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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, September 1, 2016

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Creationists make it sound as though a 'theory' is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night. - Isaac Asimov

Recently completed racing:

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Vuelta a España Stage 11 news

Here's what stage winner Chris Froome's Team Sky had to report:

Chris Froome climbed to a thrilling stage win atop the Peña Cabarga to move up to second overall at the Vuelta a Espana.

Froome kept pace with his rivals up the famous six kilometre climb and then followed the attack of race leader Nairo Quintana in the final kilometre of stage 11, before rounding the Colombian to take a resounding victory. He only closes the gap to Quintana by four seconds - he now trails the Movistar man by 54 seconds overall - but he was able to leapfrog Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who now sits third, one minute and five seconds back, after he crossed the line third, six seconds down.

Leopold Konig helped Froome up the climb and then held on to take a fine fourth place, crowning a magnificent day for the team in Spain. He stays sixth overall, three minutes and nine seconds off Quintana.

Speaking after the stage, Froome referenced his stage win atop the same climb in the 2011 Vuelta. He said, "I've got some special memories here from 2011 and today adds to that. It's an incredible feeling. Quintana is really strong at the moment. He has the leader's jersey and I'm just trying to do as much as I can day by day, and hopefully I can keep getting closer to him.

"I just want to thank my team-mates for all the hard work they've done and also my family at home, for all the motivation and support, because at this point in the season after all the work I've done, it's really tough for me at the moment. A big thank you to them. I'm looking forward to coming home soon."

It was a ferociously fast day in Spain, with an average speed of 46km/h ahead of the final climb, and the breakaway was quickly reeled in at the bottom of the first category ascent.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome wins Vuelta stage 11

The racing remained calm until Esteban Chaves launched a strong attack 2km from the top, but Quintana then set off in pursuit, and Froome was the only man able to stay on his wheel. The pair then passed Chaves and forged on for the line, briefly playing a spot of cat and mouse before the uphill sprint started. Quintana then had no answer for Froome, and the Brit punched the air as he crossed the line, in scenes reminiscent of his famous 2011 win.

Konig came home in the same time as Valverde and spoke of his happiness and form after the stage. He said, "I'm happy. We executed a plan. It's nice. We've won a stage and finally I could pull a little bit for Chris. After a rest day you never know how you'll feel, but we are pretty on it. Let's hope for a better second part of the race.

"On the Covadonga [on stage 10] I lacked the endurance because I've had so few racing days this year. I was a long time injured. But I think I can be up there in the hard climbs in the Pyrenees, play a wild card for Chris and occasionally help him."

And race leader Nairo Quintana's Movistar team had this to say about the day's racing:

The tough slopes of Peña Cabarga offered another duel between GC contenders, even if a close one today, in the Vuelta a España. Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) and Chris Froome staged what seems like a two-man show in the overall fight… with permission from Alejandro Valverde, who keeps exploring his limits and surprising everyone. In the end, the Briton won ahead of Nairo Quintana, who only conceded the four-second bonus difference between first and second; in turn, ‘Bala’ took 3rd at only six seconds. All of that, after a really fast day of racing.

The four hours prior to the decisive climb were covered at 46kph average, thanks to furious pace for the early break -ultimately formed by 23 riders, including Ben Hermans (BMC), at just under seven minutes in the GC- and a courageous Tinkoff, which started pushing after halfway through the stage to keep the escapees on a leash. The Movistar Team only had to take leading roles -following initial efforts from the relentless Imanol Erviti and Sutherland- at the bottom of the climb. Rojas, Castroviejo and a fundamental Rubén Fernández kept the GC group strung out, with no attacks, till the last 2km.

An acceleration by Chaves (OBE) anticipated the decisive move by Froome, who twice tried unfructuously to leave Nairo behind while Valverde fought to keep gaps short and later jump for the bonus seconds. There was a switch in the GC -54” between Nairo and Froome, now 2nd, ‘Bala’ sits in 3rd, 1’05” in arrears-, yet margins remain quite the same before two not-to-decisive stages in Bilbao (Thursday) and Urdax (Friday). A remarkable fact also happened after today: Movistar Team leads all classifications in the Vuelta, with Quintana first in the GC, KOM and Combination rankings; Valverde in green as Points leader; and the Blues on top of the Team prize.

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana remains in the red leader's jersey

Nairo Quintana: “I’m fine. We crossed the finish line together with Froome today, though he won the stage as he’s usually faster in sprints. I keep in mind from today’s that Chris is showing to be strong, probably the biggest threat GC-wise - we must keep focus and look for other demanding stages, like Aubisque or Formigal, where we will surely see some fireworks.

