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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, April 14, 2016

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

Conversation would be vastly improved by the constant use of four simple words: I do not know. - Andre Maurois

Recently completed racing:

Today's racing:

UCI suspends disc brake use in pro road racing / Fran Ventoso's open letter

After Fran Ventoso was badly sliced by a fellow racer's disc brake at Paris-Roubaix, the UCI has decided to suspend allowing disc brakes in pro road races.


Fran Ventoso in better days

Here's is Fran Ventoso's open letter regarding road bike disc brakes:

Open letter: Fran Ventoso

I’ve spent thirteen years in the pro cycling peloton and another thirteen moving up the ladder in youth categories. That makes it 26 years on my bike, training every day, enjoying what I like most, my passion. Since I was six, I’ve enjoyed racing, and I continue to do so. I’m so happy to have turned my vocation into a dream job.

Just like in any other sport, cycling has evolved in many technical aspects. However, it has not done so in others in a way we’d all have liked.

Through all these years, I’ve witnessed many improvements on different parts of the bike and cycling apparel. We started off with steel, then aluminum, and later on, carbon. That last one came here to stay, since it was as rigid as we needed while also offering lightness. We’ve also stopped using toeclips for clipless pedals, much more comfortable, effective and secure. Days are long gone when we used hairnet helmets: modern ones are now lighter, beautiful to the eye and offer absolute security guarantees when you use them.

I’ve also seen very important improvements on gearing. My first bike had one chainring and three sprockets; nowadays, we use two chainrings, even three, and 11 sprockets… and I’m certain it won’t end there. Technology evolution has been a sort of trial and error: getting to this point hasn’t been easy. I remember how easily chains were broken when we first used ten sprockets: links that broke, because of materials still not as resistant as it was required… it still happens today. We could also talk about the revolution that has brought the electronic shifting. When it was first shown and used, we all were surprised and made early judgments: it’s not necessary, it might not work well, carrying batteries seems wrong, having to connect your bike to AC is bonkers… And now, we can’t imagine our bikes without it.

My point is: two years ago, we started seeing disc brakes put on cyclocross bikes, and the rumour was that there could be a chance that they be tested in road cycling events.

Beforehand, I want to make this clear: I’m so in favor as anyone else that cyclocross professionals or participants in sportives enjoy the advantages of disc brakes during their rides.

But then, there’s pro road cycling events. Was there really anyone who thought things like Sunday’s wouldn’t happen? Really nobody thought they were dangerous? Nobody realized they can cut, they can become giant knives?

At Paris-Roubaix, only two teams used them. With eight riders each, that makes it sixteen, carrying a total 32 disc brakes into the peloton. Let me take you to 130km into the race: into a cobbled section, a pile-up splits the field, with riders falling everywhere. I’ve got to brake but I can’t avoid crashing against the rider in front of me, who was also trying not to hit the ones ahead. I didn’t actually fall down: it was only my leg touching the back of his bike. I keep riding. But shortly afterwards, I have a glance at that leg: it doesn’t hurt, there’s not a lot of blood covering it, but I can clearly see part of the periosteum, the membrane or surface that covers my tibia. I get off my bike, throw myself against the right-hand side of the road over the grass, cover my face with my hands in shock and disbelief, start to feel sick… I could only wait for my team car and the ambulance, while a lot of things come through my mind.

Just a stroke of bad luck? I don’t thing so: few kilometers later, one of the thoughts I had sitting in the gutter becomes real.

15km after my incident, Nikolas Maes, a rider from Etixx-Quick Step, comes into the very same ambulance I’m sitting in. There’s a deep wound in his knee, produced by another disc, one of those 32. One question comes inevitably and immediately to one’s mind: what will happen when 396 discs get into a race where 198 riders ferociously battle for position?

Disc brakes should have NEVER arrived into the peloton, not at least as we know them right now. I haven’t met any rider who has run out of braking power with traditional brakes; I haven’t known anyone who didn’t see his wheels skidding when you brake with all power you’ve got, no matter traditional or disc brakes. Then: why using them?

