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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, June 27, 2016

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A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. - Phyllis Diller

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Most of the major cycling countries are having their national championships through June 26. Here's where I'm posting the results. If you are interested in historical national champ info, here's a lot of data.

National Championships news

This from Orica-GreenEdge:

Asian champion Cheung King Lok enjoyed a successful weekend at the Hong Kong Championships winning both the time trial on Saturday and the road race on Sunday.

The 25-year-old ORICA-GreenEDGE rider beat his nearest rival by 45seconds in the time trial before soloing to the win ahead of the field in Sunday's road race.

Cheung King Lok

Cheung King Lok (on right)

“I am very happy to have won these events,” said King Lok. “My time in the time trial was 40seconds faster than my record last year on the same course. I am a better rider than I was three months ago, but the gulf between myself and the world's top riders is still quite big. It is difficult to see when I will be racing on par with them, but I am happy to come home and take these victories.”

King Lok has settled in well at ORICA-GreenEDGE and continues to develop after recent solid performances riding in support of Jack Haig at the Tour of Slovenia.

Sport director Matt White praised the versatility of King Lok and noted how difficult the transition can be moving from Asia to Europe. “For Cheung (King Lok) it has been a big culture shock moving over to Europe from Hong Kong,” said White. “It can be a pretty tough transition changing continents and European racing is very different to Asian racing."

“The transition is a work in progress and we see this with all our new professionals, but the pleasing thing is he has fitted into the team very well and is more than willing to learn. Cheung is continuing his development at WorldTour level and is building towards the Olympics and the World Championships in October.

“He has a world class background on the track and is showing his versatility by now developing into a world class road racer.”

Hong Kong Time Trial Championships results:

  1. Cheung King Lok (ORICA-GreenEDGE) 00:20:13
  2. Fung Ka Hoo (HKSI-Pro-Cycling) 00:00:45
  3. Mow Ching Ying (HKSI-Pro-Cycling) 00:01:20

Hong Kong Championships Road Race results:

  1. Cheung King Lok (ORICA-GreenEDGE)

This came from BMC:

26 June 2016, Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure (BEL): Philippe Gilbert has become the Belgian Road Race Champion for the second time in his career, defeating Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) in a one on one battle to the line. Greg Van Avermaet rounded out the podium in third place for the second consecutive year.

A 25-rider move, including Gilbert, Van Avermaet, Dylan Teuns and Loïc Vliegen, 
went away early in the 231 kilometer race. Gilbert launched an attack with just 
under 50 kilometers to go and was followed by Wellens and Laurens De Plus (Etixx- Quick-Step), who was later dropped, leaving Gilbert and Wellens to go head to head for the win. Gilbert launched his last attack within the final 300 meters to secure the Championship.

Philippe Gilbert

Philppe Gilbert winning a stage at the Tour of Luxembourg earlier this year

Philippe Gilbert: "The bunch almost came back to the breakaway on the climb when we were inside the last four laps and I saw them so I attacked on the top. My goal was not really to go away but to speed the pace up and get the group working again. Greg went after and then I went again with Tim Wellens. I knew that if I went alone I would have teams chasing behind me so I needed a Lotto-Soudal rider with me. It worked well to have Wellens with me, and also Laurens De Plus, so the three biggest teams were represented up the front and no one was really chasing. It was the perfect trio."

"When De Plus was dropped I was thinking that this might not be good as Etixx Quick-Step would be riding behind us, but in the end we held the gap. The final was a hard one because Wellens went full gas. I was able to respond to his attacks and I was always there, really focusing on the sprint. I didn't want to start playing too far from the line in case the others came back, so we really waited until the last kilometer. I was nervous because I wanted to win so much. When you are in this situation it is there that you make mistakes. So I was trying to think positive thoughts and think of my family and my future, and not going crazy. That's what I did and that relaxed me a bit."

