» Neal Rogers Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Mon, 28 Jul 2014 22:45:16 +0000 hourly 1 The bandaged lieutenant: Astana’s Fuglsang soldiers on Sun, 20 Jul 2014 18:29:07 +0000 Neal Rogers

One of Vincenzo Nibali's key domestiques, Jakob Fuglsang has been struggling since a heavy crash while descending the Col de Palaquit on stage 13. Photo: BrakeThrough Media |

Outside of the Astana team bus Sunday morning, Jakob Fuglsang needed to be helped on to his bike to roll to the start line

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One of Vincenzo Nibali's key domestiques, Jakob Fuglsang has been struggling since a heavy crash while descending the Col de Palaquit on stage 13. Photo: BrakeThrough Media |

TALLARD, France (VN) — Few riders in the Tour de France peloton are looking forward to Monday’s rest day as much as Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang.

On Friday the Danish rider crashed heavily while the peloton descended the Col de Palaquit when a water bottle, belonging to Jurgen Van den Broeck, bounced out of its cage and took out Fuglsang’s front wheel in a sweeping left-hand turn.

Fuglsang was able to quickly remount and finish stage 13, shredded and bloodied, 30 minutes down on Nibali, who won atop Chamrousse. Fuglsang suffered contusions, abrasions, and soreness all over his body; the worst of his injuries includes several bruised ribs on his left side. He spent the weekend recovering as best he could, covered in gauze.

On Saturday Fuglsang finished the mountainous stage 14, with its summit finish at Risoul, 13 minutes off the winning time. Outside of the Astana team bus Sunday morning, he needed to be helped on to his bike to roll over to the start line. He finished the stage in a group, 4:26 behind winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha).

Acknowledging that it’s often the second day after a crash that hurts the most, Fuglsang said that he’s suffering as much off the bike as he is on the bike.

“Today I’m more stiff than I was yesterday,” Fuglsang said. “Last night was, again, terrible. [Monday] is a rest day, and that’s very welcome.”

Prior to that incident, Fuglsang had arguably been the most valuable domestique of this Tour, particularly on stage 5, when the former under-23 world mountain-bike champion guided Vincenzo Nibali across wet and slippery cobblestones. Fuglsang finished second on that stage, 19 seconds behind Lars Boom, while Nibali took 2:09 from his closest rival, Alejandro Valverde.

Nibali now leads Valverde by 4:37, and with six stages remaining, the Italian is poised to stand on the podium in Paris next Sunday. The bulk of that GC lead came from stage 5, where Fuglsang was invaluable; he had been expected to be a key climbing domestique in the Alps and Pyrenees as well. With Fuglsang injured, Nibali has also looked to Tanel Kangert, Michele Scarponi, and Andrei Grivko as the roads turn upward.

At the start line in Tallard on Sunday, Fuglsang admitted that if he weren’t riding in support of the maillot jaune, his Tour de France might have ended on the Col de Palaquit.

“[The crash] could have gone much worse than it actually did,” Fuglsang said. “But I trained so hard for this Tour, and the team is doing really well, and they still need me, so I’m trying to [clench] my teeth and get through these first days, which are for sure the hardest… If we were a team that had already sent a few guys home, and nothing was working out for us, of course it would be more difficult [to continue].”

No stranger to riding for the classification at the Tour — Fuglsang finished seventh overall last year— the Danish rider signed with Astana for the 2013 season knowing that he would ultimately ride in support of Nibali.

In his build up to the Tour, Fuglsang placed in the top 10 at several stage races this season, including fifth overall at Paris-Nice, seventh overall at the Tour de Romandie, and 10th overall at Critérium du Dauphiné.

“My shape [condition] has been really, really good before [the crash], and that’s also why I still can be decent, even with the injuries,” Fuglsang said.

Fuglsang was sitting 10th overall when he crashed, and may have been able to maintain a top 10 GC finish while riding in support of Nibali. Instead, an errant water bottle wiped that away in an instant, putting the rest of his Tour in jeopardy and his body in agonizing pain.

