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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, May 28, 2016

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

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. - Thomas Merton

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Giro d'Italia Stage 19 video

Giro d'Italia team reports

We'll start with Steven Kruiswijk's LottoNL-Jumbo teams news:

Steven Kruijswijk lost the Giro d’Italia’s leader’s pink jersey today due to crash coming off the Colle dell’Agnello. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s front man fell, lost time in his race to return and finished 4-54 minutes behind stage winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Esteban Chavez (Orica - GreenEDGE) took the pink jersey.

Steven kruijswijk

Steven Kruijswijk crashes. You can see it on the video above.

The Dutch WorldTour team appeared to be in control as it has over the last three weeks. Kruijswijk was among the best climbers on the hardest climb of the race. “On the top of the Colle dell’Agnello, I was on my limit,” Kruijswijk said. “I wanted to eat and drink something, and followed the others.”

On that moment, everything went wrong. In the beginning of the descent, Kruijswijk crashed. “I made a stupid mistake. I made a wrong move and crashed in that wall of snow. My bike was battered, and I wasn’t able to continue immediately. After I started riding, everything hurt. I felt pain in my back and my ribs, and my morale was broken. I knew that I had lost time and tried to move on, but it was over. I lost my Giro today.”

Sports Director Addy Engels thinks otherwise. “It isn’t over for Steven,” he added. “The best situation would have been with Steven still in the pink jersey. It looked like that was going to happen because he gave a good impression on the Colle dell’Agnello. The odds are not in our favour anymore, but when he’s able to recover, he can strike back tomorrow.”

Kruijswijk could not receive a new bike immediately. “I was the first car behind Kruijswijk’s group, but we were not allowed to go ahead because of the dropped riders,” Engels continued. “We told him to go on with his old bike because we were not behind hem. When we reached him, he said that he wanted to change bikes immediately.

“We kept on shouting for him. It was obvious that he was going to lose a lot of time, but tomorrow is another very hard stage. The way he kept on going today looked like he is still able to push on for tomorrow.”

Kruijswijk went to the hospital, immediately after the stage. There’s an update with medical information to follow.

Stage winner Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team posted this:

"I was overwhelmed by emotion", said Vincenzo Nibali just after winning in the French Alps, "and so I cried. It hasn't been a Giro d'Italia easy for me, but there is still one stage and I'll try until the end. "

"Climbing the Colle dell'Agnello", he continued. "I did not feel 100% then I unlocked and I thought I could make a great exploit. I have to thank all my teammates who have made this victory possible. "

Nibali has tripped on the final climb to the finish in Risoul and soon left all opponents coming to the finish line solo with 53 "ahead of the Colombian Estevan Chaves.

Vincenzo Nibali

Nibali wins stage 19

The new overall standings place Chaves in first place followed by Nibali at 44 seconds.

"We expect the last mountain stage", commented sport director Alexander Shefer, "and now the GC has reopened. We are calm and aware that we can do well."

Tomorrow, the twentieth stage from Guillestre to Sant'Anna di Vinadio. A short stages across the Alps features a remarkable 4,100m rise and drop in as little as 134km, with a sequence of four climbs and three descents. The route climbs up Col de Vars (19km), Col de la Bonette (22km), Col de la Lombarde (20km) and the final 2.3km leading to the Sant'Anna Sanctuary with gradients ranging from 9% to 11%

Here's Tinkoff's report:

With three days of riding left in the Giro, today’s stage was going to be absolutely pivotal. The 162km route took in two climbs – the fearsome and intimidating Colle dell’Agnello before crossing the border into France and making the ascent to the finish in Risoul. Today was a day when a good strategy was essential, but more importantly, that riders had the legs to see those strategies through. Starting the day sixth in the GC, Rafal Majka spent another day among the GC contenders while the Maglia Rosa lost his jersey on the final climb. Finishing the day in fifth, Rafal goes into the final mountain stage fifth in the GC.