"It's completely different to my first championship. When I won in 2011 I was in the best period of my career. I wasn't expecting to win then because the course didn't suit me too much. But here I was working really hard after my accident in
April to get back to this level. I was already happy after the Tour or Luxembourg
as I felt some good sensations. Then at the Tour de Suisse I wasn't sure how my 
level was, but then I was back feeling good in the last days. This win gives me 
a lot of confidence and I'm looking forward to wearing the jersey at the Tour of Poland."

Valerio Piva: "It was a good early move that went away in the second lap, like in the last couple of years. Last year we missed the move and chased all day and in the end we had third place with Greg Van Avermaet. This year it was clear that we needed to pay attention so everyone was ready for the move. 25 riders went with Philippe Gilbert, Van Avermaet, Dylan Teuns and Loïc Vliegen. Dylan and Loïc did a fantastic job to set the pace and protect Philippe and Greg, our leaders."
"With 3.5 laps to go, Philippe went with Wellens and De Plus. De Plus was dropped but Philippe and Wellens established a gap of over one minute and Greg was behind in the chase group protecting Philippe, jumping in every counter attack. Everyone was riding for the team today. I am proud for Philippe, especially after the bad luck he has had this year. It was a nice victory and he deserved it. All of the team deserved the win today, they all played a big part in it."

Race Profile:

Belgian National Road Race Championships, Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure - Lacs de l'Eau d'Heure (231km)

Top 3: Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing Team), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Greg Van 
Avermaet (BMC Racing Team).

Tinkoff sent me several releases. Here they are:

Juraj Sagan and Roman Kreuziger champions as Tinkoff dominates the Slovak and Czech national road races.

It was glory for the Tinkoff riders in the Czech and Slovak national championships today on a race that saw members of the team take the top spot in both, while the team took the entire podium in the Slovakian race. Successes in today’s races, which were run side-by-side, build on the team’s strong performances in the Time Trial national championships, held in the past week.

Tinkoff riders continued their successes in their respective national championships today with two of the team’s riders crowned in the Czech and Slovak National Championship road races, with Tinkoff dominating the podium at the Slovak race, where Juraj Sagan took the national champion’s jersey from his younger brother, Peter, crossing the finishing line forty-one seconds ahead. Teammate Michael Kolar came third, making it a Tinkoff 1-2-3 on a hard-fought race. Juraj’s win comfortably defeated his brother’s hold on the race, having held the Slovakian national champion’s jersey since 2011.

After the race, Juraj was justifiably thrilled with the outcome. "I'm proud to be the new Slovak Champion. It's such a great feeling, especially because this is my first victory as a professional rider, so it adds a special value to it. It was also a nice feeling to have Peter on the podium with me. We were the two brothers together, him wearing the World Champion jersey and myself with the Slovak Champion jersey. Thanks to all our team-mates for the hard work in today's tough race."

In the Czech National Championships, Roman Kreuziger took the top spot, improving on his 8th position in last year’s race. Roman, who has ridden a stellar season in support of Alberto Contador, most recently at the Critérium du Dauphiné, took centre stage on a day where his competition included big names from the professional peloton, challenging him until the finish. Roman finished the race six seconds faster than his closest competitor, taking the jersey for the first time.

Roman Kreuziger

Roman Kreuziger

After the race, the new Czech champion was taking stock of what had been an incredibly busy race. "The Czech and Slovak Championships are always a hard race to predict. Since the year 2000, the two federations have been holding them together, so we have four titles at stake simultaneously: Czech and Slovak Elite and Czech and Slovak U23. That makes for a bigger peloton and it isn't always easy to understand who races where. However, we had Erik Baska and Michael Kolar in the early breakaway and they did an excellent job, taking the pressure off us. It was up to the other teams to do the hard work and everything went according to the plan we made this morning with our Sport Director, Ján Valach. I'm really happy to wear the Czech national champion's jersey.”

