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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 30, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. - Charles Dickens

Current racing:

Upcoming racing:

Latest completed racing:


Volta a Catalunya stage five reports

We posted the race report from stage winner Max Schachmann's Bora-hansgrohe team

Here's the report from GC leader Miguel Lopez's Team Astana:

The peloton of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya left the mountains to finish stage 5 (188.1 km) not far from the seacoast in Sant Cugat del Vallès. Astana’s Miguel Angel Lopez kept his jersey of the GC leader without any problem, finishing the stage on 10th position inside the peloton and surrounded by his teammates.

Max Schachmann

Max Schachmann took the fifth stage.

- It was a very fast stage, but for us everything went pretty well. The team did a great job always keeping me up there in front, we tried to be attentive in every moment of the race and in the end of the day I was able to finish inside the Top-10, holding the leading jersey for one more day, - said Miguel Angel Lopez.

Four riders went away in the daily breakaway shortly after the first climb of the day, taking an advantage of 3 minutes. A late attack of Maximilian Schachmann from that breakaway group brought him stage 5 win ahead of the peloton, who played just remained places on the daily podium 13 seconds behind the solo winner.

Stage 6 of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya will be held tomorrow: it will be a 174.1 km-long stage from Valls to Vila-Seca.

Here's the report from second-place Michael Matthews' Team Sunweb :

With a climb almost from the gun, today’s stage was one that had been billed as a day for the break with most expecting a large group to escape and fight for the stage honours. However, only four riders managed to get away to form the break of the day but as a strong quartet the peloton were going to have a difficult task of pulling them back over rolling terrain.

Team Sunweb committed to the chase but it proved challenging with the break still holding a minute gap coming into the final 10 kilometres of the day. On the final uncategorised drag, Schachmann, left his breakaway companions and forged on solo. With the road heading mostly downwards until the finish, aside from a few drags, the advantage was with the lone leader and he would go on to take the stage win with the peloton coming home 13 seconds in arrears.

Michael Matthews would show that his form is continuing to improve by taking the bunch sprint for second place.

Team Sunweb Coach Aike Visbeek was disappointed at the finish: “Although it was only a break of four that got away, they were a strong group of riders and proved difficult to catch. We gave it our all along with a couple of other teams but after a tough few days of racing and tired legs in the peloton it wasn’t enough and they just managed to stay away. Of course it is disappointing not to win but Michael showed some good form and speed in the sprint at the end.”

Matthews added: “We were unsure as to how the day was going to pan out with the 20km uphill start and we originally planned to get Wilco into the breakaway if it was a large group. With it only being four ahead we started to ride early but the riders up front were really strong. The guys did a good job to close it down and position me well in the finale but it wasn’t enough and in the end we had to settle for second.”

Unfortunately Wilco Kelderman crashed while chasing the breakaway and has had to abandon the race. We will share more updates when we have them.

E3 BinckBank Classic team reports

We posted the report from winner Zdenek Stybar's Deceuninck-Quick Step team with the results.

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

It was the start of a tough weekend of racing, and the sight of today’s 204km E3 BinckBank Classic parcours would have the riders’ legs aching without even turning a pedal. There were sixteen climbs, amongst them the fearsome Kapelberg, Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont, as well as some difficult cobblestone sections. While the final 20km were fairly flat, the terrain would have taken its toll by this point and the finale could be taken by anyone.

From the start of the race, it took some time for a break to form, with Juraj Sagan and Maciej Bodnar pushing the pace from the drop of the flag, but on the foot of the first climb, the Katteberg, a group of eight managed to split the peloton and build a strong lead, amassing five minutes at its peak. The peloton upped their pace to keep the break in check, with the gap falling dramatically as the race hit its final 100km. With Daniel Oss and Marcus Burghardt on the front, the BORA-hansgrohe riders’ efforts saw the break’s advantage split in half, getting closer and closer, still with more than 50km to ride, before an attack from the front of the bunch saw the break caught and another group form up the road. The pace now was relentlessly hard, and while the gaps were small, there were several groups each pushing hard to stay either out front or in contention.

