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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Thursday, June 11, 2015

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Today's Racing

We've got two races today. First off is the fifth stage of Critérium du Dauphiné. We've finally made it to the high mountains with a trip from Dignes-les-Bains to Pra-Loup. Along the way the riders will encounter two third category ascents and a second-category climb before hitting the first category Col d'Allos. The stage has a hilltop finish at Pra-Loup, a second-category mountain. There should be a real shake-up in the standings after this stage.

Over in Switzerland top riders riders will be contesting the HC-ranked GP Canton Aargau.

Safer night riding?

Writer John Britt sent sent me information about an intriguing way to become a bit safer while riding at night. Volvo has developed a highly reflective spray paint called "Life Paint". The British Daily Mail explained the safety development thus:

Volvo is known for making cars packed with safety features but it’s a low-tech safety solution for cyclists that has proved a surprising success. The car manufacturer teamed up with a Sweden-based start-up to make a temporary light reflective spray for cyclists, called Life Paint.

The paint has proved so popular that the trial cans up for grabs at certain cycling shops in London were snapped up in days. And some of these are now on sale on eBay for £45 ($66) at the time of writing.

Volvo launched the paint to increase the visibility of cyclists on the road. It contains powder-fine reflective particles designed to react to a car’s headlights, alerting drivers to the presence of cyclists in the dark.

The paint is invisible in daylight, but in the dark it reflects light in the same direction as the light source to illuminate the objects it has been sprayed on.

Dispensed in a spray can, the paint can be washed off, so it can also be applied to clothes, helmets, pushchairs, dog leads and obviously, bikes.

A trial began in London bike shops on 2 April to gauge public interest and 2,000 cans were given away free as word of the popular product spread. At the time, Volvo said that if the paint proved a hit, the project ‘will expand nationally and internationally’

Let's hope Volvo makes the paint available to cyclists everywhere. As a cycling commuter who doesn't look forward to the coming winter when the days get short and the nights get long, it would be nice to have one more arrow in the quiver of safety aids.

Volvo produced a video explaining the paint:


Critérium du Dauphiné news

This came from BMC:

Sisteron, France - Rohan Dennis of the BMC Racing Team kept the overall lead Wednesday at the Critérium du Dauphiné, enduring an afternoon rain storm on the longest stage of the race and a couple nervous moments in the final bunch sprint.

Dennis finished 30th and in the peloton as Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis Solutions Crédits) won his second stage ahead of Jonas Van Genechten (IAM Cycling). BMC Racing Team's Tejay van Garderen held onto second overall and remains tied on time with his teammate with four days of the race to go.

"Most of the day was standard, but the last 25 or 30 kilometers were a bit hectic and sometimes a bit scary," Dennis said. "Leading into the final climb, there was a lot of fighting going on to get to the bottom in the front. Then, the last two kilometers, there were a lot of people touching wheels in front of me. In the last 500 meters, there were a lot of near crashes. So it was a little bit of a stressful moment. But we all got through it unscathed."

Rohan Dennis

Rohan Dennis retained his overall leadership

Dennis enjoyed his first full day in the leader's jersey a day after the BMC Racing Team won the team time trial. BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said the 228-kilometer race played out perfectly, with a two-man breakaway of Martijn Keizer (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) escaping early. The BMC Racing Team let the pair's advantage extend to eight minutes before bringing them back in the last 15 kilometers.

"We were fine with the situation today, it was perfect for us," Ledanois said. "Now it becomes a different race for the general classification. But we have trust with this team and we know Tejay and Rohan are ready for tomorrow."

Thursday's 161-kilometer race includes five categorized climbs, including a hilltop finish.

Tinkoff-Saxo sent me this Dauphiné report:

Tinkoff-Saxo had four riders including GC captain Robert Kiserlovski in the peloton after a hectic stage finale with heaps of attacks within the final 15km. Climber Jesper Hansen, however, lost 9’27” after a crash on the final categorized climb with 13km to go. The young Dane fortunately escaped unharmed.

Following the conclusion of stage 4 in Critérium du Dauphiné, Tinkoff-Saxo’s sports director Patxi Vila tells that the race took a hectic turn of events on the final run-in towards Sisteron.