Having worked hard to take the title in last year’s race, coming eighth, Roman was thrilled to finally have the jersey on his shoulders. “It's the first time in my professional career I wear the national champion's jersey. In the early years of my career I wasn't so much focused on it but since three years now, I was keen on having it. It's, obviously, a great result and I hope to honour my national jersey in the big races ahead! The two previous holders had a number of wins in the Classics and other special races, so I will try to continue flying the Czech colours with success in the future."

Sport Director, Ján Valach, gave some insight into how the race unfolded. "It was a tough race course, 185km long, consisting of a circuit that was raced nine times. It had two climbs of 2km each and our strategy going into the race was to put riders in the breakaway as soon as possible. A nine-man break was formed right from the start, with seven Czechs, and two Slovaks, Erik Baška and Michael Kolar. The stayed in the front until the last lap and with 10km to go they were joined by Peter Sagan, Juraj Sagan, Roman Kreuziger, Zdenek Stybar and a couple of other riders. With 1km to go, Kreuziger attacked and took the solo win, ahead of Stybar and Juraj Sagan. It was a good result for Tinkoff, with the Czech and Slovak champions now flying our colours."

Czech National Championship

  1. Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff) 04:45:17
  2. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) +00:00:05
  3. Martin Hunal (Whirlpool Author) +00:00:53

Slovakian National Championship

  1. Juraj Sagan (Tinkoff) 04:45:21
  2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) +00:00:41
  3. Michael Kolar (Tinkoff) +00:02:46  

Tinkoff had a good day at the British Championships:

Blythe sprints to British victory to become the fourth of Tinkoff’s national road champions

In the north of England, Adam Blythe became the fourth Tinkoff team member to pull on the road champion’s jersey of their respective nation. In Stockton-on-Tees, Adam beat one of the fastest sprinters in the world, Mark Cavendish, to the line after a tough day ended in a bunch sprint. In spite of spending almost the whole day either chasing or subsequently riding in a break, Adam still had the strength to contest the win, and rode away as British champion.

On the day, some of the strongest names in British cycling were lined up at the start – many of whom Adam had raced against throughout the season. It was going to be a hard task to take the win, especially as from the start of the race, the breakaways went out and having then been reeled in, another escaped up the road, meaning more energy was expended pulling them back in.

Adam Blythe

Adam Blythe in 2014, winning RideLondon

Having formed part of a four-man breakaway – the third escape of the race – Adam and his breakaway compatriots had managed to stay out for much of the closing stages of the race. In spite of chasing, catching, and then becoming part of a breakaway himself, Adam saved the energy he had left to contest the sprint, as he explained from the finish. “I'm so chuffed - it feels great to have won the jersey. It was a long day really, from 70km out there were four of us tapping through and when we entered the circuit the gap wasn't that big. After it came back together behind I just sat in and saved what I could for the sprint. I never knew I was going to get it but I never thought I wouldn't as well, I just gave it my all and crossed the line first.”

Having started the day as the only Tinkoff rider in the race, it was going to be a hard task to fight for the win when some of the other teams had several riders who could work together to bring their fast man to the finishing stretch. Adam made the most of the opportunities that presented themselves to him, reading the race expertly and making the key decisions at just the right time. “Not having any teammates in the race meant it was all about selecting the right move. The circuit wasn't too difficult so it was all about timing, only attacking when it was worth attacking.”

As he heads to a team training camp in Livigno next week, Adam will be one of three other Tinkoff team members – Roman Kreuziger, Juraj Sagan and Rafal Majka – who are each wearing their national champion’s jersey for the first time. Each will be receiving new outfits from Tinkoff’s kit supplier, Sportful. Adam was excited to be wearing the colours of the British national champion. “I'm looking forward to the getting the new white kit now! It’s the highlight of my career so far. I just want to get the jersey and all the kit to go with it – white shorts, white bike…”

British National Championship

1. Adam Blythe (Tinkoff) 04:31:07
2. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) +00:00:00
3. Andrew Fenn (Team Sky) +00:00:00

Here's another Tinkoff national champs release:

At the Polish national championship race, Rafal Majka joined the ranks of Tinkoff riders to wear their national champions’ jersey in the races ahead, after a team effort helped him take the win. After a successful season that has seen him take 5th at the Giro d’Italia, Rafal fought against an ever decreasing breakaway before pushing away on the final climb for the win.

