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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Friday, October 23, 2015

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

Lance Armstrong admits bribing competitors for Triple Crown win

I have grown tired of Lance Armstrong and his life of fraud and probably think BikeRaceInfo readers have as well. That's why I have not posted every new revelation of his past misdeeds. But, when an item is particularly newsworthy, I'll post it.

Back in 1993 there was a series of three American races with a prize of a million dollars to the winner of all three. Armstrong had already won two and needed the third to collect the big payoff. There have long been rumors that Armstrong won the race by bribing competitors, going back to newspaper and magazine articles in 2013 where former pro Roberto Gaggioli had said that Armstrong had paid him for the victory.

Testifying in the the current Floyd Landis-US Federal Government False Claims Act case, Armstrong said that he had indeed won the bonus by bribing competitors to let him win and further asserted that his then-manager (and current BMC manager) Jim Ochowicz had participated.

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong in 1996

Lotto-Soudal's Marc Sergeant looks back on 2015

The team sent me this assessment:

Story of the Giro d'Italia, volume 1

Traditionally, at the end of a cycling season one looks back on the achieved performances. After a record year for Lotto Soudal, the team can go satisfied in winter modus. Nevertheless, manager Marc Sergeant is convinced that there’s still some space for improvement. He analysed this year and came to five conclusions.

1.We made well-considered choices

“At the end of 2014, we gathered with the sportive staff after a less successful season. There had to change some things and because of that, we took some vigorous decisions. One decision was to let some riders not participate in the Tour Down Under. With this, we hoped that the riders who stayed home would be fresher in the rest of the season. That way André Greipel, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg and Jens Debusschere got more time to prepare their season. This worked well; Greipel rode the whole season on a high level. He provided a big amount of our WorldTour points and also scored on Europe Tour level. He was there when he needed to be and this resulted in some beautiful victories. Roelandts was very consistent, but lacked a top result. Sieberg was of big value for the team and Debusschere took another step in his development.”

Marcel Sieberg

Marcel Sieberg

“Also the choice to not put Jurgen Van den Broeck in the Tour de France selection was one of the decisions we made on that day. We pulled the card of Greipel and the attacking riders like Thomas De Gendt, Tim Wellens, Adam Hansen and Tony Gallopin. By not letting Van den Broeck ride the Tour, other riders got the necessary confidence and the freedom to take their own chance.”

“Together with Energy Lab, we chose a different training approach. Frederik Willems began his first year as sports director but integrated perfectly. Also the choice to give the young riders more chances paid off.”

“The worst fact stays the crash of Kris Boeckmans. This let a deep impression on the team. Kris was riding his best season ever and won eight races, this made him the rider who had the most victories in Belgium this year.”

2.Very good report in 2015

“Before every season, we determinate the objectives for the next year. After 2014, we decided to choose to formulate this in another way. We took down the number of victories from 30 in 2014 to 25 in 2015, but wanted more quality. Eventually, we won 40 times, of which 14 WorldTour victories. It was important that the quality of the victories remained, that’s more important than the quantity. Nevertheless, winning is always nice and good for the atmosphere.”

“Regardless the amount of victories, a top 10 in the final classification of the WorldTour was a second objective. Beforehand, we knew that 800 WorldTour points was necessary to achieve this and with our 590 points in 2014, this was a very ambitious goal. In the end, we achieved a total of 832 points and the ninth place. Greipel, De Clercq, Wellens, Gallopin, Benoot and a nice seventh place at the World Championships team time trial took care of this. This seventh place in Richmond was necessary after a disappointing performance at the World Championships team time trial last year. We don’t have the time trial specialists in our team, but we do have some strong riders like Bak, Henderson, Wellens, Benoot and Gallopin who are capable of riding a strong time trial and team time trial.”

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens at this year's Tour of Lombardy

“The riders got the task to race aggressively and put Lotto Soudal on the map. This way of racing resulted in a lot of victories, but also multiple top 10 places. Altogether, next to the forty victories, we collected fourteen podium places in WorldTour one-day races and a limited amount of top ten places in stage races. We know that we didn’t live up to the expectations in these stage races and that next year results must be better in these races.”

