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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Monday, August 24, 2015

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

One race today, the Vuelta a España's third stage.

Vincenzo Nibali tossed from Vuelta a España

Here's the Reuters report:

The Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali, the 2014 winner of the Tour de France, has been disqualified from the Vuelta a España after he got a tow from his Astana team car following a crash in Sunday’s second stage into Caminito del Rey. Television footage clearly showed Nibali, who won the Vuelta in 2010, hanging on to the car as he tried to catch up with the leaders in the final 30km and organisers had no choice but to expel him.

“Basing their decision on television images clearly showing an infringement of the rules, the Vuelta race commissaires decided to take him out of the race,” organisers said in a statement.

“The film shows clearly that Nibali was clinging to the car for 200 metres,” added Bruno Valcic, the president of the race commissaires.

Video of Nibali getting a tow from team car

Astana’s director, Alexandre Shefer, who was driving the car, is also out of the race, he said. “It was a tough decision for the commissaires’ panel but after looking at the images it was clear that we had no opportunity to give any other penalty to the rider.”

The stage went better for Colombia’s Orica-GreenEdge as their rider Esteban Chaves snatched the early lead when he surged clear at the finish. Chaves pipped the Dutchman Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin to the line in the 158.7km trek by one second, with Team Sky’s Nicolas Roche a further eight seconds back in third. Chris Froome, the 2015 Tour de France winner who is going for a rare Tour-Vuelta double, was seventh, 30 seconds behind Chaves.

“We talked among ourselves and how to deal with everyone around us and the main thing to do was to attack these guys so that’s what we did,” Chaves said.

“I felt like I was in a good position and in the end I did it and I got this [red] jersey. At this point I’ve just got to keep going and be happy about this day and think about tomorrow.”

Nibali's response:

Nibali believed under the circumstances, following a crash, his getting a tow was justified. Here is a Google translation of the article in La Gazzetta dello Sport in which he explains his actions:

The Vuelta of Vincenzo Nibali is already over, his pride remains intact. The Italian champion, expelled from the Spanish stage race for having made tow from the team after being dropped to the second stage, it is vented into the night on Facebook. He apologizes, but believes excessive criticism received and also the decision of the judges.

OUTBURST - Here are some excerpts (partly re-written) of the outburst of Vincenzo Nibali: "For what happened today I apologize publicly to all those who are outraged and ashamed for me (...) Cycling is a passion, love, days away from family with grueling workouts, too many sacrifices that start at the age of about 16 years! What happened today in the Vuelta happens in every race: this is not to prove that it is wrong and I have to go unpunished! The just punishment to be served dictate the judges. (...) One year gone wrong for many reasons: Arrival at the Vuelta with the desire for redemption after a season infamous, I find myself at the first stage with the butt on the ground, you get up again helped by a companion hoping not signing hurt, you look in the wounds left on the asphalt hot and circles your bike was destroyed, panic and chaos in the group, starting late ... ... too much, to the point that when I go back on my I bike a delay of 1'20 ", I sling pursuit without fear, without water, alone, slowly gain ground and find my companions waiting for me a long way (...), I go to see that I have not done anything, up to the mistake that cost me a dear driven 150 meters so many are quick to throw mud (returned because it is attached ...). No one stresses that fell, that was attacked, which is alone in pursuit against 18 racers that push the whole front! (...) In cycling the race is run, no one is waiting for you! In cycling episodes like these there are many, even more so after a fall! In the end all I thought: a hefty fine to pay and a penalty as they do to stay off the charts! I also accepted a penalty of ten minutes! After all I will not be the first nor the last of this story. I apologize again for having stolen some time and with the support or not you give me."

