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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Monday, August 17, 2015

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

Today's Racing

We had two races finish today, the Eneco Tour and the Arctic Race of Norway.

Today, the HC-ranked USA Pro Cycling Challenge, starts and runs through the 23rd.

Team Sky Announces Vuelta a España roster

Here's the team press release:

Team Sky has announced its nine man line-up for the 70th edition of the Vuelta a España, starting in Puerto Banús on Saturday 22 August.

2015 Tour de France winner Chris Froome will lead the team for the final Grand Tour of the season alongside Sergio Henao, Mikel Nieve, Vasil Kiryienka, Christian Knees, Ian Boswell, Salvatore Puccio, Nicolas Roche and Geraint Thomas

Announcing the Vuelta a España squad, Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: "It’s been an unforgettable summer for us after winning the Tour de France for the third time, but it’s important to move on quickly, realign our goals and focus on the new challenges ahead.

"We’ve selected a strong squad for the Vuelta that has the right blend of talent and experience to support Chris Froome through the tough three weeks ahead."

Team leader Chris Froome said: "I have great memories from this race so I’m pleased to be back. I’ve had a good rest after the Tour and now I’m ready for my next challenge. It will certainly be a very competitive race given the strong field – which will be great for the fans to watch. The competition will be tough and this is bike racing so anything can happen, but we have an excellent team and we’re ready to get the race started."

Chris Froome

Chris Froome on the podium of the 2015 Tour de France

The Team Sky squad for the 2015 Vuelta a España:

Chris Froome – age 30 – Great Britain: Returning to action following a historic second Tour de France victory, Froome will be looking to end his year on a high in Spain. Twice a runner-up at the Vuelta, the Brit is no stranger to the demanding Spanish test. After reaffirming his credentials as the best stage racer in the world, Froome will hope to continue his outstanding recent record in Grand Tours he's completed.

Sergio Henao – age 27 – Colombia: An exceptional climbing talent, Henao returns to Grand Tour action 14 months after a serious knee injury threatened his career. The Colombian has impressed greatly this season, taking a podium finish overall at the Tour of California, as well as stints in the race lead at the Tours of the Basque Country and Poland. He will provide valuable mountain support in his fifth Grand Tour.

Mikel Nieve – age 31 – Spain: One of the best pure climbers around, Nieve's first pro victory came at the Vuelta in 2010 with a memorable stage win. The Basque rider has competed in four of the last five editions of the race and will be relishing the chance to perform in front of his home fans. Second place at the Tour of Slovenia, plus a strong recent outing at the Tour of Poland, show a rider in form.

Vasil Kiryienka – age 34 – Belarus: Lining up for a 15th Grand Tour and a fifth appearance at the Vuelta, Kiryienka has supported Froome in each of his last two attempts at the race, as well as Tour de France victory in 2013. The Belarusian is a feared presence in the peloton, capable of setting a relentless, grinding pace on both the flat and the climbs. He's also a time trial specialist, as shown by his stage win at this year's Giro.

Christian Knees – age 34 – Germany: An experienced and assured presence, Knees has seen it all during 10 years spent competing at the highest level of cycling. The former German national champion is an accomplished domestique, equally happy pushing a tempo on climbs or working hard in the cross-winds and tense flat stages. Recent experience of the Vuelta makes him a valuable member of the team.

Ian Boswell – age 24 – United States: The young American makes his Grand Tour debut after a season which has seen him come of age in the WorldTour peloton. Part of winning teams at the Volta ao Algarve, Giro del Trentino, Tour de Yorkshire and Criterium du Dauphine in 2015, Boswell has impressed greatly on the climbs. Seventh overall at the Tour of California showed that 'Boz' can also race up front at the highest level.

Salvatore Puccio – age 25 – Italy: Improving with each passing season, the Italian gets set for a second appearance at the Vuelta with a valuable team role to play. With impressive experience despite his young age, Puccio had ridden all five of cycling's monument classics by just his second year as a pro. Salva has the punch to help on the flat, and is increasingly comfortable setting a pace on the climbs.

Nicolas Roche – age 31 – Ireland: The second of three riders to attempt the Tour-Vuelta double this year, Roche has excelled at the Spanish Grand Tour in the past. With a fifth and a seventh place overall finish to his name, as well as a stage win in 2013, the Irishman has the climbing credentials to race at the very front. That, in addition to 14 Grand Tour starts, makes him a significant asset to any team.

