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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Friday, July 24, 2015

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

Today's Racing

Friday is Tour de France's penultimate day in the high Alps.

Here's what the riders will face in stage 19:

Stage 19 profile

Stage 19 profile

Next races we'll cover will be the HC-ranked Tour de Wallonie starting on the 25th and the Le Course by Le Tour de France, a 1.1-rated race for women held on the 26th.

Marzocchi Fork production to end

I have to admit, this news in surprised me: Marzocchi has been around since 1949.

LAKE FOREST, USA – Tenneco Inc. announces its intention to discontinue its Marzocchi Mountainbike and motorcycle fork suspension business and to liquidate its Marzocchi operations. According to Marzocchi’s (Ride Performance Europe) OE sales manager Maarten Maes production is to continue to the end of this year and take-over discussions already started.

Tenneco bought Marzocchi in June 2008 just before the worldwide economic crisis started. “Challenges in the two-wheeler business,” are according to Teneco COO Brian Kesseler the reason for the stock market listed company to stop with Marzocchi. With this statement he points to double digit drops motorcycle sales in Europe had to endure in the past years as Marzocchi is a renowned name in particular high performance motorbikes.

In Mountain bikes and other bicycle categories Tenneco was not able to establish the same position as it has in the motorcycle business. Also because of the competition by RST, X-Fusion, RockShox, Suntour, Fox and others.

Interesting is that the Tenneco press release contains the contact details for investor inquiries. It’s likely that the renowned Marzocchi brand name will be taken over. This is confirmed by a letter to customers dated July 22 by Marzocchi’s

OE sales manager Maarten Maes in which he states, “We are in discussion with potential buyers of the Tenneco Marzocchi assets.”

Ceasing its Marzocchi business will kill the jobs of 138 Marzocchi employees; Tenneco currently employs 127 people at the Marzocchi plant in Bologna, Italy where motorcycle and Mountainbike suspension forks are produced. An additional 11 people will lose their jobs in its operations in North America and Taiwan.

Tenneco intends to assist its motor bike customers with the transition of current production to an alternative supplier and expects to complete the closure by the end of 2015.

You can read the entire story here.

Tour de France team reports

This came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Alberto Contador went on the attack on stage 18 of Tour de France in an effort to shake things up in the GC. Having suffered a downhill crash a mere 24 hours earlier, the Tinkoff-Saxo captain deployed a series of accelerations on Col de Glandon, which decimated the group of favorites. Despite the effort, a diminished group of favorites made it to the finish line behind stage winner Romain Bardet.

After crossing the finish in St-Jean-de-Maurienne, Alberto Contador explains that his attack was driven by sheer determination.

"This was one of the toughest days on the bike. I wanted to try things and see what could be done but at the end we didn't achieve anything in particular. I dropped Valverde on Glandon, this always brings confidence but the only thing I now focus on is to recover. It was a very hard stage and my attacks were more driven by the heart than the legs. I was able to observe a few things and we will now see how I recover for tomorrow. In order for Valverde not to be on the podium, a catastrophe must take place. He has an incredible opportunity and just by doing things the right way it’s impossible for him not to reach the podium. The sport of cycling is like this and we will have to take it day by day”, comments Alberto Contador, who received valuable support from a strong Rafal Majka:

“I think we had a good strategy and I stayed in the group with Alberto. This is the last week and I always feel good during the last week of the big Tours. The race is not finished and we still need to fight to make it to the podium. We need to do a hard race for Alberto to make a difference. When we create a hard race, Alberto normally feels good and I think that he was okay after his crash yesterday, so it was not bad but we must fight to open up the podium. Yesterday I didn’t feel well after the crash I had on stage 16 but I was better today and I hope to continue like this”, says Rafal Majka.

Stage 18's final climb

Stage 18's final climb

Stage 18 from Gap to St-Jean-de-Maurienne presented the riders with 186.5km and seven categorized climbs including the HC summit of Col du Glandon, where Alberto Contador launched an early attack. Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh notes that the squad did a strong effort to support Contador, who was still marked by yesterday’s crash.

“The entire squad did a very good piece of work today. We asked Rafal and Roman to get in the attack and they did exactly that. Rafal did a strong effort in the last part of the stage and he worked hard to support Alberto. We did our best today and Alberto put in a very determined effort. We could see that he was struggling with a bit of pain after his crash yesterday but he had the moral to try a long way from the finish line. He wanted to do something today and we will continue to try here in the Alps”, adds Steven de Jongh.

