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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, March 17, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you. - Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Bora-hansgrohe reports on Handzame Classic

The team sent me me this:

I posted the Team Quick-Step race report with the results.

Following the squad’s participation in Nokere Koerse, BORA – hansgrohe turned its attention to the Handzame Classic, a slightly longer race with less climbing than Wednesday’s semi-classic. Six WorldTour teams took to the start line of the 16th edition of the West Flanders race, which is being held for the first time as an Hors Categorie event in the UCI calendar. As expected, the race was decided in a bunch sprint, in which A. Hodeg emerged victorious. The highest-placed BORA – hansgrohe rider was Pascal Ackermann, who finished in third place, followed by Matteo Pelucchi, who came fourth.

The Course
Previous editions of the race have generally been decided in a bunch sprint. Despite a redesign of the course which made it slightly more difficult than last year, it was still widely expected to be a day for the fast men of the peloton. The 199.1km route departed from Bredene, subsequently leading the riders up the Sulferberg (1700m, max 6%), the Monteberg (1100m, max 12%), and the main climb of the day, the Kemmelberg (1400m, max 13%). Just prior to entering the local circuit in Handzame, in which they had to navigate a 17.6km loop a total of three times, the riders were faced with the Steenstraat and its 2km-long section of cobblestones. While this sector had the opportunity to facilitate some potential moves from those hoping to thwart a bunch sprint, it was highly unlikely that the sprinters’ teams would have trouble keeping everything together over this sector.

The Ruidenberg (500m, max 8.7%), which the riders scaled four times, formed an integral feature of the final circuit laps. Although not overly steep, after more than 136km of racing, these ascents had the potential to put a bit of a sting into the legs, if even ever so slightly. However, in all likelihood these climbs were not likely to present any significant challenges to the fast men in the lead up to what was widely expected to be a sprinter’s finish.

Team Tactics
BORA – hansgrohe brought several fast finishers to Bredene, among them Erik Baška, who won the race in 2016 after he pipped Dylan Groenewegen to the line. He was joined by Matteo Pelucchi, who has already notched up three podium places in sprint finishes this season, as well as Pascal Ackermann, who showed excellent form at the Abu Dhabi Tour among a quality sprinter field. Just like at Wednesday’s Nokere Koerse, the team’s focus rested predominantly on Pascal Ackermann. The plan was to try to keep the race together, so that it would come to a bunch sprint in Handzame. In the final few kilometres, the team was to concentrate their efforts on bringing Pascal into an optimal position in the finishing strait, to give him the best chance at producing a strong result in the final Belgian race of this week.

The Race
The break was formed by 10 riders who managed to establish themselves as the escapee group of the day after 30km of racing. Their maximum advantage hovered around the 7 minute mark. The ascent of the Kemmelberg managed to split the peloton into two groups, creating a moment of panic in the main field. However, this was only short-lived, with the two groups re-joining not long afterwards, as they headed towards the feedzone. Just before the first ascent of the Ruidenberg, BORA – hansgrohe, with some assistance from Quick-Step Floors, took responsibility for setting the pace, in order to regulate the advantage of the breakaway up the road.

By the second ascent of the Ruidenberg, some of the riders of the originally 10-man-strong breakaway found the going too tough, with the pace being gradually dictated with greater urgency behind, and the group was reduced to 7 riders. With 12km remaining, the breakaway was caught, and the preparations for the sprint were soon on in earnest. With a relatively thinned out group arriving at the finish line in Handzame, A. Hodeg took victory in the bunch sprint, with Pascal Ackermann snatching third place, and Matteo Pelucchi finishing the day in fourth position.

Alvaro Hodeg

Alvaro Hodeg is the day's winner.

From the Finish Line:

“The team did an amazing job today, and I’m really happy with their performance. In the end, I finished in third place, and I’m satisfied with that. Now my focus turns to my upcoming races and I’m looking forward to seeing how well we can perform there. It was a very hectic finish today in the last few kilometres, and I think I may have gone a bit too early in the end. However, we worked well as a team and I think we can improve in the next races.” – Pascal Ackermann

“The race went as we had expected. The boys worked hard to bring back the breakaway. In the final, however, Pascal went a little bit too early, but he nevertheless showed that he is in good form. He missed the victory by a slim margin. He’s still only a young rider, and he can take away a lot from this experience. All in all, he rode well today and put in a good performance. Of course we’d like to have taken the victory, but in a sprint finish, anything can happen, and today Pascal’s timing was just slightly off.” – André Schulze, Sport director 

BMC Medical Update: Vliegen Suffers Fractured Scaphoid, Illness Strikes Bevin and Gerrans

The team sent me this note:

16 March, 2018, Santa Rosa, California (USA): BMC Racing Team's rosters for Milan-San Remo and Volta Ciclista a Catalunya have been reshuffled due to injuries and illness that have sidelined multiple riders.

