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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can't possibly live long enough to make them all yourself. - Sam Levenson

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Tour of Switzerland team reports

Here's what Etixx-Quick Step had to say about stage 4:

33-year-old Maximiliano Richeze became the first Argentinian to score a victory in the race which this year celebrates its 80th edition.

Etixx – Quick-Step's unity and teamwork were displayed once again, this time in stage 4 of Tour de Suisse (Rheinfelden – Champagne, 193 km), when our riders grouped at the front of the peloton with 50 kilometers to go, taking the responsibility and controlling the advantage of the four escapees – Matt Brammeier (Dimension Data), Lukas Jaun (Team Roth), Jeremy Maison (FDJ) and Nick Van der Lijke (Roompot Oranje) – who were enjoying a 3-minute lead at that point. Racing his second World Tour event of the season, Rodrigo Contreras was one of the pillars of the squad, spending a significant amount of energy despite a stiff headwind in order to cut the gap, and his work paid dividends, as the advantage became a slim one with just 20 kilometers remaining, leaving the breakaway within reach.

Maximiliano Richeze

Richeze wins Swiss Tour stage 4

Just as yesterday, Zdenek Stybar and Czech champion Petr Vakoč took over the reins in the final 10 kilometers, pushing a hard pace which seriously stretched out the peloton, not allowing other teams to come to the front, and in the same time making contact with the escapees with around 7 kilometers to go. The super fast pace prevented the attackers from launching any move on the lumpy finishing circuit, so it came down to a bunch gallop, a very dangerous one, because of a sharp right-hand corner which awaited the riders with only 140 meters left of what was the last sprinters' stage at this edition.

Leading Fernando Gaviria, Maximiliano Richeze dive-bombed into the final stretch with the Colombian in his wheel, but the 21-year-old neo-pro didn't show any interest in taking the win, preferring to sit up and keep an eye on overall leader Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), who was just behind. Max, who's in his first season with Etixx – Quick-Step, crossed the line with his arms high, celebrating a long-awaited victory, while Fernando sealed a flawless 1-2 for the team. A valuable team player, Richeze claimed his first victory in nearly four years, which coincided with Etixx – Quick-Step's 30th win since the start of the season, 8 of which came in World Tour races.

The 13th different rider to bring a success to the squad since January, Max was lost for words right after the finish, but once he returned from the podium and things calmed down, he talked about his special day: "What a race this was, I still can't believe it! It's like a dream. This morning, at the briefing, we talked about the finale, because we knew the tricky and technical corner will be the key to winning the stage and our plan was to be first and second as we entered in that bend. My sprint was until the corner, but as Fernando didn't try to overtake me, deciding to protect me instead, I went all the way to the line. I want to thank him for this and also to the entire team for their huge work and support!"

In the Tour de San Luis, his first race with Etixx – Quick-Step, Maximiliano Richeze wore the leader's jersey, but a crash in which he was involved later in the week forced him to stay out of competition for more than a month, due to a bone fissure on the neck of the left femur. For that reason, the win he got in the Tour de Suisse – where he showed a blistering form – was even more significant and rewarding:

"I am always supporting our team, I'm always the last guy before our sprinter goes for it, and so to finally have the opportunity to try and get a victory is really great.

"The start of the year wasn't easy, with that injury and the recovery period during which I had to walk with the help of a crutch, but these things are in the past and now I am living the day and enjoying this beautiful moment. To be the first Argentinian stage winner in the Tour de Suisse is a big achievement, which makes me proud and happy."

And here's Tinkoff's report:

At 193km in length and the flattest road stage of this year’s edition of the Tour de Suisse, it was expected to be a fast-paced day in the peloton. Riding in the race leader’s yellow jersey, Peter Sagan and his teammates would be riding to protect the race lead, having started the day with a three-second advantage in the GC competition. With an early categorised climb to traverse – the second category Breithöhe, it was a flat run to the finish, with only a small third category hill to cross before the finish in Champagne – not to be confused with the famed French wine region.

While a flat parcours would ordinarily encourage fast racing, the day started off slowly. The day’s breakaway managed to escape early on –a group of four – and while they built up a lead of three minutes on the peloton, the actual speed of the race was slow, covering just over 30km in the first hour. As had been the case for the past three days of the race, rain had made conditions challenging, driving the pace lower to avoid crashes.

