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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Thursday, May 21, 2015

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Racing Today

Two races today: The Giro d'Italia's twelfth stage and the Tour of Norway's (HC) second stage.

Bianchi celebrates its 130th anniversary

In a business characterized by transition, ephemera and change, Bianchi's 130th birthday makes the Italian company a standout. had this report on the venerable company's celebration:

BERGAMO, Italy – Accompanied by over 200 guests and some 3,600 riders Bianchi celebrated its 130th anniversary at the Bianchi’s Granfondo event recently.

One of the major Granfondo events in Italy, Granfondo Gimondi-Bianchi experienced a huge boost in both participation and international exposure in 2015. The organizers had to close the registrations after reaching the threshold of 3,600 riders coming from 30 different countries, for a memorable edition that celebrated 50 years of Felice Gimondi’s yellow jersey at the 1965 Tour de France. For such a unique occasion, 200 Bianchi friends, guests and stakeholders from 20 Countries, including Australia, Japan, Korea, South Africa and Israel, reached Bergamo for starting at the Granfondo and taking part to the celebrations.

Felice Gimondi and Eddy Merckx

Felice Gimondi (right) with his Bianchi bike and Eddy Merckx in 1973.

Giro d'Italia Reports

This note came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Tinkoff-Saxo’s team captain Alberto Contador retained his pink jersey on the rainy stage 11 of the Giro, where breakaway rider Ilnur Zakarin took the win. Although the terrain didn’t favor the GC riders, Contador chose to launch an attack on the last hill.

Elaborating on the day, Alberto Contador says he saw some interesting details during his attack on the top of the short, final climb with 6km to go.

“I think every day at the Giro is important. You have to try and get over the bad days and that’s what I made an effort to do. Today it wasn’t the terrain to attack but there were some interesting little details to see, when I accelerated”, says Alberto Contador and adds: “There wasn’t much terrain to make a move today but I knew that there were a few riders that weren’t having fun. We didn’t see too much but I could tell that there were a few riders who weren’t feeling so great so I decided to have a go”.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador maintained his slim GC lead in the Giro. Here he is closely watched by Astana.

Stage 11 took the riders from Forlì and 153km along mostly wet roads in the rain to Imola finishing on the famous racetrack. According to Tinkoff-Saxo’s Manuele Boaro, who’s riding his third Giro, the squad remains motivated.

“We were in the front throughout the day, working hard for Alberto. It was even made harder with the rain but we are happy with the outcome. We did our job and Alberto retains the pink jersey”, comments Boaro and adds about riding the Giro d’Italia: “For me this is a great opportunity to be in the Giro racing for such a great team and a great leader like Alberto. It will certainly be the best Giro I have ever done and I will give my best. The first week has been very tough and we had to take it one day at a time but I think we are a strong team and well-knit squad and that is what counts”.

In the stage finale, it was Katusha’s Ilnur Zakarin, who proved the fastest of the escapees, while Tinkoff-Saxo had focus on keeping a controlled pace safeguarding the team leader, tells Head Sports Director Steven de Jongh.

“Again it was a hard parcours and a good breakaway group went away, while we could control the events pretty well. Some of the other teams pulled as well during the stage such as Orica, who took up the chase in the last part of the stage. However, Zakarin was very strong”, states Steven de Jongh.

“Our ambition was to protect Alberto. The rain meant that the technical parts of the stage were trickier and we had to pay more attention during the stage. In the end, Alberto improvised a little attack to test his rivals just a bit. All in all, a wet but good day and we will start focusing on tomorrow. It looks as if it’s going to rain again and with the uphill finish in Vicenza it can become tricky”, finishes Steven de Jongh.

Lampre-Merida sent this report:

The 11th stage of the Giro d'Italia, 153 km from Forlì to Imola, revealed to be a transition stage for the Lampre-Merida.

Despite some attempts, in the rain the blue-fuchsia-green riders could not join the main breakaway of ten riders which led the stage and gave to the Russian Zakarin the opportunity of a solo counter-attack with which he obtained the victory on the arrival in the Imola speedway.

The former breakaway mates crossed the finish line 53" later, while Manuele Mori, the first Lampre-Merida rider to finish, was in the first riders group and obtained 13th place.

Manuele Mori

Manuele Mori at the 2014 Tour Down Under

All the other blue-fuchsia-green cyclists were in the second chasers group. They wait for tomorrow to start again as protagonists, fighting, as in the previous stages.

Here's what LottoNL-Jumbo had to say about the Giro's 11th stage:

Steven Kruijswijk proved that he is feeling strong again in the 11th stage of the Giro d’Italia. The LottoNL-Jumbo front man finished sixth after a long breakaway in the rain of north Italy. Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha) won the stage.

“This was another confirmation of Steven’s form,” sports director, Frans Maassen said. “Every rider in the leading group was a strong man. That proves that it isn’t easy to be part of it.”

Most of the riders in the breakaway attacked earlier in this Giro already. Kruijswijk had a rendezvous with some riders who were in his company last weekend too.

“The first ten riders in the general classification are holding each other tight,” Maassen explained. “The strong men just behind them are getting a little more space to attack and they take more initiative too. But you have to be strong enough, of course.”

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk descends during the Giro's 11th stage.

