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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, May 2, 2016

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

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. - Helen Keller

Recently completed racing:

Upcoming racing:

Sunday had lots and lots of racing

We had four big races Sunday, the first of May. I've got complete results, stage stories and photos posted for all of them. The links to the races are at the top of this page. There will a a couple of days rest, then we'll plunge into Grand Tour season with the Giro d'Italia starting on the 6th. Plus, there is lots of other racing happening in May. The next few weeks of racing should be a kick in the seat of the pants.

Tour de Romandie team reports

The news from Orica-GreenEdge was also posted on the Romandie final stage results:

Swiss rider Michael Albasini has continued his excellent record of stage wins at the Tour de Romandie for ORICA-GreenEDGE by taking a stunning victory on stage five today after spending most of the day leading a ten-man breakaway.

Having won five stages in his home race over the past two years, today's final stage win made it three consecutive years of success and also saw Albasini walk home with the green jersey for the points classification.

Michael Albasini

Albasini wins Romandie stage 5

After an agonisingly close second place at Liege-Bastogne-Liege and a third place on the first stage of Romandie, Albasini was happy to finally capitalise on his strong form.

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“I heard on the race radio that the gap was 17seconds so I didn’t expect to see the BMC guy come flying past me but I thought his effort may die in the last 500metres," Albasini said. “I launched my sprint a bit early with around 400metres to go and thankfully it was just about enough.”

“It’s been a tough week but I’m really happy with today’s result and the team have ridden well throughout the race.”

Despite the difficult conditions throughout the week-long race the team achieved their objective of winning a stage and giving oppurtunities to young riders such as Damien Howson and Jack Haig.

Howson was the team’s best placed rider in the overall general classification in 16th position behind race winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar), rounding off an excellent week for the 23-year-old Australian who also spent a day in the best young rider's jersey.

Sport director Neil Stephens was proud of the team’s performance over the course of the race. “It was a fantastic day for us today, Michael (Albasini) really produced the goods," said Stephens. "He was out front all day long and we were actually preparing to put Daryl (Impey) into position for the sprint when Michael attacked again and held on for the win.”

“We started the day with the objective of maintaining Damien’s (Howson) position on the overall and we ended going one better and Damien moved up two places to finish 16th overall.”

“Obviously it’s a very difficult race,” continued Stephens. “The parcours and the weather combined to make the conditions quite brutal but we have performed superbly as a team. It’s a great feeling to be going away from the race with a stage win, the points jersey and a 23-year-old in the top twenty of the general classification keeping company with some of the best riders in the world.”

How it happened:

The fifth and final stage of the 2016 Tour de Romandie covered 172kilometres from Ollon to Geneva and the day began cold and fresh but thankfully without rain.

Ten riders, including Albasini for ORICA-GreenEDGE, escaped very early in the stage and quickly developed a lead of over three minutes on the peloton after 40kilometres of racing.

This early move proved to be very interesting as the group included Chris Froome (Team-Sky) who seemed to have rediscovered some form after winning yesterday’s Queen stage. Although quite far down on the general classification, this group of riders had the potential to stay away until the finish.

The ten leaders worked together well for the first two hours of racing over rolling roads. However it was Albasini who was hungry for the intermediate sprint points taking the full compliment at 85kilometres after beating Froome and Carlos Verona (Etixx-Quickstep) into submission.

With around 60kilometres remaining the breakaway still had two minutes over the peloton. Team Dimension-Data and Movistar were beginning to take turns at the front of the main bunch as the intensity of the chase began to increase slightly.

Movistar had race leader Quintana sitting comfortably in the peloton and they were also represented within the leaders' group with Andrey Amador.

Eighteen kilometres from the finish in Geneva and Verona attacked from the lead group and was followed by Albasini and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo). The three began to push on ahead and had a one-minute advantage over the peloton with 15kilometres to go. The trio were joined by Amador just before the final ten kilometres.

Approaching the finish in Geneva the rain was falling and the group of four leaders were beginning to look tentatively at each other as the tension increased. The peloton were 50seconds behind with seven kilometres to go.

As the four leaders passed under the flamme rouge the chasing peloton were only a few seconds behind when a crash occurred at the front of the bunch. A BMC rider made a late attempt for the line but Albasini kicked again and claimed the victory by more than a bike length.

This came from LottoNL-Jumbo:

Wilco Kelderman fought all day in an escape today and rewarded himself with third place in the final stage of the Tour de Romandie. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s leader just stayed in front of the peloton, but could not stop Michael Albasini (Orica - GreenEDGE) and Andrey Amador (Movistar). Moreno Hofland sprinted to fifth.