Snow and suffering was what the riders had to look forward to. With almost three weeks of hard, fast-paced, attacking racing in their legs, it didn’t matter how good a climber they were, the climb of the Colle dell’Agnello – the Giro’s ‘Cima Coppi’ – the highest point of this year’s race – was going to hurt. Dominating the course profile, the climb was a little over 20km in length and with maximum gradients of 15% in not one, but two points of the climb. On the upper slopes, the average gradient hit 9.3% over a 10km stretch. The climb was not only hard, but high as well. Heavy snow had fallen on the top slopes in the days beforehand, meaning conditions would be cold and the freezing temperatures would only add to the hurt.

Rafal Majka

Rafal Majka climbs in stage 19

At the start of the day and the moment the flag dropped, the attacks came. Almost every team wanted to have one of their riders up the road today, but every time an escape attempt was made, the peloton pulled it back in. After more than 70km of racing and half the day gone, a break finally went clear. In this group of 28 were Jesús Hernández and Evgeny Petrov, and quickly the gap went out – reaching nearly five minutes after 95km of racing had been completed.

After a long wait for the break to form, Sport Director, Tristan Hoffman, was pleased to see a strong Tinkoff presence there. “There was a long fight of nearly 70km for a break to go but when it did we had two guys there, Jesús and Evgeny."

"The plan was to have them up the road if the attacks came from behind and this worked out well with Jesús going over the top of the climb then waiting for Rafal behind to help him chase the front. They chased together for 45km, and got the lead down to around 10-seconds, but couldn’t close it."

On such a testing climb, a big escape group was going to struggle to hold it together, and almost immediately riders began to struggle, with many being dropped off the back to be swallowed up by the peloton, while others attacked – eager to take the Cima Coppi prize for the first rider to the highest point of the race.

As the escapees made their way up the Colle dell’Agnello the weather came in and the breakaway was surrounded by fog. The higher up they went, the more the snowfalls of the previous few days became apparent. Walled in by huge banks of ice and snow, the temperature was freezing, with riders’ breath hanging in the air.

As the GC group behind hit the upper slopes, it was clear the effort was affecting the peloton, with riders being shed from the back and some of the favourites being left behind. As the steepest slopes approached, Rafal Majka was joined by his teammates to keep him safe as the road hit its toughest gradients. With riders dropping off the pace, it was only Rafal and a group of three left of the GC contenders, although at this point the Tinkoff leader was slowing to reach the summit at his own pace, before taking on the downhill.

With so much to race for, riders were pushing themselves and their equipment to the very limit. With just over 50km to go, the Maglia Rosa crashed into a snow bank after running wide on a bend on the descent, while further down the descent, Katusha’s Ilnur Zakarin crashed badly, forcing his retirement from the race. As Rafal negotiated his way down safely, he formed a small group to pull back time on the escapees from the GC group, who had around 30-seconds on them, with 32km to go.

Making the most of the descent, Rafal’s group put more time into the Maglia Rosa and reduced the gap on the GC group to 20 seconds with 16km to go – shortly before the beginning of the final climb to Risoul. As the group made its way steadily down the Colle dell’Agnello, the weather cleared, giving way to stunning scenery on the beautiful mountain roads.

With 10km of the day to go, the leaders hit the final climb of the day, leaving the Maglia Rosa trailing. Rafal knew this final climb well, having won here at the 2014 Tour de France. Sitting just over a minute behind the lead group, Rafal’s group was in turn around 1’30” ahead of the pink jersey group. With the race leader likely to lose his grip not he race, another shakeup of the GC standings was imminent, with Rafal’s group holding and then increasing that gap as the climb reached its halfway point. As the stage winner crossed the line, the timer started. Rafal crossed the line in fifth, reclaiming fifth in the GC overall.

It was an exceptionally difficult day coming towards the end of a long race, but after a difficult start, Rafal Majka felt stronger as the day went on. “I suffered in the first climb a bit, but then got stronger in the second climb. It has been a tough, long Giro with strong adversaries, but we still have another day ahead where differences can be made before the finish.”