For Peter Sagan, stage 18 offered a chance to rally up energy after having been constantly active during the previous stages. However, Sagan reveals that he actually attempted to bridge over to the breakaway before settling down.

“I wanted a day of a little more rest but still we did a lot of climbing and gained a lot of altitude meters so it was a very hard day. I actually tried one time today to go in the breakaway but it was too late because the group was too far away already. But after that I was actually happy because I was able to take it a little bit easier. From the first climb to the finish we kept a high tempo and I could feel that I had been in the breakaway for four stages in a row. Today I also got some energy from all these great and crazy Slovakian supporters. Many of them are old friends from my cycling club back home and they are really crazy, which I like and it’s definitely cool to see so many Slovakian flags. But we will see how the next days in the Alps go and how I am in Paris”, finishes Peter Sagan, who still leads the points classification by 104 points.

Here's BMC's Tour stage 18 report:

Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, France - BMC Racing Team's Damiano Caruso finished eighth Thursday at the Tour de France after being part of the day's breakaway.

Caruso and teammate and Stage 1 winner Rohan Dennis were part of a group of 29 riders that broke away on the first of seven categorized climbs in the 186.5-kilometer race. Their group split up and came back together several times before Caruso was part of an 11-rider escape that shook free on the day's highest climb, the Col du Glandon.

Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) soloed away on the descent on the way to the stage win. Competing in his first Tour de France, Caruso arrived in a small group 1:50 later. Chris Froome (Team Sky) kept the overall lead by finishing in a group 3:02 after Bardet.

Romain Bardet

Romain Bardet wins Tour stage 18.

"Today was very hard," Caruso said. "All day, it was à bloc (all out). We wanted to be in the breakaway, but I am not really happy with my placing. Maybe I will try again tomorrow."

Samuel Sánchez, in 15th, is the BMC Racing Team's best-placed rider overall, 18:11 behind. He finished 20th on the day, 19 seconds after the group containing the race leader.

And here's the Tour report I received from LottoNL-Jumbo:

Robert Gesink showed his form in the 18th stage of the Tour de France. He finished 11th in the second stage through the Alps and was able to maintain his sixth position in the general classification. Roman Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) won the stage.

“It was a tough day,” Gesink said directly after the race. “We had to chase on the breakaway from the beginning, because there were some riders in it who are well placed in the overall. We took part in that chase as well. That’s why it hurt me so much.” But the climber was still able to attack on the Col du Glandon, which was the executioner of the day. “They gave me a little bit of space on that climb,” he continued. “That was nice. They caught me on top of the ascent and in the descent, but I was able to ride on my own pace uphill. That’s why I think it was a clever decision to attack.”

On the last mountain of the day, Gesink led the yellow jersey group. “I didn’t feel so good at that moment actually,” he explained. “I was in eighth position in the beginning of the ascent to Lacets de Montvernier, but it was twisting and turning all the time. I had to slow down and accelerate on and on. I didn’t like that way of riding. That’s why I decided to take the lead of the group and ride at my own pace. When you look at today from that position, it went quite well. But hurt a lot. Sometimes, you don’t feel great in a race but you’re still able to go through it. It was that kind of race for me, today.”

Gesink had a lot of support from Steven Kruijswijk. “I felt good from the beginning of the stage,” Kruijswijk said. “That’s why I was able to be there for a long time. It’s nice to feel that I’m improving and that I’m able to support Robert. I think that he has the chance to finish fifth in this Tour, so we go for it. Besides that, I’m looking forward to the stage to Alpe d’Huez because I never climbed that mountain before.”

Laurens ten Dam is still ill. “I was with the last five riders who reached the top of the Col du Glandon today,” he said. “That’s no fun when you are used to something else. But I’m breathing through a reed at the moment. Does it make sense to keep going? That’s what I’ve been thinking about, but to reach Paris is always a target. I don’t think I’m too good to have that as a target. I won’t quit. I don’t have a fever, so it’s not irresponsible. I’m not able to perform anymore, but you’d only quit two days before Paris when you don’t have any other option.”

Laurens ten Dam

Laurens ten Dam riding Tour stage 12.

