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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Thursday, October 15, 2015

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

Racing schedule:

Next up: Two important races on Sunday, the 18th. In France there is the Chrono des Nations time trial and in Japan, the Japan Cup.

Is this the 2016 Tour de France Route?

2016 Tour de France route

Next Tuesday The 2016 Tour de France route will be revealed. But Belgian newspaper Sporza believes it has the 2016 route, which is pictured above.

Remarkably, there is only one time trial on the menu and the Vosges are the battleground of the last mountain stages.

As previously announced, the Tour starts at the scenic Mont-Saint-Michel. Against tradition, in the 5th stage the riders face the first hilltop stage finish, in the Massif Central.

The final climb there will be to the ski station Le Lioran, where Michel Pollentier triumphed in 1975.

The race then heads to the Pyrenees, where at Pla de Beret and Arcalis (Andorra) there will be two hilltop finishes. On the Pyrenees menu are also ascents of the Aspin, Peyresourde and Cortals d'Encamp.

Followng that stiff climbing, there will be a rest day in Andorra. On Quatorze Juillet (Bastille Day, July 14) is a race up Mont Ventoux. The next day (Ardèche) will have the only time trial of the 2016 Tour.

Then follows three days in the Alps, where the riders may have to conquer the Izoard and Galibier.

Before the final day in Paris will be that trip to Vosges mountains for a spectacular finale. In the last mountain stage (Mulhouse) the riders will confront the Ballon d'Alsace.

We'll know Tuesday if this is correct.

Saxo Bank will not renew sponsorshiip in 2016

COPENHAGEN, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Saxo Bank will not renew the sponsorship of the Tinkoff-Saxo professional cycling team for another season, the Copenhagen-based online foreign exchange brokerage firm said on Thursday.

Saxo Bank has sponsored the team with riders such as multi-grand tour winner Spaniard Alberto Contador and sprinter Peter Sagan from Slovakia for the past eight seasons.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador's jersey will not carry Saxo Bank's name in 2016

Speculation around the bank's departure from the sponsorship has been going on for a while after team manager Bjarne Riis left the cycling outfit in March after a dispute with Oleg Tinkov, founder of Russia's Tinkoff Bank, which is the other main sponsor for the team.

Riis, the 1996 Tour de France winner who later confessed to doping, has been involved in cycling management since 1999.

Tom Dumoulin and Warren Barguil renew with Giant-Alpecin

Team Giant-Alpecin is pleased to announce that both Tom Dumoulin (NED) and Warren Barguil (FRA) have renewed their contracts with the team. The agreements extend their commitment for another three years, until the end of 2018. Dumoulin is currently in his fourth season with the team, having joined in 2012, and Barguil joined the team that same year as a stagiaire.

Dumoulin has achieved eight pro wins to date. His best results at the highest pro level include two stage wins at this year’s Vuelta a España, along with six days in the red leader’s jersey and sixth in the final GC; two stage wins at the 2015 Tour de Suisse and second in the final GC; and a win in the closing time trial of the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco.

Tom Dumoulin

Tom Dumoulin at this year's Vuelta

Barguil’s top results include two stage wins at the 2013 Vuelta a España, eighth in the final GC of the 2014 Vuelta, sixth in the GC of the 2014 Tour de Beijing, and third on stage 8 of the 2015 Tour de Suisse. This year, in his first Tour de France appearance, he finished 14th in the final GC.

"We are delighted to continue working with Tom and Warren to help them develop further as riders and achieve their maximum potential," said Team Giant-Alpecin CEO Iwan Spekenbrink (NED). “This year we have seen Tom make a great step forward in his development both as a rider and as a person, which has led to some impressive results already. The way he dealt with his crash at the Tour de France and how he acts as a leader within the team show that he is capable of playing a leadership role.

