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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, August 18, 2016

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I'm gonna put a curse on you, and all your kids will be born completely naked. - Jimi Hendrix

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More teams announce Vuelta a España line-ups

Tinkoff sent me this news:

Tour de France: the Inside Story

Victorious in 2008, 2012 and 2014, and one of the world’s best stage racers, Alberto Contador is aiming for a fourth success at his home Grand Tour, La Vuelta a España. After his disappointment at withdrawing from the Tour de France, his primary goal of the season, due to injury, Alberto soon refocused his targets on the third Grand Tour of the season.

Alberto crashed on both the first and second stages of the Tour de France, but battled on through the first week before finally succumbing to injury and illness as a result of his falls, stepping off the bike on stage 9. However, in his usual fighting spirit he was back racing at the Clasica San Sebastian and, soon after, at the Vuelta a Burgos where he took the overall race victory with a powerful climbing performance on the final stage.

All of his bad luck is now behind him and Contador focuses only on his next challenge. "Certainly, my goal at the Vuelta is to fight for victory. That's the idea with which I am going to Galicia, we will then see if we can achieve it, because I will have to face very strong opponents with powerful squads. We will have to take it day-by-day and I just hope I'm a little bit luckier to enjoy the race and the fans. At the Vuelta, the affection of the public has always been amazing and reliving that is something I look forward to. Furthermore, this will be my last Grand Tour with Tinkoff and I would like to finish it in the best way."

Alberto Contador

Contador finishes the first stage of this year's Tour de France with bandages

Joining Tinkoff’s GC captain at the race is a team that will boast both a wealth of experience, and also a host of talent capable of supporting their captain across all the terrains that lie ahead. The Spaniard will be assisted in the mountains and on the shallower climbs by Jesús Hernández, Robert Kiserlovski, Sergio Paulinho and Ivan Rovny. For the flatter and intermediate stages, the team also has Daniele Bennati, Manuele Boaro, Michael Gogl and Yuri Trofimov to count on.

“It’s obvious that we have only one leader at the race, that’s Alberto,” explained Sport Director Steven De Jongh when discussing the line-up for the race. “After his crash in the Tour he came back quite well in Burgos – he took the win but still had to work a bit on his condition which is what he’s been doing since, followed by some rest days. I think he can do a great race here – it will be a strong field with the likes of Froome, Quintana, Kruiswijk and Chaves but we’re ready.

“We’ve got a balanced team around Alberto and I think being so clear with one goal, it’s clear for the riders what their focus is. They can be part of something special at the last Grand Tour for Tinkoff, so hopefully we can finish well.

“We have Bennati, Boaro, Gogl, and Paulinho who can support really well on the less hard days, with Paulinho also a strong rider for the hills. Then we have Kiserlovski, Hernández, Rovny and Trofimov who can do their bit in the mountains."

The race gets underway on Saturday 20th August with a team time trial around the Castrelo de Miño reservoir, before coming to a close three weeks later on Sunday 11th September with a sprinters’ showdown in the country’s capital, Madrid. The race includes no less than 10 summit finishes, including the infamous climb of the Lagos de Covadonga – an average gradient of 7.3% over its 12.6km distance. Other key summit finishes include the stage eight climb of La Camperona, and also the Col d’Aubisque on stage 14.

De Jongh continues: “There are ten mountain top finishes this year and we hope to pick up a stage win along the way. To pin-point some of the key stages, there’s the finish up the Col d’Aubisque and also stage 20 – I think those two can be critical, but there’s a lot of hard stages and like always it will be a really hard Vuelta. The weather can also play its part so you have to take it day-by-day as every stage can bring a surprise.”

The race offers at least five fast finishes, but as often happens at La Vuelta, the uncategorised climbs can also catch out the fast men. After the opening team time trial, there’s just the one other effort against the clock, with a 37km individual effort on stage 19, just two days before the 2016 Vuelta a España champion will be crowned.

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's line-up:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo starts the Vuelta a España on Saturday with Steven Kruijswijk as its general classification leader. The Dutch WorldTour team starts with a diverse team. "We're going to Spain with a strong team," said Kruijswijk. "We have riders who can assist me uphill, but also men who will support me on the flats.

