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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 24, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact. - Charles Darwin

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E3 Harelbeke team reports

We'll start with winner Niki Terpstra's Team Quick-Step Floors report:

A tactical masterpiece of Quick-Step Floors concluded with a memorable victory of the Dutchman, who was followed on the podium by teammate Philippe Gilbert.

Quick-Step Floors' amazing streak in Belgium continued on Friday afternoon, when Niki Terpstra soloed to victory in the prestigious E3 Harelbeke, adding a new trophy to the team's cabinet in this season's one-day races, after the ones of Le Samyn, Dwars door West-Vlaanderen, Nokere Koerse, Handzame Classic and Driedaagse. It was a well-deserved and hard-earned win, which came on the back of a brilliant and flawless team strategy, doubled by an amazing strength in depth.

The first key moment of the race surfaced with 100 kilometers to go, when a big crash in the peloton split the field, leaving 30 riders in the front, including the entire Quick-Step Floors squad. Tim Declercq and Iljo Keisse put down the hammer, trading ferocious pulls as they increased the advantage over the chasers to over a minute and brought the gap to the breakaway down to two minutes. On the iconic Taaienberg, a 650m climb on which many of Quick-Step Floors' previous wins were forged in the past decade, our team put the race in the gutter and forced a massive selection.

Just before the top of the climb, Yves Lampaert and Niki Terpstra powered clear from the group, looked over their shoulders and saw their teammates slowed down the chase of the opponents, which gave them a boost to push on and build a 20-second gap, catching the last two escapees, Damien Gaudin (Direct Energie) and Pim Ligthart (Roompot), in the process. Lampaert, the reigning Dwars door Vlaanderen champion, buried himself for Terpstra at the front and took the gap to almost a minute, as behind Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar marked the moves of Peter Sagan (bora-hansgrohe) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).

On the narrow and twisty roads of Flanders, Yves and Niki – both former World TTT Champions – soldiered on and left every hurdle behind, be it the Stationsberg, the Paterberg or the Oude Kwaremont, the longest hill of the race. It was after the latter that a regrouping took place, when a large group caught the chasers, but the Quick-Step Floors duo remained cool as a cucumber and continued to fight hard, until with 23 kilometers to go, when the admirable Lampaert ran out of steam, just before the slopes of Tiegemberg.

Niki Terpstra

Niki Terpstra wins a big one.

Terpstra – who earlier this season soloed to a convincing victory at Le Samyn, where Quick-Step Floors' strength in numbers again made the difference – still held 30 seconds over the top of the hill as he made use of his time trial skills to pace himself, but the advantage began to drop inside the last ten kilometers, on the long straight roads to Harelbeke, where the chasers made visual contact with him.

As a result, several attacks shaved off half of the deficit, but once again, Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar played their role to perfection, tracking down every single acceleration, hindering the chasers' effort and ensuring Niki's gap didn't dip below 15 seconds and was still a hefty one in the closing kilometers.

Completely drained, but with his arms high in the air, Terpstra arrived at the finish, where he celebrated Quick-Step Floors' 33rd victory in a cobbled classic and cementing his reputation as one of the best one-day riders of his generation. Philippe Gilbert made it a spectacular 1-2 for the team, as he easily sprinted from the ten-man group, while Zdenek Stybar concluded in ninth place, capping off one of the best team displays seen in the last years.

"This is one of the biggest wins of my career and the fact that it came in such an important race gives me even more pleasure. It wouldn't have been possible without this awesome team, the way they all rode today – from Tim and Iljo who spent a ridiculous amount of energy at the front of the bunch and Philippe, Florian and Zdenek who reeled in every move to Yves' fantastic effort – this was a perfect display of the Wolfpack spirit", said Niki after becoming the first Dutchman in 15 years to nail the victory in E3 Harelbeke.

"I was disappointed after last year, when I came out of the season winless, but the hard work in the winter paid off today and now I'm very happy. The success in Le Samyn gave me a lot of confidence and showed me I'm on the right track. Many thought we were crazy to attack 74 kilometers out, but we knew we could make something special today. The toughest moment came on the highway, inside the last ten kilometers, but I didn't crack and rode my heart out there, managing to finish off the team's brilliant effort with this win."

