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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, September 13, 2016

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When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. - Henry Ford

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Vuelta a España final team reports

A couple more Vuelta reports came in after I posted Monday's news.

This extended report came from Cannondale-Drapac:

When the peloton arrived in Madrid after one of the hardest Vueltas in recent memory, Cannondale-Drapac had two riders inside the top 10: American Andrew Talansky and Italian Davide Formolo. The team finished third overall in the teams classification.

Talanksy finished fifth on the general classification, his best-ever finish in a grand tour. It was exactly what he set out to do: better his seventh place in the Vuelta, set in 2012.

“It’s a great feeling. When we made the decision to skip the Tour de France and focus on the Vuelta, we came up with that idea before the Tour of California,” Talansky said. “A lot of people questioned that, because it looked like I was riding well in Suisse. It was also putting a lot into one grand tour for the season, and really hoping that it would all come together for the Vuelta. Now, here in Madrid, it’s my best grand tour result. Fifth in the most difficult grand tour I’ve ever been a part of. I think we can all be really happy with that.”

Formolo also slotted into the top 10. His ninth-place finish is his highest in a grand tour. He came in with a straightforward goal. “Just to do my best, you know? After the Giro, I started training really hard for this Vuelta. I am really happy now to be in the top 10, and also for working for Andrew in fifth. It was nice,” Formolo said. “I knew I didn’t have any pressure. Just stay as close to Andrew as I could.”

In the end, neither of them did it with flash but rather simple grit. As some faded in the final week, both Talansky and Formolo improved. Talansky moved up a spot during the individual time trial, and Formolo moved up a spot on the race’s final climb, up the Aitana.

Andrew Talansky

Andrew Talansky (green Cannondale kit) going deep in Vuelta stage 11

Talansky was a model of consistency over the three weeks of racing, slowly moving up the general classifcation. He finished eighth up the Aubisque on stage 14, moving him into eighth, and seventh on the individual time trial on stage 19, moving him into fifth.

“The top four places are occupied by proven, grand tour podium contenders all supported by very strong teams. And the route this year was a very challenging route for the GC riders. All of that combined made for 21 days of very hard racing,” Talansky said.

For Talansky, the finish serves as a confirmation. His decision to skip the Tour de France after a less-than-ideal early season and focus on the Vuelta instead has been rewarded.

“I’m happy,” said head sport director Charly Wegelius. “I think it was a brave decision that Andrew took to skip the Tour. A lot of people at the time had some difficulty understanding that. It’s nice to see that paid off for him, and it’s nice to see his career has taken a step back where he deserves to be. I think it’s an important step to next season.”

Formolo’s Vuelta story is similar to Talansky’s in that his success was incremental and his racing calculated. From stage 11, Formolo found himself near the top 10, in 13th. He moved up to 11th after stage 14, then climbed into the top 10 on stage 15, hitting eighth on GC.

From there, it was about maintenance. Formolo lost time on the time trial into Calp, falling to 10th, but would get back to ninth on the final climb of the Vuelta.

“He didn’t drop his head after a disappointing Giro. He put is head down and kept on working. It’s nice for him to get a confirmation that his talent just didn’t disappear,” Wegelius said.

Through and through, the solid general classification results come as a result of a team effort. Ben King riding the break on stage 20, falling back and helping Talansky. Moreno Moser pulling stage in and out. Pierre Rolland keeping Talansky out of the wind. The directors were proud of their squad, which lost Simon Clarke after a crash on stage 10. Clarke finished the stage, in a show of loyalty and tenacity, but was forced to withdraw when it was determined he required surgery on his shoulder to fix a broken scapula, among other issues.

“They all rose to the challenge in what I think is fair to say is one of the hardest Vueltas of recent times. I’d say that the place in the team competition [third] really reflects the strength of the team. It’s a testament to strength of the riders,” Wegelius said.

On the road, Talansky saw how strong the team was every day and is well aware that this strength gave him opportunity. “You can have the best form of your life. But if you don’t have the right team to support you, you’re not going to get a chance to show it,” Talansky said. “The final selection on a stage like yesterday, stage 20, we have four guys out of less than 20, when teams like Sky and Movistar have less. That just speaks to the depth and the strength of the team.”