The random twist of fate, which sent Fuglsang sliding across the pavement, is something he admits is difficult to reconcile.

“As they say, anything can happen up until the Tour finishes in Paris,” he said. “It was a water bottle on the road, and I saw it, and I thought, ‘I hope I miss it,’ because it was too late for me to react, and the next second I was on the road. It was just bad luck.”

After Monday’s rest day, Fuglsang will face his next big test on Tuesday’s stage 16, which features five categorized climbs, finishing with the hors categorie ascent of Port de Balès.

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Atop Chamrousse, Nibali allows emotion of victory to set in Fri, 18 Jul 2014 19:39:40 +0000 Neal Rogers

On the stage 13 podium, Vincenzo Nibali's emotions shone through. He is reaching a point where a Tour de France victory seems nearly assured. Photo: BrakeThrough Media |

The wave of emotion that washed over Nibali on the podium reflects the realization that he's poised to win the Tour

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On the stage 13 podium, Vincenzo Nibali's emotions shone through. He is reaching a point where a Tour de France victory seems nearly assured. Photo: BrakeThrough Media |

CHAMROUSSE, France (VN) — The emotion on Vincenzo Nibali’s face was undeniable.

Standing atop the Tour de France podium at the mountain resort of Chamrousse — first as the stage winner, then as the maillot jaune, and again as the King of the Mountains — the weight of the moment sank in.

Nibali didn’t win the Tour de France on Friday, but he asserted his dominance over the rest of the peloton, riding away from his GC rivals on an interminably long and hot 18km climb to claim a third stage win at this year’s race, further padding his overall lead to a seemingly insurmountable 3:37 over Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde.

At this rate, it will take something catastrophic to stop the Astana rider from becoming the first Italian to win the Tour since 1998, and the wave of emotion that washed over Nibali on the podium reflected that realization.

Nibali doesn’t just have a massive lead, he’s also proven that he’s the strongest climber in the race. He’s now eight stages away from becoming a member of an exclusive club, as a winner of all three of cycling’s grand tours. Only five other men have completed that feat.

After the stage, VeloNews asked Nibali about that moment when it looked, for a split second, that he was on the cusp of a true emotional display.

“If I looked happier than I was for my first two stage wins, it’s because I was delighted to have gained important time over Valverde and Porte,” Nibali said. “My stage victory in Sheffield remains the least expected of the three. I did that on instinct, when there was so much distance to the finish, and it was my first-ever stage win at the Tour.

“Here in the mountains, it’s different because I was prepared for it. The victory came as well, but moreover, I finally felt freedom from that never-ending climb. The high temperatures made it an extremely hard day. And to win while wearing the yellow jersey makes the stage victory even more meaningful.”

Starting the stage with a 2:23 lead over Richie Porte, Nibali hadn’t needed to attack on the Chamrousse climb. But when Valverde attacked inside the final 10km, Nibali smoothly responded, calmly bridging the gap, alone, without even standing out of the saddle.

Nibali then launched his own move, 6.6km from the line, and Valverde couldn’t respond. No one could.

The Astana leader said he hadn’t planned to ride away to a stage victory but once he saw Porte struggling, he concentrated on trying to break Valverde.

“It was very hot, but the more you climbed, the better it got. Still the heat is the same for everybody,” said the 2010 Vuelta a Espana winner and 2013 Giro d’Italia champion. “I saw Porte had dropped off already, perhaps because of the heat, so my aim was to gain time on Valverde. I accelerated to get up to the two leaders [Rafal Majka and Leopold Konig] and we were collaborating, because we knew there was a long way to go to the finish and tomorrow (stage 14) will be a tough day. But there wasn’t great collaboration and I saw that Valverde and Pinot were coming back up to us, so I upped the tempo, and with that came the victory too.”