“We’re ending this Tour de Romandie with a little bit of a better feeling after this stage,” Sports Director Frans Maassen said. “We knew that it was a 50 per cent chance today that the breakaway was going to make it and Wilco Kelderman acted on that very well. You must be a little lucky, but he was in the right place at the right time.”

Wilco kelderman

Wilco Kelderman in 2015

Wilco Kelderman was thinking about this breakaway already when he eased off in Saturday’s stage. “But it’s never easy to be in the first group,” he added. “I was in the right break, but I didn’t feel that strong. I wasn’t confident about my chances to make it into the stage’s final, but I almost won eventually. It’s a pity that I wasn’t able to take my chance in the end, but I wasn’t fast enough in the final sprint.

"I’m finishing this stage race with a positive feeling anyway. This wasn’t what I came for obviously, but it went wrong already in the prologue. I wasn’t good enough in the end and that’s frustrating. My body had to recover from that crash and that took a lot of energy.”

Behind Kelderman, Moreno Hofland delivered a strong final sprint. “Our riders worked hard for Moreno and he delivered a good sprint,” Maassen added. “Besides that, Wilco showed character. It wasn’t for him yesterday, but he reacted on that today.

"I’ve seen some good things this week. Steven Lammertink improved and the riders who’re heading towards the Giro d’Italia were able to have a good preparation. Your front man decides what the verdict is in the end and we have to conclude that we wanted more that this final result.”

Lotto-Soudal reported on both the Romandie race and the Tour of Turkey:

Today was the last stage in both the Tour of Turkey and the Tour de Romandie.

Sander Armée wanted to take home the KOM jersey from Romandie. In the classification he was only two points down on Quintana. The Belgian had a mission and he managed to join the right breakaway. On the first climb Armée gained five points and so he became virtual leader of the KOM classification. Also on the second climb he conquered the five points and so his mission was accomplished! The organisation also noticed his fighting spirit this week and so he was awarded the prize of the most combative rider of the stage race.

Sander Armée: “I didn’t actually plan on winning the combative prize. The goal was to take the king of the mountains jersey because after the first stage, I had a few points in that competition, and at that point, I thought I might be able to take the overall mountains classification. Then I got into the breakaway again, and collected even more points, so that I was only two points short of taking the lead that was held by Quintana. I knew that today my goal was to add to my tally of points up on the mountain after the 30 kilometre mark, which I was able to do. We went hard in the breakaway, and I ended up staying with the group and taking even more points on the second climb. In the end, I had used up all of my energy and got dropped from the group, but ultimately that didn’t matter, because I had achieved the goal we had planned for today.”

Sander Armée riding Romandie stage 3

Unfortunately, not a stage win for Lotto Soudal on this final day. Rafael Valls is the first rider in the overall ranking, as fourteenth, more than three minutes behind Nairo Quintana.

Marc Wauters, sports director Lotto Soudal: “This was a good week for the team. Sander rode very well, and he managed to get into the breakaway three times throughout the course of the race, and of he also ended up taking the king of the mountains jersey as well as the overall combativity prize. So this was a great effort from him. In terms of our other goals at the race, we tried to always bring Tosh into a good position for the bunch sprints. The first time, he finished in fourth position, so that was a good result. We tried the same tactic today as well, however, because there was a crash, we ultimately weren’t able to execute our plan. However, I think that the team produced good results this week, particularly with Sander’s victory in the king of the mountains competition as well as the overall combativity prize, so it was a good week for us.

Greg Henderson was the lead-out for Kris Boeckmans in the final stage in Turkey. The Lotto Soudal rider finished fourth, the victory went to Jakub Mareczko. For Kris Boeckmans the Tour of Turkey was the first stage race since his crash in the Vuelta last year. He had only had two whole days of competition before the start. Yesterday he sprinted to place eight and Tuesday he stood on the podium next to teammate André Greipel as third.

Kris Boeckmans: “Finishing the Tour of Turkey was my goal, so I am more than happy with how this week has been. On the last climb of the day, a few kilometres before the finish, Adam Hansen raised the pace. We could have gotten away with a smaller group if the wind had come from a slightly different direction. Hendy was my lead-out today. I started sprinting too early, probably because I was a bit nervous. Still, it was a strong sprint, definitely when you think of the fact that this is the eighth day of my first stage race. The whole race was better than expected and the entire team was strong even though several riders returned to competition after an injury.”

The past week the wind played an important role. During the stage on Monday Caja Rural tore the peloton apart by creating echelons uphill. No Lotto Soudal riders were part of that first group, but the team took revenge the other day. Tuesday six of the eight riders in the front group were Lotto Soudal riders. André Greipel then finished off the team work with a beautiful victory. Yesterday Greg Henderson tried to win the stage by taking some lead in the descent of the last climb and the day before Adam Hansen had a chance to win but unfortunately he had chain problems. Otherwise he would have battled for the win on the climb in Elmali. Hansen is the first Lotto Soudal rider on GC, being fifth at 4’46” of José Gonçalves. Greg Henderson, Stig Broeckx and Gert Dockx are also in top ten: as sixth, seventh and eighth.