Geraint Thomas – age 29 – Great Britain: One of the most accomplished all-round talents in the sport, Thomas gets set to make his Vuelta debut after demonstrating the best form of his career. Whether tearing up the spring classics or riding with elite GC contenders in the mountains, 'G' can do it all. The Welshman rode as high as fourth at the Tour de France in July and was invaluable in supporting Froome's victory.

Eneco Tour final team reports

Lotto-Soudal was surely happy to send this release:

The Eneco Tour finished today with a little Tour of Flanders. From Sint-Pieters-Leeuw to Geraardsbergen, the peloton had to cover 188.6 kilometres and had to surmount eighteen hills, including some famous names as the Berendries, Leberg and Kanarieberg. The finish line was on the legendary Muur van Geraardsbergen. It was promised to be an exciting battle for the stage win and it appeared to be so. Three riders from the breakaway stayed in front and they fought for the win. Quinziato was the best, just ahead of Leukemans and Lampaert.

Tim Wellens and Lotto Soudal defended the leader’s jersey very well, Wellens obtains his second overall victory in a row in the Eneco Tour. He had 59 seconds advantage on Van Avermaet and 1’17” on Kelderman. Wellens and André Greipel won a stage, the red points jersey of the Gorilla wasn’t threatened anymore. Tiesj Benoot obtained a few nice places and finished eighth in the GC. This week may be considered as a real success and the team is going home with a fantastic feeling. Tim Wellens reviews the wonderful performances of Lotto Soudal in this year’s Eneco Tour.

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens is the final owner of the Eneco Tour's leader jersey

Tim Wellens: “It’s very nice to win the Eneco Tour of course. And not because the Tour de France wasn’t as good as expected. It’s just fantastic to win a one-week stage race, it pleases me a lot. I started in this race with some doubts, because I didn’t know how I would feel after the Tour. After the time trial I really had a good feeling and I knew for sure that the condition was good. The question was; how is Tim going to perform after the Tour? Well, the last days in that Tour I felt that my shape was improving, the choice to ride in the Clasicá San Sebastián appeared to be a good one. This week I confirmed this better shape.”

“This year’s victory is even more beautiful than the previous one I think. The first victory of the Eneco Tour was a bit unexpected, but to perform on a same level this year was much harder. Beforehand, I considered Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert as the most important riders for the overall victory, they were really in a good shape. But yesterday I made the difference because I did a recon of that stage. That Côte de Saint-Roche appeared to be a key point and I was glad that I’d done the recon.”

“I have no other choice than to thank the teammates for their work the previous days, they really did an a-ma-zing job. Everyone supported me very well. Greg Henderson, Marcel Sieberg and Stig Broeckx did a lot of work in the beginning of the stages. Afterwards Jens Debusschere, André Greipel and Tiesj Benoot did their work and they did it fantastic. I’m really thankful.”

“After this Eneco Tour I know that I don’t have to aim on a good classification in the Grand Tours. The one-week stage races without the high mountains like Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico fit me more. For the rest of the season, I hope to maintain the good shape as good as possible. Normally I won’t ride in Hamburg, but I will start in Plouay. After that I’m going to Canada for the races in Quebec and Montreal and to prepare myself for the World Championships time trial. It’s not up to me whether I will be selected or not for the road race in Richmond, but if that’s the case, I don’t have a problem with the fact that I’ll have to ride for someone else. After the World Championships, my final race of the season will be Lombardia. But first, I’m going to enjoy this victory.”

BMC was also happy with the outcome of the final stage:

Geraardsbergen (BEL) - Manuel Quinziato of the BMC Racing Team soloed to win his first race since 2008 at the Eneco Tour Sunday while teammates Greg Van Avermaet and Philippe Gilbert finished runner-up overall and in fourth place, respectively.

With less six kilometers to go in the 193.8-kilometer race, Quinziato attacked his two breakaway companions from what remained of an original 11-man escape group. But after considerably distancing Björn Leukemans (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Yves Lampaert (Etixx-Quick-Step), the pair closed the gap to him on the cobblestoned climb to the finish.

Manuel Quinziato

Manuel Quinziato wins the Eneco Tour final stage

"I made a gap and the guys behind disappeared," Quinziato said. "But I was à bloc (at my limit). I said to myself, 'Don't look back.' But I looked back with 500 meters to go and saw that they were coming. I said to myself, 'You are either going to win, or you are going to die.' I won, so I am happy."

Leukemans finished second, three seconds back, while Lampaert arrived an additional five seconds later. Van Avermaet finished fourth to secure his runner-up finish overall, while Gilbert was ninth on the stage.

