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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Tuesday, March 24, 2015

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

Today's Racing

Today is the second stage of the Spanish stage race, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. It's highly ranked, being part of the World Tour.

Bjarne Riis Suspended or Fired By Tinkoff-Saxo?

As I write this [late Monday evening, the 23rd], the facts are elusive. But, the Danish paper BT reports the Bjarne Riis has been suspended from his position as Tinkoff-Saxo team manager by team owner Oleg Tinkov. Riis sold the team to Tinkoff in 2013 for six million Euros.

Tinkov has made no secret of his displeasure with the lack of race wins this year. The French sports paper l'Equipe reported that Tinkoff chewed Riis out for doing no better than Alberto Contador's fifth place at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Follow up: I wrote and posted this news story late late Monday night, Pacific time. On Tuesday morning Tinkoff-Saxo had released this somewhat cryptic message, so it's true:

Tinkoff Saxo statement on Bjarne Riis:

“Following the rumors and speculations published by many Danish media first and then by international cycling media later last night, Tinkoff Saxo would like to clarify that Bjarne Riis is not being actively involved in the team’s activities since last Sunday. However, he was not suspended of his active role because of lack of results nor for financial issues. The team management has full confidence in the technical and performance team, in all the riders and staff members and is currently working to establish the best way forward in the racing season. No decisions have been taken and any formal and final decision on any team member – if taken – shall be communicated at the appropriate time. Until then there will be no further comments on this matter.”

Riis and Tinkoff

Oleg Tinkov and Bjarne Riis in happier times

Los Angeles Cyclists Have Car-Free Street Fun

Any time Los Angeles cyclists get a chance to play safely on their own streets, it time for cyclists everywhere to celebrate. On Sunday, March 22, thousands of cyclists were able to ride down what is normally busy Lankershim Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley to enjoy the CicLAvia open street festival.

Patterned after the Ciclovia custom in Colombia, 5.5 miles of Lankershim Boulevard were closed to cars from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon to allow families to enjoy their own bikes on their own roads. Bravo!

Here's the story in the Los Angeles Times. Let's hope more cities in the U.S. have cycling festivals with car-free events that encourage more people to have fun on bikes.


Thousands of cyclists enjoy the sunshine and safe streets. Bravo!

BMC's Peter Velits to Have Leg Surgery

This from BMC:

Santa Rosa, California - Slovakian national time trial champion Peter Velits will have surgery on his left leg to treat an overuse injury, the BMC Racing Team announced Monday. BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa said the injury has developed over the past few months. Part of the BMC Racing Team's victorious team time trial squad at the world championships last September, Velits's best finish this season has been 27th on Stage 1 at the Tour of Oman.

"His leg has definitely been bothering him the past few weeks," Dr. Testa said. "So after the medical staff consulted with an external specialist, we decided it was best for him to have surgery."

Velits said the problem first revealed itself in training camp last December, though it did not initially affect his performance. "But as the season started, the symptoms got worse so we decided to undergo surgery," he said. "The team has been very supportive in every aspect, which I am very thankful for. I am looking forward to get back to racing with the team again."

Dr. Testa said Velits will undergo surgery in the next week or two. If everything goes to plan, Velits will be back to racing by mid-summer, he said.

Peter Velits

Peter Velits at the 2014 Tour de France

Volta a Catalunya team news

The first stage of Spain's Volta a Catalunya (Tour of Catalonia) saw a high-quality three-man break romp away from the field. Here's what a couple of teams had to say about the day.

This from Tinkoff-Saxo:

The breakaway, containing skilled climbers, was let off its leash at stage 1 of Volta a Catalunya and allowed to run wild before the peloton finally reached an agreement on the division of labor at the front of the bunch. The peloton, with all the main GC favorites, managed to regain lost time and finished 2:40 down on stage winner Maciej Paterski.

The long breakaway of stage 1 survived to the finish line after having had a ten-minute advantage going into the final part of the stage. The breakaway, with the likes of Pierre Rolland, who can now potentially hamper the favorites GC-ambitions, ultimately finished 2:40 ahead of the peloton. Alberto Contador tells after the stage that the time difference now has to be taken seriously.

“The peloton was pulling hard, really hard, in an unbelievable way! It was indeed surprising that the gap wasn't narrowing at all. At the end, we gave all we had and managed to bring the gap down. However, given the stages we have ahead, that difference isn't a joke at all. We will now have to take every day as it comes”, says Contador before adding about the caliber of the riders now in the lead: “It's true they are first-rate riders and they will manage the 2:40-minute advantage that they have in the best way possible. We will now see what opportunities the parcours will offer us but it is true that it isn't an ideal situation”

Steven de Jongh, Tinkoff-Saxo’s sports director, explains the tactical situation that led to the big time gap.

“The breakaway of the day containing three guys got a time gap of more than 10 minutes before some of the teams decided to take to the front. However, they didn’t pull with 100 percent dedication, so before the first category climb the situation was somewhat status quo”, says Steven de Jongh and adds: “It’s not always up to us to lead the peloton and there’re teams with very strong lineups such as Sky. And it wasn’t until the first category climb, where Sky and Movistar started to pull that the time gap decreased. Then we decided to give them a hand and joined the chase with 25km to go”.

The breakaway containing Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal), Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Maciej Paterski (CCC) eventually reached the finish line after 191km of racing from and to Calella. Here, Paterski won the sprint in front of his breakaway companions.