As he crossed the line, 33-year-old Terpstra pointed to the team's name, a gesture mirroring the one of Elia Viviani in Driedaagse Brugge – De Panne two days ago, and which he explained before mounting to the podium: "I am very grateful to our sponsors, they've been by our side for so many years now and thanks to them we are here today. To repay them with a victory on such a big race made me very glad. Let's hope we'll keep the momentum and add many other great results to our palmares this spring."

Peter Sagan's Bora-hansgrohe team sent me this:

The first of the Belgian Classics came today along with some stereotypically-Belgian weather conditions. Rain soaked cobblestones made the going treacherous today, with a race of exciting attacking and counter-attacking marred by crashes that would see many of the favourites out of contention. In spite of a valiant effort to stay in touch with the lead group, ably supported by teammate Daniel Oss, Peter Sagan finished the race in the bunch due to both an unlucky crash and a lack of cooperation from the chasers. Re-focusing their attention on Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem, the BORA-hansgrohe riders rode conservatively to save energy and finish safely to ride another day.

The Stage
The E3-Harelbeke has all of the ingredients that make the Belgian Classics so special: cobblestones, brutal climbs, a long and varied parcours and – this year – some difficult weather conditions. Over the 206km distance, riders would traverse eight cobblestone sections and no fewer than fifteen climbs. These aren’t the long and winding mountain climbs of the stage races, but short, punchy and brutally energy sapping, with high gradients and often over cobblestones, with the famous Oude Kruisberg, Kapelberg, Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont climbs coming at pivotal points during the day. The final climb of the day came nearly 20km before the finish, but in this race, it’s the riders’ position before this final stretch that so often decides the race’s outcome.

The Team Tactics
As the first of the Belgian Classics, the season was really getting underway now, and the key players were starting to show how their preparation was working out. With a busy weekend of hard races, the team would be watching how today would unfold before deciding how to ride – it would be essential that the team save their energy for Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday and not work too hard if the conditions weren’t right to push for the win.

The Race
The slightly flatter start to the day gave riders a chance to make the jump and get into the breakaway, with eight riders escaping and building a strong advantage. While the break built their lead to six minutes, an early crash brought down the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan. The tough Slovak rider simply shrugged off the fall, but it was a sign that the day was going to be tough for a number of different reasons. The pace was proving too much for the chasing peloton as it split into two groups, with the front group catching up with the break, and a small group, with Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss in their midst, working to stay in contact. The smoother road sections made it easier to work, but with Peter being the strongest rider here, there was little desire to work with him to reel in the lead group. While Peter and Daniel both worked relentlessly to reduce the gap, they were lapped up by the reduced peloton. With eleven determined and organised riders out in front, it became clear that the peloton would be unable to make the catch, which left the UCI World Champion and the rest of the BORA-hansgrohe team riding to finish safely to contest Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday.

"It was a fast and nervous E3 Harelbeke and until the Taaienberg, everything was going exactly according to the way we had planned. Then when Quick-Step attacked, Daniel and I took the responsibility to go across and close the gaps, bringing the chasing groups together. That required a big effort and when you do that so far from the finish, it's difficult. At 30km into the race, I was caught in a tumble. I didn't suffer anything serious, just some road rash on my right thigh. However, that didn't affect my performance and I now look forward to the next race." – Peter Sagan, UCI World Champion

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan slightly worse for the wear after his crash. Bettini photo

"It was a hard E3 Harelbeke for us but our guys fought until the end and really gave their best today. Rudi Selig and Christoph Pfingsten were caught in the big crash that split the peloton and were affected but, fortunately, they didn't suffer any serious injury. Our guys were at the front but Quick-Step and the other big teams had many strong riders putting pressure on the peloton. When Tesptra and Lampaert broke away, Peter and Daniel put on a tremendous effort to close all the gaps by themselves, with little cooperation from the other riders. That effort took its toll on both of them. We wanted to have a credible chance at winning, but if you spend all that energy with 70km to go to the finish, it's nearly impossible to recover. It's the first Classic of the season, we'll focus now on Sunday's Gent-Wevelgem." – Jan Valach, Sport Director 

And Lotto-Soudal sent me this race news:

Tiesj Benoot has finished fifth in E3 Harelbeke. Despite the chase of among other a strong Tiesj Benoot, Niki Terpstra succeeded in finishing off a solo effort.