And with that may have come a Tour de France victory as well. In the end, Nibali took 50 seconds out of Valverde, a psychological victory on top of a stage win.

If Nibali should win this Tour, he will, of course, always be dogged by the disclaimer that reigning champion Chris Froome (Sky) and two-time winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) abandoned before the big mountains due to crashes.

However Nibali said he would have been difficult to beat, regardless of their misfortunes. And it’s worth noting that Nibali had already taken yellow when both men crashed out.

“I think I’m in the best form of anyone in this Tour,” Nibali said in Chamrousse. “I’m sorry we don’t have the battle we’d hoped for with Froome and Alberto, but I came here in great form to be very competitive. My level is very high.”

For a moment in Chamrousse, Nibali’s emotion was also very high. In nine days, he may just point to that moment as the realization that he’d won the Tour.

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First Ride: Campagnolo Revolution 11+ mechanical groupset Fri, 18 Jul 2014 18:05:50 +0000 Neal Rogers

Campagnolo's 2015 Super Record mechanical groupset

A first ride with new Super Record components is akin to a blind date with a supermodel; there’s no doubt that Campagnolo’s top end

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Campagnolo's 2015 Super Record mechanical groupset

Campagnolo 2015 Super Record mechanical groupset

Campagnolo’s 2015 Super Record mechanical groupset

2015 Super Record crankarm 2015 Super Record rear derailleur

2015 Super Record front derailleur

2015 Super Record ErgoPower shift lever

BASSANO DEL GRAPPA, Italy (VN) — Campagnolo, the company that first brought 11-speed drivetrains to road cycling in 2008, has completely updated its mechanical lineup for the 2015 season.

At a press event this week in Bassano del Grappa, Italy, near its Vincenza factory, the 80-year-old Italian brand formally unveiled revamped 11-speed mechanical drivetrains, which it is calling Revolution 11+.

After the presentation, Campagnolo took journalists on a 80km ride through the hilly region to experience the new components, firsthand.

What’s new, and what isn’t

As anyone who has ever rented or borrowed a bike can attest, first-ride assessments can be difficult. Usually that’s because there are a variety of elements to taken into consideration. Campagnolo removed as many of these confounding variables as possible and provided carbon Sarto bikes equipped with its shift-levers, front and rear derailleurs, crankset, cassette, chain, and brakes; it was an opportunity to judge the Revolution 11+ system, and its accompanying Bora wheelset, as a whole.

Still, a first ride with fresh Super Record components is akin to a blind date with a supermodel. There’s no doubt that Campagnolo’s sleek, top-end group will dazzle; whether or not it’s a perfect match across both sides of the table is, of course, another question. (The current Super Record mechanical groupset retails for around $3,250, a steep barrier of entry, and something to weigh against similarly priced electronic groups from Campagnolo and Shimano.)

Campagnolo enters the 2015 market in an unusual position. From a consumer perspective, the iconic Italian brand has lost significant market share to Shimano and SRAM over the past decade; it’s been essentially non-existent on OE spec for years, missing the opportunity to recruit new users through bike sales.

However, from a performance perspective, Campagnolo is still a highly desired, and regarded, component and wheel manufacturer. Nairo Quintana won the Giro d’Italia aboard Campagnolo components, and Vincenzo Nibali is currently leading the Tour de France using their drivetrain. It’s entirely possible that all three grand tours could be won on Campagnolo this year. Its performance, and legacy, is unquestionable.

Everything in the Revolution 11+ line — which encompasses Super Record, Record, and Chorus — has been updated, if not completely redesigned from scratch. The only things that remain the same are the 11-speed chain, and the cable-actuated brakes, which remain in both single-pivot and dual-pivot models.

(No, hydraulic disc brakes are not part of the overhaul; Campagnolo said it no immediate plans to announce a hydraulic disc brake system.)

Many of the updates reflect new technology first unveiled as Super Record RS in March of this year. RS is a byproduct of Campagnolo’s SC-14 (Squadre Corsa 2014) Project, which consisted of prototypes tested at the WorldTour level.

