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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Friday, April 24, 2015

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Today's Racing

We've got one race today: the fourth and final stage of the ongoing Italian Giro del Trentino. Today is 161.5 hilly kilometers going from Malè to Cles.

Astana to Remain WorldTour Team

I think this is what everyone was really expecting. Though UCI prez Brian Cookson wanted the UCI License Commission to revoke Astana's WorldTour license, the commission voted to allow Astana to retain it WorldTour status, but the team will be monitored very closely.

The team has a troubled drug history. Team manager Alexandre Vinokourov was positive for blood doping in 2007. Vinokourov was riding for Astana at the time. Plus, drug cheater Lance Armstrong was an Astana rider in 2009. And wait, there's more. Astana riders Alberto Contador, Roman Kreuziger, Maxim and Valentin Iglinskiy have been involved with drug, er..., controversies

The decision follows an audit by the Institut des Sciences du Sport de l’Université de Lausanne (ISSUL), which recommended that the team retain it's licence but be closely monitored.

Astana is the team of 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali. This means Astana has an automatic invitation to the Tour and Nibali will be able to defend his title. If the team had been forced to downgrade to a lower status, Astana would have been dependent upon a wild card invitation to the Tour.

Vincenzo Nibali at the 2015 Milano San Remo

Vincenzo Nibali at the 2015 Milano-San Remo

Here is the UCI statement in full on Astana's retaining its WorldTour status:

As part of the proceedings following the request for withdrawal of the Astana Pro Team’s licence, the Licence Commission today held a hearing in the presence of representatives of Astana Pro Team, representatives of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and representatives of the Institute of Sport Sciences of the University of Lausanne (ISSUL).

On the initiative of the Licence Commission, ISSUL were asked to propose special measures which the Team will be obliged to put in place at specific times over the rest of this season.

The team committed to respecting all the measures recommended by ISSUL.

At the end of the hearing, the Licence Commission announced the suspension of the proceedings.

In the meantime, the registration for the 2015 season remains in force. However, the Team’s licence is subject to strict monitoring of the conditions laid down. This monitoring will be carried out on the basis of reports transmitted by ISSUL to the Licence Commission.

The Licence Commission shall be able to re-open the proceedings if Astana Pro Team fails to respect one or several of the conditions imposed, or if new elements arise.

The full reasoned decision will be published in due course.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège is this Sunday

The big-deal Liège-Bastogne-Liège WorldTour race is the last of the Classics for a while. The sport will largely segue to stage races before the Giro d'Italia, which starts May 9.

Here's Orica-GreenEdge's L-B-L report:

Orica-GreenEDGE will go into Sunday’s Liège - Bastogne - Liège, the final Ardennes Classic and fourth ‘Monument’ of cycling, with multiple options in a bid to pull off a tough title defence. The Australian outfit stood on the top step of the podium last year, courtesy of Simon Gerrans who became the first Australian to win the event in its 100-year history.

Gerrans will again have a leadership role, joined by young British climber Simon Yates who acknowledged an ‘off’ day at Fleche Wallonne but carries good form from a fifth overall at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco earlier this month.

Claiming Orica-GreenEDGE’s third Classics podium for the season yesterday, Michael Albasini will also factor whilst the efforts of Pieter Weening to assist last year’s victory also has him poised for the pointy end of proceedings.

“To win Liège - Bastogne – Liège and retain the title, which I think is the hardest of the Classics for the climbers, is a big ask,” sport director Matt White said. “Last year I believed we could get a big result and we did. This year due to Simon Gerrans’ preparation, he is a couple of weeks short of being at top form.”

“Are we going to be competitive? Yes, I think we can be. “We are going to go in with multiple options for the final, but it’ll be determined in the last hour or two of the race how we change our tactics. We have numerous guys like Michael Albasini, Simon Yates and Simon Gerrans who will be up there.”

Simon Gerrans

Simon Gerrans winning the 2014 Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Colombian Esteban Chaves and Australian Simon Clarke will back up from Fleche Wallonne whilst South African Daryl Impey will return after sitting out Wednesday’s race. Former Australian champion Luke Durbridge will bring in fresh legs to complete the line up.

The Liège - Bastogne – Liège is a whopping 253km in length with the peloton to negotiate ten climbs in around six and a half hours of racing - the softest a 5% average gradient and the steepest at 11.2% on Côte de Saint-Roch, the second climb of the day.

“It’s an extra hour and a half of racing plus maybe 1,500 to 2,000 more metres of climbing,” White said of the race in relation to yesterday’s Fleche Wallonne. “It’s the most demanding one-day Classic of the lot as far as climbing is concerned.”

