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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Tuesday, April 7, 2015

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Today's Racing

Two races today, the ongoing Spanish World Tour Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) and in France, the 2.1 ranked Circuit Cycliste Sarthe-Pays de la Loire.

Vuelta al Pais Vasco News

Stage one was trouble. With less than a half-kilometer to go, a lot of riders went down after clipping metal poles with orange warning cones near the edge of the road.

Sprint pole danger

Can you believe it? This is what was in the way of the riders in the sprint. A sure formula for crashes and injuries. Lieuwe Westra photo

The list of the injured is heartbreaking. Among the hurt, Caja Rural rider Sergio Pardilla fractured his left wrist and suffered a head injury, Nicolas Edet of Cofidis has a fractured left collarbone. Orica-GreenEdge team member Adam Yates fractured a finger and won't decide until the stage start whether on not to race. French rider Pierre Henri Lecuisinier went down mid-way through the stage and fractured his left forearm. Other riders also suffered bruises, abrasions and other injuries.

Nicolas Edet

Nicolas Edet crashed badly in the Basque Tour first stage. Here he is at a happier time, the 2013 Vuelta

One of the seriously injured was Peter Stetina. The BMC report follows:

BMC rider Peter Stetina among the hurt in stage 1. Here's the BMC report:

Bilbao, Spain - BMC Racing Team's Peter Stetina broke his right tibia and patella and four ribs in a crash near the finish line of Monday's opening stage of Vuelta al Pais Vasco.

Teammate Darwin Atapuma was also among the half dozen or so riders who were involved in the pile-up about 400 meters from the finish line of the 162.7-kilometer race. The crash happened when the middle part of a reduced peloton was passing meter-high metal poles topped with orange traffic cones near the curb lane of the finishing straight.

"Some guys barely missed the poles and some clipped them," Stetina said. "I didn't even have time to react or pull the brakes. You don't expect to have fixed obstacles in the middle of a field sprint.

Peter Stetina

Peter Stetina

BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa said the normal recovery time from an injury of this type is several months.

"The Amgen Tour of California was my big goal and my GC (general classification) race this year," Stetina said. "Now it is almost for sure out the window."

Atapuma was able to get up and ride to the finish after suffering a cut on his left knee. A decision on whether he will be able to take the start for Stage 2 will not be made until Tuesday morning, Dr. Testa said.

Former Pais Vasco winner Samuel Sánchez was the BMC Racing Team's top finisher, in 17th place, as Michael Matthews (ORICA-GreenEDGE) took the bunch sprint win ahead of world road champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step).

Orica-GreenEdge was justifiably happy with the first stage of the Basque Country race:

2015 Paris-Nice stage winner and sprint classification champion Michael Matthews has won the opening stage of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco in Spain today. Matthews won from a reduced bunch sprint, ahead of world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx Quick-Step), following a challenging finale that involved a category two climb in the last 20km.

The victory was the 24-year-old’s second at the race, following a stage win in 2014, and the second consecutive victory for Orica-GreenEdge in Spain after Caleb Ewan’s performance at the Vuelta a la Rioja yesterday.

“I was quite confident going into the stage,” Matthews said. “We did a recon of the final climb yesterday and I knew what I was in for, it just came down to what legs I had today. It turned out I had really good legs, got myself over the climb and I knew from that reduced bunch I had a pretty good chance of cleaning up the sprint.

“The Yates brothers were following a lot of attacks in the final five kilometres, which was great that I didn’t have to worry about any of them. There wasn’t any lead out trains, it was more of a grovel, so I just placed myself within the top five in the final and started my sprint a little earlier, rather than waiting like I did in San Remo, so I couldn’t get boxed in.”

Michael Matthews wins stage 1

Michael Matthews wins stage 1

A trio of riders formed the day’s early breakaway, establishing a quick five-minute lead in the first ten kilometres. Omar Fraile (Caja Rural-RGA), Anthony Turgis (Cofidis) and Brian Bulgac (LottoNL-Jumbo) worked well together until Bulgac dropped off the pace with just under 50km to ride.

Shortly after, Turgis attacked his surviving companion attempting a solo 30km move on the local lap of Bilbo.

