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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, March 8, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

It always seems impossible until it's done. - Nelson Mandela

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Document from Team Sky and letter from Sir Dave Brailsford

Given the giant cloud over Team Sky regarding doping, I thought it only fair to post a link to the 8-page Team Sky letter, the intro note that accompanied the documents, and Brailsford's letter in full without edits.

The 8-page document produced by Team Sky is titled: TEAM SKY – POINTS OF CLARIFICATION ON UKAD INVESTIGATION AND EVOLUTION OFANTI-DOPING AND MEDICAL PRACTICES and is available to view here.

The accompanying note that explained the documents: Following recent coverage of UK Anti Doping’s investigation into an allegation of wrongdoing related to the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine, Team Sky has produced a document which provides context around issues relating to the investigation and the steps we have taken since to strengthen our anti-doping and medical practices.

Brailsford's cover letter:

Damian Collins MP
Chairman, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee

7 March 2017

Dear Mr Collins,

I am enclosing a document that Team Sky will publish today that provides more context around issues relating to the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné race and the steps we have taken since then to strengthen our anti-doping and medical practices. We have given all of the relevant information to UKAD already (and have sent them a copy of this document), but I hope it also provides important context for your Committee’s ongoing work around anti-doping.

Self-evidently, the events of recent months have highlighted areas where mistakes were made by Team Sky. Some members of staff did not comply fully with the policies and procedures that existed at that time. Regrettably, those mistakes mean that we have not been able to provide the complete set of records that we should have around the specific race relevant to UKAD’s investigation. We accept full responsibility for this.

However, many of the subsequent assumptions and assertions about the way Team Sky operates have been inaccurate or extended to implications that are simply untrue. There is a fundamental difference between process failures and wrongdoing. Our commitment to anti-doping has been a core principle of Team Sky since its inception. Our mission is to race and win clean, and we have done so for 8 years.

UKAD’s investigation was precipitated by a very serious allegation of an anti-doping rule violation by Team Sky at the 2011 Dauphiné. It is important to reiterate that, to my understanding, UKAD’s extensive investigation has found nothing whatsoever to support this allegation, which we believe to be false.

2011 was only our second year of racing and we have continuously improved our policies and procedures since then. As this document sets out, we have taken a number of significant steps to strengthen our anti-doping and medical governance, and we will continue to do so in the future.

While I obviously respect the fact that people will have their view on issues related to this investigation, I do believe that some of the comments made about Team Sky have been unreasonable and incorrect.

In the interest of balance, I would like to take this opportunity to say that I have the utmost admiration and respect for the riders and staff at the team. They are an extraordinarily dedicated and professional group of individuals who have always sought to do things the right way and to win clean. It’s why they joined Team Sky.

I fully appreciate that, for understandable reasons, your recent hearings regarding cycling and anti-doping have focused on the events surrounding the Dauphiné 2011 and the lessons to be learned. As part of your work I am sure you will also want to look at current policies and practices in the sport, and I hope that this document will be useful in supporting that work.

Yours sincerely,
Sir David Brailsford
Principal, Team Sky

Rigoberto Uran to lead Cannondale-Drapac at Tirreno-Adriatico

The team sent me this update:

The 52nd edition of Tirreno-Adriatico will unfold with a familiar rhythm. The ‘Race Between the Two Seas’ opens with a 22-kilometer team time trial in Lido di Camaiore and concludes with a short individual time trial on the San Benedetto del Troto sea front. Between the two time trials, the peloton will cross central Italy from the Tyrrhenian coast to the Adriatic as it tackles two sprint stages, two stages for the rouleurs and a stage for the pure climbers with an uphill finish to the Terminillo.

Throughout the seven-day stage race, Cannondale-Drapac endeavors to support Rigoberto Uran for the general classification while preparing its Classics squad for the upcoming cobbled campaign.

“We have built a team around Rigo, but we can play some stages with the other riders,” said sport director Fabrizio Guidi. “It’s a solid team. We expect a good team time trial. That’s pretty important in this Tirreno.

“The other days, we will be around Rigo, supporting Rigo,” Guidi added. “In the finals, if we have the opportunities with the other riders, we will take them. Those are our main targets.”

Wednesday’s TTT is a flat, fast course with only four corners for teams to navigate. The 22.7 kilometer opener serves as the first general classification sorting.

Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran at last year's Tirreno-Adriatico

“It’s going to be a big team effort,” said time trial specialist Ryan Mullen. “We have to go as fast as we can to get a stage result but primarily the goal is to keep Rigo within touching distance on the general classification. That’s our biggest goal here.

“I’d call it a straightforward out and back” Mullen added. “A 22 minute, 56 kilometer an hour blast. Easy, right? We’ll all whack out five million watts and be done with it.”

The five days that follow aren’t so straightforward. While the queen stage, with the Terminillo finish, offers up the most obvious challenge for the overall contenders, Uran considers every stage a crucial one.

