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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Thursday, March 26, 2015

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

Today's Racing

Today is the fourth stage of the Spanish stage race, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. It's highly ranked, being part of the World Tour. Also, the Italian 2.1-ranked Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali starts today. We'll also post results for the French 1.1 ranked Classica Corsica.

Ghost Bikes

A reader concerned about the basic problem of bikes and cars (and when car meets the bike, it almost always comes out badly for the bike) using the same roads asked me to explain Ghost Bikes, or as they are sometimes called, White Cycles, memorials to riders who have been killed or hurt by cars.

They are old, usually junk bikes that have been painted a solid white and positioned where a cyclist has endured a serious accident. The Ghost Bikes are locked to something and have a sign explaining that someone on a bike was killed or injured at the scene.

Ghost Bikes can be found all over the world, though the concept may have started in San Francisco in 2002. Notably, A Ghost Bike was left on the Mulholland Highway in Los Angeles in late 2013 after a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy hit and killed cyclist Milton Olin, Jr. Or there was the tragedy of Anthony Navarro, a 6-year old living in Oxnard, California who was killed when he was hit by a pickup truck. A Ghost Bike was erected where the boy was hit.

As a cycle commuter who rarely drives (though I live in a town whose drivers are generally very kind to cyclists), I think this is a wonderful way to dramatize the danger cyclists endure while sharing the road with huge hunks of speeding steel.

Ghost Bike

A Ghost Bike

News From Pro Cycling Teams

Sky's riders for upcoming races:

Team Sky has confirmed its rider line-up for  Coppi e Bartali and E3 Harelbeke:

Coppi e Bartali [26-29 March] : Ian Boswell, Philip Deignan, Nathan Earle, Sergio Henao Kanstantsin Siutsou, Ben Swift and Chris Sutton

E3 Harelbeke [27 March]: Bernhard Eisel, Andy Fenn, Christian Knees, Salvatore Puccio, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas and Elia Viviani

Squad selection for Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem will be confirmed from the team’s long list following the outcome of E3 Harelbeke.

Lotto-Soudal on Dwars door Vlaanderen and Volta a Catalunya

Jens Debusschere and Tiesj Benoot were really strong in Dwars door Vlaanderen today. Unfortunately four escapees could stay ahead of them. Jelle Wallays won the race. Tiesj Benoot finished as sixth, Belgian champion Jens Debusschere as eighth.

There were lots of attacks in the beginning of the race. Sean De Bie was part of a front group for a while. Just before the Nieuwe Kwaremont, the first hill of the day, there was a new front group with Gert Dockx. They never got more than three minutes lead. On the Eikenberg Jelle Wallays attacked. Gert Dockx followed a while at a few metres, but couldn’t close the gap. Just after the Taaienberg Wallays was joined in front by his teammate Edward Theuns, Michal Kwiatkowski and Dylan van Baarle. A chase group with Tiesj Benoot and Jens Debusschere came close, reduced the advantage to half a minute, but never joined the leaders although Tiesj did a great job.

Jens Debusschere

Jens Debusschere at Tirreno Adriatico

Tiesj Benoot: “There was a crash just before the Taaienberg, that I could avoid but that’s why I was too far behind to jump away with Kwiatkowski and the others. I chased them, but there was no real cooperation in the small group I was in. A pity, because we could definitely have closed the gap. When the group with Jens joined us, I believed we could bridge to the front, but then there was a crash in the descent of the Oude Kwaremont. Boom and Devolder were therefore not part of our group anymore and we could have definitely used their help. We reduced the gap to thirty seconds, but there was no smooth cooperation. It’s a pity for our team, especially for Jens. I can be satisfied with my condition. I hope I stay healthy an do not crash, because beautiful races are coming up.”

Jens Debusschere: “The developments in the first phase of the race were positive for us. After the peloton split on the Holleweg we were in the first part with six riders, while Gert Dockx was part of the front group. Unfortunately he couldn’t join Jelle Wallays who had attacked on the Eikenberg. I got in a chase group, but not everyone cooperated. After the Hellestraat I realized that it was impossible, although at a certain point we came to 28 seconds of the leaders. That was especially thanks to Tiesj who rode a fantastic race. In the chase we actually needed another rider like him. I also helped chasing, because if we didn’t close the gap I could not get a high result either. It’s a pity my group couldn’t sprint for the victory, I really did have a chance and had faith.”

