the front until the last metre and can't have a moment’s rest. Then on days like yesterday or on tomorrow's climb, these efforts will take their toll. 

Wilco Kelderman moves to Giant-Alpecin

Giant-Alpecin sent me this release about Kelderman's move from LottoNL-Jumbo:

Team Giant-Alpecin is extremely proud to announce that Wilco Kelderman (NED) has signed a two-year contract with the team, boosting its overall classification power. Following Michael Matthews (AUS), Kelderman is recognized as the second big rider signing to its significantly strengthened roster for 2017 and beyond.

With Kelderman, Team Giant-Alpecin adds one of the most promising talents in the pro peloton. Having signed the hugely talented Sam Oomen (NED) last year, who has already shown strong results at the Critérium International and the Tour de l’Ain in his first year as a professional, along with the recently announced former World junior time trial champion Lennard Kämna (GER) and Australian U23 champion Chris Hamilton, Team Giant-Alpecin continues to attract the world's best of class promising riders with great potential.

Wilco kelderman

Wilco Kelderman

The 25-year-old Dutchman Wilco Kelderman will become an important rider for the one-week WorldTour stage races and Grand Tours, having his own chance at one of the Grand Tours. He's already recorded top results at the highest level at his young age, including winning the Tour of Denmark, 3rd at the Eneco Tour, 4th at the Critérium du Dauphine, 7th at the Giro d’Italia and 5th at the Tour de Romandie. He's proven time and again to be a genuine up-and-coming rider to aim for the general classifications in the biggest stage races.

About his move to the team, Kelderman said: “I am very pleased to join Team Giant-Alpecin, taking the next step in my career. The team allows me to grow towards a role as a leader for the Grand Tours, using a gradual approach. They are successful with their philosophy, with an emphasis on science and technology, like the focus on being experts in time trial performance, for example. I can learn from the experience they have, as well as from guys like Tom [Dumoulin] and Michael [Matthews], who are from the same generation and having paved the road for me.”

Movement scientist, Adriaan Helmantel (NED) gave his reaction to this new signing: “We are delighted to sign Wilco. He has huge GC potential with strong TT and climbing skills, and he's already raced to seventh at the Giro at the super young age of 23, showing there's a large margin to keep growing. We believe he has the qualities to become a very good GC rider and we will take time and an easy approach to gradually make the best out of his abilities.”  

Teams headed to Canadian races

This release came from BMC:

6 September 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Greg Van Avermaet will return to the Canadian one-day races, GP Cycliste de Quebec and GP Cycliste de Montreal, this week looking to add to his victories this season.

Van Avermaet, who has twice been on the podium in Quebec, will be joined by a strong team in support of the Olympic champion, Sports Director Yvon Ledanois said. "With a leader like Greg Van Avermaet we are very confident and motivated to come away with success in Canada. Greg is in great shape, as he has shown this year, and he will be supported by an experienced group of riders," Ledanois said.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet winning the 2016 Olympic road race

Van Avermaet is looking forward to continuing his season in Quebec and Montreal. "I've only had one race day since the Olympic Games so I'm excited to be racing again. I always enjoying racing at these one-day classics and I think we can definitely race aggressively and hopefully come away with a win," Van Avermaet added.

GP Cycliste de Quebec / GP Cycliste de Montreal (9 + 11 September)

Rider roster: Brent Bookwalter (USA), Marcus Burghardt (GER), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Michael Schär (SUI), Manuel Senni (ITA), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Peter Velits (SVK).

Sports Director: Yvon Ledanois (FRA)

And this came from Tinkoff:

Peter Sagan will lead Tinkoff at the double header of one-day WorldTour races in Canada – Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal – the first return to Canada for the UCI world champion since his Montréal win in 2013. He also took a top ten in Québec that year, and will be joined this month by a strong line-up, including Rafal Majka, Roman Kreuziger and Michael Valgren.

All four of these riders are capable of a strong result on these races which favour the puncheurs, with their rolling roads and repeated climbs. They’re joined by Oscar Gatto, Michael Kolar, Evgeny Petrov and Maciej Bodnar. The same eight riders will tackle both races.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan finished the 2016 Tour de France in the green points jersey

Looking ahead to the double header of races, Peter said: "After a short period of rest following Plouay I resumed training on Saturday and am looking forward to racing in Canada. I have good memories of these races having won in Montréal in 2013. We have a strong team for these races and if it is not me at the front at the end then I know that the other guys are also capable of getting a result here.

"Both have tough parcours but I'm quite suited to each and I hope that I will have recovered enough in time to be able to challenge again here. There are not many WorldTour races left to score points in so I would like to continue picking up points here and see how the standings are after the Vuelta."

The first of the two races is the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec, taking place on Friday 9th September, taking in a 12.6km urban circuit that features 186m gain each of the 16 laps, giving a total altitude gain of 2967m over 201.6km of racing. The rolling circuit features two small classified climbs, as well a long drag to the finish line where the 2016 victor will be crowned.

Two days later, a very similar peloton that we’ll see do battle in Québec will line up at the 205.7km Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal. In a similar format to the prior race, Montréal will feature 17 laps of a 12.1km city circuit, but with more climbing that the previous course. Each lap will see 229m of altitude gain, resulting in a total gain of 3893m by the end of the race.

Looking at the two races, Sport Director Patxi Vila said: “In terms of our plan of attack, we have to see how Peter is, and how he has recovered as he wasn’t feeling great in Plouay. However, he’s back training and he should be OK. Alongside Peter, we have a strong roster here and the aim, like in Plouay, is to have Peter at his best level, to score points for the WorldTour, and to go for the win.

“We can also play the card of Rafal or Roman, and Michael too. They are looking strong and suited to the two different parcours. Comparing the two, I think Montréal suits Peter a bit better, but we will see how the races develop.

“Like I said before Plouay, we’re coming towards the end of the season so motivation levels vary within the peloton, sometimes making for slightly different racing, but the guys are up for these two races here. Bodnar and a few others are coming to Canada with a few weeks since their last race so they’re keen to get going again. I think we can target some nice results here in Canada.”  

Industry overstocks and company shows affect Eurobike attendence

This is from Bike-Eu.com:

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany – The 25th Eurobike is a memorable edition for the history books. The show faced a difficult situation on its home market as lower first half year sales resulted in overstock. In combination with a growing number of house shows and (international) dealer events less dealers, mainly from the German speaking countries, attended last week’s Eurobike.

How many less German speaking dealers were at Eurobike this year is not specified in the final show report which was distributed by Messe Friedrichshafen. This report says, “All in all 42,720 industry visitors came to Eurobike (2015: 45,870).” This represents a 7% drop. Bernhard Lange, Managing Director of Paul Lange & Co. OHG; “still sensed a positive mood among retailers as the weather has improved in the last few weeks. However, it also must be said that we have seen a drop in the number of German trade visitors.”

Eurobike show manager Stefan Reisinger explains in the same show report: “In the last decades, we have experienced an almost constant increase in our visitor numbers. Now we have registered a decline for the first time, primarily among German trade visitors. The reasons for this range from how the season has gone so far, to increased competition from a growing number of events put on by manufacturers themselves.”

You can read the entire story here.

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