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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Friday, April 10, 2015

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Today's Racing

Two races today, both are stage races that started a few days go. The Spanish World Tour Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) which will finish on Saturday, the 11th, and in France the 2.1 ranked Circuit Cycliste Sarthe-Pays de la Loire which ends today.

U.S. Blocks Settlement Between Armstrong Associates and Landis

In 2010, former Lance Armstrong teammate Floyd Landis filed a lawsuit under the False Claims Act accusing Lance Armstrong of cheating the U.S. Government while he was racing for the U.S. Postal Service. Landis had been Armstrong's teammate. Given the possible triple damages provision in the act, Armstrong could ultimately be hit with damages of $100 million.

The Justice Department was not part of the lawsuit that targeted Armstrong's agent Bill Stapleton and Armstrong business partner Barton Knaggs as well as their company, Capital Sports and Entertainment. Nevertheless, the U.S. Justice Department has blocked a proposed $600,000 settlement that Floyd Landis reached with Knaggs and Stapleton. The Department has not explained why it objected to the agreement.

The federal judge overseeing the case, Christopher R. Cooper said, "Fair or not, withholding of consent requires no explanation."

Michael Doyle of the McClatchy News Service explained the suit thus:

"Cooper’s decision is the latest, but not the final, turn of the wheel in the dispute pitting Landis against Armstrong, an Austin, Texas, resident who forfeited his seven Tour de France titles following revelations that he cheated by using banned substances.

"Landis, whose own blood-doping eventually caused him to forfeit his 2006 Tour de France title, sued Armstrong and various associates in 2010. Originally filed under seal, Landis’ false-claims lawsuit became public when the Justice Department entered it, in part, in 2013.

"The Justice Department joined Landis in targeting Armstrong personally, reasoning that the U.S. Postal Service had been duped when it spent more than $30 million sponsoring Armstrong’s racing team. False Claims Act lawsuits like this can potentially triple the damages owed, with Landis, as the original whistleblower, entitled to a cut."

In December Landis came to an understanding with Knaggs and Stapleton that would settle their portion for $500,000 plus and additional $100,000 in attorney's fees. On February 20 the government said they, “not in a position to consent to the settlement at this time.”

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong in the 2002 Tour de France when he was racing for U.S. Postal

Stapleton and Knagg's lawyers have understandably complained in a filing last month objecting to the government's move. “The government impermissibly seeks to replace the (private) settlement with a settlement of its own making, negotiated from a position of absolute power.”

It's believed that this move will put more pressure on Armstrong to come to a settlement more favorable to the government.

French E-Bike Sales Growing

The bicycle trade publication Bike Europe reported a wonderful continuing trend, the general increase in eBike sales in Europe, specifically in France. The magazine said the total value of European bike, parts and accessories increased by 7.5% last year to 1.616 billion Euros.

The French bought 77,500 eBikes last year, an increase of 37% over 2013. On the other side of the ledger, classic city bike sales went down 5.4%. But overall, that sure sounds like fewer cars on the road and that puts a spring in my step and a song in my heart. I wish this were also true about my fellow Americans.

Interestingly, Bike Europe reported that bicycle webshops increased their sales last year by 29%, but bike shop sales only went up 6%. Big sports stores like Decathlon have a 34% market share and they were able to increase their sales by 12%. It always seems to be tough times for the little guy.

High Performace Bikes with Electrical Assist

And if you're wondering about better, higher performance bikes with electrical assists, Larry Theobald of CycleItalia bike tours (really, check out his site and consider the joy of cycling in Italy) sent me this fascinating YouTube link. Getting old might not be as bad as I thought...

Paris-Roubaix is Sunday the 12th

BikeRaceInfo's links to complete results for every edition of Paris-Roubaix

I just posted photos of racers doing pre-race rides on the cobbles

And of course, the teams are very busy with news about the big race.

This just came from Orica-GreenEdge:

“It’s like trying to do a maximum effort whilst someone is standing there shaking your bike as hard as they possibly can.”

The famous Paris-Roubaix, or ‘Hell of the North’ as it is so rightly nicknamed, will fulfill the dreams of some and shatter those of others this Sunday, courtesy of the 27 cobbled or ‘pavé’ sectors sport director Matt Wilson tries to find the words to describe.

The third of five monuments, also known as the Queen of the Classics, is as unique as a bike race gets with 52.7km of cobblestones before those who make it through complete the 253.3km course on the famous velodrome of Roubaix.

For road captain Matthew Hayman, it’s as good as it gets on the bike. The 36-year-old, who has twice finished in the top ten (2011 & 2012), will lead Orica-GreenEdge in his 14th attempt this weekend, a role hard-earned by so many crucial support responsibilities throughout each season.

