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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, March 1, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

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UAE Tour stage five reports

We posted the organizer's report with the results.

Here's the report from stage winner Elia Viviani's Deceuninck-Quick Step team:

The 181 km stage took a route that crossed from the coast at Sharjah, along a mainly flat course to the tips of the Indian ocean at the other side of the peninsula at Khor Fakkan. There they were greeted with a fast and mainly straight run-in that had caught the attention of the sprinters in the field.

This was acknowledged by Viviani after the stage. “I came close on the second stage, but Fernando was too good then. But I was really focused on today as I knew it was a good finish for me. I am really happy”

As has become customary during this year’s UAE Tour the day’s breakaway consisted of members of both the Gazprom and Novo Nordisk, with Tepan Kurianov, Anton Vorobyev, Sergey Shilov and Charles Planet and Fabio Calabria representing the respective teams. With the peloton aware that the group would be looking to pick up enough points defend the green and black jerseys of Planet and Kurianov, they were allowed to build a steady lead that never threatened the impending dominance of the sprinter’s teams, and were reeled in with relative ease at the 30 km to go mark.

The pace was then kept steady in the peloton and Mikkel Honore could be seen policing the front of the peloton for long periods of time in the lead up to the final run in. After a roundabout with 3.5 km to go, Dries Devenyns put in a turn that would pull Deceuninck - Quick-Step into a strong position. Viviani had a slingshot towards the finish, after being policed by Michael Mørkøv and Fabio Sabatini. For a agonizing few seconds he looked to be short of the pace of Fernando Gaviria again. However, Viviani stayed patient and a late burst saw the Italian take the win.

Elia Viviani wns stage five

Elia Viviani wins stage five.

“I am really proud of the team and myself because my lead out train worked really well. We were thinking about our tactics after the last few days, because after losing the first sprint in stage 2 we wanted to win and today was our first chance. I am feeling good and we made a decision not to spend too much energy and focus on today, the proper sprint stage. Today we did the perfect job, thanks always to my teammates.”

Second-placed Fernando Gaviria's UAE-Team Emirates sent me this short update:

In the UAE Tour stage five bunch sprint, Fernando Gaviria fell short in the last metres only to Elia Viviani’s surge. Gaviria took second place in Khor Fakkan after 181km, just ahead of Marcel Kittel.

“I race to win always so I can’t hide that I’m a little bit upset,” Gaviria said. “Sprints are like this though, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose them. I thought there was less wind and I so maybe I began a little too early. I feel good anyway and I’m going to try again on Saturday, the last stage“.

Roglic still stands on top of the overall classification, which was unchanged today. UAE Team Emirates’ Irish climber Daniel Martin is in sixth place.

In the second-last stage tomorrow, the riders climb to finish on Jebel Jais after 180km.

And Bora-hansgrohe sent me this stage five report:

The 181 kilometres from Flag Island to Khor Fakkan on the east coast brought with them very so slightly uphill terrain, while the second part of the race, apart from a small ascent shortly before the finish, was almost exclusively flat. The stage offered yet another chance for the sprinters in the peloton to notch up a stage victory, but this would be no easy feat, with several of the peloton’s fastest sprinters in attendance at the race this year.

At around midday, the riders took off in the direction of Khor Fakkan and it did not take long until a five-man group was able to stretch the elastic and form the break of the day. During the stage, the peloton conceded no more than 4:30 to the leading quintet, and with 70km remaining to ride in the saddle, the main field upped the tempo somewhat, and the advantage of the break was whittled away until the last escapee was ultimately caught.

With 20km remaining, the teams of the sprinters slowly emerged at the front of the main field to position themselves well ahead of the expected fast finish, and after the first roundabout the peloton increased the tempo significantly. The BORA – hansgrohe sprint train began to move to the front to bring Sam Bennett into a suitable position from which to launch his sprint. In an extremely close sprint finish, E. Viviani won ahead of F. Gaviria. Sam Bennett only very closely missed out on the podium, and took out fourth place. 

UAE Tour stage five finish

Another view of the stage five finish.