Hoffman was pleased with the Tinkoff leader’s performance today, given that he had three weeks of racing behind him, and looked to tomorrow’s stage. “Rafal did a good race, he didn’t have super legs, otherwise he would have been there when the attack came on the first climb, but today I think we saw today the race is not over. If tomorrow the race explodes like today, then things can change again. We are still racing for a podium spot until the end.”

If today’s stage saw the race reach its highest point, tomorrow’s stage is without doubt one of the most challenging. The last day in the mountains, the race is likely to be decided here – and with three first category climbs on the route from Guillestre to Sant’Anna di Vinadio, the stage will either make or break the GC contenders’ races. Spending much of the day in France, the steepest climb is the Col de Vars, with a maximum gradient of 13%, while the toughest is likely to be the Colle della Lombarda, which starts 31km from the stage’s finish and goes on for a little under 20km. With the finish only two days away, Hoffman was happy with the team effort and level of commitment shown by the riders. “We have had some sickness and some crashes but we have still nine riders here, which is really good, especially for this final week when it becomes really hard. Hopefully we can continue this to Turin.”

Taylor Phinney U.S. time trial champion

BMC sent me this:

27, May 2016, Winston-Salem (USA): Taylor Phinney has become the United States National Time Trial champion for the third time after putting in an incredible ride which saw him smash the 51 kilometer course.

Phinney came home in 1:02:45, 1:10 ahead of Tom Zirbel (Rally Cycling) and and 1:12 ahead of Alexey Vermeulen (Team LottoNL Jumbo). Brent Bookwalter finished in fourth place, 1:36 behind Phinney.

Phinney is looking forward to pulling on the stars and stripes time trial suit for the next year.

Taylor Phinney

Taylor Phinney earlier this year

Taylor Phinney: "It was super difficult and I didn't really have a lot of fun. But that's how it is with a time trial and I signed myself up for this event, so I knew what I was getting my self into. Honestly I didn't really feel very good. It was a tough mental battle the whole way. I started out super confident and then lost almost all of my confidence, and then gained it back and then lost it again, and then by the time I was on the way to the finish I had my confidence back. It's easy to say that now but that's what happened. I thought I was going super slow and started to get a bit down. The course was also three kilometers longer than what it was supposed to me."

"I'm looking forward to putting the kit on for the first time, hopefully soon. I was just here to show myself ahead of the Olympics and try to have a good ride. It's always good to get an hour long time trial in, which is something you'd never do normally."

"I couldn't walk for almost two hours afterwards. I still can't ride my bike and get my left leg over the left crank because I was cramping really intensely after the time trial. It's a weird thing to do to yourself that's for sure, but I'm happy that I won, and happy that I'm not in so much pain anymore."

Brent Bookwalter: "It was painful! I wasn't feeling very good but I knew going in that it was far from the perfect time trial course for me. In the past couple of years of my career, I've really excelled at time trials that have some rhythm variation, climbs, position changes, and more technical parts. But I've been working really hard on making my sustained power and sustained TT position better. I think that paid off last week at the Amgen Tour of California with the 20 kilometer distance, but upping that sustained flat TT to a 50 kilometer course, I was really suffering out there. I think I was paying mentally a bit for my efforts in California last week. There were lots of head games out there today but I still left it all out there and did my best ride. But Taylor showed that he was in a class above the rest of us."

Jackson Stewart: "We did a recon of the course yesterday and got the feel for the time trial. It was the perfect course for Taylor as it really suited his strengths and also good for him to show where he's at before the Olympic Games and UCI World Championships. He just went out there without a radio and did his thing. And he smashed it!"

LottoNL-Jumbo extends with Battaglin

This note came from the team:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo extended its contract with Italian Enrico Battaglin, who is working to help Steven Kruijswijk win the Giro d’Italia. The team management, satisfied with his efforts so far, re-signed him through 2018.

The 26-year-old has yet to win, but played an important role in the Dutch WorldTour team. With his substantial efforts in key moments, he earned respect within the team.

