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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Sincerity is the key to success. Once you can fake that, you've got it made. - Groucho Marx

Current racing:

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Annemiek van Vleuten is the new Elite Women's World Time Trial Champion

Here's the report from her Orica-Scott team:

Cycling's World Championships

Dutch champion Annemiek van Vleuten has claimed the gold medal with an impressive ride in the women’s time trial event at the UCI Road Cycling World Championships in Bergen, Norway today.

The performance secures the coveted rainbow jersey for ORICA-SCOTT for the first time in history, after yesterday’s confirmation that the 34-year-old has re-signed with the team for the next two years.

Van Vleuten won the event by 12seconds to compatriot Anna van der Breggen with Australian Katrin Garfoot in third to give ORICA-SCOTT two riders on the podium.

“I still cannot believe it,” van Vleuten said after her victory. “This season I keep surprising myself with what I can do. To be world champion in the time trial I never thought I would be able (to do) this.  This year I started to believe in it and to finish it off is incredible.

“It was really hard because it started almost pouring rain on the course. I did my practice in the dry conditions so I had to be really careful and for sure I lost some time there. I still focused on what I needed to do and Loes Gunnewijk, my coach, was coaching me really well. That was special, she was once before my teammate and now she was coaching me.

“I heard on the climb I was on almost the same time as Anna but in the last five kilometres I heard I was faster so I gave it everything to the finish.”

Van Vleuten

Van Vleuten riding to a rainbow jersey.

It’s been a miraculous turnaround for van Vleuten, who just over 12months ago took a heavy fall whilst leading at the Olympic Games in Rio. The ORICA-SCOTT rider said the experience has made her stronger.

“To have up and downs, and sometimes some real downs, makes the ups even more beautiful,” she said. “This is beautiful without a crash in Rio, but that makes the story really, really special.”

How it happened:

As the field started to roll down the start ramp for the 21.1km race against the clock in Norway the weather was cold but dry. Van der Breggen was second down the ramp and set an early benchmark of 29:02.51 with those immediately to follow well off the pace.

Van Vleuten was the first to look to threaten Van der Breggen, passing the first intermediate split less than one-second behind her Dutch teammate. Shortly afterwards the rain hit and made for wet roads as the 34-year-old tackled the hardest section of the course that included a climb to the second split.

The ORICA-SCOTT rider drifted slightly to 3.81seconds from the lead at the second split but a superb backend performance saw her turn it into a 12second lead by the third intermediate split at 16.5km before holding it to the line.

After her bronze medal in 2016, Garfoot was the third-to-last rider off the ramp. After a steady start that saw her eighth fastest at the first split, the Australian lifted the pace over the climb to move into third overall at the second intermediate split – a position she held until the finish of competition.

UCI reduces team sizes starting in 2018

Here's the report from Reuters:

(Reuters) – Tour de France teams will be limited to eight riders next year as part of governing body the UCI’s modernization of the regulations which were announced on Tuesday. The Giro d’Italia and Vuelta will also be reduced from nine to eight riders in a bid to improve the safety of riders, spectators and the race convoy. The move means the peloton will be reduced to 176 in the three Grand Tours next year, down from 198. Other men’s road races on the UCI International Road Calendar will be reduced to seven riders per team.

Tuesday’s UCI meeting in Bergen, currently hosting the world road championships, also decided on Pruszkow, Poland to host the 2019 world track championships.

Team Sunweb extends contracts with Roy Curvers and Chad Haga

The team sent me this update:

Team Sunweb are pleased to announce that Roy Curvers (NED) and Chad Haga (USA) have extended their contracts with the team. Curvers signs for an additional season following which he will join the team's coaching staff and Haga extends for two years until the end of 2019.

Joining Team Sunweb in 2008, Curvers belongs to the team's very core. Over the years he has evolved into a road captain's role, with his extensive knowledge of both the sport and of Team Sunweb's way of working resulting in Curvers playing a crucial part in many of the team's successes. An experienced rider, Curvers has completed seven Grand Tours and has been a part of the lead-out train that helped propel Team Sunweb to 16 Grand Tour stage victories. He was also road captain during the team's two monumental victories at Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix. Throughout his ten years wearing the team's colours he has become one of the culture-carriers in the team; developing his tactical cycling knowledge and Team Sunweb's team philosophy and working with young up-and-coming talents; skills that will be valuable after making the step to the team's coaching staff.

