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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, April 3, 2016

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

Love is not consolation. It is light. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Recently completed racing

Today's racing:

Ronde van Vlaanderen is Today!

We have complete results for every edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen

Here's what Etixx-Quick Step had to say:

Our team and staff await with confidence the 100th edition of Belgium's most important event.

The Tour of Flanders is regarded as one of cycling's most toughest races, one which separates the men from the boys and which requires strong legs, a bulletproof tactic and a hint of luck in order to get that much-desired victory and engrave your name forever in the history of this sport. It's a diabolical race, which likes to play at all times with the riders, who are reduced to the role of mere actors once they line up in Brugge.

This year, the event will go down in history even before the peloton will start, as it celebrates its 100th edition, one which is very likely to turn into a war of attrition on the short and steep cobbled climbs that are going to act as launch pad for the favourites once the race will hit its final 60 kilometers. Such hills as the Koppenberg, Taaienberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg will have a strategic importance in the race and will see the big names battling it out there before arriving at the finish line in Oudenaarde, after 256 gruesome kilometers.

On Friday afternoon, the Quick-Step headquarters hosted the team's pre-Ronde van Vlaanderen press conference, where the riders came all suited up, just like in the photoshoot which they did a couple of months ago for the 2016 campaign of the company, which drew comparisons between world-class riders and Quick-Step's high-quality design floors.

A three-time winner of the race, Tom Boonen will ride the Tour of Flanders for the 14th time in his career, and is excited to give it a go one more time and be once again among the protagonists: "I'm very happy to be here after missing on last year's race, especially as this is the 100th edition. De Ronde is an event which continues to grow and get more and more attention from the people outside Belgium, who come in huge numbers to watch it and to live this special atmosphere. Concerning the race and the battle for victory, the final 50 kilometers will be crucial and we have to pay attention to the small details, as these will make the difference in the end."

Tom Boonen

Tom Boonen wins the 2012 Ronde

Etixx – Quick-Step will have strength in numbers at the Tour of Flanders, with the likes of Dutch champion Niki Terpstra and Zdenek Stybar looking to provide the team with multiple options for all kind of scenarios. Of course, this means other riders will try to put them under pressure, but Zdenek Stybar – one of the best bike handlers in the world – is confident that the team can pull it off: "I am really excited and I'm looking forward to this race, the biggest and toughest of the year. Everybody worked hard all winter long to be ready for this race and we want to give it all in order to be up there in the decisive moments. We are focused and aware that everything can play a part in the outcome, from the hills to the high temperatures, who could take their toll on some riders."

Also making the team for the Ronde van Vlaanderen will be Tony Martin, one of the strongest riders in the peloton, who has been a regular feature in Etixx – Quick-Step's spring campaign this season. The German, a triple ITT world champion, has already learned the trade on the cobbles and is keen to bring his contribution to the team's success: "I'm very happy to ride Flanders for the first time in my career. I look forward to it, although I know it's going to be a tough event. After doing some one-day races in March, now I know how things go, what are the important points to stay at the front or what strategy should I have. I'm feeling more and more at home on the cobbles and I'm very happy to be part of this beautiful period of the calendar."

Orica-GreenEdge will be there. Here's their report:

A motivated ORICA-GreenEDGE race at the 100th edition of the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday coming straight off the back of a solid block of Belgian racing.

Former Australian champion Luke Durbridge finished in sixth place overall at De Panne on Thursday and the team is hoping to carry some consistency into Sunday’s race. Belgian Jens Kuekeleire will lead the squad in his home classic after finishing in 19th place last year, making the final selection of twenty-five riders from which the winning move was made.

Luke Durbridge

Luke Durbridge

Sport director Laurenzo Lapage is pleased with how the team has been performing in the run up to Flanders. “To perform well in a race like the Tour of Flanders the team must anticipate when and where the big moves are likely to happen,” said Lapage. “Only strong riders win this race and 90% of the time the team has to work hard to get their key men into the right positions. This is what we must do if we want to achieve something here.”

“We have come through the last races very well here in Belgium. The team is highly motivated and in Jens (Keukeleire) and Luke (Durbridge) we have two riders who have the potential to do well at this kind of race. Of course it also takes some luck but we hope to be up there in the finale.”

