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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, April 14, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

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Ardennes Classics team previews

Yesterday we posted several team updates about the upcoming Ardennes Classics. I got a couple more today.

EF Education First-Drapac sent me this:

With the cobbles of Belgium and France in arrears, the EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale has dispatched a team of climbers to the Ardennes races. The trifecta of Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège make up block of racing that’s an entirely different challenge, or, as Alex Howes puts it: “They’re beautiful races. They’re left right up down all day. You’re totally switched on for 6.5 hours for Amstel and Liège."

The Amstel Gold Race opens up the week and serves as something of an in-between: Some riders from the cobbled races line up for Amstel while others wrapped up at Roubaix. Sep Vanmarcke will take the start along with Matti Breschel, Lawson Craddock, Alex Howes, Logan Owen, Rigoberto Uran and Mike Woods.

“Amstel is really hard. Those climbs and tiny roads are hard. They come at you all day. With these races, it’s not as obvious as the cobbled classics. These are like a slow burn. I feel a bit sad they’re under-appreciated,” said sport director Tom Southam, who will oversee the Ardennes racing. “The level is really high. Small moments are really decisive in these races. It’s not glaringly obvious, it’s not breaking up all over the place — that kind of attracts me. You can’t expend effort at the wrong time. You want to wait for the last possible moment. These races can change really quickly. It’s easy to think they’re formulaic, but they aren’t. They’re grueling and hard. Any small mistake you make you’re going to have to pay for.”

The team will be ready for one kind of Amstel with Vanmarcke and another entirely with Uran.

Rigoberto

Rigoberto Uran (shown racing in Colombia earlier this year) will be on the Amstel start line.

La Flèche Wallonne will come down to positioning into its fabled climb, the Mur de Huy (average gradient, 9.6 percent; maximum gradient, 26 percent).

“We know what’s going to happen there, don’t we?” Southam noted. “I imagine I’ll be playing the part of aggressor later in the race. Maybe the attack before the attacks kind of thing,” Howes said. “Definitely for Fleche I’ll be the guy to lead into the base of the Mur. Which, as anyone who follows Fleche knows, your result is 80 percent position into the bottom of the Mur. The other 20 percent is VO2 max.”

Woods has finished 12th and 11th at Flèche and combined with Uran provides the team with options. The pair will be joined for the mid-week race by Craddock, Howes, Kim Magnusson, Dani Martinez and Pierre Rolland. Martinez makes his return to racing after suffering a concussion in late March.

Amstel Gold Race

Sport Directors:
Tom Southam (GBR)
Charly Wegelius (GBR)

Riders:
Matti Breschel (DEN)
Lawson Craddock (USA)
Alex Howes (USA)
Logan Owen (USA)
Rigoberto Uran (COL)
Sep Vanmarcke (BEL)
Mike Woods (CAN)

La Flèche Wallonne

Sport Directors:
Juanma Garate (ESP)
Tom Southam (GBR)

Riders:
Lawson Craddock (USA)
Alex Howes (USA)
Kim Magnusson (SWE)
Daniel Martinez (COL)
Pierre Rolland (FRA)
Rigoberto Uran (COL)
Mike Woods (CAN)

Lotto-Soudal sent me this update:

This Sunday the Amstel Gold Race will take place, the first of three WorldTour Ardennes Classics. The race of almost 263 kilometres contains 35 hills, including three ascents of the Cauberg. Since last year the Cauberg is no longer the last hill in the race. The Amstel ends with a local lap of 15.7 kilometres with the Geulhemmerberg and Bemelerberg, that last hill at seven kilometres from the finish. Lotto Soudal leaders Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot both hope for an animated race.

Tim Wellens: “The Brabantse Pijl was a very good rehearsal, even though it wasn’t a WorldTour race and there were not as much potential winners. But it was a confirmation of my form and it feels always good to win. By moving the finish of the Amstel a few years ago, it has become a race that is more appealing to attackers and that’s even more the case since the last ascent of the Cauberg is skipped. The last loop of about fifteen kilometres underwent some changes too, we will now ride over narrower roads. That’s also an advantage for escapees. If Tiesj or I want to have a chance of winning, then it’s best that we get a hard race with a small group that battles for victory at the end or we need to finish solo.”

