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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 25, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

The nobler a man, the harder it is for him to suspect inferiority in others. - Cicero

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Larry Theobald of CycleItalia Cycling Tours explains how to clean your bike without using pressure washers that can damage bearings


E3-Harelbeke team reports

Peter Sagan had a bad day on Belgium's roads. Here's the report from his Bora-hansgrohe team:

The Belgian races are rightly regarded as some of the most difficult of the season – whether because of the cobblestones, the climbs or the frequently inclement weather. It takes a lot of luck to be in the right place at the right time, but today the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was out of luck – a crash causing further mechanical problems that left him out of contention that even the strongest rider couldn’t recover from. In the break that made it to the finish, BORA - hansgrohe’s Lukas Pöstlberger came home in fifth spot shortly after a three-man sprint for the win.

With some of the first cobblestones of this year’s Belgian Classics season, the Record E3-Harelbeke was going to be a harsh introduction to the coming races. Over its 206km parcours, riders would experience cobblestones, fifteen difficult climbs – including the infamous Oude Kruisberg, Eikenberg, Kapelberg and Oude Kwaremont – and of course, the Belgian weather. While the final 15km are almost flat, it would be the preceding 100km that would decide who would be in the right position to contest the finish. There’s no knowing whether the race will end in a bunch sprint or if a breakaway can take the win, but one thing is for certain, the finale is always spectacular.

The start of the day was fairly gentle, but with riders reluctant to show their cards too early, it took some time for a break to form, and while some early crashes made the peloton a little nervous, the pace was high. Finally, after more than 80km of racing, a break managed to push ahead, and in the absence of any big names in the escape, the peloton was happy to let them build a small advantage, which rose gradually as the day went on. With more than 70km remaining however, the peloton started racing and was keen to bring the gap down before the road flattened out. While the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was up with the chasing bunch, a small group broke off the front, with some contenders in their midst. BORA - hansgrohe’s Lukas Pöstlberger stayed in touch with this group, the Austrian rider working hard to ensure Peter had support up ahead, but in spite of a hard push, Peter was reeled in on his attempt to bridge – his efforts made all the more difficult without any teams willing to work with a rider who had such a strong chance of taking the win.

Caught up in a crash, Peter suffered more misfortune as it was clear his bike had been affected in the fall. It seemed his race was over, as further up the road, the contenders at the front began to fight it out amongst themselves and increase their advantage on the chasing peloton. With only three riders in the end to contest the finale, the trio looked nervously at each other to see who would go first, the race decided by a long sprint, taken by BMC’s Van Avermaet, followed shortly by BORA - hansgrohe’s Pöstlberger, who held on to the tail-end of the break to take fifth spot.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet wins E3-Harelbeke

Crossing the line to take one of the best results of his career so far, Lukas was understandably thrilled, having taken 15th spot just a couple of days ago at Dwars Door Vlaanderen. “I’m very happy with today’s performance and result! It was an extremely tough and challenging race but I consider it to be the best ever of my professional career. I feel my form steadily improving and I think this confirms the good sensations I already had at Dwars Door Vlaanderen. I hope this marks the start of a thriving period in my career.”

After his own hard race, Peter was quick to praise his teammate’s ride and strong finish. “It was a tough race. I didn’t jump on the front group when they attacked and made the decisive move and then the crash wiped out all the chances I had to bridge the gap. However, I’m very happy with the result of Lukas. He did a great race and showed he’s a very strong young rider. It’s also a very good result for BORA - hansgrohe overall.”

Directeur Sportif, Jens Zemke, was pleased with how Lukas responded following Peter’s difficulties. “It was our clear plan to save Lukas today for the finale to help Peter. When he was part of the group after the move from Gilbert, we were in a strong position. For sure, Peter would have had the chance to try and bridge the gap on the Kwaremont, because also Trek and Sky needed to do something. But after his crash we told Lukas to go for it. It was a strong ride to stay in front of the first bunch and we are really happy with his result and performance today. It is also a strong sign from the team that we have young guys who are able to jump in if something happens to Peter.”

Another hard day awaits on Sunday, with only a day’s rest between today and Gent-Wevelgem. Peter won last year’s edition of the race – his first in the rainbow stripes of the UCI World Champion. The 249km course is fairly flat for the first 120km, but these more open sections of the course are often battered by winds and will drain the energy reserves of the riders. After 120km there are nine climbs in the space of 50km. With a day’s racing already in their legs, this will be a brutal race.

Philippe Gilbert was second. Here's his Quick-Step Team's update:

Philippe Gilbert showcased again his strong form and fantastic skills on the cobbles by nabbing a second consecutive podium this week, 48 hours after being part of the Quick-Step Floors set-up which helped Yves Lampaert crown himself champion at Dwars door Vlaanderen.

Also on Friday, Quick-Step Floors was in the spotlight, leading the peloton as they headed to the Taaienberg (aka "Boonenberg)", where the race kicked off in spectacular fashion as soon as five-time winner Tom Boonen put down the hammer and forced a split. Less than 20 men made it to the front, and Philippe Gilbert was again there, just as he was two days ago, when he booked a place in the elite group on the Berendries and dictated the rhythm of the race.

