Gregor Brown – Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Fri, 30 Sep 2016 15:17:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Gregor Brown – 32 32 2017 Tour rumors: Germany to France, via Belgium Fri, 30 Sep 2016 13:33:48 +0000 Various news reports suggest the race will travel through Belgium after its grand depart in Germany.

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MILAN (VN) — The 2017 Tour de France, according to various reports, will skip the country’s northwest where it began this July to ride through the Jura Mountains, Pyrénées, and the Alps.

The Tour next year will start in Dusseldorf, Germany on July 1, organizer ASO announced last winter. The race will kick off with a 13-kilometer time trial Saturday and a stage start from Düsseldorf the next day.

Various Belgian newspapers report that the race will travel south through Belgium’s Wallonia region. Stage 2 should finish in Liège and stage 3 could start in nearby Verviers before entering the Tour’s homeland.

The 2016 Tour began in Normandy, a region where troops landed on the D-Day invasion in 1944. In 2017, the Tour may not even come close to the area. Instead, various sources say the race will continue south toward the Jura Mountains and then cut to southwest France for the Pyrénées.

The race will return to La Planche des Belles Filles, reports France Bleu Besançon, where Sky’s Chris Froome won his first Tour stage in 2012. Froome went on to place second behind teammate Bradley Wiggins that year, and later won the 2013, 2015, and 2016 editions. The climb in the Jura Mountains runs 5.9 kilometers and reaches 14 percent in the final 200 meters, where Froome surged past Cadel Evans for the win.

The Grand Colombier and Mont du Chat could host another Jura battle a week in, on the Sunday before the first rest day. Le Dauphiné Libéré newspaper reported this week that stage 9 will travel up the hardest of the four sides of Grand Colombier and the 8.7km Mont du Chat before racing 25km down to Chambéry.

The rest of the Tour is coming into focus slowly. The riders will likely fly from Chambéry to Périgueux to continue the second chapter of the 2017 race.

The mountain stages in the Pyrénées and Alps will have most cyclists and fans tuning into the route presentation October 18. What ASO presents will play a part in who could win the 2017 edition.

ASO announced on Twitter that it would return to Pau, the city in the southwest that has often seen the riders off to their Pyrénéan battles. La Dépêche wrote that the Peyragudes ski station could host a stage finish as it did in 2012 when Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde won. If so, it will likely include the Peyresourde in the 15.4km summit finish.

The third and final week remains unclear. The Champs-Élysées finish in Paris is almost guaranteed for Sunday, July 23.

The Tour could ride into the history books. The race is expected to climb the 18.1km Col du Galibier from the north side and finish in Serre Chevalier on Friday (stage 19). Saturday, before the final stage in Paris, it could finish on the Col d’Izoard at 2,360 meters above sea level for the first time. Le Dauphiné Libéré reported that the stage will start in Briançon and climb Col de Vars (2,109 meters). In addition, it would be the L’Etape du Tour.

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Tour de San Luis canceled, sends riders scrambling Thu, 29 Sep 2016 12:49:11 +0000 The stage race was held for 10 years dating back to 2007, but reports say the 2017 edition has been canceled.

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MILAN (VN) — Nairo Quintana, Peter Sagan, and Vincenzo Nibali will have to look for somewhere else to race in January. Thursday morning, reports trickled through from Argentina that the country’s major stage race, the Tour de San Luis, would not run in 2017 due to financial problems.

Local journalist Marcelo La Gattina reported the news via Twitter about the race that was due to run January 17-22.

Those stars and many other cyclists, like American Andrew Talansky (Cannondale – Drapac), welcomed the heat of central Argentina in mid-January to start their seasons. Most viewed it as a low-key alternative to the WorldTour-ranked Santos Tour Down Under, which sees much more aggressive racing from Australians and teams hoping to score early points.

“[The Tour Down Under] is too hard, it’s a WorldTour race,” said Mark Cavendish, who raced in 2013, 2014, and 2015. “[It’s] stressful. Physically it’s not any more demanding than it is here, but with WorldTour points available it’s stressful racing. If I was able to go well enough to win in the Tour Down Under then I don’t think I could do well again in July.”

Many others preferred the South American sun to the South Australian seaside race. Funding and fan support put the Tour Down Under race on another level.

“The weather is fine, there is a good organization and the race is suitable to build a solid base for the rest of the season,” said Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski.

Since it began in 2007, top professionals began flying to San Luis via Buenos Aires to begin their season. This year, Quintana (Movistar), world champion Sagan (Tinkoff), and Nibali (Astana) lined up. Quintana placed third, while his brother and teammate Dayer Quintana won the overall.

Sagan already confirmed that he would debut with new team Bora – Hansgrohe in the Tour Down Under next year, slated for January 17-22. The organizer promised bigger names for 2017. It reportedly is also expecting Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Chris Froome (Sky) on the start line.

The entire season will feel different in 2017 with several races now promoted from HC to WorldTour status. Following the Tour Down Under, cyclists can continue to the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race one week later and now, race for WorldTour points.

The month of February looks busier. Instead of three Middle East races, there are now four: the Dubai Tour, the Tour of Qatar, the Tour of Oman, and the Abu Dhabi Tour. Both Qatar and Abu Dhabi have WorldTour status this year.

If one does not start his season in January, he can still put in plenty of miles around the Persian Gulf before heading back to Europe for the traditional classics and tours.

Argentina may still have an option in the new five-day Tour de San Juan. The race in the western part of country near its border with Chile should have 2.1 status and run from January 24-29.

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Quintana won’t rule out Giro/Tour double in 2017 Wed, 28 Sep 2016 12:44:45 +0000 The Colombian won the Italian grand tour in 2014 but has yet to win the Tour de France.

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MILAN (VN) — Colombian Nairo Quintana remembers his first grand tour win well and says that for that reason, for the race’s charm and high Alpine passes, he wants to return to the Giro d’Italia. He may compete in 2017 but says he needs to see the route and talk with Movistar management first.

Quintana debuted in the Italian grand tour in 2014 and won the overall title. His team took him there with the idea of gaining experience after he had placed second in his Tour de France debut a year prior behind Chris Froome. He placed second again in the 2015 Tour and was third this summer. In September, he won Spain’s grand tour, the Vuelta a España.

Another attempt to win the Giro is on Quintana’s mind, however.

“I hope soon because the Italian climbs are ones that are most suited to a climber like me,” Quintana told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport about when he might return. The newspaper began the race in 1909, and in 2017 it will celebrate its 100th edition.

“My next season is centered on the Tour, the only grand tour [win] that I’m missing,” Quintana said. “But this does not mean automatically that I won’t be at the Giro. We are waiting to see the route and then I’ll speak with the team.”

The 2017 Giro d’Italia will begin May 5 on Italy’s Sardinia island with three stages, but the rest is unknown until the presentation October 25. The route is expected to snake south to north, with summit finishes to the Oropa Sanctuary, the Stelvio Pass, the Pordoi Pass, and the Piancavallo ski resort in the Dolomites.

No one has won the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same year since Marco Pantani in 1998. And counting the Italian, only seven riders have done so in cycling’s history.

“It’s certainly intriguing. But in the last years it’s been ‘easier’ race the Giro and Vuelta at a high level, or the Tour and the Vuelta,” Quintana said. “The Giro demands a lot. Then racing the Tour means that you find yourself up against rivals that are all, no one excluded, at 100 percent.”

