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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Saturday, February 28, 2015

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

Paris–Roubaix: The Inside Story

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Live Updates

For live updates of the first important Belgian road race, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, click here

Hour Record Holder Dennis Returns To Racing

Rohan Dennis will return to competition this weekend for the first time since establishing a new world hour record earlier this month at Velodrome Suisse in Grenchen, Switzerland. The BMC Racing Team rider is a late addition to the team's roster for a pair of one-day races in France, Classic Sud Ardèche on Saturday and Drôme Classic on Sunday.

On Feb. 8, Dennis powered his BMC trackmachine TR01 to a distance of 52.491 kilometers - bettering the record by 639 meters. The performance added to the overall title and a stage win at the Santos Tour Down Under that he earned in January.

Thursday, Dennis talked about what he has done since setting the world hour record, the stress of watching another rider try to break his record and his goals for the weekend.

Was there always a plan to take a layoff from racing whether you were successful or not at your world hour record attempt?

Rohan Dennis world hour record

Rohan Dennis breaking the World Hour Record. Photo ©Oliver Burgess/BMC Switzerland

"Yes, I was always planning to have a bit of a break because it was a pretty solid start to the year. I hope to be going well through May, June and, hopefully, into July. But obviously it is not possible to hold form for that long. It is pretty impressive if you can. So I took a slight layoff and then started rebuilding my form."

How did you spend the time off?

"I really only had three or four days off my bike. I went to Paris to watch the world track championships and my girlfriend's race. Then I started to sort of get a little bit more serious as I started getting closer to my first race back. In fact, I went to Germany this week to get a bike fit. So now things are getting back to normal and I am really taking everything more seriously."

How did setting a new world hour record change you as a bike rider?

"I have noticed a little bit of a difference. I don't know if it was just because I finally had a bit of a break after the Tour Down Under. There was a big build-up to that and I was training quite hard. But I found that I have gone to another sort of level. It has thrown me off a little bit because I am training quite well. At the same time, everything points to me not training so well. So it is sort of weird. I don't know if I have stepped it up or if I just have good form at the moment. I guess we will find out on Saturday and Sunday."

In comparison to some of the others who have attempted the world hour record, you looked very comfortable on your BMC trackmachine TR01 throughout your attempt. And afterwards, you were even able to hoist it above your head.

"It was the beauty of being given a track bike that was pretty much identical in terms of fit and size to the TT bike I rode at the world championships last year. When BMC made the integrated piece for the front end, it made a huge difference. From my training bike from Adelaide to when I jumped on this bike in Grenchen, I noticed the difference straight away. BMC did everything they possibly could to make it absolutely perfect. I could not have asked for a better bike to do it."

If you had to do the hour record attempt again, would you do anything differently?

"Maybe just change it to a different time of year - like after a grand tour. I would come in and do a full track preparation, maybe for a longer period of time. So four or five weeks of specific track stuff and really get everything dialed down to make sure I am absolutely going 110 percent for the hour record. There were only a few little minor things as far as the pacing. But I think the main thing is doing it when you are physically at your peak."

Did you watch Thomas Dekker's hour record attempt?

"Yes, I was at the airport. It seems whenever I am at the airport, people are doing the hour record! I was watching it on a live stream and Twitter, sort of trying to get an idea of where he was in compared to my hour record. It was a little bit nerve-racking, to be completely honest. I was watching people's tweets that were saying he was holding 53 kph for 30 minutes. I was thinking that was pretty quick. Then when I saw 52 a while after that, I sort of started to relax a little bit. I was thinking I don't need to watch this and stress so much anymore. But it was a bit of a wake-up call when I saw that he finished within about 250 meters of me, which is a lap."

What are your goals for Classic Sud Ardèche and the Drôme Classic?

"At the moment, just to sort of float around and help the team. I was not initially supposed to race until Paris-Nice but the team is a little bit short and I was asked to help out. I didn't think it would be such a bad thing to be with the guys, have some fun and get a little racing under the belt again."

Lotto-Soudal, Jens Debusschere and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

This came in from Lotto-Soudal:

It’s the 70th edition of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad tomorrow. The race is just over 200 kilometres long with eleven hills and ten cobblestone sections.

The route: After sixty kilometres the riders will reach the Haaghoek (2000 metres). This cobblestone section has to be covered three times. In between lie several hills like the Kruisberg, Taaienberg and Eikenberg. The Molenberg is the last hill, about 35 kilometres before the finish. In the last part of the final there are only cobblestone sections left. First the Paddestraat (2300 metres) and Lippenhovestraat (1300 metres). The Lange Munte (2500 metres) is the last cobblestone section of the day. Then eighteen kilometres are left till the end.

Lotto Soudal roster with Belgian champion: Belgian champion Jens Debusschere and Pim Ligthart, who already won twice this season, are part of the Lotto Soudal selection. Jürgen Roelandts is out for the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne because of the flu. Kenny Dehaes will replace him on Saturday. The Lotto Soudal riders will have to race against among other Ian Stannard – last year’s winner – Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert, Alexander Kristoff, Niki Terpstra, Greg Van Avermaet and Sep Vanmarcke.

Jens Debusschere

Jens Debusschere enjoying Grammont ascent in the 2014 Eneco Tour

The preparation:

Jens Debusschere: “It’s always good to recon the route like we did on Wednesday, to get the feeling on the cobblestones. I don’t actually love cold and rain, but I don’t perform worse because of it. The preparation for this opening weekend was the same as for the Belgian Road Championship last year: lots of training and few races. It was successful; I won the title race.”