“The main goal is to fight for the classification. It is nice that the big GC guys will start in the Vuelta, that gives me motivation and I can measure myself against the best. After the Giro d’Italia, I had a lot of rest to recover from my crash and the race. In preparation for the Vuelta, I have not ridden many races. It was planned that way to start as fresh as possible.“

Steven Kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk finishes stage 19 of this year's Giro d'Italia

Sports Director Addy Engels emphasised the goal in this race. "We have the team built entirely around Steven. A team with men who strongly ride uphill, as well some guys for the flat. Uphill, it's always handy to have riders with you, but on the flat, it is just as important, which is why there are men like Jos van Emden and Martijn Keizer in the team.

"Koen Bouwman and Victor Campenaerts, two young riders, will race their first grand tour. I expect them to certainly play a role uphill. The big goal is the GC for Steven Kruijswijk, but we will definitely try for breakaways. We have a team with different qualities."

"After the Olympic road race, I got sick and I had to adjust my training schedule," added Kruijswijk. "It is disappointing that I had to finish the final part of my preparation that way. At this moment, I feel better. Now it’s important to get through the first stages.”

"It's wait and see how he recovers," said Sports Director Engels. "It's never nice when you have to handle a setback ahead of a grand tour. Once Steven is again in top condition, he can fight for the podium like he did in the Giro."

Robert Gesink starts in the Vuelta a España, his first grand tour of the year. In the Tour de Suisse, Gesink crashed and didn’t manage to start the Tour de France because of a concussion.

”Of course, we’ve to wait how Gesink will be, if he is fit he can support me very well," Kruijswijk said.

Gesink is looking forward to the Vuelta after he missed an important part of the season due a concussion. "The Vuelta is an important race towards 2017. I start without high expectations and hope to find my recovery ability and support the team."

Line-up: Steven Kruijswijk, Robert Gesink, Bram Tankink, Jos van Emden, Koen Bouwman, Victor Campenaerts, Martijn Keizer, Enrico Battaglin en George Bennett.

Sports Directors: Jan Boven and Addy Engels

Here's Lotto-Soudal's Vuelta line-up and news:

The final part of the cycling season is approaching so it’s time to preview the last Grand Tour of the year; the Vuelta a España. On Saturday 20 August 2016, the race starts with a team time trial. The riders need to perform as well as possible during the following three weeks if they want to obtain a good result.

The 71st edition of the Vuelta mainly takes the riders through the North of Spain. It will be a typical Vuelta course as the stages are never entirely flat and the climbs will be short but very steep. Each type of rider will have his chance to win a stage. Mario Aerts, DS with Lotto Soudal, analysed the course and found out that it will be another hard Grand Tour. The GC riders will have to be attentively right from the beginning.

Mario Aerts: “The first week will immediately show which riders are in good shape. The ten stages before the first rest day offer several possible outcomes. This year’s Vuelta a España starts with a team time trial of almost 30 kilometres, a very hard discipline in cycling. The speed will be high as the course isn’t too difficult and it will be a fast track over nice roads. Then, stages two and five will most likely end with a bunch sprint. Also stages six and seven can offer a chance to the sprinters, although it is possible that it will be a sprint with a small group. These stages contain a few climbs so the attackers may have an advantage. The other stages during the first week will be something for the GC riders as every stage has an uphill finish. Mainly the fourth, eighth and tenth stage will be very important with the GC positions in mind. The climbs are very steep so they’ll certainly test the legs of the riders.”

“The second week begins with a tough stage. It will be another hard day in the saddle as the stage ends with an uphill finish. The first part is rather flat so it will be a long sprint to the beginning of the climb. After that, a transition stage in the Basque Country is scheduled. The breakaway might have a chance to stay ahead as the course has a hilly profile. However it’s also possible that a sprint with a reduced peloton takes place. The following stage has a similar profile so the outcome could possibly be the same. Then, another very interesting stage awaits the riders as they need to climb four major mountains during the queen stage. The Col d’Aubisque, a well-known climb from the Tour de France, will be the final climb. The GC riders will have to give their all again during the next stage as they find three climbs on the route. An uphill finish of the first category will be the hard finale of that stage. Finally, the stage before the last rest day offers another chance to the sprinters that are left.”

