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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, September 18, 2016

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I don't believe in reincarnation, and I didn't believe in it when I was a hamster. - Shane Richie

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Eneco Tour of Benelux coming Monday...

Tinkoff sent me this regarding the Eneco Tour:

Following a successful racing trip to Canada, with a win at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and a second place in Montréal, Peter Sagan will continue his pursuit of WorldTour points at the Eneco Tour as he looks to regain his top-spot in the UCI individual rider rankings. He will head to the race straight from participating at the European road race championships in Plumelec, Brittany, this Sunday.

Peter will be joined in the seven-day race, starting in the Netherlands and finishing in Belgium, by a strong line-up able to challenge across all of the various stages and terrains the race offers. Maciej Bodnar will lead the team’s time trialling hopes, with the Russian duo of Pavel Brutt and Nikolay Trusov adding firepower to the roster. Erik Baška and Oscar Gatto add to the team’s sprint support around Peter, while the versatile Michael Valgren could also shine in the overall classification.

“It was great to get back on track in Québec and Montréal last weekend, and I really wasn’t expecting to win so that was good to confirm the legs were still there,” Peter Sagan told us ahead of the race. “I’ve never raced the Eneco Tour before but it’s a race that suits my strengths and together with a strong team I think that we can go for some good results.

“There’s a strong field but with the guys we’ve got here I think we can make the racing and go for it every stage. It has already been a long season and I will go straight into the race from the European Championships on Sunday so I will see how my legs recover. But we're motivated to get into the action and to see what we can do."

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan winning at Québec

The race gets underway with an opening road stage that should suit a bunch sprint. However, with a parcours that skirts the coast line, the race runs the risk of being exposed to winds which could have an impact on the stage. A short, 9.6km individual time trial follows, which shouldn’t see huge time gaps, and with a course that suits the powerful riders, Bodnar will be looking to target a result here.

The following days represent a mix of sprint stages combined with tougher days that take in elements of the spring classics, including cobblestones, short climbs and the potential to encounter crosswinds.

A team time trial on stage 5 will see all the guys band together for a collective effort, before the final two stages that start to take in some more climbing before the finish. Stage 7 in particular will be key for the fight for the overall, with the race finishing in Geraardsbergen, where the 2016 winner will be confirmed.

Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, heads to the race in charge of a strong Tinkoff team that’s capable of shining here over the course of the week. “Of course with Peter here, he will be our absolute leader. And we have some strong guys around him including Bodnar who should be up there in the time trial. Then we have Valgren who could be a possibility for the overall fight depending on how the race develops, but our principle focus is Peter.

“Eneco is known as the sprinters race and there are lots of time bonifications to watch out for, with two sprints every day with 3, 2 and 1 seconds on offer. Then you have the ‘Golden Sprints’ where there’s more time available, and these come later in the stages so they will be interesting. There are several days that suit Peter’s strengths and I think the team time trial could also be a good one for the guys when you look at who we have here. There’s a very strong start list here, probably one of the strongest I’ve seen, and it also depends on how the first four stages go.”

The Race

Stage 1: Bolsward – Bolsward, 184.7km
The opening stage of the Eneco Tour gets underway with a mainly flat opening parcours that skirts the northern coast of the Netherlands. After the possibility of winds to deal with, there’s also a technical finishing circuit to take on too.

Stage 2: Breda – Breda, 9.6km TT
The second day sees the race’s first time trial, covering just under 10km. The course is fairly straight forward, with few corners and a mainly flat route that suits the powerful time triallists, so we can expect some fast times by the end of the day.

Stage 3: Blankenberge – Ardooie, 182.3km
The outcome of stage 3 will probably be quite similar to that of the first day, with a course that also follows the coast before a finishing circuit suiting the fast men.

Stage 4: Aalter – St-Pieters-Leeuw, 201.4km
Although there's climbs on stage 4, several cobblestone sections could prove more decisive than the hills. There’s a real feel about the spring classics on such a stage, but the riders will be hoping for the summer weather to make life a bit easier on the testing sections.

Stage 5: Sittard-Geelen – Sittard-Geelen, 20.9km TTT
After stage 2’s individual effort, stage 5 will see the aero bikes back out of the trucks for a team time trial covering just shy of 21km. The route takes in two climbs as well as some technical sections, so strong teamwork will be key for a result here.

Stage 6: Riemst – Lanaken, 185.2km
Heading into the region of the Ardennes classics, stage 6 will tackle some climbing but nothing that should see and huge splits. Most probably one for the puncheurs, the penultimate stage here should set the riders up for the final test tomorrow.