News from the Volta a Catalunya as well:

Bad luck for Louis Vervaeke: the young Belgian crashed in the descent of the Alt de Santa Pellaia, in the third stage of the Volta a Catalunya, and hurt his hand. Vervaeke, at that moment on the front rows of the peloton, tried to continue the race, but had trouble holding his handlebar and had to slow down in the dangerous descents, so he finished outside of the time limit. The first radiographies didn’t show any fractures of the wrist, hand or fingers, but there is a severe bruise. Because his hand is swollen he will have a CT scan in Belgium tomorrow.

Dwars door Vlaanderen was yesterday (the 25th). Cult Energy sent this report:

Once again, Cult Energy Pro Cycling fearlessly demonstrated aggressive riding during today’s Belgium semi-classic, Dwars door Vlaanderen where both Martin Mortensen and Alex Kirsch represented the team in the breakaway. In the finale, a surprise attack led to victory for Jelle Wallays (Topsport-Vlaanderen).

The Cult Energy Pro Cycling riders were eager to find the right constellation of riders to form today’s breakaway but it took a long time before the peloton agreed to let it go. Getting near the finale, Cult Energy’s Martin Mortensen was in the breakaway and teammate, Alex Kirsch eventually bridged the gap but the pressure from the top favorites behind was relentless. Ultimately, they were brought back and a new race could begin with 70 kilometers to go. Here, a quartet with world champion, Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick Step) was leading the race while being chased by Lars Boom (Astana) but a sudden crash on the treacherous surface put Boom out of contention.

With Kwiatkowski in the front of the race, BMC and Lotto-Soudal were forced to pull in the chase group of eleven riders but the quartet made it to the red kite where Jelle Wallays (Topsport-Vlaanderen) surprised the group by going solo. As his former breakaway companions didn’t agree on catching him, Wallays took a stunning surprise victory. Behind, Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Troels Vinther and Michael Reihs represented the team in the remains of the main pack.

Jelle Wallys wins Dwars Door Vlaanderen

Jelle Wallays wins this year's Dwars door Vlaanderen

After the race, DS, Luke Roberts made this comment: “The boys executed the plan very well as we wanted to be represented in the early breakaway, which was our chance of making it into the finale. But it took about 80 kilometers before the bunch let them off the hook and Martin made a huge effort to get in there. As the group was getting reeled in by the peloton, Alex bridged across and he didn’t need much more power to make it into the finale with the race winner. So overall I’m happy about the effort as they were sticking to the plan,” says DS, Luke Roberts.

Cult Energy Pro Cycling's Martin Mortensen says: "I really wanted to get out there in the break and actually, the break went without our representation After a glance at Fabian (Wegmann) who nodded in my direction, I went for it. I bridged a gap of one minute and naturally, the effort drained me a bit. When Alex eventually made it across as well, I gave what I had in the front of the group and dropped back. We gave it our best shot and I feel stronger and stronger for every race. I wished I was a little bit stronger in Nieuwsblad but now I think, the form is coming along. That gives me reason for optimism before next week's Three days at Panne."

Tinkoff-Saxo on Volta a Catalunya Stage 3:

Alberto Contador finished 4th on stage 3 of Vuelta a Catalunya together with a decimated group of favorites just behind stage winner Pozzovio. The selection was made when Tinkoff-Saxo took to the front to set a punishing pace in the decisive part of the race with two climbs left to tackle. Contador and the rest of the GC favorites managed to take back time lost to the breakaway on stage 1.

Alberto Contador reclaimed 19 seconds on race leader Pierre Rolland (Europcar), who had gained time in a breakaway previously in the race. After crossing the finish line of stage 3 in a group of seven favorites, team leader Alberto Contador explained that Tinkoff-Saxo had utilized every opportunity at its disposal.

“We gave the maximum we had on the flat parts of the stage, on the climbs as well as the descents. At the end, a small group reached the finish and I don't think there was anything more one could ask from us. There wasn't anything more either that we could have done. I'm happy because the feeling I have is quite good, the team is in good shape and taking into consideration this is the last race before the Giro, it is good to try something”, says a content Alberto Contador.