"With Warren, we decided back in 2013 to create a long-term performance plan to help him become a strong GC rider in the future. As a result, we sent him to this year’s Tour de France to learn and to discover his capabilities in a race like the Tour, which will be an important step in his development as a GC rider. For us, it was an obvious choice to continue executing the performance plan with Warren and our performance staff. We believe that we can continue to grow together and produce some strong performances.

Warren Barguil

Warren Barguil at last year's Vuelta

"I feel really good in the team, and I trust that I can develop further in this environment,” said Dumoulin. “I will get all the support I need to make the next steps in my career. I am pleased with how we have worked together so far. We have made great progress every year, and this is one of the reasons to stay with the team. Another important factor is that my growth is paralleling the growth of the team, and it is great to be part of a challenging environment."

"I am happy to continue with the team and to improve further as a GC rider,” said Barguil. “When I joined the team in 2012 I signed a contract for a long period of three years, and for me it was clear that I wanted to continue. I am confident that the team can help me take the next steps, and that is why I want to stay for three more years. The atmosphere in the team is great and my teammates are very helpful, and that is important to me. When I am racing I feel good with everyone around me, and I just don’t want to leave for a different team. Now that the team is growing, it is important to have the right GC support, not only during races but also before and after."

Giant-Alpecin also signed Max Walscheid:

Team Giant-Alpecin is pleased to announce that Max Walscheid (GER) will ride for the team through 2017. Walscheid, who raced this year for the German continental outfit Team Kuota-Lotto before joining Team Giant-Alpecin as a stagiaire in August, has signed a two-year contract.

The hiring reflects Team Giant-Alpecin’s commitment to developing German cycling and giving young riders the opportunity to move up. “Max is a talented sprinter who made a good impression in the races he rode with us as a stagiaire over the past few months,” said coach Marc Reef (NED). “The logical result is the replacement of his stagiaire’s contract with a pro contract. Our coaches and experts will support him with a long-term strategy as he continues to work on his sprint. We will give him space to concentrate on improving, and in the meantime he will strengthen our sprint train. He will also take on the challenge of pursuing success in the classics in the future.”

“I’m glad the team sees my capabilities as a rider but also as a person,” said Walscheid. “During my time as a stagiaire I think I was able to show the team that I have the ability to deliver results but that I can also contribute to team successes. I’m happy that the team recognized that and is giving me the chance to turn pro. This is the perfect team for me for the next few years, as I will be able to work on my strengths and weaknesses. I want to improve as a sprinter, and during my time as a stagiaire I made progress, which was a good sign. I would like to continue with a race program that allows me to get some experience in the bigger races and aim for strong results in smaller races. Next to that I’m also really looking forward to working for the team and having my role in the sprint preparation.” 

Wait! Giant-Alpecin has signed another young gun:

Team Giant-Alpecin is pleased to announce that Sindre Skjøstad Lunke (NOR) has signed a two-year contract and will ride for the team through 2017. The 22-year-old Skjøstad Lunke joins from the Norwegian continental squad Team Joker.

Skjøstad Lunke has shown his talent in demanding races, and his results include 7th in the Tour de l’Avenir in 2015 and 11th in 2014. He is the second top-10 Tour de l’Avenir finisher the team has signed this year, after Sam Oomen (NED).

“Sindre is a climber who has proven two years in a row that he can perform strongly in the mountains,” said Team Giant-Alpecin coach Marc Reef (NED). “We have a plan to help him develop in a broad way, but with an initial focus on his specialty, climbing. We believe he has the mental and physical ability to do well in difficult climbing races in the future, but in the meantime he will also play a role supporting our GC riders, Warren Barguil and Tom Dumoulin.”

“Joining Team Giant-Alpecin and moving up to the highest level of the sport is a big step for me and I am really happy to get this chance," said Skjøstad Lunke. "It will be hard, of course, but very exciting as well. I hope to learn a lot from the more experienced riders, and I’m looking forward to being guided by the team’s coaches and drawing on their experience in developing riders as I take the next steps in my own progression. I’m really looking forward to competing in the harder stage races. Now I’m best in in the mountains, especially long climbs, but I hope to improve on the flats and in the TT in order to become a GC rider in the future."