DS Bingen Fernandez, on the ground at the Vuelta, said the Vuelta success came down to smarts, too.  “Apart from being strong, we were smart. I think it’s not only we rode strong, we rode smart. It’s something that makes me proud of the team. That in the right moment, we were there,” Fernandez said. “It was hard. The first part of the Vuelta, we weren’t so good. Around 15th position. But we knew we could move up. So day by day we focused on that. The Vuelta is a challenge from day one. The most challenging aspect is the entire Vuelta itself.”

Pierre Rolland came to Spain as a super domestique rather than team leader. He took the same joy in the task as he does chasing personal ambitions in France. “I arrived here to help Andrew first, second I tried to win a stage. I think my help is very important for him and the team,” Rolland said. “I’m very happy for his result, and the team’s. I think it’s very important. Fifth on the GC, almost every day with the GC group — it’s very good spirit for the team. With tme, Andrew, Joe, it’s very good for next year. This team is fun, no? This team is very good — it’s good work, and it’s so fun.”

Full text of Andrew Talansky interview:

The preparation in the early part of the season wasn’t idea, and you had some setbacks this season. But now, you’ve arrived fifth in Madrid. How’s it feel?

It’s a great feeling. When we made the decision to skip the Tour de France and focus on the Vuelta, we came up with that idea before the Tour of California. A lot of people questioned that, because it looked like I was riding well in Suisse. It was also putting a lot into one grand tour for the season, and really hoping that it would all come together for the Vuelta. We had a plan. And I have to thank Jonathan Vaughters for the fact that we stuck to it, and despite him taking a lot of criticism for doing so, not putting me into the Tour. Now, here in Madrid, it’s my best grand tour result. Fifth in the most difficult grand tour I’ve ever been a part of. I think we can all be really happy with that.

You’ve noted how hard this Vuelta has been a few times. What has made it so rough?

To start, the level of riders. You have the same group of riders from the Tour de France, plus Alberto Contador, who left the Tour de Franc early. He came here for a little bit of redemption. Nairo Quintana, same thing. He wasn’t at his best during the Tour. I think you saw here he was back to his climbing best. And Chris Froome doesn’t show up at a race unless he’s ready to race for the win. Then you have Esteban Chavez, who’s now a consistent podium rider at grand tours. So, the top four places are occupied by proven, grand tour podium contenders all supported by very strong teams. And the route this year was a very challenging route for the GC riders. All of that combined made for 21 days of very hard racing.

What’s the team meant to you here?

You can have the best form of your life. But if you don’t have the right team to support you, you’re not going to get a chance to show it. Looking over these past three weeks… this is my eighth grand tour. The final selection on a stage like yesterday, stage 20, we have four guys out of less than 20, when teams like Sky and Movistar have less. That just speaks to the depth and the strength of the team. From day one here, in the first half of the race, I said that I’d do my best. They stayed completely committed to me when it would have been easy to say in the first half of the race it would be a tough ask to arrive in the top five in Madrid. But bit by bit we worked our way up there. I might have ended up 5th overall, but that’s only thanks to work they did over three weeks.

Anything else you’d like to add?

It’s really nice to finish the season on a high note like this. I think you could see there was a turning point at the Tour of California, basically. Top five in every stage race I’ve started since California. California, Suisse, Utah, and now here at the Vuelta. It’s really nice to finish the season with this. This is my last race of the year. And to carry that momentum into next season.

One more, then. What about next year?

The ambition coming here was to put together a really sold three weeks and I think we accomplished that. Obviously that just motivates you and makes you want more. I’ll sit down with the team and we’ll figure out what the best races are to target next season. The tour de France holds a special place for me, and there’s no doubt that I want to go to that race and again put together the three weeks I know I’m capable of and the team knows I’m capable of. But just like this year it’s all about figuring out what the best races are and how to get there.