“This wasn't one of the toughest stages of the Volta a Catalunya but the team did an extraordinary job from the top of the first mountain pass. They rode as hard as they could in order to try to create the possibility to fight for GC victory after the breakaway of the first day”

The somewhat short but undulating 156km stage to Girona featured no less than six categorized climbs along the way. With the GC favorites facing a difficult task to regain time lost to the breakaway on stage 1, Alberto Contador and his teammates took to the front. And after more than 30km of hard pacesetting from a Tinkoff-Saxo team in full vigor, it was up to Contador to finish the job.

After initial attacks, a group of five, including Contador, Richie Porte and Rigoberto Uran, formed and on the descent towards Girona, Andrew Talansky and Daniel Martin regained contact. A late attack from Domenico Pozzovivo secured him the win with three seconds to the remaining six favorites, who reached the finish line 19 seconds ahead of the chasing group containing Valverde, Froome and Pierre Rolland. However it had apparently been difficult to maintain the time gap over the second chasing group, which at some point was close to a minute.

“We were in the leading group and the rest of the riders didn't collaborate much in order to pull away from the ones left behind, including Rolland. I also understand that the other riders in the leading group defended their own interests and carried our their own strategies. It is understandable”, explains Alberto Contador after the stage.


Domenico Pozzovivo wins Catalonia stage 3

Tinkoff-Saxo’s leading sports director in Catalunya, Steven de Jongh, was pleased with the team effort although he had hoped for a bit more. “I'm happy overall with the work of the team. We hoped for a little bit more support from the final group. It would have been an opportunity to take back some time but that is the race. We can't change it. We have our tactics and the other teams have their tactics, so we have to respect that. We wanted to make the race hard in order to gain time on the leaders and that's exactly what we did. Our guys did well and Alberto was positioned where he had to be. He was in front and from the top of the climb about 30 km from the finish. Our squad did a good race”, underlines Steven de Jongh, who expects to see action increase tomorrow: “Tomorrow is another tough stage and I think the GC hasn't been decided yet. We will keep trying and we will keep fighting until the finish line of the last stage."

Tomorrow’s stage 4 to La Molina is, as the queen stage of Volta a Catalunya, expected to heavily impact the final result of the race, which ends Sunday in Barcelona.

And here's Lampre-Merida's take on Volta a Catalunya Stage 3:

In the 3rd stage of Volta a Catalunya the cyclists faced 156 km with start and arrival in Girona, with five Kom (two 1st category, one 2nd category and two 3rd category).

After yesterday's breakaway by Grmay, today another on rider from Lampre-Merida was in the main breakaway of the stage, namely Mattia Cattaneo, who escaped from the bunch with other 10 riders after 40 km in the race after that the early part of the stage had been characterized by many attack attempts (Grmay too tried again). The breakaway had a maximum advantage of 3'45", but the bunch reacted and neutralized the action after 50 km.

Lampre-Merida was ready to support the captains Valls and Niemiec in the approach of the final part of the course when, after having passed on the summit of Alt de Santa Pellaia, a crash broke the bunch: the blue-fuchsia-green riders were in the second group that tried to chase the head group from which 7 riders escaped and battled for the victory, that was obtained by Pozzovivo.
Valls and Niemiec reached the arrival in the first chasing group, 22" later than the winner.

There's a new leader in the overall classification, Rolland, and Valls and Niemiec are 21st and 24th at 2'46".

Pierre Rolland

Race leader Pierre Rolland

Sport director Orlando Maini has some regrets: "Valls and Niemiec's shape today was very good and they would have compete for a top results if they would had not been slowed by the crash that occurred in the middle of the bunch in the downhill.

They missed a very good opportunity, even if their situation in the overall classification did not change a lot. Thumbs up for Cattaneo, who could join the main breakaway".

Matti Breschel on Dwars door Vlaanderen:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Matti Breschel was the team captain going into Dwars door Vlaanderen and its 200km of cobbles and bergs in the freezing Flemish Ardennes. Breschel ultimately finished 12th together with the chasing group after having felt the effects from his 293km stint in Italy. The race was won by Jelle Wallays from Topsport Vlaanderen.

After the Belgian semi-classic, which the Dane won back in 2010, Breschel duly noted that it had been “cold as hell” on the 200km road to Waregem.

“It was a hard day, especially due to the fact that it was so cold throughout the stage together with rain and all those factors that make these Belgian races so tough and appealing at the same time. The race was raced from the front with a big selection from the beginning of the race – more than usually in Dwars door actually. I managed to get into the first group at a moment, where everything was really disintegrating”, says Matti Breschel only occasionally interrupted by shivers that have followed the Dane to his hotel room after the race.