Illness has ruled Simon Gerrans out of Milan-San Remo and instead, Francisco Ventoso will not line up at Handzame Classic in order to replace Gerrans at the first Monument of the year.

Loïc Vliegen and Patrick Bevin will miss Volta Ciclista a Catalunya due to a fractured scaphoid and upper respiratory infection respectively, and will be replaced by Tom Bohli and Miles Scotson.

Simon Gerrans

Simon Gerrans (shown in 2016) will mis Milano-San Remo

BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Max Testa provided the following updates.

"Patrick Bevin woke up with a fever and has developed an upper respiratory infection. Given Patrick will need three to four days off the bike to recover, he will not be able to line up at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. After a few days off, Patrick can start building up his training and return to a normal training load. His racing program should not be affected."

"Simon Gerrans developed a respiratory infection at Paris-Nice which triggered his asthma. We hoped he would be able to recover in time for Milan-San Remo but over the past two days, his condition has worsened. Given the poor weather and the length of the race, it is in Simon's best interests to not line up on Saturday. Fortunately, Simon will be able to resume training in a few days and his illness won't affect his race program."

"Loïc Vliegen sustained a broken left scaphoid in an accident with a vehicle after Danilith Nokere Koerse. He underwent X-rays in Belgium which showed a non-displaced fracture of the scaphoid in his left hand. In order to speed up Loïc's recovery, he will undergo surgery on Monday to stabilize the fracture. If all goes to plan, Loïc should be able to start on the rollers seven to ten days after the surgery and from there build up his fitness and return to the road. He will most likely need at least four weeks off before he returns to racing but we will continue to monitor his recovery post-surgery and adjust his race program accordingly."

Loïc Vliegen: "It is really disappointing to be out of competition because my form was good and the Ardennes were a big goal for me. It was just bad luck as I was riding back to the team bus after anti-doping control after the finish of Danilith Nokere Koerse. The bus was quite far away and the traffic was bad as it always is after a race finishes. Suddenly a car pulled out to turn left and I hit the front left wheel of the car and went flying over it. I had pain in my shoulder and my wrist but I didn't think there were any major problems. After a few hours at the team hotel, my wrist started to hurt so I went to the hospital and we found out that the scaphoid was fractured. I hope I can come back as soon as possible and get in shape for my next goals."

Due to the change in rosters, BMC Racing Team will no longer line up at GP Denain on Sunday.

Lotto-Soudal to race Volta a Catalunya

The team sent me this:

While the Flemish roads will host quite a few races next week, part of the WorldTour peloton will meet in the North of Spain, where the Volta a Catalunya will take place from Monday 19 March until Sunday 25 March.

Bjorg Lambrecht will be one of the seven Lotto Soudal riders at the start in Calella next Monday. After the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and the Abu Dhabi Tour, this will be the third race of the season for the Belgian neo-pro. In the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, Bjorg managed to join the front group, which consisted of 24 riders, and he eventually crossed the line in 19th position. In the final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, he also claimed a very good 13th place at the top of Jebel Hafeet.

Bjorg Lambrecht

Bjorg Lambrecht at the 2018 Tour Down Under.

Bjorg Lambrecht: “I have learned a lot during my first few months as a professional. At the Abu Dhabi Tour, I realized that it was very important to ride at the front, especially when echelons can form. In the U23 peloton there is always a way to fix the situation, even if you ride at the back of the group, but this is not the case with the pros. I now know that I must hold onto my position and that I must not let others push me to the side. In the finales, you cannot catch your breath once the pace is up, and it’s impossible to hide when you have a bad day. During my first two races as a pro, Thomas De Gendt and Marcel Sieberg helped me position myself before the climbs. They also gave me tips for dealing with the stress during the flatter stages.”

“I got a top-twenty in the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and in the last stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour without being in top shape, and that gives me confidence. It was quite surprising to ride alongside Aru in the final stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour and I was aware that the level was very high. The following week, I trained quite intensively, just like last week. This week is a little quieter, to be as fresh as possible for the Volta a Catalunya.”

“I really want to make my contribution to the team next week. I will race in this region for the first time so it’s a bit of an unknown territory for me. It is important to do this kind of recon in the early stages of my career because I know it could be useful if I ever take part in the Vuelta. Next week will be without any doubt very exciting and I’m looking forward to starting my third race of the season.”

Mario Aerts, sports director Lotto Soudal: “There’s a lot of climbing to do next week, but the sprinters do get some chances. The opening stage can definitely end with a bunch sprint. On the second day there lies a hill in the finale with top at ten kilometres from the finish, but it can definitely be a large group that battles for victory. Although it’s a question which teams will work for a bunch sprint, because apart from Nacer Bouhanni there are no other top sprinters on the start list.”

“Next, two mountain stages are scheduled with a summit finish; Wednesday on Vallter 2000 and Thursday on La Molina. Probably the GC riders will want to win the third stage. We don’t have any GC ambitions. Tim Wellens won’t be racing in Catalunya as he hasn’t sufficiently recovered from illness. Although it wasn’t intended that Tim would aim for an overall result, he would have tried to pick out his stage.”

