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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Thursday, September 11, 2014

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Robert Gesink Abandons the Vuelta

This unhappy news from Team Belkin:

"Robert Gesink leaves La Vuelta

"The Belkin Pro Cycling team is sad to announce that Robert Gesink will leave the Vuelta a España due to private circumstances. The Team Belkin leader chooses to rush to Holland to be with his family.

" 'My pregnant wife has undergone surgery twice this past week. Her situation has not improved and she is still in the hospital. I will immediately leave the Vuelta to be with my family, who needs me right now,' Robert Gesink said. Gesink is currently classed 7th in the general classification.

"Team Belkin supports this decision and will support Robert and his wife wherever possible. The entire team wishes them all the best in this difficult time."

And we at McGann Publishing also wish the Gesink family well.

Robert Gesink

Robert Gesink in Vuelta stage 16.

There were two other notable non-starters at the Vuelta this morning as well, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma) and Fabian Cancellara. Both quit to optimize their preparations for the World Cycling Championships in Ponferrada, Spain to be held from September 21 to 28. Though Cancellara is one of the finest time trialists in the world, he will not ride the individual event at the worlds, instead focusing his efforts on the road race.

Late note, Australian rider Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge), did not start Vuelta stage 18 as well.

Tom Boonen

Tom Boonen. Photo ©Sirotti

Vuelta a España Stage 17 Rider and Team Comments

Tinkoff-Saxo sent this release:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s team leader Alberto Contador crossed the finish line of stage 17 at Vuelta a España together with his main rivals in the GC. After the stage, Alberto Contador commented that today was tricky after coming back from the rest day.

“Today was a transition day. There was a lot of tension in the finale with the cobblestone section, which didn’t look difficult, but it was complicated and it was important to be well positioned. It’s late in the race and if somebody in front of you can’t hang on, you can quickly lose time," stated Alberto Contador.

With four stages remaining at the Vuelta a España, the race has entered the absolute finale.

“Every day is important. Tomorrow's race has a finish that fits Joaquim and Alejandro quite well. I have to stay close to them and see how my legs respond. They are interested in the stage win and I will have to follow them."

Alberto tells that his knee injury has now disappeared after gradually improving throughout the Vuelta.

“My knee problems have completely disappeared and my form has improved incredibly. I think I'm still improving or maybe it's the confidence that I have gained during the race. However, I feel pretty good and hopefully I can hold on until Santiago," concluded Alberto.

Wait... Tinkoff-Saxo sent out two releases today. Here's the other one:

Stage 17 of Vuelta a España was concluded in a bunch sprint without changes in the overall classification after 190.7 kilometers of racing in the undulating terrain of Galicia. Tinkoff-Saxo and team leader Alberto Contador got through the stage safely and saved as much energy as possible for the final four stages of Vuelta a España. Sport director Steven de Jongh was happy with the outcome.

“It was a good day for us. In the beginning we took control and let a small group go away. Then, immediately, the sprinter teams such as Giant-Shimano started to work and as a result we didn’t keep the control throughout the day, saving a bit of energy. After that, Omega Pharma - Quick-Step and Orica-GreenEdge started to pull. The group came back in the final kilometer and we just protected Alberto."

With 14 kilometers to go, crucial helper Daniele Bennati had a flat tire, but managed to get back into the speeding bunch to help Alberto through the last tricky kilometers.

“Bennati had a flat tire. He was the guy that was planned to be with Alberto on the cobblestone section. Nevertheless, the team did a good job, brought him back and Alberto was in a safe place. That was the most important thing for us," added Steven de Jongh. 

Today’s stage came after a well-deserved rest day, where the riders had the opportunity to recover from the mountainous stages of the second week. But it also featured a challenge, as the sensitive race-rhythm can easily be disturbed. Danish champion Michael Valgren commented:

“Coming from a rest day, it was quite hard for me at the start. I had to dig deep in the first climb to get going but afterwards my legs got much better and by the end I had full power. I definitely look forward to the final four days of the Vuelta. It was a fast and day with many hills and short climbs. It was hard to control the race and you could see that, because we caught the breakaway with four kilometers to go. I think the team did a good job and brought Alberto safely to the finish. That was the main goal," concluded Michael Valgren.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador at the stage 17 sign-in. Photo ©Sirotti

Belkin's Stage 17 press release:

This note came before the news that Robert Gesink would have to leave the Vuelta to be with his wife in the Netherlands:

Belkin Pro Cycling team's top riders stayed safe in Wednesday's hilly and fast 17th stage, but did not challenge the pure sprinters in a wild finale into La Coruña in Spain's Galicia region.