3.Keep developing

“On this level of cycling, we can’t allow to stay put. Every year, we need to innovate and make new choices. Concerning the program of the riders and the optimisation of the staff. Together with Energy Lab, we keep improving our training approach and also in our medical team there will be some changes.”

“We have individual conversations with each rider to determine his race schedule. Within the next weeks, most of the race routes will be revealed and we can look which riders are qualified to compete in which races. It’s obvious that our core of the classic spring races and stage races will remain the same, but in terms of the Grand Tours we still need to put the puzzle together.”

4.Three real reinforcements

“We made the choice to let five riders leave the team (Boris Vallée, Vegard Breen, Dennis Vanendert, Jurgen Van den Broeck and Kenny Dehaes), but I think that everyone can give this a place. On the other hand, we welcomed three guys who can be a big value for our team on their terrain.”

“Jelle Wallays joins our classics team that rides the one-day races. In the past, he showed his qualities as a classics rider and he will be a reinforcement for the team in general. Also his aggressive style of racing suits perfectly in our vision.”

“Tomasz Marczynski and Rafael Valls have to fill up the gap in the stage races. Marczynski isn’t the rider who will be our leader, but he is the rider who has to stay as long as possible with the team leaders. Valls is the type of rider who can function as a leader and who is capable of finishing in the top ten to collect WorldTour points. The best stage race riders aren’t financial feasible for us, so we have to search on the rank just below them. The past years Valls rode in function of Rui Costa, but he has come to an age where he can take the step to ride for his own success.”

Rafael Valls

Rafael Valls in the 2015 Tour de France

“For the outer world, welcoming a Polish and a Spanish rider could be a weird choice; but we made our choice based on sportive reasons and commercial interests. It’s not easy to find riders who are stage race specialists. Our vision is clear: first we search on the Belgian market, but if we don’t find what we look for in Belgium, we search abroad.”

5.Still room for progress

“Next year, there is definitely still room to make progress. Not in terms of victories, because the forty successes of this year will be hard to achieve again, but certainly in our style of racing and keep hammering on the quality of the victories. If we analyse the WorldTour ranking, we see that we are the third best scoring team from June till the end of the season. From this, we can conclude that our first part of the season was the period where we missed a lot of points.”

“Tiesj Benoot has revealed himself as the man for the future in the Flemish races, but also Debusschere made some steps in his development as a rider. Together with Roelandts, they can take care of the WorldTour points in the Flemish Spring Classics.”

“In the Walloon races, we expected more of our riders. Also during the stage races of one week (Tirreno-Adriatico, Vuelta al País Vasco, Volta a Catalunya and Tour de Romandie) we stayed below the expectations. Next year, we truly have a better core of riders for this type of races. Maxime Monfort can be of big value because he speaks several languages and because of his quality and experience as team captain for the riders, together with newcomers Marczynski and Valls. Louis Vervaeke had a lot of bad luck this season and is determined to do better next year. Also Bart De Clercq, Thomas De Gendt, Tim Wellens and Tony Gallopin have shown that they own the qualities to succeed in this type of races. They all made progression last season. We are very confident that we will play our role in this type of races in 2016.”

Giro Rosa photo gallery

The kind people who organize the Giro Rosa (Women's Giro d'Italia) sent me a link to a photo gallery of the Italian race's best moments.

Just click here.

Also, here is a Giro Rosa podium history and here are the stage-by-stage and final results of the 2015 Giro Rosa.

Mara Abbot wind Giro Rosa stage 9

Mara Abbot wins 2015 Giro Rosa stage nine

Mass production of hydrogen fuel cell E-bikes has started

It wasn't that long ago (OK, 46 years) that I was riding to school on a 10-speed steel lugged bike with Huret Allvit derailleurs. And now Bike Europe reports this:

BIDART, France – Pragma Industries will be the first to distribute mass-produced e-bikes equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell. The French La Poste will test the fuel cell bikes during the next three years.

The development of the so called Alpha bike took Pragma Industries two years. “One of the requirements of the project was the integration of all component directly in the frame to limit the production constraints and to easy the adaption in the mass production process,” explained Pragma Industries CEO Pierre Forté at the presentation of the Alpha.

