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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Saturday, March 14, 2015

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

Today's Racing

We've got three ongoing stage races running today: the Tour de Langkawi stage 5, Paris-Nice stage 6, and Tirreno Adriatico stage 4. Also there is an important Dutch single-day race, the Ronde van Drenthe. As I write this, I have not yet created a race history for this important race. Regular visitors to this site know we are expanding our race coverage and we will have complete results for the Ronde van Drenthe, but it may be a bit later in the day because I have to set up the site for it. My apologies.

UCI Annouces New Anti-Doping Measures

After the CIRC report on both drug use in the peloton and the UCI's historical willingness to cast a blind eye on doping, the UCI has announced more measures to fight illegal drug use in the peloton.

Here is what the UCI had to say, unedited:

The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has today announced a number of measures to further strengthen anti-doping and governance following a careful analysis of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) report and recommendations published earlier this week. They build on a raft of reforms that have been put in place since Brian Cookson became UCI President in September 2013.

Brian Cookson

UCI boss Brian Cookson

Commenting on the new measures announced today, UCI President Brian Cookson said: “I am absolutely determined to use the CIRC’s report to ensure that cycling continues the process of fully regaining the trust of fans, broadcasters and all the riders who compete clean. We value the recommendations of the CIRC and have now established an internal task force to ensure the recommendations are properly followed up. In the meantime, I can already confirm that we will:

•             Work to enshrine a fit-and-proper-persons requirement in the team licensing process, focussed on the key roles in the staff, such as sports directors and doctors;

•             Work with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and other experts to analyse new substances and trends, to assess what should be added to the prohibited or monitored lists;

•             Work with WADA to improve the speed of athlete biological passport cases;

•             Further build on the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF)’s move towards even higher quality and more targeted approach to anti-doping that reflects rider and discipline risk assessment;

•             Work with the world’s leading laboratories to undertake a prevalence study to assess the current situation and compare it with data from previous years across disciplines and nations. This study will assist in targeting and also build a clear picture of how successful anti-doping measures in cycling have been;

•             Ensure that the CADF work more closely with civil and criminal authorities and others such as customs through a newly recruited Intelligence Manager, in order to guarantee that information gathered in investigations is shared as effectively as possible;

•             Actively pursue the conclusion of sharing agreements with National Anti-Doping Agencies (NADOs) to ensure that we collaborate as closely as possible with others involved in working for a clean sport;

•             Re-launch our whistleblower programme, through an independent agency, in support of the 2015 World Anti-Doping Code which places a duty on riders and team staff to report any circumstances they become aware of that may constitute an anti-doping rule violation;

•             Build on our existing collaboration through WADA with the pharmaceutical industry to monitor new developments and assist in identifying banned substances and methods;

•             Work with WADA to support athlete education programmes and ensure that current and former riders play an active part in them;

•             Work with the CADF to build a more robust and comprehensive storage and re-testing strategy;

•             Encourage the CADF to order night-time testing where they believe it is necessary and proportionate.

“The new set of measures will build on the significant changes that have been put in place since I became UCI President in September 2013. During this time, the UCI has undergone a full independent audit of its anti-doping operations. We have established a strict internal governance process to ensure that the President or administration cannot interfere in operational anti-doping matters and that all major case decisions are reviewed externally and a full audit trail is retained to ensure total accountability.

TDF volume 1

“We have reinvigorated our Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) Committee and now all TUE decisions must be unanimously approved by three members. This commitment goes beyond what is required by the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions (ISTUE). We have ended conflicts with key stakeholders and established strong working relationship with WADA, and the major NADOs, including the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). We have established an Anti-Doping Tribunal that will allow consistent, clear and efficient decisions on cases for international riders, putting the UCI in line with almost all other International Federations and ending the process whereby cases were referred to the rider’s National Federation for judgement.

“We have introduced far reaching sanctions on teams with two members in a year who are found to have doped - including suspension from competition plus a fine of 5% of the team budget. Such sanctions go beyond the mandatory sanctions provided for by the World Anti-Doping Code. I have ensured that more staffing and resources have been allocated to anti-doping than ever before. We have also worked with the professional teams and independent experts to establish clear new internal operational requirements for teams (the “cahier des charges”) to ensure that all riders are properly supported and supervised and that the necessary structures are in place to prevent riders doping.