Confused? Don’t be. Just know that, moving forward, technology from SC-14 prototypes, and the limited edition Super Record RS, will now be found in the Super Record, Record, and Chorus 11-speed mechanical groupsets.

First impressions

As expected, first-ride performance was outstanding. Front and rear shifting was positive and precise. Chain alignment was perfect. The new Bora 35s, with wider rims to accommodate 25mm and 27mm tires, rolled smoothly and silently. Ride quality was everything one might expect from a high-end brand, on its home turf, putting its best foot forward.

Of the renovated groupset, it’s the front derailleur that global marketing manager Lorenzo Taxis says is most significant; it’s the change Campagnolo users will “feel” the most.

The front derailleur now has a longer lever arm, just like Shimano’s 9000 group, which requires less force, and therefore less movement of the shift lever, to switch from little to big chain ring. The outer cage on the Super Record and Record front derailleur is made of carbon composite; the outer cage on the Chorus FD is aluminum.

Changes in the rear derailleur may not feel much different, but, utilizing what has been dubbed Embrace Technology, Campagnolo claims that the Revolution 11+ rear derailleur keeps the chain closer to the cassette, which delivers better grip to the teeth of the cogset and makes for better transfer of power. More importantly, particularly given the high cost of Campagnolo chains and cassettes, the new design extends the life of both components.

The internals of the Revolution 11+ Ergopower shift levers were redesigned to work with Revolution 11+ front and rear derailleurs, with slightly altered ergonomics as well as redesigned hoods that left this tester’s hands a bit chafed after four hours in the saddle.

Campagnolo claims the new silicone hoods, which are grooved, provide additional comfort where needed, and more solid grip elsewhere. And while the added friction likely works well with gloves, those who prefer to ride without gloves will be in for a break-in period.

For front derailleur shifting, two clicks of the thumb shifter downshifts from large to small chainring, with a third click for adjusting trim. The new system uses three clicks for upshifting, without the need for an additional click for trim. For rear shifting, Campagnolo’s Ultra-Shift system remains the only available mechanical system that allows for multiple downshifts — up to three gears at a time when upshifting, and five gears at a time when downshifting.

Previous 11-speed mechanical shift levers and front and rear derailleurs are not compatible with Revolution 11+ shift levers, front and rear derailleur, even though both are 11-speed.

The new 11-speed mechanical crankset has changed from a five-arm spider design to a four-arm design, which Campagnolo claims is more aerodynamic. As the crown jewel of the drivetrain, response to the aesthetic of Campagnolo’s new crankset was mixed among the assorted media.

More importantly, like Shimano, the new crank design features a single, standardized bolt pattern for all cranksets, meaning the crank can accept standard (53-39), subcompact (52-36), and compact (50-34) chainrings. Changing between compact and standard is now as simple as changing eight bolts, and the two chainrings.

This new version of Campagnolo’s crankset will be available in 170, 172.5 and 175mm crank lengths.

While the 11-speed cassettes have not changed, Revolution 11+ bring with it a new 11-29 cog set, Campagnolo’s widest-ever range, previously unattainable with prior rear derailleur models. The new internal structure of the rear derailleur, Campagnolo claims, makes for easier shifting on the higher end of the cassette, eliminating resistance when moving the chain onto the 25, 27 or 29 cog.

Though it’s a fair assumption that these changes — the rear derailleur’s Embrace Technology, the new Ergopower hoods, the crankset’s bolt pattern, the 11-29 cassette — will make their way into Campagnolo’s electronic EPS group, for the time being, they are mechanical group innovations.

New, wider wheels

Also new for 2015, Campagnolo’s Bora and Shamal wheelset will feature wider rims, widened from 20.5mm to 24.2mm, to accommodate wider tires. Campagnolo claims the wider rim increases aerodynamics and structural integrity, and has ultimately resulted in a lighter version of the Bora.

