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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, April 29, 2016

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

Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Katusha believes Romandie relegation decision unjust

Ilnur Zakarin crossed the line first, just in front of Nairo Quintana and nearly a half-minute ahead of third-place Rui Costa in Thursday's second stage of the Tour de Romandie. The judges decided that Zakarin had sprinted unfairly and relegated him to second place, awarded the stage to Quintana.


The finish at Tour de Romandie stage 2

Unsurprisingly, Zakarin's Katusha team thought the judges were wrong. In the interest of fairness, here's is Katusha's statement on the matter:

In a jury decision that can best be described as controversial, Team KATUSHA’s Ilnur Zakarin was relegated to second place after earning the stage win in a two-up mountain sprint against Nairo Quintana in stage 2 of the 70th Tour de Romandie on Thursday. A slight movement to his right resulted in a protest from the Movistar team and a jury decision to gift the win to Quintana. Zakarin was moved to second place.

- Of course I am sad and disappointed with this decision. I think the decision was wrong. But all I can do now is just be better tomorrow. This situation makes me mad and gives me motivation for tomorrow’s stage – I think I can do a good ITT. I hope tomorrow I can answer what has happened today with the bike, - said team leader Ilnur Zakarin.

An attack from Quintana on the final climb was easily responded to by Zakarin, who rode across to the Colombian rider for the last 6 km of racing. Coming into the last few turns before the finish line in Morgins, Ilnur Zakarin was positioned perfectly and came around Quintana in the closing meters to win the stage with a clear set of wheels. A protest was filed in regards to the movement from Zakarin and a jury decision modified the stage results, giving Quintana the stage win. He also wears the yellow jersey by 18-seconds to Zakarin.

- I completely disagree with the decision of the jury. Ilnur did a small deviation which was nothing, maybe 10 cm. If he had done this movement slowly there would be no discussion, but he did it quickly and now there is talk. In our head and in front of everyone, we won this stage. As best we can understand from the jury’s decision is that they say ‘maybe’ Quintana could have won without the small maneuver from Zakarin, - said a clearly disappointed team director Dmitry Konyshev.

The 173,9 km stage began in Moudon and saw Team KATUSHA rider Egor Silin in the day-long break that pulled out more than five minutes on the road. But by the last two climbs the main GC contenders were in the front with KATUSHA’s Rein Taaramäe driving the pace and making the race hard. In addition to Zakarin’s result, teammate Simon Špilak was tenth.

- The team was working very well today. We saw Silin in the breakaway and Rein impressive on the last climb. Plus I was not expecting such a strong performance from Ilnur today. He’s in preparation for the Giro, so today was just a small test for things to come, - said team director Dmitry Konyshev.

Stage 3 on Friday brings the individual time trial. At 15,11 km the Sion stage features a climb midway through the profile. 

And here's Tinkoff's Romandie Stage 2 release:

The Tour de Romandie had its first mountain stage today. The 173.9km route took in three categorised climbs and a mountaintop finish. After strong support from his teammates, Rafal Majka finished the stage in a group of ten that broke away on the final climb of the day. Twenty-six seconds after the stage winner, Rafal finished in a strong seventh position, ready to fight for the podium in the later mountain stage.

While the opening prologue and stage 1 each had some respectable climbs, this was the first day the race encountered a first category climb, taking the form of the Pas de Morgins, which also provided the race’s first uphill finish. Early in the stage, a group of six escaped and managed to build a strong enough advantage to spend most of the day at the head of the race. Due to the undulating profile of the course, the gap rose and fell by minutes at a time, but having reached the 150km mark, the peloton had the escapees in its sights and worked to bring the gap down before the final push to the finish.

As the race reached the second category Les Champs, the roads narrowed and this had a clear effect on the peloton, as the group was strung out along the road, with fewer opportunities to work together to pull in the break. As the day went on, the number of escapees reduced as the climbs became harder, until there were only two remaining, with 10km to go.

With 8km remaining, the break was finally caught, just as the climb to the finish up the Pas de Morgins was about to begin. The climb had a deceptively gentle beginning, with a shallow gradient that topped out at 4%, before becoming progressively steeper after 10km of the 14km ascent.

An attack came 6.5km out, and while the peloton allowed this to go, after gaining eight seconds in a short time period, the group started working to bridge the gap. By this point, the climb was ramping upwards, and as the gradient reached 6%, riders began to lose contact with the dwindling peloton and a chasing group of ten formed.