“In a week-long race, every day is important,” said Uran, who finished third in Tirreno in 2015. “Maybe one day is flat and you think it’s no problem, but the weather can change everything like we saw in Paris-Nice. Normally flat is easy but you never know. Every stage is important here.

“My first priority in the first half of the season is the Ardennes – Liège and Flèche – but Tirreno is also a big goal,” Uran added. “At the moment, I have good condition. We are here to use it.”

Guidi echoes Uran’s sentiments. He sees a race route that suits the Colombian and a team equally suited to supporting general classification ambitions. “Rigo is a rider that can do a good GC in Tirreno,” Guidi noted. “He did it in the past. The stages suit him. Why not try? It’s never easy but considering we are not the team to work every day on the front we can save him and put him together with some riders and play some others for the stages. Our main opportunity is with him. We have a super strong team here. To use that strength, we need to be smart with good strategy and a good team spirit.”

With the team’s work for the general classification done on stage six, Mullen hopes to give the final stage individual time trial a crack. “It’s a hair longer than 10 kilometers and it’s similar to the first stage in that it’s an out and back,” said Mullen. “Speeds will only be slightly slower. It’s a 52, 53 kilometer an hour kind of job.

“I’ve been targeting this stage since I got the call up,” Mullen said. “I’m going to take it day by day, make sure I’m recovering well after I do my job for Rigo. If all goes well, the numbers I know I can do should have me in touching distance to the top, barring any mishaps in the week. I don’t want to put a number on it but I’m aiming to be competitive.”

Cannondale-Drapac for Tirreno-Adriatico:

Alberto Bettiol (ITA)
Paddy Bevin (NZL)
Simon Clarke (AUS)
Sebastian Langeveld (NLD)
Ryan Mullen (IRL)
Rigoberto Uran (COL)
Dylan Van Baarle (NLD)
Sep Vanmarcke (BEL)

Lotto-Soudal's plans for Tirreno-Adriatico

The team sent me this:

The 52nd edition of Tirreno-Adriatico takes place from 8 March 2017 till 14 March 2017. In seven stages, the riders will cruise through the Italian landscape. This year, the punchers and the climbers will get a few opportunities to win a stage, but also the time trialists are getting a chance of a stage win.

Just like last year, the Tirreno starts with a team time trial of 23 kilometres in Lido di Camaiore. The second stage is the longest of this edition with 228 kilometres. The largest part is flat but there is a steep climb at the end. Day three is an opportunity for the sprinters. Because of the slight uphill road it’s not guaranteed there’s going to be a bunch sprint, a puncher can win too.

The fourth stage will be very important for the GC. There’s a monstrous climb at the end of the stage on an altitude of 1.675 metres. The fifth stage seems ideal for the punchers but you can’t write the climbers off for the win. The sprinters will get their chance the day after. This Italian race ends with an individual time trial of ten kilometres on a flat course.

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens will be on the Tirreno-Adriatico start line

Lotto Soudal will participate with Tim Wellens, Maxime Monfort and Tiesj Benoot among others. The competition for the overall victory will come from riders such as Michal Kwiatkowski, Nairo Quintana, Tejay van Garderen, Thibaut Pinot and Bauke Mollema. The atypical winner of last year, Greg Van Avermaet also participates.

Bart Leysen, sports director Lotto Soudal: “We have a team to ride a great Tirreno-Adriatico. We got for example Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens who are in great shape. There are some possibilities to achieve a nice result. We have two opportunities with Tiesj and Tim and two  with Jens Debusschere and Jürgen Roelandts. The big goal of this Tirreno is to conquer a stage win. We are going into the Tirreno to give everything we’ve got. We are not going to hide somewhere in the peloton. The Lotto Soudal team cannot do that every stage but we are picking up where we left off in the Strade Bianche.”

“The stages are similar to previous editions, so we know as a team what to expect. Just like last year we start with a team time trial. I belief we have a team to aim for the top five, that would be amazing. Day two is a course where Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot can exploit their abilities. There are hills and climbs on the route and the finish is uphill. It’s not very steep so we can definitely battle for the victory this day.”

“Day three is a sprint stage so we are going to take our chances with Jens and Jürgen. Day four is the toughest stage with a long steep climb. There is no plan yet for this stage. We are going to wait and see how, for example Tim Wellens, stands in the GC to defend his chances. During the fifth stage there is another chance for Tim and Tiesj. There is another steep uphill climb at the finish where they can exploit their abilities. Day six is also a sprint stage, thus a chance for Jens and Jürgen. We end the Tirreno-Adriatico with an individual time trial on a flat course.”

“Except for the big mountain stage we have more than enough chances to go for a stage win. The team is so strong that we can divide the pressure without one person getting all the pressure on his shoulders. That puts the riders at ease.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Bart De Clercq, Jens Debusschere, Nikolas Maes, Tomasz Marczynski, Maxime Monfort, Jürgen Roelandts and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Bart Leysen.

Stages

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