Sure enough, as the sky and the roads began to clear, the pace increased steadily, the Tinkoff team taking control at the front to ensure the break didn’t gain too much of an advantage. With 80km still to go, the sprint teams joined in the chase, reducing the gap to just over two minutes. Peter and his teammates had no intention of pulling in the break too soon, only to give rise to another attack ahead of the finish, and so the pace was kept just fast enough to keep knocking seconds off the break before the final push to the line.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan is on the left in the yellow leader's jersey

20km from the finish, the gap was down to 1’30”, and after riding hard out on the front for almost the whole stage, the signs of the strain were beginning to show, as one of the four dropped off the back, to be swallowed up by the bunch shortly afterwards. With only the third category Orges climb to cross, the gap was hovering just over a minute, before dropping rapidly as the peloton descended the other side and started the final push.

At the 10km point, with the gap down to twenty seconds and the pace high, it was clear the break was going to be caught. Hanging on as best they could however, they dragged the catch as long as they could, making the most of a descent to hold the peloton at bay, but to no avail – the catch was made with 4km left to go. With the peloton back in control, it was a furious pace in the run in to the finish line, and thoughts turned to the sprint – a narrow finishing stretch along with a tight right hand bend a few hundred metres before the line would complicate matters.

The UCI World Champion was supported well by his teammates, and while on the difficult finishing stretch Peter was able to position himself well round the final, treacherous bend, he was just beaten to the line. Part of a final group of three riders after a rider almost crashing slowed the bunch, the UCI World Champion was just unable to pass the second placed rider, taking third. After fighting hard to control the pace and protect his yellow race leader’s jersey, he simply wasn’t able to improve his position on the final turn at the end of a hard day’s racing.

From the race’s finish, Peter was comfortable with the day’s outcome. "It was a very tough stage with a strong headwind and the squad did a very good job in protecting and supporting me. However, one can't always win and other riders proved faster in the final sprint.”

Sport Director, Patxi Vila was thrilled with the result. While the day didn’t end in a third straight win for Peter, it showed how well the team could work together and protect the jersey. “We tried for a third win today, but in the end the hat trick wasn't possible. I'm still really happy - we pulled all day, honoured the yellow jersey and we were able to settle on the right break, which was hard as lots of people wanted to be in the move. Bodnar and Petrov did a great job to keep the job at a maximum of four minutes, they pulled for around 180km which was really strong. Then we got the help of Etixx in bringing it back for the sprint. The other guys took over for the sprint and did a good job for Peter. Gatto brought him into the sprint, and at the end Peter came through third. There was a tricky section at 150m to go and he was third through here and wasn't able to pass.”

Taking the bonus time on the line and finishing two seconds ahead of the bunch, the Tinkoff leader finishes the day having extended his lead in the GC, as well as his lead in the points contest for the black jersey. Vila was happy with the team’s performance so far. “We showed again that we were able to control the race today and still challenge at the end. Our goal for the first four days was to win a stage and we've come away with two and yellow so we're more than happy.”

Peter was quick to praise his teammates’ efforts in the opening stages, particularly after they had worked so hard today. “I'm very satisfied with keeping the leader's and points jerseys and I look forward to five more stages where we will work hard to achieve the best result. I'd like to thank my teammates for the strong effort they have put in the first four, tough and wet stages at the Tour de Suisse."

Tomorrow, the race hits the mountains. The 126.4km stage may be short, but it crosses two of the toughest – and most stunning – climbs in Switzerland. The Furkapass is the day’s first climb, coming after a long slow ascent from the start. The Hors Catégorie climb is one of the hardest of the race, topping out at 2,436m, and will have riders in the red before the climb up the Gotthardpass. The final Hors Catégorie climb brings the day to a close. After some comparatively flat days, this is where the GC race will begin to take shape. Vila was looking to the team members who had completed the recent Giro d’Italia to assess their climbing legs. “Tomorrow we will see. We go into the climbs - Boaro is still riding well on GC and we'll support him to try and maintain this. He comes here from the Giro so it's not predictable form, we will support him and see what he can do. Otherwise we'll try and get in the breaks in the coming days and go for results this way too.”

