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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, March 2, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction. - Pablo Picasso

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Team Sky and British Cycling reputation in shreds as MPs are told doctor 'lost' medical records for Bradley Wiggins

The U.K.'s Independent posted this story:

The credibility of British Cycling, Team Sky and Sir Bradley Wiggins [winner of the 2012 Tour de France] was in shreds on Wednesday night after it was revealed at a devastating select committee hearing that their doctor, Richard Freeman, faces a General Medical Council investigation for failing to keep the former Tour de France winner’s medical records, which he allegedly lost when his laptop was stolen.

Freeman had refused to appear before the culture, media and sport committee but his career as doctor to both British Cycling and Team Sky seems over after MPs were told that a UK anti-doping investigation had been frustrated by his failure to upload details of medication he had prescribed Wiggins, and that he lost that information when his laptop was stolen during a holiday in Greece, three years later.

The UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) chief executive Nicole Sapstead - who made it clear she faced obfuscation and evasion from British Cycling and Team Sky as her team tried to investigate a mystery Jiffy Bag ordered by Freeman in 2011 - said she had expected the GMC to investigate the doctor’s failure to keep record of unlicensed corticosteroid triamcinolone, prescribed to Wiggins: a clear breach of medical rules.

Sapstead has already been in discussion with the GMC, whom she said “clearly wish to be involved.” She disclosed that when the UKAD inquiry is complete she would “absolutely” be contacting them about her findings.

Though Team Sky has styled itself as the new, ‘clean’ face of cycling with meticulous attention to detail, the committee was told of a disturbing lack of transparency and minimal lines of management, in which Freeman worked as doctor both for Team Sky and British Cycling. The latter effectively acted as a drugs wholesaler, issuing products to the former, yet failed to secure a ‘wholesale dealer’s’ license or to maintain a list products delivered, also in breach of GMC rules.

Bradley Wiggins

Bradley Wiggins on the podium of the 2012 Tour de France. Sirotti photo

Wiggins medical records for the period in question “don’t exist or they are incomplete,” Sapstead said. She said it had taken her four months to get to Wiggins’ medical records and agreed it was “odd” that Team Sky, founded on the principle that road racing could be conducted cleanly, did not keep records. “In the first instance we experienced a degree of resistance. It caused a delay to our efforts,” she told MPs.

The lack of record-keeping allowed Sky freely to order volumes of triamcinolone, a powerful corticosteroid that can cause substantial weight loss. Sapstead said that the drug was ordered by Sir Dave Brailsford’s team in quantities that would have been “excessive” if just used on Wiggins. The alternative explanation of the high volumes was that it was used “on a lot of riders” - though Team Sky had blocked Sapstead’s investigators’ attempts to establish the truth, by claiming that patient confidentiality prevented the release of individual medical records.

You can read the entire story here

Ryan Gibbons wins Le Tour de Langkawi

Here's the report from Gibbons' Dimension Data team:

Ryan Gibbons from Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka won the 2017 Tour de Langkawi overall, making it the 3rd win in a row for our African Team at the Malaysian UCI 2.HC event. Mekseb Debesay and Ben O’Connor also finished in the top 10 overall while Gibbons secured the teal sprinters jersey to make it a phenomenal week of racing for our African Team. 

The final stage of the Tour de Langkawi came down to a small peloton of just 40 riders sprinting for the stage win. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had all 6 of its riders in this reduced group, with our yellow jersey wearer Gibbons, the protected rider once again. The stage win went to Travis McCabe (United Healthcare), Anthony Giacoppo (IsoWhey Sports) was 2nd and Riccardo Stacchiotti (Nippo-Vini Fantini) placed 3rd.

Gibbons placed 4th in the final stage sprint finish which was enough to ensure the 22-year-old South African won both the yellow leaders jersey and teal sprinters jersey overall. Gibbons was able to secure both jerseys after consistent performances over all 8 stages, placing outside of the top 10 just twice in 8 days of racing, including his stage 5 win.