Conversely, there are lots of problems to change wheels after a puncture; added trouble for neutral service, which has to carry three or four different sets of wheels to help you out in case your team car is not around… and the most worrying thing, as I stated before, is that disc brakes in its actual concept are giant knives, ‘machetes’ when crashing against or crashed by them at a certain speed. And in some points, we reach 80, 90, 100 kilometres per hour.

I’ve been lucky: I didn’t get my leg chopped off, it’s just some muscle and skin. But can you imagine that disk cutting a jugular or a femoral vein? I would prefer not to.

All of this happens because the international riders’ association –the CPA–, national riders’ associations, international and national feds, teams and, above all of them, OURSELVES, PROFESSIONAL RIDERS, are not doing anything. We always think that it’s not a problem if it doesn’t happen to ourselves. We always wait for horrible things to happen in order to take measures. Sooner or later, it could happen to anybody: it’s a matter of probability, we’ve all got the same. Pro riders should take a look beyond our own belly. Others tell us what we should do, but we just can’t forget WE’VE GOT THE POWER TO CHOOSE, AND WE SHOULD MAKE A CHOICE.

Disks produce cuts. This time it was me; tomorrow, it can be more serious and happen to others.

Current UCI World rankings

I'm a few days late, here are the top 40 as of April 10:

Rank Name Team Points
1 (1) Peter SAGAN TNK 2215
2 (2) Fabian CANCELLARA TFS 1417
3 (3) Greg VAN AVERMAET BMC 1338
4 (6) Alberto CONTADOR TNK 1317
5 (7) Sep VANMARCKE TLJ 1120
6 (4) Alexander KRISTOFF KAT 1094
7 (5) Richie PORTE BMC 1048
8 (14) Sergio Luis HENAO SKY 1029
9 (13) Thibaut PINOT FDJ 916
10 (8) Arnaud DEMARE FDJ 835
11 (17) Nairo Alexander QUINTANA MOV 830.25
12 (9) Simon GERRANS OGE 783
13 (10) Nacer BOUHANNI COF 753
14 (11) Michal KWIATKOWSKI SKY 740
15 (12) Geraint THOMAS SKY 738
16 (29) Edvald BOASSON HAGEN DDD 650
17 (15) Zdenek STYBAR EQS 632
18 (64) Ian STANNARD SKY 601
19 (16) Ilnur ZAKARIN KAT 560
20 (20) Diego ULISSI LAM 546
21 (18) Ben SWIFT SKY 546
22 (19) Sonny COLBRELLI BAR 543
23 (158) Tom BOONEN EQS 532
24 (21) Jon IZAGUIRRE MOV 516
25 (22) Jurgen ROELANDTS LTS 513
26 (54) Marcel KITTEL EQS 506
27 (950) Mathew HAYMAN OGE 505
28 (26) Dylan GROENEWEGEN TLJ 496
29 (23) Petr VAKOC EQS 495
30 (24) Romain BARDET ALM 493
31 (33) Alejandro VALVERDE MOV 467
32 (25) Tiesj BENOOT LTS 466
33 (30) Baptiste PLANCKAERT WBC 456
34 (28) Jasper STUYVEN TFS 449
35 (27) Vincenzo NIBALI AST 440.75
36 (67) Mark CAVENDISH DDD 440
37 (32) Bryan COQUARD DEN 439
38 (31) Gianluca BRAMBILLA EQS 429
39 (36) Luke ROWE SKY 421
40 (59) André GREIPEL LTS 420

Tinkoff's World Tour ranking news

Following his recent win at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in Spain, the now four-time winner of the race Alberto Contador has moved into second spot overall in the WorldTour [not to be confused with World rankings] rankings, just behind teammate Peter Sagan. In addition to the two top spots in individual rankings, Tinkoff maintains its leadership in the team classification.

