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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Sunday, August 23, 2015

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

Three races today: First of all, the Vuelta a España has its second stage. Plus, we've got the HC-ranked USA Pro Cycling Challenge, finishing today with a stage in Denver.

In Germany, the Vattenfall Cyclassics will be held in Hamburg today.

BMC's USA Pro Cycling Challenge press release:

Fort Collins, Colorado - BMC Racing Team's Rohan Dennis and Brent Bookwalter remained 1-2 in the overall standings after Saturday's penultimate stage of the USA Pro Challenge.

Dennis finished 15th and Bookwalter was 16th as the two arrived in the peloton 44 seconds after Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) won the 164.5-kilometer race out of a five-man breakaway.

"The general classification is getting pretty set here and we just had a few people to watch, plus there were a lot of other teams motivated to win the stage today," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Jackson Stewart said. "We were happy to see other teams control it and go for the stage win and help us out."

Rohan Dennis

Rohan Dennis winning stage 4

Dennis also kept his lead in the king of the mountains competition but conceded the sprint jersey. "The first 33 kilometers there were two sprints and UnitedHealthcare, with Kiel Reijnen, was able to take that green jersey off of me," Dennis said. "We let them (UnitedHealthcare) control it and just sat behind them. The attacks came after that, but we just rode our own tempo and brought back anything that was dangerous."

The BMC Racing Team still leads team classification but lost Peter Stetina when he withdrew midway through the race, suffering from a sore achilles tendon. Earlier this month, Stetina made his return to racing fewer than 17 weeks after breaking his right tibia and patella and five ribs in a crash in Spain.

"It is a shame not to finish, but we have to look forward and take the safer-rather-than-sorry route," Stetina said. "I am proud to have actually helped the guys and be a part of the race versus being a pack-filler in order to finish. Unfortunately, it (the achilles) was not getting any better. But it was real positive because the knee and the muscles never hurt; they were actually getting stronger. I was climbing higher and higher in the group every day. So the fact that the knee held up and there was no pain is great."

Sunday's final stage begins in Golden and finishes with circuits near the Colorado State Capitol Building. Dennis, who won Thursday and Friday's stages and finished second on Tuesday and Wednesday, leads Bookwalter by 44 seconds. Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly presented by Maxxis) is third, 91 seconds back.

And this USA Pro Cycling challenge news came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Roman Kreuziger rode to victory on stage 6 to Fort Collins, Colorado. After a full day in the breakaway followed by a well-timed attack and subsequent flat-out chase, Kreuziger was able to outsprint his rivals. “I’m very happy to finally raise my arms”, says the stage winner after, what he describes as difficult days of adjusting to the altitude.

After five tough days for Tinkoff-Saxo at USA Pro Challenge, where the squad has fought to acclimatize to the high altitude racing, Tinkoff-Saxo decided to go for all or nothing, as Roman Kreuziger embarked on a long-distance attack. The effort paid of, as Kreuziger claimed the stage win from a small group.

“I’m very happy to finally raise my arms and win. I haven’t been on top of the podium, since I won Amstel Gold Race, so this is naturally a very special moment. Over here, we had two goals. We missed out during the GC but now we’ve managed to get the stage win that we aimed for. All of us have suffered a lot on the first days as we had to adapt to the altitude, but we kept the morale high and I have personally made good progression. I felt strong today, as if my body was able to cope with the thin air and it’s just great for the entire team that it ends in a win”, says Roman Kreuziger after claiming the stage from the six-strong breakaway.

Roman Kreuzinger wins stage 6

Roman Kreuziger wins stage 6

Adding about the stage win, Kreuziger notes that he decided to opt for an intensive finale rather than waiting for the sprint.

“We were a really good group and we worked well together to keep the peloton behind us. With 25km to go we had a steep climb and we decided to work together instead of starting to attack. It was risky because it meant that everything had to be decided in the absolute finale. So with four kilometers to go I decided to attack and Nathan Brown went with me. I was a bit nervous because he wasn’t pulling that much, while the group behind kept up the chase. But I knew that I had to make the finale as hard as possible”, explains Kreuziger before adding:

“The four guys behind us caught up with us with around 600 meters to go after nearly four k’s of full speed chasing. So everybody was on the limit and I decided to follow straight away, as the first riders started his sprint. He effectively led me out and I started my sprint with 300-400 meters to go. It was a big relief seeing that nobody had passed me, as I crossed the line. It’s an important and hard fought win for the team and I want to use it to keep up the momentum ahead of the Canadian World Tour races that will be my next goal. I’ve had a very hard race program but this win proves that it was not too ambitious and now I want to finish it off in the best way possible”.