Tim Wellens, the solo winner of Saturday's stage, won the overall title, 59 seconds ahead of Van Avermaet. Wilco Kelderman (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) was third, at 1:17, and Gilbert fourth, a further 23 seconds back.

"We tried to make the race hard to drop Kelderman but we couldn't do it," Van Avermaet said. "I am  happy with second place and with Manuel winning the stage and me being in fourth today. Everything went pretty well for us and I think we had a good Eneco Tour with the win and also picking up a few WorldTour points."

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Valerio Piva said the plan for the day originally was not to send a rider in the day's breakaway.

"But we did tell the guys this morning that if a big move went away, we had to follow it," Piva said. "It was good that Manuel was there and he proved that he was the strongest. It was perfect how he dropped them and won the stage.

Quinziato's last individual victory came in February of 2008 when he won two stages of the World's View Challenge in South Africa. This was his second Eneco Tour stage win, adding to a solo victory on Stage 2 of the 2006 edition. Last fall, Quinziato was part of the BMC Racing Team's gold medal-winning world team time trial squad. He was also part of the team time trial win on Stage 9 at the Tour de France last month.

LottoNL-Jumbo sent this report:

Wilco Kelderman finished third overall in the Eneco Tour on Sunday. The podium spot for the Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider was never threatened during the 188.6-kilometre final stage from Sint-Pieters-Leeuw to Geraardsbergen.

BMC’s Manuel Quinziato won the stage, a mini version of the Tour of Flanders, after the Italian got the better of his fellow escapees in the final kilometres. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) took the overall victory, with Greg van Avermaet (BMC) second.

“I’m happy with my third place. After the Tour de France, this is a big boost,” Kelderman said. “I really needed this after the disappointment of the Tour, and the Eneco Tour is an important race.”

Final Eneco Tour podium

Final Eneco Tour podium, from left: Greg van Avermaet, lovely podium girl, Tim Wellens and Wilco Kelderman

Kelderman considered an attack on the Muur van Geraardsbergen on Sunday, but thought better of it: “The race was under strict control and I knew that riders would responded if I went. I toyed with the idea of an attack on the penultimate climb, but when a few others accelerated, I could only react.”

Kelderman wore the leader’s white jersey going into Saturday’s penultimate stage, and despite a staunch defense, he could not prevent Wellens from pulling on the jersey after winning the stage. Kelderman managed to defend an important third-place podium spot.

“I really struggled, but I don’t think I did anything wrong this week,” Kelderman said about the valuable lessons he learned. “Yesterday was just very difficult because there were so many strong riders in the front. The race wasn’t controllable. Besides that, there’s something extra to being a race leader.”

Sports Director Nico Verhoeven left Geraardsbergen on Sunday with the same sensation as his rider. “I think we've had a tough but beautiful week. We can look back with a good feeling. The best result was, of course, the trial in Hoogerheide, where we finish first and second in front of a home crowd.

“Moreover, Jos and Wilco rode in the white jersey. On Saturday, we lost the jersey, but that didn’t feel like a loss to us. We actually felt good, because Wilco did a great job holding on to his third place. Eventually, he is amongst the top three riders of the race, and everyone in the team is happy about that.”

Reports from the Arctic Race of Norway

Here's what Cult Energy had to say:

Time had come for the final and 165 kilometer long fourth stage of Arctic Race of Norway where Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Rasmus Guldhammer was 8th in the general classification before today. Seven riders threatened to take it all but on chaos reigned on the demanding local circuit in Narvik where Guldhammer finished 5th and moved to 7th in the GC.

In the first hour, the peloton covered 47 kilometers illustrating that it was a messy start but finally, seven riders broke clear. But BMC didn’t allow the breakaway much hope as they kept the gap around three minutes. Hitting the foot of the climb on the local circuit, the gap was narrowed down to one minute and at the top of the 2 kilometer long climb, only three riders were in the front with 30 seconds to the chasing field.

The steep slope shook the pack and and gaps appeared everywhere. At the top of the first ascent, counter-attacks started flying from the bunch and eventually, Rein Taaramae (Astana) broke clear with BMC’s Silvan Dillier and Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha). However, Ben Hermans was in the overall lead and all out of teammates, he was forced to chase the front trio alone while his teammate was sitting behind Taaramae in the front.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Rasmus Guldhammer was playing his cool in the chase group and when Hermans ran out of power, he picked up the pace. However, the trio made it ti the finish line where Silvan Dillier (BMC) took the stage win ahead of Zakarin. In the meantime, Sven-Erik Byström (Katusha) was trying to bridge over alone but had to settle with fourth.