The second monument of the season is the focal point of the Flemish cycling week. An iconic race steeped in history, the 255kilometre route starts in Bruges and ends in Oudenaarde. Covering eighteen categorised climbs including the iconic cobblestones of the Koppenberg, Paterberg and the Oude Kwaremont, the ‘Tour of Flanders’ is one of the hardest one-day classics on the calendar.

22-year-old neo-pro Jack Haig, competing in his first monument, is the only addition to the team that’s spent the last two weeks racing together on Belgian soil.

The Ronde van Vlaanderen takes place on Sunday 3rd of April.

ORICA-GreenEDGE at Ronde van Vlaanderen (3rd April):

Tinkoff had this bad news to relate:

Maciej Bodnar out of Tour of Flanders after training crash.

The winner of Thursday's time trial in De Panne, Maciej Bodner, crashed during Tinkoff's training ride in Kortrijk on the eve of the Tour of Flanders. Bodnar suffered from a double mandibular fracture and dislocation, and underwent surgery. Full recovery is expected to take at least six weeks.

While Tinkoff's Tour of Flanders squad, led by Peter Sagan, was riding on the outskirts of Kortrijk, a small wooden stick lying on the road got tangled in Bodnar's front wheel. He was unable to react, and his bike spun out, sending him crashing face first into the road.

Maciej Bodnar

Maciej Bodnar on his De Panne-stage winning ride

Bodnar was rushed to the local hospital where doctors diagnosed a double mandibular fracture and dislocation, the result of his high-speed impact on the tarmac. He underwent surgery and, depending on its success, might be able to leave the hospital on Monday.

Sadly, Bodnar will be unable to support UCI World Champion Peter Sagan in his quest for victory at the 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders, and will require a recovery period of at least six weeks.

The entire Tinkoff team wishes him a fast recovery!

Bardiani-CSF's Volta Limburg Classic report:

For the third time in five editions (2013 and 2014) Sonny Colbrelli had to make do with the second place at Volta Limburg Classic. In spite of a bold performance, Bardiani-CSF’s captain finished today the 2016 edition between two BMC riders, Gerts - the winner - and Gilbert.

“Honestly, it’s hard to have regrets today. In the finale I was in a crazy situation, with five BMC riders in a small group. I think it was almost impossible to win. The only chance I had was a full-gas sprint on the final cobbled straight. When Gerts attacked I decided to wait, then I pushed hard to close the gap. At the end, I finished closed to him. I did my best” said Colbrelli.

“It was an hard race since te first kilometers, with BMC team immediately on the front managing. With my teammates we marked them at our best, then in the finale was my round. The third podium doesn’t make me happy, of course, but it’s also the proof that I’m on form. It’s a positive signal in view of Brabante, Denain and Amstel, my next races. Anyway, I hope to have the chance to come back again in Limburg in 2017 and try again to take this win” added Colbrelli.

And the Vuelta Ciclista Al Pais Vasco will start on the 4th

Here's BMC update:

2 April, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Samuel Sanchez will captain BMC Racing Team at Vuelta Ciclista Al Pais Vasco on the back of a solid week of racing at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya.

Sánchez' previous success at the race speaks for itself; winner of the General Classification in 2012, third overall in 2007 and 2009 and a seven-time stage winner.

It will be Sánchez' 14th time lining up at Vuelta Ciclista Al Pais Vasco. "It's a really special race for me. I am looking forward to being at my maximum performance level during the week of extremely hard racing, and fight for a position as high as possible on the General Classification."

Samuel Sanchez

Samuel Sanchez

Sports Director Yvon Ledanois said the team is going in with two main objectives. "The first objective is to go for stage wins as we have a diverse team that is well-suited to the course. And of course we are also targeting the General Classification with Samuel Sánchez, who is coming in with good form as he showed at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya," Ledanois said.

Vuelta Ciclista Al Pais Vasco (4-9 April)

Rider roster: Darwin Atapuma (COL), Damiano Caruso (ITA), Silvan Dillier (SUI), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Samuel Sánchez (ESP), Peter Velits (SVK), Danilo Wyss (SUI).