“I’ve raced eight days so far. In the Challenge Mallorca I raced three days and last week I rode the Volta ao Algarve. I’m looking forward to the Flemish spring races. I’ll be satisfied if I am good in the final tomorrow. With the Belgian jersey on my shoulders I put more pressure on myself. I want to prove I’m worth it. I‘m proud to show my jersey in the classics.”

Tinkoff-Saxo on the Coming Strade Bianche Road Race

This came in from Saxo-Tinkoff:

Strade Bianche is being raced and celebrated as it was a Classic, despite its young age. The white gravel roads of Tuscany demand respect in what has turned into a dusty, scenic and prestigious prelude to the Northern Classics. Tinkoff-Saxo sends into battle a team with proven classics riders, led by captain Peter Sagan.

Team leader Peter Sagan is accompanied by Daniele Bennati, Roman Kreuziger, Maciej Bodnar, Manuele Boaro, Christopher Juul-Jensen, Juraj Sagan and Matteo Tosatto. Last year’s runner up, Peter Sagan, is back from the team’s Middle Eastern campaign and excited to be racing on European soil - namely gravel - on the 7th of March.

Racing the Strade Bianche

Racing on the "White Roads" (Strade Bianche) of Tuscany

"The Strade Bianche is a race that appeals to me because it has a very picturesque, scenic route. It is also ideal for my characteristics and qualities as a rider. I hope to do well in my first European race of 2015", comments Sagan about the Tuscan “modern classic”, which was first raced in 2007.

When asked about the ambitions at the race, Bruno Cenghialta, team sport director, was straight forward, “Peter Sagan is definitely our leader at Strade Bianche, furthermore, we have a squad of very significant and prestigious riders, with great qualities that will play an important role in achieving our goal, which is to win. Most of our riders such as Bennati, Juul-Jensen and Kreuziger, who was fifth last year, have already participated in the Strade Bianche and are familiar with the route and the challenges”, comments Bruno Cenghialta and adds: "Strade is a race that suits Peter Sagan. It lacks long climbs and in fact it’s quite similar to the ones of the Northern Classics. In addition, Peter's background in mountain bikes favors him on the 45km of dirt tracks”.

Cenghialta refers to the 45.4km of the famous white roads or 'Strade Bianche', which always play a decisive factor in finding the winner at the finish line on Piazza del Campo, in the heart of Siena. In total, the riders will have to tackle 10 gravel sections during the 200km race.

“It would be very difficult to single out one section as being the most important. In fact, all of them are equally important and have to be approached with great attention. Some sections might be less physically demanding but are still as crucial”, Cenghialta explains. “In an 'easy' section all the riders will want to position themselves, something that can cause risky situations or increase the possibilities of crashes. But on the more difficult sections, this risk might not exist because the strongest riders will have an advantage. Still we will have to be very careful and never let our guard down”.

Peter Sagan has twice finished second, in both 2013 and 2014, while Roman Kreuziger has finished fifth in 2014 and sixth in 2012. Daniele Bennati lives not far from the parcours of Strade Bianche and will again be an important part of the team's efforts in the race.

Race Preview

Date: 07th of March
Number of stages: 1
Total length: 200 kilometers
Kind: one-day race
First edition: 2007
Last year’s winner: Michael Kwiatkowski
Best GC result of Tinkoff-Saxo: 1st – Alexandr Kolobnev (‘07), Fabian Cancellara (‘08)

Race Route: Dust whirls over the Tuscan hills, as the riders of Strade Bianche tackle the unpaved roads, often firmly uphill. Riders toil on 45.4 kilometers of dirt roads, while the race unfolds on 200 kilometers from San Gimignano to the cradle of Italian renaissance, Siena. After 145km of hilly roads including six gravel sectors, the finale starts as the riders embark on the 11km long “Ponte del Garbo” dirt track, where the first serious separation is expected to happen. Then, the Strade di Colle Pinzuto of 2.4km and a maximum gradient of 15% provides the favorites with an opportunity to size each other up or launch a serious attack before the last gravel section. It comes a few kilometers after and sends the intensity through the roof with a maximum gradient of 18 percent on a slippery surface.

Upon entering the city walls of Siena, a 16% sector welcomes the riders to the absolute finale on the last kilometer up the steep and narrow streets until the road flattens and a winner is found on Piazza del Campo.

Cult Energy for GP Lugano

Cult energy, whcih a few days ago suffered a terrible euipment theft, sent this good news about their coming appeance at this weekend's GP Cittá di Lugano:

"Sunday 1st of March, Cult Energy Pro Cycling take on the Swiss one-day race, Gran Premio Cittá di Lugano. Its history dates back to 1950 and up until 1981, the race was held as a time trial with prominent winners such as Fausto Coppi (3 wins), Jacques Anquetil (7 wins), Ole Ritter (2 wins) and Eddy Merckx who won in 1968.

"From 1981 and up to present time, the road race course has been an undulating stretch in and around Lugano with winners like Luca Paolini, Paolo Bettini and Ivan Basso. This Sunday, Cult Energy Pro Cycling will be on the start line with Rasmus Guldhammer, Linus Gerdemann, Fabian Wegmann, Gustav Larsson, Christan Mager, Romain Lemarchand and Karel Hnik.

Fabian Wegmann

Cult Energy rider Fabian Wegmann in 2012 at the San Sebastian Classic

"DS, Michael Skelde states, “We have a pretty strong line-up with both Rasmus Guldhammer and Fabian Wegmann who normally would climb these slopes with the fastest part of the peloton so we’re targeting a result with them. We’re not perfectly prepared for this race because of the stolen equipment last weekend but with the support from our sponsors, Black Inc, Ridley, CeramicSpeed, InfoCrank and Bjarne Riis and Stefano Feltrin at Tinkoff-Saxo, we’re able to at least participate in Lugano. The race also gives debut to Karel Hnik who has been suffering from illness until now.”

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