“The final week is not that different from the second week. Again, the riders need to go full gas just after the rest day as the stage ends with a very steep climb with gradients up to 21 percent. It’s a new climb and this one will definitely be important with the GC in mind. After that, the sprinters can show themselves again in a rather flat stage. Then, an individual time trial of 37 kilometres is scheduled. The GC riders who are able to ride a decent time trial have an advantage as the course isn’t too hilly. The penultimate stage will determine the final GC positions of this year’s Vuelta. Five climbs have to be conquered in total and the finish is situated on a HC-climb. If the time gaps aren’t too big, it’s possible that the top ten of the overall ranking will still see some changes. Finally, this year’s Vuelta finishes with a sprint festival in Madrid. This stage is comparable with the finish of the Tour de France on the Champs-Elysées in Paris.”

Lotto Soudal participates with a very motivated team in La Vuelta. The entire line-up did a fantastic preparation and the riders showed that they are ready to start the final Grand Tour of the year. Mario Aerts audits the riders and explains the team tactics.

Mario Aerts: “It’s true that every rider had a very good preparation to start at this year’s Vuelta. Some of them went to Livigno for a hard training week, others prepared themselves in their own way. Sander Armée already showed this season that he’s in great form, for example during the Tour de Romandie (Armée won the mountains classification in this race, LTS) and the Tour of Norway. Sander can handle difficult mountain stages, he’s able to help the GC riders and he can join a break as well. Also Thomas De Gendt  is such a rider, although it will depend on how he has recovered from a very hard Tour de France. He’ll have some opportunities during the final two weeks when he can join breakaway groups and try to win a stage. Louis Vervaeke will not aim for a good position in the GC. He’s still very young and he can use this Vuelta to gain strength and experience. It would be great if he can finish this Grand Tour. The climbs really suit him so he may mark some stages and then he’ll have the possibility to go for a stage win.”

“Bart De Clercq and Maxime Monfort will be our leaders for the GC. We aim for a top ten place with these two riders. They already showed that they are in great form, so they’re both able to obtain a very nice result. Sander and Louis will help them in the mountains, but also Adam Hansen can handle a hard mountain stage. It will be the sixteenth consecutive Grand Tour of the Aussie so he has a lot of experience. He already won a stage two years ago and he’ll also aim for a stage win this year. Adam is able to help the GC riders, but he’s also very useful in the sprint train of Tosh Van der Sande who will be our sprinter during the coming three weeks. His stage win in the Tour de l’Ain gave a boost to both him and the team. Last year, he managed to obtain some nice results so this year he’ll try to perform even better. Gert Dockx and Jelle Wallays are both riders who can help Tosh in the sprint. These riders can ride really hard and they can pull at the front of the peloton for a very long time. Jelle is able to position Tosh perfectly for the sprint. It’s his first Grand Tour ever so he’ll be very motivated to show himself.”

Maxime monfort

Maxime Monfort at this year's Giro d'Italia

“We have set two main goals; trying to win a stage and obtaining a top ten position in the GC. The team knows that it won’t be a walk in the park, but everyone is in great shape. They start with a lot of courage and they’ll give their all in each stage. Tomorrow, we leave for Spain and Thursday we will recon the team time trial. The whole team is looking forward to it and I’m sure they’ll show themselves during these three weeks!”

Roster Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Bart De Clercq, Thomas De Gendt, Gert Dockx, Adam Hansen, Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande, Louis Vervaeke and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Marc Wauters.

Lampre-Merida sent me their Vuelta squad news:

Young and competitive line-up for LAMPRE-MERIDA for the participation in the Vuelta a Espana 2016.

The sports directors Simone Pedrazzini and Bruno Vicino (who'll be supported by Daniele Righi) will direct these nine riders:
- Arashiro Yukiya
- Cattaneo Mattia
- Conti Valerio
- Costa Mario
- Durasek Kristijan
- Grmay Tsgabu Gebremaryam
- Koshevoy Ilia
- Meintjes Louis
- Zurlo Federico
Substitutes: Marko Kump and Przemyslaw Niemiec.

Tsgabu Grmay

Tsgabu Grmay

LAMPRE-MERIDA will represent 7 nations in the Vuelta (Belarus, Croatia, Ethiopia, Italy, Japan, Portugal and South Africa) and three continents (Africa, Asia and Europe). The average age of the blue-fuchsia-green line-up will be fairly low, 25.8 years old.

