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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Tuesday, February 24, 2015

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Les Woodland's Report on the 2015 Track World Championships

Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

Writer Les Woodland sent me this note about his trip to the 2015 UCI Track World Championships at the Vélodrome de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, in the Paris metro area. He kindly let me share it with BikeRaceInfo readers. Les is one of cycling's most accomplished writers. At the top right of this page is a link to get his book on Paris-Roubaix, in print, ebook or audio versions. Also, his Tour of Flanders book (Amazon link to the right side here) is just terrific.

Les' report:

Just back last night after five days in Paris. And what a superb time it was, not just for the superb track, the wonderful racing but because le jour de gloire est arrivé for France, with five gold medals.

The last two were in the last hour, too, so you can imagine the atmosphere at the track.

The track’s been there only a year. It’s 250m long and two metres wider than usual. It not only looks perfect but riders say it rides the same way, that it’s safe to at least 90kmh behind pacers.

There were brief problems with condensation, though. Every seat was sold for every session and the temperature inside the track was said to be 35 (95F) and that outside around zero (32F). I thought at first that the roof was leaking, which was a problem when Manchester was built, but Paris has outside windows so that we could see that it wasn’t raining. There was nothing that couldn’t be sorted out with towels and a mop, though.

The madison was the best I’ve ever seen, 50km at nearly 38kmh, I think. Little Brian Coquard, the road sprinter with the Johnny Rotten (Sex Pistols) haircut, has a startling turn of speed. Not another Patrick Sercu but the fastest on the track.

There was a long piece in Le Figaro about riders who ride for gold but without silver, meaning that French trackies are among the best in the world but that they get no money. Coquard was named as one of the track riders who’s turned to the road just to make a living. François Pervis and Grégory Bauge don’t have sponsors and Pervis said the only time he was paid to ride a bike was the two years he spent with Cofidis. Otherwise he has to scrape money together like an old-style amateur, and he went to Japan to ride keirins not for the experience but to make ends meet. Baugé gets by with some sort of job at the local council.

Gregory Bauge

Grégory Bauge

The paper pointed out that it’s a far stretch from the way the British treat their best riders, who are paid a good wage and have no money problems. But maybe even that has its downside: Britain, once the big beast of the jungle, won not a single gold medal throughout the championships and I see that the new coach there has accused some riders of not being hungry enough.

In the madison, only two teams lost a lap, being simply lapped rather than being pushed down by teams that took a lap. The first was New Zealand, which pulled out around mid-distance, and the second was the British pair. To go from the best in the world to finding the race just too fast was bad enough in itself but Jason Kenny went out in the first or second round of the sprint, I think. The British reckon they’ll come right for the Olympics in Rio but you wonder how much they’re whistling in the wind. There’s certainly no Boardman, Pennington or Hoy in their ranks at the moment.

Of the Americans, I’d say they put up good workmanlike rides even if they never really got anywhere. I think one won a medal – Sarah Hammer, if I remember right – but otherwise they were among the better also-rans. Room for improvement there as well, perhaps.

Het Nieuwsblad Classic is this Weekend

Het Nieuwsblad, the first of the Belgian classics is this weekend. Here's what the teams have sent me about their plans:

LottoNL-Jumbo sent this:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo set for opening classics weekend. Sep Vanmarcke’s time to harvest has arrived as the spring classics start this weekend. The robust Belgian Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider hopes to kick off his campaign with good results in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

“I’ve been able to prepare myself properly in the Volta ao Algarve,” Vanmarcke said. “It was a perfect race. The weather was great and the course tough. I even made it into a breakaway one day. I purposely dropped out after a while, so that I could get in the mix in the final, as well. I was specifically training for the classics.”

Vanmarcke knows what awaits him. “The Omloop and Kuurne are two completely different races. The Omloop is an open race, which often sees many attacks. The strongest rider doesn’t always win because of the tactical battle.

“Kuurne often ends in a sprint. I hope for bad weather on Sunday so that it will be a real race. My most important races are scheduled later, but I feel that I’m going to be good this weekend. I’m ready.”

“Sep is our man for the classics,” Sports Director Nico Verhoeven said. “He looked strong in the Algarve, and he’s surrounded by a group of riders that can support him very well.”

Vanmarcke won the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in 2012. “And last year he finished fourth”, Verhoeven recalled. “We aim for the best possible result. Obviously, that’s winning, but last Sunday we were also pleased with Tom Van Asbroeck’s second place in the Algarve, for example. For us, that was the best result possible at that moment. As a team, we’re going to make sure that Sep can ride the best race possible.”