Quintana cannot stop thinking of the Giro, though. The stage to the Formigal ski resort two weeks into this year’s Vuelta reminded him of the Stelvio stage to Val Martello. In 2014, he rode clear with a small group over the Stelvio Pass that was blanketed with snow. He won the stage and took over the pink jersey. In the Formigal stage, he and Alberto Contador of Tinkoff rode clear immediately with a group and left their rival Froome behind. Though he already had the lead, the stage paved the way to his Spanish title.

“The Stelvio stage and Formigal stage were both ‘locura’ [insane] days,” Quintana said. “That [Giro] victory had more resonance. It was the first, it showed my capacity.”

Movistar must wait a few weeks for the Giro and Tour organizers to present their routes: the Giro in Milan on October 25 and the Tour in Paris on October 18.

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Eneco Tour just made the 2017 WorldTour more complicated Tue, 27 Sep 2016 16:15:23 +0000 The Eneco Tour results just made it harder for a few teams to get into the 2017 WorldTour, as four teams vie for three spots.

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MILAN (VN) — The WorldTour series will end Saturday in Italy with Il Lombardia, but a fight will continue into the 2016/2017 off-season. After the Eneco Tour on Sunday, four teams — with stars Tom Dumoulin, Mark Cavendish, Vincenzo Nibali, and Peter Sagan — are battling for three free spots in the 2017 top division. One could be left out.

A WorldTour license guarantees teams the right to race in the UCI’s top 37 events for 2017, including the Tour de France and major classics like Paris-Roubaix and the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

This Sunday, the situation became more complicated. When Oliver Naesen placed third overall in the Eneco stage race, Swiss team IAM Cycling jumped from 18th to 16th in the rankings of the 18 WorldTour teams. Instead of a three-way battle for two spots, the UCI license commission now has a four-way fight if the governing body decides to stick to its plan of capping the number of teams at 17 for 2017. The four teams in question are Dimension Data, Giant – Alpecin, and two upstart squads hoping to debut in the WorldTour: Bora – Hansgrohe and Bahrain – Merida.

The plan is ultimately to reduce the top WorldTeams to 16 by 2018. The UCI introduced a new elimination and promotion system that allows the top Professional Continental team to step up and take the place of lowest ranked WorldTour team.

For 2016/17, the idea was just to trim the 18-team division down to 17, which should have been easy with two of the teams, Tinkoff and IAM Cycling, folding. However, after the Eneco Tour, they rank second and 16th, respectively, and continuing teams Giant – Alpecin and Dimension Data, 17th and 18th. According to the rules, Giant – Alpecin (with Dumoulin) and Dimension Data (Cavendish) become candidate teams for the 2017 WorldTour along with Bora – Hansgrohe (Sagan), which is asking for a promotion from the second division, and the newly formed Bahrain – Merida (Nibali).

“The two last placed WorldTeams on the WorldTour ranking at the end of the final 2016 season will be afforded ‘2017 UCI WorldTour candidate’ status,” says the UCI in its documentation. “All other teams existing in 2016 and newly-created teams may also be declared ‘2017 UCI WorldTour candidate” teams. The candidate teams described are evaluated on the basis of the WorldTour individual ranking [of their five best riders.]”

In theory, the UCI would have a battle between the lowest-ranked WorldTour team and a team like Bora, asking for promotion from the Professional Continental division. Instead, it has four quality teams asking for a place at the table. Both South Africa’s Dimension Data and the Bahraini team make the UCI’s top series more global, and Giant – Alpecin and Bora both come from the resurgent German market.

As a result, teams are fighting for points. Bahrain – Merida is negotiating with Movistar to allow Ion Izagirre out of his contract early. The Spaniard placed second in the Tour de Suisse, third in the Tour de Romandie and fifth in Paris-Nice this year. He counts a massive 270 WorldTour points, more than Esteban Chaves (Orica – BikeExchange) and Nibali (currently with Astana).

Teams are also courting Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha), who is due to retire with his 211 points.

“Our five [riders]? It depends on Izagirre,” Bahrain – Merida manager Brent Copeland told VeloNews. “It would be Izagirre, Vincenzo Nibali, Heinrich Haussler, Enrico Gasparotto, and Sonny Colbrelli. Colbrelli doesn’t have many points but he has some from his third place at the Amstel Gold Race. Right now, to buy a rider with more points than 70 would cost a fortune. I think everyone that has those points are signed up.”

The consolation is that any team left out would be able to race in the Professional Continental division and ask for invitation to the top WorldTour races. Dimension Data did so through 2015 and was able to race in the Tour de France. Any of the four teams should have a sure ticket into the races considering their stars.

Top race organizer Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), which runs the Tour and Paris-Roubaix, is putting pressure on the UCI to reduce the teams from 18 to 17. However, there is a feeling that this may not be the off-season to do so and as so often happens in cycling, plans may change before the new season kicks off in January with the Tour Down Under in Australia.

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Nibali to skip Lombardia, plans for 2017 Mon, 26 Sep 2016 12:43:47 +0000 The Italian will compete in Tuesday's Tre Valli Varesine and a few other races this fall before he switches teams over the winter.

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MILAN (VN) — Italian Vincenzo Nibali will return to racing Tuesday after fracturing his collarbone in the Olympics, but he will not try to defend his 2015 Il Lombardia win this weekend.

The 31-year-old will race the Tre Valli Varesine with the No. 1 on this back as last year’s winner. It will be the Astana rider’s first race after crashing on August 6 while on a gold-medal attack in the Rio de Janeiro road race with Colombian Sergio Henao.

“Certainly, he won’t be in the same condition that he was in last year, but he’s a champion and will honor the race,” Astana sport director Stefano Zanini told local website Prealpina.

Nibali sat out nine weeks, but he will be one of the favorites to win. That list also includes Adam Yates (Orica – BikeExchange) and Rigoberto Urán (Cannondale – Drapac). Esteban Chaves (Orica), winner of the Giro dell’Emilia on Saturday and third overall in the Vuelta a España, will skip Tre Valli and aim for Il Lombardia.

“These end-of-season races like Milano-Torino and Lombardia suit me,” Chaves said. “I’m dreaming of winning Lombardia.”

Nibali’s dream run in the end-of-season classics turned around in 2015. After fourth in the Tour de France and a Vuelta a España disqualification, he won the Coppa Bernocchi, Tre Valli, and Lombardia. In Il Lombardia, formally called the Giro di Lombardia, he attacked on the second-to-last climb 17.3 kilometers out and soloed to victory lakeside in Como.

Organizer RCS Sport could not have asked for a better finish to its race, the final of five monuments in the cycling season. It had Italy’s biggest star winning alone next to the scenic Lake Como in the national tricolor champion’s jersey. It will have to look for another successful mix this year when the race finishes in Bergamo after 4,000 meters of climbing.

Nibali is looking for a soft landing to end his 2016 season. He already gave Astana its parting victory in May when he scored his second Giro d’Italia title, and later tried his best for his country in Rio. Now, it is time for him to look ahead to 2017.

The Tre Valli Varesine, the Tour of Almaty on October 2 in his team’s home of Kazakhstan, and the Abu Dhabi Tour — also run by RCS Sport — will end the 2016 season for Nibali. The winter will be a busy one because after four years in Astana’s blue, he will join new team Bahrain – Merida.

Nibali is the team’s star and had a hand in selecting its staff, such as coach Paolo Slongo. Since the Middle East team is new, he must give more of his time to details like new bikes from Merida and new kits from Sportful. The team is also fighting to ensure it has a spot in the UCI WorldTour for 2017.

“The license situation good,” general manager Brent Copeland said last week. “All the registration process is moving forward as we planned.”

Copeland already planned the team’s first training camp. It will not be on the small, 297 square-mile island in the Persian Gulf, but in Croatia. Sport director Vladimir Miholjevic knows the country well, since he organized the national tours.