Rasmus Guldhammer

Rasmus Guldhammer

Rasmus Guldhammer outsprinted his fellow chasers and finished 5th on the stage and moved up to 7th overall.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Guldhammer said after the stage: “Actually, I started the stage not feeling on top of things but as the stage progressed, I felt the power coming back. It was a tremendously intense finale with a steep climb which drained the power out of almost everybody. I prefer to race for the win but that wasn’t possible today. But the way the day developed, I’m happy about finishing 5th,” concludes Guldhammer.

DS, Michael Skelde was content with the result and the effort from the Cult Energy squad: “It was a stunning race in many ways. After a high pace start, we delivered Rasmus in a good position in the finale. Even though Christian (Mager) didn't make it into the crucial break, I’m happy to see him out there giving it a good go. Considering the competition here, I think Rasmus did a good result. Finishing 5th today is a very good result even though we always prefer to win. The stage also reveals that even though you have a significantly strong team, it’s not always enough. I wish there were more of these kinds of races with a small squad of six riders. It proved impossible to control the stage for BMC today even though they’re all world-class riders and that was the primary reason for the fantastic finale, says Skelde.

And here's BMC's news about the Norway tour:

Narvik (NOR) - BMC Racing Team's Silvan Dillier finished runner-up Sunday at the Arctic Race of Norway by winning the final stage, while teammate Ben Hermans saw his chances for overall victory dashed by a mechanical problem.

In the BMC Racing Team's second consecutive stage win in Norway, Dillier out-sprinted Ilnur Zakarin (Team Katusha) and Rein Taaramäe (Astana Pro Team) in the final 100 meters of the 165-kilometer race. Taaramäe took the overall title, eight seconds ahead of Dillier.

Dillier, who also won the "best young rider" classification, said it was fantastic to get his first victory of the season and the BMC Racing Team's 25th win of the year.

"In the final 30 kilometers, I think Ben had a problem with his bike, so I stayed in front to check the situation," Dillier said. "First, both Astana and Katusha were pushing forward. But then Astana set a hard tempo and split the field. I just stayed on the wheel and hoped that Ben could get back. But then, at the end, I saw the chance to win the stage and I took it."

Silvan Dillier

Silvan Dillier wins stage 4 of the Arctic Race of Norway

Hermans, the race leader heading into the stage and the winner on Saturday, finished 93 seconds back of Dillier's group which placed him ninth in the final standings. After his mechanical problem, he was able to chase back to the peloton. But when the decisive attack came about 10 kilometers later, he was not able to follow.

"There was something wrong with my bike, I am not sure what," said a disappointed Hermans. "I decided not to change bikes as I knew if I changed bikes I would lose the race for sure. When the attack went off at the top of the climb on the second lap, I was in a good position but I was not able to match their speed. I just had to ride tempo."

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said he had mixed emotions after the race. In addition to having Dillier on the final podium, the BMC Racing Team also took home the team title.

"Dillier did a very good job," Ledanois said. "Taaramäe and Zakarin are very strong riders, so to have won the stage today is fantastic. I am disappointed for Ben. To lose the leader's jersey on the last day is never easy.

"In the last two laps, we had to change tactics and Dillier did a great job going with the break and staying on the wheels of Taaramäe and Zakarin before taking the opportunity to win when it counted."

Ledanois praised the work of the whole team over the four days of racing. Joining Dillier and Hermans on the winning squad were stagiaires Tom Bohli and Floris Gerts, plus Campbell Flakemore and Dylan Teuns.

"For them to control the race with only five riders is hard, so the team did a very good job," Ledanois said. "This is a young team with a great ambiance, and I am very happy with how they handled the race today. Flakemore and Bohli were strong over the first 125 kilometers, while Gerts was a great help to Hermans after his mechanical."

Dillier's victory was the BMC Racing Team's third in two days, adding to Herman's stage win Saturday and Manuel Quinziato's victory Sunday at the Eneco Tour.

Cannondale-Garmin re-ups Slagter and Van Baarle

Here's the team press release:

Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling today announced that Tom-Jelte Slagter and Dylan Van Baarle have re-upped with the team, and it has added young Dutch super talent, Wouter Wippert. While Cannondale-Garmin will be Wippert’s first World Tour team, the Dutch rider has already won at the World Tour level with a sprint victory at the 2015 Tour Down Under. The signings continue to bolster the strong core of young talented riders for the team’s future.