Last year a surprisingly big group contested the finale in Liège, but White predicts that trend will continue for Sunday. “I think the general trend at all of the Classics is that you are seeing bigger and bigger groups closer to the finish,” White said. “The style of racing in one-day racing has changed.”

Orica-GreenEDGE at Liège - Bastogne - Liège (26 April): Michael Albasini, Esteban Chaves, Simon Clarke, Luke Durbridge, Simon Gerrans, Daryl Impey, Pieter Weening, Simon Yates

Cult Energy will be at Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Sunday 26th of April, Cult Energy Pro Cycling follow up on the Amstel Gold Race participation last week with another highly prestigious and final spring classic, La Doyenne – Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Covering 253 hilly kilometers kicking off in Liege going south to Bastogne only to return north to finish in Ans, the peloton will be scattered along the way cresting climbs like Cote de Stockeu, Cote de la Redoute and Cote de Saint-Nicolas. This edition is the 101st version of the World Tour race, which history dates back to 1892.

The race suits the punchy climbers in the peloton well and historically, the race has been dominated by the Belgian home turf favorites but in recent years, riders like Alejandro Valverde, Michal Kwiatkowski, Andy Schleck and Simon Gerrans have dominated the race. Philippe Gilbert is probably Belgium’s biggest favorite while Wednesday’s winner of Fleche Wallone, Alejandro Valverde and Amstel Gold Race victor, Michal Kwiatkowski are the names to watch Sunday.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling are joining the race on a wildcard and are naturally far from being contenders to win the race. However, with riders like experienced Linus Gerdemann and rookie Rasmus Guldhammer in the race, it would be wrong not to have ambitions now and for the future in this race.

Linus Gerdemann

Linus Gerdemann (I'm pretty sure)

DS, Michael Skelde says: “After a satisfying World Tour debut in Amstel, we now look forward to one of the largest and most prestigious one-day races on the calendar. Liege-Bastogne-Liege will offer an amazing experience for the team and we're participating to both enjoy it but hopefully make our mark on it as well. As for Amstel, Linus, Fabian and Rasmus are the riders aiming for a result. The race has been a major target for Linus but unfortunately and just like Fabian, he has struggled with illness prior to Amstel, which lower our expectations but I still hope he’ll be in the select group of riders cresting La Redoute,” says Skelde and adds: “Rasmus delivered a promising effort in Amstel but there is no reason to expect the impossible on Sunday. I think Rasmus will be in the top-50, which should be his goal. I hope Linus will return from Giro del Trentino stronger than before and that he will be able to be in the finale in Ans.”

The Cult Energy Pro Cycling line-up: Linus Gerdemann, Fabian Wegmann, Rasmus Guldhammer, Christian Mager, Romain Lemarchand, Michael Reihs, Martin Mortensen and Alex Kirsch.

LottoNL-Jumbo will be at Liège for the start:

LottoNL-Jumbo aims to keep progressing in Liège-Bastogne-Liège
Team LottoNL-Jumbo wants to keep the upward trend going in Sunday’s 101st edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Sports Director Merijn Zeeman is counting on a strong team spirit and leaders Wilco Kelderman and Paul Martens in Wallonia, Belgium.

Kelderman feels stronger after improving over the past week. After illness and a 59th place in Brabantse Pijl, he was able to attack in the final kilometres of Sunday’s Amstel Gold Race. On Wednesday, he finished tenth in La Flèche Wallonne. “Liège is a great race and I think it suits me with those longer climbs,” said the Dutchman. “I hope to repeat my performance of Wednesday, but Liège is a long race and for me, it’s the first time. I’m curious and excited.”

Kelderman will appear at the start in Liège well-prepared, despite the fact that he will make his debut in La Doyenne. “I’m going to watch last year’s race and on Friday, we’ll recon the final kilometres and climbs. Merijn Zeeman always gives us a fair amount of homework, as well: some videos and a Google Maps version of the course.”

Paul Martens hit the tarmac in the final kilometres of La Flèche Wallonne, but doesn’t expect that his spill will affect him in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “The damage is not too bad. I had some pain, but I was able to shake it off during the remainder of the race,” Martens said.

“The real damage was the fact that I wasn’t able to get in the mix for a result.”
Martens hopes to bounce back on Sunday, but knows that Liège doesn’t really suit his characteristics. “The past few classics fit my chances better. For a good result in Liège, I need to have a good day and race at my limit,” Martens explained.

Paul Martens

Paul Martens

“Liège is an honest race, it’s mainly about having good legs. It’s crucial for me to digest the long climbs properly if I want to bag a result. If I’m fit in the final, I know I can count on my sprint. The last few races, my kick wasn’t there, but that was understandable because of illness and injuries.I’m on the right track, though. I assume that I’ll be on my good level. Where I’m going to end up is difficult to estimate.”