“Mat Hayman will be our outright leader on Sunday,” Wilson said. “He is feeling very good this year, it’s one of the better years he has had form wise which is great as he comes into his last couple of opportunities to do this race. Paris-Roubaix is a race that always throws up some surprises. Every few years you get a surprise winner or podium up there."

“It’s one of those years and Mat Hayman is one of those guys that could find himself on the podium.”

In support, Hayman has a mix of experience and youth that will prove critical to his day. Mitch Docker, Jens Keukeleire and Jens Mouris will each ride their sixth edition of the race, whilst Australian Luke Durbridge, New Zealand’s Sam Bewley and British rider Adam Blythe will also benefit from previous rides.

Jens Keukeleire

Jens Keukeleire will be riding his 6th Paris-Roubaix

“We have guys who have roles early in the race, through the middle of the race and towards the end of the race,” Wilson explains. “The guys that will help towards the end will be semi-protected in the early stages to make sure they come onto the final sectors in good enough shape to be able to help him.”

“A big part of Paris-Roubaix is just being there when they do have inevitable punctures or problems, to help them back on or to give them a wheel. It is quite a simple role sometimes and if they miss the split it can also be quite a hard and demanding role. We have a good team for that. They showed at Flanders they are all going well and riding well together as a team so hopefully we will have a good day.”

Completing the team, Danish neo-pro Magnus Cort will make his Paris-Roubaix debut in his first year riding for the Australian outfit.

“The sectors and the carnage that occurs when you hit them is the biggest eye-opener for a debutant,” Wilson said. “You just don’t expect it. If you have done the Tour of Flanders and racing in Belgium you know the sectors are hard but they are a different thing in Paris-Roubaix. They are in much worse condition and the relentlessness of the next sector to come is always there.”

But for all the stress and carnage of the journey, Paris-Roubaix is one race where just crossing the finish line can be a fairytale. “It’s just such an epic race,” Wilson said. “You are going to have punctures, you are going to have crashes and you are going to have problems. You spend a lot of time in your own little world and then you come up to this mythical track at the end of the race that everyone dreams of riding into at one stage or another.”

Orica-GreenEdge at Paris-Roubaix (12 April): Sam Bewley, Adam Blythe, Magnus Cort, Mitch Docker, Luke Durbridge, Mathew Hayman, Jens Keukeleire, Jens Mouris

Sky's Lineup for Paris-Roubaix:

Team Sky has confirmed its rider line-up for Paris-Roubaix: Bernhard Eisel, Andy Fenn, Christian Knees, Salvatore Puccio, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas and Sir Bradley Wiggins

Team News from Circuit de la Sarthe

This from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Manuele Boaro put in a powerful attack on the final ascent of stage 4 to take the win following a committed team effort. The punchy Italian now leads the general classification going into the final stage, where he looks to defend his lead.

Manuele Boaro secured the win by attacking from the main group on the final 4km climb, bridging the gap to a front group, where he then proved the fastest in the sprint. After the stage, he expressed his satisfaction and gratitude for his team’s effort.

“I’m very happy to take the win on such a hard stage. Today the whole team was really good and we worked together and stuck to our plan despite a very hectic finale. The team remained calm in the end and we followed our strategy, which was to wait until the last climb”, says Manuele Boaro, who elaborates on the team tactics.

Manuele Boaro winning stage 4

Manuele Boaro wins stage 4

“Our strategy from the start was to remain calm and control the race. With 25km to go on the second last lap a group of strong riders went, but we waited and my teammates worked hard to control the gap. On the final climb just before the top followed by a very short descent to the finish line, I then decided to attack. I went clear and caught the group up front just before the descent. Shortly after, I decided to start my sprint with 300 meters to go and I managed to win”.

Manuele Boaro sits 1st in the GC with a 3 second lead to Adriano Malori (Movistar) before the final stage of Circuit de la Sarthe. He is determined to keep it that way.

“Tomorrow is the last day and we will of course do everything in our power to secure the lead. It’s a difficult stage and we will see how it goes”, tells Manuele Boaro.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s sports director Nicki Sørensen saw the race unfold from the team car and noted he was very pleased to see the riders keeping a cool head in the finale. “We are of course very happy for the win but also for how the guys pulled it off. They have actually worked really well together on the prior stages and today they just kicked it up a notch. In the finale, there were many of the favorites who attacked, but our guys stayed calm and followed the strategy”, says Nicki Sørensen and adds: “Kolar and Hansen set a high pace in the front of the main group to create a selection. And we brought Manuele to the last climb after having controlled the pace. He was then able to ride away from the decimated main group, while Valgren and McCarthy acted as back up.”

“The team has shown strength, which bodes well for the final stage tomorrow. And it definitely confirms that Manuele is in really good shape. We now have to play our cards right and try to secure the GC tomorrow in front of some strong competitors”, finishes Nicki Sørensen.

Jay McCarthy also secured the blue jersey for Tinkoff-Saxo by finishing 11th on stage 4. He now leads the youth competition with 5 seconds before the final day.