Lars Michaelsen, sports director of Tinkoff-Saxo congratulates Kreuziger, as he notes about the team’s approach on the stage.

“We had a crystal clear strategy this morning. We had to put all of our eggs into one basket and go for it in the breakaway. That we ended up winning the stage and fulfilling our goal is something that we couldn’t expect. But from the beginning of the stage I saw the determination that Roman rode with. We had crosswinds from the get go and the team did a good job to ensure that we would have a guy in the front group. It’s a relief to meet our goal for the race on the penultimate stage and we all congratulate Roman for his victory today”, finishes Lars Michaelsen.

Vuelta a España team reports

BMC won the stage and sent this to me:

Marbella, Spain - The BMC Racing Team captured Saturday's opening team time trial at the Vuelta a España as Peter Velits pulled on the first leader's red jersey of the three-week race.

Powering their BMC timemachine TM01s along the flat, 7.4-kilometer course, five BMC Racing Team riders crossed the line in 8:10, one second faster than both runner-up Tinkoff-Saxo and ORICA-GreenEDGE in third.

In taking the victory, the reigning world team time trial champions won their third team time trial of the season while earning their 30th victory of the season. That matches a team record set in both 2013 and 2014.

Receiving the race leader's jersey was a special moment for Velits. The past Slovakian national time trial champion missed much of the first half of the season after undergoing surgery on his left leg for an overuse injury.


BMC on the day's podium

"I am super happy," Velits said. "We did everything perfectly - everything that we spoke about was done to plan. The only thing we did not discuss was who would cross the line first. The last kilometer went so fast, we really did not change position or think about who was going to be first to the line. We just wanted to get to the finish as quickly as possible."

Timing in Saturday evening's event did not count toward individual standings after concerns were raised about the nature of the course. A narrow wooden bridge and dirt and sand on the course led race organizers to only count the time toward team standings.

"The circuit was nice for the people, but it was not nice for the team," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said. "But we have respect for the organization and for this reason we went full gas to try to win. We have the best team, world champions. After the Tour de France, this was a big objective for the team."

Tejay van Garderen, who joins Velits at the Vuelta as two of the six riders on the BMC Racing Team's squad that won the world title last September in Spain, said the team was not going to ride cautiously.

"Being world champions gives us an incentive to put it out on the line and really go for it," van Garderen said. "The tactic we had was perfect. On a course like this, you can't really go much faster with more than five guys. So we picked five guys to bring it to the end and we had the rest just line it out from the start and do a one-kilometer effort."

For the second straight time in a grand tour, the BMC Racing Team took the lead after its opening stage. In July, Rohan Dennis won the Stage 1 individual time trial at the Tour de France.

NOTES: This is the first time a BMC Racing Team rider has led the Vuelta a España ... Velits was also part of the winning team time trial squad when it opened the race in 2010. He also won the Stage 17 individual time trial the same year on his way to finishing third overall ... Joining Velits and van Garderen on the winning squad was Darwin Atapuma, Marcus Burghardt, Alessandro De Marchi, Jempy Drucker, Amaël Moinard, Joey Rosskopf and Samuel Sánchez ... The BMC Racing Team has won seven races in the past seven days: two stages of the Arctic Race of Norway last Saturday and Sunday, the final stage of the Eneco Tour on Sunday and stages of the USA Pro Challenge on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

Here's what LottoNL-Jumbo had to say:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo finished fourth today in the opening team time trial of the Vuelta a España. The team completed the 7.4-kilometre course between Puerto Banus and Marbella in a time of 8 minutes and 18 seconds.

Martijn Keizer was the first Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider to cross the finish line with his Bianchi Aquila CV and conquered the white and blue mountain jersey. BMC was eight seconds faster and won the opening stage of the 70th Vuelta. Slovakian Peter Velits took the race leader's red jersey.

The time differences of the TTT don’t count for the overall, however. That decision was taken earlier this week because of the dangerous characteristics of the course. Therefore several teams didn’t risk their GC ambitions in the team time trial.