The team counts 17 riders already. According to some rumors, it may sign Spaniards Ion Izaguirre (from Movistar) and Igor Antón (Dimension Data). They could help Nibali in what could potentially become one of his biggest seasons yet. It will kick off when he debuts in the team’s red kit in Argentina’s Tour de San Luis on January 17.

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Wiggins defends TUE for corticosteroid prior to Tour win Sun, 25 Sep 2016 15:35:46 +0000 "This wasn't about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage," says Bradley Wiggins of TUEs

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MILAN (VN) — Bradley Wiggins says that his therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for corticosteroids prior to his 2012 Tour de France victory, and in 2011 and 2013 as well, were to cure a medical condition and not to cheat.

Wiggins was part of several data dumps by Russian hacker group Fancy Bears over the last two weeks. The group also released data for tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, basketball player Elena Delle Donne, and gymnast Simone Biles. The cyclists targeted included Chris Froome (Sky), Fabian Cancellara (Trek – Segafredo), Jack Bobridge (Trek – Segafredo), Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), and Steve Cummings (Dimension Data).

The UCI approved Wiggins to inject triamcinolone, a corticosteroid, prior to the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Tour, and the 2013 Giro d’Italia. Some confessed dopers say that it is a strong drug just like EPO and David Millar added that he “can’t fathom” why a doctor would prescribe it prior to a race.

“It was prescribed for allergies and respiratory problems,” Wiggins told BBC1 in an interview that will be aired Sunday. “I’ve been a lifelong sufferer of asthma and I went to my team doctor at the time and we went in turn to a specialist to see if there’s anything else we could do to cure these problems. And he in turn said: ‘Yeah, there’s something you can do but you’re going to need authorization from cycling’s governing body [the UCI].'”

Wiggins won eight Olympic gold medals in his career, including the team pursuit at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August. The 36-year-old, who will retire at the end of this year, explained that he had to be checked by three independent doctors before receiving the TUE.

“This was to cure a medical condition,” he explained. “This wasn’t about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage, this was about putting myself back on a level playing field in order to compete at the highest level.”

British super team Sky began in 2010 and adopted a zero-tolerance rule to doping. It fired coach Bobby Julich and others after it found out that they had doped in their careers. Its no-needles policy came into question when the TUEs were released 10 days ago.

Wiggins had permission to inject 40mg of the corticosteroid each time. In his book My Time he wrote that he had “never” used needles other than for vaccinations or when requiring a drip.

Referring to his book, he added, “I wasn’t writing the book, I was writing it with a cycling journalist who’s very knowledgeable on the sport and had lived through the whole era of the Lance Armstrong era and the doping era.

Wiggins said that he thought needles questions referred to doping. “All the questions at that time were very much loaded towards doping.”

Besides Millar, others have raised concern. “You do have to think it is kind of coincidental that a big dose of intramuscular long-acting corticosteroids would be needed at that exact time before the most important race of the season,” Prentice Steffen, doctor in team Garmin when Wiggins placed fourth in the 2009 Tour, told Newsnight. “I would say certainly now in retrospect it doesn’t look good, it doesn’t look right from a health or sporting perspective.”

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UCI to introduce new safety measures for race vehicles, barriers Fri, 23 Sep 2016 13:20:32 +0000 After a season in which one rider died and others were injured in crashes with vehicles and obstacles, the UCI will make some changes.

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MILAN (VN) — Cycling’s governing body is ready to discuss and implement new safety measures for 2017 after a year that saw one rider die and others seriously injured due to road furniture and race vehicles.

The UCI announced Thursday it will meet with stakeholders in Milan on September 30, one day ahead of the final WorldTour race of the season, Il Lombardia.

“I am happy with the progress and investment we have made in 2016,” UCI President Brian Cookson said. “We know that there is more work to do and I am looking forward to working to ensure that we create the best possible conditions for riders.”

Belgian Antoine Demoitié (Wanty – Groupe Gobert) crashed and was hit by a race jury motorbike in Gent-Wevelgem on March 27. He died overnight in the hospital. In the Tour of Belgium, two motorbikes collided next to the peloton and caused 19 cyclists to crash. Stig Broeckx (Lotto – Soudal), who returned to racing after fracturing his right collarbone and ribs in a motorbike incident in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, remains in a medically induced coma four months later. Steven Kruijswijk’s (LottoNL – Jumbo) crash into a metal bollard with 2.5 kilometers to race in the Vuelta a España’s fifth stage only highlighted the safety issues on the UCI’s plate.

In June, fed up with the issues facing cyclists, riders union CPA proposed a set of safety rules to the UCI to bring some changes. They included setting a speed limit for passing vehicles, scoring the drivers to identify risky ones, and identifying off-course routes to avoid cyclists completely. These and other proposals could be rolled out after the UCI and stakeholders meet in Milan.

“The working group will discuss various topics including the maximum number of riders in the race, safe course design, in particular within the final three kilometers of a race, a set of best practice guidelines for race finishes adapted to different course conditions, including reconnoiter and hazard identification, protection from obstacles and the finish,” the UCI said in its statement.

“These were elements brought to the discussions by the CPA during the last UCI Road Commission meeting.”

The working group will bring in the CPA, the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP), and the International Association of Cycling Race Organisers (AIOCC).

Already, the UCI will tighten its grip in the world championships next month in Doha, Qatar. Traffic islands will be removed or made safer for the last 1.5km of the Pearl circuit and barriers will allow the proper width for the passing peloton, which will number around 190 in the men’s race. Smaller and lighter motorbikes will be used in the race caravan, and no panniers will be allowed. Drivers of vehicles must have “significant previous experience.”

“On-time for the beginning of the 2017 season, the UCI will publish a Race Caravan guide,” the statement continued. “This comprehensive set of regulations and guidelines will govern all aspects of the safety and security of road races and will include rules defining the allocation and position of vehicles within a race.”

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Bahrain – Merida to UCI: Keep 18 teams in the WorldTour Thu, 22 Sep 2016 12:49:00 +0000 The new squad registered in the Middle East is vying with several others for a spot in cycling's top level.

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MILAN (VN) — Bahrain – Merida says it is confident about debuting in the UCI WorldTour next year, but it wants to see cycling’s governing body keep 18 teams at the top level instead of cutting it to 17. The current squads are racing for points before the 2016 season closes while they head into the unknown.

South African Brent Copeland, who managed Lampre – Merida over the last three years, accepted the general manager role this summer on the new Bahraini team from the Persian Gulf. Part of his immediate concern is making sure the team, which will include Vincenzo Nibali from team Astana, holds a 2017 WorldTour license instead of one as a lower-ranked Pro Continental team.

“The license situation is good,” Copeland said during a quiet moment near his home on Italy’s Lake Como.

“All the registration process is moving forward as we planned. We don’t have definite answers from the UCI, none of the teams do because we are all going through the same process waiting on the license commission.”

If successful, the Bahrain – Merida team would become the first Middle East team in the WorldTour. The team is building with several top riders and preparing its WorldTour application for the UCI.

All teams must make a series of deadlines in their WorldTour applications. Registration files are due October 3 and by early November, the UCI license commission should decide. The teams, including those currently in the WorldTour, must apply.

It becomes trickier with a new elimination and promotion system that the governing body wants to introduce that’s based on WorldTour points. The idea is that the lowest-ranked team would lose its spot to the highest placed Pro Continental team for the next season.