And Cult Energy had this news from the Sarthe race:

A front group dominated the first part of today’s 190 kilometer long and hilly queen stage of Circuit Sarthe from Angers to Pre-en-Pail in France but the finale loop shattered the front group and eventually, the peloton exploded into bits and pieces when finally catching the escapees.

At first, four riders from various teams took off from the peloton and worked up a good gap to spend some time in the sun before the finale. With ten kilometers to go of the demanding stage, the escapees’ lead was narrowed down to merely 30 seconds and then the attacks started flying from the bunch. A quintet bridged across to the front group and now rushed towards the finish line with the herd of sprinters on their tail and with race leader, Adriano Malori (Movistar) as a locomotive.

On the final kilometer, the field exploded and on the finish line, Tinkoff-Saxo Italian, Manuele Boaro took the stage win.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling DS, Luke Roberts says: “We were expecting a hard finale and we got what we expected. The boys did a solid job bringing Rasmus Guldhammer to the front of the bunch and he and Christian Mager both finished in the first group. Unfortunately, Rasmus didn’t make it into the top-10 as hoped due to the fact that his chain was stuck. Rasmus is in very good shape and I'm sure that he would have been in the top-5 if he hadn't been struck by bad luck. I reckon that tomorrow’s stage will be one for the sprinters but we will try our best to get in the breakaway and Russell will be there if the stage comes to a bunch sprint conclusion.”

There is also the Pais Vasco going on in Spain

Tinkoff-Saxo sent this report:

A very good performance by Rui Costa followed the defensive day that he lived yesterday. In the 4th stage of the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Zumarraga-Eibar Arrate, 162,2 km), the Portuguese cyclist reached the arrival with the top riders, obtaining the 9th place.

On the traditional climb of the Alto de Uzartza, Lampre-Merida's captain succeeded in setting a very good pace that allowed him to be in the main group until the summit of the KOM, at 2.2 km to go, and then he covered the downhill to the arrival with the selected group of 12 riders whose sprint was won by Rodriguez.

Thanks to the 9th place, Rui Costa is now 12th in the overall classification, at 26" to the leader Henao.

The whole Lampre-Merida team realized another good performance, as sport director Mauduit pointed out: "I was happy to see that our riders perform the stage in a active way, as it was necessary. We were in all the attempts of attack that characterized the early kilometers of the race, thanks to Serpa, Ulissi, Bono and Conti, and in the final part of the stage Polanc was once again a perfect support for Rui Costa in the approach of the hills".

And this Pais Vasco note came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Rafal Majka conceded seconds to stage winner Joaquim Rodriguez on stage 4 of País Vasco. With the great legs of yesterday failing to materialize on the final climb to Aratte, Majka and Tinkoff-Saxo lost 23 seconds but remains poised ahead of further ordeals in the Basque Country.

After the stage conclusion, Tinkoff-Saxo’s sports director Sean Yates explains that there’s no hiding on a parcours like the riders faced on stage 4. “Today was hard. Not just for us but from everybody’s point of view. After Rafal’s performance yesterday, where he showed that he’s capable of fighting for the GC, he didn’t have the best of legs today. However, with a time loss of 23 seconds on a climb like this, he is far from disgraced but just a bit disappointed. After rediscovering his legs yesterday, he was sort of knocked back to earth today”, says Sean Yates, who considers Vuelta a País Vasco as one of the hardest stage races:

“Apart from the Grand Tours, País Vasco is one of the most challenging races. There’s no day off and all stages are carried out in mountainous or hilly terrain.  Today, for instance, we did around 43km/h in the mountains for the first two hours and in the end, there were some serious time losses. Our guys supported Rafal throughout the stage and it was up to him to play with the likes of Quintana and Rodriguez while his shape is still a work in progress. But great moral is only going to take you so far in a race like this and if you lack 1%, you get found out and lose time to those who are up 1%”.

Jaquim Rodriguez wins stage 4

Joaquim Rodriguez wins stage 4

Stage 4 of País Vasco featured no less than 7 categorized climbs on the way to the finish line atop Arrate. Here, Joaquim Rodriquez took the win in a 12-man group with Rafal Majka coming in 23 seconds later in 16th place. With yesterday’s show of form fresh in memory and many altitude meters yet to climb, Sean Yates notes that Rafal Majka is still in contention.

“Rafal said that he wasn’t in top shape today, but he is still within contention. Maybe tomorrow somebody else can suffer a bad day, however for every 23 seconds you lose, there’s 24 seconds to make up. But there’re plenty of chances to improve Rafal’s position in the GC keeping in mind tomorrow’s summit finish with a gradient in some sections of more than 25 % and a mountain time trial still to come. He will continue to fight to the end of the race, his shape is still improving and the team is ready to support him”, finishes Sean Yates.

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