“Our efforts over the past 18 months have also been invested in the establishment of important new governance measures including a reinvigorated Ethics Commission and a process of revising and updating the UCI Constitution in order to improve transparency of the UCI at all levels. In particular, this revision process concerns the UCI Presidential election which clearly needs significant improvement and I strongly believe we should implement a more representative electoral system.

“These significant measures, together with the developments I have announced today, show the absolute commitment I and my UCI colleagues have to ensure riders win clean and that the minority who choose to cheat are caught and face severe sanctions after fair and fast disciplinary proceedings in full respect of due process. They also demonstrate that the UCI is now a very different organisation compared to even a few years ago and that we make sure lessons are learnt and mistakes not repeated. As I predicted, the CIRC report made for uncomfortable reading but it is imperative that we do not shy away from tough decisions. We will continue to focus on rebuilding trust in our great sport that touches the lives of millions of people across the world, and I appeal to everyone in the sport to take their responsibilities at this pivotal moment.”

Riders Abandoning Today's Stages

Among today's race non-starters, Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling) has been suffering from stomach troubles. Yesterday (stage five) he finished second-to-last in the fifth stage. Today he felt so bad his Director (Rik Verbrugge told him to abandon. Matteo Pelucchi (Also IAM) also abandoned, his health troubles added to to injuries he suffered in an earlier fall.

Svein Tuft (Orica-GreenEdge) fell and injured his shoulder and quit Tirreno-Adriatico.

After Thursday's racing the teams sent out their news. Here's a sampling, starting with Tour de Langkawi:

Orica-GreenEdge sent out this happy note:

Up-and-coming dynamite Caleb Ewan has won the bunch sprint on stage six of the Tour de Langkawi. The victory is Ewan’s second for the race following his success on stage three and increases the 20-year-old’s overall lead to 27seconds going into the penultimate and queen stage tomorrow. Unlike the select sprint victory on Tuesday, after a well-executed lead out by his Orica-GreenEdge team, Ewan was too strong for a fresh bunch after the short 96.6km stage.

“Obviously today was really good to get to sprint against all the sprinters and win,” Ewan said. “It gives me a bit of a confidence boost going into the last stage. The boys absolutely nailed the lead out.  You couldn’t see the finish until the last 150 metres so we knew we had to jump before the corner and they lead me out pretty much into it, I got a good line through and won from there. Actually it was one of the more comfortable sprints I’ve had, it was more comfortable than the last stage win, so that’s a good sign for the next few races.”

Behind the neo-pro, the podium was completed by Jakub Mareczko (Southeast) and Chris Sutton (Team Sky). Three-time 2015 Tour de Langkawi stage winner Andrea Guardini finished fifth.

Chris Sutton wins a Vuelta a Espana stage in his old Sky colors

Chris Sutton wins a Vuelta a Espana stage in his old Sky colors.

Sport director Matt Wilson said the collective work of the entire team delivered Ewan to the impressive victory. “I said after his first stage win the other day that it would be really great for Caleb, and his confidence heading over to Europe, to take a scalp like Guardini and that is exactly what he has done,” Wilson said. “The lead out went perfectly. With such a short stage a lot of teams had a lot of fresh guys to do the sprint and that made it really messy. But the guys stayed together, controlled it all and put Caleb in the right position. Caleb knew when he had to sprint, he had to sprint before anyone else and that’s what he did.”

Today’s stage was never threatened for the sprinters. At just 96.6km in length with no categorised climbs and little ascending, the journey from Maran to Karak was an easy one for the sprint teams to control. And that they did, with Astana taking the responsibility at the head of the peloton when four escapees established the main break of the day, allowing them a minimal 90 seconds advantage at best.

Later, Orica-GreenEdge joined the party and with 20km remaining the gap was one minute, eventually ending the break’s day with five kilometres to ride.

Tomorrow’s queen stage, which was originally scheduled to finish at the summit of the Genting Highlands, has been re-routed to finish atop Fraser’s Hill due to weather damage. The new 180.8km penultimate stage is not as difficult as its precursor, but just as crucial for the general classification battle.