Vattenfall Cyclassics team reports

Here's Lotto-Soudal's happy release:

This year, the 20th edition of the Vattenfall Cyclassics was organised. The start was given in Kiel, the finish was in Hamburg after a race of 221.3 kilometres. The riders had to surmount the Waseberg three times in the final 70 kilometres. Four riders set up a break: Barta, Bono, Mortensen and Dowsett. At about 40 kilometres from the finish they were caught and after that there were some new attempts to escape, it actually never stopped since then. Especially on the final ascent of the Waseberg a few riders tried to get away to avoid the expected bunch sprint. But no one was able to make a big gap. Also at the end there were a few late attempts but a bunch sprint was coming up, due to the good control of the sprint teams.

André Greipel was the best after again a very nice performance of him and the team. Kristoff finished second, Nizzolo third. It’s already the fifteenth victory for the Gorilla this season, he is still in a great shape, just like during the Tour de France. But it’s his first win in the Vattenfall Cyclassics, the only WorldTour race in his homeland. The German of Lotto Soudal is of course very happy with his victory.

Andre Greipel wins 2015 Vattenfall Cyclassics

André Greipel wins 2015 Vattenfall Cyclassics

André Greipel: “We already tried it a few times to win this race, I’m so glad it finally worked out. Although, the race didn’t start so well. I crashed in the beginning of the stage. I wanted to take a sanitary stop, but a guy behind me didn’t see me and hit me in the back. It was without speed, but still painful. Also Greg, Jens and Jürgen hit the ground. For the finale we were four guys down. But I could still rely on Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot and Marcel Sieberg.”

“As usual it all came down to the last ascent of the Waseberg, that’s crucial for the difference between winning and losing. We controlled as much as we could and all maintained a good position on the climb. Before the sprint I talked to my teammates, it was really important to be in a good position with three kilometres to go. I trusted them to help me. Sibi put me on the wheel of Kristoff and I was happy to have the legs to pass him by. This is the first time I won a one-day WorldTour race, so this is really special. Certainly because it’s in my home country. I won’t compare it to winning a Tour stage for example, I’m just very proud I could win this race.”

Cult Energy had this to say about the German race:

Cult Energy Pro Cycling were given a wildcard to participate in the German modern one-day classic, Vattenfall Cyclassic and the Danish based team returned the favor by riding the way, they do best; aggressively and on the front. In the anticipated bunch sprint, Rasmus Guldhammer took another top result in his pocket by finishing 10th in the 20th edition of the German race.

Martin Mortensen participated in the initial breakaway, which lasted a long way and the tenaciously animating Cult Energy rider was one of the last riders to be swept up by the field with 30 kilometers to go.

Linus Gerdemann

Linus Gerdemann

In the counter-attack, Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Linus Gerdemann leaped up the road and created a gap to the chasing bunch but he was caught with 10 kilometers to go. The sprinter teams were doing their very best to keep the bunch in one piece but the attacks were flying from all sides throughout the entire finale but Lotto-Soudal eventually swept every single rider up before the finish.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Rasmus Guldhammer pocketed another good result by claiming 10th in the furious bunch sprint. André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) won ahead of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha).

DS, André Steensen was all smiles after the race: "We always go for the win no matter what race and who the competitors are and Martin hit the right break and was riding really well out there. Unfortunately but rather expectedly, the break was caught but Martin's attempt was followed up by another powerful attack by Linus. When he was caught everyone was protecting Fabian and Rasmus preparing for the bunch sprint. Unfortunately, Fabian was stopped by the crash with two kilometers to go but Rasmus managed to follow through and took 10th. Having animated the race and finishing in the top-10, I can only be satisfied with the result and I'm fully content with the effort from the boys. Realistically, we achieved what we hoped for," concluded Steensen.

Vuelta a España team news

BMC reports Marcus Burghardt forced to withdraw from Vuelta:

Malaga, Spain - Injuries sustained in a crash Sunday will prevent BMC Racing Team's Marcus Burghardt from starting Stage 3 of the Vuelta a España Monday. Burghardt badly hurt his left knee and suffered facial injuries in the crash, BMC Racing Team Dr. Daniele Zaccaria said.