Rafal Majka took the win in a hard race where all the odds were stacked against him. The parcours consisted of six laps of a 37km circuit with hilly terrain and a total altitude of nearly 3,200m climbed, making the 222km route a long day in the saddle for all of the riders, and strong winds only added to the difficulty. With Polish teams dominating the start-line, it was going to be a hard push for Tinkoff, who only had three riders in the race – Rafal, Maciej Bodnar and Pawel Poljanski – while one of the other teams alone had fifteen riders contesting the race.

After a breakaway of twelve riders formed from the start with no Tinkoff rider present, it seemed unlikely that the team would be able to add to its impressive tally of national medals, but after the second lap, Maciej and Rafal attacked, riding strong to pull in the break.

In the front group in the last three laps, Rafal was among twenty riders in the third lap to go, a group that dropped down to ten riders in penultimate lap due to the crushingly-fast pace, and by the final it was only Rafal and one other left to contest the win.

With one lap left, Rafal took his chance to take the lead and build up a small advantage, using the climbing legs he put to good use in the Giro d’Italia, he built up an advantage that in spite of the best efforts of his rival, he was able to hold until the finish. Rafal will now pull on the Polish champion’s jersey for the coming year.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka

The new Polish champion was delighted with the outcome – which for him he wasn’t expecting so soon after a training camp. "I'm very excited and thrilled to be crowned road champion of Poland for the first time in my career. I came yesterday, directly from the high-altitude training camp in Livigno and jumped right into the race, so I consider this to be a very good result.”

Joining the ranks of Tinkoff riders with national champions’ jerseys, Rafal was excited to be joining the team at the Tour de France after such a strong performance at this race. “It was a hard race, with nearly 3,200 meters of altitude gain and climbs of 3-4 kilometers but that's exactly the kind of profile that suits me and that I like to race on. I felt in very good form, my legs were really strong and that is a very positive sign for the Tour de France. Starting next Saturday, I will be ready to give my best to support Alberto in his fight for the yellow jersey.”

As has been characteristic of all of Tinkoff’s victories this season, it was teamwork that won the race against great odds, and Rafal was quick to thank his fellow riders today. “Unlike the other Polish teams with lots of riders, we were only three here. However, I told Maciej Bodnar and Pawel Poljanski that I felt very strong and I was aiming for the gold, and they put on a strong performance to help me. I'd like to thank them for their effort."

Polish National Championship

  1. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) 05:24:50
  2. Marek Rutkiewicz (Wibatech Fuji) +00:00
  3. Sylwester Janiszewski (Wibatech Fuji) +00:01:39

Here's Lotto-Soudal's happy national championship press release:

Lotto Soudal gained a national title today, the German one, thanks to André Greipel. In Belgium and France a rider of the team claimed the silver medal, Tim Wellens at Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure and Tony Gallopin in Vesoul. Lotte Kopecky became second in the Belgian road race for women elite.

Emotionally, it was a difficult weekend for the team with the news about the condition of Stig Broeckx, but with the slogan ‘Fight for Stig’ the riders showed their courage in the race.

Erfurt hosted the German Championships this year. Unlike the Belgian road race it was a completely flat course without any obstacles. André Greipel beat Max Walscheid and Marcel Kittel in the sprint.

Andre Greipel

André Greipel earlier this year

André Greipel: “Despite the nature of the course you can never be sure it will end with a sprint, because the big teams could have other tactics. Sibi and I had decided to race attentively and join every big breakaway. And we succeeded in doing that. With 45 kilometres to go for example, we were part of a break, but Giant-Alpecin didn’t have a rider in that group and that’s why we didn’t stand a chance. Sibi made sure I was positioned perfectly for the sprint. John Degenkolb launched the sprint for his teammate Walscheid, I remained on his wheel. I started sprinting with two hundred metres to go and nobody could pass me. I’ve seen the images and the gap was rather big.”