The most awaited rider will be Louis Meintjes, who was 10th in the Vuelts 2015 and who improved is awareness of his qualities also thanks the 8th position he obtained in the Tour de France. In the Vuelta, Meintjes'target will be the stages victories: he'll have several appointments considering the bunch of mountain stages in the Spanish race.

He'll rely on good climbers such as Cattaneo, Conti, Durasek and Koshevoy, who'll all be also able to try to join the breakaways in the most demanding stages.

Grmay's level of experience in the great tours if very good, having completed each of the tours in which he made his debut (Giro d'Italia 2015, Tour de France 2016 and Vuelta a Espana 2015), and he's ready for trying to achieve a stage victory.

Thanks to their propensity for joining the breakaways and thanks to their speed, Arashiro and Zurlo will be important riders for their sports directors, as important as Mario Costa will be for giving his support to the team mates.

And Sky sent me this unhappy Vuelta team news:

Mikel Landa will miss this year's Vuelta a Espana after withdrawing from Team Sky's lineup with an injury. Landa, who had been confirmed to race as part of the nine-man squad, told medical staff that he was experiencing discomfort after aggravating an injury to his hip. After an initial MRI scan was taken, the decision was made to withdraw him from the team in order to allow him to fully recover from his injury.

Mikel Landa

Mikel Landa at this year's Tour de France, stage 12

Spanish climber David Lopez will now join up with the squad ahead of Saturday's opening team time trial. The experienced Lopez is a Vuelta stage winner and will be starting his 15th Grand Tour. Earlier this season he was part of Team Sky's Giro d'Italia lineup.

Team Sky Doctor Inigo Sarriegui said: "Mikel told us that he had been suffering with discomfort in his hip and upper leg. We sent him for a scan but have decided that the best thing at this stage is to take Mikel out of the Vuelta line up.

"Obviously he is disappointed, but starting a Grand Tour when you are already experiencing pain from an injury risks aggravating it further and could cause more problems. Mikel will be able to focus on recovering from the injury, rather than trying to get through a three week stage race."

Mikel Landa said: "I'm disappointed to have to withdraw from the team, especially so close to the start of the race. I was motivated to perform well at the Vuelta, but the pain I have had means I wouldn't be ready to perform at my best. We have agreed that it's best for me to focus on recovering properly so I can get fit and get back to racing.

"We have a strong team for the Vuelta and I'm very disappointed that I won't be there, but I wish the guys good luck and know they will have a great race.”

Advanced Sports International (ASI) buys Performance Bicycle

This came from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News:

PHILADELPHIA (BRAIN) — Advanced Sports International has bought the nation’s largest bicycle retailer, Performance Bicycle, including its 106 stores, private-label brands Forte, Spin Doctor, Transit and Scattante, and online businesses and

ASI declined to reveal the purchase price, but the deal had been in the works since ASI learned last November that Performance was on the block.

The move could help ASI compete with rivals Trek, Specialized and Giant, which have opened corporate-owned stores or retail partners. All three have been squeezing out competing brands from retail floors. ASI can now capitalize on Performance’s position as an omnichannel retailer with its strong internet business as well as brick and mortar.

Performance Bicycle’s annual revenue is estimated to be between $275 and $280 million. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina, company employs approximately 2,000 people across its retail and online businesses.

ASI has formed a new U.S. company called Advanced Sports Enterprises. It will oversee both ASI’s wholesale business and Performance’s retail operations, but will treat them as separate companies, said Pat Cunnane, who becomes CEO of ASE and will continue to lead brand development and the wholesale division under the ASI banner.

Performance Bicycle CEO David Pruitt will continue to head up the retailer’s operations. Both companies will retain their headquarters in Philadelphia and Chapel Hill, North Carolina. A management board, consisting of Cunnane, Pruitt, Debbie Chiu, vice president of finance at Advanced Sports, and Karen Bliss, ASI’s vice president of marketing, has been formed to lead the new company.

“We’re considering a vertically integrated model but not a merged business,” Cunnane told BRAIN on a conference call. “There’s a real distinction.

“The market is changing and where there’s a lot of change there’s opportunity,” Cunnane added. “We see omnichannel as the way to go. Retailers will have to partner with stronger businesses that provide them what they need to compete in an omnichannel world.”

You can read the entire article here.

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