“It was a long stage and the breakaway went early on the day with two guys that ramped up a total of eight minutes thereabout. They were very good at the end, where they almost made it to the finish. Our strategy was to stay in the bunch and wait for the finale. We knew that we faced two short climbs and we wanted to try something in the sprint with Jay McCarthy, as it came just after a hard finale. It was a good opportunity but it was very hectic and he didn’t catch the right wheel and went into the sprint in a difficult position”, says Patxi Vila about the stage, where Jay McCarthy finished 19th.

Stage 4 of Dauphiné ran from Anneyron to Sisteron along a lumpy 228km parcours and was won by Nacer Bouhanni (COF), who took the stage win in the final sprint. However, Tinkoff-Saxo’s young climber Jesper Hansen, who entered the race fresh off the win in Tour of Norway, lost 9’27” after a crash on the final categorized climb.

Jay McCarthy

Jay McCarthy in an earlier race

“Jesper crashed on the final climb. Petrov and Beltran waited for him but he lost some time, as he couldn’t make contact to the peloton again in time, as they were going full speed at the front in the finale. Fortunately he didn’t hurt himself too much and will continue”, explains Patxi Vila before stage 5 to Pra Loup, where the race enters the mountains.

“For sure the coming days will be hard stages and tomorrow is no exception. They suit the characteristics of our team better, however we are not the favorites. It will be a different race tomorrow with a lot of climbing on the program. We’ll see how the guys are, when we hit the mountains and take it day by day from there. The quality of the bunch is high here in Dauphiné with some of the big stage race names present. I don’t think that they will go all out tomorrow but we will definitely see some interesting movements”, finishes Patxi Vila.

And here's what Lotto-Soudal had to say about the Dauphiné's fourth stage:

Today the peloton in the Critérium du Dauphiné covered a stage of 228 kilometres between Anneyron and Sisteron. Lotto Soudal rode a remarkable race.

Almost immediately after the start Tosh Van der Sande and Martijn Keizer escaped the peloton. The duo, that represented Lotto Soudal and Lotto NL Jumbo, had an advantage up to 7’30”. 25 kilometres before the finish 4’22” was still left of it. A nice gap, but they still had to get over a tough hill and the peloton was chasing. On the Côte de la Marquise (4th category) Keizer left Van der Sande behind. Tosh could, after a break of more than 200 kilometres, still help his teammate Tim Wellens. The Belgian had jumped away on the climb. Wellens caught up with Keizer and left him alone pretty soon, but he was caught with 2.5 kilometres to go. Then Tony Gallopin attacked, but eventually the stage ended with a bunch sprint. It was won by Nacer Bouhanni, ahead of Jonas Vangenechten and Luka Mezgec. Just like in the first stage Tiesj Benoot finished in the top ten, he was eighth today.

Tosh Van der Sande

Tosh Van der Sande (shown at the 2014 Tour of Switzerland)

Tosh Van der Sande: “Before the stage I already had the idea to join a breakaway. I noticed Cofidis was riding in front to control the number of escapees. Teammate Pim Ligthart already had made an attempt before I could get away after three kilometres and Martin Keizer joined me. It would have been better if the group had been bigger, then you can recuperate more along the way, while we now both had to do half of the work. Maybe we rode too fast in the first part of the stage, and we should have adjusted our pace to that of the peloton. When we still had an advantage of five minutes with 30 kilometres to go, I believed in it for a moment, but I had not much energy left. On the short climb in the finale I could just catch up with Tim Wellens who had attacked and help him through the descent until the next uphill part. I’m happy with the attempt; it was only the first time this year I got in an early breakaway. Tomorrow I’ll probably feel today’s efforts, but I’m satisfied with where I stand at the moment.”

Tim Wellens: “The finale was perfect to try something. With riders like Tony, Tiesj and me we would try something. As a team we definitely showed ourselves. The climb 13 kilometres before the finish was ideal to make the jump. I got Craddock and Gautier with me. After Tosh had pulled for a while I bridged to Keizer and then went solo. I really believed in it, it took a while before the peloton got organized and if it would have rained I would have had a bigger chance. I felt good and love to animate the race, that will definitely be the case one of the next days again.”