Wilco Kelderman led Belkin with 13th, safely in the front group behind stage-winner John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano). Robert Gesink also finished safely in the lead group to remain seventh overall, at 6:43 behind leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

"In the beginning it was directly uphill, it was full-gas, so that was really hard. The break got three minutes, and the peloton started to ride. It was a really hard, up and down all day," Kelderman said. "It was really tricky in the end. It was all downhill, then some cobbles, so that was really hectic. I think things look great for the team. Robert is riding well. Over the last few stages, he was in the front with the best guys. If he can hold this place, or even better, it's really good."

With Moreno Hofland already at home, Belkin didn't have a sprinter option for the fast run into La Coruña, so the team's main goal was to protect Gesink in the GC.

"The start was really full-gas, so warming up in the morning was important. Giant-Shimano took control. We tried to help Robert as much as possible. He was safe in the front group, so it's all done for today," said Belkin's Robert Wagner. "It was not boring today, in fact, it was quite nice along the coastline. There were nearly 3,000 metres of climbing, in barely four hours of racing, so it was a hard day."

The team rallied around Gesink to keep him safe in a tricky, but short cobblestone section in the final 5km.

"It was a fast stage, like we expected," said Belkin's Stef Clement. "It was a good group, so that means the pack has to pull all day. Robert was in a good position when we hit the cobblestone section, because you saw there was a gap there in 20 seconds, so that was important. That was our main goal today, to keep Robert safe. I hope I can keep my legs for a more days."

Gesink finished safely in the main pack, at 26th, and is already looking forward to Saturday's uphill finale at Ancares.

"It was a hard one today. After the rest day, it is never easy to get back into rhythm. It was kind of a rollercoaster all day, up and down, and a hard final," Gesink said. "Things are still good for the GC. Seventh place is good already, with some hard days to come, so let's see what happens."

The 69th Vuelta continues Thursday with the 157km 18th stage finishing with two passages over the second-category Monte Castrove.

"There are some small climbs before the finish, that's OK for Robert. The final day is a time trial, so the penultimate day, with the long climb, is D-Day for him," Wagner said.

Wilco Kelderman

Wilco Kelderman. Photo ©Sirotti

BMC had this to say about Stage 17:

Danilo Wyss finished eighth for the BMC Racing Team Wednesday at the Vuelta a España after teammate Rohan Dennis was part of the day's breakaway that was only caught in the last 500 meters.

John Degenkolb (Team Giant-Shimano) took the bunch sprint finish to win his fourth stage, beating Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). Dennis and Elia Favilli (Lampre-Merida) were the last two survivors from a five-man escape that enjoyed freedom for 165 kilometers of the 190.7-km race.

"We all did our turns until about 30 kilometers to go," Dennis said. "Then Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) attacked and from then on, it was just pain. I could tell at a kilometer to go that we probably were not going to make it. It was close – maybe next time." BMC Racing Team's Samuel Sánchez finished 35th and in the same time as Degenkolb to remain eighth overall, 6:55 back of race leader Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) with four days to go.

"Tomorrow will again be hard for the general classification, so we are optimistic," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Valerio Piva said. Wyss said he and several teammates were doing what they could to help slow the chase of Dennis's group. But when it became clear the breakaway would be caught, his focus changed. "I was really looking for Philippe Gilbert and trying to do a lead out for him," Wyss said. "But it was really crazy in the pack and I was not on the same side as him. So I had the opportunity to go really early. I saw Phil was just behind me and thought maybe it would be a good leadout. Otherwise, I would try to go to the finish. But it was just a little bit too early."

Samuel Sanchez

Samuel Sanchez in Vuelta stage 16. Photo ©Sirotti

Lampre-Merida was a real player in stage 17. Here's their press release:

Lampre-Merida once again at the attack in the 17th stage of 190.7 km with departure from Ortigueira and arrival in Riazor de A Coruna.

Like every day the race had an  initial series of attacks, with the decisive escape that took off around the 25 km of race, the composition of the 5 men: Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Factory), Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing), Lluis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural ), Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN Qhubeka) and a great Elia Favilli who once again held high the colors of Lampre Merida in the breakaway of the day at Vuelta.

The maximum advantage of the attackers was 3'56 ", when there were about 70 km to the finish. A great forcing leading the group by the sprinter's teams which have reduced the delay then around 10 km to go to 1'.

Beautiful proof of Favilli which remained in front of the race despite the selection made in the escape from the fugitives, skimmed at just 3 runners: Favilli, Jungels and Dennis who have in fact reached the 2km from the finish line, they were really near to the chance to play a victory after the great effort put into the stage.

The group then launched a sprint to close ranks, which once again Ferrari for Lampre-Merida, managed to seize a place in the top five finishing in fifth place.

