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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, March 16, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting. - Pierre Abelard

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Milano-San Remo team updates

Lotto-Soudal sent me this news:

Saturday it’s time for the first of five cycling monuments, that day the 109th edition of Milan-Sanremo is scheduled!

La Primavera is the longest of the Spring Classics. It takes 291 kilometres to ride from the start in Milan to the finish on the Via Roma in Sanremo. The course of this WorldTour race is known. After ninety flat kilometres the peloton starts the long, but steady ascent of Il Turchino, with summit almost halfway the race. The descent of Turchino is twelve kilometres long. From then on the route takes the riders along the winding roads of the Ligurian coast.

With less than sixty kilometres to go the riders arrive at the Capi: Capo Mele, Capo Cervo and Capo Berta. From the top of Capo Berta it’s only eleven kilometres till the foot of Cipressa. This hill of 5.6 kilometres has an average gradient of 4.1%. Nine kilometres from the finish, the Poggio awaits the  riders. This 3.7 kilometres long climb has been part of the course since 1961. The Poggio has an average gradient of 4%, with peaks of 8%. It’s the moment for punchers for a decisive attack and the moment to get rid of some sprinters. After a short, technical descent it’s only two kilometres towards the finish. The last straight line is 750 metres long.

André Greipel is the leader of the Lotto Soudal team. The triple German champion returns to Milan-Sanremo after two years of absence. This will be his sixth participation. As usual, there’s a long list of top riders at the start. With Kwiatkowski, Sagan and Alaphilippe, last year’s top three is present. Cavendish, Démare, Gerrans, Kristoff and Pozzato are five other former winners on the start list. Other big names are Ewan, Kittel, Van Avermaet and Viviani.

Herman Frison, sports director Lotto Soudal: “We can win Milan-Sanremo with André Greipel, he’s our leader for La Primavera. With Jens Debusschere and Jasper De Buyst we have two more fast riders in our line-up. Jens Keukeleire can respond to attacks on Cipressa or lead our fast riders across the top.”

“Like every year, the ascent of Cipressa will be a crucial phase, that’s the moment of truth. Then it will become clear who has good legs and who hasn’t. The sprinters will need to hang on when riders attack. If a group takes off on Cipressa or Poggio we need to make sure we have someone in it. André Greipel is in a good condition, he rode very well at Paris-Nice.”

“According to the weather forecasts it will rain on Saturday. In a race of almost three hundred kilometres the rain and cold will no doubt have their effect. Of course there are riders who like the rain, like Tim Wellens who won’t be participating, but in the end it’s the same for everybody.”

“I expect a traditional scenario with a small breakaway that will be controlled by the teams of the many sprinters and punchers. When we reach the Capi it will be a matter of riding attentively at the front.”

Andre Greipel

André Greipel (shown at this year's Tour Down Under) will be Lotto-Soudal's team leader at Milano-San Remo.

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Lars Bak, Jasper De Buyst, Jens Debusschere, André Greipel, Jens Keukeleire, Nikolas Maes and Marcel Sieberg.

Sports director: Herman Frison.

Here's EF Education First-Drapac's Milano-San Remo update:

EF Education First-Drapac heads into the season’s first Monument with a squad capable of competing in a sprint or in a more attacking, isolated finish.

Matti Breschel, Simon Clarke, Mitch Docker, Sebastian Langeveld, Dan McLay, Sacha Modolo, and Taylor Phinney will all toe the Milano-Sanremo start line for EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale.

The so-called “Sprinters’ Classic” is truly one of the season’s most difficult races to predict. Its extraordinary length (300km) coupled with its short climbs near the finish and a harrowing descent that whittles the final group combine to produce a special race with varied winners. The symphony of La Primavera builds for hours across the Italian countryside before scattering loudly in the races final kilometers.

“It’s special because it’s uncertain,” said sport director Fabrizio Guidi. “Every year we’re asking what’s going to happen on the uphill, the downhill of the Cipressa, how to manage the Poggio. Who will attack and when? There are all these questions. Nobody is really able to say what will happen. Until we see the final, then everything seems easy to predict.”