“The fifth stage is most probable for a breakaway to make it to the finish. Depending on which fast guys are still in the race, there could be a sprint on Saturday. If no teams want to take initiative, also then the escapees stand a chance. Sunday it’s the traditional last stage in Barcelona, with a number of ascents of Montjuïc. A tough stage to end the week.”

“We’ll need to race aggressively. We can choose for an early breakaway in stages where there’s a chance this break will remain ahead or we can attack in the finale. We have strong riders, like Thomas De Gendt who already won twice in Catalunya. Bjorg Lambrecht, our neo-pro, doesn’t need to achieve any stage results. This will be harder than the Abu Dhabi Tour. Bjorg is coming to Catalunya to learn, to support the team and to get experience for the future.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Thomas De Gendt, Adam Hansen, Bjorg Lambrecht, Maxime Monfort, James Shaw and Jelle Vanendert.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Bart Leysen.


UAE-Team Emirates is also headed to Catalonia. Here's the update the team sent me:

The World Tour circuit is moving to the Iberian Peninsula for the Volta a Catalunya, from March 19 to 25.

The seven stages, with two climbing arrivals and a total of twenty four Mountain Grand Prix, will be kind to riders who can get fired up on the mountains, like Daniel Martin, the 2013 winner with no less than four podiums in the Catalonian race.

“Volta a Catalunya has always been a special race for me, not only because I have lived in the region now for ten years so it is as close to a home race as I can get, but also because the course is very suited to my characteristics and it was the scene of my greatest stage race victory when I took the general classification in 2013 – Martin explained – The 2018 route is very tough and really shows the beautiful region off well.

It will be a really hard fight for the overall with a lot of the best GC riders in the world riding, but I think we have a great team to attack this race and be succesfull.

Getting sick at the Paris-Nice was not ideal, of course. I had great condition before the race and believe I could have done well there. I’m not sure how the sickness has effected my form, but I’m finally feeling healthy again, so that’s the most important thing“.

Fabio Aru

Fabio Aru (shown at the start of the 2017 Tour de France) will be racing in Catalonia.

Next to Martin, UAE Team Emirates will line up another big name, Fabio Aru: “This year will be my fifth time participating in the Volta a Catalunya. I’m very familiar with the most important climbs on the route, like La Molina and Vallter 2000: the perfect conditions are in place to take on this race with good prospects and there is still a lot of desire to further improve and achieve important results, after I closed out the Tirreno-Adriatico on a high note in spite of a few unfortunate minor setbacks.”

Here is the list of the riders who will be coached by Sports Directors Joxean Matxin (Spain), Daniele Righi (Italy) and Bruno Vicino (Italy):
– Fabio Aru (Italy)
– Darwin Atapuma (Colombia)
– Roberto Ferrari (Italy)
– Vegard Stake Laengen (Norway)
– Daniel Martin (Ireland)
– Edward Ravasi (Italy)
– Rory Sutherland (Australia)

Shimano or Shimona? Knock-offs spotted on bikes brought to shops for service and assembly

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this piece:

SAN ANTONIO (BRAIN) — Mechanics across the country are reporting that bikes brought in for service or assembly are coming spec’d with knock-off components. Often, customers bring the bikes in new in the box and mechanics are having trouble setting them up to work properly. Customers also are unaware that they bought a bike with look-alike components.

“We had a customer who thought they were getting a great deal on an online bike with Shimano gear system, but a closer look shows the bike is equipped with Shinano gear system,” said Whit Snell, owner of Bike World, which has four stores in San Antonio. “We have also seen Shimona parts and instead of SunRace, they equip with SunRun,” he added.

The knock-offs use very similar fonts and logos that make it easy for them to be confused for the untrained eye. “It’s a daily occurrence now with people buying so many bikes online and getting completely ripped off by fakes,” Snell said.

Snell noted that the bike brand that’s showing up with these look-alike components has the “Aspen” brand on the downtube. Most of them are mountain bikes.

Several mechanics in the World Bicycle Mechanic Forum, a members-only group on Facebook, also reported seeing Shimona and Shinano components on Aspen bikes brought in for service and assembly in stores in Ontario, Canada; Aurora, Illinois; and Detroit. Mechanics said they believed the bikes were promotional giveaways from purchases made at local furniture stores.

A Google search for "Aspen mountain bike for sale" turns up a bevy of websites with personal listings of owners who are selling their bikes.

A Shimano representative said the company has not heard about this recent spate of counterfeits from retailers or its sales team and did not know who could be producing the parts. “Shimano takes this very seriously because it is not good for our brand or our industry on many levels,” said Nolan Moser, assistant VP bicycle component division, Shimano American Corporation. “Historically this has not been an issue.”

You can read the entire story here.

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