After securing the top spot of the overall UCI WorldTour team rankings during the cobblestone classics campaign, thanks to the strong results of Peter Sagan paired with Alberto’s stage race results and several others scoring well too, Alberto has now made it a 1-2 at the top of the rankings, with Tinkoff still holding a strong lead in the team rankings.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan is the World No. 1 rider

It was Alberto’s win at Pais Vasco that gave him the UCI points to move up from third, and the runner up of Paris-Nice and Volta Catalunya now has 280 points, a 58-point lead over third. Tinkoff holds 61-point lead over second place in the team classification.

After an exceptionally hard week’s racing, over one of the most mountainous stage races on the UCI WorldTour, Sport Director at Pais Vasco Sean Yates had nothing but praise for Alberto and the team. "He's in great shape and deserves this win after his second places in Algarve, Paris-Nice and Catalunya. We had a few injuries and illness coming into the race and lost three guys along the way but the team stayed solid. Things played into our favour this race, and never taking the leaders jersey worked for us, as we didn't have to ride and defend. And now the stage win is the icing on the cake.”

Peter maintained his position at the top despite missing out on scoring any points at Paris-Roubaix. The points amassed through his wins at Gent - Wevelgem and Ronde van Vlaanderen, together with his second places at Tirreno - Adriatico and E3 Harelbeke, have put him in a strong position to continue challenging for the top spot as the season goes on.

“Compared to last year we have definitely had a good start to the season, with two strong leaders in Peter and Alberto scoring well on two fronts,” explained Sport Director Steven De Jongh. “Of course the team’s strategy is to support these riders in their respective target races, but it is a nice demonstration that the teamwork is paying off.

“We had a really good winter, coming together first to build bonds and work on the base, before moving to more specific camps and separate altitude camps with Alberto and Peter, together with other guys. We also spent time working on some changes in the race programme and this has started to pay off. So it’s a real bonus to the results we’ve been achieving, and it shows the momentum we have as a team now.”

Gilbert Given the All-Clear for Amstel Gold Race

BMC sent this notice:

13 April 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Three-time winner Philippe Gilbert has been given the go ahead to line up at Amstel Gold Race despite nursing a fractured finger.

Sports Director Valerio Piva said BMC Racing Team is looking for a good result following an eventful cobbled Classics campaign. "Gilbert has been given the medical all-clear from our Chief Medical Officer, Dr Max Testa, which is good news because Amstel Gold is a special race for both Gilbert and BMC Racing Team and we hope to continue our previous success at the race."

Despite the setback of fracturing his finger, Gilbert is motivated for the coming Ardennes races. "I've had a disrupted start to the season with illness and injury so I hope to put all of this behind me and be at the front of the race on Sunday. I have been back on the bike in the last couple of days and put in a long session today so I'm confident that I'll be in a good shape to race," Gilbert admitted.

Amstel Gold Race (17 April)

Rider roster: Marcus Burghardt (GER), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Silvan Dillier (SUI), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Ben Hermans (BEL), Samuel Sanchez (ESP), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Loïc Vliegen (BEL).

Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Jackson Stewart (USA)

Lotto-Soudal's Brabantse Pijl report

This came from the team:

The 56th edition of the Brabantse Pijl was scheduled today. It was difficult to set up a break right from the beginning, the peloton raced very nervously. Eventually four riders managed to obtain a nice gap, the breakaway was formed. After that the speed in the peloton decreased, so the leaders got a lot of advantage. While entering the local laps, the pace was raised again in the peloton due to the efforts of Lotto Soudal. At about 70 kilometres from the finish five riders attacked, Sean De Bie was one of them. A few kilometres later Tosh Van der Sande bridged to the front of the race together with several other riders. A front group of nine riders was formed.

In the meantime, all efforts in the peloton were countered by Jelle Vanendert, Tim Wellens, Sander Armée and Tony Gallopin. At 32 kilometres from the finish the front group with De Bie and Van der Sande was caught so everything came back together. After that Tim Wellens attacked with 28 kilometres to go, Julian Alaphilippe joined him. The two young riders were back in the pack at eleven kilometres from the end. At four kilometres from the finish Tony Gallopin attacked and four other riders followed him. In the final kilometre Petr Vakoc managed to obtain a small gap and he remained ahead. Gallopin finished at the third place just after Enrico Gasparotto. Lotto Soudal rode a very aggressive race and was attentively at the front of the peloton during the race. All these efforts resulted in the podium place of Tony Gallopin.