Noteworthy: Campagnolo claims that its proprietary brake pads are interchangeable between the 3Diamant braking surface of the carbon Boras and the 3Diamant braking surface on its aluminum Shamals. For a diehard Campy user, this means the ability to train on Shamals and race on Boras without changing brake pads.

Boras, which come in 35mm and 50mm depths and are available in both bright and dark label graphic designs, continue to be offered with tubular rims only.

The takeaway

With its Revolution 11+ mechanical group, Campagnolo retains its title as the sexiest of the three major road group manufacturers, its components straddling the line between high performance and elegant jewelry. While it’s a tough argument to claim superior shift quality to Dura-Ace mechanical shifting or braking, for some, the lure of a Campagnolo group remains strong.

Pricing, weights, and availability dates were not yet available at the press launch. (Test bikes, equipped with Bora 35s, were alarmingly light, however.)

In an increasingly fragmented marketplace of high- to low-end mechanical groups, with Revolution 11+ Campagnolo has chosen to focus on the aftermarket consumer who seeks a high-performance mechanical group. Could that be a gamble? Is there room for a ~$3,500 mechanical group using linear-pull brakes in an era of electronic shifting and hydraulic discs? Time will tell.

Editor’s Note: Campagnolo covered airfare and lodging to Bassano del Grappa, Italy, to test ride its new Revolution 11+ groupset.

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Loss of big stars a reminder of human side of Tour de France Tue, 15 Jul 2014 10:42:48 +0000 Neal Rogers

Alberto Contador got back on the bike after his crash on stage 10, but ultimately had to pull out of the race because of injury. Contador was in tears as he stepped into the car, withdrawing from the Tour. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The 2014 Tour de France has been a cruel edition of the race, one that has seen dreams broken, almost daily

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Alberto Contador got back on the bike after his crash on stage 10, but ultimately had to pull out of the race because of injury. Contador was in tears as he stepped into the car, withdrawing from the Tour. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Alberto Contador was in tears. The rider known as “El Pistolero,” the man who has overcome a brain aneurysm, defeated Lance Armstrong, and been at the center of a controversial doping suspension, had, for the first time in his career, abandoned a grand tour, brought down by a violent crash early on stage 10 of the Tour de France.

Though he’d attempted to continue on, the pain of what would later prove to be a fractured tibia was too much for the Spaniard. He chased for about 30 minutes, surrounded by his teammates, but was losing time to the overall race favorites. And then, with a hug to teammate Michael Rogers, Contador pulled over, dismounted his bike, and climbed out of the fog and into his team car. His head was in his hand, doing little to mask the tears, the pain, and the bitter disappointment of a lost opportunity.

“Mentally he’s destroyed,” said TInkoff-Saxo manager Bjarne Riis. “He was in the shape of his life. This was his Tour. It’s a mess. We were here to win the Tour de France. He’s in super good condition, never better. It’s a big, big pity.”

Earlier in the stage, Tiago Machado (NetApp-Endura) had crashed, with race radio reporting that he’d climbed into an ambulance. Not so. Machado had insisted that he continue. He finished the stage in last place, 43 minutes off the winning pace, just inside the time cut, and dropped from third overall to 47th.

Contador’s exit made him the second five-star GC favorite to leave this Tour before it reached its first rest day, leaving Vincenzo Nibali in the yellow jersey — and in prime position to become a winner of all three grand tours.

On stage 5, defending champion Chris Froome climbed into a Team Sky car after a third crash in two days; MRIs would later reveal fractures to his left wrist and right hand. Froome showed less emotion than Contador during his very personal, very public moment of defeat, shaking his head, a raw scratch below his eye, resigned to the fact that he was unable to continue. He would not defend his title; he would not even reach the high mountains, his preferred playground.

The 2014 Tour de France has been a cruel edition of the race, one that has seen dreams broken, almost daily.