Mario Aerts, sports director Lotto Soudal: “Kris Boeckmans was our man today. At first, we let Lampre and Southeast lead the chase, but when Lampre quit riding, the advantage of the escapees rose to five minutes. It was time for action. We let Frederik Frison pull and in no time the gap was two minutes smaller. He was so strong, just like he showed on other occasions this week as well. On the climb in the finale we took control of the pack with Stig Broeckx, Gert Dockx and Adam Hansen. Henderson stayed by Boeckmans his side and set up the lead-out with 400 metres to go. Kris started sprinting with 250 metres to go, too early it turned out. This fourth place is a very good result, though. Boeckie achieved three top ten places here, something nobody could have hoped for. He had hardly raced before the start, now he has covered 1300 kilometres in total. He did much more than expected, by animating the race and sprinting for a top result. We are all very happy with that.”

“We started this race with three riders who just got back after an injury: Broeckx, Dock and Henderson. All three of them did very well and are all in the top ten of the GC, which is unexpected. Adam Hansen was our only man for GC, but because of the echelons on Tuesday and the fact that we had six riders in the first group it all went differently than expected. In that stage the team really impressed. I am very satisfied with the performances of the team this week. An extra victory would have been nice of course, but you can’t always get what you want.”

BMC's Giro d'Italia plans

The team sent me this update:

1 May 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): BMC Racing Team will take a diverse team to the Giro d'Italia this week where the focus will be on stage win success.

Without a General Classification contender, the team will have the freedom to take different opportunities, Sports Director Max Sciandri explained. "We are not taking one of our clear GC guys so all of the riders will have the chance to jump in a breakaway, go for stage wins, and really take any opportunity that they see. Four of our nine riders are Italian so it's always extra motivation to do well when you're racing at the biggest race in your home country," Sciandri said.

Silvan Dillier

Silvan Dillier (shown leading a break at this year's Flèche Wallonne) will be at the Giro

BMC Racing Team General Manager Jim Ochowicz said the Giro d'Italia course is well-suited to the team. "The team is at the opening Grand Tour of the season and as always we are excited to race at the Giro d'Italia. We have a team made up of experienced riders and some of our younger guys too, and each rider will bring a different strength to the team. We'll be primarily searching for stage wins and I hope we will have a successful Giro d'Italia," Ochowicz confirmed.

Philippe Gilbert was originally set to race however a fractured finger sustained in April has ruled him out. "Philippe's finger is improving well however not at the rate necessary for him to be back at 100% for the Giro d'Italia and avoid any further damage. So from a medical standpoint it does not make sense to send him to a Grand Tour when he is not in the position to be really competitive," BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa said.

Giro d'Italia (6-29 May)

Rider roster: Darwin Atapuma (COL), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Silvan Dillier (SUI), Stefan Küng (SUI), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Manuel Senni (ITA), Rick Zabel (GER).

Sports Directors: Max Sciandri (ITA), Fabio Baldato (ITA)

Trek investigating how Sam's Club got it's bikes

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News posted this interesting item:

Updated: Sam's Club says the bikes were sourced from legitimate channels.

WATERLOO, Wis. (BRAIN) — A Trek spokesman said the company was "just as surprised as anybody else" to see its mountain bikes on the Sam's Club website recently. A Sam's Club spokesperson said the bikes were sourced from legitimate channels.

The Walmart-owned membership warehouse retailer listed some men's and women's Trek mountain bikes on its site, selling to members for $319.78, available online only. As of Tuesday, the site still listed the bikes but they were marked as sold out.

Trek's Eric Bjorling told BRAIN, "(Sam's Club) did not acquire them from Trek directly. Presently, we are looking into how the bikes were acquired and will make a decision on next steps based on our findings. Trek has no plans to sell bikes at Sam’s Club or any other big box retailer."

The bikes listed were Trek Skye 26 women's bikes and 3500 men's models. The listing included 18 questions from consumers, most asking about the bikes' frame sizes. None of the questions were answered. Each model sells for $439.99 on Trek's website.

Bjorling noted that other IBD-exclusive brands have discovered their bikes at warehouse clubs in the past. Indeed, Giro, Cannondale and Burley are among the brands that have found their products in Costco warehouse clubs in recent years, although BRAIN has not previously reported on IBD bikes being sold at Sam's. In most cases, the vendors said Costco obtained the products on the gray market, such as via an international distributor or other third party. In 2012, Cannondale cut off a distributor that it said was supplying Costco.  

You can read the entire story here.

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