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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, September 5, 2016

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Behind every successful man is a proud wife and a surprised mother-in-law. - Hubert H. Humphrey

Recently completed racing:

Current Racing :

Vuelta a España Stage 15 news

Given Christopher Froome's surprising loss of time, we'll start with Team Sky's Vuelta posting. Note that at the end of the post, the team is talking about a podium place, not winning the race.

Chris Froome retained second place overall but dropped time to rival Nairo Quintana on a tough 15th stage at the Vuelta a Espana.

A short 118.5-kilometre test created fireworks when both Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador attacked in the early going on the road out of Sabinanigo. The pair quickly opened out a significant gap, with Froome held up momentarily by a crash and eventually isolated in the chasing pack, ultimately taking to the front of the final climb to Aramon Formigal.

Quintana (Movistar) eventually crossed the line second on the stage behind Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx - Quick-Step), two minutes and 37 seconds ahead of Froome on the most significant day of the race thus far.

David Lopez emptied the tank as he chased in support of team-mate Froome, with Salvatore Puccio dislodged by further attacks from Movistar, and the rest of the team distanced after a frantic start.

The end result saw Froome retain his podium place after a gutsy ride, 3:37 back on the Colombian, with a late attack from Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) elevating him to just 20 seconds back on Team Sky's leader.

After the race Sport Director Dario Cioni talked us through the stage, and expanded on a crash that saw the peloton split early on. He said: "It wasn't the best day for us. Chris lost time to Quintana, Contador and Chaves but gained time on Simon Yates. For sure it was a day where Movistar and Tinkoff raced really aggressive and they did a really good job putting their leaders on the front. We were caught on the back foot and it was too bad that Chris was separated by an early crash from Quintana and Contador. If he'd have been with them and not in the chasing group then it would have probably made things different.

Chris Froome

Froome finishes Vuelta stage 15

"The guys did their best and Chris tried to limit the losses. He is still second overall and in a position he can fight. The riders are obviously tired. It's the end of the second week and yesterday's stage featured 5000 metres of climbing. The race started full gas and there was a big gruppetto today at the end - so it shows there are a lot of tired riders in the race.

"Tomorrow is a new day and for sure the team will bounce back. We're still second on GC having won two stages. We're still in the fight the for Vuelta podium."

And here's what racer leader Nairo Quintana's Movistar team had to say about the day's racing:

The Movistar Team took a giant step forward to win the 2016 Vuelta a España into a historic stage. Right from eight kilometers into the short (118km) day fifteen in the Spanish grandtour, from Sabiñánigo to Formigal, the squad managed by Eusebio Unzué got themselves into a break that might become decisive for the final outcome. Nairo Quintana hit hard at the end of the second Pyrenes stage and now sits almost four minutes ahead of both Chris Froome (SKY) and Esteban Chaves (OBE), just seven days from glory in Cibeles.

A 14-man split, with three from the telephone squad -Nairo, Jonathan Castroviejo and Rubén Fernández- plus three from Tinkoff, including Alberto Contador, took both the Briton and the Bogotan out of situation and soon opened a gap which grew up to 1'30" at the foot of Petralba (Cat-3), the first real climb of the day. Imanol Erviti and Alejandro Valverde put on big efforts to isolate Froome and keep him out of morale, a series of attacks which the 'green jersey' holder kept coming into Formigal. Only the efforts from Orica, BMC and most notably Astana, in order to defend their overall positions, could try to reduce Nairo's gap as his lead group reached three minutes at the bottom of Cotefablo (Cat-2).

Despite the accelerations from Yates (OBE) and Sánchez (BMC) cutting the margin in half -Froome always riding alone-, the prodigious efforts by Fernández, into the climb, and Castroviejo, superb in the flats, allowed Nairo consolidating his advantage towards the end of the last climb. Quintana finished 29” ahead of Contador, 1’49” up against Chaves and 2’30” over ‘Bala’ and Froome, as Gianluca Brambilla (EQS), the only able to follow his wheel in the end, took the stage. 3’37” is the margin Nairo will enjoy against Froome, heading into the last five real competition stages in this Vuelta, prior to the final parade into Madrid.

Nairo Quintana

Quintana finishes stage 15 just behind Gianluca Brambilla

Nairo Quintana: “It went way, way better than we expected. To be honest, we were thinking more about taking some moves in the finale. However, you never really know what’s gonna happen. It turned out to be a really great stage in the least of expected ways. We opened bigger gaps here than in yesterday’s big mountains. At the start, a split was created into a lumpy section, full of twists and different slopes where our bodies suffered a lot after yesterday’s efforts. We struggled, yet we kept focus, went ahead with Alberto and our teams cooperated well.

“My team helped me out so much: a huge labour from Jonathan Castroviejo and Rubén Fernández -I was screaming to them: ‘Full gas, full gas, we’re leaving Froome behind’- and then, the rest of the team, taking care of what was going on behind. We opened a gap, we kept it high and at the final climb, I gave everthing to keep Chris well behind. Fortunately, I’ve opened the gap I considered I needed before the TT; I just hope I can keep it and stay strong until Madrid. We will remain cautious, yet we know we’ve got a great team: Alejandro, Castro… all of us are confident.”