This winter, the sport’s top organizer ASO is putting pressure on the UCI to make a planned reduction in teams from 18 to 17. Currently, IAM Cycling and Dimension Data sit at the bottom of the rankings. With IAM Cycling folding, though, that leaves Dimension Data worrying. The question is, however, does Dimension Data keep its ranking for the evaluation or move to the 16th spot with Tinkoff, currently in second place, also folding. If Dimension Data stays put, there would be a three-way battle with Bahrain – Merida and German team Bora – Hansgrohe, which is asking for a promotion from the Pro Continental division after Peter Sagan joined.

“It’s two different ways of interpreting the rules. At the moment, it doesn’t seem very clear on how the rules for the 17 teams will be applied,” Copeland said.

“Points-wise, we are there with Bora. The problem is that it becomes a race to see who’s going to get enough points to get the 17th spot because one team will be left out.

“Leaving it at 18 teams is the fairest for everyone. No one wants that Dimension Data is put out of the WorldTour just because of this rule. At the same time, no one wants important sponsors like Bora and Bahrain – Merida to be left out. What would it change for cycling if there are 18 instead of 17 teams?”

ASO wants more control on which teams come to its WorldTour-ranked races like Paris-Roubaix, the Critérium du Dauphiné, and the Tour de France. In the Tour, for example, ASO would be able to invite five wildcard teams, instead of four, from the Pro Continental ranks if the WorldTour teams were limited to 17. However, one selection would seem obvious if Dimension Data fell into the lower ranks, since the South African information technology company also sponsors ASO’s races.

Copeland spoke confidently, though. He can afford to do so with backing from a group of Bahraini businesses, like the BAPCO Petroleum Company and the world’s second largest bicycle manufacturer, Merida. They are helping Copeland and his group present their application to the UCI.

The group is growing quickly. In addition to announcing contracts for cyclists like Nibali, the team created its service headquarters base near Milan, signed a clothing deal with Sportful, and hired experienced sport directors Gorazd Stangelj (from Astana) and Tristan Hoffman (Tinkoff). Almost everything is in place. Now it just needs a racing license.

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Wiggins TUE controversy puts pressure on teams, UCI Wed, 21 Sep 2016 17:41:44 +0000 David Millar speaks out about Bradley Wiggins's questionable TUE records. Will the UCI and WADA be forced to make changes to the system?

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MILAN (VN) —The Bradley Wiggins TUE controversy has shifted the pressure back on teams and cycling governing bodies to act. Some teams, adhering to their own anti-doping rules, are already avoiding the grey area of injecting asthma medications.

Last week, Russian hacker group “Fancy Bears” started leaking athletes’ therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) on its website. The documents showed 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins had permission to inject triamcinolone, a corticosteroid, prior to the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Tour, and the 2013 Giro d’Italia.

This week, more athletes had their TUEs leaked. British distance runner Mo Farah, like Wiggins, had permission to inject triamcinolone once, and Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal had a series of questionable TUEs.

“As I said in my book [“Racing Through The Dark”], I took EPO and testosterone patches, and they obviously produce huge differences in your blood and you felt at your top level … Kenacort [triamcinolone], though, was the only one you took and three days later you looked different,” former pro David Millar told The Telegraph.

“You would do all the training, but my weight would stick. But if I took Kenacort, 1.5-2kgs would drop off in like a week. And not only would the weight drop off, I would feel stronger.

To be clear, Wiggins’s files do not indicate cheating with banned drugs. He and Team Sky played by the rules, but entered a gray area that some teams are already avoiding with their membership in the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC).

“TUEs are one’s medical information to share or not,” Anko Boelens, Giant – Alpecin team doctor told VeloNews. “I would never push for it needing to be mandatory to reveal what medication you are using. If you do that, you need to go one step further to show the tests that they are taking, like that Wiggins does have a pollen allergy. In our case, as a MPCC member, we would not ask for the TUE for corticosteroids.”

Teams in the MPCC, run by former cycling manager, Frenchman Roger Legeay, adhere to a separate set of rules above what the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the UCI require. One rule states that a team must pull a rider from competition for eight days if he needs to use a corticosteroid for asthma.

The movement gained speed after the 2012 Lance Armstrong scandal. In the last couple of years, some teams left for various reasons. Now, it numbers seven of the 18 WorldTour teams with Giant – Alpecin, Ag2r La Mondiale, Cannondale – Drapac, FDJ, IAM Cycling, Dimension Data, and Lotto – Soudal. Teams like Sky and Etixx – Quick-Step have never been members.

The MPCC said earlier this year that it wants the UCI to follow its rules on cortisol levels, a test which blocked Chris Horner from defending his Vuelta a España title in 2014, and for WADA to add corticosteroids to its banned list.

The move to block athletes from using a corticosteroid like triamcinolone makes sense to Millar, who confessed in 2004 to using EPO and other drugs.

“I’m sure there are other forms of cortisone that could be used for allergies, which aren’t so potent or performance-enhancing,” Millar said. “And if we’re suffering from that serious an issue, we shouldn’t be racing. I don’t know how a doctor could prescribe it [before a race]. I can’t fathom it.”

The UCI and WADA could change their rules as the years pass, and more controversies pop up, but the TUE process is a complicated one. The teams, however, may have to take voluntary steps like those the MPCC present.

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Abu Dhabi Tour makes a speedy rise to cycling’s top level Tue, 20 Sep 2016 15:45:09 +0000 The Abu Dhabi Tour prepares for an HC-rated second edition this October, with a WorldTour bump right around the corner this coming February

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ABU DHABI (VN) — The first edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour began with a slow crawl through the sand dunes in 2015, but the race is quickly making up lost time. This October, the four-day event on the Arabian Peninsula will be HC-rated on the Asia Tour, and only four months later in February 2017, it will run again as a WorldTour race.

At the swank St. Regis Hotel this afternoon, when the mercury sat at 104°F, the organizer presented the 2016 edition of the event, which runs from October 20 to 23. The race again features the Jebel Hafeet summit finish and welcomes stars Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), and Bradley Wiggins racing with his eponymous development team.

“It’s stressful to plan it all with the second edition this October and already a third edition in February, but it’s exciting to see how this race has grown,” Lorenzo Giorgetti, CEO of RCS Sport and Events told VeloNews.

“We took it from zero to WorldTour in less than three years. That’s thanks to the Sports Council in Abu Dhabi and all the support they are giving, and what RCS Sport put in.”

RCS Sport, organizer of the Giro d’Italia, found its niche in the Middle East. It first helped run the Dubai Tour in the neighboring emirate and last year, the Abu Dhabi Tour. The Abu Dubai Tour held an important spot in the calendar as the last event many top riders attended, and the oil-rich nation celebrated by hosting an end-of-season gala like the sport had never seen before.

This October, the tour takes on a new twist. Many of the world championships’ participants will take a direct one-hour flight from Qatar, a nearby Gulf State, to arrive in Abu Dhabi. The tour will be the UCI’s last big event of 2016 and to celebrate, like in 2015, the governing body will host a gala with stars like Olympic champion Van Avermaet.

RCS Sport and Abu Dhabi know how to adjust with the changing tide. Instated of sticking to its fall date, it agreed to move to the spring to help gain its WorldTour status for 2017. It will mark the end of the Gulf series with the Dubai Tour, Tour of Qatar, and Tour of Oman coming beforehand in February.

Doing so, the organizer has a cooler month that will allow more fans to watch roadside and attend events. It also appeases the riders and teams, which, last year, felt the heat hit in a strong wave like never before.

Riders said that their SRMs recorded road temperatures in the 120°s with the mercury showing 105-plus. They slowed and spoke with the organizer, who cut the final circuits of the opening stage.