Lotto-Soudal's preview of the Ster ZLM Toer

Tomorrow Lotto Soudal will stand at the start of the Dutch stage race Ster ZLM Toer, which lasts till Sunday 19 June. Last year André Greipel won two stages and he was the overall winner. Can the team equal that performance this year?

Bart Leysen, sports director: “Of course we would love to achieve the same results as last year, but that won’t be easy. Our first goal is to win one stage with André Greipel. This close to the Tour it is always good to win. Last year André won the GC as well, because he gained bonus seconds by winning two stages. A good overall result is always possible.”

“We built a team with the intention to win a stage with André. Kris Boeckmans, who had to leave the Dauphine early due to a wasp sting, is now also part of our selection. He will be an important rider to help in the sprint preparation. Apart from Kris we can also rely on Sean De Bie, Jasper De Buyst, Greg Henderson and Marcel Sieberg. Frederik Frison can help chasing the breakaways. Also Maxime Monfort wants to help André this week. At the Giro that was difficult because he had his own ambitions that weren’t compatible with helping to prepare the sprints. What Sean is concerned he also wants to set a good result in the prologue and that could be a first step towards a good GC.”

Andre Greipel

André Greipel winning the first stage in this year's Tour of Luxembourg

The prologue is scheduled tomorrow (Wednesday) evening. The riders have to cover 6.4 kilometres in Goes. Then there are three sprint stages, only the stage on Saturday in Belgium is harder.

Bart Leysen: “The course is similar to previous editions. The stage with start and finish in Oss on Thursday wasn’t part of the race last year, but we already raced in the area. It is a flat stage, a bunch sprint can hardly be avoided. The stage to Buchten is hilly, but the finale isn’t, so we can expect a sprint there as well, just like on Sunday. The Saturday stage is the hardest, but Greipel should be capable of following for a long while. It will depend on how the other teams race that day.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Kris Boeckmans, Sean De Bie, Jasper De Buyst, Frederik Frison, André Greipel, Greg Henderson, Maxime Monfort and Marcel Sieberg.

Sports directors: Bart Leysen and Kurt Van de Wouwer.


Liv-Plantur extends with Leah Kirchmann

This notice came from the team:

Team Liv-Plantur is pleased to announce that Leah Kirchmann (CAN) has renewed her contract with the team. The agreement extends her commitment for another two years, until the end of 2018. With signing the contract extension Team Liv-Plantur aims to contribute on the short-term to their vision of becoming one of the leading women’s cycling teams in the world.

The Canadian is currently in her first season with Team Liv-Plantur and so far she has already achieved strong results, including the team’s first victory of the season at Drentse Acht van Westervel. In addition, she took an impressive third place in the general classification at the Tour of Chongming Island in China and strong performances in the UCI Women’s WorldTour races put her into seventh overall.

Leah kirchmann

Leah Kirchmann winning a stage at last year's Tour of California

On signing the contract extension, Kirchmann said: “I'm very happy to confirm a two-year contract extension with Team Liv-Plantur. It became very clear within a few months of working with the team this season that I fit in really well with the structure of the program. The combination of supportive and knowledgeable staff, strong teammates, and fantastic sponsors all contributed to my decision to extend my contract. My expectations and goals for the next few years are to continue to push myself and my teammates to achieve the next level of success at the WorldTour level."

“We are delighted to continue working with Leah for the next two years,” said Team Liv-Plantur's coach Hans Timmermans (NED). “Our goal is to become a leading team in women's cycling on the short-term and extending Leah’s contract is an important next step in the development of the team. After half a year working with Leah we saw that she blends well into the team. She is able to share her race knowledge and experience, and is capable of filling-in the leader’s role. Leah has had a fantastic first half of the season with the team, showing some fantastic results already. Her seventh place in the WorldTour classification is a good proof of that.

“Taking into account that it is her first year in the team working according to the 'Keep-Challenging' philosophy then it's obvious that there is still a lot margin for improvement and progression. The goal with Leah is to focus on achieving good results in the WorldTour races. This is the logical next step in her career and we are confident that we will be able to reach these targets."

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