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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, April 2, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

No one has ever drowned in sweat. - Lou Holtz

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Author Les Woodland talks about cycle racing's potential for great triumph and terrible tragedy using renowned climber Charly Gaul and the great Eddy Merckx as examples.

Lotto-Soudal previews Vuelta al Pais Vasco

The team sent me this:

The 57th edition of the Vuelta al País Vasco will take place from Monday 3 April until Saturday 8 April. There is less climbing than previous years but the climbers are still the big favourites for the GC.  The first stage is 153.3 kilometres long and goes to Sarriguren, the second stage goes to Eltziego. Both start in Pamplona. The third stage will cover six climbs and the last climb will be at ten kilometres from the finish.

The fourth stage is 174.1 kilometres long, from San Sébastian to Bilbao. The stage is mostly flat, but contains two hills. The last hill lies at fourteen kilometres fromthe finish. The fifth stage is the Queen Stage with six climbs and an uphill finish. The next day, the Vuelta al País Vasco will end with an individual time trial. The last two stages will decide the winner of the GC.

Last year, Louis Vervaeke had a great result and became eleventh just one second from a tenth place on the GC. He will participate again this year but the competition is very strong. Last year’s winner Alberto Contador, Paris-Nice winner Sergio Henao and Alejandro Valverde who was the strongest in the Volta a Catalunya are the favourites. Tim Wellens, Sean De Bie, Sander Armée, Maxime Monfort, Rafael Valls, Tosh Van der Sande and Jelle Vanendert complete the Lotto Soudal team.

Louis Vervaeke

Louis Vervaeke

Sports director Mario Aerts: “We are going to the Vuelta al País Vasco with ambition. A stage win, a good result in the GC for Louis Vervaeke and Rafael Valls and aggressive racing are the goals. Maxime Monfort and Sander Armée will support Louis and Rafael. Louis had to abandon the last stage of the Volta a Catalunya. That was very painful because he stood on a fifteenth place on the GC. He trained too much before the Volta a Catalunya and that took its toll in the tough edition. Louis has a week off so he can rest and fully recover for next week. We have to compete against some world class riders like Henao, Valverde and Contador. So we know it’s going to be tough.”

“The course is less tough than last year which is good for us with the eye on the Walloon classics. Tosh Van der Sande and Sean De Bie are our main contenders for the first two stages because it will probably be a sprint. The competition in the sprint isn’t very big so we definitely have a chance. There are six climbs in the third stage so the climbers will have their first chance. Stage four is mostly flat, but there’s a  dangerous hill at around twenty kilometres from the finish. The fifth stage is the Queen Stage and will be crucial for the GC. The time trial on the last day is less difficult than last year but it can still affect the GC.”

“Tim Wellens and Jelle Vanendert will have an ideal preparation for the Walloon classics. They have the qualities to try something but that’s something we will decide after the first two stages. It all depends on how they feel.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Sean De Bie, Maxime Monfort, Rafael Valls, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Marc Wauters.


And here's Team Quick-Step Floors preview of Vuelta al País Vasco:

April's first World Tour stage race promises to be once again one of the most spectacular and thrilling of the season.

"In the Basque country the land all looks very rich and green and the houses and villages look well-off and clean". If Ernest Hemingway would have been an avid road cycling fan at that time, he would have mentioned in his acclaimed novel "The Sun Also Rises" also the steep and excruciating climbs of the Basque Country, a region where is almost impossible to find a meter of flat.

Since its inception, in 1924, Vuelta al Pais Vasco has attracted on a regular basis a star-studded field at the start, and continues to do so almost a century later, when cycling has changed, but its iconic ascents have remained as brutal as back in the days when the riders still weren't using the derailleur system, despite it being invented in the early years of the 20th century.

The very same climbs will await the riders at next week's Vuelta al Pais Vasco, which will start in Pamplona, the city worldwide famous for its San Fermin festival. Between this and Eibar, where the race will draw the curtain on Saturday with a testing individual time trial, the bunch is set to face 19 categorised climbs and visit some of the race's most iconic locations, including San Sebastian, Bilbao and Santuario de Arrate.