Instead of fighting, the organizer adjusted and grew as a result. This year, the race will look mostly like the 2016 edition. The summit finish to Jebel Hafeet is back. Wout Poels (Sky) looked on his way to win the stage and overall last year until he crashed in the final corner and opened door for Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica – BikeExchange).

Next year, the newly WorldTour-rated race will still span four days, but its stages will run longer and, because of the cooler temperatures, visit new places around Abu Dhabi.

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Sagan continues momentum at Euros, targets worlds repeat Mon, 19 Sep 2016 13:27:40 +0000 The Slovakian's year has been a successful one in the rainbow stripes.

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MILAN (VN) — Peter Sagan says it has been “too long” of a year for him, but it has been a successful one. Sunday’s victory at the European Championships was the most recent entry on his season log.

Since winning the world championships last September in Virginia, the Slovakian has been going at top speed in his rainbow jersey. Those 12 months included his first monument win at the Tour of Flanders, a fifth consecutive green jersey at the Tour de France and Sunday, the European title.

“I’m tired, I did a lot in this season,” Sagan told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It’s impossible to repeat, one off, but it was truly long. I started in January, the worlds is October 16, and so I say it’s too long.”

Sagan counts 11 wins since his rainbow victory in Richmond. It is not his most successful year, but his biggest in terms of the quality of victories.

Critics, including team Tinkov owner Oleg Tinkoff, suggested Sagan was paid too much and prepared too little after failing to win the big one-day races. So much had been made of the 26-year-old after his rocket-like rise through 2013, when he placed second in Milano-Sanremo and the Tour of Flanders). After a lull, though, he came through.

In the last 12 months, he won the worlds title and, thanks to that win, he was able to storm clear in the rainbow jersey in the 100th edition of Flanders. He won his fifth green jersey in France, but this time he collected three stage wins along the way instead of zero as in 2014 and 2015.

The European Championships followed his GP Quebec win and runner-up in GP Montreal. For the first time, the organizer ran a professional category.

“It was a special race, this European Championships. It was the first, and I wanted to be first on the list,” Sagan added.

“If the course was the one that they had planned in Nice [moved because of the terrorist attack in July – ed.], I would’ve not been suited for it. It would’ve been too hard. But this was perfect, I couldn’t miss it. So the European Championships became an important objective. I did it for my country, it’s an honor.”

Sagan collected the blue Euro jersey and left immediately for the Eneco Tour, which starts Monday in the Netherlands. He will not wear the blue jersey because the rainbow jersey ranks higher. Assuming he does not repeat his worlds feat in Doha next month, he could start the 2017 season with a special twist on the jersey of new team Bora – Hansgrohe.

First, though, Sagan is plowing through the remainder of 2016 with the seven-day Eneco Tour and the worlds.

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WADA hack no big deal for Froome and Wiggins Thu, 15 Sep 2016 13:08:26 +0000 A Russian group called the Fancy Bears has exposed the medical records of several athletes, including two of cycling's biggest stars.

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MILAN (VN) — A cyber war is brewing. This week, a Russian hacker group named Fancy Bears retaliated after its athletes were left out of the 2016 Olympics. Its first leak of stolen records from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) included tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams, and Wednesday night it released records from Tour de France stars Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome.

Instead of documents of treason and underground arms deals, it dealt with medical records. But, those hoping to see a bomb blast Thursday morning were reminded that the British cycling stars are playing by the books. Under the names Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, Fancy Bears listed a series of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE).

Three-time Tour de France winner Froome hardly seemed fazed by the leak. He said, “I’ve openly discussed my TUEs with the media and have no issues with the leak, which only confirms my statements.”

WADA issued a statement Tuesday and again in the early hours Thursday morning, confirming the leaks were a result of Russian hackers, Fancy Bears (Tsar Team APT28). It explained that it was likely in result to its pre-Olympic McLaren Report that exposed a state-sponsored doping system. The International Association of Athletics Federations banned Russians from taking part in the Rio de Janeiro Games as a result.

“WADA is very mindful that this criminal attack, which to date has recklessly exposed personal data of 29 athletes, will be very distressing for the athletes that have been targeted and cause apprehension for all athletes that were involved in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games,” WADA director general Olivier Niggli said.

“Given this intelligence and advice, WADA has no doubt that these ongoing attacks are being carried out in retaliation against the Agency, and the global anti-doping system, because of our independent Pound and McLaren investigations that exposed state-sponsored doping in Russia.”

The hackers said they want to tell the world about the “U.S. Olympic Team and their dirty methods to win.”

In its first data dump, Fancy Bears gave certificates and test results for tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, basketball player Elena Delle Donne, and gymnast Simone Biles. It showed that Biles tested positive for methylphenidate, but was issued a TUE. Biles responded to the news, saying she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and has “taken medicine for it since I was a kid.”

According to the hacked documents, the Williams sisters did not test positive but had multiple certificates issued by the International Tennis Federation. Delle Donne tested positive for amphetamine on August 20 but had a certificate for it.

Fancy Bears released data of 25 athletes, including 10 more Americans and five Brits, Wednesday night. Froome and Wiggins were the only cyclists.

The UCI TUEs for Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France winner and a five-time Olympic gold medalist (including gold in Rio), showed he had a “life long allergy to pollen nasal congestion/rhinorrhoea sneezing throat irritation, wheezing leading to dyspnoea eye watering runny nose known allergy to grass pollen.”

The international cycling federation issued Wiggins certificates in 2008 to use inhaler drug salbutamol and once each in 2011, 2012, and 2013, it gave him permission for a triamcinolone acetonide injection.

Froome applied for TUEs at the time of the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné and the 2014 Tour de Romandie. The UCI gave him permission to use the corticosteroid prednisolone, 40mg per day for one week.

“Applications made by Team Sky for TUEs have all been managed and recorded in line with the processes put in place by the governing bodies,” team Sky in a statement.

“Team Sky’s approach to anti-doping and our commitment to clean competition are well known.”

The cycling world may not be shocked with the findings, but WADA’s vulnerability and the certificate process rattled the sporting world as a whole.

The UCI issued the following statement following Thursday’s news:

“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) shares WADA and the other Anti-Doping Organisations condemnations of cyber-attacks to release personal data. The UCI has full confidence that WADA will do everything it can to prevent any further attacks and ensure ADAMS security.

“The management of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) in cycling is robust and fully safeguarded. The UCI TUE Committee (TUEC) is composed of independent experts in the fields of clinical, sports and exercise medicine and the coordination of the Committee is handled by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), the independent body mandated by the UCI to carry out anti-doping in the sport.

“A TUE can only be granted if there is unanimity amongst the panel of 3 TUEC members, which constitutes an additional level of rigor and goes beyond the applicable international standards. In addition, the UCI is one of the few International Federations who have been recording the TUEs in ADAMS since the inception of ADAMS. Whilst this was not mandatory at the time, the UCI made that choice for transparency reasons considering that it enables WADA to review TUEs granted by the UCI TUEC.”

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Giro unveils 3-stage island start on Sardinia for 2017 Wed, 14 Sep 2016 13:25:46 +0000 Next year's Italian grand tour will be the 100th edition of the race, and organizer RCS Sport will kick off the race island style.

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MILAN (VN) — Giro d’Italia organizer RCS Sport is planning an island start to the 2017 edition with three road stages in Sardinia. Next year’s Italian grand tour, the 100th edition, will kick off from Alghero and showcase the rugged landscape above the emerald sea.

Wednesday at the Big Start presentation in Milan, RCS Sport pulled the veil on three road stages running clockwise from the island from Alghero in the northwest to Cagliari in the south. It is the first time since 2007 that the Giro is visiting the island and only the fourth time in history after 1961, 1991, and 2007.

