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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown. It places me on a far higher plane than any politician. - Charlie Chaplin

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Volta a Catalunya stage two team reports

We'll start with winner and new GC leader Alejandro Valverde's Movistar's update:

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At a finish where he already took a magnificent solo win three years ago – the long, uphill straight leading to the sports arena of Valls (Tarragona) named by the late Xavi Tondo – Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) raised his arms victorious again on Tuesday. The Spaniard has already taken a win in the 2018 Volta a Catalunya, plus a GC lead notched up after only two days in regular Blue kit following his overall victory in the event last season.

The work by the Telefónica-backed squad over the whole 175km stage two was again flawless. Erviti, Anacona and Pedrero covered their team leaders against the wind – which caused a delay nearing one hour behind the average timetable scheduled by the organisers – and picked up the pace when things seemed more dangerous for them, even helping out Valverde and Nairo Quintana to take 2″ and 1″ bonus at the day’s final intermediate sprint. At the decisive climb of Lilla (Cat-2), just 10km from the finish, the rhythm by the Movistar Team and Mitchelton-Scott dropped back race leader Álvaro Hodeg (QST) and opened room to a reduced bunch’s sprint, where Rojas supported Valverde perfectly.

Alejandro, who’s got already six wins to his 2018 account -two stage victories + GC in Valencia; one stage + GC in Abu Dhabi-, helps the Movistar Team improve their tally this season to nine and his own counter to 114 victories as a pro competitor. The Volta, in turn, will kick off its trio of mountain stages on Wednesday over a significantly shortened route (153km) from Sant Cugat to Camprodon – and not to the mountain-top finish of Vallter 2000, as initially proposed, instead going through a snow (and avalanche)-free route over Bracons (Cat-1) and Collabós (Cat-2).

Alejandro Valverde wins Catalonia stage 2

Alejandro Valverde wins the stage and takes over the GC.

REACTION / Alejandro Valverde:
“We spent the whole day at the front of the bunch because of the strong winds, which could have caused some splits as we saw in previous years. After the break was caught, a window opened for us to go chase the bonus seconds, so we went for them. However, it wasn’t on the team’s plans to aim for the stage win, not at all. It was just that Scott got through the final climb at a really strong pace, and with the bunch strung out and many sprinters dropping, it was easier for us to seek for a good position into the main field – that was where we chose to go for the win.

“The finish was slightly uphill – I knew it well, and I kept in mind that it was good for me – and the work by José Joaquín from the summit of the climb was phenomenal, he kept me at the front at all times. I’ve won here in Valls with a solo attack, into a sprint… It’s always beautiful to take a victory in this town and make a tribute to our friend Xavi Tondo, one we always remember wherever we go. It’s also a victory for my son Iván, who broke his collarbone last weekend while playing football. I was so sad not to be able to support him at home – hope this victory brings some joy and strength to him.

“Tomorrow’s stage will be really hard, especially for my team-mates. It’s tough to take the GC lead so early in the race, because you exige a lot from the rest of the team. Hopefully, on roads quite narrower than today’s, as long as we keep the front it should be easier. I already had pressure on my shoulders before this victory, so it doesn’t change really much – it just gives you more confidence to see things going so well. It’s time to ride calm and safely, and do our best!”

Here's the report from second-place Daryl Impey's Mitchelton-Scott team:

Last year’s stage winner Daryl Impey came close to taking another victory today in Volta Ciclista Catalunya after sprinting to second place in a reduce bunch sprint in Valls.

After great teamwork by Mitchetlon-SCOTT to shrink the main bunch over the final climb of the day, Impey proved to have good legs in the final sprint, coming close but in the end beaten by Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

Early breakaway
In the opening 15kilometres of the 175kilometre day, three riders, Mikel Bizkarra (Euskadi-Murrias), Igor Merino (Burgos-BH) and Antonio Molina (Caja Rural) opened up a three minute advantage over the peloton on the second relatively ‘flat’ stage.

The group continued to yo-yo between one and a half minutes and three minutes throughout the stage before one rider bridged across but with 40kilometres to go the their chances of a victory were over as they returned to the bunch.

Second day, second sprint
On the final climb of the day with 14kilometres to go Rob Power and Carlos Verona lifted the tempo and the bunch began to shrink down. With many sprinters not present in the front group, Mitchelton-SCOTT kept the pressure on, keeping their general classification contenders out of trouble and working to keep Impey in a good position.

Coming from behind, Impey launched out of the wheels and battled all the way to the line. The South African champion now moves up to third place overall at six seconds behind the new leader Valverde.

Daryl Impey - 2nd on stage 2
“It was always in the plan to light it up on the last climb. First priority was to keep our general classification ambitions in tact during the crosswind section and then for me to have full support in the end.

“The boys did an amazing job, Rob really put everyone in the hurt locker and Carlos and Jack delivered me to where I needed to be in the end. I took Valverde’s wheel but had to break after a rider dive bombed into the final corner.”

“I had to make up ground and sprint through some traffic on the right which was ideal but Valverde is a class act and to lose to him is not bad. Like I said, we will keep trying and tomorrow will be an exciting day in the mountains for us.”

“I felt good which is a shame after all the great work the boys did, I am still proud we took the race head on which shows the team has confidence in me.”

UAE-Team Emirates to race upcoming Northern Classics

Here's the update the team sent me:

UAE Team Emirates will make a strong outing in Belgium in the next days with a team captioned by Alexander Kristoff, who placed fourth in Milano-Sanremo on Saturday.

The team races E3 Harelbeke on Friday, a sort of mini Tour of Flanders over many of the same climbs. And on Sunday, March 25, the sprinters classic Gent-Wevelgem. The first phase ends with the Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday, March 28.