From the finish line:
“Today we made a plan and stuck by it. We did everything to the best of our abilities and that’s all we could do. I had the legs, the backing of the team, and a great position in the final. The level is so high and some very small things have a big impact. Unfortunately I didn’t get the win today. I’d like to thank the team for their efforts.” – Sam Bennett

“Although it was windy, it did not seem to impede the riders too much and the race was rather uneventful for much of the day. In the end, we tried to prepare the sprint for Sam [Bennett]. He stuck to the wheel of Gaviria before opening up his sprint, and in the end he took out fourth place. It was a very tight sprint finish, but Sam has yet another opportunity on the last stage on Saturday. Tomorrow is a day for the climbers and the team will work to support Emu [Buchmann] and Davide [Formolo].” – Enrico Poitschke, Sport Director

Tiesj Benoot and Tim Wellens look towards Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Their Lotto-Soudal team sent me this:

The Flemish Spring Classics start this Saturday 2 March. The Belgian opening weekend, with the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne once again promises to be really exciting. The 74th edition of the Omloop will be 200 kilometres long, this year with a new finish in the city centre of Ninove. Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot, the two Lotto Soudal leaders for Saturday, look ahead.

Tim Wellens: “I can look back on an excellent Ruta del Sol, topped off with two stage wins. My legs felt really good and that feeling won’t change much in one week time. Because of that, the confidence towards the Classics – for me starting with the Omloop – is great. Contrary to last year, I want to save some energy going into the finale. I will try to wait as long as possible to attack. Of course, choosing the right moment is always difficult in the Flemish races, as each climb can be decisive. Besides, I read that there is going to be a tailwind during the finale, which could play a role as well. Maybe it will cause the race to be more open.”

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens wins stage one of this year's Ruta del Sol.

“The preparation is over now. The races which I am aiming for – the Omloop, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Walloon Classics – are right behind the corner. This is my second time participating in the Omloop and this year, I will be leading the team together with Tiesj Benoot. I consider Greg Van Avermaet – who may win for the third time – as the biggest favourite on Saturday. I also reckon that Michael Matthews will be amongst the possible winners, although his name has not been mentioned a lot so far. The Omloop marks his first race of the season, but he will certainly be in  good shape.”

Tiesj Benoot: “Wednesday evening, I arrived in Belgium after an altitude training in the Sierra Nevada with Jens Keukeleire. I feel very good and I look forward to the first Belgian races. Feeling great on training is always nice, but it is still something else to put that in practice. The tailwind will constitute a major difference compared to last year. This will be an advantage for the offensive riders, including myself. I think we have a really strong team in general. We can go for the victory in the Omloop with these seven riders.”

“The competition will be tough, because everyone is very eager to begin the spring season. There will be a lot of candidates for the victory. We all had a different preparation, so it is hard to evaluate the opponents. In December, we have done a recon of the course and we also tested the equipment. Soon, we will brush up on everything together and go through it profoundly. An additional recon wasn’t really necessary. I also know the surroundings very well. The Muur van Geraardsbergen is undoubtedly a crucial climb on the course. Also the Molenberg will be an important point in the race. I think the finale could start early this year. My other goals are every upcoming one-day race and Tirreno-Adriatico as well. If I can take a win in one of those race, my spring campaign would be successful.”

Line-up Omloop Het Nieuwsblad: Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Frederik Frison, Jens Keukeleire, Nikolas Maes, Brian van Goethem and Tim Wellens.

Line-up Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne: Tiesj Benoot, Jasper De Buyst, Stan Dewulf, Nikolas Maes, Rémy Mertz, Lawrence Naesen and Brian van Goethem.

Greg Van Avermaet looking to repeat Omloop Het Nieuwsblad success as Classics season gets underway 

Van Avermaet's CCC Team sent me this:

28 February 2019: Greg Van Avermaet will look to continue his strong start to the season with a good result at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, the UCI WorldTour race which officially marks the start of the Classics season.

Van Avermaet, who took the race honors in 2016 and 2017, will have an experienced team behind him Sports Director Valerio Piva said, “Of course, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is an important race for CCC Team as it is the first Classic of the season. We know that Greg is in good shape and is motivated to start the Classics well but there are a lot of riders who can win on Saturday. We will do everything we can to put him in a good position and see how the race plays out.