“It is a great pride for me to know that the Giro is starting from my land,” Sardinian Fabio Aru (Astana), second in the 2015 Giro and winner of the 2015 Vuelta a España, told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It would be great to line up and to participate next year. In November, we will make plans for 2017.

“In 2007, I was in Alghero. I did a mountain bike race and stopped to see the passage of the Giro.”

Aru is only one of six professional riders from Sardinia, along with with Domenico Uccheddu, Antonio Laconi, Giovanni Garau, Emiliano Murtas, and Alberto Loddo.

Along with Aru and Vincenzo Nibali, who will ride for Bahrain – Merida next season, Sky’s Chris Froome is also thinking about racing the Giro.

The Giro will start with a bang on Aru’s island. Going back to the 2013 format, the race will kick off with a road stage instead of a time trial. As a result, a group of around 10 to 20 sprinters should be elbowing their way to the race’s first pink jersey in the port town of Olbia on Friday, May 5.

The maglia rosa will likely already change hands on the second day with the Genna Silana Pass near the race finish in Tortolì. Stage 3 will run on mostly flat roads along the southeast and end after 148 kilometers in Cagliari. RCS Sport will have purposely decided on the distance and location to fly the cyclists out of the local airport early for the rest of the 100th Giro d’Italia.

The organizer will present the complete route October 25.

The race is expected to head toward the heel of Italy’s boot in the Puglia region. It could first stop on the island of Sicily for a stage to Messina and then pass the Basilicata region.

As with 2014 and 2016, the Giro seems to have permission for a third rest day, given that the race starts on Friday. Likely following the Sardinian start, the race will use the first of those rest days for a transfer and give the cyclists their other two after the first and second week of racing.

The extra day off may not be needed so much for riders because they’ll fly, but for the rest of the caravan that will need to take a 13-hour journey by boat to reach either Sicily or the mainland.

The Giro does not island-hop often, especially to Sardinia, due to distance and the logistics that come with it. In 1961, perhaps the most demanding Giro, the race — marking 50 years of Italy’s unification — visited both of Italy’s big islands in Sardinia and Sicily. In 2007, ferries with teams arrived late and ones with their equipment arrived later from Sardinia. The rest day became a long day of travel and complaints.

The 2017 race should travel north and, after a few climbs in the Apennines Mountains and a time trial in the Franciacorta wine region, will spend much of the second half in the Alps. Likely to be on the menu are summit finishes to the Oropa Sanctuary, the Stelvio Pass, the Pordoi Pass, and the Piancavallo ski resort in the Dolomites.

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Quintana’s ‘dream’ Vuelta victory Tue, 13 Sep 2016 17:07:24 +0000 Nairo Quintana became the first Colombian in history to win both the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España. Now he dreams of claiming the Tour

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MILAN (VN) — Nairo Quintana became the first Colombian in history to win both the Giro d’Italia and as of Sunday when he rolled over the finish line in Madrid dressed in all red, the Vuelta a España. He says it is a “dream” victory that he is only realizing now during the post-race parties.

The 26-year-old from Boyacá, in the East Andes, toasted with his Movistar teammates Monday in Madrid. He won the three-week Spanish tour with 1:23 minutes over Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky). The celebration became that much sweeter when Spanish telecom company Movistar, which has big business in Quintana’s home country, renewed its sponsorship for three more years. Quintana also renewed through 2019.

“I feel very emotional,” Quintana said. “I will get used to it with the passing hours. When you are racing, you are so focused that you do not realize what is happening around you. It’s like a dream, and I’m slowly waking up and realizing it’s reality.”

The reality is that Quintana is becoming a bigger champion than he already was at home in Madrid. Before, Luis Herrera was the only Colombian to score a grand tour title in the 1987 Vuelta a España. Quintana became the first to do so in the Giro d’Italia in 2014 and the second to do so this weekend in the Vuelta.

He splashed into the mainstream headlines in 2013 when, at 23 years old, he ran second-best to Froome in the Tour de France. Not only that, he won the white young rider’s jersey, the mountains jersey, and the final mountain stage above Annecy to Le Semnoz.

Movistar invested in its star. It took him to the Giro to allow him to gain experience at winning a grand tour before trying to do so in France. He conquered a race marked by the snow-ravaged stage up the Stelvio Pass.

Back at the Tour de France in 2015 and this July, he has become Froome’s main rival. At home, they are going mad for ‘Nairoman.’

“We have done things slowly, growing and being a reference for young people. I’ve become an ambassador of the country and that carries plenty of responsibility,” Quintana said. “It fills me with pride. Colombians support me in all parts of the world. It motivates me and makes me keep doing things the right way.”

The Tour de France remains if Quintana wants a complete grand tour set in his trophy case. This year, after pushing Froome all the way through to the final Alpe d’Huez mountain stage in 2015, fans expected a head-to-head battle in France. It never materialized. Quintana looked sub-par, not like in the Vuelta, and fought for the third place on the podium instead of a Tour title.

“Being at 100 percent is the only way to have a chance, and at the Tour, I wasn’t. In the Vuelta, though, I had that high level and really enjoyed riding and attacking.”

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Combative Contador ends Vuelta in search of another grand tour title Mon, 12 Sep 2016 19:16:23 +0000 The Vuelta a España closed the grand tour cycling season and left Alberto Contador without another win to add to his seven titles.

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MILAN (VN) — The Vuelta a España closed the grand tour cycling season and left Alberto Contador without another win to add to his seven titles. The Spaniard will have to change that next year, perhaps his final as a professional cyclist.

The Vuelta a España organizer Unipublic gave Contador the most combative rider award in Madrid Sunday night for his fight over the last three weeks. Contador crashed, continued, and lit up the race even if he did not win or make the final podium.

“I enjoyed racing at the Vuelta but, obviously, I am not happy with the fourth place,” Contador said in a Tinkoff team press release. “This was not at all our goal at the start; our aim was to win.”

Contador finished fourth, 4:21 behind winner Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Quintana should also award Contador, who began the fireworks early in the Formigal stage and helped distance Sky’s Chris Froome. Quintana, without the added 2:43 minutes from that day, would have had a hard time keeping the red jersey past the time trial Friday in Calpe.

After the effort, Contador went from sixth to fourth place. He jumped another spot after the time trial. But a similar early aggressive move by Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica – BikeExchange) in the final mountain day saw Contador fall from third to fourth.

The final classification sheet that the organizer handed out Sunday listed Quintana on top, Froome in second at 1:23, Chaves in third at 4:08, and Contador at 4:21 back.

“Sure, I lost the podium only by a little bit, but I came to win, not for the podium,” said Contador. “I demand a lot of myself. I could not win, but I am satisfied with the Vuelta that I raced.”

Now he has to think about the rest of his season, which he typically ends in Italy at Milano-Torino and Il Lombardia.

“We will see what we can achieve in terms of WorldTour Team ranking. This being the final year of Tinkoff it is important to close the curtain on a high note.”

Contador should race with Trek – Segafredo next season, but the official confirmation is yet to come from the American WorldTour team. He will lead the team in Tour de France and perhaps the Giro d’Italia. That will be his chance to win an eighth grand tour title.

“Trek should take him to the Tour de France,” said Tinkoff sport director, Sean Yates last week. “It’s the big one and he still wants to win it again. He will do what he can to be back and be as good as he can in that Tour.”

The 33-year-old is insisting on keeping the suspense high heading toward the end of the season. He explained there could be “a few surprises” soon. “My brother has been working on this, perhaps there could be a surprise,” Contador told Spanish media. “We’ll see in the coming days.”

