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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, July 30, 2016

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Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. - Leo Tolstoy

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Tinkoff's Clasica San Sebastian preview

This Saturday, the UCI WorldTour action continues with the 36th edition of Clasica San Sebastian, a 220.2 km one-day semi-classic on the northern coast of Spain, suited to the punchy climbers. Having won the 2009 edition, Roman Kreuziger comes to Spain with good memories of the race, and he is joined by Alberto Contador, returning from his injuries that saw him withdraw from the Tour de France.

Having both Alberto and Roman in the team for the race gives Tinkoff two cards to play, with the tough, hilly parcours one that suits both of their characteristics as climbers. The course features six main climbs over its parcours, with the final 60km being the most decisive section of the race. The parcours potentially suits one of the two riders more than the other, but after the Tour de France form is sometimes a bit uncertain, as Sport Director Patxi Vila explains.

“San Sebastian is always a special race, with people either coming from the Tour de France or preparing for La Vuelta so you have two levels. If you leave the Tour in good condition, then usually you have something extra over those who are preparing for La Vuelta and may be in very good shape but lack some race speed. But then it’s also not easy to recover in just five days.” Alberto and Roman will be joined by Oscar Gatto, also coming from the Tour de France, as well as Jésus Hernández, Sergio Paulinho, Evgeny Petrov, Ivan Rovny and Yuri Trofimov giving the team a mix of support for the two leaders.

Alberto contador

Alberto Contador had a rough start to this year's Tour de France

“Alberto has been training well and recovering, however, his race form will remain a bit unknown until Saturday, but the idea is to go out and race hard. We have Roman too who finished the Tour well and if he’s recovered he’ll be another card to play. The final climb of the race suits Alberto’s capacities as a climber better but it’s not that easy to guess how they’re feeling. Then alongside these two we have a strong team to support them.”

In San Sebastián, Alberto hopes to start building up the competition pace, necessary to successfully tackle his next major goal, the Vuelta a España. "I watched many stages of the Tour on television, but it was not easy to follow the race because I knew almost every corner of the parcours and I found it difficult to accept that I wasn't there. However, sports is like that, and I'm already feeling better and working towards my next goal, the Vuelta a España".

Following a period of complete rest, Alberto Contador started "to slowly going on the bike for a spin and although the discomfort was always there and I had a slower rhythm longer than I expected, I haven't been worried about it. I am aware I will lack a bit of pace in San Sebastián and Burgos, which will probably raise my pulse a lot, but I know the best is to think about the Vuelta a España. I will tackle these two races with a bit of calm and with a longer-term objective."

Regarding his recent injuries he feels already "pretty good but not perfect yet. Of course, there is no comparison with how I was in the Tour, but I still don't do any stretching in order not to risk a relapse. Otherwise I'm already almost back to normal."

For Alberto, the key now is that he gets to feel at ease. "I'm in very good spirits and just think I have the Vuelta a España ahead. It is my country's race, I'll be at home and I really look forward to taking to the start ". While he waits for the start in Orense, he thinks San Sebastian "is a very demanding race where riders coming from the Tour always have an edge in their form, which makes a difference. It will be difficult to be at their level, but it will be good in order to pick up pace."

The race sees a slight change to the latter stages of the route after last year’s race with the final climb now taking a different route to the top of the same hill, with a similarly steep profile to tackle before a fast descent down to the final flat run-in. The 220.2km route features around 3500m climbing in total making it a tough day in the saddle, with the two ascents of the Jaizkibel climb, cresting at 125km and 165km in, the toughest of the six categorised climbs. The final ascent of the Murgil Tontorra may only reach 250m altitude, however the steep gradients and proximity to the finish will be sure to spark decisive attacks, as all that remains is a fast descent followed by a few kilometres flat finish where the 2016 champion will be crowned.

Cannondale-Drapac is headed to the Tour of Utah

Here's the team's race preview:

Defending champion Joe Dombrowski headlines a strong Cannondale-Drapac squad seeking its fourth straight general classification title at Tour of Utah. “I’m looking forward to returning to Tour of Utah and hopefully successfully defending my title,” said Dombrowski. “It’s a beautiful race in a beautiful state. I have good memories here.”