Stage 7: Bornem – Geraardsbergen, 197.8km
The second longest stage of the race comes on the final day, with a tough circuit that tackles several climbs on its way to the finish in Geraardsbergen, including three ascents of the infamous Muur. With the sprinters having had their stage opportunities earlier in the week, this will be an opportunity for the puncheurs to again come to the fore and possibly battle out the final general classification. 

And Lotto-Soudal sent me this Eneco Tour news:

This year the Eneco Tour is scheduled later than usual. On Monday September 19th the start of the twelfth edition will be given in Friesland (The Netherlands). The first stage will take place in the Dutch city Bolsward. Seven days later the race will arrive in Geraardsbergen and then we know who will be the successor of Tim Wellens.

The first two stages of this year’s Eneco Tour are ridden in the Netherlands. The first stage covers a flat circuit in Friesland. The second day an individual time trial of 9.6 kilometres is scheduled in Breda. The next two days will be spent in Belgium. The stage from Blankenberge to Ardooie is once again flat. Only in the finale of the fourth stage, the riders have to face some hills. On Friday there is a team time trial of 20.9 kilometres in Sittard-Geleen. During the team time trial, there are two difficulties: the Hillensberg and the Windraak. The last stages in the weekend are a little bit harder and hillier. On Saturday there is the so-called ‘Ardennes stage’.

In the last fifty kilometres six hills lie on the course, quite close to each other. On the way to the finish in Lanaken, it’s still possible that dropped riders can come back to the peloton because of flat kilometres in the end.  On the last day the Walloon Ardennes are swapped for the Flemish Ardennes as the stage goes from Bornem to Geraardsbergen. After a long flat start, the riders have to overcome 21 hills and in the last three local rounds the Muur of Geraardsbergen has to be climbed every time. The finish is located halfway this mythical climb.

Sports director Herman Frison finds the course of this edition of the Eneco Tour not too difficult. He sees it as a preparation for the World Championships in Qatar.

Herman Frison, sports director: “It looks like the Eneco Tour is based on the World Championships in Qatar. First of all it’s scheduled much later than usual in the cycling calendar and there are a lot of flat stages. Not even the stage in the Ardennes is hard. All courses are rather flat and the first day could be a simulation of what can happen in Qatar: if there is a bit of wind, the riders can form echelons. The hardest day on the bike will be the stage to Geraardsbergen, but that’s the last one and usually the team of the GC leader controls the race and then there are no big differences anymore. The individual time trial and the team time trial will be very important to take time because all the other stages will end in a sprint. If you look at the team selections, you notice riders like Kittel and Groenewegen. Lotto Soudal can rely on a strong sprint train with Greipel, Debusschere, Roelandts, Sieberg and Bak. All our riders have the skills to do well in the sprint and team time trial.”

“Our first goal is to bring home a victory as fast as possible. We want to show that we can win a stage. After that we want a good GC of course. It’s not sure yet if Tim Wellens will be the GC rider of the team. We’ll make the ultimate decision after the team time trial. It depends on who’s in the best spot then to go for the classification. The stage in the Ardennes is not hard enough for Wellens to make big time differences. That’s why also the bonus seconds at the finish will be important. However, I always say that the course doesn’t have to be tough to make it a tough race. So that’s what Lotto Soudal is going to try: make the race hard.”

Tim Wellens won the general classification of the Eneco Tour two times in a row now, but he says that this year it will be harder to achieve a good result.

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens racing in last year's Eneco Tour

Tim Wellens: “I cherish the Eneco Tour very much. In 2014 this race was my first victory so that’s why I’m very attached to it. This year it will be harder to win the GC again. First of all because I’m not as good as I hoped. After the races in Canada I participated in the GP de Wallonie and I wasn’t good. Maybe I had bad legs or maybe I still suffered of the long flight back home. I don’t know. Adding to that, the course of this year’s Eneco Tour doesn’t suit me very well. The organization decided to cut my favourite stage, the one to La Redoute. Fortunately the time trial and the team time trial are no disadvantage. The circuit of the individual time trial is the same as the one in 2014. Usually I’m not at my best in a flat time trial, but if the legs are good that shouldn’t make any difference.”

“The stage in the Ardennes is usually the stage where I take over the leader’s jersey. This year the finish is in Lanaken and the flat finale will make big time differences almost impossible. The last stage to Geraardsbergen will be the most important one in this edition but also the bonus seconds and the time trial will be decisive. After the time trial on the second day we’ll know immediately if I can set a good overall result or not.”