Since joining the team in 2014, 29-year-old Haga has been an important support rider in Team Sunweb's growth. After making the step up to WorldTour level with the team, he has been part of the squad that sealed four stage victories at the Vuelta a España, five at the Giro d'Italia as well as part of the GC-winning team earlier this year. Alongside Curvers, Haga was also part of Team Sunweb's winning line-up at Milano-Sanremo in 2015. Offering reliable support in the mountains and on the flat, Haga is also a talented time trialist, and has taken numerous strong top tens during his time with the team, most recently 5th at the Critérium du Dauphiné's race against the clock.

Chad Haga

Chad Haga riding in the 2016 Dauphiné

Curvers explained: "This team has grown into one of the best in the world and all of the leaps that we have made as a team have challenged me to develop as a rider and keep me motivated. After being with the team for 10 years, it feels like family to me so I never considered the possibility of leaving as an option. A rider of my age has to start thinking about his future after cycling, and I'm happy that the team has the trust in me and has given me the opportunity to continue to develop after my career on the bike is over. This security gives me peace of mind and makes it easy to fully focus on cycling and to continue to be an important part of the team out on the road during the last part of my career."

Haga said: "I'm really happy to extend with the team. After being with the team for four years I feel really comfortable with my role here and am continuously challenged. I'm really happy supporting our GC guys like Tom and Wilco and hope to continue to build on the successes that we have achieved together. This season was the best year so far and I hope that our progression as a team will continue in the coming years. I look forward to seeing what the future holds and how we continue to succeed together."

Team Sunweb head coach Rudi Kemna (NED) said: "Roy has already been one of our road captains for a number of years and as one of our core riders, he passes much of his experience onto our younger talents helping them to further develop. He is an important part of our classics team and a strong lead-out rider who can make quick, effective tactical decisions when it's needed during a race. His knowledge and understanding of how the team operates means that he is already considered an extension of our coaching staff on the bike, so he will be a great addition when it is time for him to step off the bike.

"Chad is an important link to our general classification team and over the years has developed into a rider that plays a crucial support role when the team are racing towards these goals. His strength in the time trials as well as in the mountains provide added value to the team and it's great that we can continue to benefit from his strengths for the coming two seasons as we look to build on our GC capabilities."

Lotto Soudal: European TT champion Victor Campenaerts joins the team in 2018

The team sent me this news release:

Next year, Lotto Soudal can welcome European time trial champion Victor Campenaerts (almost 26). Campenaerts is no stranger. In 2013, his last year as a rider in the U23 category, the Belgian rode for the U23 team of Lotto Belisol. That season Campenaerts won the U23 Belgian and European time trial title. In 2014 he turned pro at Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise. Last year he transferred to LottoNL – Jumbo and now he’s back in the Belgian Lotto Soudal team. He signed a two-year deal.

Marc Sergeant, sports manager Lotto Soudal: “Victor has made a lot of progress since he turned pro. The past years he invested a lot in time trialling and he can now benefit from all his work. Victor is also ready to win stage races of one week or less, in which a time trial has a big influence on GC, like the Tour of Britain where he finished fourth. Victor is very passionate. I am convinced he will be an asset to our team in a discipline for which we don’t have a top rider at the moment.”


Victor Campenaerts riding in the 2016 Vuelta

Victor Campenaerts: “When I could become pro in 2014, Kurt Van de Wouwer (head sports department Lotto Soudal U23, LTS), advised me to go to Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise because I would get the time and space to grow within that team. It turned out to be the right choice and I am very grateful to Kurt for that good advice. The past years I could keep working on my time trial skills and now I can return to the team with results.”