The 25-year-old raced his maiden Giro d’Italia earlier this year where he twice finished in the top ten on mountain stages and spent several days in the early breakaways. The results he recorded belie the effort he made to chase his first Grand Tour victory. Although he left Italy without the stage win he targeted, Dombrowski left the Giro stronger and more confident.

Joe Donbrowski

Joe Dombrowski wins stage 6 of the 2015 Tour of Utah

He backed up his efforts at the Giro with a solid performance at Tour de Suisse. From there it was a mid-season break, which included a vacation in London and a solid month training at home in Virginia.

In Park City since Wednesday, Dombrowski will have spent five days acclimating to altitude before the race begins on Monday, August 1. “It’s what I did last year before the race, and it worked out really well,” explained Dombrowski. “It gives you a chance to get acclimated to the altitude, which is important for the race, but the time at altitude before the race and then the race itself serve as a mini-altitude camp – and it’s a much nicer way of doing altitude than Tenerife.”

Dombrowski is one of five Americans lining up for Cannondale-Drapac in Utah. The 25-year-old is joined by Andrew Talansky, Ben King, Nate Brown and Phil Gaimon. Italian Alberto Bettiol and British stagiaire Jon Dibben round out the squad for the seven-day stage race. “Joe will be our leader,” said sport director Bingen Fernandez. “We have chances with Andrew, too, but with the defending champion, we give him the respect of our support.”

“We have extra motivation coming from racing with the defending champion and having won it for the last three years,” said Fernandez. “For sure, we are going to try to win in Utah again.”

Like last year, Fernandez expects the race to be decided during the final two stages. Last August, Dombrowski won stage six into Snowbird with a brilliant solo effort – brilliant enough to put him in yellow. Dombrowski started the final stage as race leader, and finished alongside his main challengers in Park City to win the Tour of Utah.

While the 13th edition of the Tour of Utah includes familiar climbs on the queen stage into Snowbird and a similar circuit around Park City as a finale to a solid week of racing, the routes are not identical to the ones Dombrowski won on last year.

“Those last two stages are hard, and they are where the race will be decided,” said Fernandez. “Snowbird and Park City have been the deciding stages in the past, so we know this.”

“But we can’t lose time in the other stages,” he added. “We can’t relax. Altitude is hard, and we need to be careful not to lose seconds in silly places. We will need to pay attention on every single stage to be in a position to race for the GC over the weekend.”

Cannondale-Drapac for Tour of Utah: Nate Brown, Alberto Bettiol, Jon Dibben, Joe Dombrowski, Phil Gaimon, Ben King, Andrew Talansky

Brent Bookwalter pre-Olympic update

This preview was in my inbox and I thought I share it:

Brent Bookwalter
Olympic Sport: Road Cycling
Events: Road Race, Time Trial

Personal: Son of Harry Bookwalter and Connie Zinger ... Has one brother, Taylor ... Married to Jamie Dinkins ... Co-founder of the Bookwalter Binge, a nonprofit Gran Fondo cycling event which is donating all 2016 proceeds to benefit the Southern Appalachian Highland Conservancy.

Brent Bookwalter

Brent Bookwalter

Brent Bookwalter will soon be making his first appearance representing the United States at the Summer Olympic Games. Here are his thoughts before he departs for Rio this weekend.

What will you be doing between now and your departure for Rio?

"My wife, Jamie, and I have been kind of moving back into our house and getting lots of stuff on the to-do list done and then obviously the Olympics are on the horizon. So I am just trying to balance all of that. Jamie and I have been seeing a couple of our friends since we returned from the Tour de France earlier this week. But we are also trying to lay under the radar and not over-commit to things."

How are you feeling coming out of the Tour de France?

"In the past when I have done the Tour de France, I have normally had some upcoming event - be it the Tour of Utah, or, one year I was scheduled to compete at San Sebastian but ended up being sick. This is the first time I have come out of and had a goal for myself so soon after the Tour de France. The good thing about that is that it has inspired me to keep the wheels rolling and stay motivated and keep riding and take care of myself. That is a tricky balance because there is a huge lead up to the Tour - training camps and sacrifices and hard work and all the training equates to months on the road in France. I would have liked to have kicked back this week and sort of gotten out of the training schedule bubble and live a little. Instead, I am trying to keep things running. So far I am feeling pretty good about that. So I am looking forward to meeting up with the team, Team USA, this weekend."

What does your training schedule look like leading up to your first event, the road race on Saturday, August 6?

