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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, March 27, 2016

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

He was a wise man who invented beer. - attributed to Plato

Racing just completed:

Today's racing:

Volta a Catalunya team news

This came from Tinkoff:

Bicycle History

The Volta a Catalunya entered its penultimate day today. On a fast and windy course, the Tinkoff leader, Alberto Contador, maintained his hold on second place in the GC, seven seconds away from the lead. The Spanish rider was the first Tinkoff rider across the line in Vilanova i la Geltru, in 21st position.

The Volta a Catalunya’s longest stage covered an undulating 197.2km route. Two categorised climbs were ascended by the peloton, the third category Alt de la Madonna and the second category Alt de les Ventoses, small compared to the mountains earlier in the race. The racing was fast and furious, with Tinkoff driving the pace in the last 20km to catch the break.

As Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, summed up after the day’s racing, “It was actually a hard stage, fast and with quite a lot of wind so the bunch was splitting up quite a lot at times and you always had to be aware of the situation.”

An eleven man breakaway had formed earlier in the stage, building a large time gap over the peloton – the gap growing to five minutes before the chase began. With the possibility of bonus seconds up for grabs in the finish, the Tinkoff riders began pushing towards the front to close the break, driving a phenomenal pace. All coming down to the last few metres, the last rider of the breakaway was caught on the line.

Davide Cimolai

Davide Cimolai wins the Catalunya 6th stage

Steven continued. “The team kept Alberto close to the front when the pressure was on to the finish, and it sets up an interesting final day tomorrow. Unfortunately we lost Jesper Hansen this morning with fever so he couldn't start, meaning we were down to six, but the team did a really good job again of keeping Alberto out of trouble.”

The race is far from over however, Alberto said from the finish. "It's true Nairo Quintana is ahead but tomorrow we have a stage where a lot of things can happen. With Movistar and BMC attacking constantly today it was very difficult to control the race. However, I feel very satisfied with the way this year is proceeding.”

Tomorrow’s final stage starts and finishes in Barcelona. The Volta a Catalunya’s shortest stage, at 136.4km, takes in the Alt de Montjuic no fewer than eight times in a final circuit. With time bonuses waiting to be taken, the race is far from over. Ahead of the stage, Alberto was keen to see how the race progressed on a route that meant the GC outcome was still not certain. “We'll see what happens tomorrow. It is a demanding circuit and anything can happen. We will try our best but I think I won't be the only one. There are other riders that sit within a few seconds and tomorrow's stage will be agitated. It's a pity tomorrow's profile doesn't isn't adequate for attacks from earlier on. They don't have an extremely strong team and if we had the right race course we could mount an attack earlier. That will be very complicated tomorrow.”

After a string of races where both Alberto and the team had ridden strongly, the Tinkoff leader was pleased with his form. “I'm very happy with my condition and regardless of whether we win here or not, the preparation toward the Tour de France is moving ahead perfectly. I'm optimistic and very motivated about the Tour."

And here's Team Sky's take on the race:

The team started the sixth day of action with five riders after Ben Swift picked up an overnight bug and joined Ian Boswell and Geraint Thomas as early abandonees.

With no recognised sprinter left in the squad, Team Sky spent the 197.2km trek from Sant Juan Despi to Vilanova i la Geltru entrenched in the peloton as the lead-out trains came back to the fore.

The action had got off the a hectic start and it took over 60km before 11 riders finally moved clear, and when they'd gone Movistar assumed pace-setting duties at the head of the peloton. In the closing stages, several teams joined forces to chase the escapees down, and it was touch and go whether they would stay clear.
Cameron Meyer (Dimension Data) led the remnants of break onto the finishing straight but was swamped in sight of the line as the sprinters unleashed their charge.

Davide Cimolai swept past the Australian and held off late kicks from Nikias Arndt (Giant-Alpecin) and Tosh van der Sande (Lotto Soudal) to seal Lampre-Merida's first win of the season.