Orica-AIS Season wrap-up

This 2015 season summary came from the team:

European breakthroughs and a wide spread of rider victories highlighted Orica-AIS' fourth season in the professional peloton. Two of the longest serving members and most valuable contributors to the outfit's success, Amanda Spratt and Gracie Elvin, both enjoyed their first professional victory in European throughout the 2015 season.

Gracie Elvin

Gracie Elvin

Their success joined that of proven performer and Swedish champion Emma Johansson and debutant Lizzie Williams who also rode themselves onto the top step of the podium in the team's 16 recorded victories.

"We had a really broad spectrum of results and riders achieving those results in 2015 and that's probably the highlight for us," sport director Gene Bates said. "It was a big goal of ours coming into this season and something we worked hard on in November and December last year. Making the riders a bit more accountable certainly helped and making sure we had numbers in the finals, which is where we really suffered last year. The girls really turned that around this year."

For all the positives, it's hard to imagine the rough start that plagued Orica-AIS early in the season.

The team recorded various victories in unclassified Australian events in January and via individual performances by Katrin Garfoot for the national team in February, but it would take until the last weekend May before the outfit recorded it's first official victory in Orica-AIS colours.

"It was definitely a slower and rougher start than we had hoped for," Bates said. "We had a lot of illness and injury which kept some riders out of racing completely, plus we had some new riders on the team and, not sugar coating it at all, it just really didn't gel well for us in the spring. We stepped away from it all, had a good break and a great training camp and we manage to find some momentum. From that point on we were really pleased with the way the girls performed, right from May until the end of the season."

A double-winning weekend, at SwissEver GP Cham-Hagendorn and Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik, in May kick started a positive remainder of the season.

"On the first weekend of racing back after our break we took two victories and a second place in three days, with three different riders," Bates remembered. "That really kick started things again for us. From that point on the highlights continued. An overall win in Thuringen with Emma and stage victory from Gracie in the same Tour, right through to the overall win in Trophée d'Or Féminin with Rachel Neylan and probably capped off with Katrin's fourth place in the time trial at the world championships."

General manager Shayne Bannan credited the riders and staff on the ability to turn the season around. "For the organisation, one of the most pleasing things to come out of Orica-AIS' 2015 season was their show of character," Bannan said. "Winning with momentum is one thing, but to band together and turn it around after a rough period is even more difficult. Credit to Gene and the girls for that, and also for a number of breakthrough performances through out the year.  They set out last year working toward rider accountability and to see so many of the girls post results this year is a direct reflection of that focus."

Some (of the many) highlights of Orica-AIS' 2015 season:

Winning weekend: Straight out of a mid-season camp, Orica-AIS turned their 2015 season around with two victories and a second place in late May.

Debutant Lizzie Williams posted the first breakthrough at SwissEver GP Cham-Hagendorn before Gracie Elvin followed suit with a second win at Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik just hours later.

Euro excellence: After seasons of valuable support, the first European victories of Gracie Elvin and Amanda Spratt were particular highlights of the 2015 season.

Elvin was the first to breakthrough at Gooik-Geraardsbergen-Gooik on the team's winning weekend in May, whilst Spratt got her reward at Giro del Trentino Alto Adige – Südtirol in June.

Lizzie Williams' victory at SwissEver GP Cham-Hagendorn was also her first in Europe, capping off a successful debut season with the outfit.

Thuringen throw-down: If there was one day that best captured the ORICA-AIS mantra, it was the final stage of Internationale Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen to give Emma Johansson her third overall title.

Johansson and Amanda Spratt started 30 and 32seconds behind race leader Lisa Brennauer (Velocio-SRAM) going into the final stage and with repeated, alternate attacking, together the pair got the better of Brennauer who succumbed to the ORICA-AIS pressure.