The breakaway arose on the first climb of the day, on the Passo del Trebbio. “I always end up in the front of the pack on such a climb,” he explained. “When they try to attack, following is the best choice. You need to have a superb day to win the stage. I didn’t have it today, which meant I had to gamble. The Giro is hard. I’m just trying to take my chance. Next week there will be more stages that will suit me better than today.”

Thursday isn’t one of those stages. The first 127 kilometres of the ride from Imola to Vicenza are flat. In the final, there are three little climbs. “It’s hard to say what kind of race it’s going to be”, Maassen said. “It depends on who wants to take control. I think that a breakaway is able to make it until the end. It’s important that we try to be part of it when it’s a group of eight or more riders.”

Tour of Norway News

This Norway Tour report is from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Nikolay Trusov took sixth place on the opening stage of Tour of Norway, while Alexander Kristoff proved the fastest in the gradual uphill sprint. Team DS Nicki Sørensen notes that Tinkoff-Saxo can be fairly satisfied with round one in Norway, as all three Tinkoff-Saxo riders aiming for the GC finished in front of a gap that split the peloton.

In a close catch, the escapees of stage 1 were reeled back on the dying meters. Nikolay Trusov, Tinkoff-Saxo’s designated sprinter, took sixth, while the team’s GC riders crossed the line with the front bunch.

“It was okay today, not an ideal sprint for Nikolay Trusov as the sprint was a bit uphill, which is not his strongest discipline. But I think we can be satisfied with the general effort that the guys made, they all tried to do their best and they worked dedicatedly to execute the team strategy”, says Tinkoff-Saxo sports director Nicki Sørensen.

Nikolay Trusov

Nikolay Trusov

Stage 1 from Årnes to Sarpsborg presented the riders with a fairly flat 182km parcours. The peloton controlled the breakaway, but an attack 50k from the finish line nearly threw a spanner in the works for the sprinters.

“As usual, a breakaway got away at the start of the stage. The peloton asserted its control fairly well over the five riders out front but with 50k to go Lotto attacked from the bunch with two men, who worked up a three-minute lead. The peloton had a hard time catching them again and we sent both Juraj Sagan and Petrov to the front, as we wanted Trusov to get a chance to sprint”, explains Nicki Sørensen, who adds: “In the end, it was extremely close, as the two guys were caught just before the line. Overall, it was also fine from a GC perspective as Brutt, Hansen and Chris Anker stayed well positioned throughout the stage and came home with the front bunch. There was a gap of 13 seconds after the 35th rider so several favorites lost time today. Tomorrow is quite like today and we might try to send out Pavel Brutt, while Trusov will continue to aim for the sprints”.

And here's what Cult Energy had to say about the Norway Tour's first stage:

Tour of Norway was launched with a 182 kilometer long relatively bumpy stage between Årnes to Sarpsborg where a tenacious breakaway dominated the course. However, a bunch sprint was in the cards and proved inevitable. Cult Energy Pro Cycling's Fabian Wegmann finished 7th.

However, the escapees managed to stay away long enough to sweep up all bonus points along the way by breaking clear of the pack early on. Having no hard-core sprinters in the line-up, Cult Energy Pro Cycling had no interest in participating in the chase while Katusha eventually had a rough time bringing the remaining escapees back to the field. With 7 kilometers to go, the escapees still had a gap of one and a half minutes.

Ultimately, they were only 400 meters from the finish line when they were caught and in the sprint for the line, Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Fabian Wegmann demonstrated fine form by finishing 7th. Home turf favorite, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) took the stage win and overall lead.

Fabian Wegmann

Fabian Wegmann

DS, Michael Skelde says: "It was a good start for us. I see that everyone was paying attention in the hectic finale where the chasing teams were having difficulties reeling in the last standing escapees. The chaotic finish caused a crash with two or three kilometers to go but we managed to go around and Fabian was in a great position on the narrow road leading to the finish line. Tomorrow's stage could be even more thrilling. Teams of 6 riders are having a hard time controlling the pack and we should benefit from this," says Skelde.

Giant-Alpecin announces its Tour de France team long-list

The team sent me this note:

With an impressive haul of eight stage wins in the previous two editions of Le Grand Boucle, Team Giant-Alpecin heads to this year’s Tour de France once again with the goal of winning a stage as well as developing the riders and further enhancing the quality of the entire team.

After starting in Rotterdam in 2010, the 2015 Tour de France returns to the Netherlands, with the start in the Dutch city of Utrecht. The Tour de France will start on July 4 and finish in Paris on July 25 after 3,358.3km.

Coach Marc Reef (NED) said, “Our primary target will be stage success, and our long list for this year’s Tour should offer possibilities to achieve this goal.

"In preparation for the Tour, we have already completed a recon of the first two stages that take place in the Netherlands and the cobblestones on stage four. A few members of the team will start their specific preparation at the end of this month at the high-altitude training camp in Sierra Nevada, Spain. The final race preparations will be made at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Tour de Suisse and Ster ZLM Toer.”

COACHES: Marc Reef (NED), Christian Guiberteau (FRA), Rudi Kemna (NED)

LONG-LIST: Warren Barguil (FRA), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), John Degenkolb (GER), Tom Dumoulin (NED), Johannes Fröhlinger (GER), Simon Geschke (GER), Marcel Kittel (GER), Koen de Kort (NED), Georg Preidler (AUT), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Albert Timmer (NED), Tom Veelers (NED) 

John Degenkolb

John Degenkolb will be riding the 2015 Tour de France.

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