Modolo has recovered from his crash at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and is ready to captain the team at MSR. “I feel tense, but it is a good tension. Being a leader give me responsibility, a sense of duty and a desire to repay trust,” Modolo said. “It is the first Monument race of the year, and being an Italian race, for us Italians, it’s everything.”

Sacha Modolo

Sacha Modolo (shown at this year's Ruta del Sol) will captain EF Education First-Drapac.

In a seven-hour race, staying efficient is key, Modolo notes. “Wasting as little as possible throughout the race and get on the Poggio fresh. Then the sprint itself is a different sprint from the others, as it comes after 300 kilometers. The rider who wins has retained that little bit more energy throughout the race,” said Modolo. “I feel good. I’m pedaling well. I’m very confident of doing a good performance on Saturday and also the week after in Belgium.”

Phinney is currently in Milan waiting for the rest of the team to join him. “Sacha is going really well. And I think we’re all motivated as a group to help him out,” Phinney said. “It’s nice to get some fresh blood in with Dan McLay, and I’m looking forward to racing with Mitch Docker for the first time this year. We have a stout squad. Personally, Milan-San Remo is one of my favorite races. Top two in my Monuments list. So I’m always just ready to race it. It’s long but it goes by pretty fast. It’s a special race. The last time I got beat up by Tirreno was in 2012, and I got seventh in Milan San Remo that year.”

JONATHAN VAUGHTERS’ TAKE: “The unique demand of that race is the length. The Poggio is just this intense five-minute period. So it’s funny – it’s this seven-hour race that’s decided in five minutes. It’s a weird combination. It’s not like any of the other classics.”

EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale for 2018 Milan-San Remo:

Sport Director​s:
Fabrizio Guidi (ITA)
Ken Vanmarcke (BEL)

Matti Breschel (DEN)
Simon Clarke (AUS)
Mitch Docker (AUS)
Sebastian Langeveld (NLD)
Taylor Phinney (USA)
Dan McLay (GBR)
Sacha Modolo (ITA)

Mitchelton-Scott will be there. Here's their preview:

Mitchelton-SCOTT return to Milan-San Remo on Saturday for the 109th edition of the race with Giro d’Italia stage winner Caleb Ewan looking to improve on last year’s top ten finish in what will be his second appearance in La Classicissima.

Caleb Ewan

Caleb Ewan earlier this year

The first monument of the season covers 291kilometres over an iconic route that has hardly altered for over a century. Known as the only one of the five monuments that a sprinter can win, albeit a sprinter that can make it over the ‘tre capi’ followed by the Cipressa and Poggio climbs before the finish on Via Roma in downtown San Remo.

Mitchelton-SCOTT tasted victory here in 2012 and have been looking to repeat the feat ever since, Ewan will have strong support at the weekend with his full lead-out train in attendance including Slovenian champion Luka Mezgec, Tour Down Under winner Daryl Impey and Roger Kluge.

Multiple grand tour winner and classics specialist Matteo Trentin lines up alongside the experienced Paris-Roubaix legend Mathew Hayman and Kiwi Jack Bauer as the Australian outfit go into the race with a squad packed with strength and versatility.


Objectives – Key Points:

The key moments in the race have traditionally been the last two climbs with the Cipressa (5.6km, 4.1% average) coming first followed by the iconic Poggio (3.7km 4-8%) and fast descent into the final nine kilometres and a flat finish.

Positioning for both climbs will be vitally important and the main objective will be to be present in the front group on the descent to have a chance of contesting the final.

Team Race History:

Caleb Ewan: “Last year I managed to get over the Cipressa and the Poggio in the front group and I was feeling good on the climbs and happy to finish in the top ten on my first appearance and if you’re to stand any chance of winning you have to be in a good position over those two last climbs.”

“It’s a long race, at nearly 300kilometres and most of my training lately has been geared towards getting through a race of that length and having enough left to be competitive at the end.

“Having done the race last year I know what to expect. I’m another year older, I’ve got another season in my legs and in 2017 I had to abandon Tirreno-Adriatico early on with sickness and didn’t get the benefit of going deeper into the race.