Stage 17 break

Stage 17 break. Bettini photo provided by, as you can see, Lampre-Merida. Elia Favilli leads.

BMC on the Tour of Britain Fourth Stage

Dylan Teuns of the BMC Racing Team continued his climb up the overall standings Wednesday at the Friends Life Tour of Britain while teammate Sebastian Lander took the lead in the sprints classification.

Teuns finished third and teammate Rick Zabel was eighth as a small group contested the stage at the end of the 184.6-kilometer race after Lander and teammate Peter Velits had been part of the day's nine-man breakaway. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took the win and the overall lead from Stage 3 winner Edoardo Zardini (Bardiani-CSF), who dropped to second overall, three seconds behind. Teuns, who has been riding as a stagiaire with the BMC Racing Team after starring for the BMC Development Team, moved from fourth to third overall and is 11 seconds off the lead.

"I was not so fresh like yesterday, but I felt pretty good," Teuns said. "I felt the effort from yesterday but I also felt I was good on the climbs again today." Teuns followed an attack by Kwiatkowski with two kilometers to go. "We closed the gap to Nicholas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo) but then Kwiatkowski did not want to ride and I did not want to ride," he said. "Then it became a sprint really early – at 300 meters – because it was a false flat from one kilometer to 300 meters and then a little bit up." Teuns signed a multi-year contract last month with the BMC Racing Team, beginning in 2015, and has won stages at the Tour de l'Avenir, the Giro Ciclistico della Valle d'Aosta Mont Blanc and the Tour de Bretagne this year.

Lander, who was part of the breakaway for the second straight day, won the second and third sprints on the stage and was second in the first. That earned the former Danish national road champion a seven-point lead over Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani-CSF) in the sprints classification. "Yesterday I was a little bit disappointed that I did not take the first sprint because it was just in the corner so I was not able to get an acceleration for it," Lander said. "So I was a little bit annoyed about that and told myself I wanted to go in the breakaway again. Now that I have the jersey, it is my goal to keep it and defend it as well as possible." Velits, the Slovakian national time trial champion, was one of the last three survivors from the day's breakaway. "We knew the last important thing was the last climb before the finish, but we did not expect the bunch to be coming back so fast," he said. "We only had half a minute, so it was not a big advantage. Albert Timmer (Team Giant-Shimano) attacked with two-and-a-half kilometers to go and I tried to follow, but suddenly guys were coming from the peloton. It was not really perfect, but it was a good day to be in the break and good training for the world championship team time trial."

Tinkoff-Saxo on Stage Four of the Tour of Britain

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Nicolas Roche finished 6th taking time on several of his main GC-rivals on stage 4 of Tour of Britain. The Irishman once again went on the attack on the final climb but missed out on the stage win in the final corner, where Michal Kwiatkowski was the fastest man.

“Overall it was a good stage. I finished in the front group of six riders 6 seconds ahead of the peloton and many of my rivals in the GC. I missed out on the opportunity to take the stage win, as I missed the last corner and went into the final sprint in a bad position. But I took some very important seconds on some of my rivals”, says Nicolas Roche after crossing the finish line in Bristol.

A 9-rider breakaway went away early on the stage and Tinkoff-Saxo worked hard to drag them back in again. Manuele Boaro took a turn setting a high pace from kilometer 25 to 90 and the breakaway was caught on the last climb. Nikolay Trusov and Rory Sutherland worked hard to deliver Roche in a good position before the climb.

“My teammates worked really hard for me all day and did a spectacular job. Manuele was in the front for 70 kilometer, so he will sleep well tonight. The team believes in riding actively and we want to take responsibility. I saw my opportunity to attack on the final climb, but I was a bit too late to bridge the gap alone to the two riders in front before the flat part”, adds Nicolas Roche.

Tour of Britain will most likely be decided by small time differences on the time trial. Sport Director Lars Michaelsen was satisfied with Roche being able to take 6 seconds on his opponents.

“Once again the team showed that we are here to take responsibility. Today, we wanted to win a few seconds on the other favorites, but Nicolas also attacked with the stage win in mind. He was really close to bridging the gap to the two riders in front before the flat straight, where he could have rested a bit before the final sprint”, explains Lars Michaelsen.

Nicolas Roche

Nicolas Roche

Big Canadian Races Coming

Two Word Tour single-day races are around the corner. On the 12th is the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and on the 14th the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal. I received several press releases from teams planning to attend.