"X-rays proved negative," Dr. Zaccaria said, "but he had swelling on his knee that we tried to manage during the night. This morning it was getting worse, so we made the decision for him not to start. He will go home now for further investigation and treatment."

The crash happened on a high-speed descent with less than 30 kilometers to go in Sunday's stage. An earlier pile-up of more than two dozen riders just a few kilometers before did not involve anyone from the BMC Racing Team.

Marcus Burghardt

Marcus Burghardt at this year's Tour of Poland

Burghardt said it was extremely frustrating not to be able to continue, particularly after being part of Sunday's winning team time trial. This is his first withdrawal from a grand tour in 10 starts.

"I am someone who is always trying to get on the bike. But with this swelling and pain, it is impossible," he said. "I went from heaven - when we won the team time trial with the guys - all the way down to the ground 24 hours later. Having to leave my first grand tour makes me super sad."

Burghardt finished his only other Vuelta a España appearance 10 years ago, then competed in seven Tours de France, winning a stage in the 2008 edition and helping Cadel Evans take the overall title in 2011. Earlier this year, he placed 70th in the Giro d'Italia.

Here's Orica-GreenEdge's report:

Colombian Esteban Chaves has won the second stage of the Vuelta a Espana, the biggest win of his young career, to move into the race lead today. The 25-year-old traded blows with fellow attackers on the final 2.5km climb to the first summit finish of the 2015 Tour.

Eventually he proved too strong for Tom Dumoulin (Giant Alpecin) in the final metres to claim the victory and a five-second overall lead for ORICA-GreenEDGE.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” an ecstatic Chaves said. “I want to say thanks to all of my teammates, all the staff, this is unbelievable. It’s really important. It’s the most important victory of my life. The first road stage of the Vuelta and to take the red jersey… it’s unbelievable.

“The team have all the confidence in me and they did the best today. Thank you mates!”

When asked if he can keep the race lead, the 2014 Tour de Suisse and Tour of California stage winner produced his trademark big smile and some fighting words. “I hope!” he laughed.

“I want to leave skin on the road to keep the red jersey. This is the reason I am a rider, I will try to stay in front for as long as possible. We worked really hard after the Giro d’Italia and after Suisse and this is the compensation.”

Adding to the reward, Chaves also leads the green sprint classification, mountain polka dot jersey and white combination competition.

Johan Cjaves

Johan Esteban Chaves wins the Vuelta's second stage

Sharing Chaves’ joy was a thrilled Neil Stephens. “It was a really good job from the boys,” the sport director said. “The plan was for them to leave Esteban in an ideal position with four kilometres to go and they did a really good job with that.”

“The real priority was to stay around the mark with the general classification guys but I had a chat with him this morning and said at any time throughout the Vuelta there is going to be situations that could also be a possibility for a stage win and to take the initiative.

“That’s something only he can do and he rode really smart in the final there.”

Stephens credited the climber’s hard work and dedication; particularly having returned from a near career ending injury just two years ago. “At 500m to go I said to Esteban ‘I know how hard you have worked for this’ and to take advantage of the situation," Stephens said. “He knows how much he has worked for it, I think a lot of people know how much he has had to work for it and it is just great that he can take the benefit today.”

How it unfolded: The first road stage stayed together for the first 20km racing before a group of six formed the first breakaway of the 2015 Vuelta a Espana.

Covering 41.2km in the first hour of racing the break’s advantage remained steady at a little over three minutes. Team Sky and Movistar could be seen at the head of the peloton keeping safe and maintaining an acceptable distance to the leaders. With 60km to go Team Katusha joined the party and the gap began to tumble before five of the six were caught with aorund 25km to go. José Gonçalves (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) held on for little longer before he was also swallowed up.

A late attack, initiated by Nairo Quintana (Team Movistar), looked dangerous and sensing the danger, Chaves bridged across with three kilometres remaining. Quintana subsequently lost contact as Chaves exchanged blows with Dumoulin and Nicholas Roache (Team Sky). Roache was the first to crack before a last ditched effort to the line saw Chaves get the better of Dumoulin.

