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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Friday, August 21, 2015

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Three races today: the HC-ranked USA Pro Cycling Challenge, which runs through the 23rd, the Tour du Limousin, which goes through the 21st. Plus the single-day semi-classic Arnhen-Veenendaal.

Vuelta's opening stage will not count towards overall standings

Several riders, notably Chris Froome, voiced concern about the course of the Vuelta a España's first stage, a short individual time trial, that will be run on an unpaved and very irregular bike path on the coast at Marbella, Spain.

Vuelta spokesman Ivan Gomez said that after meeting with teams and race directors, cycling's governing body, the UCI, has decided that the 7.4 kilometer stage will only count towards team classification, not individual times. Because of the bureaucratic difficulties that stand in the way of quick course changes, the route could not be changed at the last moment.

The organizers said, "Having received the concerns of teams and riders and after an inspection of the course with the technical director of the race, the Race Jury has decided that the stage will take place on the planned route."

That means all the riders will start Sunday from zero in the general classification.

Vuelta stage 1 map

Vuelta stage 1 map

Indian Hero Cycles buys majority share of British Avocet Cycles

A few days ago we noted the passing of O.P. Munjal, one of the founders of Hero Cycles, the largest bicycle company in the world. Hero Cycles is in the news again. Bike Europe posted this piece:

Story of the Giro d'Italia, volume 1

LUDHIANA, INDIA – Hero Cycles, India’s biggest bike maker, has acquired a majority share in Avocet Sports; the Manchester, UK based importer and distributor of bikes, electric bicycles and P&A. With this take-over Hero meets its ambition to enter the European high-end markets.

Already for some years Hero Cycles is aimed at entering the EU markets for among others its A2B e-bike brand. In 2012 Hero Group’s subsidiary HeroEco took over A2B from bankrupted Ultra Motor. Since then Hero was looking for a production base in Europe. For that talks started with ailing German bike maker MIFA in 2013. However, these negotiations failed; probably because of MIFA’s financial problems. The German bike maker has been taken over by automotive parts maker IFA Rotorion.

Hero’s ambition to establish a global footprint in bikes remained as Hero Cycles’ MD Pankaj Munjal stated in a Indian business magazine. His goal is to reach a 5% value wise share of the, at 36 billion euro valued, global bike market. For that, according to Munjal Hero Cycles has reserved about 40 million euro for acquisitions.

The rest of the story can be read here.

BMC's USA Pro Cycling Challenge report

Breckenridge, Colorado - Rohan Dennis soloed to victory Thursday to deliver the BMC Racing Team its third win in four stages of the USA Pro Challenge while assuming the overall lead from teammate Brent Bookwalter, who finished runner-up.

Dennis zoomed up and over the final climb of the 202.5-kilometer race, past eventual third-place finisher Robbie Squire (Hincapie Racing Team), who had attacked at the bottom. In front of a massive crowd in Breckenridge, Dennis sat up and freewheeled his BMC teammachine SLR01 across the line to celebrate his fourth individual win on the season.

"I used Robbie as a bit of a carrot, you could say," Dennis said. "I was playing mind games with myself the whole way up. I was waiting for the one-kilometer-to-go banner to the king of the mountain. Then I saw the 200-meter sign and the crowd was going nuts. I thought I would click into a bigger gear and go. It hurt still, I won't lie. But there was the adrenaline of knowing you are going over the top first and and there was a gap. That gives you a bit of a boost."

Dennis became the third BMC Racing Team rider to wear the Pearl Izumi yellow leader's jersey. Taylor Phinney won Stage 1 Monday before Bookwalter soloed to win Tuesday ahead of Dennis at the summit of Arapahoe Basin. Wednesday, Bookwalter kept the lead as Dennis finished runner-up.

Dennis also took the lead in the "king of the mountain" classification and the sprints classification while the BMC Racing Team kept its lead in the team standings. Friday's stage is a 13.5-kilometer individual time trial. Dennis leads Bookwalter by 13 seconds while Squire is third at 26 seconds.

Sport Director Jackson Stewart said the BMC Racing Team was under fire early and often in the race that began with an ascent of Independence Pass.

"We did everything we could to support Brent, with Rohan in the background," Stewart said. "We knew if anything happened, we could always play that option of putting Rohan somewhere or trying him for the finish. It was amazing how the guys did everything. The way (Michael) Schär and Phinney brought Rohan and Brent into town was perfect."

Bookwalter said it was big advantage to have teammate Damiano Caruso, a top 10 finisher at this year's Giro d'Italia, riding in the day's breakaway.

"The crosswinds and Cannondale-Garmin's aggressive riding sort of thwarted his hopes, but it was still nice to have him up there," Bookwalter said. "I think it is a testament to the depth of the team and the motivation of the team here to be riding the front of the race every day and then to put a guy in the break to play for the stage win."

Cannondale-Garmin announces Vuelta roster

This came from the team today:

Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling today announced its 2015 Vuelta a España roster. The versatile team features U.S National Time Trial Champion Andrew Talansky (11th in the 2015 Tour de France) and 2015 Tour of Utah winner Joe Dombrowski, who is making his Grand Tour debut. Dan Martin, fresh off two second-place finishes at the 2015 Tour de France, adds further firepower in the mountains.

Americans Alex Howes and Ben King, both of whom played an integral role in Dombrowski’s win in Utah, will each add another Grand Tour start to their young careers while Matej Mohoric, like Dombrowski, makes his first Grand Tour start. Moreno Moser, who snagged a stage win at Tour of Austria in July, André Cardoso and Davide Villella round out the nine-man team.