Froome’s tactics today? It’s difficult to think about how he rides. He’s a man who plays different approaches, and gets different or similar results. Last Saturday, at another short climb like La Camperona, I put time on him, and today, into similar terrain, we came together across the finish. We’ll see how the two of us react on longer climbs, into longer stages. We’ve also got our strategy, but we must remain cautious about him: he’s probably the one to beat.”

Alejandro Valverde: “I remain happy about today’s result. We did a nice job. It’s true, Froome won, but Nairo proved to be as strong as him, and Chris only beat him into the sprint. I got that third place after working a bit for Nairo - you couldn’t do much else really, as the climb was short and there was no margin for playing strategy. As we all know, I’m into a completely new challenge for me, and it was clear to me that Froome would overtake me in the GC sooner or later. Fortunately, I remain in third spot.

“Our main plan today we letting a break go. The smaller the better, but having 23 riders ahead with no GC threats, it really didn’t matter to us. We had to keep our guys as fresh as possible. At some point, the gap was five minutes, but surprisingly, Tinkoff started pushing hard. We must congratulate them, as well as Froome, for the work they did today. It all remains as it was before today. The more time we get on Froome before the TT, the better. Today’s was another proof of the essence of cycling: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.”

Alberto Contador's Tinkoff team sent me this update:

With the Vuelta back on the road after a well-deserved rest day, it was business as usual for the riders. While the parcours was fairly gentle to begin with, the pace certainly wasn’t, with fast racing throughout the day. After the Tinkoff riders held a blistering pace to pull in the escape, it was a hard push on the day’s main climb for Alberto Contador, taking 5th on the stage and maintaining his hold on 5th in the GC.

The rest day behind them, today’s stage would show who had recovered well and who would fall behind. While the 168.6km stage started out fairly flat, steadily easing riders into the race again as it skirted Spain’s northern coast, there was the sting in the tail in the shape of the Peña Cabarga – just 5.6km long, but an average gradient of 9.8% and maximum gradients of 18% both at the foot of the climb and the top, meant this was going to be where the excitement was going to take place – a climb where some of the GC favourites were bound to struggle on its constantly-changing gradient.

While the terrain suggested a gentle return to racing, the riders had other ideas, and at the drop of the flag the pace was fast and hard. The speed of the peloton discouraged breaks from forming, and it wasn’t until the race had covered 60km that a group escaped up the road. With 25 in the escape, the break was a strong one, but the GC riders were keeping a close eye on reserving their energy for the final climb.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador on the day's final climb

The break’s advantage hit almost six minutes as the day went on, and the Tinkoff riders took up the chase, pushing a relentless pace to pull in the escapees as the race entered its final 60km. The speed of the chase was both reducing the gap on the break as well as putting the hurt into the GC riders in preparation for the climb to come. In less than 10km, the yellow jerseys of Tinkoff had brought the break below three minutes, and then approaching two, with Michael Gogl, Manuele Boaro, Sergio Paulinho and Ivan Rovny pushing hard, while Alberto Contador sat a few places back as the kilometres ticked down. With 15km to go, the break’s lead was well below a minute.

Sport Director, Steven De Jongh was thrilled with how hard the team worked to drive up the pace and bring the break back. “We knew we couldn't let the break get to far and we closed the gap down to two minutes and then one minute. Hats off to the guys today – they did a great job.”

Hitting the Peña Cabarga, the pace ground to a standstill, as the first slopes hit almost 20%. The backmarkers of the break were quickly swallowed up, although one lone member strived to hold his advantage but to no avail. It was all back together from 3km out and the race was on to the finish. As the attacks came and the GC race started, Alberto held his own and stayed up there with his rivals, and as the final big ramps saw others dropped, the Spanish Tinkoff leader kept on, crossing the line in 5th spot, just a few seconds behind the stage winner.

From the finish, Alberto wasn’t sure how he would perform after the rest day, and while he had finished strongly, felt he didn’t have the legs. “Today we had a summit finish and we didn't know how we would feel after the rest day. We tried to control the breakaway despite the fact it was composed of 25 riders, which made things complicated. We tried but then the legs didn't respond. There were riders stronger than me.”

De Jongh was pleased with how the Tinkoff leader rode the stage – particularly given the high speeds and the tough climb – and was looking to see how he would perform in the later stages. “It was a fast race today. We tried to win the stage with Alberto and he did a very impressive job. It was very good from him – in the final, Froome and Quintana were strong, but Alberto was showing good signs and I'm happy for that, it's promising for the stages to come.”

While the team’s hard effort didn’t result in a win, Alberto knew that taking risks was an integral part of cycling. “You have to take risks in order to know whether you can win or not. It is of no use to have 25 riders finish ahead and the only option for us to be in the group. We also have to seek other options and other goals.”

