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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, January 20, 2016

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

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen. - John Steinbeck

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Lotto-Soudal's upcoming races

The team sent me this update:

A new cycling season has started! At the moment a Lotto Soudal team is racing in Australia, at the Tour Down Under. Next week, a group of riders will head to Mallorca. From 28 January till 31 January the Challenge Mallorca is scheduled. This Europe Tour race consists of four individual races, a team can select different riders each day. After the Challenge Mallorca Lotto Soudal stays on the Spanish island for a few more days to train.

The first race in France is as usual the GP La Marseillaise, on 31 January. Three days later Etoile de Bessèges begins, a five-day stage race on French soil. Both races are part of the Europe Tour.

These are the Lotto Soudal rosters for the upcoming races.

Lotto Soudal team Challenge Mallorca (28/01 – 31/01): Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Bart De Clercq, Jens Debusschere, Frederik Frison, André Greipel, Tomasz Marczynski, Jürgen Roelandts, Marcel Sieberg, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Bart Leysen.

Tiesj Benoot

Tiesj Benoot when the weather was nicer

Lotto Soudal team GP La Marseillaise (31/01) and Etoile de Bessèges (03/02 – 07/02): Sander Armée, Stig Broeckx,  Sean De Bie, Tony Gallopin, Maxime Monfort, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors: Frederik Willems and Marc Wauters (only Bessèges).

Caleb Ewen wins Santos Tour Down Under stage 1

Orica-GreenEdge sent this release:

People’s Choice Classic winner Caleb Ewan has taken out the first stage of the 2016 Santos Tour Down Under in Lyndoch today.

Ewan outsprinted Mark Renshaw (Team Dimension Data) and Wouter Wippert (Cannondale Pro Cycling) for his seventh victory this year and second ever WorldTour win following his stage success on Grand Tour debut at the Vuelta a Espana last year.

The win also puts the 21-year-old into the Ochre leader’s jersey with finish line bonus seconds giving him a four second advantage to Renshaw. “I was feeling good and the team showed their faith in me by riding on the front all day,” Ewan said. “It’s a really big confidence boost and that’s exactly what I need going into the season.”

“It’s a really proud moment for me, I’ve never led a WorldTour race before and to do it for the first time in my home country is a real honour for me.”

Caleb Ewen

Caleb Ewen is spending a lot of time holding flowers lately.

With three riders up the road for much of the day’s racing, sport director Matt White was happy for the team to ride on the front in support of the in-form sprinter.

“We obviously have a lot of responsibility with Caleb here and as our home WorldTour race but the boys did a good job controlling the stage and then looking after him in the final,” White said.

“He had Luke Durbridge, Mat Hayman and Daryl Impey in the final and the main thing was that he got a clean run to the line and he showed he is the fastest guy here.”

How it happened: The peloton rolled out of Prospect in hot and windy conditions, kick starting the Santos Tour Down Under and UCI WorldTour for 2016. The day’s breakaway was formed after four kilometres of racing and featured three riders – Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Martijn Keizer (Team Lotto Jumbo) and Sean Lake (UniSA Australia).

Immediately, ORICA-GreenEDGE took responsibility at the head of the peloton to keep the gap under control. Thanks to the work of Michael Hepburn and Luke Durbridge the gap never extended beyond two minutes and with one 27km lap remaining just Gougeard and Lake remained in front with a one-minute advantage.

Lake held on the longest but was caught in the final ten kilometres as sprint trains came to the fore to set up their leaders. Team Sky hit the front in the final kilometre but Caleb, guided by his ORICA-GreenEDGE teammates, was too fast.

The Santos Tour Down Under continues tomorrow with a 132km stage from Unley to Stirling.

Later tonight, the Santos Women’s Tour wraps up with a twilight criterium in Victoria Park.

Garfoot wins Santos Women’s Tour

Orica-AIS shot me this good news:

Australian time trial champion Katrin Garfoot has taken out her first Tour victory by sprinting to third place on the final stage of the Santos Women’s Tour in Adelaide this evening.

Garfoot entered the Victoria Park criterium in the lead but on equal time with three other riders – Lauren Kitchen (Hytec Products), Shelley Olds (Cylance Professional Cycling) and Danielle King (Wiggle High5). As the race wound up for a bunch kick ORICA-AIS put their full support into the sprint train to set the 34-year-old up and defend the jersey.

In the end it was Kimberley Wells (High5 Dream Team) who claimed the last stage honours but Garfoot’s third place got the better of her general classification rivals to secure the overall title.

Despite having surprised herself in the previous day’s sprints, Garfoot admitted there were nerves. “I was nervous at the beginning, not just at the end,” she said after the stage. I was confident I could sprint after the last two days, I just wasn’t sure how I could sprint in a bunch with so many strong sprinters rubbing shoulders and pushing each other around like dominos. It strung out towards the back end, which probably suited me.

“The team just worked so hard together this week. Without them, I couldn’t have done anything like that. I’m not a sprinter but I just followed the good wheels and they got me to where I needed to be and then just tried to do my best.”

The overall title wrapped up a success week of racing at the Santos Women's Tour for ORICA-AIS, with the team also finishing the Tour with two stage wins and the team classification by over eight minutes. The team’s overall victory tally for 2016 now sits at eight.