Alejandro Valverde: “I really didn’t enjoy today’s racing much, I struggled as badly as yesterday, though a bit closer to the front (all laughing and joking). It was a different way of suffering. We knew that such a short, tough course could create havoc. We took a big lead in the overall standings now - even though you can’t say this is already won, as many difficult days are still ahead, we’re many steps closer to our goal.

“It was a split created by both Alberto and us, a joint strategy which both teams took advantage from to create some gaps. Behind, and especially into the final ascent, I was always keeping Froome’s wheel, trying to make him nervous. And, as soon as he stopped taking turns, I jumped so he never recovered. What do I want to do now? Winning the red jersey with Nairo. Fighting for stages might be impossible for me, as you never want to cooperate with someone who is faster at a sprint, and at this point of the race, what really motivates me is staying close to Nairo.”

Here's the news I got from Alberto Contador's Tinkoff squad:

On one of the shortest stages of the Vuelta a España at just 118km, the 15th day saw a large shake up on GC as Tinkoff and Alberto Contador set the race alight from the early stages. Eventually racing to sixth over the finish line atop the final ascent of Formigal, Alberto gained time of many of his GC rivals to close the gap to the podium to only five seconds, and climb from sixth to fourth overall.

The action got underway from the opening kilometres as Alberto press on over an early uncategorised climb. He was joined in a split of 14 riders by teammates Ivan Rovny and Yuri Trofimov, together with the overall race leader. Importantly, all of the other riders in the top 10 going into the stage were not present.

After the finish, Sport Director Steven De Jongh praised the efforts of all of the team on a strong performance. “It was a great ride from all of the guys today. We knew the start would be hectic and so we wanted to have as many as possible in the front with the small roads coming up. In the end the bunch split so much that Alberto decided to push on. Orica and Sky found themselves isolated and lost more and more time.

Alberto contador

Alberto Contador shook things up a bit today

“It was great work by the team, from all the riders and from Alberto. Chapeau to Ivan and Yuri as they worked so, so hard today, and to Alberto as it’s amazing how he was fighting. He’s helping to turn the Vuelta. Again, I’m proud of the work that all the boys did today.”

The lead group worked well together and pushed on, pressing ahead their advantage to put nearly three minutes between themselves and the chase with 50km to race. Ivan and Yuri provided superb support to Alberto in pushing the pace and aiding their leader during the stage.

After a third category and second category climb, the race headed to the base of the final ascent of Formigal – 14km uphill with varying ramps of up to 10% at times. At the foot of the climb, the advantage was still over two minutes as the chase group thinned down behind. While at the front of the race, Yuri and Ivan eventually peeled off in the final kilometres to leave their GC leader in a small group to keep fighting for both GC and stage honours.

As the red jersey pressed on in the final 1500m, a brave Alberto had to settle into his own pace, after huge efforts over the course of the stage, and by the finish he came home just 34” behind the stage winner in sixth place. As a reward for his efforts, Alberto was awarded the most combative award for the day.

Alberto himself said after the stage: "I'm happy with the stage today. When I crossed the finish line yesterday, I was gutted because the form of my legs didn't correspond to the result. I had a very strange sensation after the stage and I wanted to put it behind me and focus on today.

“I wasn't extremely optimistic because the climbs weren't very hard. Yesterday evening, I was reading the race book, looking at the gradients of the climbs in order to see what we could do. I knew it it would be complicated, so I decided to start at full pace. I was aware I was making a dangerous gamble because I knew that if they were able to catch me in the finale they would be able to drop me from the group of favorites. It was a gamble and I think it led to a great result. Sometimes you don't win, like today. The final kilometers were tough.

“However, I think we had a beautiful showing today and the spectators enjoyed it, regardless of the result of the stage or the GC. I'm happy with what we achieved, it was a better day than yesterday. I think I had to pull hard because if I hadn't done it the breakaway would have slowed down. Maybe in the first hour I was generous but I think I did the right thing.

“Tomorrow will be less demanding than today and yesterday but, again, every day is a different story. I have to be realistic about the rest of the Vuelta. This year victory in Paris-Nice and Catalunya slipped by for a handful of seconds. I had to abandon the Tour despite the fact I had started in optimal form and condition. I will give my best in the rest of the Vuelta now. It isn't over yet!"

De Jongh added: “Tomorrow we’ll have to pay attention as it comes between a hard day and the rest day. I think some teams will go for the break and then some may push for a sprint, but the final could be tricky so we’ll be ready.”

And here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Vuelta news:

LottoNL-Jumbo’s George Bennett finished 27th in the short, but tough 15th stage of the Vuelta a España today to Aramón Formigal and remained 12th overall going into the final week. Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx - Quickstep) won the thrilling stage battle ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who gained time for his overall lead.