This Vuelta wrap-up came from Tinkoff:

After three tough weeks of racing, the Vuelta a España came to a close with five final stages including two more tough mountain finishes, two sprint opportunities, and a key individual time trial test to see the fight for the red jersey continue to evolve. At its close in Madrid, the race saw a fitting award for Alberto Contador, with the team's leader awarded the most combative rider prize, a fitting award for his and the team's fighting spirit.

The day after the second and final rest day saw the race get back into gear with a bang as the GC contenders went head-to-head on the final ascent to the line. The climb may have been less than four kilometres long, but it was still a big push from the favourites to try to crack one another. As it happened, all attacks were neutralised, and the four crossed the line in the same time.

Up the road, the day’s breakaway managed to hold enough of an advantage to fight out the stage victory. Amongst the 28 that went clear was Tinkoff’s neo-pro, Michael Gogl, in his second successful breakaway of the Vuelta. On a finish unsuited to his strengths, he put in a valiant push to hold on for 13th.

“It started hard today and was fast, then in the middle we had two climbs which the guys did yesterday in training so they were well prepared,” explained Sport Director Steven de Jongh after the stage. “Nobody was in trouble. We tried hard to get Ivan Rovny and Yuri Trofimov in the break but they were brought back. Then in the end Michael Gogl was in the right move and it was good to have someone up there if something was needed in the final. As it was, Alberto had good support from the other guys and then was up there with the best at the end. It was super hard with the gradients on the climb but he was looking good today.”

The following stage saw one of two sprint opportunities for Daniele Bennati and the team in the final week of the race. On the other hand, it was a steady day for Alberto and the rest of the GC contenders ahead of a tough individual time trial and then the last mountain test of the race.

As predicted the race came into the finish as one, with the guys positioning Daniele near the front before the final kilometre. Unlike his last sprint opportunity where he jumped before the sprint itself, today he waited until the final effort and dug deep to take fourth.

After the sprint, he told the press: “It wasn’t easy today, but we were pretty quiet and in the final I had some energy left, but I was a little bit behind in the last two corners. When I was able to go on the left I gave it my all.

“The main goal is Alberto and the race doesn’t finish until Madrid so we’ll keep doing everything we can to race for the red jersey. It’s not easy but we know his character and he’ll fight all the way.”

The individual time trial on stage 19 tackled a 37km route that rolled its way through the Spanish countryside, taking in a climb as well as some technical windy sections between Xàbia and Calp. On a day where the rest of the team could consolidate and save energy for the coming days, it was full gas for Alberto who ended the stage in eighth, moving onto the podium thanks to his efforts.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador riding Vuelta stage 19

Alberto said after the stage: "I got off to a good start and the first part of the time trial went very well. There was a strong wind but I knew it was there I could make a difference on Chaves. Then it became tougher and I had a hard time keeping a steady pace of watts, it was stop and go. I didn't feel the way I would have liked, the effort took its toll but I'm satisfied with the result.”

Stage 19 may have seen some time differences between the rivals, but stage 20 offered a profile that could see riders crack or see their GC hopes fade on a tough, mountainous parcours that took in four categorised climbs before the final ‘especial’ category ascent to the finish.

Tinkoff had lofty ambitions for the stage, always looking to fight until the end, and this started with strong intentions to get as many riders up the road early on, looking to have support on hand if needed during the stage.

Yuri Trofimov was eventually the rider who made the break that stuck and when a dangerous move came from Esteban Chaves, fourth placed overall, Yuri’s assistance came into play. He dropped back to join Alberto's select GC group before pacing them to the bottom of the final ascent. From here it was every man for himself up the long 21km climb.

Alberto put in a brave effort but couldn’t bring Chaves back enough to stop him moving ahead again in the GC, knocking Alberto off the podium. The GC leader remained pragmatic about the outcome of the stage, despite being disappointed. “When we started the Vuelta we knew what was ahead, unfortunately we weren't able to win it but it might sound strange but I don't give too much importance to the fact that I'm off the podium. When you lose you learn more and in this Vuelta I learned a lot. When you win you barely learn anything, when you lose you learn more.”