“Of course I am happy that I’ve become national champion for the third time ever. When it’s this type of course, it’s always a goal for me. I am proud to wear the jersey for a year and I am looking forward to show it in the Tour. This victory, my eighth of the season, is good for the confidence.”

The road race of the Belgian Championships took place at Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure, it became a real elimination race. Already in the second lap a group of 21 riders was in front with five Lotto Soudal riders: De Bie, De Clercq, De Gendt, Wallays and Wellens. After a while De Bie got replaced by Jürgen Roelandts who had made the jump to the front. Thomas De Gendt animated the finale by going solo. He got half a minute lead. Laurens De Plus and Philippe Gilbert closed the gap on the Lotto Soudal rider, with Tim Wellens on their wheel. Thomas then gave all he got left to help Tim and then it was up to him. In the last lap Wellens and Gilbert left De Plus behind and battled for the victory. Tim couldn’t get rid of Phil and they entered the final kilometre together. Gilbert turned out to be the strongest and is the new Belgian champion, Wellens went home with the silver medal.

Tim Wellens: “Silver is nice, but only one place counts in this race. It would have been very nice to take the title on this beautiful and selective course. It was hard right from the start and soon the peloton split. As a team we were well represented in the front group, but unfortunately someone was stronger. I was realistic, I knew it wouldn’t be easy to drop Gilbert and he is strong at the finish. I tried to ride away from him, but he remained on my wheel. I began the sprint in second position, but couldn’t get passed Gilbert as he was too strong.”

“It was a really difficult weekend for the team. Yesterday evening we got more info about the condition of Stig and that was really emotional. It is difficult to cope with it, but today we fought for him.”

This morning Lotte Kopecky had already won the silver medal at the Belgian Championships for women elite. The Lotto Soudal Ladies rode a strong race. Isabelle Beckers was part of an early break of five. Their lead got up to more than two minutes. After a while twelve riders took off from what was left of the peloton, all four other Lotto Soudal Ladies were in that group: Decroix, De Vuyst, Kopecky and Vekemans. In the last lap Gitta Michiels attacked in front, but she couldn’t stay ahead. In the background several groups had come together, all five Lotto Soudal Ladies were in the first group now. Anisha Vekemans then pulled the sprint for Lotte Kopecky. Unfortunately Lotte got beaten by Kaat Hannes, Jolien D’hoore completed the top three. For the third consecutive year Lotte finished on place two, but she is the winner of the U23 title.

Lotte Kopecky: “I am disappointed that I didn’t win the title. Kaat Hannes passed me by on the left and I couldn’t do anything about it anymore. We did have a good race with the team, starting with Isabelle who was part of the early breakaway. Then the four of us got in a second group of twelve riders. That did mean we were expected to take control. It was a tough course at Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure, you did feel it in the legs after a few laps. Still, we finished with a rather big group. If more riders had taken initiative, the split could have been final, but it wasn’t.”

Tony Gallopin finished second in Vesoul, where the French Championships were held. He rode to the finish line together with two of his fellow countrymen. Arthur Vichot won the race, Alexis Vuillermoz got third.

Tony Gallopin: “I am very disappointed. Last year I was second as well, but the circumstances were different. It was a very hectic sprint and another type of course, now it was perfect for me with two hills on the course. It’s not easy without a teammate. In the last lap I took off from a front group of fifteen together with two others. It really was a goal of mine to win here and it’s painful when you don’t achieve such a goal. On the other hand, because all what has happened to Stig, I can put it in the right context. It is a very difficult time: aiming for results on the one hand and coping with all the emotions on the other hand.”

“The good news after today is that my condition is fine. I rode a good time trial on Thursday, I got third. That was already a good sign and my performance today has confirmed that. Although losing the race hurts. But there will be new goals quite soon, we’re leaving for the Tour on Tuesday.”

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