“We have a really strong team for the race, it’s the only monument that a sprinter can win and ever since I turned professional it’s a race that I wanted to take part in and to try and win.”

Head Sport director Matt White: “Milan-San Remo will always be a special race for us, it was the first monument we won back in 2012 and a race that really put the team on the map.

“We have a really versatile and experienced group of riders lining up on Saturday and I am quietly confident that regardless of the way the race pans out we can achieve a great result.”

Tejay Van Garderen to lead BMC at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya

BMC sent me this news:

15 March, 2018, Santa Rosa, California (USA): Tejay van Garderen will return to the start line in Spain next week where he is set to lead BMC Racing Team's General Classification ambitions at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (19 - 25 March).

A strong and well-rounded team will support Tejay van Garderen at the seven-day UCI WorldTour stage race, BMC Racing Team Sports Director Valerio Piva said.

Tejay van Garderen

Van Garderen racing at last year's Vuelta

"We are going into the race with Tejay as our leader for the General Classification. He is feeling good following his crash at Paris-Nice and he is really motivated to start racing. He has won stages here on two occasions in the past and both of those finishes will feature in this year's race, so he knows it well."

"We will have a strong team around Tejay and as well as looking for chances to go for the General Classification, the objective for everyone will be to try and win a stage. Patrick Bevin is coming out of a strong performance at Tirreno-Adriatico and perhaps he can try something on the first day. Then with Joey Rosskopf, Danilo Wyss, Brent Bookwalter, Loïc Vliegen and Nicolas Roche, who is coming from Paris-Nice, we have a good group of riders who can climb well, and this will important looking at this year's parcours. It will be a hard stage race, but I think we have the right people for the job and we will try to do a good race and support Tejay," Piva explained.

Van Garderen is looking forward to getting back to racing after being forced to withdraw from Paris-Nice following a crash on stage 1. "I am feeling good on the bike. I was a little worried after my crash in Paris-Nice as you never know how hitting your head is going to affect performance. I took a few days off to recover, but after getting back on the bike, I haven't felt any ill effects from the crash. I like this year's Volta Ciclista a Catalunya course and I have good memories from both La Molina and Vallter 2000. This has been a race that has brought me lots of success in the past and I hope to keep that trend going. We have a strong, motivated team and we'll be looking to perform well," van Garderen said.

Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (19 - 25 March)

Rider Roster: Patrick Bevin (NZL), Brent Bookwalter (USA), Nicolas Roche (IRL), Joey Rosskopf (USA), Tejay van Garderen (USA), Loïc Vliegen (BEL), Danilo Wyss (SUI)

Sports Directors: Valerio Piva (ITA), Jackson Stewart (USA)

Specialized switching to omni-channel sales in Europe

Bike Europe sent me this piece. It shows how rapidly the bike business is changing:

DOETINCHEM, the Netherlands – Specialized is the next renowned brand to introduce omni-channel in Europe. For the roll-out of this distribution strategy the company uses its S-Connect digital processing system. It provides consumers the opportunity to check real-time product availability at the dealer and order online as well.

Previously Specialized launched omni-channel distribution in the US, Australia. China and Japan. It’s now introducing online sales in Europe as well starting with the United Kingdom. “The e-commerce market in the UK is very strong,” explains Koos de Boer, European Marketing Coordinator at Specialized Europe. “For us this made it a logical step to start online sales in the UK after we discussed it with our dealers. We still regard them as our main distribution partners.”

In their financial report, [retailer] Halfords announced that “several upgrades to their websites, focusing on making the customer journey more seamless on mobile devices. These improvements contributed to a 22 percent increase in the total value of orders made through mobile devices, year-on-year.” Halfords also reported that the Cycle Republic’s webstore contributed approximately 15 percent of the brand’s sales in the first half of 2017.

In May 2016 Halfords, UK’s biggest bike retailer, expanded its ecommerce reach by the take-over of webshops Tredz and Wheelies where premium brands like Cube, Giant and Specialized are offered online.

You can read the entire story here.

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