Jonathan Vaughters, CEO of Slipstream Sports and Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling, said “Tom-Jelte will look to build on the success of his fifth and sixth places in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Fleche Wallone in 2014. Next year, the Ardennes will be a big focus for him as he continues to hone his great skills and develop as a rider.”

Slagter added, “I'm very happy and excited to be part of Cannondale-Garmin for the next two years. It’s been a great experience for me and I’m proud to be part of this team.  I can't wait to improve personally with the team and show that to all the fans who support us.”

Tom Jelte Slagter

Tom-Jelte Slagter riding stage 9 of the 2015 Giro d'Italia

Of Van Baarle, Vaughters said: “Dylan is an exceptional talent and will look to keep progressing in the cobbled Classics, building on his third place in Dwars door Vlaanderen. Dylan showed his strength in his first Tour de France this year and brought that forward with strong riding in the Eneco Tour. We look forward to seeing how he continues to grow as a rider and know that he has a huge future.”

Van Baarle agreed that he is in the best possible environment to develop himself further as a rider and work on specific goals, adding: “I'm very happy to sign again with Cannondale-Garmin. I feel a lot of trust with them and I'm looking forward to the next two years.”

25-year-old Wippert, according to Vaughters, is “an incredible up-and-coming sprint talent, and we are very excited to add him to the team. We have always been committed to developing young talent, and all three of these riders are young and talented. The upcoming two years will be important for them, and we look forward to helping them grow as athletes.”

Wippert, potentially one of the future sprinting superstars, had no doubt that Cannondale-Garmin had the best career plan ready for him: “After two fantastic learning years with Drapac, I'm ready for the next step in my career. Cannondale-Garmin is giving me the opportunity and guidance to succeed in the World Tour. Together we've made a plan for the next two years to develop myself as sprinter and that gives me a lot of confidence. I can't wait to start this new project!”

Tinkoff-Saxo's plans for USA Pro Challenge

This release arrived Sunday afternoon:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s squad for USA Pro Challenge is set, as the team embarks on the high-altitude race aiming for a result in the overall classification and stage wins. Ivan Rovny joins Chris Anker Sørensen in sharing the role as GC leader, while Kreuziger will direct the troops on the ground as team road captain.

With five out of seven stages taking place in mountainous terrain more than 2,000 meters above sea level, USA Pro Challenge tests the riders and GC favorites’ ability to adapt to the high altitude, says Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Lars Michaelsen, who will lead the team’s quest in Colorado.

“USA Pro Challenge is ridden in high mountains, thin air and with an eight-hour time-difference compared to Europe. We travelled to Colorado a week in advance, as it’s essential to adapt to these factors. It’s individual for each rider how many days he needs to make these adaptations. And as we get underway in the race, it will be crucial to stay at the front of the field and ahead of events in order to avoid running the risk of getting caught in any situation that requires extreme exertion”, assesses Lars Michaelsen, who notes about the team ambitions:

“Chris Anker Sørensen will be our main GC leader with Ivan Rovny joining him as co-leader. If the circumstances allow, we will be going for a stage with these two and perhaps with our new stagiaire Felix Grossschartner, who will be racing with the team for the first time. Roman Kreuziger obviously has a lot of experience and know-how, at the same time he has had a long season, and he’ll take on the important role as road captain. Then we’ll see if he’s there to go for a stage win on one of the tough days”.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s full lineup for USA Pro Challenge consists of Chris Anker Sørensen, Ivan Rovny, Roman Kreuziger, Bruno Pires, Jesus Hernandez, Edward Beltran and stagiaire Felix Grossschartner.

Chirs Anker Sorensen

Chris Anker Sørensen at the start of Tour of Poland stage 3

A total of 974 kilometers spread out on seven days of racing face the riders as they embark on USA Pro Challenge. Stage 2 features a summit finish at nearly 3,400m, while the riders aiming for the GC will go toe-to-toe at altitude during the 14km individual time trial on stage 5.

“After we have completed stage 2 with the summit finish we will be much wiser about our riders altitude adaptation and their GC possibilities and from that point on decide whether our racing strategy will lean towards the GC or stage wins. As any time trial, stage 5 will be very important for the overall classification and our GC riders will have to go full gas here. At no point do the TT parcours take the riders below 2850m above sea level, so this will again be a test into how well the riders adapt”, comments Lars Michaelsen before concluding:

“In general, we will seek to seize the opportunities on all stages, the squad is motivated before the start and we obviously know that the competition will be hard. We equally know that the multiple Pro Continental and even Continental teams will be on the lookout for success”.

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