Star sprinter Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) had said for months that his 2014 season hinged around the stage 1 sprint finish in Harrogate, where a victory would bring the yellow jersey — something that has eluded him throughout his successful career — on British soil, in the hometown of his mother.

Instead, Cavendish took a massive risk in the final 200 meters, trying to create a gap that didn’t exist, and instead saw his hopes, along with his body, come crashing to earth. In an instant, his dream, and his race, had ended, and the remainder of his season was in question.

“When I got on my bike after my crash, it wasn’t possible to hold my handlebars,” Cavendish said upon withdrawing from the race. “I saw there was something wrong with my shoulder. It was sticking out a bit like it shouldn’t…. I’m gutted, I’m majorly disappointed, but it could be worse… I’ve got friends who were in Afghanistan who’ve got no legs and one arm, and I think when you put that into perspective, I don’t think I’m too bad. I think I’m back in a few weeks. I’m disappointed, but things could definitely be worse.”

Before the race had even made it onto French soil, another former Tour winner, Andy Schleck (Trek Factory Racing), was also forced to abandon, after a stage 3 crash ravaged his right knee on the road to London, leaving partial ruptures in the collateral and cruciate ligaments, torn meniscus, and, most painfully, an injury to the articular cartilage. Like Cavendish, and Contador, his injuries also required surgery.

“I’m feeling pretty bad, to understate it,” Schleck said. “I’m gutted. My knee looks like there’s been an explosion inside. I’ll be on crutches for at least two weeks and from there on we will see. I cannot ask for a detailed time line right now, and that is hard to deal with. There’s nothing else I can do. Acceptance is the first step of my rehab and I’m working on that now.”

And it wasn’t only the biggest stars of the sport that have seen their Tours end abruptly, and painfully.

On stage 4, Andre Greipel’s leadout man, Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol) went down in a roundabout along with several of his teammates. Henderson immediately threw a hand in the air, remaining on the ground; a knee injury that had troubled him all during the offseason was again in jeopardy. That evening, on Facebook, Henderson posted his raw emotion over leaving the Tour with such an injury.

“I can’t express how upset I am right now,” he wrote. “Nothing to say but my knee exploded and I had to hold it together until I could get to the ambulance. At the TDF clinic they didn’t have the correct equipment to drain and stitch, so I’m off for surgery… Was a dirty, disgusting looking wound. I now know what a kneecap looks like minus skin. Thanks to everyone for your kind words. I’m pretty emotional right now but I will try remain positive.”

On stage 7, in a crash at 16km to go that took down his teammate Tejay van Garderen, BMC Racing’s Darwin Atapuma fractured his distal femur. The Colombian’s Tour de France debut ended in surgery. Van Garderen, who sits seventh overall, has crashed four times thus far.

Fifteen minutes after Atapuma’s crash, IAM Cycling’s GC leader Mathias Frank crashed heavily with 800 meters to go, fracturing his femur. Though he was able to ride across the finish line, Frank quickly underwent surgery at the University Hospital of Geneva.

Other GC riders, such as Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) and Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), have both crashed heavily, and repeatedly. Both men remain in the race, but have been forced to recalibrate their ambitions.

The causes of these crashes are not a mystery: First-week tensions. Rain. Narrow roads. Overlapping wheels. Overzealous fans. Contador’s crash appears to have been a bizarre scenario of him hitting a pothole, at speed, while eating on a descent.

Of course this Tour hasn’t been all doom and gloom. By design, racing always produces winners, and several riders have had a glorious run at this Tour de France. Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) has won three stages, worn yellow, and confirmed his status as the sport’s most powerful sprinter. Nibali has won two hilly stages, and spent a week in the yellow jersey, which we will now look to defend until Paris. France has celebrated a solo stage win from Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) spending Bastille Day in the maillot jaune.

But those successes haven’t been without a cost: Contador. Froome. Cavendish. Henderson. Schleck. Frank. Atapuma. All athletes who have reached the pinnacle of their sport, who have spent months preparing for its biggest event — training, dieting, traveling, racing, resting, planning — only to leave their hopes shredded along the tarmac.

