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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Thursday, February 19, 2015

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Former World Champion Claude Criquielion Dies

1984 professional world road champion Claude Criquielion died today after suffering a stroke a few days before. He was only 58 years old.

Criquielion had a wonderful career, first as a successful road man then as a team manager. On the road he not only won the 1984 world road championships, but also triumphed at the 1987 Tour of Flanders and twice (1985 and 1989) at La Flèche Wallone.

Claude Criquielion

Claude Criquielion racing the 1984 world championships in Belgian colors.

He came close to winning a second rainbow jersey in 1989, but almost at the line he and Canadian Steve Bauer crashed allowing Maurizio Fondriest to become world champion. Criquielion sued Bauer but Bauer won the case.

After retiring from road racing he went on the manage the Lotto-Adecco team from 2000 to 2004.

Two managers on the Lotto-Soudal team knew him and had this to say about Criquielion:

Kurt Van de Wouwer said, “Claude was my sports director in the Lotto – Adecco team from 2000 until 2002. He was calm, as a person and in his role as sports director. Claude had loads of experience, in one-day races and stage races. I had ambitions in the stage races and of course he taught me a lot. The news that he had a stroke was unexpected.”

Marc Sergeant had this to say, “I knew Claude pretty well. We were teammates at Hitachi – Bosal in 1988 and 1989 and later he became sports director in the Lotto team. Claude was a kind man and the riders in the peloton liked him. At first he was considered to be a GC rider, but I saw him turn into a classic rider. His results prove that he was conscientious about his cycling career. I remember that he was one of the only riders with a bigger gear in the Tour of Flanders 1987, because he knew there would be backwind from the Bosberg on. He won that race.”

“He won the World Championships in Barcelona 1984, but I think losing the World Championships in Ronse 1988 had a big influence on the rest of his career. Claude was a fantastic person and a great rider. He meant a lot for Belgian and international cycling. On behalf of the riders, staff and sponsors of Lotto Soudal I want to offer our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Tour of Oman, Stage 2

BMC sent this summary of the Tour of Oman's second stage:

Al Bustan, Oman - BMC Racing Team's Greg Van Avermaet matched his best result of the season Wednesday with third place in the uphill finish of Stage 2 at the Tour of Oman. Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) overtook Van Avermaet just before the finish line and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) edged him out for runner-up as a group of 19 riders came to the line together at the end of the 195.5-kilometer race.

Fabian Cancellara wins stage 2

Fabian Cancellara wins Tour of Oman stage 2.

The BMC Racing Team had three other riders besides Van Avermaet in the leading group: Damiano Caruso, Ben Hermans and Tejay van Garderen.

"We tried to do a good lead out for me," Van Avermaet said. "But maybe it was not fast enough. With 200 meters to go, Daniel Moreno (Team Katusha) passed me and I tried to catch his wheel. And then I started my sprint full gas with 200 meters to go. I thought at that moment I could win the stage. But in the last few meters, Fabian passed me. That is a big disappointment for me because I was thinking of the win and winning for the team."

Cancellara assumed the race lead while Van Avermaet is fourth, six seconds behind. Caruso is sixth, 10 seconds back, and van Garderen is ninth, also 10 seconds off the lead.

Sport Director Valerio Piva said it was encouraging to see so many BMC Racing Team riders figure in the final. Hermans and van Garderen each followed attacks on the last two climbs of the day while earlier Dylan Teuns helped with the chase of a three-man breakaway. "I am happy with the performance of our team," Piva said. "We still have some days to try for the win again.

Van Avermaet, who was also third on Stage 2 last week at the Tour of Qatar, agreed. "I think we did good work and everyone is in good shape," he said. "We will try to win a stage in the next few days."

And here's Tinkoff-Saxo's Oman second stage report:

"Tinkoff-Saxo’s GC captain Rafal Majka took an important step in the overall classification on stage 2 of Tour of Oman. The 195km stage finished off with a roaring pace within the last kilometers with two steep ramps that sparked an array of attacks dropping several race favorites. Majka finished 7th, while Peter Sagan crossed the line as 5th in a decimated front group of 18 riders. Fabian Cancellara proved the fastest on the line.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka wearing the leader's jersey in the 2014 Tour of Poland

"Rafal Majka’s 7th place on the stage means that he moves to 11th overall, just 6 seconds behind 2nd place and closest GC rival Alejandro Valverde. Sean Yates, leading sport director in Oman, was happy to see Rafal Majka perform in his first race of the season despite the fast finish that put the peloton in the hurt zone.

“I’m pleased with Rafal’s performance today. It’s his second day of racing in 2015, which shows how well he has prepared. It’s important for the overall classification as several GC favorites were dropped today”, says Sean Yates, before going into details with the stage:

“It was tough finish. The peloton caught the breakaway in the absolute finale after hammering over the first of the two finishing climbs. It really put a large part of the field under severe pressure and the peloton was split on the second climb as the favorites started attacking. Peter and Rafal received great support from the team and did what they had to in following these attacks”.

"Rafal Majka started this year's edition of Tour of Oman coming straight from a team training camp on Tenerife. He reckons that his ground work has laid a good foundation: "I've been riding a lot during the winter getting kilometers into the legs on the roads around my home in Poland. And since the start of December I've been on three training camps with my team, where we've focused on building a strong basis for the entire year. I feel good and I'm confident at the moment, and I especially look forward to the mountain stage", said Rafal Majka.