All that was left then was for the peloton to ride into Madrid for celebrations, and one final sprint opportunity. It was the team's last bid for a stage win with Daniele Bennati and he went so close to pulling it off, just fading in the final metres to drop into second place. Having taken the first part of the stage at a leisurely pace, enjoying the atmosphere and congratulating one another, the peloton eventually ramped up the pace on the city circuit in Madrid, ticking off the laps until the final bunch kick.

With big turns from Manuele Boaro in the closing kilometres, and a strong effort by Michael Gogl to bring Daniele into position it was over to the Italian to make the final effort. He launched early and was leading in the drag race to the line but the slightly uphill finish got the better of him as he was passed in the closing metres, leaving him with another second place at this year’s Vuelta a España. For his efforts over the duration of the race, Alberto was awarded the most combative rider prize after the stage, meaning one final podium visit for the Spaniard in Madrid.

“If you look back, we went for it and the guys gave their maximum,” explained Sport Director Sean Yates after the race was all over. “Alberto had the massive set back with the crash and lost energy that he would never get back during the race. All in all though it was a good tour. There was a good ambience and the guys helped each other as much as they could. Yesterday was disappointing and the result wasn’t as wanted but as Alberto said we didn’t come here to finish third, we came to win.”

The Vuelta rounds out the final Grand Tour for Tinkoff as a team, and despite it being the first Vuelta that Alberto has started and not won, he and the team can rest assured that they gave their all in the bid for overall victory and in delivering Alberto in the best way possible for this goal. Chapeau to the whole team, the staff and the fans too for their constant support from start to finish. Together, everybody made it a race to remember.

BMC's Tour of Britain final report:

11 September 2016, London (GBR): The Tour of Britain wrapped up in London today with Taylor Phinney on the attack as part of the breakaway before Rohan Dennis finished safely behind the bunch sprint to secure his podium position on the General Classification. 

Rohan Dennis

Rohan Dennis winning Tour of Britain stage 7b

A traditionally fast and exciting stage, Tour of Britain Stage 8 did not disappoint as the high speed circuit through London saw attacks fly off the front of the peloton as soon as the race hit KM 0.

Taylor Phinney was part of a four-rider breakaway that went clear on the first of sixteen 6.2km laps around the British capital and the group was able to extend their lead to a maximum of 50 seconds over the course of the race.

As they started their penultimate lap the peloton had the group within their sights and despite a final a burst of acceleration from Phinney the peloton was back together and heading for the previously predicted bunch sprint.

With a series of technical corners to tackle before the finishing straight, one rider went clear at the front of the race before the bunch charged towards the line with Caleb Ewan (Orica - BikeExchange) taking the win.

Dennis finished safely in the main bunch to cap off a strong week of racing in Britain with second overall on the General Classification, 26 seconds behind Steve Cummings (Team Dimension Data).

Rohan Dennis: "It's been a hard race, a really hard race actually but I am pretty happy with how I have raced and the form I have shown this week. In hindsight I probably lost the race on Stage 2 but in saying that if I didn't attack up The Struggle I wouldn't have been as confident on the other climbs throughout the week and maybe I wouldn't have attacked on Haytor or in Bristol. For me, you can either play the defensive game and possibly win or you can go on the offensive and risk more but if you pull it off it feels more special."

"I still have a few more races coming up this season including the Eneco Tour and the World TTT Championships, if it goes ahead, which are both different types of races to this one but this week we have seen really aggressive and unpredictable racing so it has been a good test and I think it has shown the good form that I am in."

Jackson Stewart: "We did a lot of work all week but we still felt like we wanted to take some risks, some chances and really just race our bikes today. It's not often you get to race in the centre of a city like London so we were motivated to ride aggressively as we have tried to do all week and you never know unless you try. We tried a little bit, or a big bit in Phinney's case, as well as protecting Rohan so it was a good way to really end our week."

"Overall, it has been a good week for us. We came here thinking we would do our best on the GC and try for a stage and we achieved both of those goals plus some. It was nice to see Amaël Moinard also have a good stage and everyone made some good efforts and that is what I like to see. We came here with a strong rider for the GC but we were also able to target some other goals at the same time and give everyone the opportunity to try something."