The Slovak National Champion, Peter Sagan, was staying in touch, keeping a close eye on his rivals in the third group on the road, but having slowed down due to a mechanical problem, it was clear as the final 5km came and went that the day’s winner wouldn’t come from among his number. Five riders on the front fought it out for the win, with Peter crossing the line in this third group in seventeenth position. 

Zdenek Stybar

Zdenek Stybar wins the 2019 BinckBank Classic

From the Finish Line:
"The first part of the race unfolded the way we had expected and planned. There was a small breakaway that didn't pose any threat and we knew I had to be in the front, ready for the attacks. The entire team did an excellent job controlling the race. However, I could feel that my form still hadn't reached its full potential and that I hadn't fully recovered. Then, after the final feedzone, I felt that something had hit my rear derailleur. I'm not sure what it was but it wasn't working correctly. I rode for about 10km with that issue and by the time the mechanic fixed it, it was too late to close the gap to the front group." – Peter Sagan

"Today's was the team's first major Belgium classic race. We controlled from the start with Juraj Sagan and Maciej Bodnar. They did a very good job and on top of that, the break in the front wasn't strong, so everything was fine. We were in the front in the important parts and Peter was also in the leading group. Unfortunately, in a crucial part of the race, after Oude Kwaremont he suffered from mechanical problems and for that reason, it was impossible for him to come back. This is why he finished in the third group. So, we were unlucky today." – Jan Valach, Sports Director 

Greg Van Avermaet's CCC Team sent me this:

29 March 2019, Harelbeke (BEL): A dominant Greg Van Avermaet proved that he is most at home on the cobbles with a strong performance at E3 BinckBank Classic to sprint to third place, in what was his third consecutive podium result at the race.

Van Avermaet rode a near-perfect race, initiating the decisive split in the peloton on the Paterberg with 40 kilometers remaining in pursuit of the breakaway.

Earlier in the race, it took around 40 kilometers for an eight-rider breakaway to form but the peloton didn’t allow them to go more than five minutes down the road. The pace in the bunch picked up with 80 kilometers of the 204-kilometer race remaining, at which point Michael Schär dug deep to set a blistering pace at the front of the group and stretch the peloton into single file.

Bob Jungels (Deceuninck-QuickStep) attacked with around 60 kilometers to go and joined the leading group which was just 30 seconds in front of the peloton. Jungels’ move split the breakaway, with only three riders able to follow, while behind, Van Avermaet gritted his teeth and stretched his legs on the Paterberg, immediately causing a split in the group and forming a small group with the majority of the pre-race favorites.

Van Avermaet’s group was just eight-riders strong with 30 kilometers to go but lack of cooperation allowed Jungels, who was now solo in front, to hold a 40-second advantage. Van Avermaet made another move inside the final 20 kilometers, on the Tiegemberg, and went clear with Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education First), and Wout Van Avert (Jumbo-Visma).

With Van Avermaet, Bettiol, and Van Aert pulling, the quartet caught Jungels with seven kilometers remaining, and despite multiple attacks from Stybar and Jungels, the quintet entered the final kilometer together, all but ensuring the race would come down to a bunch sprint.

Van Avermaet launched his sprint with 200 meters to go but Stybar was able to come around inside the final hundred meters to take the win, while Van Aert crossed the line in second place in front of Van Avermaet.

Van Avermaet’s podium result marks his second podium of the season on home soil, after sprinting to second place at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

Greg Van Avermaet:
“I did everything I could to position myself for the finale and although, of course, I wanted to win, it is also good to be only the podium again. I know that the Tour of Flanders is the race that suits me the most so, I can take confidence knowing that I am good at the moment and hopefully, the best is yet to come.