Froome rolled home on the same time in 35th position in a large group that contained Mikel Nieve, Wout Poels, and all the overall contenders. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was also there to ensure he will take a seven-second lead over Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) into the concluding stage in Barcelona. Froome meanwhile, remains just 46 seconds adrift.

Back on the team bus, Sport Director Nicolas Portal admitted it had been a tough day in the saddle but insists there is still plenty to fight for on the final stage.
He told us: "It was a long and stressful stage today. Vasil [Kiryienka] tried a few times to get in the break and there was over an hour of attacks before the move went. Even then we couldn't relax though because it was very windy and the peloton could have split at any minute.

"The GC teams didn't want to lose any time and the sprint teams obviously wanted to be there at the end, so everyone was fighting to stay near the front.

"In the end, our riders stayed safe though, didn't lose any time, and it was all good at the finish. Tomorrow is another hard day and finishes with hilly circuit in the centre of Barcelona. Our goal is to defend Froomey's position but we could also have a few cards to play. We've got five strong guys left here and we will see how the race plays out."

Gent-Wevelgem is today

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

Tom Boonen, Fernando Gaviria, Nikolas Maes, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Stijn Vandenbergh will ride the 78th edition of the Flemish race.

First held in 1934, Gent-Wevelgem (243 kilometers) has since become one of the most prized events in the calendar. With ten hills on the course, the key point of the race will once again be Kemmelberg, a 1500-m long steep and cobbled climb, which will be scaled twice, once from the traditional side and once from a side used for the first time in two decades, which has gradients of 23%, thus making it one of the toughest hills in Flanders. As a result, the attackers will have a bigger chance to take the honours, especially if the pace will be a really frantic one. On the other hand, with the final 34 kilometers on flat roads, the riders left behind can make up the lost ground and a regrouping is possible, thus allowing the sprinters to fight for glory.

Tom Boonen

Tom Boonen at the start of this year's Milano-San Remo. He'll be on the start line at Gent-Wevelgem.

Etixx – Quick-Step will go into Gent-Wevelgem with a strong and confident team, suited to both a race of attrition and a bunch gallop if it will come down to this. The outfit will be led by Tom Boonen, one of the five men who have won Gent-Wevelgem three times. After his first experience on the cobbles, at Dwars door Vlaanderen, Fernando Gaviria returns to the squad in an event which was first raced by a Colombian rider more than 40 years ago. Also making the team for the last cobbled Classic before the Tour of Flanders will be Nikolas Maes, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra, Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck and Stijn Vandenbergh.

A two-time winner of Gent-Wevelgem, Tom Steels will also be at the race, where he will guide the team from the car. One day before the start, he talked of the new course and what impact it could have on the outcome: "Gent-Wevelgem comes with some changes this year, and the most important one is that in the final we'll venture over another side of the Kemmelberg, which I did only once in my life and it's really steep and tricky, which could prove decisive for some riders. If the race will take place under bad weather conditions, the climb will be even more difficult, as you have to get up in order to go over it. From there to the finish is still a long way, but the crosswinds will make it very hard for the ones left behind."

Dimension Data will be there. Here's their news:

The Gent-Wevelgem takes place tomorrow and Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka will be starting the 78th edition of this Spring Classic with a strong team, ready to take on the tough Belgian race conditions.

The 248km World Tour classic starts in Deinze and then takes the riders through the fields of West-Flanders, incorporating 10 Hellingen, before finishing in Wevelgem. It is one of the few classics that has seen a bunch sprint decide the race on a couple of occasions, but as always, the narrow roads and cobbled streets will once again make for an unpredictable race tomorrow.

Boasson Hagen will be our teams protected rider although our Norwegian champion does start tomorrow off the back of a bought of the flu, which kept him out of Friday’s E3 Harelbeke. Jay Thomson, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, Nic Dougall, Mekseb Debesay, Mark Renshaw, Tyler Farrar and Matt Brammeier will be key components to Boasson Hagen’s spring classics success this year and the team are motivated for tomorrows tough race.