Shrugging off the cold remnants of Dwars door Vlaanderen, Matti Breschel continues to explain how the race developed for Tinkoff-Saxo.

“Right after Taaienberg with around 50k to go, we had several Tinkoff-Saxo guys still up there but then Michael Kwiatkowski attacked. I tried to follow him but I was pretty fried in the moment of the attack. Etixx had many guys at the front so it was the right thing to send out a rider in attack. I was then a part of the group of around ten guys that tried to pull Kwiatkowski and the three other guys back in. We came close but we sort of ran out of fuel with 10k to go and I didn’t have enough to go past in the sprint”, tells Matti Breschel and notes that he could feel the effect of Sunday’s 293km Milano-Sanremo in the legs: “I was up there in the race but missed the last power in the end. I think that all of us, who rode Milano-Sanremo could feel it today and the weather didn’t make opening up for the power any easier”.

Matti Breschel

Matti Breschel at this year's Paris-Nice

Into the last kilometer, the breakaway had reaffirmed their advantage over the chasing group. Here, Jelle Wallays (Topsport Vlaanderen) seized a quickly fading opportunity to avoid a sprint against Michael Kwiatkowski by launching a surprise attack. Wallays crossed the finish line two seconds ahead of his teammate Edward Theuns.

Judged from the faces crossing the finish line, Dwars door Vlaanderen had made its mark. Tinkoff-Saxo’s DS Tristan Hoffman explains why: “It was a typical Flemish race with bad weather, cobbles and climbs. From the gun, the race was full gas with 48km/h in the first hour of racing, I mean really tough. Matti was our leader, he was up there, he did well but he could feel Milano-Sanremo in the finale. However, there’s no doubt that he has the legs."

“At one point it seemed as if, the group with Matti would chase down the four guys in front but that didn’t happen. Even tough the guys did a good job to protect Matti, we had expected someone alongside him in the chasing group to assist. Now we look ahead to E3, where Sagan will join the Belgian squad for the next several cobbled races”, finishes Tristan Hoffman.

This from LottoNL-Jumbo about E3 Harelbeke (Friday, March 27):

Team LottoNL-Jumbo is targeting the top three during the first Flemish World Tour classic on Friday. Sep Vanmarcke dashed to fourth in last year’s E3 Harelbeke, and hopes to do even better this year.

“It’s going to be the first real clash with the best riders on the cobblestones”, sports director Nico Verhoeven explains. “We are looking forward to Sep Vanmarcke’s performance with curiosity. We’re talking about the highest level, at the moment. We will try to do better than last year. Sep is our main gun for that. He has to do the job.”

Vanmarcke prepared himself in Tirreno-Adriatico after a strong opening weekend and a great performance in Strade Bianche in Italy. “Tirreno didn’t go so well for him”, Verhoeven says. “He had a hard time there. After that race, he did a good training camp. He rediscovered his good feeling for the classics during those training sessions. At the moment, he is at the level he should be.”

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke at this year's Tirreno-Adriatico

“The reason for the fact that I didn’t feel great in Tirreno was due to some physical problems”, Vanmarcke explains. “I was a little bit ill and that manifested itself in some aches. Fortunately, that illness didn’t worsen. I conquered it, and found my good feeling. I had to survive Tirreno to return in my best shape back home. I wasn’t really doubtful about my form, anyway. I knew I was in perfect condition. My performance in Strade Bianche proved that.”

The strong Belgian knows that everything has to come together to win in Harelbeke. “I need to have a very good day, and a little bit of luck. I fear that if there will not be a big crash like last year, a lot of riders will be able to survive the hill section. We have to set a high pace to prevent that. If you want to win, the peloton has to fall back in pieces.”

Verhoeven knows what to do when you want to have chance to win E3 Harelbeke. “The main point is always in the final”, he says. “The recent past showed that there are always a few riders who are able to escape. If you want to win, you have to be with those riders. We have to make sure that we’re not getting ourselves in a defensive position in the end. Sep or someone else has to be with the leaders.”

Team line-up: Jos van Emden, Rick Flens, Tom Leezer, Bram Tankink, Maarten Tjallingii, Sep Vanmarcke, Robert Wagner and Maarten Wynants.

Sports directors: Nico Verhoeven and Jan Boven.

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