“Michi Schär did a great job pulling and setting a really fast pace to stretch the peloton out, and Nathan and Kamil were also there to position me well. I was feeling good all day and once Michi pulled off, I knew it was a good moment to try and split the bunch. There were too many guys still there and if we wanted to bring Jungels back, we needed a smaller group. Once that front selection was made, we were only turning with three riders and the group behind was coming back, so I knew I had to make another move. There were guys just sitting on so when I attacked and we were just four chasing Jungels, it was perfect.

”It was always going to be hard to beat Stybar. He was the freshest and had the legs in the sprint. Already when he attacked in the finale, it was hard to bring him back. I don’t think I can have any regrets after my performance today.”

Fabio Baldato, Sports Director:
“I am happy with Greg’s performance today. I don’t think he could have done anything differently. He did everything possible and he was super strong. In the end, the rider who was the freshest won the race. Greg showed once again that he is in great shape and is at home on the cobbles. When Greg attacked on the Pateberg, you could see that the effort immediately put a lot of riders in difficulty, and this was the moment that the selection was made. He took a lot of the responsibility to bring Jungels back and then it was good to see that the group finally started to cooperate and they could bring him back. In the end, Greg did a good sprint but Stybar had the fresh legs to overtake him. We will keep chipping away and hope that the work pays off for Greg and the team.”

Victor Campenaerts' world hour record attempt diary, part 5

Campenaerts' Lotto-Soudal team sent me this installment:

Part 5 – 18 days to go – Buenos Dias, Mexico!

Victor Campenaerts: “Flying with Freddie Mercury”

“I spent Tuesday night with Fanny in Dottenijs, a 30-minute drive from the station of Lille, where I had to catch the TGV at 8h03 to Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris on Wednesday morning. The take-off to Mexico City – a trip of over twelve hours – was scheduled at eleven o’clock sharp.  I arrived there at 16h20 local time – the time difference with Belgium is seven hours – and had to wait for over five hours before taking the domestic flight to Aguascalientes. It was midnight when I arrived in the house we rented, where I was given a tour. There is a suite in the house, ‘of course’ reserved for the athlete, with an unusually big king-size bed, in which I spent my first night. However, I had to spend the second night in my altitude room, and guess what? It did not fit over the giant bed, so I had to, like it or not, give up my room and move to a smaller one.”

“The flight to Mexico went fine. The team had booked a business class ticket, which made the journey a lot more comfortable. I tried not to sleep too much so that I could recover from the jet lag a bit easier. To kill some time and to spend it in a useful way, I found a little place on the plane for a core stability session. I also watched two movies. Ocean’s 8 was rather average but Bohemian Rhapsody was more fun than I expected. The story of Freddie Mercury who – supported by his band members – conquers the world but is not able to launch his solo career, is a kind of metaphor for sports, where the athlete needs a team in order to rise above himself. Afterwards, I practically got through the complete Queen playlist.”

“The story of the apples? I always try to take apples with me when travelling by plane because when you get bored, you have the tendency to eat. An apple is sweet, tastes good and only counts 50 calories per 100 grams. And rumor has it that during his cycling career, current performance manager Kevin De Weert took a whole load of apples with him during intercontinental flights and fought the jet lag by eating one apple an hour .”

Victor Campenaerts

Victor Campenaerts time-trialing at the 2019 Tirreno-Adriatico. Sirotti photo

Laps of 16.4 seconds:

Eddy Merckx successfully attacked the Hour Record in Mexico City 47 years ago. But Aguascalientes is situated about 500 kilometres northwest of the capital. The eponymous state is one of the 31 in the country. Until now, a successful men’s Hour Record attempt did not take place there. In the women’s category, Vittoria Bussi broke the record last year. The Velodromo Bicentenario in Aguascalientes – every year the scene of a Track World Cup event - is situated at an altitude of 1,880 metres above sea level and is known as one of the fastest tracks in the world.

As a homologated UCI track, one lap accounts for 250 metres. To exceed the distance of 54.526 set by Bradley Wiggins, Victor Campenaerts has to cover over 218 laps in 60 minutes. To attain that goal, Campenaerts needs to maintain an average lap speed of 16.4 seconds, or almost four laps per minute. Moreover, the extra time the European time trial champion needs to reach cruising speed, ten seconds spread over the first three laps, should be taken into account.

