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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, April 24, 2016

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

It's not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential. - Bruce Lee

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Bad weather forces Liège-Bastogne-Liège route change

Because of cold and snow, the route has been changed. The organizers posted these updates:

At the start in Liège the temperature is 1C°. Snow was noticed on the course but nothing too serious. The rain has stopped falling but should return throughout the race.

Due to the hectic weather conditions, the race organisation has decided to change the planned course. Indeed from km 45 to km 75, the riders will head south and return to the normal course just before the first climb of the day, the Côte de la Roche en Ardenne.

Later this was posted: The front group are about to return to the initial course at km 75 after a detour due to the bad weather conditions. Meanwhile the conditions remain difficult. Snow falls occurred further south but the snow is not remaining on the ground.

After using a new itinerary due to the bad weather conditions, the distance of the race drops down to 248kms (five kilometres less than planned).

Km 90: As they head back north, very light snow is falling over the pack. It's also getting cloudier over the finish line in Ans.

Giant-Alpecin riders comment on Liège-Bastogne-Liège

The team sent me this:

Liège-Bastogne-Liège marks the final race of the spring classics and it is the final WorldTour one-day race before the Grand Tours get started. The parcours is 253km long and is considered as one of the most arduous with the riders tackling 10 steep climbs, including the legendary Redoute with an average gradient of 8.4%. 

Warren Barguil (FRA): "I had good legs at La Flèche Wallonne and I hope for the same on Sunday. The parcours is tough with the short, steep climbs, but I am feeling confident and in good shape at the moment.

"Sunday will be the final race of the classics, so I'm motivated to finish on a high. We have a strong team here and if we ride to our strengths we are capable of targeting a top 10 result again."


Warren Barguil will be at the start line in Liège

Simon Geschke (GER): "The weather forecast has predicted rain for Sunday and that could have a big impact on the race. I expect the race to be similar to the previous years, but they have added a new cobblestone section and that will make it a lot harder in the last 10km. The goal is to support Warren and to enable him to get in the finale as fresh as possible.

"I had a good performance at the Amstel Gold Race but at La Flèche Wallonne it wasn't great. After a period of injury and sickness, which affected my preparations, it was to be expected. I have to accept it and hopefully we can finish with a strong performance on Sunday."

Aike Visbeek (NED): "Warren is our leader and we will aim to achieve a top 10 result. He is riding very well at the moment and will have strong support from the rest of the team in getting him in position for the key climbs and keeping him out of trouble.

"We performed a recon on Thursday of the last 100km in good weather conditions, which was nice to just refresh the memory. We were already recovered from La Flèche Wallonne and the team spirit was good ahead of Sunday.

"The penultimate climb, new to the route, will make things interesting and should make sure the peloton is getting decimated towards the uphill finish. It's going to be a tough one, but I think the parcours will make it an open race." 

Roman Kreuziger to lead Tinkoff at Liège as the spring classics come to a close 

Tinkoff sent me this update:

‘La Doyenne’ – ‘The Old Lady’ – of the classics is here. The oldest of the classics, and the last of the three Ardennes Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège takes place in Belgium on Sunday. Regarded by many as the toughest of all the classics, Roman Kreuziger will lead Tinkoff in this testing race, having finished in the top ten in the previous two editions.

With a history stretching back to 1892, when it started as an amateur event, the 102nd edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège starts on Sunday in, as the name suggests, Liège, in eastern Belgium. A 253km route awaits riders, which, unlike the other Ardennes Classics, covers an out and back route, as opposed to circuits, and crosses each climb only once. Joining Roman at the start on Sunday will be Yuri Trofimov, Michael Valgren, Robert Kiserlovski, Pavel Brutt, Pawel Poljanski, Ivan Rovny and Rafal Majka who returns to racing after a high-altitude team training camp in Cyprus.


Kreuziger racing L-B-L in 2014

"Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a tough and demanding race but one of which I'm very fond,” said Roman following the team’s recon ride of the course. “The line-up this year is strong and, in particular, Alejandro Valverde has shown he is in very good form. Nevertheless, I feel very confident about my own shape which has been building in the last weeks. I look forward to giving my best to obtain a good result and I'm sure we will field a strong squad on Sunday."

In this year’s race there are ten climbs. The gentler climbs, such as the Col du Rosier, make up for their shallow gradient with a longer climb, while the shorter climbs rise up over an average gradient of more than 10%, such as the Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons, which over its relatively short 1.3km length, has an average gradient of 11%. As the finish line draws closer, the climbs come closer together, with eight of the race’s ten climbs coming in the final 85km.

Perhaps the most iconic climb of the race is the Côte de La Redoute – a 2km climb with an average gradient of 8.9% and maximum gradient of 22%. In historic editions of the race, La Redoute was the point where the winning attacks of the day came, but in the modern race the winning moves tend to come later in the day.

