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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, April 6, 2017

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in. - Leonard Cohen

Current racing:

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Author Bill McGann tells the history of cycling's Giro d'Italia from 1971 to 2011

Lotto-Soudal's Scheldeprijs report:

Cycling's World Championships

Today it was up to the sprinters in the oldest sprint classic of Belgium, the Scheldeprijs.  The race started in Mol and finished after 202 kilometres in Schoten. Right after the start a seven-man breakaway was formed. Ligthart and Zhupa were the last two escapees to get reeled in, after one hundred and eighty kilometres ahead of the bunch. Lotto Soudal was tormented by bad luck. André Greipel, Tony Gallopin and Jelle Wallays had a puncture.  Marcel Sieberg also had some technical difficulties with his bike just before the last twenty kilometres.

There was a big crash just past the four kilometres mark. André Greipel was able to dodge the crash but his rear wheel was damaged so he couldn’t sprint for the victory anymore. Jürgen Roelandts took over the role of leader and sprinted to a fourth place. Marcel Kittel won the Scheldeprijs for a record breaking fifth time. Elia Viviani became second, Nacer Bouhanni finished third.

Jürgen Roelandts: “It was a miracle that André Greipel wasn’t involved in the big crash at four kilometres from the finish. However, his rear wheel was hit so he couldn’t compete for the victory. It was up to me to sprint but it wasn’t easy to change the plan in full finale. I had also spilled my energy in the sprint preparation, but I tried my best. I chose the wheel of Kittel but ended up being pinched close to the barriers and couldn’t get myself free. The fourth place is a good result, especially if you see the quality of the sprinters who finished in front of me. I’m disappointed that due to bad luck we couldn’t fairly defend our chances.”

Andre Greipel

Marcel Kittel wins another Scheldeprijs

The third stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco, with six climbs, was an opportunity for the climbers. Just before the first climb, a break of nine riders was formed. At a little less than fifty kilometres from the finish Lotto Soudal dictated the pace on the Alkiza, the fourth climb of the day. The bunch caught back the escapees. David de la Cruz placed a deciding acceleration on the last climb and stayed ahead until the finish. Michal Kwiatkowski became second, Jay McCarthy finished third. Tosh Van der Sande was the first Lotto Soudal rider in a ninth place. De la Cruz is the new leader on the GC. Tosh Van der Sande stands on the seventh place.

Paris-Roubaix team updates

This came from BMC:

5 April, 2017, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Greg Van Avermaet will return to the cobbles this Sunday at Paris-Roubaix looking to continue his Classics success.

Sports Director Fabio Baldato said Van Avermaet will be supported largely by the same team that lined up at the Tour of Flanders. "With the exception of Miles Scotson, who will replace Silvan Dillier and make his Paris-Roubaix debut, we have the same six riders lining up this Sunday to race for Greg Van Avermaet at Paris-Roubaix. We know we have a strong team and I think we can learn a lot from our Tour of Flanders performance to be even stronger at Paris-Roubaix," Baldato explained.

Greg van Avermaet

Greg van Avermaet will be at Paris-Roubaix

"Paris-Roubaix is a different kind of race to the Tour of Flanders but I definitely think we can finish with a good result. We saw last week just how strong Greg is no matter what is thrown at him in the race, and having missed out on the victory at the Tour of Flanders, we are even more motivated for this Sunday's race."

After missing the 2016 edition due to injury, Van Avermaet is looking to repeat his 2015 podium result.

"When you line up at any race you line up to win, and Paris-Roubaix is no exception. It's no secret that the Tour of Flanders was the big one for me but I want to win a Monument this year and I have another chance this Sunday. I know I can do a good race and get the result I want. The Tour of Flanders showed that anything can happen in these races, so if everything goes to plan at Paris-Roubaix there's no reason why I can't win," Van Avermaet said.

Paris-Roubaix (9 April 2017)

Rider Roster: Jempy Drucker (LUX), Martin Elmiger (SUI), Stefan Küng (SUI), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Miles Scotson (AUS), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Francisco Ventoso (ESP).

Sports Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA), Valerio Piva (ITA)

Mark Cavendish won't be there. Here's the report from his Team Dimension Data:

Mark Cavendish will not take the start at today’s (Wednesday, the 5th) Scheldeprijs or at the weekend’s Paris-Roubaix due to an overuse injury.

Cavendish, who last competed at the Milano-Sanremo for Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka, has been hampered by pain felt in his right ankle. The discomfort was first felt on the penultimate stage of Tirreno-Adriatico in March and has hindered our sprint ace since.

Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish won't be at Paris-Roubaix

With the Tour de France being the focus of the Manxman’s season this year, the goal is to ensure he is in peak condition come July. With this goal in mind and as a precautionary measure, our African Team will alter Cavendish’s race program accordingly so that a full recovery can take place before returning to action.

Dr Jarrad Van Zuydam – Team Doctor: Mark sustained an overuse injury of his right ankle while competing at the Tirreno-Adriatico race. The injury was thought to be resolving but has unfortunately flared up again during training. Further investigation and treatment is necessary over the coming days to resolve the injury before Mark returns to racing. We are hopeful of a speedy recovery, though it would be premature to set a date for his return to racing at this stage.

Cannondale-Drapac sent me this bad news about Sep Vanmarcke:

The crash during the Tour of Flanders that forced Sep Vanmarcke to abandon De Ronde will also keep him from starting the next Monument on the calendar, Paris-Roubaix. Vanmarcke suffered heavy road rash in addition to the broken finger. The Belgian, who has three top 5s at Paris-Roubaix on his palmares, made the decision mid-day Wednesday.

