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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Saturday, March 7, 2015

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We've got two races today. First, there is the ongoing Belgian stage race, the Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen (3 Days of West Flanders) which will run through Sunday, the 8th. And down in Italy the Strade Bianche with its more than 40 kilometers over white gravel roads will be held. It's Italy's answer to Paris-Roubaix. I'll have lots of photos from Strade Bianche and full results and race story for both races.

European Bikes & E-Bikes Sales Headed Back Up

The European bicycle trade web site reports that after years of decline, two-wheeler sales are on the upswing, up 4.2% in 2014 over 2013. Yay! In Belgium, bike sales were up 7.5%, an increase of 30,000 units. Sweden also had a boost in bike sales.

Dutch e-bike sales in 2014 were up 16.1% ( total of 223,000!!) and for all of Europe, e-bike sales are 21.2% of all bikes sold. In Europe, Independent bike shops had a 71% market share, up 3% form the year before.

Here's an interesting statistic, 12% of all traveled kilometers in the Netherlands were on eBikes.

E-Bikes are are the rise

eBikes are on the rise in a lot of the world.

This is all heartening news. I wish it were also true in the U.S.

Strade Bianche, Already a Classic?

The French sports paper l'Equipe asserted today that Italy's Strade Bianche has already attained "Classic" status. Certainly they are right that it has become a "must-race" event that any serious rider would die to win.

The Italian event does serve as a perfect prelude to the big northern classics. Run since 2007, only one rider has one it more than once, Fabian Cancellara, who triumphed in 2008 and 2012. The big guy will be there Saturday.

Certainly Etixx-Quick Step will have serious intentions there, wanting to eliminate the humiliation of the two near-misses (Het Nieuwsblad and Le Samyn where they looked to have overwhelming superiority in numbers during the final kilometers, but could not close the deal) will be determined protagonists in the Italian race.

Vinceno Nibali will be there. He does well in extreme conditions and would certainly like to add this wonderful Italian race to his palmares.

Michal Kwiatkowski

Michal Kwiatkowski wins the 2014 edition of Strade Bianche.

BikeRaceInfo will be posting lots of Strade Bianche pictures by Fotoreporter Sirotti. This will be fun for us cycling fans.

L'Equipe speculated that Alejandro Valverde might wait until the foot of the Via Santa Catarina with its ten-percent gradient that leads to the Piazza del Campo where the race ends, to launch a late attack.

UCI on Upcoming Paris-Nice

This nice overview of Paris-Nice is from the UCI:

The UCI WorldTour heads to France for the first European race of 2015, where some of the best riders in the peloton will be chasing daily and overall success at Paris-Nice.

The week-long race begins with a prologue time trial in the suburbs of the French capital on Sunday March 7 and ends a week later on the roads of Nice with a final individual time trial on the climb of Col d'Eze, overlooking the city on Sunday March 15.

Paris-Nice is affectionately known as 'The race to the sun' as the riders leave the winter of Northern France behind them and head south to the warmer climate of the French Riviera.

Rohan Dennis (BMC) defends his lead in the 2015 UCI WorldTour standings after his victory at the Tour Down Under. The talented young Australian has 110 points after winning a stage and the final overall classification in Adelaide in late January. Richie Porte (Team Sky) is second with 86 points.

Rohan Dennis at the Tour Down Under

Rohan Dennis enjoys the 2015 Tour Down Under

Dennis' BMC squad leads the team ranking with a total of 186 points. Team Sky is second with 86 points and Movistar - winners of the 2014 UCI WorldTour - is third with 80 points. Australia has an early lead in the nations ranking with 279 points.

Dennis recently set a new UCI Hour Record on the track but has the ability to fight for the race leader's yellow jersey at Paris-Nice. His big rivals include former World Champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Giro d'Italia podium finisher Fabio Aru (Astana), Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo), current World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep), Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo).

They all have the climbing ability for the decisive stages in the mountains on the edge of the Massif Central and the time trial skills for the final 9.5km time trial on the Col d'Eze. Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) won a similar stage in the 2012 edition of Paris-Nice, using his climbing ability and time trial expertise to seal overall success ahead of Lieuwe Westra.

This year's Paris-Nice will be Wiggins' final stage race at UCI WorldTour level before he steps down a level to focus on track racing and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. He will be part of Team Sky's squad in France but is expected to play a support role to Porte and Thomas.

The early stage of Paris-Nice take the riders south across the flat plains of northern France with stages to Contres, Saint-Amand-Montrond and Saint-Pourçain-sur-Sioule. All three are flat and so suit the sprinters. However cross winds, echelons and occasional snow can cause huge damage and split the peloton.

Ben Swift (Team Sky), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin), Bryan Coquard (Europcar), Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge), Nacer Bouhanni and Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) are expected to fight for success in the sprints during these three days on the flat.

The climbs and overall contenders take over during the 204km fourth stage to Croix de Chaubouret. It includes eight categorised climbs, including a 10km category one mountain finish in Croix de Chaubouret. Time gaps could be significant here.

Stage five to Rasteau is again a day for the sprinters but the climbs return on stage six in the hills above Nice. The route profile is like a shark's tooth with a final fast descent to the finish in Nice. Whoever leads Paris-Nice after this stage will have to fight to defend every second during the final 9.5km time trial on the Col d'Eze.

The overall winner will score 100 UCI WorldTour points and almost certainly take the lead in the UCI WorldTour individual rankings.

Lampre-Merida Racing Plans

Lampre-Merida sent this note about its participation in upcoming races:

On Saturday March the 7th, Lanmore-Merida will take part in the 9th edition of the Strade Bianche, 200 km from San Gimignano to Siena: the riders will face 9 dirt roads sectors for a total of 45.4 km.

Sport director Daniele Righi will coordinate these riders: Conti, Koshevoy, Mori, Niemiec, Pibernik, Pozzato, Richeze and Serpa.

"Niemiec and Pozzato will be our captains," Righi explained. "Niemiec has demonstrated in the past weeks his very competitive shape, Pozzato's skills are very suitable for this kind of race. The team will try to give them the best support, taking into account that Serpa and Conti could also join some attacks in the central part of the race."

Filippo Pozzato and Elia Viviani

Lampre rider Filppo Pozzato will be at the Strade Bianche. Here he shares the chamagne with Elia Viviani after 2014's Coppa Bernocchi.

On Sunday, Lampre-Merida will be at the start of Paris-Nice, the second event of the season of the World Tour. In France, the Lampre-Merida cyclists, who'll be directed by Philippe Mauduit and Simone Pedrazzini, will take part in 7 stages (total of 1.141 km), trying to be principal players in the race, thanks to Rui Costa, Bonifazio, Bono, Cimolai, Mario Costa, Oliveira, Plaza and Valls.

During the French race, the cyclists will face one prologue and one mountain time trial (Col d'Eze), four stages that could be suitable for the sprinters or for the attackers and two stages that will be pivotal for the overall classification

Rui Costa will be the team leader for the general classification, Bonifazio and Cimolai, who both recently obtained victories. Valls, winner of the Tour of Oman, is facing a cold and his condition needs to be monitered.

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