Tony Gallopin: “At this moment I’m disappointed because I really tried to obtain the victory. In the final kilometre I couldn't close the gap on Vakoc. The team did a fantastic job today. Four riders were part of an early break and after that we controlled the gap at the front of the peloton together with Orica-GreenEdge. Thomas De Gendt did a great effort. At 80 kilometres from the finish we started to attack. Sean and Tosh were part of a front group together with riders of Etixx – Quick-Step, BMC and Orica. That was a very good situation for us. But the other teams eventually succeeded in closing the gap. Our team was still well represented at the front of the peloton.”

Tony Gallopin

The Brabantse Pijl podium, from the left: Enrico Gasparotto, winner Petr Vakoc and Tony Gallopin

“After that Tim attacked together with Alaphilippe and again that was an ideal situation. Unfortunately for them they couldn’t remain ahead. On the penultimate climb of the day I decided to attack because I didn’t want to wait for a sprint. With five riders we managed to obtain a significant gap, Alaphilippe gave his all for Vakoc. In the final kilometre I was unable to follow Vakoc because of my effort on the penultimate climb. I didn’t feel superb today due to a hard Tour of the Basque Country. But I won’t use that as an excuse, Vakoc was simply the strongest and he deserved to win this race.”

Tim Wellens: “I’m really pleased with my feeling after the race. Last year I didn’t participate in the Brabantse Pijl and I rode very intensively in the Tour of the Basque Country. This year I prepared myself more steadily towards the Ardennes Classics. The main goal was to obtain race rhythm so I would be in top form at the right moment. Today’s race was a perfect preparation with the following races in mind. When I attacked I hoped that more riders would join us. I chose to attack because I’m not fast enough in the sprint. The most important thing is that the team rode a very strong race. I really look forward to the coming races, I think we can hope for the best.”

And here's Wanty-Groupe Gobert's Brabantse Pijl news:

Wanty-Groupe Gobert lined up this Wednesday in Brabantse Pijl (1.HC) between Leuven and Overijse with Jérôme Baugnies, Gaëtan Bille, Dimitri Claeys, Enrico Gasparotto, Guillaume Martin, Marco Minnaard, Mark McNally and Frederik Veuchelen. The Belgian pro-continental team rode on attacking mode and was rewarded today with a second place for Enrico Gasparotto.

"I'm very happy with my result. It rewards the hard work I've done for two weeks in Tenerife in Spain away from my teammates. I knew I was good since the Tour of Catalonia and I proved it today", the Italian team captain said.

Straight from the beginning, a breakaway of four riders - without any rider of Wanty- Groupe Gobert took 5'30" lead on the peloton. "It was not the aim to put a rider in the breakaway because I knew the race would be decided on the local laps", sports director Hilaire Van der Schueren explains.

On the first local lap, Marco Minnaard tried to reduce the gap with the head of the race. The peloton was back together because of the hard work of Orica-GreenEdge. Afterwards, there were many attacks on the peloton.

At fifty kilometers before the finish, Enrico Gasparotto tested his legs for the first time. "At that time, we had nobody in the break. We were in danger. I did not push 100% but I wanted to close the gap with the leading group," Enrico Gasparotto added.

On the last lap, on the Ijskelderlaan's climb, the team Lotto-Soudal took their responsability. Enrico Gasparotto followed the best riders. On the last climb, three riders were in the front to compete for the three places on the podium: Tony Gallopin, Petr Vakoč and Enrico Gasparotto.

Finally, Enrico Gasparotto couldn't follow Petr Vakoc's attack and got the second place, his best result of the year. It is the first podium for Wanty-Groupe Gobert on a UCI-race in Belgium. "I thought Tony Gallopin was the strongest, but ultimately Petr Vakoč was too strong today. It was the best result possible today, but I'm still disappointed not to win for Antoine Demoitié", Enrico Gasparotto concludes.

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