According to Pragma Industries, the Alpha can travel 100 kilometres on a single charge. Compared to a lithium battery charging is much faster as it takes just a single minute to replace the hydrogen bottle. As the hydrogen bottle is under pressure the remaining quantity of liquids gas determines the range.

The first models are expected to be available on the market in September 2016. Some 100 units will be distributed at a retail price of 4,000 euro. “We do not think it is a problem to sell at this price given the interests gathered at the presentation of the bike. In 2017, the production will be increased to approximately one thousand Alpha’s. In a few years’ time we expect to sell in a price range between € 1,200 and € 3,000 to compete the midrange e-bike market,” says Pierre Forté

Tinkoff (Saxo will be gone in 2016) team to get together for
2016 season in Croatia

Here's the news release from the team:

The seaside resort of Valamar Diamant in Poreč, Coratia will play host to the riders, sport directors, doctors, technical staff and management of Tinkoff Team from October 26th to 29th, in order to start planning and preparing for the 2016 season.

According to Stefano Feltrin, Managing Director of Tinkoff-Saxo, this meeting will signal the start of the "Tinkoff era" of the team. "With our rider roster now complete, we can focus on planning for 2016 and this four-day meeting will give us a head start. It will be an important first step in a long and challenging season and it will give our new riders the opportunity to get acquainted with the rest of the team. All riders will discuss next year's racing schedule with the sport directors, they will have a thorough medical checkup and meet with a number of our technical suppliers", stated Feltrin.

"We chose to come here because we found in Poreč and the Valamar Riviera group the perfect partners. Not only do Poreč and Istria provide the perfect setting, Valamar Diamant offers world-class facilities that meet the standards of any top-level professional sports team", added Feltrin.

The final roster of Tinkoff Team for 2016 consists of 27 riders. In alphabetical order they are, Erik Baška, Daniele Bennati, Adma Blythe, Manuele Boaro, Maciej Bodnar, Pavel Brutt, Alberto Contador, Oscar Gatto, Michael Gogl, Jesper Hansen, Jesús Hernández, Robert Kiserlovski, Michael Kolar, Roman Kreuziger, Rafal Majka, Jay McCarthy, Sergio Paulinho, Evgeny Petrov, Pawel Poljanski, Michael Rogers, Ivan Rovny, Juraj Sagan, Peter Sagan, Matteo Tosatto, Yuri Trofimov, Nikolay Trusov and Michael Valgren.

Peter Sagan

World road champion Peter Sagan is part of the 2016 Tinkoff lineup

During their stay in Poreč, all riders will undergo a special medical examination at the Thalassotherapia Opatija clinic, which will also mark the first time that a top-level professional cycling team has opted for medical examination in a Croatian clinic.

“This is a very important event for Istria, Poreč, tourist company Valamar Riviera, Thalassotherapia Opatija clinic and in general for positioning Croatia on the global map of cycling. Taking into consideration the position, climate and the terrain characteristics, we have a great potential to become one of the top destinations for big cycling events", stated Vladimir MIholjević, director of Top Sports Events, the company that is the main driver behind the initiative to bring Tinkoff-Saxo to Croatia. 

Ivica Vrkić, Director of Marketing at Valamar Riviera also expressed his satisfaction with this visit: "We are very proud that Tinkoff-Saxo chose Porec and Valamar for its team meeting. This confirms that our work in developing cyclo-tourism has been set in the right direction and it will encourage us to continue with even stronger efforts aiming to take full advantage of the irrefutable potential our destinations from Istria to Dubrovnik have".

"Our goal is to place Croatia on the map of the most prominent European destinations for cyclo-tourism. In the recent years, Istria is making huge steps forward as a destination that develops bike offer and Valamar is the leader of that trend, with the ambition to hold this position in the future. Our brand Valamar Loves Bike is present on the market for many years, we have developed 6 specialized bike hotels that offer the highest standards of service", concluded Vrkić.

Once the four-day meeting concluded, the entire Tinkoff Team will gather again early December in Gran Canaria for a two-week training camp in one of the ANFI Group resorts.

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