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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Saturday, August 23, 2014

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Alberto Contador and the Vuelta a España

Tinkoff-Saxo sent this summary of Alberto Contador's pre-Vuelta press conference: (30 photos from the pre-race ceremonies)

Today, Alberto Contador appeared at a press conference before the start of the Tour of Spain in which he said that his expectations are very modest after what happened to him in the Tour and how little he’s been training before coming here.

“Of course I will try not to lose time in the first days, only if I lose time, it will be time to change strategy. This year, the Vuelta is at a very high level and many riders come to fight for the win, but I'm at a very different level to the Tour", said the leader of Tinkoff-Saxo.

If you pass the first ten days without losing time, yours rivals should start worrying?

“No, it's not a matter of passing the first ten days but rather to see how I can recover because here the level is very high and although I have trained a few days, I tried to do the maximum and for that I am perhaps a little more tired than other times. You never know what the response of your body will be but if after 10 days I'm still in front, it will be good news especially for me because I think some people will be stronger”.

What have the doctors advised you concerning the Vuelta?

“It's a risk. The best thing would have been to stay at home and think about next year but for me it was very difficult to watch the Tour on TV because I had prepared it very well and also had a special illusion for doing the Vuelta. That's why I'm here. Dr. Manuel Leyes, who has treated my injury, recommended me a final MRI before coming here, but I said I did not have much time available and also not going to change my decision whatever the result. Anyway I hope that riding the Vuelta won’t have negative consequences, and in any case, I feel a little better everyday.”

Is the Vuelta a new opportunity for you?

“No, it's not that. I'm thrilled with the season I’ve had until the Tour. It was a flawless season and I arrived to the Tour in my best condition. Now what I want is to enjoy the race and see what I get, but nothing more.”

Who is the favorite and what stage can be the most important?

“There are many riders with winning opportunities, but I think if he’s at a hundred percent, Froome is the favorite because he has a very strong team and because he is very strong in the mountains and in time trial. As for the stages, with the format of the Vuelta, all stages are important. There are some with chained mountain passes but in 2012 an apparent stage of transition changed the whole race. I cannot point at any particular stage.”

In the Tour you had a great preparation and a very strong team, how is the team for the Vuelta?

“It's true that in the Tour we wanted to have the strongest possible team to control the race if we got the leader, but in the Vuelta, although we haven't got riders like Roche, Rogers or Majka, we do have a very strong team for the flat stages and a group of climbers that can do very well. This time the team is the least of my worries,because I do not feel the pressure to control the race. I think I am not prepared to fight for victory while others are.”

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador at the Pre-Vuelta press conference. Photo ©Sirotti

Lotto-Belisol Riders Discuss Vuelta

And this from Lotto-Belisol:

With his participation in the Vuelta, Maxime Monfort will be riding his second grand tour of the year. This year's Giro resulted in a 14th spot in the overall standings. In Spain he is aiming for a result as good as possible.

Maxime Monfort: "'A result as good as possible', that is the phrase I want to use. Everyone expected me to be in the top ten in the in the Giro, but due to the race conditions that was not possible. The participants in this Vuelta are the strongest in years. But usually the Vuelta suits me better than the Giro. Lotto Belisol is at the starting grid with a strong team with amongst others Jurgen Van den Broeck and Bart De Clercq, and September suits me also more than May. Also the stages are shorter in the Vuelta compared to the Giro. About Jurgen and I aiming for the same goal? I don't see the problem in that. Jurgen starts in this Vuelta with another attitude than he had in the Tour. If it turns out we're both good, we can certainly benefit from that. I went true this already with Jakob Fuglsang with RadioShack, and that also worked out."

Jens Debusschere has another goal. In 2012 he couldn't finish the Vuelta, finishing this years' in order grow stronger is now the main goal. But riding in the Belgian tricolor he hopes to show himself in the bunch sprints.

Jens Debusschere: "If I go for a stage win? I already got that question before but it's not that simple. The level in the Vuelta is of course higher than in the Tour of Wallonia. And with among others Bouhanni, Degenkolb and Sagan, the contesters are strong. But I dream about it. I start in Spain with clear goal and that is to show myself in the four of five upcoming bunch sprints. Since the Belgian Championships I started training to improve my sprinting speed. The team doesn't puts pressure on me, but shows confidence. For the first time I can go my own way in a grand tour and test my limits. Before the season started the Tour of Spain was already programmed in my scheme, but now there is a clear goal too. I gained a lot of experience in the sprinting train of Greipel and guys like Henderson and Ligthart will certainly stand by my side."

Maxime Monfort

Maxime Monfort at the 2014 Tour of Poland. Photo ©Sirotti

BMC on USA Pro Cycling Challenge Stage Five

USA Pro Cycling Challenge race leader Tejay van Garderen's BMC team sent this press release about stage five which was won by Trek's Laurent Didier:

BMC Racing Team's Tejay van Garderen finished ninth and held onto the overall lead Friday at the USA Pro Challenge, but teammate Ben Hermans struggled in the rain and cold and slipped from third to ninth in the overall standings.