There was also less positive news from the Lotto Soudal front: Kris Boeckmans abandoned the race. He suffered too much of the consequences of his crash in the second stage.

Lotto-Jumbo ends membership in Movement for Credible Cycling

The following is a Lotto-Jumbo press release:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo has been forced to end her membership with the MPCC (Mouvement Pour Cyclisme Crédible). Earlier this season, George Bennett did not start in the Giro d'Italia because of a low cortisol level. Bennett underwent several additional tests, which proved that he was kept out of the Giro unjustly. This, as well as advises from external experts, shows that the MPCC procedure is not a 100% accurate. There has been a lot of contact between the team and the MPCC. Within the MPCC, it was impossible to realise an adjustment of procedures regarding the measurement of cortisol levels before the general meeting in October, this to prevent riders from unjustly being kept from racing. Team LottoNL-Jumbo cannot conform to a procedure that is not a 100% accurate. The team supports the MPCC’s standpoints and, for this reason, regrets this difficult decision.

Standpoints: The team endorses the MPCC’s standpoints and applauds the movement’s philosophy. The MPCC has contributed to the necessary changes within the culture of cycling, and Team LottoNL-Jumbo voluntarily abides by many of their rules. The MPCC has also accomplished several things within the UCI, and we value the MPCC in this.

Unnecessary image and sportive damage: Our team supports the battle against the abuse of corticosteroids in cycling. However, a low cortisol level is not always the result of substance abuse, and a low cortisol level certainly does not always mean an unhealthy situation. For this reason, we, as well as other teams/ team physicians and riders, are of the opinion that the procedure surrounding the monitoring of low cortisol levels should be adapted, to prevent riders unjustly being kept out of races and teams suffering unnecessary image loss and sportive damage.

We know that the procedure is not a 100% accurate, as should be the case in such procedures. Two of our riders have been kept from racing unjustly (Vuelta 2013 and Giro 2015) due to this inaccuracy. Knowing the flaws in this system, we cannot justify a rider being excluded from entering a race any longer,” managing director Richard Plugge explains.

Examination external experts: Nearly two years ago, during the general meeting of the MPCC, various team physicians have requested an examination by external experts to answer the question if a too low cortisol level is always unhealthy. This to prevent healthy riders being kept out of races unjustly.

One of the experts, approached by the MPCC, has responded during the Giro d’Italia. His conclusion: the current procedure, during which only the cortisol levels of one morning are determined, is lacking precision and can lead to false positive results, after which healthy riders are unjustly being kept out of races. He advises additional tests once a low cortisol level is measured.

The experts consulted by Team LottoNL-Jumbo, including a professor Endocrinology, endorse this standpoint. Additional tests proved that there was never an unhealthy situation, nor the abuse of external corticosteroids within our team.

#Ridethefuture: Team LottoNL-Jumbo will continue to disperse the MPCC’s standpoints. We put a lot of effort in contributing towards a cultural change within cycling and will continue to do so. Our motto is #ridethefuture for a reason!

George Bennett

George Bennett

Tour of Switzerland starts June 13

Tour of Switzerland podium history

Here is Tinkoff-Saxo's Swiss tour news:

Tinkoff-Saxo takes on Tour de Suisse with a strong line-up centered around captain Peter Sagan, who’s back after a successful stint in California to be the squad’s go to guy in the battle for stage wins. Rafal Majka, en route to Tour de France, will get his chance in the GC, while focusing on building shape ahead of July.

For Tour de Suisse, Tinkoff-Saxo lines up Peter Sagan, Rafal Majka, Matti Breschel, Daniele Bennati, Michael Mørkøv, Nikolay Trusov, Pavel Brutt and Michael Valgren.

“It’s a matter of keeping momentum”, says Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Sean Yates, who adds that “Peter Sagan will get the backing of the team in Tour de Suisse”.