Katrin Garfoot

Katrin Garfoot

Sport director Gene Bates was thrilled with the victory but even more so with the teamwork displayed by his six riders.

“The goal coming into the Tour was to win a stage and go for the overall and we have certainly achieved that,” Bates said. “The best part was the way they handled themselves throughout the race. It really was a team effort with completely selfless riding.

“Kat was in good form and when you are in good form you can do pretty much everything so over the course of the four days her confidence built and the team’s confidence in her built and that’s really what shone through in the end.”

ORICA-AIS will next race at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race on Saturday, 30 January 2016.

Santos Women's Tour - Stage 4 Results

1. Kimberley Wells (High5 Dream Team) 1:03:30
2. Annette Edmondson (Wiggle High5) ST
3. Katrin Garfoot (ORICA-AIS) ST

Santos Women's Tour - Overall Results

1. Katrin Garfoot (ORICA-AIS) 6:52:36
2. Shelley Olds (Cylance Professional Cycling) ST
3. Lauren Kitchen (Hytec Products) ST

Tinkoff reports on Tour Down Under

Tinkoff's British sprinter [Adam Blythe] anticipates the sprint but yields in the closing meters. Caleb Ewan of Orica GreenEDGE, claimed the first stage of the Australian race, the first one in the 2016 WorldTour. Hot weather and windy conditions gave quite a hard time to the peloton that, not surprisingly, got to the finish line in the city of Lyndock in a compact group.

The opening stage of the race, into its 18th year, was marked by a relatively challenging course conceived for sprinters, from Prospect to Lyndoch, 130.8 kilometers long and with one KOM, in Lower hermitage, shortly after the tenth kilometer. There were three intermediate sprints, just before and after the middle of the race, set within the final street circuit track which was ridden three times.

"Today’s stage took place in unfavorable weather conditions considering the temperature hit 40C", commented Sports director Lars Michaelsen, "after the breakaway of the three riders, the race was mainly controlled by the group, and especially by the teams of the sprinters. From our point of view we protected our sprinters in view of a possible final sprint, and I think it was a good team performance. Adam Blythe anticipated the sprint and tried not to fall behind in the finale by taking a risk. However one has to take some chances in order to achieve big results."

Stage 1 finish

Adam Blythe can be seen on the picture's left

140 riders were at the starting line of the Australian stage race marked by the torrid heat wave of the Barossa Valley which forced them to keep a pace below their expectations.

Shortly after the start, within 4 km, the first breakaway took place with Alexis Gougeard, Martijn Keizer and Sean Lake. At about 5 km from the finish line the group recaptured the fugitives and were reunited again until the final sprint.

"In the last kilometers of the stage it was hard to stay in  front of the group", stated Adam Blythe, "and I fought to keep a favorable position ahead of the final sprint. Towards the finish line my sprint took me in front of everyone, but I'm afraid I was unable to keep the same speed until the end. Tomorrow's stage could be suitable to the characteristics of our Oscar Gatto. In my opinion, today I saw him in very good shape".

Tomorrow will see the riders race from the city of Unley, and finally get to Stirling after 132 km and with two intermediate sprints (after 27.9 and 49.3 km) and a King of the Mountain set at about 14 km from the start. The final circuit will be raced five times therefore, as it happened in the first stage, it is very likely it will end up in a bunch sprint.

And here's Tinkoff's Tour de San Luis news about Monday's first stage, a team time trial:

Tinkoff claimed fourth place in the 21km time-trial from Durazno and back and was within striking distance from the podium on the first stage of Tour de San Luis. The squad, led by Peter Sagan and Rafal Majka, crossed the finish line with a time of 24:16, trailing winners Etixx-Quickstep by 23 seconds.

After the first race of the year for Tinkoff's six riders in Argentina, Patxi Vila, Tinkoff sport director, commented on the team's performance: "This was the first race of the year, and it's always hard to decipher. Nevertheless, given the team's mixed composition, with some riders who are better suited to this kind of trial than others, we didn't do too bad."

"We finished within a short distance both from Astana and Movistar, two of our main rivals, while the Etixx-Quick-Step team did a great trial and they won with merit. We raced at our own level and the guys were good. Considering this was the first test of the year it was fine", concluded Vila.

The first Tinkoff rider to cross the finish line was Maciej Bodnar, followed by Peter Sagan, Jesper Hansen, Pawel Poljanski, and Rafal Majka.

"This TTT was tough, fast and with a particular heat wave that hit almost 40 degrees," said Bodnar. "The race today was hard for a team basically made up of long distance riders and climbers but, on the whole, our fourth place shows the team is well trained, we just lack a bit of pace. In the next stages we can only get better."

Rafal Majka commented on the team's performance at the end of the trial: "It went well, considering it was the first race. The season is still long and we have plenty of time to achieve our goals. Anyway, I think the fourth place in this team time trial is a good result considering there are so many strong and challenging top teams in this competition".

On Tuesday, Tinkoff's six-strong squad is set to tackle the longest stage of Tour San Luis which will take the peloton from the provincial capital of San Luis to Villa Mercedes. The stage's 182km will be covered again under hot summer conditions and will provide the first opportunity for sprinters.

Time bonuses will also come to play as three, two and one second will be on offer at the two intermediate sprints and ten, six and four seconds will be awarded at the finish line.

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