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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, March 31, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Don't trust a brilliant idea unless it survives the hangover – Jimmy Breslin

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Author Les Woodland talks about the fabled classic bicycle race that has been sending riders over cobblestone roads for more than 100 years.

Teams look back on 3 Days of De Panne

Lotto-Soudal sent me this:

Tour of Flanders, the Inside Story

The Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde traditionally organized two stages on the last day: a short sprint stage in the morning and an individual time trial in the afternoon. Jasper De Buyst successfully defended his tenth place on GC.

Tony Gallopin didn’t start anymore. The past two days were sufficient to test his body for the Ronde van Vlaanderen after his crash at E3 Harelbeke. Lars Bak also quit the race, after he was sick last night.

The morning stage of 118 kilometres followed the traditional pattern. Nine riders set up a break, but the sprint teams firmly controlled the gap. Neo-pro Rémy Mertz was helping for Lotto Soudal. In the second and last lap of 8.1 kilometres all escapees had been reeled in. Although Marcel Kittel had crashed in the first lap, he won the sprint. He beat Alexander Kristoff. Jens Debusschere got seventh. Luke Durbridge set the fastest time in the time trial of 14.2 kilometres. Philippe Gilbert won the overall classification. Jasper De Buyst was twelfth in the time trial and kept Durbridge four seconds behind him on GC, claiming the tenth place.

Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel wins the morning stage

Jasper De Buyst: “I am not a time trial specialist, so I can be very satisfied with today’s result. It’s always nice to finish on top ten, so I gave all I got today to defend my position. I didn’t want to let go of that tenth place.”

“It’s a pity that I lost time yesterday. At the moment the echelon was formed, I was too far behind and then it’s too late. At first, the chase went well, but at a certain moment it stopped. Tuesday, we had planned to attack early. I chose Tenbosse to make a move. We got away with fifteen riders and that was perfect. I had hoped Tony Gallopin would close the gap, but it’s not surprising that he still had to recover from that crash at E3 Harelbeke. When Philippe Gilbert joined our group, I knew it would be very hard to beat him. He is very strong.”

“It was three hard days. This was a good last test for the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Everyone wants to ride that race, so I am really happy the team selected me. With the changed course, the Ronde now almost passes by my house. I know the roads by heart. I am really looking forward to animate the race with the team.”

Here's winner Philippe Gilbert's Quick-Step Floors team report:

Philippe Gilbert finished first overall at a stage race for the seventh time in his career after a strong all-around performance.

Philippe Gilbert made it 20 victories for Quick-Step Floors in 2017, after coming out on top at the 41st edition of Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, his last race before Ronde van Vlaanderen, where he will make his return after a five-year hiatus, part of a strong eight-man line-up.

Victorious on the tough opening stage, which included a double ascension of the famed Muur van Geraardsbergen, the 34-year-old extended his lead on the following day helped by a stunning ride of the Quick-Step Floors squad in the echelons, where the team blew the peloton to pieces, before capping off his impressive week with a composed display in the individual time trial.

The stage won by Luke Durbridge (Orica-Scott) saw two of the team's riders conclude in the top 10: former Junior World ITT Champion Marcel Kittel, who came fourth after finding early his flowing rhythm in the time trial and scorching the 14.2km-long course in 17:41, and Philippe Gilbert, seventh at the finish, which was more than enough to have him seal the overall win ahead of Matthias Brändle (Trek-Segafredo) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin).

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert preserved his overall lead in the time trial

"In a time trial is always a question of remaining focused before and during the race. Before rolling down the ramp, I got news of Marcel's result and this gave me extra motivation to do well. I was always in control while being out on the course and securing the victory here makes me very happy", said Philippe, only the second Belgian Champion in history to win Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.

"Last year, Quick-Step Floors and Patrick Lefevere put their trust in me and I'm glad to bring home this victory and repay them for the confidence showed. Also, I must thank my teammates, because they kept me safe and rode their hearts out to make sure I'll win this race", continued Gilbert after claiming his seventh career stage race. "I think it was the right choice to prepare Ronde van Vlaanderen here and I'm really satisfied with how I felt and with the outcome. I'm motivated for Sunday and I look forward to this beautiful race. Hopefully, it will turn out to be another good one for our team."

Sep Vanmarcke to lead Cannondale-Drapac squad into Flanders

The team sent me this update:

The last five weeks have been building towards Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen for both racers and fans for good reason: the second Monument of the season in Belgium’s biggest sporting event.

The Tour of Flanders will take the peloton over 260 kilometers that include 18 climbs (called “hellingen” in Flemish). Eleven of these climbs are cobbled. There are also two standalone cobbled sectors mid-race.

The Muur-Kappelmuur returns for the 101st running of Flanders. It was last included in 2007. The Oude Kwaremont and the Paterberg, back-to-back cobbled climbs, typically decide the race. Oude Kwaremont tops off 13 kilometers from the finish. From the Paterberg, it’s seven exhilarating kilometers to the line.

“Everyone in Belgium knows this race. It’s Super Bowl Sunday for bike racing even more so than the Tour de France,” said Taylor Phinney, lining up for this third Flanders start on Sunday.