Tom Van Asbroeck is more than ready to assist his compatriot and teammate in the Omloop. “Sep worked extremely hard for me in the Volta ao Algarve,” said the Belgian, who ended the Portuguese stage race with a second place in Sunday’s final stage. “I want to repay him this weekend, for everything he did for me.”

Kuurne finish

2014 Kuurne finish

Moreno Hofland crossed the line in second place last year in Kuurne, behind Tom Boonen. The young Dutchman is confident for Sunday after the Ruta del Sol.  “I count on wind and rain and expect some real racing in the hilly zone. I hope to make it into the final with a few of my teammates. I obviously hope to fight for victory again.”   

Verhoeven knows what makes his team a contender in Kuurne. “We have several riders who can join the battle for the win. With Tom and Moreno, we have two fast men, while Sep knows how to handle a hard race.”

Team line-up Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Tom van Asbroeck, Jos van Emden, Tom Leezer, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii, Sep Vanmarcke, Robert Wagner and Maarten Wynants.

Sports Directors:
Jan Boven and Nico Verhoeven.

Team Sky Lineup (looks like there's some real power here):

Team Sky has confirmed its rider line-up for Omloop Het Nieuwsbald.

Bradley Wiggins

Sky rider Bradley Wiggins after winning the 2014 World Individual Time Trial Championship

Bernhard Eisel, Andy Fenn, Christian Knees, Salvatore Puccio, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Chris Sutton & Sir Bradley Wiggins

Giant-Alpecin Plans For Het Nieuwsblad Classic:

Team Giant-Alpecin will line up for its first semi-classic of the season this weekend at the 70th edition of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, in Belgium.

Back in 2014, Zico Waeytens (BEL) finished 15th here and he returns to line-up for his first Belgium classic with Team Giant-Alpecin. Waeytens is joined by Nikias Arndt (GER) who showed strong form in the crosswinds at the Tour of Qatar, together with Bert De Backer (BEL), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Tom Stamsnijder (NED) and Albert Timmer (NED) all of whom raced in the echelons in the desert.

Roy Curvers (NED) will be the team's captain on the road, and he completes the line-up together with the experience of Koen de Kort (NED). "After a good period of preparation in training and racing over the last few months we are ready for the start of the classics season in Belgium," confirmed coach Rudi Kemna (NED). "With the line-up we bring here we have a strong unit and making the most of this overall strength will be important for us on Saturday. We will favour the strength of the collective rather than designating one leader.

"To stay in control we will look towards being in the important breaks so as to not waste energy needlessly ahead of the final. Then late on we hope to use all of our personal strengths together to go for a strong result."

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite (UCI 1.HC) DATE 28/02/2015


Rudi Kemna (NED)

Nikias Arndt (GER)
Roy Curvers (NED)
Bert De Backer (BEL)
Koen de Kort (NED)
Ramon Sinkeldam (NED)
Tom Stamsnijder (NED)
Albert Timmer (NED)
Zico Waeytens (BEL) 

Cult Energy Gets Wild Card to Ride Amstel Gold

Cult Energy, which enjoys Pro Continental status, was given a wild card invitiation to race Amstel Gold. The small Danish-licensed team has a couple of heavy hitters in Gustav Erik Larsson, Fabian Wegmann and Linus Gerdemann. The team sent out this release announcing their selection:

"Cult Energy Pro Cycling have received a wildcard for one of the monuments – Amstel Gold Race. The 50th anniversary edition of the Dutch one-day classic is due 19th of April 2015. The race is hilly and well-known for its steep slopes and narrow roads and traditionally, riders are crossing the finish line in small groups. Philippe Gilbert won the 2014 edition of the race.

Linus Gerdemann

Linus Gerdemann in 2013

"Cult Energy Pro Cycling DS, Michael Skelde states: “Of course, it’s a privilege and an honor to be elected to participate in this year’s Amstel Gold Race. It’s an acknowledgement and recognition of us from the organizers and we are looking very much forward to being a part of one of the biggest one-day classics of the season. We are a small team compared to our opponents but I believe that Fabian (Wegmann) will be able to pull a top-10 result and that will be our goal besides from keep racing aggressively like we usually do. In addition, we have a young and talented Rasmus Guldhammer in our team and Amstel Gold Race will be a race for him in the years to come. I truly believe he has the talent and the power to be a contender for the win in a few years’ time,” says DS, Michael Skelde."

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