After such a hard effort, Sport Director, Patxi Vila was pleased with the team’s performance in positioning Rafal towards the front of the race. “The team worked well in keeping Rafal near the front ahead of the climb. It was made hard as the tempo on the last two climbs was really high but they got him to where he needed to be so he could test himself on the last climb.”

In this group, Rafal Majka looked calm and comfortable behind, and while the gap increased, he waited to see how the chasing group would react, rather than waste energy trying to bridge to the escape himself without support.

In the first mountain stage, Vila understood Rafal’s reluctance to bridge. “I think that we can be happy. We knew that Rafal was coming from altitude so the first racing test is tricky. He felt ok on the climb, but was missing perhaps a bit of confidence to go with Zakarin and Quintana when they went.

With 4km to go, patches of snow by the side of the road were signs of the altitude the climb was reaching, and as the gap reached 25 seconds and the escapees were working together to increase the gap, Rafal’s group of ten started upping the pace. As a two-man sprint unfolded up the road for the win, the chasing group prepared for the finish, with the Polish Tinkoff leader taking seventh place, crossing the line 26 seconds after the stage winner.

After the race, Vila summed up the day’s racing, and looked ahead to the coming stages. “Rafal is where he needs to be and where he expected to be at this point before the Giro. We always want to win but we can be happy ahead of tomorrow and then the next climbing test on Saturday – seventh on the stage and still within touching distance of the podium on GC. He felt ok in the leaders’ group, which is good, and we can look forward to tomorrow now for the next test.”

After working hard to support the team both at the Tour de Romandie and the early season races, Adam Blythe pulled out of the race today, as Vila explained. “Adam Blythe had to stop today. He was struggling a bit with sickness and I think after a long, hard classics period his body could still be a bit tired.”

On stage 3 tomorrow, the mountain stages are punctuated by a time trial. Longer than the prologue, at 15.11km, the time trial represents another opportunity to test bikes and positions in advance of next month’s Giro d’Italia. Vila was looking forward to the opportunity that a longer time trial route would present. “Tomorrow will be an important test ahead of the Giro in the time trial. It will be a good opportunity to test the positions on the bikes and also to get into the rhythm of a longer TT than the prologue, and then we’re climbing again on Saturday.”

Louis Vervaecke crashes out of Tour de Romandie

Here's the news release from Lotto-Soudal:

At the Tour de Romandie a tough mountain stage awaited the riders, between Moudon and Morgins. There were 2804 altitude metres to cover over a distance of 174 kilometres with two climbs of second category on the course and one of first category, just before the finish. Unfortunately for Louis Vervaeke a crash forced him to withdraw from the race. The young Belgian has muscle contusions and abrasions on both hips. Louis was leading the best young rider classification.

Louis Vervaeke: “I think that the injuries I sustained today are okay, so it isn’t that bad. However, I felt that they just made riding the bike more difficult, particularly with the uphill finish on today’s stage. I found that I couldn’t produce that much power anymore, and my hips in particular really hurt. But I think it hurts much more mentally and psychologically, because I came to the Tour de Romandie this year trying to achieve a top ten result in the general classification, and I also had good form and good legs coming into the race. So in that respect, it’s very disappointing to have a crash at this time.”

Servaas Bingé, team doctor Lotto Soudal: “The crash caused some abrasions, especially on Louis’ knee and hips, as well as bigger contusions on both of his hips. This meant that he wasn’t able to put force on his legs anymore after the crash. As a result of the injuries he sustained, he was unable to continue riding, so he decided to abandon the race in the feed zone.”

His teammate Thomas De Gendt chose to get in a breakaway today. He had the company of Beppu, Impey, Silin, Venter and Wyss. The six had a lead of around five minutes, but winning the stage was impossible. On the penultimate climb, about twenty kilometres before the finish, De Gendt disappeared at the front. When turning up the last climb there were no more escapees left. The GC riders could battle for the stage win, except for Chris Froome who had lost contact after mechanical problems. The first group kept getting smaller. Rafael Valls was the Lotto Soudal rider who remained in the group the longest. He would eventually become fifteenth at 57 seconds of stage winner Nairo Quintana. The Movistar rider was awarded the victory after Ilnur Zakarin was relegated after a sprint with two. Quintana is also the new GC leader, Valls is seventeenth overall at 1’07”.   

Simon Yates is positive for drug at Paris-Nice

Team takes blame for not getting therapeutic use exemption (TUE).