This from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Michael Kolar showed signs of improvement on today’s stage of Tour de Langkawi after illness in the early season set his preparations back. He finished 7th in today’s short, sprint stage and now looks ahead to the GC-battle tomorrow - a stage, which DS Tristan Hoffman sees as decisive.

“It’s our d-day tomorrow, where we’ll have to fight for the GC. It will be harder to create time gaps on the new climb to Fraser’s Hill that replaced the traditional climb to Genting Highland, but it seems like Edward Beltran and Jesper Hansen, who are our GC captains, are in good shape”, says Tristan Hoffman, who adds that Tinkoff-Saxo will have to be attentive not to let a big breakaway get away: “Last year, a big group made it to the final climb with a big advantage, so our guys will probably participate in controlling the race and if a big group breaks away, we’ll have to get a guy up there”.

Today’s stage 6 from Maran to Karak took the riders along a fast 96,6km parcours, which ended in a bunch sprint decision, where Caleb Ewan (Orica-GreenEdge) won the burst for the line with Michael Kolar coming in at 7th place.

Caleb Ewen wins stage 6

Caleb Ewen wins Langkawi stage 6

“Today was a short and fast stage, where we stayed at the front of the peloton most of the day. It was my responsibility to do the sprint, so the boys did a good job in setting the sprint up for me. Pavel Brutt and Nikolay Trusov worked to position me but I lacked a bit of final punch on the last few hundred meters”, says Michael Kolar, who’s regaining shape after suffering an early season setback due to illness.

“My shape is slowly getting better after I was sick during Tour Down Under, which disturbed my preparations. It’s not exactly how I wanted and unfortunately I’ve also had two crashes here at Tour de Langkawi, which always disrupts the rhythm. But I’m improving and, hopefully, I won’t have more bad luck”, concludes Michael Kolar.

And this note about Paris-Nice

This came from Lotto-Soudal:

Thomas De Gendt, in the polka dot jersey, joined a breakaway in Paris-Nice again today. He picked up twenty-five points and now has a total of sixty-one points. That’s forty more than the second man in the KOM classification. In the final De Gendt was so strong that he left his four companions behind and it looked like he was on his way to a stunt. The peloton was close and the slightly uphill last hectometres of the 192 kilometres long stage made it impossible to survive. With only four hundred metres to go it was over for De Gendt and the Italian Davide Cimolai won the stage.

Thomas de Gendt

Thomas de Gendt

Thomas De Gendt: “Of course your disappointed when you’re so close to the victory. It’s a pity, but we can’t change anything. The plan was to take points on the first climb if possible. I easily escaped the peloton at a moment when lots of riders got dropped. I picked up the points and normally it was the plan that I would wait for the bunch. But I asked the sports directors if I could stay in front because I felt I had really good legs and there were four strong riders with me. There was a good cooperation between us and I could take the maximum of the points on every climb. Then I aimed for the stage win. I came close.”

“With forty points lead on the second rider in the KOM classification it looks good, but it’s not sure yet. Tomorrow there are 51 points to gain, so all is still possible. We’ll have to wait for the first two climbs to see if someone will become a danger. If Gilbert or Sørensen attacks, I’ll have to follow, because they are my main opponents. If at least three riders take off, who don’t have any points yet, then I win the jersey.”

And There's Tirreno-Adriatico

BMC sent out this joyous note after Van Avermaet took the overall race lead:

Arezzo, Italy - With a powerful uphill dash to the finish Friday, BMC Racing Team's Greg Van Avermaet won for the first time this season and took the overall lead at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Van Avermaet delivered the BMC Racing Team its third victory of the year on the strength of a well-orchestrated lead-out from his teammates in the final moments of the 203-km race. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) was runner-up and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) finished third.

"This is a special day for me," Van Avermaet said. "I looked at the road book when I knew I was coming to Tirreno-Adriatico, and I was confident about these two stages - Stages 3 and 4. Stage 4 will be a little bit harder, but I knew that today's finish would really suit me. I looked at what happened last year when (my teammate) Philippe Gilbert was third. I knew it could be a good day for me, although there were some good guys to beat. I have come close a few times this year, so I am really happy that I could finish it off. The team worked really well for me, because on a stage like this it is really important to be well positioned. And, of course, I am really glad I could keep guys like Sagan off."