The Belgian Champion was the heart and soul of the 10-man group which emerged somewhere between Taaienberg and Boigneberg, doing some long and super impressive pulls at the front so the leaders could take their advantage over the peloton led by Katusha and Trek-Segafredo to one minute. Then, on the steep and windy Paterberg, the day's 12th hellingen, Philippe moved to the front and decided to go deep, accelerating and splitting the break on the tough cobbles of the 700m-long climb.

A trio containing Philippe Gilbert, Oliver Naesen (AG2R) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) was left in the lead with 40 kilometers to go and kept pushing hard over the cobbles and the bergs and at the same time they took their margin to a point it became clear they will not be seen by the chasers until after the finish. Going into the last two kilometers of the race, the three began playing the traditional cat-and-mouse game, and it was only in the run-in to the line, with 300 meters to go, that this stopped and the fight for victory began.

Naesen was the first to move in the tactical and tense sprint which came at the end of 206 tough kilometers, Van Avermaet responded and was immediately followed by Gilbert, who pushed a huge gear and gave everything to come around his countryman, but in the end had to be content with second place, his best ever result in five participations at E3 Harelbeke, which this year celebrated its 60th edition. Thanks to him and to the 8th place of Tom Boonen – who made his final appearance here – Quick-Step Floors opened a 516-point advantage over the second placed squad in the World Tour standings.

"We did a great race today and all the guys did a marvelous job, covering the moves of our rivals and keeping me in a good position. Over the top of the Taaienberg, we had a gap, and although I wasn't sure that group will stick, I decided to give it a go, so from that moment on it was full gas all the way to the finish line in Harelbeke", said the 34-year-old Quick-Step Floors rider.

"In the sprint, Naesen surprised me when he opened his sprint and I hesitated for a second. That, and the headwind, made it really hard to get back in the front. It's a pity, because I was there and could have won, but that's racing. I'm looking at the bright side of things, which is that my form is good and I've rediscovered those sensations that make me feel at ease on the cobbles. In these races, you have to work hard to get into the best position and to keep it. I really like this. I found again my fighting spirit and this makes me happy. I'm back!", concluded Gilbert, who will now take a short break before lining out at the start of next week's Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.

Chris Froome moves up to second in Volta a Catalunya

Here's Team Sky's report:

Chris Froome climbed into second place overall at the Volta a Catalunya with an impressive performance on the race's queen stage.

The Team Sky rider clung on to the elite pairing of Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) on the Tortosa summit finish, riding at his own consistent tempo as the Spanish pair continually upped the tempo.

Froome crossed the line 13 seconds after Valverde, who launched a devastating late attack up to Lo Port. With Valverde moving into the race lead, Froome sits just 21 seconds back with two stages to go.

Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde wins in style

Speaking after the stage Froome was upbeat: “Today, being the first big mountain top finish, was probably the first real big test so in that sense I’m really happy to be up there. Those are good indicators when I still have a long way to go until I’m at my best. Personally, it’s been an encouraging few days, especially given my track record here in Catalunya! It’s a race that I’ve usually found tough, being my first European race of the year and really just getting back into it.

“Having said that, we don’t want to be happy with second place as it’s not the reason we’re here. Valverde is looking really strong and I think beating him will take something special. But tomorrow’s stage has been quite understated – there’s hardly any flat in it and the weather might play a big part. After a day like today there will be some tired legs so we’ll stay on the front foot and look to take any opportunities."

Geraint Thomas also found himself in the front group, but began to slip back as attacks fired up front and gave word for Froome to stay at the head of the race. The Welshman held on to limit his losses, and now sits seventh overall, 1:34 back.

After a rapid run-in, complete with crosswinds and echelons, Team Sky were right to the fore as the beyond-category climb began. Phil Deignan led the line, before Vasil Kiryienka took over, with Pete Kennaugh and Mikel Landa in tow.

Landa stood firm as Trek-Segafredo tried to wrestle back control, but it was Contador who lit it up and blew the race apart behind. The Spaniard was third on the day, and 26 seconds behind Froome on the GC.

Diego Rosa didn't start the stage due to illness and Sport Director Nico Portal explained that the team didn't deem it worth the risk of riding the Italian. He said: “Diego has just been feeling a little unwell the last few days. It was obviously a really hard stage today and so there’s no point in him pushing it at this point in the season. He’s got other goals to aim for and so we don’t need to take any risks with him."

IRC looks to rebuild its brand in the US market among younger riders

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this:

TAIPEI, Taiwan (BRAIN) — For mountain bikers over 40, MTB tires from IRC were a "must have" back in the 1990s. But the Japanese company and its bicycle tires disappeared from the U.S. market after a disastrous fire at its South Korean factory pushed the company out of the market.

The company shifted production to its Japanese factory. But the sudden drop in manufacturing capacity caused IRC to lose a number of OE accounts as well as its U.S. distribution. No tires, no sales.

But, according to Bruno Suttles, IRC — short for Inoue Rubber Company — is rebuilding its presence in the U.S. and will amp up its marketing efforts to re-establish the brand’s image among the cycling community.

Suttles, IRC’s account manager with an office in Davis, California, said many people don’t know that IRC, with headquarters in Nagoya, Japan, is a $5.5 billion company with a global portfolio of sales including motorcycle tires, auto parts, polyurethane foam, composite materials, insulation and other products. “You could build a house out of all the things that we manufacture,” he said.

Founded in 1926, IRC is the oldest department in what is now known as the INOAC Group.

You can read the entire story here.

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