Line-up: Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot, Jens Debusschere, Jasper De Buyst, Frederik Frison, André Greipel, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg.

Primus Classic reports

Here's BMC's news:

Greg Van Avermaet made multiple attempts to claim the win at Primus Classic Impanis Van Petegem in Belgium, where a bunch sprint eventually played out won by Fernando Gaviria (Etixx-QuickStep).

The 200km one-day classic, which Van Avermaet won in 2014, was his first race in Belgium since becoming Olympic Champion and saw a warm welcome extended to the Belgian champion before the start, including a visit from the Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

A 3-rider breakaway went clear and later became a 6-rider group when three riders bridged the gap. With 65km to go the group’s advantage had reduced to 1’50” before the peloton brought them back 34km before the finish line.

Fernando Gaviria

Fernando Gaviria wins the 2016 Primus Classic

Van Avermaet was part of a group that then attacked and established a 28 second lead, following which the race came back together with 8km to go to set the stage for the bunch sprint.

Despite solid teamwork which put Van Avermaet in a good position with 3km remaining, and a last minute attempt by Van Avermaet, he was unable to challenge for the sprint.

Greg Van Avermaet: “It was hard but the team put me in a good position. I think I opened up the race where it needed to be opened and then we were with a strong group on the front but we didn’t work too much together. The peloton was pretty strong and the parcours was a bit too flat to make it to the finish but we tried. I think we did everything that we could do. Sometimes you stay in the front and you can win the race. But today it all came back together and we didn’t have a big result but we did what we could do and that’s the most important thing.”

LottoNL-Jumbo had this to report:

Tom Van Asbroeck finished fourth in the Primus Classic Impanis - Van Petegem this afternoon in Belgium. Fernando Gaviria (Etixx - Quickstep) won in a bunch sprint ahead of Timothy Dupont (Verandas Willems) and team-mate Ariel Richeze.

The race, held in good weather, had varied race tactics. A leading group of six riders marked the first hours, but in the final, an attack by Olympic champion Greg van Avermaet blew the race apart and nine riders broke free.

"Hofland was in that leading group but a lost contact on a descent and couldn’t close the gap anymore," said Sport Director Frans Maassen. "He was bummed because all the elite men were present in that group. When we suddenly had no rider in the leading group, so we put all our cards on Tom Van Asbroeck. We closed the gap and Tom sprinted to fourth place. I am satisfied, it was the best we could do given the situation."

Colombian Gaviria shot free in the right moment of the sprint while Van Asbroeck sat on his wheel and finished fourth.

"I had to fight a lot to hold my position on his wheel," said Van Asbroeck. "The fight with Cort Nielsen cost a lot of energy. DuPont slipped in between. I can’t complain but on the other hand, I am only partly satisfied, because I missed the podium. This result does give me confidence towards the end of the season and the races yet to come."

In the last kilometre, Mike Teunissen crashed. Fortunately, the damage is limited to some road rash.

TeamEstrogen.com to close

This sad news came from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News:

BEAVERTON, Ore. (BRAIN) — Longtime online retailer TeamEstrogen.com has announced it will close at the end of September.

Team Estrogen Inc. co-founder Susan Otcenas said a number of factors contributed to the decision, including price competition and changing consumer behaviors.

"We were never about price and discounts, and the world has changed. There's a fundamental tension between the kind of hands-on customer service and high-quality staff we've always had and the customer demand for lower prices and free shipping," Otcenas said. "The consumer has spoken that they value those things, and I totally understand it, but as a small company, it's hard to compete in that space if that's the main focus. It's a race to the bottom, and we're choosing not to go down that road."

Otcenas and Jeff Mendenhall started selling cycling apparel on TeamEstrogen.com in 1998. Mendenhall wrote the software to power the e-commerce site because none existed at the time. The retailer was best known for its wide selection and range of sizes. At its peak, Otcenas said TeamEstrogen.com carried more than 100 brands and between 12,000 and 15,000 SKUs of men's and women's softgoods, with a focus on the female cyclist.

"We've always done the best not with the super competitive cyclist but with the dedicated enthusiast. I think we've always had a very accepting attitude," Otcenas said. "If you ride a bike, you're a cyclist and there is no judgment whether you're a size small or 2x. We did very well with plus sizes and we were always after our vendors to make more plus sizes."

You can read the entire story here

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