Contador has been working to beef up his under-23 team in order to take it to the next level, perhaps riding as the team’s star as early as 2017. Sources close to the project, however, say it is more likely in 2018 than in 2017.

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Bahrain team adds Amstel Gold winner Gasparotto Fri, 09 Sep 2016 13:16:42 +0000 The squad led by Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa has Vincenzo Nibali, Enrico Gasparotto, and others on its lineup.

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MILAN (VN) — Team Bahrain – Merida is beefing up for its hopeful WorldTour debut next season with star Vincenzo Nibali. Over the past weeks, the team has announced several new riders for its roster, including Enrico Gasparotto on Friday.

Gasparotto won the Amstel Gold Race in 2012 and again this year. He will leave team Wanty – Groupe Gobert this winter after two years.

“I am happy to be a part of a big project,” he said. “I hope to be an important person to grow up the project in the next years.”

The project took root thanks to Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa and his love for cycling. He invited Nibali over to his Middle East island in the Persian Gulf in February 2015 and the two rode together. From there, the team began to take shape.

Slovenian Erzen Milan, Nasser’s right-hand man who originally looked after the prince’s horse stables, began making contacts with those he knew from the cycling world.

Nibali’s contract with Astana, which already has grand tour star Fabio Aru, is expiring at the end of this year. The Nibali/Bahrain rumor surfaced in February, but was not confirmed until after the Tour de France.

“I was immediately fascinated by the idea of a strong project plan built around me,” Nibali said. “It has a clear vision and is to be carried out by some of the best professionals in the sport.”

South African Brent Copeland left team Lampre – Merida to manage Bahrain. Along with Copeland, the Taiwanese bike manufacturer made the switch too. That was the big coup that prince Nasser needed, since he did not want to pour too much of his own fortune into the team in its first year.

Merida said it wants success at the “highest level of professional cycling.”

With Merida and Copeland, prince Nasser had a strong footing in cycling and a good reason for cyclists to believe in, and join, his team.

Officially, the squad now counts 11 cyclists: Nibali, Gasparotto, Manuele Boaro (from Tinkoff), Grega Bole (Nippo – Vini Fantini), Borut Bozic (Cofidis), Sonny Colbrelli (Bardiani – CSF), Chun Kai Feng (Lampre – Merida), Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling), Luka Pibernik (Lampre – Merida), Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data), and Giovanni Visconti (Movistar).

The budget should be around 15-18 million euros ($17-20 million). Those on the inside said the weight of the team could be concentrated on the spring classics with Visconti, Gasparotto, and Haussler, and on the Giro with Nibali.

Nibali won the Giro for a second time in May. He has a better chance of winning the Italian grand tour in 2017 than the Tour de France, with likely rivals Chris Froome (Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) also in the mix.

The Bahrain team has hired coach Paolo Slongo, Nibali’s close confidant, along with a doctor, a masseur, and a press officer. It brought in sport directors Gorazd Stangelj from Astana and Tristan Hoffman from Tinkoff.

The team will be based in Italy, but the goal is to become the Middle East’s first WorldTour team. The UCI has limited spots as it is trimming the number of top-level teams from 18 to 17 for 2017, but Bahrain – Merida should make it if the UCI’s license commission goes on points alone. Nibali’s and Gasparotto’s points will help, and over the next weeks, more riders will be announced as the team fills out 25-30 roster spots.

Riders rumored to join include Sergio Henao (Sky), Alan Marangoni (Cannondale – Drapac), Simone Antonini (Verva – ActiveJet), Matteo Tosatto (Tinkoff), and Nibali’s younger brother Antonio (Nippo – Vini Fantini).

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Details of the Giro d’Italia’s centenary edition begin to percolate Thu, 08 Sep 2016 21:29:30 +0000 The 100th Giro d'Italia will begin in Sardinia and likely include famous climbs such as the Mortirolo, Stelvio, Oropa, and Piancavallo.

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FLORENCE (VN) — The Giro d’Italia next May — the 100th edition — will begin in Sardinia, run completely on Italian roads and likely include famous climbs such as the Mortirolo, Stelvio, Oropa, and Piancavallo.

Organizer RCS Sport has given little away so far. In years past, it announced one or two stages by this point, and already confirmed its grande partenza. This 2015 Giro took off in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, and ended in Turin with Sicilian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) the winner.

RCS Sport will reveal the first stages on Wednesday at a presentation in Milan, although an insider has already confirmed Sardinia will be the start this May. The presentation will give followers an idea of where on the big island the Italian grand tour will begin. Some say it could kick off in the northwest in Sassari and include three stages, surly one would pass the home of Fabio Aru (Astana), second overall in 2015, in San Gavino Monreale.

The route beyond Sardinia is slowly surfacing via whispers from those on the inside.

The race could make a stop on Nibali’s island of Sicily before heading over to the heel of the Italian boot in Puglia. Towns Giovinazzo and Alberobello, famous for unique trulli homes, are on the menu.

It should pass Tuscany for Gino Bartali and the Tortona hills to Castellania for Fausto Coppi — two Italian cycling greats. Like in the past three years with the Barolo, Prosecco, and Chianti time trials, the organizer will again make a nod to one of Italy’s great exports, its wine. It should run an individual time trial through the Franciacorta hills, including Berlucchi, near Brescia.

The long Alpine passes and technical descents mark every Giro d’Italia, just ask Steven Kruijswijk (LottoNL – Jumbo) who lost the pink jersey on the Colle dell’Agnello after crashing into a snow bank this May.

Bergamo, home of Santini, Bianchi, and many of cycling’s big brands, should play a big role. The race will arrive there ahead of the second rest day with a stage similar to the 2016 Giro di Lombardia announced this week. It will be a tough stage, with around 4,000 meters of climbing in the surrounding valleys, and a downhill finish in Bergamo. After a rest, the race reportedly will depart from Bergamo for the Stelvio Pass via the Mortirolo.

The final week should also include summit finishes dear to Marco Pantani fans: Oropa and the Piancavallo ski resort in the Dolomites. Italian Enrico Battaglin won the last time the raced visited the Oropa Sanctuary in 2014.

Insiders are still scratching their heads as to where the 100th edition will finish. Some are saying Rome, but it appears too far for race director Mauro Vegni to take the peloton. Instead, as in 1909 when Luigi Ganna won the first edition, the 100th edition will likely finish in Milan. Piazzale Loreto, the start of the 1909 Giro, the Arena Civica, the finish, or perhaps the famous Vigorelli Velodrome could host the celebrations.

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Lampre to exit Italy, will be based in China Wed, 07 Sep 2016 13:26:54 +0000 The last remaining WorldTour team based in Italy heads to the Far East to stay afloat.

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MILAN (VN) — Italy’s last remaining top cycling team is turning Chinese. Lampre – Merida will receive the majority of its sponsorship from China for 2017, license itself there, and will apply to become the country’s first WorldTour team.

The link to Italy, one of cycling’s heartlands, remains with manager Giuseppe Saronni, riders such as Diego Ulissi, and likely new bike sponsor Colnago. Saronni, after returning from China to sign the agreement with China’s 292nd richest person Li Zhiqiang, explained the details to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It was inevitable that there wouldn’t be an Italian WorldTour team,” Saronni told the paper. “I’ve been saying this for four or five years. There are 1,000 reasons, but the companies aren’t there or don’t have the money to invest in cycling. So, we have to be smart to keep Italian cycling going with outside resources.”

Saronni went to the Far East. He already had links with Chinese cyclists and clothing sponsor Champion System. He needed money and China needed cycling.

