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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, March 8, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Age appears to be best in four things; old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read. - Francis Bacon

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Defending champion Tiesj Benoot previews Strade Bianche

Benoot's Lotto-Soudal team sent me this:

On Saturday 9 March, the Strade Bianche takes place around the Tuscan city of Siena. The race on the white gravel paths is already being called a Classic although it is only the thirteenth edition.  Since 2017, it is also a WorldTour race. Last year, Lotto Soudal rider Tiesj Benoot took the victory in a heroic way. Together with sports director Bart Leysen he estimates his chances this year.

Tiejs Benoot

Tiesj Benoot winning the 2018 Strade Bianche. Sirotti photo

Tiesj Benoot: “The Strade Bianche is one of the races which suits me the best. Last year, I won but also in the previous years I obtained a good result, so I am really looking forward to it. It will be special to start with number 1 in a race of that caliber. For me, the finish at the Piazza del Campo in Siena is one of the most beautiful ones, maybe together with the Champs-Élysées. It is thus a special place for me.”

“It will be very difficult to repeat last year’s performance but with the legs I had during the Omloop, I can certainly compete for the victory. I hope to have the same feeling on Saturday but the shape is already good. Of course, the crash was not ideal. My knee has been stitched and we will have to evaluate how it heals day by day.”

“There are a lot of heavy gravel roads but the biggest break-up will probably take place after the two long sections just before the feed zone. The area of Monte Sante Marie is very technical with some steep parts uphill and downhill. It is really a grueling race which is underestimated by many riders. Percentage-wise there is even more gravel in the Strade Bianche than cobbles in Paris-Roubaix. Moreover, there are around 3,000 altimeters to overcome. Last year, the cold weather also had an influence. The forecasts are better now but I do not focus on that since the course is tough enough to make the difference.”

Bart Leysen, sports director Lotto Soudal: “After the Flemish opening weekend, the feeling within the team is good. The riders were alert during the two races and we are very satisfied with the podium place of Tim Wellens in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. The unfortunate crash of Tiesj Benoot might not have consequences for the Strade Bianche. We will have to wait and see how he feels on the bike but he is certainly fit enough. With Tim Wellens, we also have a second candidate for the victory. For me, they are equal so I do not put one of them forward as the real leader. I am very glad that we can head towards a Classic such as the Strade Bianche with two irons in the fire.”

“The best scenario for us, is riding solo to the finish. However, I also dare to wait for the last climb in Siena. Tiesj and Tim can certainly handle that climb in a select group. After such a race, you never know exactly how strong the other riders still are. The influence of bad weather is also big because the chance of a setback is higher, which has often proved to be fatal. This year the circumstances will be better than the last edition, which is a significant difference for the evolution of the race. I expect that a rather large group will remain after the last gravel stretch. After that it will be a cat-and-mouse game direction Siena. It will especially be important not to end up on the defensive at that moment.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Carl Fredrik Hagen, Jens Keukeleire, Tomasz Marczyński, Lawrence Naesen, Tosh Van der Sande and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Bart Leysen, Mario Aerts and Kevin De Weert.

CCC Team to target stage wins at Paris - Nice  

The team sent me this:

7 March 2019: CCC Team will be targeting stage wins at Paris - Nice (March 10 - 17) with a motivated and versatile seven-rider roster heading to the start line of the UCI WorldTour stage race on Sunday.

Sports Director Piotr Wadecki said CCC Team is taking a diverse rider roster that provides multiple opportunities to go for stage wins, while also keeping an eye on the General Classification.

“Our first objective at Paris - Nice will be to target stage wins and on the opening three days, which will likely end in a bunch sprint, Jakub Mareczko will be our leader. Around him, we will have a strong and experienced group of riders who can not only help get him in the right position but who can also take any opportunities to go in breakaways and fight for their own success over the rest of the race," Wadecki explained.

"For the key summit finish, Amaro Antunes and Víctor de la Parte will be our protected riders. Both of them have shown strong form recently and I think they can be contenders for that stage. The pair can also time trial well so we will look at how the General Classification stands after stage five and plan our tactics around that. Of course, our first goal is to win a stage but, after that, I think we could look to go for a top ten finish on the General Classification."

Mareczko will be targeting the opening three stages of the eight-day race.

Jakub Marezko

Jakob Mareczko (shown at the 2017 Tour of Hainan) will be targeting stage wins at Paris-Nice.