"On Friday, my last day full day in Asheville, l plan to do a little longer ride of about four hours with a little bit of moderate intensity to kind of wake up my body a little bit before I travel. Then I will be looking to do one or two good quality sessions once I am in Rio - including course reconnaissance and then racing. So I am really just letting my Tour de France form marinate while I do a little bit and balance the recovery with keeping my body going."

What about the logistics of getting to Rio?

"I fly to Houston on Saturday, arriving in the afternoon. As I understand it, there is pre-event processing which includes things like orientation to the people I will be working with, clothing distribution and alteration, some brief media training and some Team USA Ambassador training - some of which we have already done online. Sunday evening we get on a flight to Rio and arrive there Monday morning."

How do you think competing in the Olympics will differ from some of the usual races you compete in throughout the season?

"The Olympics are unique in the sense that it is a different team and that team is one that is my country, essentially. Team USA is one I am super proud to be a part of. Not that I am not proud to be part of the BMC Racing Team. But with BMC, I prepare for races with them which I have done almost every week of every year for the past nine years. Preparing and looking ahead to a race with the national team and where I am representing my country, I have only had the chance to do a handful of times, like at the the world championships.

"It is a little bit surreal to be going to the Olympics because the Olympics are one of these ionic events in my mind. From my memory of my childhood, I have watched and have been passionate about them. Now, to realize that I am going and I am going to be part of that center stage and taking part in the racing, is really inspiring and motivating and encouraging. I am trying to let that not detract from my preparation and stay confident in my own preparation. That is something I know has worked for me and that I have developed over the past 10 years in racing professionally."

Are you at all concerned about the conditions in Rio that are being reported at the Athletes' Village or about concerns with the Zika virus?

"I have definitely heard some rumors about less-than-ideal conditions in Rio - whether it be the Athletes' Village or whether it be some of the Olympic venues. Honestly, I am not thinking about that too much. I am just really excited to show up there with Team USA and be part of it. I am not going to Rio for luxury accommodations and a utopia competition environment. I am going to compete for Team USA and race against the fastest athletes in my sport in the world and I have done that in a variety of different environments before. So I think that experience will serve me well.

"As far as the Zika virus, it is definitely on my mind and I have talked to some of the medical staff about it and what they recommend and their precautions. I have also done my own research on it a little bit. I am quite content, confident and comfortable with what precautions that we can take - things like being vigilant with bug spray and wearing protective clothing and staying in an-air conditioned environment when possible, while limiting my time outside in the evening hours. So I feel like I have a decent handle on my plan of attack to mitigate that risk and that concern. And the rest we will see when I get down there. It is hard to really know or comprehend what I am getting into without actually seeing it. So I am trying to be open-minded and stay positive and get excited about a little bit of the unknown and what is going to happen down there."

Competition-wise, what are your expectations for your events? (The road race is Saturday, August 6. The time trial is Wednesday, August 10.)

"I think the road race is definitely a little more open because of the dynamic of it - the sort of atypical team sizes and team management. I think the road race is fairly open to play out in what type of rider can be there for the podium and medal. That is not to say that the time trial is not important. But in comparing myself to my teammate, Taylor Phinney, he has kind of foregone any racing the past month or two to just specifically prepare for the time trial. That is a lot different path than I have had. I have not done a ton of hours on my time trial bike like Taylor, so I know going in he is putting a lot of expectation and hope on himself for the time trial. I am  just trying to keep an open mind on both events and I will be relying more on my general fitness and physical level from having done the Tour de France the past few weeks and benefiting from the form I have got from there."

Shimano Starts 2016 with Major Sales Drop

This came from Bike-Eu:

OSAKA, Japan – Shimano reported yesterday a 18.6% decline in net sales of bicycle components in the first half of 2016 compared with the same period in the previous year.

Between January and July the net sales of bicycle components decreased to 132,630 million yen (1.14 billion euro) compared with the same period last year. Shimano’s operating income decreased by more than a quarter (28.5%) to 30,586 million yen (262 million euro).

According to Shimano, “Bad weather in March and April greatly undermined retail sales of bicycles in Europe, resulting in a higher level of distributor inventories. In North America retail sales of complete bicycles were somewhat weaker than in the same period as the last year. Despite a subsequent improvement, distributor inventories of bicycles remain high.”

Tou can read the entire story about Shimano's early season sales here.

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