Van Avermaet leads Sagan by two seconds overall and becomes the second rider in BMC Racing Team history to win a stage and wear the blue leader's jersey at the "Race of the Two Seas." In 2011, now-retired teammate Cadel Evans took the lead on Stage 5, then won Stage 6 on his way to overall victory.

"It is important to me because I am leading the team here and you can only be a leader if you win races," Van Avermaet said. "I finished second or third a few times recently: in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Flanders last year, and in Qatar, Oman and Strade Bianche this year. I sprinted all the way to the line today - I didn't raise my hands in case I didn't win. If you celebrate and they come past you, it is even worse."

Greg van Avermaet wins Tirreno-Adriatico stage 3

Van Avermaet wins stage 3.

Danilo Wyss took some of the pressure off the BMC Racing Team before the finale by being part of the day's breakaway for the second straight stage. Already the leader in the king of the mountains competition, Wyss added to his advantage by taking maximum points over the day's two climbs.

"It is nice to keep the green jersey," Wyss said. "It was a tactic of the team to put a guy in the break so we did not have to work behind. We had Greg as a favorite for the stage, so it was good for the team to have someone in the break. I am really happy for him and of course for the team. It is good for the team to win a stage and take the lead. It is a perfect occasion for us."

BMC Racing Team Sport Director Fabio Baldato called it "the perfect day."

"I asked Danilo to try to go again in the breakaway and they let him go," Baldato said. "That was the first move and it really gave tranquility to the team to stay calm and really go all for Greg in the final. We also saw our leader for the general classification, Damiano Caruso, was there to help Greg. That was really great."

This from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Peter Sagan once again showed that he holds a powerful sprint as he came flying from behind in the narrow streets of Arezzo. Despite a powerful final acceleration, Sagan ran out of runway and had to settle for second place behind Greg van Avermaet. The Slovak champion retains his position as second overall after a day, where Tinkoff-Saxo took responsibility in the pack.

Following the stage finish, Team Manager Bjarne Riis noted that the tricky parcours into the center of Arezzo meant that Sagan had to start his sprint further back than ideal.

“Maciej Bodnar pulled hard before entering the narrow roads in the final kilometer and Sagan was delivered in a good position. We saw a hectic fight for positioning in the old city center and I think that Peter did a good job in sticking to the front. He went into the last few hundred meters in a good position but he was closed down a bit going into the final corner, which meant that he was just a little too far back to overtake Avermaet in the end”, says Bjarne Riis after the stage before adding about the result: “Of course, we were aiming for the win but the way he came from behind on the last 100 meters certainly shows that he has power in the legs and that he’s improving”.

Peter Sagan had started the day with high expectations aiming for the win. After the stage, Sagan admitted that he was disappointed with missing out on the win by the length of a wheel.

Peter Sagan in 2014

Peter Sagan in his 2014 Cannondale colors.

"I'd like to thank all my teammates for their excellent work today. They pushed hard all day and gave their best to bring me in a good position for the final sprint. I was really looking forward to winning today and the team really deserved a victory. However, it didn't turn out that way as I made a mistake. I entered the final corner too late and I was four or five positions down and had to overtake too many to get to the front. I finished in second place, I am sorry for the guys but that's cycling”, comments Peter Sagan.

The riders at Tirreno-Adriatico had to tackle a 203km rolling parcours on stage 3. However, the road kicked up during the final kilometer, as the riders entered the old city center of Arezzo in Tuscany. Bjarne Riis adds that Tinkoff-Saxo pulled at the front of the main punch throughout the stage with 25-year old Chris Juul-Jensen carrying out a big workload.

“A five man group got away early on the stage, but Chris Juul controlled the gap at the front throughout most of the stage. He made a fantastic piece of work and put in a big effort for the team. Then Tosatto came to the front and the two of them closed the last bit of the gap together. The rest of the guys protected Alberto and Peter and made sure that they didn’t spend too much energy”, concludes Bjarne Riis, who’s eyeing new opportunities in tomorrow’s more lumpy stage finish to Castelraimondo.

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