World warrior: After a season of hard work and hard lessons courtesy of her time trial bike, Katrin Garfoot pulled it all together on the biggest stage at the UCI Road Cycling World Championships in Richmond.

The 33-year-old threw herself in the medal mix, crossing the line in a provisional second place within ten seconds of leader and eventual winner Linda Villiumsen. Eventually Garfoot settled for an impressive fourth place, just four seconds off the podium.

Etixx-Quick Step thanks fans

This from team boss Patrick Lefevre:

Once again, this year has been another season full of satisfaction for the team. We won 54 races and for the 4th consecutive year we are the most winning team in the world.

We also made it to the podium 69 other times, 41 times to the second step and 28 to the third. Our team has been at the top for victories since the 2012 season.

These numbers speak for themselves. We were consistent and present in the actions all year. This is thanks to our athletes, but also to our staff, the team behind the team. However, we cannot forget our supporters. Many fans of the team have remained loyal since the inaugural 2003 season. It is easier to keep performing at the highest level possible when we have fans like ours cheering and following us at all our races throughout the season.

Mark Cavendish and Patrick Lefevre

Mark Cavendish (in sweatshirt with glasses) listens to Patrick Lefevre (right) early in the 2014 Tour de France

As a collective we are a winning team that loves to keep raising the level of their own performance. We hope you will continue to support us as we look ahead to next season with big motivation.

Thank you, fans, for being the "wind at our backs," and we will keep doing our best to make you proud!

Tinkoff-Saxo gets UCI award

Here's the press release from the team:

The 2015 season has reached its conclusion for Tinkoff-Saxo after nine months of racing and a grand total of 291 races and stages combined. The season culminated with four action-filled days in Abu Dhabi, where teams and riders were celebrated at the grand UCI Cycling Gala 2015. Tinkoff-Saxo took home two awards with team captains Alberto Contador and Peter Sagan being honored for their victories at the Giro d’Italia and World Championship Road Race.

In conjunction with the 2015 season drawing to a close, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) threw the star-studded inaugural Cycling Gala, which celebrated the top riders of the year and those teams that had been competing and performing in the World Tour. The event took place Sunday after the final stage of Abu Dhabi Tour and saw Peter Sagan take home a framed rainbow jersey in recognition of his performance at the World Championships. After stirring up a cheerful ambiance on the stage, Peter Sagan explained the attending reporters:

“It’s very nice that everybody are so happy for me. It’s the first time that UCI is having this celebration gala and I think it’s very cool. I’m very proud of the rainbow jersey and I hope that I can be a good world champion. It’s a difficult jersey to wear but I will try my best to honor it and the sport. It has been a long season, I’ve had many second places and also some wins that I surely wont forget”, said the World Champion.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan in his new Rainbow kit

Also Alberto Contador visited the scene at the Yas Marina Island “du Forum”, where the Tinkoff-Saxo team captain was honored for his memorable win at the 2015 Giro d’Italia.

Speaking after the ceremony, Tinkoff-Saxo General Manager Stefano Feltrin noted that 2015 had been a year of progress.

“I see it as a constructive initiative from UCI to start this tradition in order to add value to and direct focus towards the big, noticeable victories and feats of the year. It was a pleasure to see Alberto and Peter on the stage. Thanks to their teammates’ support and their own will to push through the tough moments, they were able to take to the stage”, says Stefano Feltrin before finishing:

“Although cycling remains one of the biggest sports, it’s obvious that it has potential to grow. There’s still much to improve but we’ve taken some positive steps this season and implemented a number of initiatives, organizational and media related such as the on-board cameras. The return of investment in cycling is at a high level but we will strive to create favorable economic incentives to invest in cycling, while the work to create a viable financial environment for the teams, such as the distribution of money from TV-rights, is ongoing”.

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