“It’s bigger than the Olympic Games for the Belgians,” said sport director Andreas Klier.

“I’m a Flemish guy from here,” said Sep Vanmarcke. “It’s even more important and bigger for me than most people.”

Sep Vanmarcke

Vanmarcke riding in the 2014 Paris-Roubaix

The stature of Tour of Flanders is undeniable, but the allure is difficult to explain to those that haven’t stood roadside (or berg-side). It’s the smell of frites and beer and cigarettes. It’s the sight of fans and flags lining every inch of every cobble and every climb and packed into every bar, crowded around every TV screen.

“The first time I rode Tour of Flanders, I was in the breakaway, which was the coolest thing,” said Phinney. “Last year, we had a crash and it was racing from the back. I saw the other side of Flanders. It’s really nervous, and it can be terrifying at times, but it’s Belgium’s race. It stays true to the heart to the sport. This is where it all started.”

“The way of the race is old style,” said Vanmarcke. “It’s full gas with leaders attacking each other and not waiting for the helpers and not waiting for the last five kilometers. It can be full gas racing with still 100 kilometers to go. I think that attracts the fans. It’s small roads, hectic racing, a lot of crashes. That’s part of cycling, and it’s what makes the racing so special.”

“It’s the atmosphere,” said Klier. “As a rider, you’re already excited when you go to the start. You’re here three days, four days before for the recon. You read the newspaper, and you have the favorites – this guy has three starts, this guy has two. The day of the race itself, it’s on the front page of the newspaper."

“As a director, now, I drive the car through, and it gives the feeling that you’re in the race,” Klier added. “You’re not somewhere in the middle of the field between Point A and Point B with not even a dog standing there. You have all the supporters, and every supporter has the flag of his favorite rider. Everything and everyone is moving, and you see the same person 15 times already because he jumps from one place to the other with his car.”    

Klier finished second in Flanders 12 years ago and picked up another two top tens over 13 starts in 14 years. He hopes to guide Sep Vanmarcke to a top result. Vanmarcke has finished third twice in the last three years. Stomach issues and a crash have hampered his build-up and forced him to sit out Gent Wevelgem. Vanmarcke’s focused on his recovery, and he hopes he can factor into his country’s biggest show on Sunday.

“I’ve done everything I can, together with a medical team, to be ready,” said Vanmarcke. “It’s gotten better and I’m happy with that. We’ll have to wait until Sunday to see if the throwing up will come back or not, if I’m strong enough.”

Vanmarcke’s efforts will be buoyed by a strong contingent of riders motivated to support their leader however they can. There is Alberto Bettiol, who rounded out the Dwars door Vlaanderen top 10 and finished in a select group at Gent Wevelgem. Dylan van Baarle was ninth at E3-Harlebeke and eighth at Dwars. He finished sixth at Flanders last year.

Then there’s Phinney. The American lines up for his first classic in #GreenArgyle on Sunday.  “I haven’t done any classics this year because of my leg, because of a small re-injury,” said Phinney. “It’s nice to go into Flanders completely fresh mentally and not scarred by any of the previous classics. It’s a long stretch when you do the whole thing starting in Omloop, which was right when I had my little incident.

“I’ve been hanging out in Belgium this week,” Phinney added. “I have to do something almost every day to make sure my body responds the way I want it to, that my knee is working properly. Everything is getting better. The whole system is responding.”

The quartet will be joined by road captain Sebastian Langeveld, Ryan Mullen, Tom Scully and Tom Van Asbroeck.

“The whole group is devoted to giving Sep the best chance to succeed,” said Klier. “The plan is to protect Sep, to keep him in the right place and the right time as much as we can.”

Cannondale-Drapac for 2017 Tour of Flanders: Alberto Bettiol (ITA), Taylor Phinney (USA), Ryan Mullen (IRL), Sebastian Langeveld (NLD), Tom Van Asbroeck (BEL), Dyan van Baarle (NLD), Tom Scully (NZL), Sep Vanmarcke (BEL)

Giant remains cautious about E-Bike future

Bike Europe sent me this news:

TAICHUNG, Taiwan – Giant had a difficult 2016 with a cumulative revenue decline of 5.57% to USD 1.87 billion (€ 1.74bn) from the previous year. Although sales from e-bikes, mainly in Europe, soared 50% year-on-year in 2016 Taiwan’s biggest manufacturer remains cautious about future revenue in this product category.

Giant Manufacturing Co Ltd reports in its financial statement over 2016 that the e-bike sales contribution stood at 7% of the total revenue. The company expects this will grow to only 10% in the next five years. While others anticipate on a rapidly expanding e-bike market in and outside Europe, also thanks to the growing e-MTB sales, Giant’s expectations in this product category are cautious.

In 2016 the company saw its net profit fall 20% year-on-year to US$ 79 million (€ 73.6mn). Revenue from its China operations contributed 18% of the company’s total sales last year, while sales from Europe and the US accounted for 31% and 21% respectively.

You can read the entire story here.

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