“My contract with LottoNL – Jumbo ends this season and when Lotto Soudal showed its interest in me, I didn’t hesitate long. I am glad to race again for a Belgian team, although I am very grateful to LottoNL – Jumbo. At Lotto Soudal I will see some familiar faces, like Tiesj Benoot with whom I rode in the U23 team at the time. When I joined the team in 2013, Kurt Van de Wouwer immediately set the goal that I should become pro the next year. It was only the third year that I raced, so that surprised me, but I did become pro in 2014. In the beginning of the 2013 season I crashed hard and fractured my collarbone and radius, which meant that I couldn’t ride on my road bike for a long time, I could only ride my time trial bike. Pretty soon after my comeback I won the U23 Belgian Time Trial Championships and European Time Trial Championships. I had known before that time trialling was one of my strong points, but those performances confirmed it. My time at Lotto Belisol was the perfect preparation on a pro career.”

“Now I want to win time trials for Lotto Soudal as a pro and set results in overall classifications in stage races of one week like the BinckBank Tour, Belgium Tour and Tour of Britain, stage races where you can end high on GC if you ride a good time trial. And of course I aim for more time trial titles. I also hope to inspire the team in team time trials. With riders like Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Thomas De Gendt and Tim Wellens the team has high potential and I would like to share my knowledge with the team.”

Toys’R’Us Files for Chapter 11 in US and CCAA in Canada

Bike Europe sent this this news:

WAYNE, USA – Yesterday Toys’R’Us Inc. announced that it has filed for Chapter 11 relief and protection for certain of its US subsidiaries and in Canada under ‘Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act’ (CCAA) for its Canadian subsidiary. With operating 1,871 stores and webshops in 37 countries that all sell 14 to 20 inched bicycles and 2-wheeled toys as well as P&A like kid helmets, Toys’R’Us is a sizeable player in cycling products and toys.

Despite the fact that the Toys’R’Us operations outside the US and Canada are not included in the Chapter 11 and CCAA proceedings yesterday’s announcement is sending shockwaves through the toys giant suppliers base all around the world.
According to financial media the bankruptcy filing comes after the 2005 USD 6.6 billion takeover of the company by (among others) investor Kohlberg Kravis Roberts which is known for its leveraged buyouts. This left Toys’R’Us burdened with huge debts. This is said to currently stand at USD 4.9 billion which leaves the toy retail giant with USD 400 million in interest payments due in 2018 and USD 1.7 billion of which is due in 2019. Next to its debts Toys’R’Us is also said to be under heavy pressure by the ever increasing competition posed by the likes of Amazon.

In yesterday’s statement Toys’R’Us says on its debt default in the US and Canada that “the company intends to use these court-supervised proceedings to restructure its outstanding debt and establish a sustainable capital structure that will enable it to invest in long-term growth.”

As said Toys’R’Us operations outside of the US and Canada, including its approximately 255 licensed stores and joint venture partnership in Asia, which are separate entities, are not part of the Chapter 11 filing and CCAA proceedings. The company also emphasizes in its statement “The some 1,600 Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us stores around the world – the vast majority of which are profitable – are continuing to operate as usual, providing customers with great service and a curated assortment of merchandise in the toy and baby categories. Customers can also continue to shop for the toy and baby products they are looking for online on the newly launched and web stores. Customers should expect the Company’s loyalty programs, including its Rewards“R”Us, Geoffrey’s Birthday List and Babies“R”Us Registry, to continue as normal.”

“Today marks the dawn of a new era at Toys’R’Us where we expect that the financial constraints that have held us back will be addressed in a lasting and effective way,” said Dave Brandon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “Together with our investors, our objective is to work with our debtholders and other creditors to restructure the USD 5 billion of long-term debt on our balance sheet, which will provide us with greater financial flexibility to invest in our business, continue to improve the customer experience in our physical stores and online, and strengthen our competitive position in an increasingly challenging and rapidly changing retail marketplace worldwide. We are confident that these are the right steps to ensure that the iconic Toys’R’Us and Babies’R’Us brands live on for many generations.”

In the meantime the toy giant has received a commitment for over USD 3.0 billion in debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing from various lenders, including a J.P. Morgan-led bank syndicate and certain of the Company’s existing lenders, which, subject to Court approval, is expected to immediately improve the Company’s financial health and support its ongoing operations during the court-supervised process.

You can read the entire story here.

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