A crash with 110 kilometres to go caused a split in the bunch. Benoot, De Buyst, Hofland and Sieberg were all part of the first peloton of about forty riders. On the Taaienberg, at about seventy kilometres from the end, also the first peloton fell apart. Lampaert and Terpstra jumped away after the top. They caught Gaudin and Lighthart, two members of an early break of eight. Not much later the duo from Quick-Step left them behind. Tiesj Benoot tried to close the gap with the help of Greg Van Avermaet, but with thirty kilometres to go, they got caught by a group of about ten riders, including Oliver Naesen and Sep Vanmarcke. On the cobbles of the Varent Terpstra distanced his teammate Lampaert. The chasing group with Benoot reduced the gap on Terpstra up to twenty seconds, but there were lots of attacks and the pace decreased afterwards. Terpstra won ahead of his teammate Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet. Tiesj Benoot sprinted to the fifth place.

Tiesj Benoot: “I hadn’t participated in any races for ten days, but I was happy with today’s condition and I felt strong. I gave everything I had, all day long, but unfortunately we never had the perfect composition in the chasing group to close the gap. Terpstra was obviously very strong today, otherwise you can’t ride at the front for tens of kilometres and hold off a chasing group.”

“I just escaped the crash. At that moment we were pretty well organised as a team. Together with three teammates I was part of the first group when the bunch split. We immediately took control to stay ahead with that group. I tried several times to bridge to Lampaert and Terpstra. It was a pity the plans of BMC weren’t clear, because that could have been the key to catching Terpstra at the end. Anyway, I am satisfied with this fifth place.”

“It was a hard race and that suits me much better than a race where there’s a lot of speculation and an explosion at the end. Next week it’s the Ronde van Vlaanderen, a race that should suit me even better. I’m ready for it.”

This afternoon Bjorg Lambrecht finished tenth on the fifth stage of Volta a Catalunya. He finished in the reduced peloton, fourteen seconds after stage winner Jarlinson Pantano. Pantano was a member of the early breakaway, of which Maxime Monfort had also been part of.

Trek-Segafredo reports on Volta a Catalunya stage five:

Jarlinson Pantano claimed his first win with Trek-Segafredo and his first victory since his breakthrough win at the 2016 Tour de France.

Jarlinson Pantano and Vegard Stake Laengen (UAE Team Emirates) were the last two standing from the day’s breakaway that had also included teammate Laurent Didier and numbered 15 riders in the early part of the 213-kilometer stage.

“We knew that today would be the day for the breakaway to go until the end and we took the opportunity,” explained Pantano about the move. ” I know Laengren, we were teammates at IAM Cycling, so we had a good understanding and worked together quite well in the end.”

With a two-minute gap and 15 kilometers to go, mathematically the pair looked good. But when Movistar and Team Sky decided to pick up the chase on the gradual climb ahead of a long descent to the finish, the time fell rapidly. Pantano and Laengen’s lead was down to 1 minute and 25 seconds entering a tunnel with 12 kilometers remaining.

The climb crested in the six-kilometer-long tunnel where speeds reportedly were over 90km/h. When Alejandro Valverde attacked from the peloton entering the tunnel, it was anyone’s guess who would emerge first.

However, Pantano and Laengen exited still in the lead, but the time gap had taken a big hit. With four kilometers to go to the line, they held a precarious 16 seconds.

The pair managed to maintain their advantage through the next kilometers, and the daring and savvy Pantano dove through the final turns. He opened up a 10-meter gap to Laengen that he held over the line for a huge win, his first with Trek-Segafredo.

Jarlinson Pantano

Jarlinson Pantano gets the win.

"I am very happy with this big result! It has been a quite difficult day where Laurent and I went together in the breakaway. We knew that today was an opportunity for us. The team has put so much trust in me, so I am very happy I could finally give them something in return. So, for now, I hope I can continue in the same way. I want to thank my wife, my son and the whole team for their support. I really feel at home in this team, Trek-Segafredo feels like a real family, so I could not be happier to finally give them a victory!"

There’s been plenty of illness making the rounds in the pro peloton, and Trek-Segfredo has had its fair share of riders feeling its effects. Finally, the team could shake the bug, taking home two wins in the same day after Bauke Mollema also won stage two at Coppi e Bartali.