Unseen for much of the day, Orica-GreenEdge hit the front of the peloton on the last climb of the day. The effort ended the day of Turgis before further teams joined them at the fore to put on the pressure. The result was a select group who, despite being challenged by some of the world’s elite descenders including three-time world time trial champion Tony Martin (Etixx Quick-Step), held together to contest for opening stage glory.

Sport director Neil Stephens, ambitious for a stage win at the Basque race, had identified the first stage as a potential opportunity for the team and proceedings went to plan. “We knew the stage pretty well, but we weren’t exactly sure how hard the last climb was going to be,” Stephens said. “We were hopeful we were going to get to the finish with Michael and in the end it was just him with the climbers.”

“We knew Simon Gerrans is still working his way up and Pieter Weening was feeling much the same so we identified that before the stage and they helped place the team going into the final climb. It would have been great to have Daryl (Impey) and (Michael) Albasini in the finish and they gave it everything to get over the climb but they weren’t able to be there.”

In mixed news, general classification riders Colombian Esteban Chaves and British twins Simon and Adam Yates were given the winning time of the front group, however Adam Yates hit a signage post and crashed in the final sprint and at first assessment looks to have broken his right middle finger. The 22-year-old will undergo scans this evening

And here's Tinkoff-Saxo's Vuelta al Pais Vasco news:

Tinkoff-Saxo and the rest of the pack in Vuelta al País Vasco were thrown right into the mix with an undulating stage typical for the terrain of the Basque Country. Four Tinkoff-Saxo riders, including Rafal Majka, crossed the finish line in Bilbao in the decimated main bunch, where Michael Matthews took first place in the sprint.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s sports director Sean Yates notes after the race that Rafal Majka’s presence at the front was an uplifting sign after the talented climber had suffered from sickness during the recent Volta a Catalunya.

“It was nice to see Rafal, where he should be. The favorites didn’t go full gas on the final category two climb, but he came to the fore, which, at least for the moment, bodes well for the upcoming harder stages. Rafal was obviously feeling fairly well on the climb and he made sure that he didn’t lose any time, which was our main goal today. We wanted to take a day to settle into the race following the past weeks, where several of the guys have been ill”, says Sean Yates after the stage finish.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka wins stage 6 of the 2014 Tour of Poland

Stage 1 of Vuelta al País Vasco took the riders 162.7km from Bilbao and then back to Bilbao. After three categorized climbs and a fast descent to the finish line, Michael Matthews (Orica – GreenEdge) proved the fastest on the line, while Tinkoff-Saxo, without a sprinter on the team, settled back during the final burst for the line.

“It was a typical first race day of a World Tour race, where a small group of guys went in the breakaway and nobody really wanted to pull in the pack before some of the bigger teams took over. Kiserlovski, who was ill before the race, survived, but had to concede time just like Petrov, Pires and Beltran, while Chris Anker, Majka, Zaugg and Poljanski all finished in the first group”, tells Sean Yates, who adds:

“Our plan is to see where the guys are and especially, if we should expect anything from Rafal in the GC. We stayed out of crashes and Zaugg also had a dig at the front on the final kilometers and showed our team colors”.

Tomorrow’s stage 2 offers a variety of challenges with six categorized climbs on the way to Vitoria-Gasteiz.

And this is what Lampre-Merida had to report on the Vuelta al Pais Vasco first stage:

Positive start for Lampre-Merida in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, thanks to the 21st place obtained by Rui Costa in the first stage, 162.7 km starting and arriving in Bilbao.

The course, a long ring that made the bunch go towards the coast until Lekeitio and then come back to Bilbao after having passed one 3rd category Kom and twice the Alto de Vivero (two 2nd category Kom), the latest at 12 km to the arrival, selected a large group of 60 cyclists, which had as a member the Lampre-Merida's captain Rui Costa, who received during the stage a good support by his team mates and who could reply in the best way to the attack attempts that Vuillermoz, Arredondo, Wellens and Henao performed on the last climb.

"The opening stage was not simple, since the last passage on the Alto de Vivero was close to the arrival and the downhill to the finish line was fast, so it was very important to be in the head positions on the climb - Rui Costa explained - I'm satisfied I could received a very good support by my team mates and I could control the situation. Without risks in the downhill and in the sprint, I could complete the stage in the best riders group".