The ever-evolving Julian Alaphilippe, who this season took home the green and white jerseys at Paris-Nice on top of winning a stage and finishing fifth overall, will line up for the 57th edition of the race two weeks after riding to third at his Milano-Sanremo debut. Julian will be joined by an attack-orientated team, capable of being a factor on all types of terrain, a squad which includes Gianluca Brambilla, Eros Capecchi, Paris-Nice stage victor David De La Cruz, Dries Devenyns, neo-pro Enric Mas, double Vuelta a San Juan stage winner Maximiliano Richeze and Martin Velits.

Julia Alaphilippe

Julian Alaphilippe in this year's Paris-Nice

"I've had a break after completing Milano-Sanremo, but I continued to train for my April goals, and Pais Vasco will allow me to see where I stand ahead of the Ardennes Classics. It will be my first time here and I'm eager to discover this event, of which I've heard only nice things, despite it being one of the toughest stage races out there. I can't say I start with a specific goal, I'll just take it one day at a time, and if an opportunity will arise, I will try to grab it", said Julian Alaphilippe of the race which at its first edition was won by a French rider, Francis Pélissier.

Team BMC's report on Volta Limburg Classic

The race was split into two halves with an 18-rider group, featuring Joey Rosskopf, going clear in the first hour of racing.

The peloton kept the large group close and the breakaway’s advantage never exceeded more than one minute. As the peloton approached 90km to go, they had reeled the group back in, making way for new attacks to play out.

Within the next 20km, a group of around 20 riders went clear, including Rosskopf and Vliegen, and managed to quickly gain an advantage of 39 seconds on the bunch.

Further splits in the field saw Vliegen form part of an 11-rider group at the front of the race, from which eventual winner Marco Canola (Nippo-Vini Fantini) broke clear alongside Xandro Meurisse (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Nick Van Der Lijke (Rompoot-Nederlandse Loterij).

Marco Canola

Marco Canola wins the Volta Limburg Classic

The trio forged on ahead and despite hard work from Rosskopf and Vliegen, lack of cooperation in the chase group meant it wasn’t possible to bring them back.

Vliegen contested the sprint for top ten places and ended the day in ninth place.

Quotes from the Sports Director’s Car with Jackson Stewart:

“Today didn’t really go to plan for us. As one of two UCI WorldTour teams in the race, and having won the last two editions, it was clear that we were a marked team and a lot of the teams were working hard to shut any of our moves down. In the end, we weren’t strong enough to beat them. We also had some bad luck as Miles Scotson and Kilian Frankiny were both involved in crashes and could never really get back in the race. Some of our other riders just didn’t have good legs today.”

“Joey Rosskopf was incredible. He was in every move all day he made the final move. Loïc Vliegen was really smart and he made the final move too but both of them missed the winning move when the trio went ahead. Joey and Loïc were pulling really hard but there was no real cooperation in the chase group and they couldn’t bring them back. It just wasn’t our day today.”

And here's what LottoNL-Jumbo had to say about the Volta Limburg Classic:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s combative race style went unrewarded in the Volta Limburg Classic this afternoon. The team’s Paul Martens sprinted behind three leaders, including winner Marco Canola, to fifth place.

"The whole day, I was good, but at some point I hesitated too long," said Martens. "Timo [Roosen] came back, so I doubted whether it was not better to sit in the large group with two men then to go with a small group. I thought too much, I just needed to follow my instinct.

“That little group reached the finish line. There was no cooperation in the group behind it. We looked at each other and no one rode. There were many riders that I didn’t know immediately, but very good ones. There wasn’t any real control because there were not many WorldTour teams. That makes it very fun to race. It may not be the biggest race, but it’s one of the toughest."

"We’re there the whole day” says Sports Director Merijn Zeeman. "In the first breakaway of the day, we had Koen Bouwman and Victor Campenaerts. When this group was brought back, our men jumped with every group. Halfway through the race, a large group rode away. We counted four men in this group, and that was good. Unfortunately, Van den Broeck and Roossen are not one hundred per cent and Campenaerts had already done the necessary work in the first escape. So only Martens could remain.

“It is disappointing that we did not win here. When four men were away, we tried to set up a chase. But there was absolutely no cooperation within the group."

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