Luxembourg national time trial champion Laurent Didier (Trek Factory Racing) won the 168-kilometer stage ahead of Javier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp) and Rob Britton (Team Smartstop) as survivors of an original 12-man breakaway. Van Garderen finished in a group of five 93 seconds later, gaining time on five of the seven riders immediately behind him in the overall standings. Heading into Saturday's individual time trial in Vail, van Garderen leads Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) by 20 seconds, Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis) by 37, Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) by 39 and Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing) by 51. No other riders are within a minute of the defending champion, who last year set the record on the 16.1-km course that steadily rises up in the last five kilometers. "I feel good, I feel confident," van Garderen said. "Rafal Majka is still kind of the question mark. He is obviously riding really well, so I am glad I have 20 seconds on him. As long as I keep my wits about me, I will be OK."

Van Garderen said he was content to see the breakaway stay ahead on a day when the race reached its highest point – Hoosier Pass at 3,517 meters – and wind and rain battered the peloton for hours. "It took a really long time for the break to get going, and with the cold temperatures, we didn't want to get greedy and go for the stage and bring the guys back," van Garderen said. "We just wanted to conserve our guys as much as possible and keep the break in check, making sure it didn't get too much time." One casualty of the adverse conditions was Hermans, who had dropped back to get dry clothing on a climb when the peloton accelerated. "He was just trying to get warm because it was a ridiculous stage – the weather was just nuts," Sport Director Jackson Stewart said. "He just never got contact back and our other guys could not wait for him because they were watching over Tejay. It was really unfortunate." Hermans, who finished 25th, 76 seconds behind van Garderen's group, said it was disappointing the weather was the decisive factor. "But that's racing, that's cycling," he said. "Sometimes I am at an advantage when it is hot weather and I really like it hot. Today it was cold, so the others were at an advantage."

Tejay van Garderen

Tejay van Garderen at the Tour de France pre-race press conference. Photo ©Sirotti

Michael Matthews Re-Signs with Orica-GreenEdge

This note came from Orica-GreenEdge regarding their rider Michael Matthews:

Multiple grand tour stage winner Michael Matthews is the latest rider to re-sign with ORICA-GreenEDGE, committing to a further two years with the team. The 23-year-old joins Simon Gerrans and Luke Durbridge who have also extended their contracts in recent weeks. Matthews has proven he can deliver for the team in the world’s biggest races, boasting three individual grand tour stage wins since he joined the outfit last year.

“For me this is the perfect team and I wouldn’t think of going anywhere else,” Matthews said on the eve of this year’s Vuelta a Espana. Joining the team in 2012 was a huge experience and ever since then my progression in professional cycling has gone a lot higher. I feel really comfortable in the team and my results are speaking for that.

“I have still got a big year ahead of me now but I am looking forward to the next two years and hopefully trying to step it up again with more wins.”

Matthews pinpointed the team time trial performance at this year’s Giro d’Italia to put teammate Svein Tuft in the pink leaders jersey as the highlight of his time with ORICA-GreenEDGE.

“That was a real goal for us to win that race,” Matthews said. “I have never really been a part of a team time trial victory so winning as a team, especially in a grand tour, was truly a highlight for me.”

Highlighting the current season, Matthews wore the maglia rosa for six stages (stage 3-8) at the Giro d’Italia in May.  Amongst that success was the victory in the team time trial on stage one and an individual stage win on stage six.  He has also recorded additional stage wins at the Tour of Slovenia and Tour of the Basque Country and a victory in the one-day race, Vuelta a La Rioja.

In his debut season with ORICA-GreenEDGE in 2013, Matthews delivered his first success in the grand tour spotlight winning two individual stages of the Vuelta a España. Despite suffering injuries from a crash that forced him out of his debut Tour de France last month, Matthews has returned to racing in promising form for the remainder of the season and the years to come.

“Michael is a winner and an extraordinary talent on the bike,” sport director Matt White said. “This year, he’s accomplished a lot and I think we’re yet to see the full scope of what he’s capable of. What we saw at the Giro is just another example of how he continues to take massive steps in his career on this team. He’s a very serious athlete and with the support we can give him, he will be able to make the most of his efforts.

“We’re very happy to be part of his future development and he is definitely one of the riders we look at when targeting results in major races.”

Michael Matthews
Age: 23
From: Canberra, Australia
Turned professional: 2010

ORICA-GreenEDGE major results:

•  1st Giro d’Italia Stage 1 (TTT)
•  1st Giro d’Italia Stage 6
•  Held Giro d’Italia maglia rosa leaders jersey for six days
•  1st Tour of Slovenia Stage 1
•  1st Tour of Slovenia Points Classification
•  1st Vuelta a La Rioja
•  1st Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco Stage 3
•  1st Tour of the Basque Country Stage 3

•  1st Vuelta a España Stage 5
•  1st Vuelta a España Stage 21
•  1st Tour of Utah Stage 6
•  1st Tour of Utah Stage 7
•  1st Tour of Utah Sprint Classification

Micahel Matthews

Michael Matthews wins 2014 Giro stage six in front of Cadel Evans (BMC). Photo ©Sirotti

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