“The first three days are, of course, the ones that suit me the most. I had a couple of nice top ten results at the UAE Tour but, I definitely wanted more so I am really motivated for Paris - Nice. I think you can learn something from every bunch sprint so this race will be another opportunity to test myself and to go for that elusive WorldTour stage win,” Mareczko said.

Antunes and de la Parte will both look to test themselves at Paris - Nice after solid performances on the summit finishes at Volta ao Algarve and the UAE Tour respectively.

“I was happy with my performance at Volta ao Algarve and I am confident with where my form is at the moment. I feel good and I hope to be able to improve further at this race. I'm really motivated for Paris - Nice and my main goal is to try to be in contention for a stage win. This will be my first UCI WorldTour race of the year and my first with CCC Team so, I am interested to see how I will perform at this level of racing,” Antunes said.

“I felt strong at the UAE Tour and I was really motivated so, it was disappointing to miss out on a top ten finish after the crash on the stage to Jebel Jais. I was happy with my performance there though and I feel like I'm going into Paris - Nice with good form. It is a tough race but, I think we have a strong team and with each rider able to take their own individual motivation to the start line every day, I am confident that we will have a good week,” de la Parte added.

Paris - Nice (10 - 17 March)

Rider roster: Amaro Antunes (POR), Will Barta (USA), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Víctor de la Parte (ESP), Jakub Mareczko (ITA), Laurens Ten Dam (NED), Francisco Ventoso (ESP)

Sports Directors: Piotr Wadecki (POL), Gabriele Missaglia (ITA) 

UAE Team Emirates heads to France for Paris-Nice

Here's the team's update:

The Paris-Nice or ‘Race to the Sun’ from March 10 to 17 will include plenty of diverse terrain for UAE Team Emirates. Sports Directors Simone Pedrazzini (Swi) and Neil Stephens (Aus), with help from Paolo Tiralongo (Ita), will guide these seven riders:

– Fabio Aru (Ita)
– Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor)
– Sergio Henao (Col)
– Alexander Kristoff (Nor)
– Marco Marcato (Ita)
– Rory Sutherland (Aus)
– Diego Ulissi (Ita)

The first three Stages don’t include any serious climbing, but the riders will need to pay attention to the wind and possible bad weather. The fourth stage undulates, the individual time trial covers 25.5km. And three mountains stages back to back with the summit finish on the Col de Turini should sort the overall classification.

Sergio Henao

2017 Paris-Nice winner Sergio Henao (shown in the leader's jersey in the 2017 edition) will start for UAE-Team Emirates this year. Sirotti photo.

Sergio Henao already won the race in 2017. He will form part of the team with Alexander Kristoff, winner of the stage in Contres in 2015.

“We’ll be at Paris-Nice with Henao, already an overall winner. It’s his first European race of 2019 after he began in the Tour Colombia”  general manager Matxin said.

“Diego Ulissi, who rode well in the UAE Tour, will ride at his side and Fabio Aru will compete without pressure to perform in the classification. The team is balanced. We can count on a good group of riders to support Kristoff, who will aim for the first three stages that suit sprinters“

New welding technology takes high-end aluminum frames to next level

Bike Europe sent me this intriguing news:

LOS ANGELES, USA – A team of the University of California (UCLA) has developed a new welding technology for high quality aluminum. It takes alloy frames to the next level as it offers the possibility to weld AA7075 alloy. This brings superlight and superstrong frames able to compete with the ones made of carbon. Does it offer opportunities for a new generation of e-MTBs?

Aluminum 7075 series is a fairly common material used in the bicycle industry. With great strength to weight ratio it’s a popular choice for all sorts of components. However, not for frames. Why? Because it’s regarded as an un-weldable alloy. This is however about to change thanks to a team from UCLA. Their innovation could boost the use of high-end aluminum frames for all sorts of hi-end bikes as well as e-MTBs and Cargo bikes.

Professor Xiaochun Li and his team from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering of UCLA, developed the new technology for AA7075 alloy welding. They found a simple, but clever as well as efficient solution for the problems associated with welding 7075 alloy. These problems lies in the fact that when the metal is heated, the aluminum, zinc, magnesium and copper of which it’s composed flow unevenly. The phenomenon is known as phase segregation, and as a result of it, cracks form along the length of the weld.

You can read the entire story here.

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