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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, February 25, 2016

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

Your duty is to treat everybody with love as a manifestation of the Lord. - Swami Sivananda

Current Racing:

Upcoming racing:

BMC's upcoming racing

The team sent me this update:

A Big Weekend of Racing for BMC Racing Team: BMC Racing Team is set to open the Belgian Classics at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, and take on Classic Sud-Ardèche and La Drôme Classic in France this weekend.

The two Belgian one-day races are an important feature in BMC Racing Team's program said Sports Director Valerio Piva.

Philippe Gilbert will race at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Greg Van Avermaet will line up at both Belgian races.

philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert will get some Belgian racing time this weekend. Here he's shown winning the Murcia Vuelta earler this year.

"Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is always an important race for a Belgian rider so I hope to do well there. This year it's even more special for me because ten years ago I won for the first time," Gilbert said.

"Racing in Qatar and Oman was really good preparation for the Belgian races," Van Avermaet confirmed. "It's always exciting to race in Belgium and I'm ready for some tough racing."

Sports Director Yvon Ledanois said Classic Sud-Ardèche and La Drôme Classic are key races for riders looking to test their early season form.

"At this point in the season it's all about getting race days in the legs as we approach the first big tests of the season, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico, and the two French races are excellent races for this," Ledanois explained.

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (27 Feb):

Rider Roster: Jempy Drucker (LUX), Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Floris Gerts (NED), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Rick Zabel (GER).

Sports Director: Valerio Piva (ITA)


Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne (28 Feb)

Rider Roster: Tom Bohli (SUI), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Floris Gerts (NED), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Rick Zabel (GER).

Sports Director: Valerio Piva (ITA)


Classic Sud-Ardèche (27 Feb) and La Drôme Classic (28 Feb)

Rider Roster: Darwin Atapuma (COL), Rohan Dennis (AUS), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Samuel Sanchez (ESP), Manuel Senni (ITA), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Loïc Vliegen (BEL), Danilo Wyss (SUI).

Sports Director: Yvon Ledanois (FRA)

Tinkoff team news; Peter Sagan starts season

Team Tinkoff had this to report:

World champion Peter Sagan will kick-start his European season this weekend with the two opening races of the Belgian cycling calendar. Hard and challenging, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne, will provide the prefect ground for a prelude to the revered Classics.

With the famous cobblestone races considered a key point during the season for Tinkoff and Peter Sagan, it will be important to get going on a positive note ahead the next intense weeks of racing.

peter Sagan

Peter Sagan will be showing his rainbow stripes this weekend

Tinkoff will field a squad of strong riders that have proved their early-season form with solid performances and three stage victories in January and February. Flanking Sagan will be Maciej Bodnar, Daniele Bennati, Oscar Gatto, Jay McCarthy, Manuele Boaro, Nikolay Trusov and Adam Blythe.

"Peter Sagan will, obviously, be our leader," commented Sport Director Lars Michaelsen. "However, he comes from a high-altitude camp and his last race was a month ago in Argentina, so we will need to keep him fresh and safe. I feel convinced that the rest of the squad will rise to the challenge and work hard to support him."

For Peter Sagan, these two races will be an indication of his current form. "I am curious to see how my first two starts in Europe will be. The race in San Luis was held a month ago, so it has been a long time. I prepared diligently, I spent a lot of time at the training camp in Sierra Nevada and I know I'm doing well. I am interested in seeing how strong my opponents are."

"These races in Belgium are set to kick off the final phases of my preparation for the spring monuments, which, yet again, will be a great challenge to me. Both races are quite long and difficult and they nearly always indicate who will succeed in the spring part of the season. It will be the first test and I expect a sharp confrontation with the best riders," concluded Sagan.

For the Belgian opening weekend, Tinkoff will face on Saturday at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the fantastic classic style of racing that marks the Ronde van Vlaanderen. The 201km-long race starts in Ghent, takes the riders through the Flemish Ardennes with lots of ascents and flat cobbled sections and finishes again in Ghent.

According to Lars Michaelsen, "this will be similar to a rehearsal for the team's 2016 classic season. We will do a lot of the known climbs in Ronde van Vlaanderen and since this is a race where all the Belgian riders finally are able to go racing on home soil, the start is normally extremely fast."

Thirteen climbs, including the famous "Kapelmuur van Gerardsbergen" 85km into the parcours, and no less than ten cobblestone sections will test the peloton as it rides under usually cold and wintry conditions.

"A breakaway is likely to be formed within the first 20 km, so we will have to stay alert," stated Michaelsen on the race. "We will have to be very careful and never let our guard down, as all of the race's climbs, such as the Taaienberg, Eikenberg, Wolvenberg, Leberg or the Boembekeberg, are crucial. The battle will be intense and there will not be any easy section."

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne has always been a nice race and many big names have stepped on its podium over the years. With a similar length to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, 200km, the Sunday race features less climbs but is by no means a stroll in the park. Just like every other one-day classic in Belgium, racing has always been very hard.

The race starts in Kuurne, heads towards Brussels and 25km before the Belgian capital it turns around. On the way back, ten hills are climbed, including the famous "Oude Kwaremont", before finishing in Kuurne, after a 15.3km loop that is circled twice.

According to Lars Michaelsen, "a breakaway often forms in the beginning of the race and just like Saturday, we will have to stay alert. The first categorized climb is 30km after the start, followed by quite a long distance until the riders face the other ten climbs. Again, all of them will be important in terms of tactics and a hard, fast-paced battle is a given for the final two hours of the race."