“They have to invest in a social program, and the cycling team is only the latest of their initiatives. The goal is clear: to get the Chinese back on their bikes,” Saronni said. “Wherever you go there, you find a mass of cars. They have to address the problem of pollution, obesity that’s on the rise, and dreadful traffic. They are studying a project of 1,000 miles of bike lanes.

“The government decides everything there, and in our case the sports ministry. We don’t have a deal directly with a sponsor but with the TJ Sport society, which is a specifically created fund to bring in money.”

Li Zhiqiang is managing the fund, which has money coming in from clothing store J-One and Wanda Sport, the latter of which is already entering cycling with Infront Sports & Media and wanted to buy RCS Sport’s Giro d’Italia and other races last winter.

Saronni is calling his 2017 team TJ – Lampre for now, but it will likely take on a different name with long-time Italian sponsor Lampre, a prefabricated metal company, still in the second sponsor spot.

With an existing license and a spot in the top 16 of the WorldTour rankings, Saronni said he’ll have a WorldTour license for next season. Riders with existing contracts, such as South African Louis Meintjes, who was eighth in the Tour de France, and Italian Sacha Modolo, will remain on the team. Ulissi re-signed and so did 2013 world champion Rui Costa.

The UCI wants to trim the number of WorldTour teams from 18 to 17 for 2017, which could cause a struggle for some. Squads like IAM Cycling and Tinkoff will close, but two others, Bahrain and Bora – Argon 18, want to enter the WorldTour. In theory, one of those two teams or an existing WorldTour team will be sent to the Pro Continental ranks. The UCI’s license commission will decide over the next two months.

Saronni plans to be in the WorldTour with China. He said he’ll take his team there for races and training, and with TJ – Lampre and feeder team Colpack, he will develop Chinese cyclists.

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Director: ‘Tough cookie’ Contador will keep attacking at Vuelta Tue, 06 Sep 2016 12:40:38 +0000 Alberto Contador is 4:02 out of first entering the final week of racing in Spain, and he'll continue to challenge for the red jersey.

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MILAN (VN) — In Spain, Alberto Contador is called “El Pistolero” for good reason. No matter the situation, says his Tinkoff team in the three-week Vuelta a España, Contador will fire his guns and attack his rivals for victory.

Contador, despite a poor start and a nasty crash in the stage 7 finish, sits fourth overall. He showed his attacking spirit Sunday with a long-range launch with race leader Nairo Quintana of Movistar. The move, which occurred 6 kilometers into the stage and with 100km to race — saw him jump from sixth to fourth overall.

“It’s what sets Alberto apart, his will to win no matter what setbacks he’s had,” said Tinkoff sport director Sean Yates.

“We saw that in the Tour last year. He finished fifth after winning the Giro d’Italia and he was terribly, nasty empty, but he still finished fifth and wanted to attack and tried to attack.

“No matter what, he will attack. It’s guaranteed with Alberto Contador, he will attack until he can’t pedal anymore.”

The 33-year-old from the outskirts of Madrid has won the Vuelta three times. He also has two titles each in the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. He lost one title each in the Giro and Tour when he served a doping suspension.

After crashing twice in the opening two days of this summer’s Tour de France and abandoning a week later, Contador hoped to come home and win the Vuelta for a fourth time. Things have not gone to plan, but he earned further respect from hardened cycling warriors like Yates.

“The way he came back after the terrible crash definitely set the benchmark very high for ‘grinta.’ He could hardly walk when he came to the bus,” Yates said. “Luckily, that crash did not affect him like it did in the Tour de France.”

Once Contador left the Tour, Froome appeared very much in control and, besides perhaps Romain Bardet of Ag2r La Mondiale, he did not have to deal with many wildcards.

“It was a bit easy for Froome and his team relatively speaking. For sure, Alberto would have attacked if he was there but whether that would have changed anything we don’t know,” Yates said.

“In recent times, we’ve seen teams like Sky control matters much more. So his style of riding is becoming less effective and he has to use his energy more wisely. And ultimately, a lot of these big grand tours are won in time trials, and Froome is great in time trials. Contador, though, is a tough cookie.”

Without Contador’s will to attack, Quintana might not have gained the 2:43 in Sunday’s stage to Aramón Formigal. With his gains, Quintana now leads Froome by 3:37, looking comfortable heading toward Friday’s 37km time trial in Calpe and the final in Madrid on Sunday.

Yates leaned against a bright yellow Tinkoff team car. The Russian WorldTour team will fold this winter after owner Oleg Tinkov said he’s had enough of cycling. Contador will ride at least one more year, and maybe more, with American team Trek – Segafredo.

“Trek should take him to the Tour de France. It’s the big one and he still wants to win it again,” added Yates. “The last two years he hasn’t been at his best in the Tour and three years ago, he crashed when he was at his best. For sure, he will do what he can to be back and be as good as he can in that Tour.”

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Vuelta rivals tip their caps to unlikely breakaway artists Mon, 05 Sep 2016 12:59:06 +0000 Sunday's action-packed ride through the Pyrenees was a "was a beautiful stage for the fans," says Esteban Chaves

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MILAN (VN) — Nairo Quintana’s race leader’s jersey appears that redder Monday after a long-range, 100-kilometer attack that gained him 2:43 minutes on his nearest rival, Sky’s Chris Froome, and newfound respect.

Quintana (Movistar) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) attacked in the first 10 kilometers of the short 118.5-kilometer stage 15 to the Aramón Formigal ski resort. Once free in a group of 14, each with two team-mates, they could not be stopped.

Froome, isolated early after his teammates lost ground, relied on Orica – BikeExchange and Astana to do the early dirty work. Orica’s Chaves and Yates, third and fourth overall when the stage began, also missed the boat.

“Credit to them, they rode a really smart race and they gained a lot of time on us,” Froome told ITV Sport.

Quintana gained 2:43, which he needed given that he faces a normally stronger Froome in the stage 19 time trial coming up Friday.

Froome remains in second overall for the final week, but instead of trailing by 54 seconds, he’s down 3:37.

Chaves still holds third, but is now 3:57 behind. Yates dropped from fourth to fifth overall with Contador gaining time and moving from sixth to fourth.

“Movistar did an incredible job, they are a pretty strong team, just as Sky, Orica or Astana,” Chaves said. “I think today was a beautiful stage for the fans.”

Fans saw Movistar and Tinkoff flex their muscles in Spain’s Pyrenees. Over the three hours, Jonathan Castroviejo and Rubén Fernández turned themselves inside out for Quintana. Ivan Rovny and Yuri Trofimov did the same for Contador.

Once arrived at the final 14.5-kilometer climb to the Aramón Formigal ski resort, Quintana took over and rode a mountain time trial. After a somewhat disappointing Tour de France, the 26-year-old Colombian reminded fans and rivals why many consider him a grand tour star.

“It was some aggressive racing,” Yates said. “[Quintana and Contador] were aggressive. I was not surprised at all that Contador attacked.”

Such shows of aggressive racing do not happen often. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) moved from fourth to first overall in the last two mountain days of the Giro d’Italia this May. In the 2012 Vuelta, Contador surged with 50 kilometers to race on a small second category climb and bridged to an escape group with his teammates. Doing so, he gained 2:38 and the leader’s jersey from Joaquím Rodríguez.

Quintana did not need to take the leader’s jersey Sunday, but he did need more time on his rival Froome before the upcoming time trial.

Contador played a key role and hung on until the final two kilometers, losing 37 seconds to Quintana, but gaining on the others.

“I ended up cramping, but the spectacle was something beautiful,” said the Spaniard. “These are the stages where we can gain new fans.”

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