The riders assembled offer the green argyle team an opportunity to target both stage wins and the general classification.

Andrew Talansky

Andrew Talansky at the 2015 Tour de France

"This is Joe and Matej's first Grand Tour and with them we approaching it as an opportunity to get invaluable experience," said Jonathan Vaughters, CEO Slipstream Sports and Cannondale-Garmin Pro Cycling. "Dan and Andrew are capable of good GC riders and we have a strong team around them, and we will look for opportunities for stages and to animate the race overall."

Cannondale-Garmin 2015 Vuelta a España line-up: André Cardoso, Joe Dombrowski, Alex Howes, Ben King, Dan Martin, Matej Mohoric, Moreno Moser, Andrew Talansky, Davide Villella

Lotto-Soudal sent this Vuelta news:

Yesterday, a delegation of Lotto Soudal took the plane from Brussels Airport to Málaga for the Vuelta that starts on Saturday. Beforehand team leaders Bart De Clercq and Maxime Monfort took the time to talk about their ambitions.

Bart De Clercq: “Thanks to my performance at the Tour de Pologne, where I won a stage and got second on GC, I can leave for the Vuelta with a good feeling. The race in Poland was tough, so I took it easy afterwards. The past weekend I went to the Ardennes to train and the other training rides were rather short ones. I will start the Vuelta full of energy.”

“Top ten in the overall classification is ambitious, but with this condition I really want to aim for that goal; it’s definitely not unrealistic. In 2012 I was seventeenth and I always felt more was possible that time. Two years ago I already had taken part in the Tour, but it was also going great at the Vuelta. Unfortunately I crashed and had to abandon. I think I would have finished close to top ten.”

“The stages in between the two rest days will be really tough. Also mentally you have to prepare for that battle. Those stages will be crucial for GC, especially the stage in Androrra will be spectacular. I know the area, but that doesn’t make it less hard of course. I’m glad there aren’t many steep climbs this year, because that’s not my cup of tea. It’s only in the sixteenth stage that we have a climb with parts above twenty per cent. But when the shape is good, all goes smoother, so it doesn’t scare me. If I get an opportunity to get a stage win I will grab it with both hands. It will be hot again during the Vuelta, but I cope with heat pretty easily, I set my best performances in warm weather. I prefer that instead of rain and cold.”

Bart de Clercq

Bart de Clercq having a good Tour of Poland Stage 5

Maxime Monfort: “I was satisfied with how I felt at the Tour de Pologne and this weekend I did some good training rides, perfect to head to the Vuelta. I have the same plan as for the Giro: I keep a good GC in mind, but from the beginning of the Vuelta I also want to seize all opportunities. I want to race aggressively. In the Giro I joined a few breakaways the first days and then I had a good position on GC and focused on that.”

“The start list for the Vuelta is impressive, that’s why I keep both feet on the ground. I’m glad Bart is also part of the team as GC rider, it’s always better to be with two than alone. We’re both in a good shape and are complementary.  In the first week of the Giro we had some surprises in a few stages that had a relatively easy finish, but in the Vuelta we already get a finish on a third category climb the second day, so the spectacle will rather be between the GC riders, while in the Giro it was between escapees.”

“The crucial phase will be in between the two rest days. The stage through Andorra after the first rest day is incredible: more than 5000 altitude metres in a stage of less than 140 kilometres. That’s never seen before! That’s scary for everyone. It will be very hard. I don’t know the steep climb in the sixteenth stage. That will be the third mountain stage in a row. I like the end of the second week, all those mountain stages after another. That’s one of my strengths: regularity. I hope to show something in those stages.”

BMC sent this note about their approach to the Vuelta:

Santa Rosa, California - The BMC Racing Team will take a day-by-day approach for the Vuelta a España, Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said, with a roster that includes two past podium placers and its team leader from the Tour de France.

Samuel Sánchez was runner-up at the Vuelta in 2009, third in 2007 and has won five stages in eight appearances while Peter Velits finished third in 2010. Sánchez was the BMC Racing Team's top finisher (12th place) at the Tour de France last month after team leader Tejay van Garderen withdrew from the race due to illness.

Samuel Sanchez

Samuel Sanchez

"We will look at the general classification step-by-step and all riders will have their opportunity," Ledanois said. "Samuel is our leader, but the priority will be to try to win stages."

Sánchez noted there will be a high level of competition as he embarks on the Tour-Vuelta double for the first time in his career. "It will be difficult because the start list is really, really good," he said. "The first four riders in the Tour de France are here at the Vuelta. I hope to find good results on the general classification and maybe win a stage. It will be difficult but it is possible."

Van Garderen said he is healthy coming into the race and that his pre-race preparation - which included training at home in Aspen, Colorado, and at his European base in Nice, France, went well. "I just did a good block of training in Nice and should be ready to go," van Garderen. "I have studied the profiles and the layout of the race, but I have not had a chance to do any reconnaissance or to prepare the same way we would for the Tour de France. But I feel like I have a good grasp of what lies ahead."

The three-week race begins Saturday with a 7.4-kilometer team time trial in Porto Banus.

Roster: Darwin Atapuma (COL), Marcus Burghardt (GER), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Samuel Sánchez (ESP), Tejay van Garderen (USA), Peter Velits (SVK).

Sport Directors: Yvon Ledanois (FRA), Max Sciandri (ITA).

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