African time-trial championships

Lampre-Merida made this report:

By 10 seconds, Tsgabu Grmay failed to achieve the goal of confirming his African title in the time trial.

Tsgabu Grmay

Tsgabu Grmay at the Vuelta a España

The Ethiopian rider from Team Lampre-Merida was very close to obtaining the second title in a row: in Morocco, on the distance of 40.4 km (start and arrival in Benslimane), Grmay surrendered to the Moroccan Lhasaini.

The blue-fuchsia-green athlete completed his performance in 51'29", 10" more than the winner and 4" less than Teklehaimanot, who was 3rd.

On Friday 26th February, Grmay will be at the start of the road race of the African championship (distance 180 km ).

1- Lahsaini 52'19"
2- Grmay +10"
3- Teklehaimanot +14"
4- Haddi 1'03"
5- Barbari 1'25"

Lotto-Soudal for Het Nieuwsblad

Here's the Belgian team's news release:

The 71st edition of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad will take place on Saturday 27 February 2016. The opening race of the Belgian cycling season starts at the Citadelpark in Ghent. After that the peloton needs to cover 200.8 kilometres, thirteen hills and ten cobbled sections in total.

The race starts with a run-up of about 60 kilometres before the rides will tackle the cobblestones. The Haaghoek is the first section, thereafter six ascents will follow with among others the Eikenmolen and Tenbosse, these are two new hills on the course. At about 90 kilometres of the end the peloton has to ride a second time over the cobbles of the Haaghoek, then it goes towards the Taaienberg and Eikenberg. Several teams will try to make a first selection on these hills. The final passage of the Haaghoek will then give the introduction to the finale. The finale is a bit different compared to previous editions. Due to traffic work at the Molenberg, the final hill is now the Boembekeberg. The last cobbled sections are the Paddestraat, Lippenhovestraat and Lange Munte. That final section is situated at about twenty kilometres of the finish, which is this year on the Emile Clauslaan.

Lotto Soudal starts with ambition in the opening weekend. Tiesj Benoot, Jürgen Roelandts and Jens Debusscheren already showed in Algarve that they’re in a good shape. Although there will be strong opponents. Riders as Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet, Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra, Alexander Kristoff and world champion Peter Sagan will aim for the victory. Tiesj Benoot and Jürgen Roelandts give a preview.

Tiesj Bennot

Tiesj Benoot in 2015

Tiesj Benoot: “I start in the opening weekend with a little more confidence compared to last year. I know the course very well, but  a lot of others too. We’ll have to make sure that we’re on the right positions at the crucial moments and we’ll have to ride attentively at the front of the peloton.”

“In my opinion, the Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix are more important races, but I won’t start the Omloop with less ambition. I was already in good shape last year in the same period and now as well. I feel good, especially after the Volta ao Algarve. I went a few times full gas in several stages so perhaps I can count on a supercompensation, we’ll see.”

“The new hill in the finale won’t determine the race I think. The difference will be made before this hill. We want to be with as much riders as possible in the finale, then we can try something and attack. It would be great if I could win the race. But if someone else of the team wins, I’ll be equally happy of course.”

Jürgen Roelandts: “Until now I didn’t start with a 100 per cent positive feeling in the races. But I didn’t participate at the recon today so hopefully I’ll be in a good shape. I stayed in Algarve till yesterday, the final stage was really tough and I took my time to recover as good as possible.”

“I don’t mind that there are other riders in the team that can win the race. In my opinion it’s even better for us as a team. You have to make sure that you’re attentive in the front of course. This year’s selection is one of the stronger ones of the past few years, maybe it’s even the best selection. If we could win a race during the opening weekend, it would give a boost to the whole team. It depends on how the race will evolve of course, but we stand a good chance. Even more than the previous years.”

Selection Lotto Soudal: Tiesj Benoot, Stig Broeckx, Sean De Bie, Jens Debusschere, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Wallays.

Ag2r's upcoming races

The French squad sent out this notice:

Race: Classic Sud-Ardèche, 27 février

Guilherand -Granges - Guilherand -Granges, 182.7km

Composition de l'équipe: Jan BAKELANTS, Romain BARDET, Guillaume BONNAFOND, Mikael CHEREL, Cyril GAUTIER, Blel KADRI, Samuel DUMOULIN, Alexis VUILLERMOZ

Directeur sportif : Gilles MAS

Race: Royal Bernard Drôme Classic, 28 février

Livron - Livron 203.8 km

Composition de l'équipe: Jan BAKELANTS, Romain BARDET, Hubert DUPONT, Cyril GAUTIER, Pierre LATOUR, Samuel DUMOULIN, Ben GASTAUER, Axel DOMONT

Directeur sportif : Gilles MAS

Race: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (27 février)

Composition de l'équipe: Gediminas BAGDONAS (Lit), Damien GAUDIN, Alexis GOUGEARD, Hugo HOULE (Can), Sebastien MINARD, Jesse SERGENT(NZL), Sebastien TURGOT

Directeur sportif : Julien JURDIE

Race: Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne (28 février)

Composition de l'équipe: Gediminas BAGDONAS (Lit), Maxime DANIEL, Alexis GOUGEARD, Hugo HOULE (Can), Jesse SERGENT (NZL), Sébastien TURGOT

Directeur sportif : Julien JURDIE