Sports Director Merijn Zeeman saw encouraging signs in La Flèche Wallonne. “Wilco is on the right path. He has improved greatly since the Brabantse Pijl. Paul is doing well and in fact, the whole team in starting to do better. Liege is perhaps the toughest classic of the season with all its climbing metres,” Zeeman said.

“It’s going to be a difficult task. We have to make sure that we’re up there again. We want to show ourselves in the final kilometres. We’re going to do that with aggression and race smarts. It all starts with spirit and motivation. The task for the team is to support our leaders for as long as possible.”

Zeeman was pleasantly surprised by Laurens ten Dam in La Flèche Wallonne. “Laurens hasn’t really been able to train intensively because of his broken ribs, but despite that he was able to drop off Robert Gesink and Wilco at the front of the pack at the foot of the penultimate climb on Wednesday in Flèche.”

Team line-upp: Jos van Emden, Laurens ten Dam, Wilco Kelderman, Nick van der Lijke, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Paul Martens, Bram Tankink & Mike Teunissen.

Sports Director: Frans Maassen & Merijn Zeeman.

ITT World Champion to Start at Borsele Time Trial

This release came from Velocio Sports:

World Individual Time Trial Champion Lisa Brennauer will start her first full-length time trial for the season at Borsele, in The Netherlands tomorrow Friday 24 April 2015. Velocio-SRAM will have six starters in the national level time trial race.

58 riders will race the Borsele time trial in a flat technical course over 19.91 kilometres. Brennauer who finished fourth in 2014, later went on to win the ITT at the World Championships in Ponferrada in September last year.  She will be the last rider to leave the start ramp last at 20:19 hours. Brennauer is joined by Tayler Wiles, who finished third at last year's Borsele time trial, as well as Mieke Kroeger who finished fourth in the World Championships. Elise Delzenne, Barbara Guarischi and Alena Amialiusik round out a strong Velocio-SRAM squad for the time trial.

Lisa Brennauer

Speedster Lisa Brennauer

Team Directeur Sportif, Ronny Lauke says the Borsele time trial is always a good early season test for the time trial riders. "The results from Borsele are always interesting to see. It's an indication where each rider is at for April and allows a lot of time for improvement as the season continues."

The Borsele time trial starts off a three-race weekend for the Velocio-SRAM team who will also race Omloop van Borsele on April 25 and Dwars de Westhoek on April 26.

Tour of Turkey is Coming Up

I haven't created a podium/index page for the Tour of Turkey yet, but I will by the race start on the 26th.

This release about the race came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Matera, Italy - April 23, 2015 - Eight versatile stages await the riders at the 51st edition of Tour of Turkey. Tinkoff-Saxo lines up with ambitions in sprinter’s territory and with a hope of delivering a good result in the overall GC, where this year’s race will be marked by especially two 1st category uphill finishes.

Leading up to the race, Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Nicki Sørensen voices that the team has expectations for the versatile race. “We will arrive with a prospect of being competitive although we don’t, on paper, have the biggest favorites on the roster, neither in the GC nor in the sprinter’s stages. But still, we have a team with a pretty good width. I believe we can get in the mix on the flat stages and in the GC with Jay McCarthy and Pavel Brutt”, says Nicki Sørensen.

Tinkoff-Saxo lines up Jay McCarthy, Pavel Brutt, Daniele Bennati, Michael Kolar, Nikolay Trusov, Edward Beltran, Evgeny Petrov and Juraj Sagan.

Pavel Brutt

Pavel Brutt will be at the Tour of Turkey

Starting Sunday, Tour of Turkey takes the riders 1,257 kilometers from Alanya to Istanbul. Along the way the riders face 4 flat stages suited for the fast men of the bunch, while especially stage 3 and 6 will bring forth riders looking to create a result in the general classification. According to Nicki Sørensen, Tinkoff-Saxo stands a chance of making results in both types of terrain.

“It’s an exciting route, it has a bit of everything except time trials and you don’t necessarily have to be a pure climber to do well in the GC. It’s a good mix and I believe that, depending on the race shape of McCarthy and Brutt, they can do well. We will take it day by day and we also have a team of pretty fast guys in the likes of Michael Kolar, Nikolay Trusov and Daniele Bennati. I expect them to be there in the fast finales on the flat stages”, notes Nicki Sørensen.

“I know that Kolar is very motivated, he’s in good shape and Tour of Turkey stands as one of his big goals of this spring. The team is ready to support him and he has expert backup in a guy like Bennati, who is returning from a longer period without racing. Of course, we face strong competition and a team like Etixx-Quickstep is sending two very fast guys in Cavendish and Boonen. We are up for the challenge and I sense that the guys are motivated and looking forward to the race start come Sunday”, finishes Nicki Sørensen.

Race Preview

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