Rui Costa

Rui Costa in the 2014 Tour of Romandie

Rui Costa could not receive the help by Serpa and Ulissi: the Colombian climber crashed in the approach of the first passage on the Alto de Vivero, Ulissi had the same trouble in the second passage.

Giant-Alpecin Upcoming Racing

This came from Giant-Alpecin:

SCHELDEPRIJS (1.HC): The team has won Scheldeprijs for the past three seasons with Marcel Kittel (GER) but the German sprinter will not line up for Wednesday's one-day classic as he continues to rebuild his form ahead of his coming objectives.

Team Giant-Alpecin comes to the race with a line-up who have been riding strongly in the northern classics over the past few weeks, including Nikias Arndt (GER) and Ramon Sinkeldam (NED) who give the team options if the race is to come down to a sprint once again here.

The race also sees the start of Lars van der Haar's (NED) road season after a break following his cyclo-cross campaign, his first race with the WorldTour team.

"Without Marcel in the line-up for Scheldeprijs we have to change our plan slightly but we will still focus on a sprint as this is the most likely outcome here," explained coach Rudi Kemna (NED). "We come here with other sprinters capable of getting a strong result in Nikias and Ramon so we will focus on them but also with an open strategy.

"When the opportunities present themselves to go on the attack or to get in promising breakaways we will also look to profit from these, and this is good for us and gives us options."

RACE:Scheldeprijs (WT)


COACH: Rudi Kemna (NED)

LINE-UP: Nikias Arndt (GER), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), Lars van der Haar (NED), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Tom Stamsnijder (NED), Albert Timmer (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL) 

Nikias Arndt

Nikias Arndt will be on the Scheldeprijs start line


The five-day Energiewacht Tour is a race that has served the team well in the past with several stage successes over the past few seasons, and once again in 2015 Team Liv-Plantur will be looking for stage successes here while assessing their chances of overall victory.

The race gets underway with a short 2.5km prologue to decide the first wearer of the leader's jersey before the first road stage on the Thursday. This is followed by a TTT and a short road stage on day three before two days of road stages to finish.

The line-up includes Floortje Mackaij (NED), recent winner of Gent-Wevelgem Elite, Sara Mustonen-Lichan (SWE) who has been on strong form in the classics of late, as well as Lucy Garner (GBR) to tackle the sprints.

"Energiewacht Tour is a race where we will race aggressively; we are in good shape and have proven before that this is a race we can perform very well at," explained coach Hans Timmermans (NED).

"I think we can compare it to the Holland Ladies Tour last year. We also have Lucy back in competition here and we will see how fast she will improve during the race. When she gets back into race rhythm we can start to target the sprints with her, but after her knee problems there's no pressure for results with her and we will look more to progression there."

RACE: Energiewacht Tour (UCI 2.2)

DATE: 08-12/04/2015

COACH: Hans Timmermans (NED)

LINE-UP: Lucy Garner (GBR), Willeke Knol (NED), Floortje Mackaij (NED), Sara Mustonen-Lichan (SWE), Julia Soek (NED), Kyara Stijns (NED)


After finishing second in the Roubaix velodrome last year, John Degenkolb (GER) was ecstatic with the result, however this year he will have the top step of the podium on this mind.

Sunday's Paris-Roubaix marks the end of the flat northern classics before the tougher, Ardennes tests present themselves. As such, Degenkolb and the riders who have supported him in his campaign over the past weeks will be looking to finish on a strong note on the infamous cobbles of 'The Hell of the North'.

"Paris-Roubaix marks the last cobbled classic of the campaign here and after a strong team performance in Flanders where we were able to support John deep into the final we can come here with a lot of confidence," said team coach Marc Reef (NED).

"We come here with almost the same line-up we had at Flanders and are ready for an even better performance. Everybody is really motivated to give their best for John and he will be our leader for the race. He proved what he is capable of here last year and we're hoping for another top result."

RACE: Paris-Roubaix (WT)

DATE: 12/04/2015

COACH: Marc Reef (NED)

LINE-UP: Nikias Arndt (GER), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), John Degenkolb (GER), Koen de Kort (NED), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Tom Stamsnijder (NED), Albert Timmer (NED) 

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