“My hands are the biggest problem,” Vanmarcke said. “The broken pinky on my right hand makes it impossible to put my hands on top of the bars. I can put them on the brakes, and I can brake with two fingers. But each time I hit a bump or anything, it’s painful.

“The larger problem is my left hand, because the skin is off every finger. I cannot brake with that hand — it’s just too painful to put the pressure on it. Also, my right knee is still a problem. It would make no sense to be at the start line. I lost a lot of skin off it.”

Sep Vanmarcke

Sep Vanmarcke at the 2016 Paris-Roubaix

Director Andreas Klier put it like this: “I didn’t ask him to ride intervals. I just asked him to try to put on his jersey. And I said, you’ll see it’s not going to be easy. And try to put on your race gloves. And just call me. Sep trained this morning and he didn’t call it training. It’s very difficult for him to even sit on the bike because of several different injuries. Knee, hands, shoulders, hip.”

The decision caps a spring season of discontent for Vanmarcke. He finished third on opening weekend at Omloop but ultimately suffered from crashes and stomach illness thereafter.

“I’m really, really disappointed. I start training for these races on the first of November. My focus is always on these races. Omloop went well, but from Strade Bianche I started to go wrong. A crash, the ribs, then I had the stomach problems, then this crash. So I’ve been fighting a lot, and always coming back,” Vanmarcke said. “It’s a disappointment. I was never on my top level, and I could never show what level I was at.”

American Taylor Phinney, who sustained a minor concussion during the Tour of Flanders, is still under consideration for Paris-Roubaix. The team will make a decision on its roster after it completes its reconnaissance training of the French pavé on Thursday. According to the team’s internal concussion protocols, Paris-Roubaix would be the first time Phinney is eligible to race again.

Hutchinson to focus on ‘Production in Europe’

Bike Europe sent me this interesting story:

PARIS, France – ‘Production in Europe’ is one of the key elements tyre manufacturer Hutchinson points to for its bicycle products. The made-in-France tyres come from the town of Châlette-sur-Loing, just 100 kilometres south of Paris, where one of Hutchinson’s main production and R&D locations is based.
All Hutchinson’s mid to high end road race as well as MTB tyres, including all tubeless ready models are made in Châlette-sur-Loing. – Photo Bike Europe
The Châlette-sur-Loing facility is just one of many operated by the Hutchinson Group throughout the world. However all mid to high end road race as well as MTB tyres, including all tubeless ready models are made in Châlette-sur-Loing. Until recently the brand name Hutchinson was only used for the bicycle tyres, but four years ago the Hutchinson Group decided to leave the long list of 30 brand names behind and to concentrate on Hutchinson. All of the Group’s entities are now together under this single brand. The goal is to raise the company’s profile among its customers and create unity among its diverse teams.

Hutchinson’s identity has been redesigned and this will certainly benefit the market position of the bicycles tyres and improve the brand awareness among distributors and consumers. The company is looking back on some tough years with few OEM customers and having to concentrate on after-market distribution only. For 2017 the Hutchinson tyres are specified once again by four OEMs among them BH from Spain and Sunn from France. The company’s growth strategy for the next years is aimed at growing its OEM market share again. The Fusion 5 is one of Hutchinson’s main products to reach the goal.

In Châlette-sur-Loing Hutchinson is keeping control over all production stages from raw material handling to the final product ready for delivery. The only exception is the purification of the rubber as this is done at the plantations, which are mainly located in Malaysia and Ivory Coast. Stacks of rubber, synthetic rubbers, silica, and carbon black are piled up in the rubber production hall awaiting the compound mixing process, which looks very simpey but is actually quite exacting. The composition of the synthetic rubber or poly elastomer varies, depending on the specification of the compound used for the final product. The compound produced at this location is used for bicycles and scooter tyres, sealant for tubeless ready systems, car hoses, and lids for jars and bottles.

The proximity of Hutchinson’s global research and development centre, which is literally around the corner, allows for maximum control of this process. Although the bicycle tyre division is only marginal compared with Hutchinson’s other business activities in the automotive and heavy trucks industry as well as railroad, aviation, and aerospace – it can benefit from its research and development. The Hutchinson Group annually invests more than €170 million in R&D, mainly in its speciality, elastomeric materials research. The test centre in Châlette-sur-Loing is obviously more than the usual mechanical and physical test set-ups including the aging test. Unfortunately no photography is allowed in any of the R&D premises. For example the x-ray tomography allows for an analysis of the design, the production and the level of quality control. Of course, not only for Hutchinson products but also for products from its competitors!

The chemical analysis department goes even one step further in its support of product development in analysing competing products and developing new ones. Hutchinson not only tests new products itself, but also its own tooling. The R&D department even has its own ‘mini’ compound mixing facility in order to produce small quantities in fully-controlled conditions. In the end it all comes down to the ability to develop a reproducible product, regardless of whether it is a bicycle tyre or components for aerospace rockets.

How this works out is clear when going next door to the huge facility in Châlette-sur-Loing housing bicycle tyre production. In an efficiently arranged production line nearly all stages in the production of the bicycles tyres are done in one big hall. This includes Hutchinson’s in-house developed weaving machine allowing them to make any mixture of nylon and aramid for the carcass, as well as the bead, which fits in the production planning. Besides the production of complete tyres, Hutchinson also supplies the tread only for a number of smaller tyre brands.

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