Ryan Gibbons

Ryan Gibbons wins Langkawi stage 5

It was a dream race for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka as Gibbons may have won the overall title, but it was thanks to the support of an incredibly strong team that brought the victory home. Mekseb Debesay placed 5th overall and won stage 4. Ben O’Connor, like Gibbons, is a first year professional and the young Australian finished 8th overall. Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Nic Dougall and Adrien Niyonshuti were the 3 riders who selflessly worked day in, day out to keep the yellow jersey within the team for yet another year.

Ryan Gibbons – Rider: :I am incredibly happy to have won the Tour de Langkawi overall. Being as ambitious as I am, I’m slightly disappointed to not have won today’s final stage. I was on the wheels of the Wilier riders through the final corner and those were just the wrong guys to be following today. But yes, I am really happy to win the yellow jersey, obviously it is the first of my career and I owe it to the amazing support of the team. The guys were incredible all week, motivated by riding for our Qhubeka cause, they gave everything for me to win this jersey. It is a special victory for me and I have really learnt a lot this week. I will take the experience I have gained here to Europe now, where I hope to win more. This is only the start for me and I’m not putting a ceiling in, to what I can achieve as a rider."

Oli Cookson – Sport Director: We couldn’t be happier. Trying to win three Tour de Langkawi’s in a row was a fairly tall ask, but coming into the week we certainly believed we could. To end the week with the yellow jersey, teal jersey, 5th and 8th overall and take 2 stage wins, it is incredible. I am really happy with how the guys performed and how the staff supported the lads this week. The Tour de Langkawi is a great race for us, it has a special place in our history so we are delighted to have won again."

Iljo Keisse third at Le Samyn

Here's Team Quick Step Floors' race report:

This year's edition of le Samyn was a carbon-copy of the 2016 one in terms of weather, and saw two Quick-Step Floors riders finish in the top 10.

Four days after completing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Iljo Keisse returned to action at Le Samyn, a 202.2km-long race which had it all: from arduous cobblestones and demanding hills to heavy rain and cold temperatures, which made for a rainy, muddy and grueling edition of Le Samyn. Quick-Step Floors was always in the spotlight on Wednesday afternoon, in the first part of the race chasing the five-man group which enjoyed a three-minute advantage, and later by going out on the attack with several riders.

Jack Bauer, Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns and Iljo Keisse all tried their hand at least once during the race, and in the end it was the 2015 Giro d'Italia stage winner who extricated himself from the reduced peloton and made it into the front group, which took off in the last two laps. Then, with around 30 kilometers left, Alex Kirsch (WB Veranclassic) and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) attacked and got a gap which they maintained until the finish in Dour, where the Belgian won the two-up sprint.

Guillaume van keirsbulck

Guillaume van Keirsbulck wins Le samyn

Keisse led the first chasing group across the line a few seconds later, after a race in which he dug deep, taking third at the end of the day and proving once again why he's considered one of the most solid and tenacious riders in the bunch, one who never gives up, regardless of the situation. To round out Quick-Step Floors' strong display under the difficult weather conditions which hit Wallonia Wednesday, Maximilian Schachmann (10th) and Rémi Cavagna (14th) – two neo-pros – completed Le Samyn in the top 15, less than a minute down on the winner.

"We came here for the win, but we are happy with Iljo's third place. He did his best to get a good result and deserves to be on the podium. It was really tough out there, but we were always in the thick of the action; aside from Iljo, we are very happy to have also Max and Rémi, two young neo-pros, up there, after a windy and rainy day with temperatures of 8 degrees, which saw only 45-50 riders arrive at the finish", said sport director Geert Van Bondt.

Cannondale-Drapac for Strade Bianche

The team sent me this update:

From the cobbles of Belgium last weekend to the white roads of Italy on Saturday, the 2017 classics season is officially under way. The young-yet-instant classic Strade Bianche is up next, tempting both general classification riders and one-day specialists.

