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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, August 5, 2016

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Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful. - John Wooden

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Peter Sagan to race mountain bike cross-country at Rio Olympic Games 

This came from Sagan's Tinkoff team:

Tinkoff is proud to confirm that Peter Sagan will indeed line up for the mountain bike event at the Olympic Games in Rio, which get underway this weekend, with the men’s cross-country MTB event taking place on Sunday 21st August.

This will be Peter’s third cross-country mountain bike race this season after competing in Austria and Czech Republic in April, between the spring classics and the Tour of California, the latter of which saw him finish fourth and secure enough points to qualify to race in Rio. He was awarded Slovakia’s sole place in the 50-rider field.

Peter Sagan

The versatile Peter Sagan having some fun at the end of this year's Tour of Flanders (which he won).

Before travelling to join his national team in Brazil, Peter showed his excitement about returning to his first two-wheeled competition in Rio. “I’m proud to be able to race the most important mountain bike race in the calendar at the biggest sports event in the world. It’s nice for me to return to my roots, representing my Slovakia. It is always an honour for every athlete to represent their home country in the Olympics.

"I would like to thank team owner Oleg Tinkov, general manager Stefano Feltrin, and, of course, the entire team, for their support, and for a successful Tour de France that leads me into this race. Now after three stage wins and the green jersey, plus the mountains jersey for Rafal Majka, I can head to Rio confident in my shape. It will not be easy but I’m ready for the challenge," concluded Sagan.

Tinkoff’s General Manager, Stefano Feltrin, added: “It’s an honour for us to have the world’s number one rider on the road representing his country at the Olympics – despite swapping his Tinkoff world champion’s stripes for the Slovakian national colours, we can take pleasure from watching Peter race in Rio and wish him the best of luck.”

The mountain bike cross-country race is set to be based on a 5.4km loop to be completed a specific number of times, to be announced nearer the race. The course includes a variety of terrains, including singletrack, earth and gravel sections, a near 1km climb, as well as other more technical sections.  

Giant-Alpecin signs Michael Matthews

Here's the news release the team sent me:

Team Giant-Alpecin is pleased to confirm Michael Matthews (AUS) as its first signing for the 2017 season, which represents another step forward for the team in its continuous pursuit of improvement and growth. The 25-year-old will join the team on a three-year contract after a four-year spell at Orica-BikeExchange.

In the versatile and talented Matthews, the team has found a world-class rider with the ability to focus on results on a variety of terrain and in the classics, stage races and Grand Tours. The team is confident that Matthews has significant potential for further growth. The team believes that through its “Keep Challenging” philosophy, it will be able to help him progress and fulfill his full potential.

Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews winning stage 10 of the 2016 Tour de France

Matthews has already achieved some impressive results, with 25 pro wins to date. His best results at the highest pro level include stage wins in all three Grand Tours: three stages at the Vuelta a España, two at the Giro d’Italia and one at the Tour de France. This year he won stage 10 of the Tour and took three stage wins at Paris-Nice, including the victory at the prologue, where he was slightly faster than Tom Dumoulin (NED). He finished second at the most recent world road championships, and he has also finished on the podium at Milan–San Remo, Amstel Gold Race and Brabantse Pijl.

Matthews said: "I am very happy with my transfer to Team Giant-Alpecin. I have always admired the way the team approaches the sport as a team sport; the stronger and the better we can have the team as a collective operate and perform, the better the opportunities for success the leaders have for the finales of races. I am confident that I will be able to get the best out of myself both as a rider and as an individual. The team is already used to working for dedicated leaders in various types of races and has proven that strategy with great results in the biggest races on the calendar. That’s the process which I want to help strengthen and where I want to be a part of and contribute to, and I am very much looking forward to joining the team."

"We are extremely happy and proud to sign a rider like Michael," said Team Giant-Alpecin CEO Iwan Spekenbrink (NED). “We have always set our standards high and been very ambitious with our objectives. Michael is a very talented rider and we are pleased that he has recognized the value of our approach to help him continue his development as a rider. Michael has the character and the will to integrate well with the team, and we are looking forward to working closely with him the next years."

While we're on the subject of rider signings...

Roger Kluge joins Orica-BikeExchange

The team sent me this report:

2016 Giro d’Italia stage winner and Olympic silver medallist Roger Kluge has signed with ORICA-BikeExchange on the eve of the Rio Olympic Games. The 30-year-old will join the team from IAM Cycling, in a key support role for young Australian sprint gun Caleb Ewan who, like Kluge, recently signed with ORICA-BikeExchange for the next two years.

The acquisition of the strong German, and that of Slovenian Luka Mezgec last year, shows the intent of the Australian outfit to support Ewan in sprint finishes despite a recent transition to more general classification focuses across the three Grand Tours.

Roger Kluge

Roger Kluge wins 2016 Giro d'Italia stage 17

Kluge, who will once again represent his country at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games which starts this weekend, said his main goal will be to lead others to victory. “I’m really motivated to get integrated into the team and to play an important role in the sprint train,” he said. “I think I can make a really good contribution here and when the team leaders need protection from the wind – I’m happy to go in front.”

“If the opportunity comes up and I get the chance, I’d obviously also like to bring home a win here and there, but above all I’ll be there to lead out the others to victory. I like the atmosphere the team shows at the races and I’ve always felt that could fit well into an Australian-based environment. You can tell they have gathered a really good group of people who like to work together and I’m happy that I get the chance to be a part of that.”

Sport director Matt White said the inclusion of Kluge into the sprint squad will boost the development and delivery of Ewan in fast finishes. “Signing Roger means that we have one of the best athletes in the business to head out our lead-out train for Caleb,” White said. “He’s a world class track rider but also very established on the road and capable of winning Grand Tour stages on his own.”