And the list goes on. After 10 stages, 18 of the 198 starters, or 9 percent of the peloton, has abandoned.

“Crashes are part of the sport. I’ve crashed myself many times in the past as well,” Nibali said after Contador’s dramatic exit. “It’s a pity that the Tour has lost two major protagonists. I hope it’s not too bad for Alberto. I wish him the best.”

Without question, this year’s Tour de France has been filled with drama. Sadly, many gladiators of the road have already been sacrificed on the way to Paris.

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Froome confirms fractures to left wrist, right hand Fri, 11 Jul 2014 18:47:08 +0000 Neal Rogers

Shortly before the first section of cobbles, Chris Froome crashed a second time. This time the injuries sustained were significant, forcing the defending champion to abandon the Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Sky rider Chris Froome confirmed Wednesday that he abandoned stage 5 of the Tour de France with fractures to both his left wrist and right

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Shortly before the first section of cobbles, Chris Froome crashed a second time. This time the injuries sustained were significant, forcing the defending champion to abandon the Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Sky rider Chris Froome confirmed Wednesday that he abandoned stage 5 of the Tour de France with fractures to both his left wrist and right hand.

The 2013 Tour champion crashed on his left side on stage 4, and after inconclusive x-rays that evening, started stage 5 wearing a brace on his left wrist. He then crashed twice in the rain on stage 5, abandoning the race after his second crash, and before reaching the first of seven wet, treacherous cobblestone sections.

“MRIs done, confirmed fractures to the left wrist & right hand. Time for some R&R…” Froome wrote on Twitter Friday.

After Froome’s first fall on Tuesday, Sky team manager Dave Brailsford had said he was “relieved” and described the Kenyan-born rider’s injuries as ”superficial.”

But Sky said Friday they had nonetheless carried out further tests at Froome’s home in Monaco.

“We made it a matter of priority for Chris to have a thorough investigation into the injuries he sustained as initial scans from the race doctor on stage four couldn’t confirm any fractures,” Sky’s doctor Alan Farrell said. “Under our instruction, Chris was examined by a specialist at the Monaco Institute of Sport. The process involved MRI scans which have shown today that Chris suffered a small fracture to one of the bones in his left wrist. The investigations also revealed a small fracture to a bone in Chris’s right hand, which hadn’t caused him any undue pain over the two stages.”

Some reports on Tuesday had claimed Froome, 29, hadn’t broken anything and when he gave up on Wednesday there were voices claiming he’d been beaten mentally rather than physically. But Farrell said that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“The fact Chris hadn’t felt discomfort in his right hand shows how tough he is, and the pain threshold he has,” said Farrell. “Chris has been incredibly brave throughout this whole process and clearly did not take the decision to withdraw from the Tour de France lightly. Thankfully, his injuries won’t be keeping him off the bike for too long and we expect him to return to training in the next few weeks.”

Team manager Dave Brailsford speculated on Thursday that Froome could return to racing for the Vuelta a España, which begins August 23.

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An all-star squad: A letter from the Editor in Chief Mon, 30 Jun 2014 13:36:37 +0000 Neal Rogers

Velo Editor in Chief Neal Rogers. Photo by Matthew Beaudin.

Neal Rogers reflects on the last two years of VeloNews, and he looks ahead to a promising future of racing and coverage

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Velo Editor in Chief Neal Rogers. Photo by Matthew Beaudin.

Velo editor in chief Neal RogersSpencer Powlison

Photo: John M. Flora | JM Flora Photography

Photo: John M. Flora | JM Flora Photography

Logan VonBokel

Photo: Ian Hylands

Photo: Ian Hylands

Dear Velo magazine and readers,

It’s been a while since I reached out to you all with a personal note — just over two years, to be exact.

At that time, Velo magazine and had gone through significant transition, and I felt it important to address some of the personnel changes that had taken place.

