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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, April 22, 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

A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them. - John C. Maxwell

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Michele Scarponi killed while training

2011 Giro d'Italia winner Michele Scarponi was killed today (Saturday, April 22) while training on his bike, near his home in Filottrano, Italy. The day before he had just finished fourth in the Tour of the Alps.

In his long racing career Scarponi also won the 2004 Peace Race; 2004 & 2010 Lombardy Weeks; 2007 Settimana Internazionale Coppi & Bartali; 2009 Tirreno-Adriatico; 2011 Giro del Trentino & Volta a Catalunya; 2013 GP della Costa Etruschi.

Here is the statement from his Astana team:

Michele died in the morning while training.

This is a tragedy too big to be written.

Our athlete Michele Scarponi died this morning while he was training on his bike close to his home in Filottrano. Michele was hit by a van on a crossroad.

Born in September 25th 1979, he left a wife and two kids.

Michele finished 4th in the Tour of Alps yesterday afternoon in Trento. Then he went home in Filottrano (Ancona) by car with his masseur and was home in the evening to his family.

This morning Michele went out on his bike for an early morning training and there the tragedy happened.

We lost a great champion and a special guy, always smiling in every situation, he was a real milestone and a landmark for everyone in the Astana Pro Team.

The Astana Pro Team clings to the Michele family in this incredibly painful moment of sorrow and mourning.

Michele Scarponi

Michele Scarponi winning the first stage of the Tour of the Alps

Tour of the Alps team reports

We'll start with the news from winner Geraint Thomas' Team Sky

Story of the Tour de France Volume 2

Geraint Thomas put in an assured performance to claim overall victory at the Tour of the Alps. The Welshman had an answer for every attack on an exciting final day of racing, eventually crossing the line in third place in Trento to ensure he became the first Brit to win the race overall.

Team Sky pulled together on a mountainous final stage, overcoming an early crash for Ian Boswell to rally around Thomas. After Pete Kennaugh, Phil Deignan and Kenny Elissonde set a tempo on the front, the real action kicked off on the Monte Bondone. An early attack from second-placed Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) caused surprised and blew the group apart.

Thomas was able to calmly ride across the gap, before fending off a further two attacks from the Frenchman. Mikel Landa put in a mammoth ride to drag himself back to the group, setting a hard tempo and pacing an elite lead group down the final major descent.

Pinot launched one further acceleration on the day’s late final climb, and despite winning the sprint for stage victory he was unable to claw back enough time on Thomas. Seven seconds was the eventual winning margin, with Landa backing up his team-mate in fifth, 42 seconds back.

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas (left) wins Tour of the Alps stage three

The success was Team Sky’s third victory in as many editions of the race. With Richie Porte (2015) and Landa (2016) taking wins in its previous Giro del Trentino iteration.

After the race a happy Thomas explained: “It’s good that we managed to finish it off today, in spite of Boswell’s nasty crash at the start. The right breakaway went away, and we could ride on Gazprom-Rusvelo’s wheels until the foot of the Monte Bondone. The other teams piled on the pressure on the climb with plenty of attacks, but my decision was to try to control Pinot, that was arguably the most dangerous rival. After the climb, Landa just led us all the way to the finish.

“Taking the race and managing to defend a lead for two days was certainly a morale boost and a good indication for the Giro, but a three-week race is an all together different story."

Team Sky were forced down to just five riders after just 10km of the final stage after Boswell went down.

Despite being forced to abandon the race there was good news, as medical checks showed no fractures for the American. Team Sky Doctor Inigo Sarreigui confirmed: “The X-rays came back all clear for Ian which is good news. He’s lost a bit of skin in the crash and sustained a bit of bruising but no fractures which is good news.

“We’ll monitor him over the next couple of days and see how he does over the weekend. We’re hopeful he will still be able to start in Romandie on Tuesday.”

Here's the Tour of the Alps update from BMC:

21 April, 2017, Trento (ITA): The final day of racing at Tour of the Alps was also the longest and saw Brent Bookwalter head onto the podium after finishing second in a reduced bunch sprint for the line.

A fast start to stage 5 saw riders battling to get into the breakaway with Manuel Senni and Kilian Frankiny both part of early attempts. But, it wasn't until the peloton had covered almost 30km, of the 192.5km course, that Rosskopf was able to make a move as part of a nine-rider group.

The successful breakaway soon began to establish a solid lead over the peloton, and as they approached the bottom of the first categorized climb, Passo Durone, their lead had extended to over five minutes.

As the kilometers passed by, the gap between the peloton and the Rosskopf breakaway remained steady at 5'30". However with 80km to go and the day's second categorized climb, Monte Bondone, on the horizon, the chase from the peloton began to heat up.

Rosskopf continued to push on as the breakaway began the 19.4km climb but the gap continued to fall, and eventually, attacks from the reduced bunch behind saw them brought back into the fold with less than 50km remaining.

Riders were immediately scattered across the road as the main General Classification contenders tried to get the measure of one another. But, as they neared the summit of the climb, a group of fifteen riders, which included Brent Bookwalter and Rohan Dennis, was sitting at the head of the race.

At the end of a long, fast & technical descent and with only 20km to go, it was clear that the stage win would be contested from this leading group of riders.