The Vuelta stays in the north for tomorrow’s 193.2km stage. The rolling parcours takes in a first and third category climb before the 100km point, before a finishing circuit around Bilbao that climbs the second category Alto El Vivero twice before the finish. The final kilometre is flat, but with the demanding 8.5% climb ridden twice, who knows who will take the win.

With the hard profile, De Jongh was expecting a strong breakaway effort on stage 12. “Tomorrow will be a hard finishing lap and also hard at the start - it could be a stage where the break stays away. We will see how the race goes.”

After today’s strong effort and good result, the Tinkoff leader was waiting to see what the day would bring. “Tomorrow is another day and we will see what we can do."

This report came from LottoNL-Jumbo:

Martijn Keizer shot free in a large escape group to have a chance at victory in the 11th stage of the Vuelta a España today in northern Spain. It came to nothing because at five  kilometres out on the Peña Cabarga summit finish, the stars caught the break and Chris Froome (SKY) took the victory. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) remains the leader.

Tough not a climber, Keizer considered himself to have a chance in the 186-kilometre stage. "If you are in a position for a stage win, the race opens up. So perhaps you can break away with a small group without other climbers and save enough to hold them off."

"The plan in a stage like today's is to be in the breakaway,” Sports Director Addy Engels. “With so many attacks, it is almost a lottery, so it is good that we succeeded to get a rider in the break.” After covering 50 kilometres in the first hour, a group of 23 went free with Keizer. “The whole team fought to get in the break, and this time it was my luck,” Keizer said.

“Soon we had more than five minutes and that motivated us. We worked well together to stay in the front, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out. When Tinkoff started the chase the gap shrank and left us to hope that our advantage at the foot of the climb would be enough.”

Tomorrow, the Vuelta covers 193 kilometres to Bilbao. Engels knows that it will be important to be in the breakaway again. "There is a difficult climb in the final loop, which will be covered twice. The attack group can definitely stay away until the end. So we must have someone in it."

BMC headed to Tour of Britain

The team sent me this update:

31 August 2016, Santa Rosa, California (USA): A strong six-rider BMC Racing Team squad are heading to the Aviva Tour of Britain next week and will be looking to challenge for results over the eight-day stage race.

Sports Director Jackson Stewart said that the team will be targeting stage wins when the race gets underway on Sunday, 4 September. "We are lining up at the Aviva Tour of Britain with stage victories in mind and will see how the General Classification develops from there. We have a motivated and talented team racing in Britain and, as we have been doing all season, we will try and be active in the breaks and will be looking for success daily," Stewart said.

Rohan Dennis is looking forward to rejoining his BMC Racing Team teammates in the peloton after returning from Rio. "I'm feeling good at the moment. I had some time off after Rio and the first four days back on the bike felt like I belonged in a junior category but since then things have been back on track and I'm looking forward to testing the legs out in a race like the Aviva Tour of Britain."

Rohan Dennis

Rohan Dennis racing earlier this year

"The time trial is definitely a target of mine and I would love to win it. Plus if I'm still up there on the General Classification by then it could really set me up for the overall victory," Dennis added.

Aviva Tour of Britain (4 - 11 September)

Rider roster: Rohan Dennis (AUS), Taylor Eisenhart (USA), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Taylor Phinney (USA), Loïc Vliegen (BEL), Rick Zabel (GER)

Sports Directors: Jackson Stewart (USA), Fabio Baldato (ITA)

FSA's wireless group will be spec'd on bikes next spring

This news came from Bicycle Retailer & Industry News:

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (BRAIN) — FSA's electronic road group has been raced for a few seasons, but the company wanted to launch the drivetrain as part of an entirely new group before riders got their hands on it. So in addition to electronic shifting, Kforce WE gets hollow carbon cranks, a titanium/steel 11-speed cassette, redesigned brakes and an Android app to tune the system.

Not being the first on the market allowed FSA to choose aspects of its competitors’ groups it liked and to avoid what it felt were missteps. The group could be spec’d on bikes as early as May, but all the company is saying about pricing is it will be at Shimano and SRAM levels.

FSA’s Kforce WE system is wireless between the levers and the derailleurs, so there are no wires to run from the handlebars to the shifters. But Kforce WE uses a large seatpost battery with wires to both derailleurs to distribute power. The levers use small coin-style batteries to power their wireless function.

“The advantage of using a big battery for shifting is its range. We estimate between 4,000 and 6,000 kilometers on a charge, depending on how the rider shifts,” said Maurizio Bellin, FSA's European sales manager.

“The battery is charged through a wire on the rear derailleur. Just hook up the charger, nothing needs to be done with the battery. And a full charge takes an hour and a half,” he added.

The Android Kforce WE app lets riders reassign any button on either lever. For example, a rider could move front shifting to the right hand, and switch the paddle shifter assignments.

You can read the entire story here.

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