Cannondale-Drapac will send a balanced roster to the 175-kilometer race, part stage racers, part one-day race hunters. Sep Vanmarcke, third last weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and Rigoberto Uran lead the charge, supported by Alberto Bettiol, Simon Clarke, Alex Howes, Sebastian Langeveld, Toms Skujins, and Dylan Van Baarle.

Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran will be racing in the white roads this weekend.

“The team is strong and very motivated,” said sport director Fabrizio Guidi. “The race has a special charm and suits to the characteristics of our group. There are strong team contenders focused on their single leader. We have several solutions to counter the favorites. Rigo and Sep are our leaders, and strategy will be more than important. We have to be smart, but we have a plan. We definitely race to win.”

All told, there are 11 gravel sectors this year, two more than in 2016, totaling 62 kilometers, or a third of the parcours. The route offers a delectable roll over some of Italy’s finest roads, unspooling like white ribbons spilling over the hills in Tuscany.

“It's a special race, because it's heroic, even though it’s only existed since 2007. It's special to race on the gravel roads, and it's a very nice and hard parcours,” Vanmarcke said. “I have only participated once, and finished fourth, so it suits me.

“I just race it like a cobbled classic,” he added. “It's important to start the sections in front, because on the gravel sections the peloton will stretch out. Also with flat tires and crashes, it's very important to stay focused from start to finish.”

The Monte Sante Marie is the queen sector, at 11.5 kilometers of white gravel road. It’s mainly uphill, with both sharp climbs and descents.  The race is traditionally still undecided as the bunch seeps into Sienna. At 900 meters to go, the road tilts upward at 10 percent, and it’s likely on these cobblestones into the square that the victor will break free. 

“Our team looks really good for the upcoming Italian races,” said sport director Tom Southam. “More than just the fact that we have options in the race is the fact that in Sep and Rigo we have two guys who inspire great performances from the whole team. Combine that with the quality bike riders they have backing them up and they should be a formidable team.

“It might seem like a lifetime, but it was only actually a few months ago that these guys put Rigo on the podium of a Monument in Italy, so they can do a serious job here.”

Cannondale-Drapac for Strade Bianche
Alberto Bettiol
Simon Clarke
Alex Howes
Sebastian Langeveld
Toms Skujins
Rigoberto Uran
Dylan Van Baarle
Sep Vanmarcke

Cannondale-Drapac for GP Industria & Artigianato
Alberto Bettiol
Nathan Brown
Simon Clarke, 2016 winner
Alex Howes
Toms Skujins
Rigoberto Uran

BMC's plans for Strade Bianche

This came from Team BMC:

1 March, 2017, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Omloop Het Nieuwsblad winner Greg Van Avermaet is looking to score another UCI WorldTour win when he lines up at Strade Bianche this Saturday, 4 March.

Van Avermaet will be backed by a strong team at the one-day race, including recent Tour of Oman winner Ben Hermans, Sports Director Max Sciandri said.

"Strade-Bianche is one of the most beautiful races of the whole season and with it now UCI WorldTour this year, it's an important race in the calendar. We have seen that Greg Van Avermaet is strong and he has a good team around him on Saturday."

"It is by no means and easy race but if we can position Greg well in the final then I'm confident he can get a good result. It's also a chance for some of our other riders, like Daniel Oss and Stefan Küng, to show what they can do."

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet wins Het Nieuwsblad

Van Avermaet, who finished on the podium in 2015, said he feels confident in his form. "I can definitely take confidence out of my win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last weekend. At both of the one-day races in Belgium we showed that we had a really strong team with a few riders making the split each day," Van Avermaet explained.

"I hope to get stronger over the next couple of weeks so it will be good to get some more hard racing in the legs at Strade Bianche, before Tirreno-Adriatico starts next week. I've been on the podium before and I'd like to be up there again."

Rider roster: Brent Bookwalter (USA), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Ben Hermans (BEL), Stefan Kung (SUI), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL).

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

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