Paterski wins stage 1

Maciej Paterski wins Catalonia stage 1

Entering the final 25km of the stage, the breakaway had around 8 minutes and the peloton realized that it was a matter of limiting the time loss. However, after a fast chase, the peloton could breath a sigh of relief as the gap had come down by more than five minutes to 2:40 at the finish line.

“It’s normal that the peloton can regain a lot of time at the end. The chase had been unorganized, so there were a lot of fresh guys to pull really hard including us in the last part. I would say that the gap in the GC to the three guys is now manageable but it will still require some hard riding in the mountains”, elaborates the Tinkoff-Saxo sports director.

This from Lotto-Soudal:

In the first stage of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, with start and finish in Calella, the victory went to one of the three escapees. Bart De Clercq was one them, he became third. With only 500 metres to go, the Lotto Soudal rider tried to leave his fellow companions behind, but they closed the gap. Maciej Paterski defeated Pierre Rolland. Two minutes and forty seconds later Tosh Van der Sande won the bunch sprint for the fourth place. Paterski is the first leader in the overall standings. Bart De Clercq is third, eight seconds behind the new leader. The next rider in the GC is Wout Poels at 2’39” from De Clercq.

Bart De Clercq: “If you go to the finish line in such a position, then the win is the first thing you think about. I can’t ride a sprint so I had to anticipate. Five hundred metres before the finish I gave it an all or nothing shot. But I got countered immediately and I couldn’t participate in the sprint anymore. Being third is nice but of course I’d liked to win. Although I didn’t believe that this breakaway would carry on until the end. Paterski was clearly the fastest of the three of us. I already noticed his power in the mountain sprints that he won.”

“ In the beginning of the stage we had the wind in our advantage but that ended as we changed direction. There was one attack after the other. There was a lack of organisation in the peloton. It was clear that there wasn’t a team which wanted to control the race. Thomas De Gendt was in one breakaway but they got caught because of the work from Orica – GreenEdge. From that moment the race could start all over again, so I gave it a shot. At first I was alone but when I looked behind I saw two guys. We rode a decent tempo with the three of us, but I was surprised with the fourteen minutes lead. Apparently it took a while before a team took its responsibility in the peloton. At the end we started to gamble and our gap narrowed quickly.”

“For the overall standings I will see day by day. My current lead is nice but there are hard stages scheduled for the next six days. It will come down to limit my loss in the mountains and then I could get a nice GC. Although it is way too soon to talk big or to start dreaming.”

And this from Lampre-Merida:

Only one day after the Milano-San Remo and the World Tour circuit goes on with the start of the Vuelta a Catalunya (7 stages).

The first stage of the Spanish race started and ended in Calella: the course, 185,2 km, was characterized by three Kom, the last one (Col de Collsacreu, 3rd category) with summit at 18,5 km to the finish line.

A long list of attack attempts characterized the early kilometers of the race and Polanc (photo Bettini archive), who was taking part in his first race after an one month stop due to a fracture of the scaphoid bone, could escape from the bunch with other 10 riders.

It seemed to be the good breakaway but the bunch, that was led by the Orica Greenedge, neutralized the action and when the group was united again, three riders succeeded in escaping: De Clercq, Rolland and Paterski could beat the resistance of the peloton, reaching a top advantage of more 13'20", a large gap that prevented the chase of the group.

In the sprint of the three riders, Paterski preceded Rolland and De Clercq.

Lampre-Merida focused the attention on the support to the captain Valls and Niemiec and they succeeded in facing a crash of Niemiec (without consequences) and in having Durasek and Koshevoy (who was dropped later) in the first part of the peloton when it was split in two parts on the last climb.
Niemiec (48th), Durasek (49th) and Valls (72nd) crossed the finish line in the top riders group, 2'40" later than the winner.

Dwars door Vlaanderen is Wednesday, the 25th

BMC sent its rosters for Dwars door Vlaanderen an E3 Harelbeke:

The BMC Racing Team has announced its rosters for pair of one-day races in Belgium this week: Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday and E3 Harelbeke, a WorldTour event, on Friday.

Dwars door Vlaanderen: Marcus Burghardt (GER), Rohan Dennis (AUS), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Campbell Flakemore (AUS), Stefan Küng (SUI), Klaas Lodewyck (BEL), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Rick Zabel (GER).

Sport Director - Allan Peiper (AUS).

E3 Harelbeke: Marcus Burghardt (GER), Silvan Dillier (SUI), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Rick Zabel (GER).

Sport Director - Valerio Piva (ITA).

And Cult Energy sent this team news:

Dwars door Vlaanderen is a prestigious semi-classic and build-up for the big monuments, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. The 200 kilometer long course through the cobbled landscape of Flanders is for the big motors of the peloton. Last year’s winner of Paris-Roubaix, Niki Terpstra also won last year’s edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen. In 2011, Nick Nuyens won the race and a few days later conquered the Ronde van Vlaanderen as well. The race has been on the calendar since 1945 and only on 5 occasions, it hasn’t been won by a Belgium or Dutch rider. The most stunning thing is that Eddy Merckx never won it.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling will be taking on the historically challenging race and are on the start line with Fabian Wegmann, Russell Downing, Alex Kirsch, Mads Pedersen, Martin Mortensen, Michael Reihs, Rasmus Quaade and Troels Vinther.

DS, Luke Roberts says: “Dwars door Vlaanderen is a very historical race. It includes many of the famous Belgian climbs and cobblestone sectors, although it is probably not renowned as one of the harder Belgian classics.
With a very strong field on the start line, our boys will need to be punching above their weight, but it has happened often in past editions of this race that an underdog has taken a ’surprise’ victory. We will be out there doing our best to upset the big players.”

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