“We would like to win a stage or more if possible. We’re looking to keep the momentum we had in May, while focusing on the build-up towards the Tour. With the form Peter Sagan has been showing, he’ll naturally have the support from the team to go for stage wins. It’s a race that suits him well with several lumpy stage finishes and we know that Peter is very good at sprinting uphill. Looking at the profile of the prologue, it suits Peter as well, so he could win there and take the yellow jersey, where we would then defend it to a certain extent”, comments Sean Yates.

Peter Sagan reports for duty in-shape and will be back at racing after winning the Amgen Tour of California in May.

Peter Sagan

You might have already guessed that this is of Peter Sagan at the Tour of California

“I'm very happy and excited to take part in the Tour de Suisse. I'm back racing in Europe and I feel in very good shape. After a very positive Tour of California, I look forward to having more fun with the guys in Switzerland”, says Peter Sagan.

Stage 5 to Sölden stands out as the only proper mountain stage of this year’s edition, but it will be a serious challenge for those with GC ambitions, as the finish line is situated atop a HC-climb at 2669m above sea level. This is where Rafal Majka will come into play, according to Sean Yates.

“From what we know, Rafal is going well, which could be promising for stage 5, which is bloody hard and will be a daunting challenge for everyone. But the most important factor is that he builds shape ahead of the Tour, where he will be a very valuable support to Alberto in the high mountains. Rafal wants to try hard and he will try hard to build form, so there’s no pressure on him, but if he has the day, then he can be up there or thereabout. And then we’ll see how he’s positioned in the GC before the final decisive TT”, explains Sean Yates.

There could be several opportunities for Peter Sagan to snatch stage wins along the 1321km nine-stage race. To support the team captain, Tinkoff-Saxo aligns a group of fast riders.

“With a rider like Peter on your team you got to support him for the stage wins. We have a combination of guys, who can support him on the road throughout the stages and guys, who have the top speed to lead him into a good position before the final sprint, such as Daniele Bennati, Matti Breschel and Michael Mørkøv. They will of course maximize Peters chances, which is important as we want him to build confidence for the Tour”, finishes Sean Yates.

Race details:

LottoNL-Jumbo's ambitions for the Tour de Swiss:

Robert Gesink and Laurens ten Dam are aiming for good results in the Tour de Suisse. After a pre-Tour de France training camp in the USA, the Team LottoNL-Jumbo front men want to take advantage of their fitness in Switzerland.

“We’re expecting a lot from Robert and Laurens,” Sports Director Jan Boven said. “Robert showed already in the past that this race suits him quite well. They both had good preparation. They only need some extra sharpness in the race.

“The first race after a training camp is always interesting because you never know exactly how your body is going to react after a period at altitude. We trained specifically for the Tour de France, but in a way that they should be helpful already for Switzerland.”

Robert Gesink isn’t worried about how his body will react. “It’s not the first time that I trained at altitude and I know what I have to do,” he added. “Normally, I react quite well after such a training camp.”

Gesink’s season didn’t go exactly how he wanted after many setbacks, but he found his way to the top again in the Tour de Romandie and the Tour of California.

Robert Gesink

Robert Gesink at the 2015 Tour de Romandie

“The start of the season was strange,” he said. “After that, I was on a high level, immediately. I’m glad with that. I was forced to skip some big goals this spring, but maybe that will turn out to be beneficial in the end. I’m fresh at the moment, especially mentally. I took the next step in America and I’m going to Switzerland with ambitions for a good general classification. I’m aiming for a top 10 result and anything higher is a bonus.”

The general classification is less important for Laurens ten Dam. “I want to ride a couple of good mountain stages,” he said. “Those stages will be an important confirmation that I had a good training camp in America. I returned from it with a good feeling. Tour de Suisse is an important test.”

Tour de Suisse is also a test for Tom Van Asbroeck and Sep Vanmarcke. “It’s an important stage race,” Boven added. “It’s a WorldTour race where we have to pick up some points. For Tom it’s a next step in his development because the Tour de Suisse is a tough race. Sep has been on altitude for the first time. It’s interesting to see how he reacts on that.”

Team line-up: Robert Gesink, Laurens ten Dam, Tom Van Asbroeck, Sep Vanmarcke, Tom Leezer, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Mike Teunissen and Paul Martens.

Sports directors: Jan Boven and Nico Verhoeven.

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