"Stage 2 took the riders 195km from Al Hazm Castle to Al Bustan. A four man breakaway went early on the stage and their efforts resulted in an 8-minute advantage over the peloton halfway through the stage. However, several teams including Tinkoff-Saxo worked hard on the second part of the stage and reeled in the escapees with 5k to go. After multiple attacks on the final climb, an 18-man group broke free and faced the battle for stage glory, which Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) won.

“Breschel, Rovny and Beltran worked hard to bring back the breakaway and to position our two leaders. Of course, Peter is not satisfied with being 5th on the stage, as he would normally win a stage like this. But I believe it’s time to give him a short respite from having to compete for stage wins on every single stage to let him recuperate properly after his crash in Qatar. We have an ambitious setup in 2015 and we want the wins, but we must take a bit of pressure off his shoulders”, comments Sean Yates, who now look ahead to the GC-battle on Green Mountain: “We’re going to take it easy tomorrow, which is a day for the sprinters. On Friday we have the real deal up the slopes of Green Mountain, where Rafal will come to the fore to really test himself against strong competitors such as Valverde, Van Garderen and Arredondo after having distanced Nibali, Rodriguez and several other big names in the GC. Rafal is motivated and I think it will be a very exciting stage”.

Trofeo Laigueglia

As if the racing calender weren't full enough with the Tour of Oman, Volta ao Algarve and the Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta del Sol going on right now, The big-time single-day Trofeo Laigueglia (HC) is today (Thursday the 19th).

The Cult Energy team sent this release regarding the Italian race:

"Thursday February 19th, Cult Energy Pro Cycling will participate in Trofeo Laigueglia – an Italian one-day race covering 191.8 kilometers near the Eastern seaboard in Liguria. Throughout the years, the race has been dominated by Italian riders but once in a while, other nationalities have taken glory like Eddy Merckx in 1973 and 1974, Rolf Sørensen in 1990 and 1994 and Luxembourgian, Kim Kirchen in 2005.

Jose Serpa

José Serpa winning the 2014 Trofeo Laigueglia

"Last year, José Serpa took the win after staying on the wheel of his breakaway companion, Patrick Sinkewitz for the last 5 kilometers of the race.
Cult Energy Pro Cycling DS, Michael Skelde says, “Laigueglia is a race that suits us well. There are several small climbs from 2-5 kilometers in lengths just like the climbs in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The final in Laigueglia is tough, but it often ends with a small front group sprint for victory. Just like in Etruschi, I hope we have several cards to play in the finale, which traditionally is  fairly disorganized because only a few teams have more than one rider in the front group. We hope that we seize the opportunity in the finale and get the maximum out of it. For me the win isn’t all-important. I’ll mainly focus on our riding style and approach in gerenal. It’s important that we stick to the plan and the victories will come eventually.”

"Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s line-up in the race: Linus Gerdemann, Gustav Larsson, Rasmus Guldhammer, Michael Reihs, Troels Vinter, Fabian Wegmann, Joel Zangerle and Christian Mager."

Lotto-Soudal on Ruta del Sol

This came in from Lotto-Soudal:

"This afternoon Pim Ligthart won the first stage of the Ruta del Sol. It was his second win of 2015, after his victory in the GP la Marseillaise, and the fourth one of Lotto Soudal. The final kilometres were hectic with big crashes. Pim was the only Lotto Soudal rider who wasn’t involved in those crashes. He became the first GC leader.

Pim Ligthart

Pim Ligthart climbs during this year's Etoile de Besseges

"The first stage took the riders from La Rábida to Hinojo over a distance of 118.3 kilometres. The peloton started slowly and let four riders get away. Teams like Tinkoff – Saxo, Giant – Alpecin and Movistar controlled the gap and the leaders never had an advantage of more three minutes. With less than forty kilometres to go the escapees were reeled in, the sign for Sander Helven to attack. He couldn’t stay ahead either and a compact bunch rode towards the finish in Hinojo. But two big crashes inside the final ten kilometres caused splits in the peloton. Six Lotto Soudal riders were involved. Only Pim Ligthart was still on his bike, he attacked and won. That’s how he became the first leader in this 61st edition of the Ruta del Sol.

Pim Ligthart: “Of course I’m happy! The season couldn’t have started better. After winning the GP La Marseillaise it’s my second victory of the season. With the big crash at four kilometres from the end there were only twenty riders left in front. I looked around and saw that the sprinters were isolated. I jumped at the right moment, took twenty metres and didn’t look behind me until the finish line.”

“It’s bad news that I’m the only one who escaped the big crash. The other six riders of our team crashed or had to stop. We can forget about any GC ambitions. We’ll see what the damage is and then we have to change our tactics. Tomorrow and Sunday there might be more sprint opportunities.”

Servaas Bingé, team doctor Lotto Soudal: “Louis Vervaeke probably has a concussion. It was impossible for him to start in the time trial. The others only have abrasions and bruises. Tim Wellens, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Maxime Monfort have the least consequences. We have to wait and see how the situation evolves for Jelle Vanendert and Bart De Clercq. Bart has a sore knee and elbow. Probably there will be more tests later tonight to rule out any possible fractures.”

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