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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, January 21, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Start every day off with a smile and get it over with. - W. C. Fields

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Tour Down Under stage 4 reports:

BMC sent me this update:

20 January, 2017, Campbelltown (AUS): Richie Porte crossed the line safely on stage 4 of the Santos Tour Down Under after a hectic finale, to retain his overall lead.

Porte spent his second day in the ochre jersey protected in the peloton, while a three-rider breakaway went clear after 12km of racing. BMC Racing Team controlled the race throughout the stage and kept the breakaway at a manageable distance ahead of the bunch.

With 25km to go the breakaway had diminished to one solo leader, Jack Bauer (Quick Step Floors), who held off the peloton until 5km to go, when he was eventually pulled back. The sprinters' teams geared up for the finale, which was again won by Caleb Ewan (ORICA-Scott) in a bunch sprint.

Porte kept his 20-second lead on the General Classification safe, and remains as leader of the King of the Mountain classification, ahead of stage 5 which sees the peloton battle it out on Willunga Hill, the stage Porte has won on the past three occasions.

Richie Porte

Richie Porte heads to the stage 4 start

"Yesterday and today, I had so much to lose and not a lot to gain so to get that one done is a massive relief and now it's Willunga which I know quite well. But that's a different scenario going into it now. I don't have to attack, I've just got to follow. So it's not all about the stage win tomorrow, it's more about trying to defend the ochre jersey," Porte explained.

"We have a great team and I'm pretty relaxed with where I'm at. If they [General Classification contenders] want to hit out early, we have the team to try and control it. But we have a trump card in Rohan Dennis, he's lean, he's strong and he's pretty motivated. The atmosphere on Willunga is incredible. It's like riding the Tour de France every year, so it's a special stage to win. So we'll just see how it all pans out."

Dennis weighed in ahead of Willunga Hill. "I think everyone will be pretty aggressive tomorrow but they're going to have to have pretty good legs. If they're going to go too early it could actually open them up and they could lose everything, so I'm not 100% sure if they will take that approach but I guess that's the only way they can really beat Richie," Dennis said.

"I don't think anyone can really catch the wheel of Richie unless there is serious bad luck tomorrow. If Richie is there up the front on the last lap of Willunga, the way he climbed Paracombe I say good luck to anyone."

Here's the way Team Sky saw the stage:

Danny van Poppel recorded his second top three finish of the Tour Down Under following another tense sprint finish on stage four.

Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott) won his third stage of the race from Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Van Poppel and now leads the Dutchman by seven points in the sprint classification.

A sprint finish was looking increasingly unlikely however as the 145km stage from Norwood to Campbelltown unfolded, as Jack Bauer (Quickstep) led a breakaway for much of the day. But as the descent into the finish picked up pace, Bauer was unable to hold off the peloton and the sprinters’ teams were able to setup a grandstand finish.

Despite being edged out again by Ewan, Van Poppel was upbeat about his form and believes he is improving with each stage. He told TeamSky.com: “With 200m to go, I went and then two people came across me and think there’s no shame to be third behind those names.

Stage 4 finish

Caleb Ewen wins stage 4. Danny van Poppel is second from the left.

“Normally 200m to go is ok with a little uphill [finish] and I felt good so why not?" He added: "If you wait too long, everyone comes from behind so I didn’t want to make that mistake again. It’s my first race and [Ewan] is already racing for a long time, but my shape is getting better and better.”

Sport Director Brett Lancaster echoed Van Poppel's positivity and reckons it's a matter of when, not if. He said: “Danny’s got the legs but not just got his timing right. It’s good to see. It’s not his strength or speed it’s more just getting the timing right and it looks good for the rest of the season. He’s started off well and we expect big things from him this season.”

Much like stage three, a breakaway threatened to spoil the sprinters’ party with Bauer (Quickstep) and Cameron Meyer (AUS) leading the field for the majority of the day with a steady  1 min 30 second advantage after dropping fellow escapee Ondrej Cink (Bahrain-Merida).

However, with just under 40km to go the peloton picked up the pace as the race commenced the descent into Campbelltown and their advantage was slowly wiped out until Bauer kicked on and went out alone briefly, but he was unable to hold on which setup the bunch sprint.

This came from Team UAE Abu Dhabi:

A few centimeters more and Team UAE would have obtained its first seasonal podium.

This achievement would have been reached by Ben Swift, who crossed in 4th position the finish line of the 4th stage of the Santos Tour Down Under, the Norwood-Campbelltown of 149.5 km.