As Sport Director, Bruno Cenghialta, noted in advance, "The Liège-Bastogne-Liège is a challenging race that requires good condition to be able to compete with the best riders in the world in a very demanding finale. In recent years, the crucial point of this race has always been the final climb of Ans and this is where we will focus our efforts. The aim is to bring our captains there, well-positioned to fight for a good result.”

Reaching Ans in strong enough condition to contest the finale is one of the biggest challenges of the race. The sheer distance covered is hard enough on its own, while each climb progressively tires the riders. The race is hard enough in good conditions, but the late April date means the weather is often unpredictable and can mean anything from rain to freezing wind or snow.

Cenghialta was expecting the weather to have a big impact on the outcome of the race – especially given recent forecasts. “The weather will also play an important role as the forecast calls for adverse conditions with very low temperatures and rain and our strategy will have to be adapted accordingly."

Roman Kreuziger will lead the team, having performed well in the other Ardennes Classics, narrowly missing top ten finishes in both, finishing 11th in Wednesday’s Flèche Wallonne and 12th in the Amstel Gold Race last Sunday. Roman has finished in the top ten for the previous two years’ editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and so knows the route well and the challenges he and the team will face.

Cenghialta was already deciding on the team’s tactics in the difficult race. “Pavel Brutt and Yuri Trofimov will try to go for the early breakaway while the rest of the squad will support our captains. Roman Kreuziger is our main rider for the race with Rafal Majka as a co-leader. Majka is coming from a high-altitude training camp in Cyprus and as a result we will have to see how he feels and then decide in the race. Michael Valgren has shown his strength recently, so if he feels very strong, he might get his chance.”

Lotto-Soudal will be at the Tour of Turkey

Here's the news the team sent me:

The peloton will be in Turkey from Sunday 24 April 2016 till Sunday 1 May 2016 for the Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey. The 52nd edition of this stage race takes the riders in eight days through the Turkish landscape across some nice shores. The course is a bit different compared to previous years but the global concept remains the same. Both the sprinters and the climbers will have a few opportunities to show themselves.

The stage in and around Istanbul will be the start of this year’s edition, this stage was in the past the traditional final stage. Nevertheless the sprinters will have the opportunity to prove themselves. The next few stages have more or less the same profile, several scenarios are possible during these days. A break can remain ahead or the sprinters can fight for the victory. Stage six will be very important with the GC in mind. The riders will have to climb a lot in a tough stage which ends with an uphill finish in Elmali. The final climb is about fifteen kilometres long. After that another transition stage is scheduled. The final stage of this Tour of Turkey will also be a hard day for the riders. In Selçuk, a tough climb is situated at the end of the stage.

Sports director Mario Aerts: “It’s a different organization this year and it’s clear that they’re not well prepared. We didn’t get much information about the course for instance. That makes it difficult for us because we were unable to prepare the stages. I know that a few stages remain the same compared to previous editions. The sixth stage will be most likely the queen stage, the climb to Elmali is really tough. Last year the GC was determined after this stage. The final stage finishes in Selçuk, that’s also a stage which sounds familiar to me. Again, this stage ends with an uphill finish so the GC riders will certainly try to attack. This race begins with the stage in and around Istanbul, the past few years this was the final stage. We’ll see if the road book can provide us with more information.”

A part of the Lotto Soudal line-up will ride their first race in the Tour of Turkey after a long rehabilitation. Stig Broeckx starts again after his collision in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, Gert Dockx returns to competition after an elbow fracture which he incurred in Nokere Koerse, Greg Henderson is fully recovered from his perineal injury and Kris Boeckmans rides his first stage race after he had to abandon the Vuelta a Catalunya due to illness.

Stig Broeckx

Stig Broeckx

Mario Aerts: “Several riders come back in competition in this stage race after a long absence. It’s a nice race and the weather conditions are normally very good, that’s perfect to obtain race rhythm. Stig Broeckx, Gert Dockx and Greg Henderson were able to train well but no one can predict beforehand how their feeling will be during the race. Jelle Wallays had a rest period after Paris-Roubaix and he’ll do some preparations for the second part of the season. Kris Boeckmans will hopefully take another big step, this stage race will be very useful for his further goals in this season. Of course we’ll try to obtain a stage win with André Greipel, he’s very motivated to win a race again. Henderson will be his lead-out, but also Hansen, Boeckmans and the other riders can play their role in the sprint train of Greipel. Adam Hansen will again aim for a good position on GC, he already obtained some nice top ten results in the Tour of Turkey (Hansen finished ninth on GC in 2014 and 2015, LTS). This race is not part of the WorldTour but it will be a hard week. A lot of smaller teams participate in this race and they’ll give their all in every stage. It won’t be a ‘walk in the park’, that’s for sure.”

Roster Lotto Soudal: Kris Boeckmans, Stig Broeckx, Gert Dockx, Frederik Frison, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson and Jelle Wallays.

Sports director: Mario Aerts.