“We are going in Belgium to do well, I expect some good things from Kristoff, and also from our second line Ben Swift, who was particularly strong in Milano-Sanremo,” said Sports Director Mario Scirea.

“Then we will look for some strong efforts from Bystrøm and Consonni, young riders that have the right characteristics for these types of races.”

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff at last year's De Panne race.

Roster: Alexander Kristoff (Nor), Filippo Ganna (Ita), Ben Swift (GB), Sven Erik Bystrøm (Nor), Marco Marcato (Ita), Oliviero Troia (Ita), Simone Consonni (Ita).

Sports Directors: Mario Scirea (Ita), Philippe Mauduit (Fra).

Jens Keukeleire looks ahead to first edition of Bruges - De Panne

Lotto-Soudal sent me this news:

Tomorrow the Three Days of Bruges – De Panne (Europe Tour) is scheduled. This race is the successor of the Three Days of De Panne – Koksijde, which until last year took place in the week of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. This year it’s a one-day race for men on Wednesday and a one-day WorldTour race for women on Thursday.

Jens Keukeleire is part of the Lotto Soudal line-up for tomorrow. The Belgian crashed Saturday in Milan-Sanremo, just before the Poggio. Jens hurt his hip, but can continue his race programme without any problem.

Jens Keukeleire: “I was riding a few metres behind Mark Cavendish when he rode into the traffic divider. I braked, but couldn’t avoid crashing and took a tumble. Luckily I didn’t have any serious injuries. I landed on my hip, but the damage wasn’t too bad. I went to the physio for a treatment and I can race tomorrow.”

“I am so happy the time of the Flemish Spring Classics has finally come. I already started counting down in the off-season. I won’t call all previous races mere preparation, but I rode them to build up towards what comes now. I had a good winter and I am looking back with satisfaction on the races I rode. Things went pretty smoothly so far. I had a mild cold a few times, but never anything serious.”

The men leave the Grote Markt of Bruges around half past eleven, heading towards the official start. After 202.4 kilometres the winner will cross the finish line in De Panne. There are five hills in the first half of the course, including the Kemmelberg. After 150 kilometres of racing the riders will cross the finish line a first time before entering the first of two laps of 25.7 kilometres. A lap that takes the riders towards De Moeren.

Jens Keukeleire: “The new race can be compared to the second stage of the former Three Days of De Panne – Koksijde although it’s another start place. That start is close to my home and that’s always nice. At first this race wasn’t part of my programme, but I am glad I am part of the line-up in the end.”

“I’m a fan of the new calendar. You need to choose less. Many didn’t ride De Panne the past years because they wanted to participate in the three WorldTour races: E3 Harelbeke, Ghent-Wevelgem and Dwars door Vlaanderen. Now there is more time to recover in between the races.”

“Just like the second stage of the former Three Days of De Panne – Koksijde we need to cover a few hills. We also ride through De Moeren three times and that’s always a dangerous moment, even though the wind wouldn’t be beneficial for forming echelons. I am really glad the organisation has chosen not to remain along the coast with the local circuit, but that De Moeren are also part of the local lap. The course is definitely challenging and there are opportunities in the hill section and De Moeren to set up an attack. I want to animate tomorrow’s finale and achieve a good result with our team. If it comes down to a sprint Jens Debusschere is our man.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Jens Debusschere, Frederik Frison, Moreno Hofland, Jens Keukeleire, Nikolas Maes, Rémy Mertz and Jelle Wallays.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

Is Graphene tire revolution finally coming?

Bike Europe sent me this tantalizing story

LOMAZZO, Italy – Is it finally living up to the promises; is the revolution in tires really coming now? It appears so now a new patent has been announced by Graphene producer Directa Plus while bigger orders have been placed by the one and only bicycle tire maker using this wonder material; Vittoria.

Already in January 2013 the Graphene tire revolution was announced. At that time Vittoria opened its new compound factory in Thailand; a facility that would make Vittoria the world’s first tire maker using Graphene in its compounds. However, it took some time to incorporate the wonder material in its tire range as well as the compounds to benefit from features like air-tightness, lower rolling resistance and better grip.

For using the Graphene additive in its compounds Vittoria entered into a joint venture with Directa Plus SpA. This company recently announced that it has received the patent for Graphene Plus (G+) elastomeric composition for tires. G+ simultaneously reduces resistance and increases grip in automobile, motorcycle and bicycle tires.

Directa Plus got the patent from the Italian Patent and Trademark Office. It’s for the product and application of its new graphene based solution for enhancing the performance of tires. Specifically, the patent covers Directa Plus’ ‘elastomeric composition comprising graphene and tire components’.

In a statement Directa Plus says “The G+ use in tires produces the joint effect of simultaneously reducing rolling resistance and increasing grip. The result is a tire that is both faster and safer in turning under braking or in extreme weather conditions. In addition, the effectiveness of G+ reduces fuel consumption as well as increasing the lifespan of the tire due to reduced wear. As a result the application of G+ offers economic efficiency as well as environmental sustainability.”

The Directa Plus patent announcement also points to its relationship with Vittoria Group on which it stated “Vittoria has launched multiple award winning G+ bicycle tires for on road and off road use.” Now, however, Directa Plus “Is also conducting ongoing tests with other automotive and potential industrial partners of its G+ elastomeric composition for tires.”

Giulio Cesareo, CEO of Directa Plus, said “The push for fuel efficiency from consumers and environmental groups means there is a growing demand for eco-friendly tires. Offering tires that are both sustainable and performance enhancing reflects the core values of Directa Plus, and is bringing real innovation to an established and expanding industry. The unique qualities of G+ have been validated in bicycle tires through our commercial partnership with Vittoria. The receipt of this latest patent means we are now well positioned to expand the rollout of G+ tires to the global automobile and motorcycle industries ”

You can read the entire story here.

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