LottoNL-Jumbo finishes the stage

Martijn Keizer: “We knew that today was a big opportunity for us,” Keizer said. “We saw the course for the first time on Friday and immediately decided to give everything we had in us. We didn’t hesitate for a second, and approached the time trial very professionally. We were all focused on a good result. This morning, we did three dedicated recons and this is the result. Very nice, especially when you see that we are here with three debutants.”

Keizer is looking forward to start Sunday’s stage in the white combined jersey. “This is a good start and immediately creates additional challenges. We must aim to keep the jersey within the team.”

Coach, Mathieu Heijboer arrived in Spain on Thursday and immediately recognised possibilities when he saw the course. “Sometimes when an opportunitie arises, you have to take it, and today was such a moment. We approached the TTT as we always do, with all the trimmings. Cooling and warming-up procedures, tactics, everything. Before the stage we decided that we wouldn’t ride the TTT with the whole team, because of the narrow roads and the many corners. Despite the discussion we have the impression that many teams went full for it. Bert-Jan Lindeman and George Bennett let the others go pretty early. That was their contribution today. They handled it very well, it was for the team. They know that later on the team will work for them."

Heijboer expects an open race in Sunday’s 165-kilometre stage from Alhaurín de la Torre to Caminito del Rey because there are yet time differences. “Tomorrow, the Vuelta starts over again and we will make a new plan. It’s a good thing to start the race with a jersey on the shoulders of one of our riders.”

Here's Tinkoff-Saxo's report:

Tinkoff-Saxo finished second on the inaugural TTT of the Vuelta a España 2015, just 1 second off the win behind BMC. Although the time differences had been neutralized beforehand, the squad led by Majka and Sagan chose to go full throttle on the tricky parcours. Satisfaction and disappointment go hand in hand after the stage, where Peter Sagan took the green points jersey.

After the opening TTT, Tristan Hoffman, sports director of Tinkoff-Saxo underlines that it is difficult to pinpoint, where the team could have gained a second.

“There was a lot of discussion before the start and all the stakeholders agreed on this solution, where the GC would be neutralized. But the victory was still on the line and we chose to go full gas just as we had done on the recon. I have to say chapeau to the boys, they performed very well and rode a very good TTT. We’re glad that we beat Orica by a fraction and then we were in the hot seat”, tells Tristan Hoffman and adds: “We all wanted to secure this win so when BMC finished just under a second faster than us, we were naturally very disappointed. However, we are very satisfied with the performance and this start. It’s difficult to identify, where we could have gained that extra second as the squad went at full intensity throughout the route”.


Peter Sagan leads Tinkoff-Saxo across the line in the Vuelta's first stage.

Despite missing out on the, always, prestigious team time trial win, Rafal Majka remains optimistic.

“Although the time-trial was neutralized and doesn't count towards the GC, our plan was to give our best and fight for the win. We didn't want to take any unnecessary risks but at the same time we weren't there to take an easy ride. Congratulations to the entire squad for the great effort they put today on that tricky and technical course. We missed the first spot for less than a second but that is just the start of a long and tough Vuelta”, comments Rafal Majka after the 7.4km time trial from Puerto Banús to Marbella.

Tinkoff-Saxo has now effectively embarked on the challenging 2015 Vuelta a España, where the race sends the riders inland and uphill for stage 2.

“As the disappointment settles, we of course focus on the fact that today’s performance shows that our riders have come to the start of the race in a good shape and that they have done their homework. Tomorrow will be very different and very hard. Our approach is still that we will take the race day by day and see where we are. But for tomorrow, we will work for Rafal and protect him, as the route and finish in particular is demanding”, finishes Tristan Hoffman.

Here's the Lampre-Merida news:

At 8:08 pm local time Lampre-Merida started its Vuelta a Espana 2015.

It was in fact the moment in which the blue-fuchsia-team (101- Plaza, 102- Cattaneo, 103- Conti, 104- Durasek, 105- Grmay, 106-Niemiec, 107- Oliveira, 108- Richeze, 109- Koshevoy) left on their Merids Warp TT bikes the start platform of the team time trial, 7.4 km from Puerto Banus to Marbella.

The times recorded in this first stage were not valid for the individual general classification, anyway they were useful for assigning the individual leaders jerseys of the classifications.

Lmapre-Merida covered the course in 8min 38sec, a performance that put the team in 12th place.

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