“Greg will be supported more or less by the same riders who joined him at the Tour of Oman, with the exception of Fransisco Ventoso who replaces Kamil Gradek. We have the local experience from our Belgian riders; Gijs Van Hoecke, Nathan Van Hooydonck, and Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, all of whom train on these roads every day. Michael Schär, who is a valuable road caption, and Łukasz Wiśniowski, who was second at the 2018 edition, complete the squad. We left Oman very happy with the teamwork throughout the week so we are looking forward to seeing these riders race together on the cobbles for the first time this year.”

Greg van aVermaet

Greg Van Avermaet wins 2017 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

With a stage win in Valencia and a few near misses in Oman, Van Avermaet is confident ahead of the Classics opener.

“I am feeling really good ahead of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and am excited to start the Classics season. During the winter and early season races, this is what I am always thinking about so it is nice to have the first race here. I think my shape is exactly where it needs to be and I was really impressed by my teammates in Valencia and Oman which was a good sign for the Classics. Although this will be the first cobbled race for us, half of us train together every day in Belgium so we are comfortable as a team.

“The Classics season is long and it’s important to maintain good shape right through to April, which isn’t always easy, but it would be really special to get a good result for CCC Team at opening weekend, so this is definitely the goal."

Van Avermaet will forgo Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, where the riders will have more of an open role, Piva explained. “Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne is more of a sprinters’ Classic so we have made the decision that Greg won’t race and instead the other riders will have an opportunity to go for a result. Paweł Bernas, Kamil Gradek and Josef Černy will line up on Sunday to replace Greg, Michael, and Łukasz, so between the seven riders, we have good options for all race scenarios.

“As we have seen in recent years, it can be difficult to avoid a bunch sprint at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne so we will aim to race aggressively and be part of a small group that goes to the line.”

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (2 March)
Rider Roster: Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Gijs Van Hoecke (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL), Fransisco Ventoso (ESP), Łukasz Wiśniowski (POL).
Sports Director: Valerio Piva (ITA), Fabio Baldato (ITA)

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (3 March)
Rider Roster: Paweł Bernas (POL), Josef Černy (CZE), Kamil Gradek (POL), Gijs Van Hoecke (BEL), Nathan Van Hooydonck (BEL), Guillaume Van Keirsbulck (BEL), Fransisco Ventoso (ESP)
Sports Director: Valerio Piva (ITA)

REI targets more growth in cycling, begins sales of Cannondale and Bontrager in all stores

Bicycle Retailer and Industry News sent me this:

SEATTLE, Wash. (BRAIN) — REI Co-op says it's targeting the bike category for growth with the addition of Cannondale bikes and parts & accessories from the Trek-owned Bontrager brand at all 154 of its U.S. locations and online this year.

"We have identified cycling as a disproportionate growth opportunity for REI," Ben Johns, REI's general merchandising manager, told BRAIN.

"Our members tell us that they ride ... but REI is not as well known for cycling (as it is for other outdoor sports products). So we see an opportunity to up our game in cycling so it is consistent with what we offer our members in other categories."

Besides the addition of Cannondale and Bontrager, this year the member-owned co-op is expanding its Co-op Cycles line to include full-suspension mountain bikes, increasing staff training, and adding bike demo and rental programs and a used-bike trade-in program. It's also doubling the number of multi-day bike trips offered by its REI Adventures travel division.

REI has long sought a major bike brand that it could offer in all locations. However, no major brands have been willing to risk the ire of their independent dealers in proximity to REI locations.

Instead, REI offered its house brand Novara, which was replaced with the Co-op Cycles brand in 2016. REI has been the exclusive U.S. retailer for Accell Group's Ghost brand since 2014.

REI has supplemented its house brands with a variety of other brands, including Cannondale, in some stores but not chain-wide. At one point, REI sold Scott bikes at 55 of its locations, but ended its agreement with Scott in 2015.