Enrico Battaglin

Enrico Battaglin winning a Giro stage in 2014

"I am proud that I can continue to ride for this team," said Battaglin. "It took some time getting settled in and adapting to the Dutch culture, but this team is great for me. In recent months, I worked hard and in crucial moments, I was there for the team’s leaders. I feel great doing it and I’m proud to be working for Steven in the pink jersey in my home race, the Giro d’Italia. It says it all to be rewarded with a two-year agreement. I hope to ride the Vuelta a España later this year and to have a chance to go for a stage win in the Vuelta."

Technical Director Nico Verhoeven praised the performance of Battaglin, who was contracted to strengthen the team. Battaglin showed his skills in the 18th stage of the Giro yesterday, when he pulled over the Pramartino climb for Kruijswijk.

"We are pleased with this two-year extension of Enrico," said Verhoeven. "We contracted him for the Giro and as a specialist for the short, hard uphill finishes. He is a puncher, an explosive rider. Soon after he joined the team, he dedicated himself to learning Dutch and adapted. He performed very well in the first part of the season. Also in this Giro, he protected Steven Kruijswijk in the hard Italian finals."

Canyon will begin consumer direct sales in U.S. next Spring.

This is a big deal. Bicycle Retailer & Industry News made this report:

KOBLENZ, Germany (BRAIN) — German consumer-direct bike brand Canyon said it has partnered with TSG Consumer Partners to expand into the U.S. market. TSG, an investment firm with offices in San Francisco and New York, gains a minority stake in Canyon and will provide the additional capital needed to set up U.S. sales.

The move has been years in the making, as Canyon has eyed the U.S. for some time, and U.S. suppliers have been well aware that Canyon would begin sales here eventually. BRAIN first reported Canyon's intent to expand into the U.S. market back in 2011. Trek president John Burke noted Canyon's intentions when he announced Trek's consumer direct plans last August.

In a press release, Roman Arnold, founder and CEO of Canyon Bicycles GmbH, said "The partnership with U.S.-based TSG is invaluable in helping us successfully develop and navigate the American market, especially in light of its legal and economic particularities. This step enables us to realize a corporate goal set a long time ago and for which we've prepared exhaustively. We are excited to have found a partner in TSG; specifically, a partner that shares our vision, our values and our goals."

"The demand for Canyon bikes in the U.S. is already very high. But we also want to deliver an exceptional Canyon customer experience, on par with the quality of our products," he added.

TSG currently manages $5 billion in assets, focusing on consumer and retail companies with annual revenues of $20 million to more than $1.5 billion and makes equity investments of $15 million to more than $500 million.

TSG has worked with such brand names as Vitamin Water, Popchips, Smart Balance, Smashbox Cosmetics and Yardhouse. In the outdoor and bike markets, it lists Backcountry as one of its partner brands. TSG's portfolio of brands span the apparel and accessories, beauty, personal care, household, restaurants, retail, pet care and food and beverage industries.

Canyon will launch a U.S.-website for customers to order bikes in early 2017. The U.S. will have its own customer and technical service center, though the location for that hasn't been determined. Bikes for the U.S. market will be produced and assembled in Koblenz, Germany, Canyon's headquarters. Canyon underwent a modernization of its production facilities at the end of last year.

"We opened a state-of-the art production facility in October and introduced a new ERP system. We're already set up for fulfilling more demand on our product and being ready from a production standpoint," Frank Aldorf, Canyon's chief brand officer told BRAIN. He said some bikes will be warehoused in the U.S.

Aldorf said U.S. consumers can expect to receive a bike ordered online in two to six weeks, and it will be nearly fully assembled. "Any consumer should be able to assemble the bike themselves at home. That's how we ship bikes currently and that will be how we do it in the U.S.," he said.

Aldorf said Canyon has sold more bikes worldwide than in its home market of Germany since 2008. "We're thinking more globally now," he said.

Canyon has seen revenue grow 30 percent year-over-year for the last six years, he added. This spring was its strongest yet, as April was its strongest month in revenue, Aldorf said.

You can read the entire story here.

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