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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, January 15, 2016

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

Looking back, my life seems like one long obstacle race, with me as the chief obstacle. - Jack Paar

2017 Tour de France to start in Düsseldorf, Germany

Here's the news from the Tour organizers:

In 2017, Germany will host the Grand Départ of the Tour de France for the fourth time. The peloton will hit the road in Düsseldorf, on the banks of the Rhine and in the heart of one of most vibrant cities in the country, for what is an already highly anticipated 104th edition. Germany has the greatest number of stage wins in the last three editions of the Tour de France. Led by a golden generation of cyclists such as Tony Martin, André Greipel, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb, Germany is ready to write a glorious new chapter in the history of the biggest cycling race in the world.

Tony Martin

Tony Martin might be able to grab the first yellow jersey of the 2017 Tour in his home country.

2017 will see the Tour de France start abroad for the 22nd time. Thirty years after West Berlin's turn in 1987, the peloton of the biggest cycling race in the world will hit the road in Germany — this time from Düsseldorf. The capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, which straddles the Rhine, will be the beating heart of the world of cycling for a weekend. It is a well-deserved reward for German riders, who are an integral part of today's cycling elite, and cycling fans, very numerous in the country and, particularly, in Düsseldorf.

Based on the stage profile, Tony Martin has the best shot at wearing the legendary yellow jersey in his home country at the end of the opening day. The first stage, scheduled for July 1, 2017, will be a 13 km individual time trial through the streets of Düsseldorf. The stage will start opposite the Messe fair grounds, following which the riders will roll down the banks of the Rhine for several kilometers before crossing it twice and heading for Königsallee, the city's most iconic street. Finally, after breezing past the opera, the riders will head north-west towards the finish line, also located near Messe. The pancake-flat course will whet the appetite of power riders, notably the 2013 individual time trial world champion.

2017 Tour de France stage 1 map

Map of the 2017 Tour de France's first stage, in Düsseldorf

The next day, Sunday, July 2, 2017, cycling fans will again throng the streets of the center of Düsseldorf, where the second stage will begin. After a tour through the city center, the first mountain points will be up for grabs at km 6, on the Grafenberg. The peloton will then make its way back to Düsseldorf one last time before heading to a destination as yet unknown, which will be revealed at the presentation of the route of the 2017 Tour de France, on October 18, 2016.

The Düsseldorf stages of the 2017 Tour de France :

> Saturday July 1 : Düsseldorf > Düsseldorf (CLM), 13 km
> Sunday July 2 : Düsseldorf > …

Etixx-Quick Step headed to the Tour of San Luis

Here's the report from the team:

South America's biggest race is ready to roll from the 18th of January, when 29 teams will line-up for the 10th edition of the Tour de San Luis.

Seven stages, 921 kilometers, a team time trial and some tough climbs – these are the ingredients of an event which has become in no time one of the fans' favourite – an event which proved to be very successful for Etixx – Quick-Step at the previous participations, when the team notched multiple stage victories.

Once again, Davide Bramati will be the team's sport director for the race, which he previewed before heading to Argentina: "It's a very interesting edition of the Tour de San Luis, with an atypical start, giving that the first stage will be a team time trial. The stages are rather short, but intense, and some of them are scheduled to finish in cities we know very well from the previous years. The organizers found again the right balance between flat and mountain, and I'm sure this will lead to a great show on the road, which the fans are going to enjoy."

Last year, Fernando Gaviria came out of nowhere to win two sprint stages in spectacular fashion, catching the eye of everyone. As a result, he was immediately signed by Etixx – Quick-Step, together with fellow countryman Rodrigo Contreras, who impressed as well, by coming 5th in the general classification and winning the best young rider jersey. Both will make their return to San Luis now, which will act as their first pro race.
"On the flat, he will rely on a strong team, which includes Richeze, Vandenbergh, Sabatini and Wisniowski, all strong cyclists, ready to work for the team. For the mountains, we count on Rodrigo, but without putting any pressure on him. We want to take it day by day, see how he feels, and if the signs are good, then maybe he'll try to do a good GC", concluded Davide Bramati.

Etixx – Quick-Step for the Tour de San Luis (18-24 January): Rodrigo Contreras, Fernando Gaviria, Maximiliano Richeze, Fabio Sabatini, Stijn Vandenbergh, Lukasz Wisniowski.

Stijn Vandenbergh

Stijn Vandenbergh is headed to South America this month

And Tinkoff is going to Australia

Here's an update from the team:

Tinkoff is back in Australia for the 18th edition of the iconic race with a versatile and motivated squad that will try to seek opportunities in every stage. Tinkoff's squad consists of Ivan Rovny, Jay McCarthy, Michael Gogl, Oscar Gatto, Adam Blythe, Michael Valgren and Manuele Boaro.

Tinkoff has spent the off-season further strengthening its setup and preparing for 2016. According to Lars Michaelsen, Tinkoff's leading sport director at Tour Down Under, spectators at the side of the road and viewers at home can expect to see a motivated group of riders who are ready to seize their opportunities in the race.

However, being the curtain-raiser of the new season and with two new recruits in the team, Oscar Gatto and Adam Blythe, and a neo-pro, Michael Gogl, Michaelsen remains cautious and with a number of unknown factors, the team will adapt its strategy and tactics at each stage.

"With the exception of Jay McCarthy who raced in two criteriums and took fifth at the Australian National Championships, this is the first race of the season for our guys here. As a result, we will have to tackle Tour Down Under on a day-by-day basis. Obviously, they have been thoroughly prepared during the European winter period but it still is early to know where they stand in terms of form", commented Michaelsen.