Sports Directors: Yvon Ledanois (FRA), Jackson Stewart (USA)

And Lotto-Soudal sent me this news:

The 56th edition of the Vuelta Ciclista al País Vasco, or Tour of the Basque Country, will as always be a race for the real climbers. From Monday 4 April 2016 till Saturday 9 April 2016, the peloton rides through the tough Basque landscape. Five stages, an individual time trial and an average of six climbs per stage, that’s the programme of this WorldTour race.

As of stage one, a lot of climbs are on the course. Eight mountains need to be surmounted, the final one is situated at ten kilometres from the finish. The next day will be something for the punchers, the stage finishes with a climb of about three kilometres with percentages up to twelve per cent. The third stage is an opportunity for the sprinters, although five mountains need to be climbed. The final one is situated at ten kilometres from the finish which might be an inspiration for a late attempt.

The final three stages will definitely determine the GC. Stage four contains six climbs, among them the Aia, a steep climb of second category. After that, the queen stage is scheduled in this Spanish stage race. This is what the riders can expect: eight climbs and a finish just after the summit of the Usartza, a climb of first category with parts up to sixteen per cent. The favourites will certainly try to attack. The stage race ends with an individual time trial of about sixteen kilometres. Underway, the riders need to cover a tough climb with percentages up to twelve per cent.

Among others Tony Gallopin, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens will participate for Lotto Soudal. The candidates for the overall victory are riders such as Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru and Richie Porte. Sports director Mario Aerts and Tim Wellens already look forward to this race.

Mario Aerts: “The course is even tougher than previous editions. In my opinion, this is the hardest one week race of the season. Right from day one , the riders need to climb a lot. It will be a short stage so the pace will be very high. Whether someone has good legs or not will already be clear after this stage. Also the second stage will be important regarding to the GC. On the third day there might be a chance for escapees to win the stage, but it's also the only opportunity for the sprinters in this year’s Tour of the Basque Country. But it will depend on how the sprinters will cope with the many climbs. The final three stages will determine the position on GC. Stage four and five contain a few steep climbs, also during the closing time trial there's a tough climb on the route.”

“Louis Vervaeke is a rider who is able to handle such steep climbs. He’ll get a free role in the first two stages and he may try to obtain a good position on GC. Louis was already in good shape during the Volta a Catalunya and hopefully he can maintain that form. Tony Gallopin, Tim Wellens and Jelle Vanendert participate in this race with the Ardennes Classics in mind. I think this race is a perfect preparation to test the condition with regard to the second part of the Belgian cycling season. Thomas De Gendt, Maxime Monfort and Sander Armée are three riders who can join a break. In stage three we can go for a sprint with Tosh Van der Sande. Thomas and Sander already showed that their shape is good, it will depend on how Maxime has recovered from the sad news he received on Monday. Antoine Demoitié was a very good friend of him so mentally he’s going through a hard period. We arrive in Spain on Saturday and we’ll do a training ride on Sunday. In the afternoon we’ll watch the Ronde Van Vlaanderen."

Tim Wellens: “After Paris-Nice I was a bit ill, therefore I was unable to start in Milano-Sanremo. That was unfortunate but I quickly moved forward. From the moment I was able to get back on the bike, I went to Malaga to train. I did very long and tough endurance trainings in the mountains. The weather conditions were perfect so I could prepare myself entirely for the coming races.”

“My participation in the Tour of the Basque Country only has one purpose; preparing myself for the Ardennes Classics. In my opinion, this race is the perfect preparation because there are a lot of steep climbs on the route. I won’t aim for a good position on GC. If I manage to win a stage, that would be very nice of course. But we’ll see, if I feel good then I’ll definitely try something. Nevertheless it will be difficult to obtain a stage win because all the riders will be in a great shape. I was able to win the final stage in this year’s Paris-Nice against some strong riders, perhaps I’ll have another chance next week.”

“I really look forward to the coming races. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a race which suits me and I want to perform very well in this race. Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne are beautiful races as well, but ‘La Doyenne’ is my favourite. My shape is good and I've already showed that I’m able to win this season. I’m very motivated and I’ll give my all to obtain some nice results.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Thomas De Gendt, Tony Gallopin, Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Bart Leysen


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