REI also was an Electra dealer since before Trek bought that brand in 2014. The Electra connection is what led to the Bontrager agreement, said Trek's Eric Bjorling.

"For us, REI's been a good Electra retailer for a long time. When we purchased Electra we made Bontrager available to all Electra retailers and REI is no different," Bjorling said. He said there are no plans to sell Trek bikes through REI.

Bontrager parts & accessories will be available at REI starting March 14.

REI and Cannondale have been steadily increasing their relationship in recent years, and Cannondales were being offered in 71 REI locations prior to this announcement. Cannondales have already begun rolling out to some of the remaining locations.

REI will have access to the full Cannondale bike line and will tailor its offering for individual stores, Johns said. Cannondale bikes will be sold online for pickup at REI locations, but not for direct shipment to consumers. Some stores also sell saddles from Fabric, the P&A brand that is part of Dorel's Cycling Sports Group along with Cannondale.

Nick Hage, Cannondale's general manager, said, “Cannondale has been partnering with REI for over 25 years and we have always appreciated the role they have played in supporting the bike industry. We are excited for our future with REI and how they will continue to bring our brand and products to their Co-op members.”

Johns said REI will honor all brands' pricing plans, including minimum advertised price policies. "REI absolutely respects the authority of brands to control their pricing and we applaud keeping a level playing field. We do everything in our power to support that," he said.

IBDs in the same market as an REI store will be quick to point out that REI members receive annual dividends on full-price purchases that amount to a discount below MAP levels. Member purchases of discounted products are not included in the purchase history that determines the dividend amount.

You can read the full story here.

Specialized expanding its omni-channel distribution

To go along with the piece above about Cannondale, Bike Europe sent me this news about the changing retail landscape:

S’HEERENBERG, the Netherlands – Introducing omni-channel distribution without harming your existing retailer network is complicated for multiple reasons. In March 2018 Specialized announced the introduction of omni-channel in Europe starting in the United Kingdom. About one year later, Specialized takes the next step and launches its ‘Integrated Market Place’ in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Specialized launched omni-channel distribution in the US, Australia. China and Japan. In Europe, the company started in UK as, “the e-commerce market in the UK is very strong. For us this made it an inevitable step to start online sales in the UK after we discussed it with our retailers,” said Koos de Boer, European Marketing Coordinator at Specialized Europe in March 2018. Together with Leon van Leeuwen and Werner Oostendorp, De Boer runs a dedicated department responsible for the implementation of the ‘Integrated Market Place’ in Europe.

As said Specialized initially launched omni-channel distribution in the US, Australia. China and Japan. Just copy-paste this system on other European markets besides the UK was not possible. So Specialized decided to take a step-by-step approach. “Each market and country requires a different action plan. The Netherlands and Flanders/Belgium was the next market to launch ‘Integrated Market Place’  early February this year,” said Koos de Boer.

“Other  markets in Europe will follow, that’s for sure. We are working on defining the right strategy for each market. The introduction in the Netherlands and Belgium is also an important learning of best practices for us. Our European Shared Service Center also based in the Netherlands which makes communication easier.”

Specialized’s online strategy contains five different channels. These are: Retail, Rider-Direct Equipment, Click & Collect, Drop Shipment and Find Nearby.

The brick and mortar stores will remain the cornerstone for Specialized. “To sell via a shop only is no longer feasible, online sales will become inevitable. We have to do more to sell our products. That is more complicated for us as a company, but easier for the consumer. In the end it is he or she who decides how and where to buy a new product. More and more people buy online while a large majority turns to internet for information. Showrooming has become webrooming. In the past people came to shops for information and bought online. This is changing rapidly. Today people go online for information and buy at a shop for service and the experience. However, they also want instant satisfaction and not wait for the product. That’s why we have the option ‘find nearby’ on our webshop.”

This ‘find nearby’ option is just one of the five channels Specialized created for its customers. “We will continue to focus us on our existing retail channel. Dealer service and know-how remains invaluable for us. Next to offering more sales opportunities, creating a customer journey and more traffic to the retailers are important goals for us. But if we ignore omni-channel distribution now, it will put us in a bad position towards the future.”

You can read the entire article here.

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