Slipstream, Drapac to partner on development team in 2017

I got this release Saturday afternoon:

Starting next season, Slipstream Sports will partner with Drapac Capital Partners to create a development squad that equally emphasizes racing and higher education.

The team will be a UCI Continental registered squad based in Australia that competes in Europe for part of the season. Management will require riders to enroll in university courses or apprenticeship programs during the off-season — a mandatory requirement — but will schedule racing that’s conducive to studies.

The approach, while uncommon and testing of young riders in several ways, has been adopted to develop racers into well-rounded individuals.

“I’ve seen too many great people dedicate their lives to cycling and they’ve totally ignored everything else. And then something happens, a crash or they aren’t able to move up in the ranks, something. And they have enormous difficulty recovering as human beings. We seek to prevent that. We seek to prevent athletes being used as disposable assets,” said Michael Drapac, who founded the Drapac team.

The partnership is a natural extension of both organizations’ ideals. The first team Slipstream CEO Jonathan Vaughters managed and financially backed was 5280-Subaru, a junior development team. The genesis of the Drapac program came from the idea that developing complete athletes as opposed to one-dimensional bike racers was a better way to run a cycling operation.

“Michael and I have been friends for over five years. We share a lot of the same philosophies and visions, and we’ve worked together on other projects. I’ve been helping him scout potential investments for his real estate company in the Western U.S., for example,” said Slipstream’s CEO Jonathan Vaughters. “I look forward to working with him and creating a unique development team for riders who want to divide their time between studies and moving their way up to the WorldTour.”

Since its inception in 2004, the Drapac program has sought to encourage holistic approaches to athlete development, including an emphasis on transition plans for riders done not as afterthoughts but throughout a rider’s career.

“Cycling has been and continues to be a sport that uses up and quickly discards riders without looking out for their futures beyond results and immediate salaries,” Drapac said. “We’re going to keep working to make it a more sustainable business and sport from both athletic and intellectual perspectives.”

While the approach is exacting mentally and physically, Vaughters doesn’t see it as a hindrance to performance in the end.

“Do I think that you can successfully identify talent that can succeed in the WorldTour when riders are dividing their time between studies and racing and training? Yes, I do,” he said. “In fact I’ve seen many examples where highly intelligent riders perform better when they have one physical and one intellectual focus. It balances them out. It can lead to better performance. A great example of an up-and-comer in the United States who I think is doing this pretty well is Sepp Kuss — he won the mountain-top finish at Redlands and he’s a university student.”

Kuss is enrolled at the University of Colorado at Boulder currently, studying advertising. He says he may or may not turn professional.

“This team will race in Europe basically tailored around when these kids are on break. When they’re not on break then they’ll be doing local races around where they’re going to university and training,” Vaughters said.

Another successful example is the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team’s Mike Woods, a neo pro at 29 years old after finishing a degree at the University of Michigan and switching to cycling after a foot injury derailed his elite-level running career. Larry Warbasse also graduated from the University of Michigan and now rides for IAM Cycling. 

Does it slow down the potential development of a young rider by maybe a year? Possibly. But in the long term, does the time to study have a detrimental effect on a racer’s career prospects?

“No, I don’t think so,” Vaughters said. "The upside is too great to ignore, anyways. It benefits some guys tremendously to be able to explore intellectual and physical avenues at the same time. We just want to make it easier for the right athlete to strike that balance.

More information about the partnership will be released in late June.

Lampre-Merida will be at the Tour de Romandie

Here's the release I got from the team:

Tour de Romandie (26 April-1 May) is an important bridge between the Ardenne classics and the Giro d'Italia.

Lampre-Merida's goal is to obtain a good result in the Swiss race, that's why the line-up for this competition will be of a high level of quality and it will include Bono, Cimolai, Mario Costa, Rui Costa, Grmay, Meintjes, Mohoric and Polanc.

The team will be directed by Simone Pedrazzini and Marco Marzano, who'll receive the support from the mechanics Bacchion, Baron and Coelho, by the masseurs Lima, Napolitano, Redaelli and Santerini, by the physician Dr Beltemacchi and by the driver Bozzolo.

Five riders (Bono, Mario Costa, Rui Costa, Meintjes and Polanc) will reach Switzerland directly from Liege after having race the Doyenne and they'll be joined by a pure climber as Grmay, by the sprinter Cimolai (who had won one race in the season: one stage in the Vuelta a Catalunya) and by the talented Mohoric whose condition is getting better and better after the injury he suffered at the beginning of the year.

"Every time Rui Costa is at the start of a race, his goal is for sure to be in the top positions of the final classification and this will be his purpose for the Tour de Romandie too - sports director Pedrazzini explained - He'll receive the support by a team in which everybody has talent.

In the sprints, Cimolai will try to repeat the top performance which gave him the victory in one stage of the Vuelta a Catalunya. It will be very interesting too to evaluate which kind of results Meintjes will be able to compete for".

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