LottoNL-Jumbo sent me their Britain Tour news:

Dylan Groenewegen sprinted to second in the final stage of the Tour of Britain today in London behind Caleb Ewan (Orica - Bike Exchange). Steven Cummings (Dimension Data) took home the overall trophy ahead of Dennis Rohan (BMC) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant - Alpecin).

The final stage ran on the iconic roads and through the famous squares of London. The riders raced Regent Street, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. Four men escaped early, but the teams – including LottoNL-Jumbo – had a sprint finish in mind.

"It was a very hectic battle with all the sprinters’ teams, especially towards the last kilometre," said Sports Director Merijn Zeeman. "We were good. Dylan sat behind the wheel of Greipel. But when Greipel’s team-mate Jens Debusschere shot away, Greipel left a gap just before the last corner and Dylan jumped behind Van Poppel. He had to close down Debusschere. Caleb Ewan followed him and won in a fair duel.”

Dylan Groenewergen

Dylan Groenewegen winning Tour of Britain stage 4

As a small consolation, Groenewegen won the points jersey in the Tour of Britain. "It was a hard to stay at the front," Groenewegen said. "A group got off and we controlled the race. Everything went quiet weel at the last corner but I started a little too late for the sprint. But I must also confess that I was a little tired. Ewan was simply faster today. I have to be satisfied with this week and now on to the next races. “

Groenewegen closed the Tour of Britain with a victory, the points jersey, and a handful of podium places. His next stop is the Eneco Tour, which starts in Bolsward on September 19.

Tinkoff sent me this GP Montréal report:

Having taken a huge win at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec on Friday, Peter Sagan and Tinkoff were always going to be closely watched at today’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal. However, the UCI world champion still managed to nearly pull off the double as he raced to second in the Canadian city.

Peter won the race back in 2013, so he knows what it takes to be victorious on the arduous city course with its testing climbs on each lap of the circuit. An early breakaway went clear, containing six riders, that built a lead of over five minutes before the peloton started to take back control and close the gap, with Tinkoff adding power to the chase. In the peloton, it was also a game of attrition with more and more riders dropping off the pace as the race, and the climbs, ticked by.

The circuit contained two main hills, as well as an uphill drag to the line, and it was this repetition of difficulties over the 17 laps that really took its toll. With around 50km to race, a dangerous counter attack of 25 riders formed which Tinkoff missed, leaving them to chase behind together with a few other teams. This counter attack, and the resulting chase from the peloton, saw the beginning of the end for the break as their advantage tumbled, with the catch finally coming within the final 25km.

From here the attacks again came, with small groups trying to break clear and, much like Friday in Québec, a strong late solo move nearly held enough of an advantage to take victory, but a strong push from a select front group saw the catch made in the final kilometre. Peter Sagan went head-to-head with Greg van Avermaet, second in Québec, and today it was the rider from BMC who came out fastest.

Greg van aVermaet

Greg van Avermaet winning GP Montréal ahead of Peter Sagan

After the race, Sport Director, Patxi Vila told us: "Peter did Greg on Friday, but today Greg did Peter so it's 1-1. It was close, finishing second, but when you look at the whole race it was already a tough day. Peter already did well to still be there after a hard, attacking race with nearly 4000m of climbing, so that’s good to see. We’re in mid September so you can never be sure of what’s in the the legs.

“The guys were committed and when we missed out on the split they were there to help close the gap and bring it back. All together, it has been a really, really good weekend and with a win and a second place we can be happy.”

Giant-Alpecin & Liv-Plantur racing news.

First, their upcoming races:

2016 UEC EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS TIME TRIAL

This Thursday the European Championships Time Trial will take place on a tough and hilly route. The men's riders will ride 50km, starting and finishing in Plumelec, France, and the women will complete 25km.

Both Team Giant-Alpecin and Team Liv-Plantur will have one rider in action with the Swede Tobias Ludvigsson and Riejanne Markus, who races at the U23 category for the Netherlands.