From Belkin:

The Belkin Pro Cycling team is taking on a new challenge in Canada. After the successful Tour of Alberta, the team has traveled to eastern Canada to contest a pair of one-day races; the Grand Prix Cycliste Québec (Friday, September 12th) and the Grand Prix Cycliste Montréal (Sunday, September 14). In the past, the riders of Team Belkin have played a very big role in the Canadian classics. The team is hoping for a repeat of 2012 and 2013, when Lars-Petter Nordhaug won the Grand Prix Cycliste Montreal, respectively, and Robert Gesink the Grand Prix Cycliste Québec in 2013.

The team supported by Sports Director Michiel Elijzen comes with good form from the Tour of Alberta, and is completely acclimatised. Sep Vanmarcke won convincingly the third stage in Alberta, and will play an important role for Team Belkin in both races. Also, Steven Kruijswijk was in good form in Alberta
“All our riders came out well of the Tour of Alberta," said Sports Director Michiel Elijzen. "We have travelled a long way from Alberta to Quebec. But we still have a few days to rest. Sep (Vanmarcke) and Steven (Kruijswijk) are very important for us in these races. I expect that Nick van der Lijke and Jonathan Hivert also can play a role deep in the finals."

Bauke Mollema starts his autumn campaign in the Grand Prix Cycliste Québec. Mollema’s last race was the Eneco Tour, and now joins the team that previously rode the Tour of Alberta. "Bauke Mollema is also going to play an important role for us on Friday and Sunday," continues Elijzen. "The races on Friday and Sunday are tricky and are WCH-worthy, and will be won by someone from a select group of favorites."

TEAM Line-up: Jonathan Hivert, Steven Kruijswijk, Tom Leezer, Bauke Mollema, David Tanner, Nick van der Lijke, Sep Vanmarcke and Dennis van Winden

Sports Director: Michiel Elijzen

Bauke Mollema

Bauke Mollema. Photo ©Sirotti

From Ag2r-La Mondiale:

The Grands Prix Cyclistes of Québec and Montréal will take place on 12th and 14th September. The team roster of the Pro Cycling Team Ag2r-La mondialefor these two races is as follows:


General manager: Vincent LAVENU
Sports director:  Gilles MAS

Jean-Christophe Peraud

Jean-Christophe Peraud. Photo ©Sirotti

Here are Lotto-Belisol's plans for the Canadian races:

This week the WorldTour heads to Canada for two races. Friday there is the Grand Prix of Québec, on Sunday the Grand Prix of Montréal. It’s going to be the fifth edition for both races. The time difference between Belgium and Canada is six hours. The races start at eleven in the morning, local time. That is 5 pm CEST. The finish is expected between 10 and 10:30 pm CEST.

GP Cycliste de Québec
Both in Québec and Montreal, the race consists of local laps. In Québec  the riders will race eleven laps of 18.1 kilometers, which makes a total of 199.1 kilometers. The pith of matter is on the end of each lap. First the Côte de la Montagne and afterwards the Côte de la Potasse. After these two little climbs it goes slightly uphill towards the finish. The finish line is drawn at the Grande Allée, one kilometer with an average gradient of four percent.

GP Cycliste de Montréal
The peloton travels to Montréal by train, where there are 205.7 race kilometers awaiting on Sunday, divided into 17 laps of 12.1 kilometers. This race contains a total of 3893 altitude meters. The GP of Québec  has 2310 altitude meters. In Montréal each lap starts with the Côte de Camillien Houde. With its 1.8 kilometers at an average gradient of 8 percent, this is the biggest obstacle. After a half lap there is a second climb: the Côte de la Polytechnique (780 meters at an average gradient of 6%). The finish is at the Avenue du Parc, with an average gradient of 4%.

Lotto Belisol has selected  among others Tony Gallopin, Jürgen Roelandts, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens. In Canada, they will meet among others world champion Rui Costa, Simon Gerrans, Alexander Kristoff, Gianni Meersman, Bauke Mollema and Greg Van Avermaet.

Sports director Bart Leysen outlines his expectations
Bart Leysen: “There are some important WorldTour points to gather in Canada. Tony Gallopin, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens are our main guys for both the races. In Québec, Jurgen Roelandts gets the chance to possibly strive for the victory in a select group. Montréal is the hardest of the two races, therefore we also have Louis Vervaeke in our selection. He made a strong impression in the Tour de l’Avenir. So his shape is good. But of course this race is new for him.”

“The team is strong. We want to perform well and get some good results in both the races. The races in Canada are similar to the World Championships or the GP de Plouay, because of the local laps. We will try to continue our good performances in Canada.”

Lotto Belisol selection: Stig Broeckx, Gert Dockx, Tony Gallopin, Jürgen Roelandts, Dennis Vanendert, Jelle Vanendert, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens.

Sports director: Bart Leysen

tony Gallopin

Tony Gallopin at the 2014 Tour de France. Photo ©Sirotti

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