Tomorrow’s stage three is the first of few opportunities identified by organisers as a sprint stage, however it’s far from guaranteed. Standing strongly in the way of a bunch kick is a tough 16km mid-race category one with an average of 5.2% and ramps of up to 15%

Tinkoff-Saxo relates the team's bad luck in the stage:

Four Tinkoff-Saxo riders including GC captain Rafal Majka were involved in the big crash on stage 2 of La Vuelta. With the bunch going into the undulating stage finale at speed, the pile up meant that Rafal Majka had to expend energy backed by his remaining teammates to bridge up to the diminishing group of favorites. Esteban Chaves took the win, while Majka finished 22nd.

“We had some bad luck today. I went down together with Brutt, Bennati and Sagan, when the big crash happened. I was able to get going rather quickly and I stayed in the second group until we came back with 14 kilometers to go. Together with my teammates, I had to spend energy to get back. Still I’m happy because I escaped almost unharmed from the crash and I didn’t lose big amounts of time”, says Rafal Majka after finishing 22nd, 1’04” behind stage winner Chaves.

“I was not super on the last steep climb but it’s my first race after the Tour and it’s definitely not easy with a finish like this after one month without racing. I’ve been at altitude and I’ve been training a lot, but it’s impossible to simulate these situations so I look forward to getting back to race speed during the coming days”, adds Majka.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka on the final climb of stage 2

Stage 2 of La Vuelta a España took the riders 158.7km to the finish at Caminito del Rey, where the favorites and those gunning for a stage win had to cope with a short but steep final climb. Tristan Hoffman, team sports director, notes:

“The status after today is that we had four guys involved in the crash. Mainly Pavel Brutt, Peter Sagan and Daniele Bennati, while also Rafal Majka, our leader, crashed. Rafal was, however, able to get back on the bike and continue faster than the others, as they had to wait for new bikes. The injuries are not bad, they have some bruises and Rafal has a wound on his knee, but we are not worried. Of course, Rafal had to fight to get back to the main group up front and he had the support from the rest of the squad”.

“Unfortunately, he lost some time on some of the favorites, while Chaves, Roche and Dumoulin were further up the road. I think it was a combination of the crash and the fact that Rafal still needs some days to adjust after a race break since the Tour. Overall, it was not super and it was not bad. We believe that Rafal will get better and better, as the race progresses and we aim to have him at a level, where he will be competitive against the other favorites”, finishes Tristan Hoffman.

Here's what LottoNL-Jumbo had to report about Vuelta stage 2:

Bert-Jan Lindeman formed part of the escape in Sunday’s second stage of the Vuelta a España and put his sights on the mountain jersey, but missed out on the prize. The stage finished on top of the Alto de la Mesa, where Esteban Chaves of Orica-Green Edge won. The Colombian took the overall lead with his win.

“I started with ambitions today,” Lindeman said. “The first 40 minutes we’re really hard. As a team, we rode strongly by attacking one by one. I was lucky to make it into the break, it easily could have been of one the other guys. The plan was to conquer the mountain jersey, but it was just not in me.”

Bert-Jan Lindemann

Bert-Jan Lindeman at the the 2012 Besseges race.

George Bennett led LottoNL-Jumbo home with a 27th place on the stage. “The team was awesome today. They protected me all day and ensured that I could start the final climb in a good position. There were many crashes, but we missed most of them. On the final climb, I was just behind Froome’s wheel, but when they started sprinting, I couldn’t follow and I lost some time. I think I’ll do better on the long climbs.”

Martijn Keizer went into the stage with the white combination jersey. "The boys said it was a miracle that they got through unscathed. Martijn ended up on top of a pile of riders, but fortunately, it was a harmless spill. In that respect, it was a good day.”