RACE: 2016 UEC European Championships Men's Time Trial

DATE: 15/09/2016

LINE-UP: Tobias Ludvigsson (SWE) 

RACE: 2016 UEC European Championships Women's U23 Time Trial

DATE: 15/09/2016​

LINE-UP: Riejanne Markus (NED) 

2016 UEC EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS ROAD RACE

At the weekend the European Championships Road Race should provide an entertaining battle with Team Giant-Alpecin well represented. The men's course is 236.3km in the Morbihan region of France and is made up of 17 laps of 13.9km each. As the women will complete eight laps of 13.9km for a total distance of 111.2km.

Team Giant-Alpecin has five riders racing on Sunday. For Germany Johannes Fröhlinger and Simon Geschke will be riding, Koen de Kort and Sam Oomen will be representing the Netherlands and Tobias Ludvigsson for Sweden. Team Liv-Plantur will be represented by Riejanne Markus in the U23 for the Netherlands and Sara Mustonen will be racing for Sweden.

RACE: 2016 UEC European Championships Men's Road Race

DATE: 18/09/2016

LINE-UP: Johannes Fröhlinger (GER), Simon Geschke (GER), Koen de Kort (NED), Tobias Ludvigsson (SWE), Sam Oomen (NED) 

RACE: 2016 UEC Road European Championships Women's Road Race

DATE: 17/09/2016​

LINE-UP: Riejanne Markus (NED), Sara Mustonen (SWE) 

ENECO TOUR (WT): Starting Monday September 19th Team Giant-Alpecin takes part in the seven-day Eneco Tour race. The 12th edition features a diverse course including two time trials, three flat stages, and two top finishes which will be important for the general classification.

The race kicks off with a 184.7km stage in Bolsward, with the first chance for the time-trialists on stage two. This is followed by two road stages on days three and four. Stage five will be a challenging team time trial of 20.9km in the city of Sittard. The penultimate stage will see the peloton take on a hilly course from Riemst to Lanaken before the riders tackle the final stage with 21 categorized climbs.

Coach Morten Bennekou (DEN) confirmed the objectives for the Eneco Tour, saying: "We have two main goals for this race; to go for a stage victory with John in the sprints, and to focus on the general classification with Tom. There's a strong field here again this season so we are expecting a challenging, but interesting race.

"In theory, stages one and four will be our best chances to focus on a fast finish with John, however we have to be vigilant for the crosswinds. John has been showing a really high level again after recovering from his injuries. Regarding the overall classification we believe Tom can target a top 10 finish, which will serve as a good preparation for the World Championships."

RACE: Eneco Tour (WT)

DATE: 19-25/09/2016

COACH: Morten Bennekou (DEN) 

And this news about Leah Kirchman also just arrived from Liv-Plantur:

Leah Kirchmann (CAN) has finished in second place at the UCI WorldTour ranking after sprinting to 11th place during the final round at La Madrid Challenge by La Vuelta. Kirchmann has been one of the most consistent riders throughout the 2016 season, notably winning Drentse Acht van Westerveld, the prologue at the Giro d'Italia Internazionale Femminile and making numerous appearances in the top 10 of important races, including Strade Bianche, Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Chongming Island World Cup, Aviva Womens Tour, Prudential Ride London Grand Prix and GP de Plouay-Bretagne. Next to that Team Liv-Plantur finished seventh in the UCI WorldTour team ranking to cap off a brilliant season.

Leah Kirchmann (CAN): "I didn't feel in the best of shape during the first part of the race. However in the finale I felt more comfortable as we prepared the bunch sprint. Unfortunately, I lost the wheel of Sara who did a great job with Riejanne in the lead-out. It would have been nice to end the season with a better result, but I am still very happy to be in second place overall in the WorldTour. This demonstrates my consistency throughout the season which has been my biggest strength."

Hans Timmermans (NED): "Unfortunately one mistake is enough to loose a race and although at the last corner we were in a perfect position, we lost because of a miscommunication. Up until that moment we did what was necessary as we have done in most of the races this season. We are very satisfied overall due to the team effort and an amazing season for Leah. In fact this is an incredible result as we are seventh in the team ranking and second in the individual ranking with Leah." 

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