Inside the final 10km, riders began to attack before the top four riders on the General Classification went clear; Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) and Michele Scarponi (Astana Team). As they have been doing all week, Dennis and Bookwalter worked hard to bring the group back together and ultimately the race headed towards a bunch sprint.

With only meters to go, Pinot launched his sprint with Bookwalter gritting his teeth and holding onto Pinot's wheel before taking an incredibly close second place on the line and BMC Racing Team's third podium finish of the week.

Thibaut Pnot

Thubaut Pinot wins the final stage just in front of Brent Bookwalter

Brent Bookwalter:

"It was a really technical finish today, and we had some great information relayed to us from the team who had gone ahead to Trento. So, we knew there were cobbles and that the last corners were going to be tight, but we didn't know exactly. From that, we could tell that positioning was going to be really important, and in the end, I was close but just not close enough."

"I went into that last corner telling myself I needed to be in first or second position and I did that, but I had to go on the inside and just lost a little speed against Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) who is also quick on a finish like that."

"Today was a really big mountain stage. The stages here have just been getting harder and harder and today was a long day with a lot of climbing, and I was suffering for a while. I definitely wouldn't have been in that front group if it hadn't have been for Joey Rosskopf and especially Rohan Dennis."

"When Joey got caught, he did a great job pacing me back, and Rohan backed off to help pull me over the top and rode for me the rest of the way. It was really an honor and privilege to have the team throw their support behind me, and I am grateful for the opportunity. It was just a shame that I couldn't get the big prize at the end. But, I am proud of our effort. For me to be up there with that caliber of riders at the finish is a good sign and a testament to the work I have been doing."

Sports Director, Max Sciandri:

"It was a fantastic move by Joey Rosskopf at the beginning of the race. Every day he has been doing an incredible job helping Rohan and the team so, today, he had a free role, and he got in a good break. Unfortunately, it didn't work out, and then the race was on again."

"We had Rohan and Brent Bookwalter up there at the front, and they did a great job together. It was another sprint, and you can never predict how a sprint will play out so, I think we came out with a good result."

"Overall we have had a good week. We have had ups and downs like every team, but I think we can be positive coming away from the race."

Lotto-Soudal headed to Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Here's the team's preview:

The day after tomorrow, Sunday 23 April, the Classics season traditionally ends with Liège-Bastogne-Liège. It is the 103rd edition of La Doyenne. While it was snowing last year, it will probably be dry this year with a maximum temperature of eight degrees.

Ten hills are spread on the route of 258 kilometres. The peloton will only reach the first hill after seventy kilometres of racing. Because of roadworks, the race won’t pass over the Wanne, Stockeu and Haute-Levée. These hills are replaced by Côte de Pont, Côte de Bellevaux and Côte de la Ferme Libert. The next hill is the Col du Rosier, with 4.4 kilometres the longest hill of the day but definitely not the steepest. In the last fifty kilometres of the race the riders need to cover four hills: Col du Maquisard, Côte de La Redoute, Côte de La Roche-aux-Faucons and Côte de Saint-Nicolas from where 5.5 kilometres are yet to cover. Although the climbing isn’t over at that point. The last kilometre towards the finish in Ans is still very steep.

Tim Wellens: “Liège-Bastogne-Liège is the fourth race in two weeks for me. Although I felt good every time, I didn’t set a top result. I am not worried about my shape. I am very keen on doing well on Sunday, in a race that matches my skills. The past years, I wasn’t able to ride the finale, but I have the ambition to do so this time. When you are in the running in the finale of Liège, you automatically get a good result.”

“According to me, there are two crucial phases: the road to La Redoute and the road to La Roche-aux-Faucons. Both times we will head downhill, at a high pace, towards the bottom of the hill. Both hills are very narrow. Especially on La Roche-aux-Faucons it will be a hard battle. If you are not in front, you can forget it, because the group will definitely split on the climb. It’s important that your legs still feel fine to be able to be positioned at the front and to have teammates by your side to take you to the bottom of the climb. Liège-Bastogne-Liège is an elimination race. Today, we did a recon of the course. Because of roadworks in Stavelot, the route has changed. The Wanne, Stockeu and Haute-Levée were replaced by three other hills. It’s not an easy part of the course, but I don’t expect it to influence the race a lot.”

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens in last year's Amstel Gold Race

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sean De Bie, Bart De Clercq, Thomas De Gendt, Tomasz Marczynski, Rémy Mertz, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Bart Leysen.

China bike share craze: Fushida grows to 20 million production

Bike Europe sent me this interesting news:

TIANJIN, China – Whether it is a craze or not, the bike sharing boom in China brings demand for new bicycles to unprecedented levels. Bike sharing scheme operator Ofo and the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer Fushida entered into a strategic cooperation. The contract includes an annual production of 10 million bicycles for Ofo.

The China Bicycle Association reports that Ofo is now taking up one eight of the country’s total bicycle production. As part of the agreement Fushida will double its capacity from 10 to 20 million units annually.

According to Fushida chairman Xin Jiansheng “Including the Ofo agreement we expect our annual sales to exceed the 20 million mark, accounting for more than 20% of the global market. The Ofo bikes will be made on the assembly lines previously used for European and American brands. These production lines are highly automated and workers operating skills are above the average standard in the industry.”

Both parties also agreed to create an R&D centre and cooperate in supply chain improvements as well as in the global expansion of bike sharing schemes.

Ypou can read the entire story here.

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