Edvald Boasson Hagen

Edvald Boasson Hagen winning a stage at this year's Tour of Oman

Jean Pierre Heynderickx – Sport Director: The guys are really looking forward to tomorrow. There is that special feeling about racing the classics in Belgium and everyone is motivated by it. We have a good team for tomorrow but as we know, Gent-Wevelgem is a very difficult race. With the weather forecast tomorrow, it will be even more tricky. It will be important to have our riders in the right place at key moments, we will focus on this and then we will see what options we are left with at the finish tomorrow.

And here's Tinkoff's take on the race:

Gent - Wevelgem, which takes place in Belgium on Sunday will be the 78th in its long-running history. The second of the four ‘cobblestone classics’ is an exceptionally tough race, taking in some of the most-feared climbs in professional cycling, including the steep, narrow and cobbled Kemmelberg.

After taking tenth spot last year in a race he won in 2013, and finishing strongly in 2014, Peter Sagan returns to Gent - Wevelgem with unfinished business at the race. The 243km race covers no fewer than ten climbs in the space of 65km. Starting in Deinze in northern Belgium, Peter will lead a strong team with experience riding the classics.

Looking at how the race may go for him, Peter Sagan was balanced in his view. "Gent - Wevelgem might prove more difficult for me than E3 Harelbeke, as the finish is more suitable for solo attacks and it's not easy to watch everyone. Any team with more riders at the front after crossing the hills could have a big advantage, but it may not be decisive - anyone can surprise in these classics. Also, the weather could cause confusion again. In my opinion anything will be possible up until the last moment, but I hope to be in the right place at the right time, and to be able to pull a wheelie at the finish line like three years ago."

At the start on Sunday, Peter will be joined by Maciej Bodnar, Pavel Brutt, Adam Blythe, Oscar Gatto, Michael Gogl, Michael Kolar, and Erik Baška. Riders like Blythe, Brutt and Gatto carry lots of experience in the cobblestone classics, and will prove vital in preparing for the tough climbs of the race.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan leading Michal Kwiatkowski at this month's E3 Harelbeke

“Peter Sagan will again be our leader here, but there’s the opportunity for others to be there.” said Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, of the team. “It’s a good race for guys like Erik Baška and Michael Kolar to gain experience, but without any pressure. If small groups go away everyone is always watching Peter in these circumstances so we’re open to getting others in the moves and seeing how things pan out.”

The profile of the first 125km of the 243km course looks innocent enough – especially when viewed in the context of the climbs of the final 118km – but riders will encounter some of the hardest conditions of the race here. The plains of Flanders experience heavy crosswinds, and at this time of the year, unpredictable weather is likely. The bunch may be split here, and many riders drop out after giving their all to protect their team leader.

Hoffman continues. “Gent - Wevelgem is quite a different race to E3 – the past editions have shown that it’s much more for sprinters. The wind can have an influence here as we head to the coast, and we saw this to the very extreme last year! The forecast can still change before the weekend but those conditions are quite rare.”

At 140km come the major climbs of the day, and they don’t stop coming – crossing eight climbs in around 30km. It’s also here that the riders get their first taste of the fearsome Kemmelberg, the fully-cobbled climb that stretches 3km and hits gradients of up to 23% - with a descent as tough and technical as the climb itself. While there are far fewer cobbled sections in Gent-Wevelgem than the other cobbled classics, this climb alone makes the race worthy of its inclusion in the list.

When Peter won Gent - Wevelgem in 2013, it was with a brave solo attack with 4km remaining, while the 2014 edition ended in a bunch sprint of twenty-eight riders, where Sagan took 3rd place. Hoffman was expecting a fast finish in this year’s race. “You have the climbs in the final but it suits the fast men more. Normally you can expect a reduced sprint here if the wind isn’t too crazy, as all the sprinters believe that they can win here.” One thing is for certain – racing will be hard – in a race where in the 2015 edition, only thirty-nine riders completed the race.

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