While the team celebrations rang loud from Italy to Spain, Markel Irizar and his family had received news of a family tragedy.

Pantano dedicated his win to his teammate, who had ridden through the stage with a heavy heart:

"I would like to honor this victory to my teammate and friend, Markel Irizar. He and his wife and family had to go to a hard day today. I have been thinking the whole day about him, and I really wanted to offer him the victory and also to the team, because I felt in debt towards them."

Second-place Vegard Stake Laengen's UAE team sent me this Catalonia race report:

Vegard Stake Laengen spent a long 190 kilometres in the escape group trying to take his first WorldTour win. He went free with 11 others in the fifth stage of the Volta a Catalunya, the 212.9-kilometre day to Vielha Val d’Aran with three hard climbs. He could not pull it off, though.

The generous Norwegian, used to long escapes, was just beat near the finish by Colombian Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo). On the last climb of the course, after the tunnel of Vielha (-14 km to the finish), Laengen and Pantano rode free and held off the classification men on the descent. Pantano took the glory, however.

Martin and Ravasi crossed the line with the main group, 14 seconds off the winner. In the race overall, the Irishman is 18th overall at 1’54” from the overall leader Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

Atapuma crashed at the start of the race, but was able to rejoin the group before the line despite some bruising on his left knee and problems with his right hand, which will be looked at tonight by our medical team.

“It was positive day for me for many reasons” Laengen said. “I‘m in good condition, even if it’s only my second race of the season, and I had the team giving me the green light to try to take advantage of the escape.

"There were some tough riders in the group, the final was very tough, so the situation was hard to control. The head-wind did not allow for a solo attack. I considered Pantano a good companion to try to get away to the line and hold off the classification group behind from returning. After the roundabout, I didn’t have good position to be well-place for the sprint. It’s bad I lost this good occasion.”

Volta a Catalunya: Fabio Aru won’t take part in the sixth stage

Aru's UAE team sent me this update:

On Saturday morning, Italian rider will have a MRI scan. In agreement with the medical staff and the team’s technical staff, Fabio Aru has decided to not take part in the sixth stage of the Volta a Catalunya, preferring to concentrate on recovering his leg that limited him during the race.

With Doctor De Grandi, UAE Team Emirates medic, Aru on Saturday morning will have a MRI scan at the Clinica Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Trump’s new tariffs put job expansion of 60 to 80 jobs on hold at Kent International

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this piece

MANNING, S.C. (BRAIN) — The Trump Administration’s newly announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum will — at least temporarily — put a jobs expansion proposal by Kent International on hold.

Arnold Kamler, Kent’s CEO, said the new tariffs pose no immediate impact to his company. However, Kamler is putting off a decision to purchase welding robots and start welding frames from imported pre-cut and shaped tubing at his South Carolina factory.

If Kamler were to move ahead by year’s end as he had planned, the move would have added between 60 and 80 jobs at his South Carolina facility. “The idea was to work first on the welding and then eventually purchase the automatic bending and laser cutting equipment, but this is now on hold,” Kamler told BRAIN.

"The move by the Trump Administration was done too hastily, and was done to fulfill his campaign promise, and will not help our economy and, in my opinion, will cause job loss," he said.

Last year Kent International assembled approximately 300,000 bikes at its Manning factory. The city, with a population of about 5,000, is 63 miles southeast of Columbia, the state’s Capitol.

Meanwhile, last week, PeopleForBikes sent a letter to its members seeking their opinion on the Trump administration’s decision to levy a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Those tariffs are scheduled to be imposed on Friday. Canada and Mexico have been exempted at least for now.

In its letter to members, PFB said “the president’s actions could lead to higher costs for bicycle products produced domestically that utilize steel and aluminum imports. PeopleForBikes is actively working to understand the issue as it affects our members and we want to learn more.”

It asked that its members reach out to Katy Hartnett, PFB’s director of government relations to share their perspective.

Nonetheless, DT Swiss, which makes spokes at its Grand Junction, Colorado, facility, said the tariff could have a significant impact on its foreign supplier of high-quality steel wire. Wheelsmith, with a factory in Mequon, Wisconsin, could also be hit with higher prices.

You can read the entire story here.

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