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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 18, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath. - Michael Caine

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A quick look at Bicycle History: A Chronological Cycling History of People, Races and Technology
By Jim Witherell.


Tour of Catalonia team news

Here's Lotto-Soudal's report:

Monday, the Tour of Catalonia (Volta a Catalunya) starts, a seven-day WorldTour stage race in the northeast of Spain. During this race, there will be not much time to recover since the course is riddled with climbs.

In the first stage, there are six official climbs on the route towards Calella where Bart De Clercq got third two years ago after a long breakaway. Tuesday a team time trial of 41.3 kilometers is on the agenda. Like the previous three years, there is a finish in La Molina, a ski resort, which is on for Wednesday. During that stage not one metre is flat. The road climbs steadily for miles before the riders summit the Alt de Toses after which they have to climb the Molina twice. The first half of the fourth stage goes downhill and it ends with a difficult finale. Fifteen kilometers before the finish the riders reach the top of the Turó del Puig (second category) followed by a descent until the finish in Igualada. Friday they finish uphill at Lo Port. To reach the finish the riders have to climb 8.4 kilometers with an average gradient of 9% with peaks up to 20%! Saturday the peloton is heading for Reus. Before they begin to descend towards this city, they have to conquer the Alt de la Musara, a climb of 11.6 kilometers with an average gradient of 5%.

The Volta a Catalunya ends on Sunday in the capital Barcelona. The last part of this stage consists of eight local laps of 6.6 kilometers including the Montjuïc. This climb is two kilometers long and has an average gradient of 5.7%. From the top there is still four kilometers to cover towards the finish.

One of the eight Lotto Soudal riders who will be lining up for the start is Thomas De Gendt. Last year, he won the fourth stage with finish at Port Ainé, which has no finish in this year’s edition. André Greipel is also participating. The German champion wants to finalize his preparation for the Tour of Flanders. Louis Vervaeke, who ended up as twentieth last year, 2’22’’ behind the winner Nairo Quitana, is also part of the selection. The Spanish GC rider Rafael Valls will also compete in his home country. Two years ago he claimed the eighth place in the general classification at 43 seconds of the winner Richie Porte.

Rafael Valls

Rafael Valls at the 2015 Tour of Oman

Rafael Valls: “After the Abu Dhabi Tour end of February I took a week of rest, also to get used to Spanish time again. Then I trained a lot in the mountains to prepare for the Volta a Catalunya. It will be without any doubt a tough week. The race suits me well and for a race in my home country, I am always extra motivated. The Volta a Catalunya is one of the toughest stage races of one week because of its strong start list, its tough course and the intensity of racing.”

“The past few weeks I paid the necessary attention to the time trial because on Tuesday a team time trial of over 40 kilometers is scheduled in Catalonia. Then the first significant time differences in the classification will be made. I expect that we can set a good time with the team so I will not lose much time in the classification. This discipline certainly does not scare me. Wednesday we finish at La Molina, where I got tenth in 2015. It will be a difficult stage with a lot of altitude metres, but the climb to La Molina is not very steep. The time difference between the GC riders will be limited to seconds and not minutes. Friday it will be different during the stage to Lo Port. I have never done that climb but I have seen it on video. Together with the time trial, it will be the most important appointment for the GC.”

“The final stage in and around Barcelona is not to be underestimated with the sequence of climbs of the Montjuïc. It keeps on going up and down. The stage can still have an influence on the final GC. It is also a stage that always brings spectacle due to the many attacks. In 2015 I finished as ninth in that stage. It is a course that suits me and where I might try something, either to win the stage or to take back time in the GC. The best GC riders of the world are participating next week such as Bardet, Contador and Froome. I am certainly going to fight for a place in the top ten and for a stage win.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Sean De Bie, Bart De Clercq, Thomas De Gendt, André Greipel, Rafael Valls, Jelle Vanendert and Louis Vervaeke.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Bart Leysen.

Stages:

Here are BMC's Catalonia plans:

17 March, 2017, Santa Rosa, California (USA): UCI WorldTour stage racing continues for BMC Racing Team next week as a competitive eight-rider roster heads to Spain for Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.  

BMC Racing Team will line up with a strong team in support of Tejay van Garderen, Sports Director Jackson Stewart said. "With Tejay van Garderen set to captain at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, we're going in very motivated. He's won stages here before and has been in contention for the General Classification multiple times. I am also interested to see what Rohan Dennis can do here, and after his performance at Tirreno-Adriatico, he will also be a protected rider."

"Our first priority will be the team time trial, and then we will approach each stage as it comes but, I think we will have a strong team in the mountains. Van Garderen has won on top of Molina before and with Dennis' success in Italy, Ben Hermans' early season performances in Valencia and Oman, and the experience of Samuel Sánchez, I am confident we can be very competitive."

For Tejay van Garderen, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya is another building block as he looks ahead to May. "This will be a good opportunity for me to continue to build my form and get some more racing kilometers in the legs leading into the Giro d'Italia. It's always a tough week of racing in Catalunya but I'm looking forward to it, especially with the team time trial on stage two," van Garderen said.

Tejay van Gardeen

Tejay van Garderen

Rohan Dennis is looking to carry his form from Italy into the seven-day stage race. "Tirreno-Adriatico went well for me, and I was happy to finish second overall but, now my attention has turned to next week. It will be important for me to recover well and this should hopefully improve my form once again before going to Catalunya. This will definitely be a tough race but the team time trial will be a big goal for us. It's 42km around the Banyoles area, and it could set us up for a good GC for Tejay van Garderen and myself," Dennis explained.

Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (March 20 - 26)

Rider Roster: Brent Bookwalter (USA), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Rohan Dennis (AUS), Kilian Frankiny (SUI), Ben Hermans (BEL), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Samuel Sánchez (ESP), Tejay van Garderen (USA)

Sports Directors: Jackson Stewart (USA), Yvon Ledanois (ITA)

Cannondale-Drapac sent me this Catalonia update:

The Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, or Volta Catalunya, is Cannondale-Drapac's next stage race, running from Monday 20 March to Sunday 26 March. One of the three WorldTour stage races in Spain, the Volta Catalunya is a brutal race that serves up plentiful climbing.

"Catalunya is always a nice race for our team. It's as close to a home race as we'll get in the WorldTour, seeing as roughly half of all our riders are based in Girona, as well as the team's service course," Alex Howes said. "This was my first major WorldTour stage race as a neo-pro back in 2012. That year, it dumped snow on the queen stage and nearly 50 riders pulled out.

"Still to this day I think that was the coldest I have ever been. We managed to lock up the team classification that year [as Garmin-Sharp], with a strong effort from each rider — and we had an absolute blast."

The 2017 Volta Catalunya starts with a 178.9 kilometer mountain stage that starts and begins in Callella. There's no easing into things. The opener includes six categorized climbs, two of which sport a category one rating.

A 41.3 kilometer team time trial follows in stage two, over an undulating profile. It's back to climbing in stage three, with a summit finish atop la Molina. Stage four is mostly downhill, with a start in Llívia and a finish in Igualada and two small climbs along the way.

Stages five and six take the race to an area in Catalunya that typically hasn't featured in the race route as the peloton travels south of Barcelona. Stage five finishes atop Lo Port de Tortosa, and stage six covers three category three climbs and the Alt de la Mussara (category one) at 30 kilometers from the finish line. The race finishes traditionally with a hilly stage that includes laps over Barcelona's Montjuic on Sunday.

"The race is going to be dominated by the team time trial in stage two. With that in mind, we’re more focused on individual stages. We will go for the win in every stage," said Tom Southam, sport director with Juan Manuel Garate.

"We’re not ruling anything out," Southam added. "If we get someone close in the GC, because the race is going a different way than is predicted, we might decide to protect his GC position throughout the race."

According to Southam, there are two main reasons why this race is so hard: "It’s hilly and good riders turn up – like really good riders. It’s taken pretty seriously and there are a lot of climbs."

Howes mostly has his eyes on the middle stages. "I’m looking forward to the medium mountain days and the final circuit in Barcelona," he said. "With some good training in the legs I hope to be a factor in animating the race and helping Cannondale-Drapac represent on home roads."

Cannondale-Drapac for Volta Ciclista a Catalunya: Brendan Canty (AUS), Hugh Carthy (GBR), Davide Formolo (ITA), Alex Howes (USA), Pierre Rolland (FRA), Andrew Talansky (USA), Davide Villella (ITA), Michael Woods (CAN)

And of course we can't forget Team Movistar:

After missing out on Paris-Nice due to illness - Gorka Izagirre going on to successfully stand the Movistar Team's ground with a fantastic 4th place overall -, Alejandro Valverde will finally be back into competition with the 97th Volta a Catalunya (Monday 20 - Sunday 26 March). The Spaniard, winner of both the Vuelta a Murcia and the Vuelta a Andalucía in 2017, will have a strong, eight-man squad by his side, including local Marc Soler, Imanol Erviti, Andrey Amador, José Joaquín Rojas, Rubén Fernández, Jonathan Castroviejo and Nelson Oliveira. José Luis Arrieta and José Luis Laguía will be the sports directors.

The Catalan stagerace -which Valverde won in 2009, led in 2013 (before crashing out) and honoured in 2015 with three stage victories and an overall 2nd-place finish-, will feature a route significantly different to previous editions, with a 41km TTT in Banyoles (Tuesday 21) and a second mountain-top finish in Lo Port / Tortosa (Friday 25) to add to the well-known La Molina ascent (Wednesday 23). Lumpy routes towards Calella, Igualada or Reus and a traditional showdown in the Montjuïc mountain, in Barcelona, complete the week's program.

In turn, two days before the Volta starts (Saturday 18), José Luis Jaimerena will head a second Movistar Team unit at the first 'Monument' of the spring classic season, the 108th Milano-Sanremo, over 291km -the longest race for the Blues every season- that include the ascents to the Turchino, the 'Capi', Cipressa and Poggio before the finish at Via Roma. Daniele Bennati -5th in 2010, 6th in 2009- will be the leader of the Blues at the Riviera Ligure, supported by Alex Dowsett, Jasha Sütterlin, Carlos Barbero, Carlos Betancur, Jorge Arcas, Nuno Bico and Héctor Carretero.

REI announces record revenues and record member dividends for 2016

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this piece

SEATTLE, Wash. (BRAIN) — REI revenues were up 5.5 percent last year, to $2.56 billion. The co-op returned a record $193.7 million in member dividends and credit card rebates and gave back nearly 70 percent of its profits to outdoor community projects and organizations.

The co-op said comparable store sales were up 4 percent for the year while digital sales grew by nearly 18 percent. The company said it has made organization-wide efforts to reduce energy use, including the opening of what it claims is the country's "most sustainable distribution center." It said that since 2008 its energy draw from the grid has grown only 4 percent, while sales are up 78 percent since then.

You can read the entire story here.

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