Tinkoff team

The Tinkoff team has been in Australia for a few days

"Of course, that doesn't mean we aren't motivated! We are here to give our absolute best and we will try to seek every opportunity we can and seize it. There is no doubt about that but we will adapt our strategy to the current situation every day. All our riders are motivated and ready to fight for each other from the start of the first stage", said Michaelsen.

In 2016, Santos Tour Down Under will feature a mix of familiar and new terrain. Analyzing the race's stages, Michaelsen said, "On stage 1, I think that a morning breakaway will take place and, hopefully, we will have one rider there. Then things will come together and we will see a sprint finish where Adam Blythe can take his chances. In stage 2 we could have another sprint finish with more or less 50 riders in Stirling, something that could suit Oscar Gatto".

"On stages 3 and 5 we have a number of uphill challenges. On stage 5, Willunga Hill has played a decisive role in the previous editions and will do as well this year. On stage 3, we have the Corkscrew, 5.7km before the finish and then it's all downhill. Still, I would say the Corkscrew is a nasty climb and it could also be decisive", stated Michaelsen.

Unlike the previous years, Tinkoff's squad moved much earlier to Australia in 2016 and used the perfect weather conditions as a training camp, both for the race itself as well as the rest of the season. "We came to Adelaide much earlier this year and took advantage of the conditions to train. This is a good way to build a platform and the foundations not only for this race but for the challenging year ahead of us. Last but certainly not least, we are happy to welcome Oscar Gatto and Adam Blythe in the team and it's good to see them racing in the nice Tinkoff kit", concluded Michaelsen.

Lotto-Soudal at Tour Down Under

Lotto-Soudal sent me this news about the Australian race:

Last weekend, Adam Hansen and Greg Henderson took part in the national championships of their country respectively Australia and New Zealand. Within three days, on Sunday 17th January, the Lotto Soudal team will ride its first race of the year: the People’s Choice Classic in Adelaide. Tuesday the Tour Down Under will start, a race of six stages in the region around Adelaide and the first WorldTour race of the season. The team will stay one more week in Australia because on Sunday 31st January the riders will participate in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Melbourne. Those who want to follow the adventures of Lotto Soudal, have to take into account the time difference: in Adelaide it is nine and a half hours later than in the Central European time zone and in Melbourne ten hours.

The People’s Choice Classic is an evening criterium in the streets of Adelaide, a city in the south of Australia. The participants have to cover thirty laps of 1.7 kilometres, in total 51 kilometres. This race is ideal for sprinters.

Mario Aerts, sports director Lotto Soudal: “Just like last year, André Greipel is not a part of the selection for the Tour Down Under. Last year, this has proved to be the right choice so we want to do the same. André will start the competition at the end of the month at the Challenge Mallorca. In Australia Greg Henderson, the experienced lead-out of André Greipel, is our man for the sprints. The criterium in Adelaide is made for fast men but also in the Tour Down Under there are opportunities, definitely in the first and the last stage.”

The first stage of the Tour Down Under is indeed a flat stage of 130 kilometres. A day later, they head for Stirling, where it is possible that a small group will sprint for the victory. On Thursday the final will be tricky with a slope at the end, the last five and a half kilometres are going downwards toward Campbelltown. Also in the fourth stage, with finish at Victor Harbor, there is a slope approximately twenty kilometres from the end. Maybe an opportunity for some escapees?

Lars Bak

Lars Bak will be at the Tour Down Under

The penultimate stage is with its 151.5 kilometres the longest of the six stages. The riders have to climb Willunga Hill two times. The second time will be decisive for the victory of the day and maybe also for the final victory since the last stage will end in a sprint. Like the People’s Choice Classic, the last stage is in Adelaide, where the riders have to cover twenty laps of four and a half kilometres.

Mario Aerts: “I rode the Tour Down Under five times as a cyclist and in our team there are also many cyclists who know this race very well. Nevertheless, we have planned two trainings of about five hours before Sunday and we will take our time to do a recon of some finals. For the GC we are counting on newcomer Rafael Valls, we would like him to end in the top ten of the ranking. Last year he won the Tour of Oman in February which proves he can be in good shape early in the season. During the stage to Stirling, I think there is a big chance that a small group will battle for the victory. The day after will certainly be important for the GC with a climb in the finale. During the stage to Victor Harbor the wind can influence the course of the stage. The stage to Willunga Hill will be decisive for the overall ranking.”

“We want to maintain our offensive style of last season and we have taken the riders to do this. Just think of Thomas De Gendt, who probably cannot wait to go along in a breakaway. Adam Hansen is always in shape in the Tour Down Under and will want to show himself to the home crowd. Pim Ligthart is also always in good shape at the beginning of the season. Last year he provided for the first victory of the season for Lotto Soudal by winning the GP La Marseillaise. Who knows he might pull the same off in Australia. As usual I expect the Australians, who will be extra motivated, to be tough competitors. Especially Orica-GreenEdge and BMC will be very strong.”

The Tour Down Under ends on Sunday 24th January but the team stays in Australia. On Sunday 31st January Lotto Soudal takes part in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in Melbourne, a city more than 700 kilometers at the east of Adelaide. This race is 174 kilometres long and is partially driven on the circuit of the World Championships in Geelong in 2010.

Lotto Soudal team: Lars Bak, Thomas De Gendt, Gert Dockx, Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson, Pim Ligthart and Rafael Valls.

Stages Tour Down Under

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