Sports Director Nico Verhoeven was looking back at a good 18th stage. “Robert did a great job,” he said. “We were able to support him as a team as well. Steven stayed with him a long time and he was able to attack on the Glandon. He was controlling the race. We have to see if he can do that another time in the next days. Those stages have two very hard finals in which a man-to-man fight on the last mountain will decide who is going to win.”

Lotto-Soudal for the Tour de Wallonie

The 36th edition of the Tour de Wallonie, a Belgian stage race that is part of the Europe Tour, brings the peloton in five stages through the beautiful but sloped French speaking area of Belgium. From 25 July till 29 July, the riders have to cover some tough stages. In every stage, there are a few steep hills on the course. The classics riders will certainly love it. Nevertheless, the sprinters will have their chances too.

For Lotto Soudal, Jürgen Roelandts and Kris Boeckmans will participate among others. There are other interesting names that will start in these stage race, like Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert and Edward Theuns. The winner of last year, Gianni Meersman, will also be there. Lotto Soudal sports director Mario Aerts gives a little preview.

Kris Boeckmans

Kris Boeckmans winning stage 2 of this year's World Ports Classic

Mario Aerts: “It’s certain that the riders will get a tough stage race, Christophe Brandt has done his best to make a diversified course. The classics riders, the sprinters and the riders for the breakaway will all have their chance to win a stage or to obtain the overall victory.”

“The first stage will most likely be a sprint stage. Therefore we have Dehaes, Boeckmans and Vallée in our selection. The second and third stage will be tougher for the sprinters because of the many hills, the breakaway can last till the end here. Maybe that Vanendert can try something on the Citadelle de Namur in the third stage. Day four and five are stages where the classics riders can do something like Roelandts or Gilbert. Vervaeke and Van der Sande will get a sort of free role. They can be in a breakaway for instance.”

“We’ll see which one of our riders can aim for a good GC . If someone does well in stage two or three, he can be considered as a candidate for the GC. It will also depend on who will be fully recovered from the training camp in Livigno. Everyone has been training very well, but one always have to wait how the legs will feel in the first race after such a training camp. Principally, the aim is to win a stage. After that we will see how the race is evolving.”

Selection: Kris Boeckmans, Kenny Dehaes, Jürgen Roelandts, Boris Vallée, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Louis Vervaeke.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Kurt Van de Wouwer.


Cult Energy on the Tour of Denmark

This update came from the Danish team:

In the 25th anniversary edition, 36-year-old Michael Reihs will participate in the Tour of Denmark for the 14th time. The always super energetic, motivated and loyal capitain the route knows a thing or two about the game having been around longer than most riders in the peloton. Being a family man, Reihs has been preparing for the Tour of Denmark a little differently than the rest of the line-up:

“Having my family in Denmark, I prefer to stay home and train unlike most other professional riders who go to southern Europe to the warmer climate and mountainous terrain. After the nationals, I kept training hard for another week and then had a recovery week before going deep again. The fact is that I love training. I love going out every day and I will get my hours of training done even though the weather can be harsh in northern Europe. I’ve been doing long rides and now I’ll been training with motopace for a couple of hours every day before the Tour of Denmark,” says Reihs.

The experienced Dane admits that personal results are not his motivation:

“My ambition is that the team does well and if the team prevails, I feel like I have achieved a personal goal and that’s satisfying enough for me. I ‘m looking forward to Tour of Denmark of several reasons. I love the special energy and the always enthusiastic crowd alongside the roads and this year’s edition is especially tough. Stage two is an undulating stretch over 235 kilometers from Ringkøbing to Århus and if there’s a sidewind gushing, it’s going to be a very long day for the back of the field. The following day, we take on the hardest stage of the race. 185 kilometers in and around Vejle, which means an endless number of short but steep hills and in the final circuit in Vejle, only the strongest will remain in the front. Hopefully, Rasmus (Guldhammer) and Linus will both be ready for these stages but we have several cards to play counting Martin and Mads as well. My job will be taking good care of them, shielding them from the wind before the finale,” adds Reihs and concludes:

“There’s a lot of focus on our team right now and especially concerning the future of the team and you might think it causes a bit of anxiety but it’s really out of my hands. I know the people around the team are working hard to find a solution and personally, I’m focusing on my job and my passion. If there’s a team in 2016, I could easily picture myself being a part of it, if the people in charge want me there. But for now, we have a race to focus on and that’s where I’ll put my energy.”

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