The sprinters of the peloton had an additional opportunity to fight for the victory and they did not miss it, battling in a massive sprint after that the last of the three members of the main breakaway of the stage (Bauer) were caught at 5 km to go.

Team UAE's British rider, who had been first in an intermediate sprint in the 2nd stage, tried to exploit at his best his speed on the long final straight which was covered bu the peloton after a left hand turn.

Swift was just behind Van Poppel when the Team Sky's rider launched the sprint: Team UAE's athlete competed at an equale level of competitiveness against Van Poppel and Ewan, however Ewan was overpowering in the final 50 meters and he obtained the victory. Swift was behind Sagan in the battle for the 3rd place, obtaining the 4th position.

Ben Swift is one of the most talented riders in the Team UAE's roster. He turned pro in 2009 and he obtained 13 pro wins, riding only for World Tour teams (Katusha and Sky). He was twice on the Milano-Sanremo podium: 2nd in 2016 and 3rd in 2014. He commented the stage: “I really thank my team mates who lead me in a perfect position in the approach of the last bend of the course. I'm aware that they had already worked hard to support our captain Ulissi during the stage, which had been nervous because of the wind, so they additional efforts for me were appreciated.

"I would have loved to be on the podium, it would have been a good reward for my team mates and for the sponsors of the team”.

The 5th stage, 151.5 km from McLaren Vale to Willunga Hill, will be the queen stage of the Santos Tour Down Under. Ulissi will face it in 8th position.

Huffy's CEO tries to recruit dealers to be service centers

This came from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News:

TEMPE, Ariz. (BRAIN) — Bill Smith is a confident man, the CEO of Huffy Corp., a company that sold 4.3 million bikes last year.

But Smith — who has been with Huffy since 1993 and has been CEO since 2009 — did display a small measure of sheepishness as he stood before bike shop owners and their suppliers here this week.

"A lot of people are probably wondering why I am here," the genial Smith told the group at the IBD Summit.

Smith came for two reasons: one, to look for ways to cooperate with the IBD channel to overcome broad "social and economic and demographic" factors that have contributed to stagnant bike unit sales in the last decade. Secondly, he came to recruit IBDs to serve as warranty service centers for Huffy.

On the first, Smith noted that the U.S. industry — including the mass market and speciality retail channels — has been relatively steady at 17.5 million bikes for at least the last decade.

"What we have is an industry that is growing some topline business but not growing unit business," he noted, despite a steady increase in the U.S. population. We need to talk about how we can grow our unit sales, how we can grow participation and bring more riders into the business," he said.

Smith noted that the issues discussed at the Summit, from an IBD perspective, are "eerily similar" to the concerns at Huffy's headquarters in Dayton, Ohio.

"They are big issues that are tough to solve," he said. People have more choices today with their discretionary income and their free time," he said, noting the growth of soccer and kayaking as examples.

He noted the growing perception that bike riding is unsafe, which has led to rules prohibiting pupils from riding bikes to school in some communities, including Dayton, a situation that Smith called "mind-boggling."

Smith said Huffy is focused on marketing the bike's role in creating memories and fun. He also said that Huffy has switched nearly all its marketing and advertising to focus on female buyers, who now make up 62 percent of the purchases of Huffy's cruisers, it's fastest-growing bike category.

"Our consumer advertising is completely focused on moms and women. We don't have any male ads; we are speaking to women exclusively," he said.

Smith is aware that some in the IBD community are dismissive of mass-market brands like Huffy. Some refuse to service the bikes, some see the mass market as the competition. But he insisted that department store bikes serve as the entry point for the activity of bike riding, and that more enthusiastic riders inevitably go on to buy bikes from IBDs. "No other bicycle brand puts more new riders on bikes every year than Huffy," he said.

"Some of you may view us as the competition. I don't see it that way. I think of us as one of the entry points into cycling. ... I hear people say that the mass market steals market share, but I don't see that. No one is going to say, 'I was thinking of buying an Audi A6, but then I saw a deal on a Camry so I bought that.' It doesn't work that way. We are a gateway brand, an entry point.

"It's a bit like craft beer guys. They may prefer a local craft beer but I guarantee that most of them started out drinking Bud Light and Miller Lite."

Smith said consumers and international suppliers don't make a distinction between the mass market and IBD channels. "It's only those of us in this room that see (the channels) as separate and distinct. The consumers just see points of purchase. And the international suppliers don't see a distinction at all. We all benefit because of the 10 million tires that we buy every year."

You can read the entire story here.

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