The day was crazy, according to Sports Director Erik Dekker. Just like Saturday. “Yes, they were two strange days. Yesterday was special because the time difference didn’t count and today, the racing was very aggressive right from the start. You do not see that too often during the first day of a grand tour. Everyone felt that there was something to win today.

“Not all of the favourites were equally strong. Bouhanni crashed and Degenkolb has a team-mate, Dumoulin, who’s overall second. In short, with an eye on tomorrow, there are still many questions. With Tom Van Asbroeck, we have a fast man for the sprint, but all the ingredients are there for a breakaway to survive because of the profile of tomorrow’s stage, with an early third-cat climb and first-cat climb in the middle.”

BMC's USA Pro Cycling Challenge report:

Denver, Colorado - Rohan Dennis won the overall of the USA Pro Challenge Sunday as teammate Brent Bookwalter claimed runner-up honors and the BMC Racing Team took home the team title for the third straight year.

BMC Racing Team's Taylor Phinney, who won the opening stage and led the race for a day, finished runner-up to John Murphy (UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team) on the final stage in Denver.

Dennis won two stages, was runner-up on two others and took home the "king of the mountains" title. He became the first non-American to win the race in its five-year history. He bested Bookwalter - who won Tuesday's mountain-top finish and led the race for two days - by 40 seconds. Rob Britton (Team SmartStop) was third, at 91 seconds.

"I had a lot of fun this week and hopefully I can come back next year and do it again," Dennis said. "I have to take my hat off to the team. They never put any pressure on me. I came here to help Brent originally, then found my legs, and ended up taking the yellow jersey. I have to thank him for quietly supporting me for the general classification."


From left: Taylor Phinney, Brent Bookwalter, Kilian Frankiny, Manuel Senni, Rohan Dennis, Peter Stetina, Michael Schär and Damiano Caruso

Bookwalter, who has finished runner-up in two other week-long stage races since joining the BMC Racing Team in 2008, called it the best performance of his career, highlighted by his solo win on Tuesday's mountain-top finish at Arapahoe Basin.

"Personally, it was a good, diverse week for me," he said. "But really, the highlight was the way the team rode. It was a team effort from everyone like the young guys - Manuel Senni and Kilian Frankiny - to our road captain, Michael Schär - to Rohan and me, Taylor, Pete Stetina and Damiano Caruso - who are some of the more experienced guys. Everyone was doing their job and having a lot of fun doing it."

Dennis's victory was the BMC Racing Team's 31st of the season, bettering the team-record 30 victories achieved in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. It was also the ninth win in nine days for the team that had won the USA Pro Challenge with Tejay van Garderen the past two years.

Dennis has six individual victories to his credit this year - including a win in the opening stage time trial of the Tour de France. He also had a hand in team time trial wins at the Tour de France and the Critérium du Dauphiné.

"We had a couple days of training before the race and saw how strong Rohan was and how well Brent was riding," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Jackson Stewart said. "So we knew Rohan would be really strong in Friday's time trial. But to finish first and second overall this week? I don't think anyone had planned for that. So to have it happen was great."

Notes: The BMC Racing Team finished 1-2 at the USA Pro Challenge for the second time in the past three years. In 2013, Tejay van Garderen took the win ahead of teammate Mathias Frank ... The BMC Racing Team finished two riders on the podium on four of the seven stages and at least one in all but Saturday's stage ... Bookwalter had previously finished runner-up at the Tour of Qatar and the Tour of Alberta, both in 2013 ... Dennis has won four one-week races in his career: Thüringen Rundfahrt in 2012, the Tour of Alberta (ahead of Bookwalter) in 2013 and the Santos Tour Down Under this January ... Van Garderen did not defend his back-to-back titles won in 2013 and 2014, opting instead to compete in the Vuelta a España ... Dennis chipped a tooth in the team's champagne celebration. "I went for another drink and someone on the team accidentally hit the bottle. It smashed into my front teeth and knocked out one of the fillings I have had for about 20 years," Dennis said.

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