“For us, he will be a key addition to the work that Luka Mezgez already does really well and going onwards, we will be able to fine tune the way we bring our fast guys in the best possible way to the line.”

Roger Kluge
Age: 30
From: Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany
Turned pro: 2008

Major Results:

- 1st 2016 Giro di Italia – Stage 17
- 1st 2010 Sparkassen Neuseen Classics – Rund um die Braunkohle
- 2nd 2008 Olympic Points Race
- 3rd 2015 Giro di Italia – Stage 21

Oliver Naesen & Stijn Vandenbergh sign with Ag2r

Ag2r beefed up its team with two good riders. Oliver Naesen (currently IAM cycling) has been a pro since 2014 and won the 2015 Polynormande.

Oliver Naesen

Oliver Naesen winning the 2015 Polynormande

Big Stijn Vandenbergh is leaving Etoxx-Quick Step. He won the 2007 Tour of Ireland

BMC's Vuelta a Burgos stage 3 report:

4 August, 2016, Villarcayo (ESP): The longest stage of the Vuelta a Burgos saw a repeat performance from Jempy Drucker in the bunch sprint to claim second place for the second time in this year's edition.

The top three was the exact replica from stage 1 with Danny Van Poppel (Team Sky) taking the win ahead of Drucker and Gianni Meersman (Etixx-Quick Step) rounding out the podium. Although three category 3 climbs were on the cards, including the toughest of the three in the final 25km, it wasn't enough for the breakaway to hold off the sprinters' teams.

Three remaining riders of the day's five-rider breakaway were reeled in with 30km to go, followed by a short-lived attack from four riders and Loïc Vliegen who bridged to the group.

The sprint trains caught the five riders 11km before the line, setting the stage for the bunch sprint and Drucker's second podium result in three days.

Jempy Drucker: "The final climb was pretty hard so I had to get over that but I managed to which was good. Then the guys did a really good job to keep me in front in the last 10km. I was in Daniel Oss' wheel and I got a little bit boxed in with 800 meters to go so I had to brake and I lost his wheel. So then I had to make an effort already before the final turn to put me back into Van Poppel's wheel. In the final corner his wheel slipped a bit which made me hesitate a bit and he directly had 10 meters and I couldn't close it anymore. But it all went pretty well and I think the strongest won. We will see what tomorrow is going to bring."

Max Sciandri, Sports Director: "It was all in again for Jempy Drucker today. The total climbing meters weren't really enough and even that last climb, although it reduced the size of the peloton, didn't make a huge difference on the stage so we thought it would come down to a bunch sprint again. The guys worked well on the final climb and pretty much all came over in the front group and then Loic Vliegen jumped in the move with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). We were pretty on it the whole day. Jempy did a good sprint and the team worked well, so I think we can be happy with second place."

"Tomorrow's finale has a bit of a kick up towards the finish with some cobbles so it could be pretty well-suited to Jempy again. We'll have a good look at it and see as it's going to be pretty tough to get there at the front."

Tim Wellens analyzes the Olympic road course

This came from Wellens' Lotto-Soudal team:

Tomorrow the Olympic Games officially begin with the opening ceremony at the Maracaña stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The men’s road race is scheduled only one day later. Tim Wellens is part of the Belgian team together with Laurens De Plus, Philippe Gilbert, Serge Pauwels and Greg Van Avermaet.

The road race is 241.5 kilometres long. After the start the 144 participants will ride towards the Grumari circuit, which has to be covered four times. In this first loop lie a cobble stone section of two kilometres and two hills. The first hill is 1.2 kilometres long and has an average gradient of 9%. The other climb is 2.1 kilometres long and has an average gradient of 4.5%. When the riders have ridden the last lap on the Grumari circuit they will set course to the Vista Chinesa circuit. This loop, which has to be covered three times, contains one long climb of 8.9 kilometres with a six kilometres long descent. When the riders have completed the descent for the last time, about a dozen flat kilometres are left till the finish.

Time Wellens

Tim Wellens famous 2016 Giro d'Italia stage 6 finish

The Belgian team did a recon on Tuesday and Wednesday. What does Tim Wellens think of the course?

Tim Wellens: “It is a tough course, like we were told, but it is not super hard. The distance is of course also a determining factor. I can’t quite compare it with another race. The course is nice and varied. There are cobblestones in the first loop. It’s a rather long section and they aren’t in a perfect state, but they come too early in the race to play a role. As Belgians we won’t be able to take advantage of it.”

“The first circuit contains two short climbs that both have a technical descent with a few curves. The second loop contains the longest and hardest climb of the race. That climb consists of two parts. The first part is rather steep, then there is a downhill section before it goes up again. There is about 500 metres of elevation. You can compare it with two Ardennes climbs right after each other.  This climb lies in a wood, that’s a special environment to race in.”

“The race doesn’t finish at the top of that last climb. You need to take a technical descent and then you get on a last flat part. The descent isn’t too long so it will be difficult to decide the race on that point, especially if the roads are dry. If you are the best of the pack, you might hold on to your advantage from the top, but you have to be really strong to survive on your own on the flat.”

“The fact that it isn’t an uphill finish might cause a different type of rider to win rather than a pure climber. More riders stand a chance. If the pace isn’t too high during the day, an all-rounder could win here. Our coach has listed thirty guys who should be able to ride the finale and then you have the Belgians as well of course. I think we’ll see the suspected riders, like Froome or Valverde. There is a positive vibe in our team and everyone is very motivated. I hope to have a very good day, like all other riders do, but it’s hard to say what I can expect exactly.”

The road race kicks off at half past nine in the morning in Rio, that’s at half past two in the afternoon in Belgium. The finish is expected around a quarter past nine CEST.

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