The stage began quickly with Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador launching surprise attacks. The two GC riders caught team Sky with Chris Froome, second overall, off guard. The 14-man group put over two minutes on Froome’s group, which included Bennett.

"The stage began with an escape of star riders," said Sports Director Addy Engels. "They sliced the peloton into three groups. We had George in the second group, but all the other men missed out and finished the stage in the gruppetto of 90 riders."

The riders covered a whopping 45.7 kilometres in the first hour. The fight for the red jersey was in full swing and no one wanted to give up. Bennett held strongly with Froome and lost just over three minutes to winner Brambilla.

"König (Team Sky) fell out of the top of the standings and De La Cruz (Etixx – Quickstep) moved up, so George remains 12th, which was great after yesterday's stage. Remember, he made the breakaway yesterday with Gesink and burned a lot of energy.”

Tomorrow, the Vuelta will continue with a 156-kilometre stage that includes a flat finish to Peñíscola.

BMC's Tour des Fjords report:

4 September, 2016, Stavanger (NOR): Michael Schär capped off five days of racing at Tour des Fjords by finishing second on the General Classification and sixth place on stage 5.

Schär, who is one of BMC Racing Team's key domestiques, moved into second place after stage 3 and managed to hold his podium place, as did Damiano Caruso who finished in fifth place overall.

Despite having only five riders left in the race, BMC Racing Team worked hard to keep Schär, who was sitting 20 seconds behind eventual race winner Alexander Kristoff, on the podium on stage 5.

A 7-rider breakaway went clear on the 183.8km stage but was kept close to the peloton throughout the stage, before the final breakaway rider was pulled back with 10km to go.

Schär and Caruso were part of a 14-rider move that went played out in the final 10km and built a gap of 30 seconds on the peloton, which they managed to hold to the line.

Kristoff took the stage win in the sprint and Schär and Caruso crossed the line in sixth and seventh place respectively.

Michael Schär: "I'm simply very thankful for the work that the guys did for me in the last two days. Normally I'm never on this side of the job. It's the first time that I see that the teamwork really makes the leader stronger. It gives me confidence and the race was also much easier. I only had to do the finale as the rest was done by Floris Gerts and Fabian Lienhard and Joey Rosskopf. They did so much work the whole day by keeping me out of the wind, and then in the finale I had Damiano Caruso who pulled for 10km. The other guys have eight riders for that so it's cool to see the other side because sometimes I do my job and I wonder if our leaders really see or feel that it is easier for them to ride a bike, and today I felt that."

"My form is good as I was training very hard after the Tour de France. I wanted to have a good fall, not just letting it go, and I was motivated. And now with this result it's extra motivation to help Greg Van Avermaet at the races in Quebec and Montreal and fall back into my normal role."

Yvon Ledanois, Sports Director: "For Michael Schär this is a great result. This is a guy who does his job as a domestique every year, always working for the leaders. I'm really happy for him. I talked to him before the stage and we agreed that it was an important result for him and that we would do everything possible to keep him on the podium. Today we decided not to have anyone in the breakaway and work for the finale with Michi. All of the guys stayed around him and Damiano Caruso worked hard to put him in a good position for the sprint finale. Every day we have been trying with guys in the breakaway, so to have Michi in second and Damiano in fifth is a nice way to finish the race. All of the guys were really strong and worked really well, especially given we only had five riders after Alessandro De Marchi had to stop racing."

Selle Royal Group restructures

This news is from Bicycle Retailer and Industry News:

FRIEDRICHSHAFEN, Germany (BRAIN) — Selle Royal Group has kept sales and marketing for its Fizik, Brooks, Crankbrothers and Selle Royal brands separate in an effort to not create confusion in the market. But now the Italian company is looking to begin integrating certain functions.

As part of a restructure, Selle Royal Group has created two new roles, VP of sales and marketing for all four brands for Europe and Asia, a position filled by Nicolo Mannoni, and VP of sales and marketing for all four brands for the Americas, handled by Gaspare Licata, who retains the title of CEO of Crankbrothers. These two positions will report to Nicola Rosin, CEO of Selle Royal Group.

Licata said that as part of these changes, Selle Royal Group is creating two internal clusters: Fizik and Crankbrothers will now be grouped together for sales; Selle Royal and Brooks will form the second cluster.

“We decided for the aftermarket, not to sell all the brands under one manager, but rather to separate by cluster,” said Licata, during a meeting at Eurobike this week. “At a business to business level, we need to create synergies, but be specific to the audience we’re talking to.

“This isn’t about saving costs but about getting to better know each market,” he added. “We have people traveling across the world and spending a lot of time on the plane. We need people to stay in their market and understand and learn and implement the best strategy for the brands they’re responsible for.”

Product development and marketing will still be driven by each individual brand. So the product and marketing strategy for Fizik, for example, will continue to be made by Fizik, and the same goes for Brooks, Crankbrothers and Selle Royal. “From a product marketing point of view, we want to keep the strong authenticity we’ve had until now, so it will still be driven by the brands,” Licata said.

You can read the entire story here.

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