16.4 seconds x 218 laps + 10 seconds = 59’45” for 54.500 kilometres. That way, Victor has exactly fifteen seconds left to cover at least 26 metres.

MPCC (Movement for a Credible Cycling) reports on March 12 meeting with WADA, UCI, CADF and MPCC

MPCC sent me this press release:

MPCC made a presentation of its philosophy, insisting on the voluntary approach of its members (more than 650 members, including 350 riders and 41 teams, accounting for 60% of the global peloton). MPCC is undoubtedly an asset to the credibility of our sport as managers can act with more flexibility than regulatory bodies: they may fire riders and refrain from hiring the ones that have tested positive, or even pronounce a provisional suspension. During this constructive dialogue, all of the topics raised by MPCC were addressed.

PUERTO CASE
The criminal and disciplinary proceedings are now over. Nevertheless, WADA is still in the process of identifying the owners of the blood bags. Once this process is over, WADA will decide how it will release the names of the athletes in question to their respective International Federations. This data will only be released on a confidential basis and the names of the athletes will not be released to the public by WADA, given that any prosecution is impossible.

TRAMADOL
WADA is supportive of the UCI’s approach to researching this substance, which focuses on the health and safety of riders. Besides the monitoring of this substance, WADA has also started a process with multiple experts to determine the actual impact of tramadol on an athlete’s performance. MPCC reiterated its wish to put tramadol on the List of Prohibited Substances and Methods.

GLUCOCORTICOIDS
With the help of its experts, WADA is continuing to work on a modification of the rules regarding the use of glucocorticoids, as the current regulation is not viewed as satisfactory. MPCC renewed its request for the prohibition of glucocorticoid use by injection in competition.

SALBUTAMOL
WADA confirmed its regulations in regards to salbutamol for 2019. Following the evolution of the knowledge base in this area, consideration is being given to possibly change the regulations on the basis of recent results and expert conclusions.

PROVISIONAL SUSPENSION: SPECIFIED SUBSTANCE
WADA will not change its regulations. This is an individual decision that should be taken by Anti-Doping Organizations. MPCC renewed its request for a provisional suspension as soon as a disciplinary process is ongoing, whether the substance is specified or not.

THYROID SUPPLEMENTS
MPCC also raised the issue of the misuse of thyroid supplements in cycling (Thyrax in Europe, Synthroid in the US). MPCC will submit its proposals during the year 2019.

It was agreed that MPCC will keep providing UCI, CADF and WADA with all information that may help the fight against doping in cycling. This first meeting shall also be followed by regular exchanges to keep track of the evolution of every issue. It is obviously essential that every stakeholder be fully committed, especially the teams, riders and organizers that belong to the MPCC on a voluntary basis.

Attending this meeting:

WADA:
- Olivier NIGGLI, Director General
- Sébastien GILLOT, Director, European Regional Office and International Federations Relations
- Olivier RABIN, Senior Executive Director, Sciences and International Partnerships

UCI:
- Simon GEINOZ, Head of Legal Anti-Doping Services

CADF:
- Francesca ROSSI, Director of the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation

MPCC:
- Roger LEGEAY, President of the MPCC Guest member of the PCC (Professional Cycling Council)
- Iwan SPEKENBRICK, Vice-president of the MPCC General Manager of World Tour team SUNWEB President of the AIGCP (Association internationale des groupes cyclistes professionnels) Member of the PCC (Professional Cycling Council)
- Philippe SENMARTIN, General Secretary of the MPCC Member of the pro-continental team DIRECT ENERGIE Lawyer
- Dr Prentice STEFFEN, Doctor of the pro-continental team RALLY UHC CYCLING
- Christophe LAVERGNE, French Federation, member of the MPCC FFC Chief Legal Counsel

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