Here's the statement from Yate's team Orica-GreenEdge:

Statement regarding Simon Yates’ adverse analytical finding

On April 22, the team was notified that Simon Yates has an adverse analytical finding from a test conducted at Paris-Nice, stage 6 on March 12, 2016.

The positive result is for the substance Terbutaline.

The substance was given to Simon Yates in the form an asthma inhaler and accordingly, this was noted by the team doctor on the Doping Control Form, signed at the time of the test.

The substance was given in an ongoing treatment of Simon Yates’ documented asthma problems. However, in this case the team doctor made an administrative error by failing to apply for the TUE required for the use of this treatment.

The use of Terbutaline without a current TUE is the reason it has been flagged as an adverse analytical finding. This is solely based on a human error that the doctor in question has taken full responsibility for.

There has been no wrong-doing on Simon Yates’ part. The team takes full responsibility for this mistake and wishes to underline their support for Simon during this process.

The team is concerned by the leak of this information and has no further comments until there has been a full evaluation made of the documentation, statements and evidence that the team and Simon Yates are now submitting to the UCI in order to clarify everything.

Broken hand keeps Michael Woods out of Giro

Cannondale sent me this update:

"This is definitely not a lost season. This will definitely make me come back stronger.” - Mike Woods

Canadian Michael Woods suffered a broken hand in three places in a fall with about 20 kilometers to go in Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The crash put a halt to his maiden campaign at the Ardennes, which had been off to a sterling start with his 12th place at La Flèche-Wallonne, and will keep him out of the Giro d’Italia.

Michael Woods

Michael Woods wins stage 5 of the 2015 Tour of Utah

“That’s been the hardest part about dealing with the crash, is the fact that I was feeling really good. I had a good one at Flèche. I wasn’t positioned great, but I had the legs to have a top result at Liège. Maybe not to win, but definitely contend for a top five,” Woods said.

“It’s the hand, but also my back is pretty bad, too,” he noted.

Further review on Woods’ back injuries are pending, but the hand injury is enough to keep him off the bike for now. Woods now finds himself on the outside of a Giro team that’s poised for a solid run at the maglia rosa. The fact that he’ll miss that hurts.

“Rigo’s got a really good shot at winning and I would have liked to be a part of that,” he said. “But there’s still quite a few opportunities left in this season. Rio is a big goal of mine this season. I’m still looking forward. This is definitely not a lost season. This will definitely make me come back stronger.”

And though he crashed out of Liège, the foundation for what could come in the Ardennes races for Woods has been laid. “I think they’re tailor-made for my abilities. As unfortunate as it is crashing and getting hurt, I don’t think the crash reflects on me as a bike handler. I think the courses really suit me, and I’m really excited about that,” he said. “The undulation, the technical side of it. It’s just fun. And the crowds are unreal.”

His timeline for return isn’t yet known.

“Once they have a clearer picture as to what’s going on with the back I can set a clear timeline for getting back on the bike,” he said. “The sad part about cycling is it’s often more than one injury. If I was just dealing with a broken hand, it would be fine. It’s the back, too. Getting into bed is a five-minute ordeal."

“My wife’s been helping me get dressed,” Woods said. “I feel like a four year old again.”

SRAM restructures because of soft sales

This was posted in Bike-Europe:

CHICAGO, USA – Yesterday SRAM announced a restructuring resulting in the layoffs of approximately 40 employees across global operating functions. According to SRAM President Stan Day soft sales over the past year forced the restructuring which includes the focus on new business areas.

In a statement SRAM says, “The objective is to reshape the organization for a future that is more aligned with the competitive dynamics of the industry.”

The 40 employees that SRAM laid off per April 26 were working across the companies European, US and Asian operations. Stan Day said, “No one ever wants to be in position to request that people leave an organization, but sometimes it has to happen. I am confident that this restructuring positions us where we need to be and puts us on a firm foundation to drive forward into an evolving bike market.”

On the soft sales of the past year the SRAM President said that it amounted to about 10% in the first quarter of 2016. And that its been cumulative over the past twelve months. He pointed out that despite strong growth in OEM specs the OEM volume was down.

For MY 2018 Stan Day expects further OEM spec growth as it offers eTap and the 1×12 Eagle MTB drivetrain as well as a strong line-up of suspension and wheel products. The current restructuring will not affect production and deliveries including the company’s newest components.

You can read the entire story here.

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