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens winning the Brabantse Pijl

Tiesj Benoot: “I’ve been in a good shape since the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad seven weeks ago. I’m still having fun. I went on a training camp to Sierra Nevada after the Ronde and I felt good at Brabantse Pijl. The few days extra rest should make that I perform even better at the Amstel. When I rode the Amstel for the first time, two years ago, I had to abandon early in the race because of the consequences of my crash at the Ronde. Last year I rode well, but because of a puncture just before the Fromberg I got distanced from the group that battled for third place. But last year’s edition proved that the race suits me.”

“After winning Strade Bianche, you could say my spring is already a success. I claimed several top results in the Cobblestone Classics, but I would love to set a top result in the Ardennes Classics too. Next to Strade Bianche, the Amstel might well be the race with the highest number of top riders at the start, as it is also a mix of Classics riders such as Naesen, Sagan, Terpstra, Vanmarcke and Van Avermaet on the one hand and climbers such as Kwiatkowski, Nibali and Valverde on the other. There are a lot of podium candidates. I hope for an open and hard race, in which the riders don’t wait too long.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Nikolas Maes, Tomasz Marczyński, Marcel Sieberg, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Herman Frison.

UAE-Team Emirates headed to Tour of the Alps

The team sent me this:

The UAE Team Emirates is built entirely around its stage race star Fabio Aru for the Tour of the Alps this April 16 to 20.

Fabio Aru

Fabio Aru racing in the 2017 Vuelta a España

“I’m going to find some tough racing at the Tour of the Alps, where I want to do well and prepare in the best possible way with an eye on my big goal, the Giro d’Italia,” the Sardinian climber said.

“I’m completely healed from the problems I had at the Volta a Cataluyna and I’m training without any issues. It will be a difficult race, and there’s not shortage of climbs, starting with the Alpe di Pampeago in the second stage. It’s important to ride wisely, and what ever happens in the race, we’ll face when we get to it.”

Roster: Fabio Aru (Ita), Valerio Conti (Ita), Kristijan Durasek (Cro), Vegard Stake Laengen (Nor), Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol), Simone Petilli (Ita), Edward Ravasi (Ita).

Sports directors: Marco Marzano (Ita), Mario Scirea (Ita), Paolo Tiralongo (Ita).

Huffy launches bike shop-only bike line, Batch Bicycles

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this news:

DAYTON, Ohio (BRAIN) — Huffy Bicycles has announced a new line of bikes to be sold exclusively through IBDs: Batch Bicycles.

"I asked my team to find the white space," said Huffy CEO Bill Smith. "Dealers told me there are opportunities for incremental business, in between the high end of mass-market bikes and the low end of specialty bikes. Huffy is in a unique position to leverage its strengths and provide that.

"We're a well-run company with 126 years of bicycle experience and significant buying power. We don't carry overhead of mainstream IBD brands, such as the costs of a large sales force, catalogs, race team sponsorships and floor financing. We're able to make a well-spec'd product, and offer dealers great margins, without the need for minimum buys, presale commitments, inventory requirements or complicated discount structures," he added.

Smith began a dialogue with IBDs after attending 2017's IBD Summit and Bicycle Leadership Conference. In a panel discussion at the IBD Summit, Smith said Huffy faced many of the same challenges as the IBD industry. He also began recruiting IBDs to act as Huffy warranty service centers. Huffy launched a new Service Center program in 2018. 

Batch Bicycles is being run by industry veteran Bruno Maier, who rejoined Huffy and parent company United Wheels last year. The brand will launch five categories of bicycles at Interbike in September: a comfort bike, a commuter model, a beach cruiser, a mountain bike and kids' bikes, all made with aluminum frames and spec'd with Shimano drivetrains and double-walled aluminum rims.

You can read the entire story here.

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