As I wrote in May 2012, those challenges forced us, as a team, to look within, and to focus on how to produce the best editorial product for you, our readers.

A lot has happened within the sport since then — most profoundly, the USADA report, the disgrace of an American cycling icon, the election of a new UCI president, and a deeper understanding of what pro cycling has been through over the past 20 years.

There have also been several inspiring moments over the past two years when American cycling has taken center stage.

For the first time, the U.S. hosted a world cyclocross championship. Taylor Phinney wore the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia, while Mara Abbott and Joe Dombrowski both won the overall at their respective Giri d’Italia. Tejay van Garderen finished as the best young rider at the Tour de France, and Chris Horner wasn’t just the “best old rider” at the Vuelta a España, he was the best rider, period. Katie Compton won the cyclocross World Cup overall, twice, while Lauren Hall became a classic winner at the women’s Ghent-Wevelgem. Most recently, Andrew Talansky won the Critérium du Dauphiné, ahead of a pair of active Tour de France champions, confirming that he is a future grand tour star.

I suppose you could call the past two years a period of significant transition for American cycling. VeloNews has covered it, every step of the way, and like the sport, our brand has continued to evolve.

Over two years since my last note — and one week before the most important race on the calendar — I’m happy to report that we’re headed into the Tour de France with an all-star squad, an editorial team that includes some recent acquisitions.

But it hasn’t come without more personnel change. Our former Editor, Brian Holcombe, stepped down in May to take a PR and marketing position with Backbone Media, in the mountain town of Carbondale, Colorado.

I was sorry to see Brian go; he was my right-hand man, and the person most responsible for the day-to-day content you’ve enjoyed at over the past two years. But he’s also a friend for life, and I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. We wish him all the best.

After a few months spent interviewing several qualified candidates for the editor position, it became clear that, in Spencer Powlison, a longtime contributor based in our hometown of Boulder, Colorado, we already had the best person for the job.

When it comes to bike racing, Spencer is a jack-of-all-trades. He loves pinning on a number, whether it’s in a local criterium, a mountain bike enduro, a cyclocross national championship, or a gran fondo. Name any cycling discipline, and more likely than not, Spencer has ridden or raced it. (I even saw him ride down the staircase descent at Horsethief Bench, in Fruita, Colorado, which I captured on video.

Spencer has been lucky enough to work in the bike industry for the majority of his adult life, from his time turning wrenches in a Vermont bike shop to his five-year tenure at the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

Most recently, Spencer worked as marketing coordinator for the Brewers Association while moonlighting as a part-time tech reporter. His wife, Kate, works at PeopleForBikes, and rode the entirety of the Tour de France in 2012 as part of the Reve Tour. (If you’re not sure if you’ve read anything by Spencer, read this piece about their first date.)

I look forward to working closely with Spencer to maintain the editorial quality and standards you’ve come to expect from

I’m also very happy to announce that we’ve brought on Tech Reporter Logan VonBokel, as a full-time employee.

Coming from a background in elite road and cyclocross racing, Logan joined the VeloNews team in 2012, first as an intern, while he finished out his degree at Colorado State University, and then as a part-time contributor.

Like Spencer, Logan has a keen interest in all things cycling, from road to cyclocross to mountain bike. Back in January, Logan won the industry race at the national cyclocross championship; in March, he went on a ride with Eddy Merckx during the spring classics; more recently, he totaled a carbon frame in a pileup at Tulsa Tough, in the Cat. 1-2 race — a moment that was captured, and went viral across social media.

At the Amgen Tour of California, Logan had two big scoops in two days, first about the Bissell development team racing on SRAM’s new electronic group, and then about Giant-Shimano using on-board cameras during the race.

Whether he’s on the bike or holed up in the VeloNews tech room, Logan can talk for hours about the latest in technical innovations, usually while checking his Twitter feed for race updates, or posting something silly on Instagram about bikes, beer, or dogs.

As a former intern myself, seeing Logan rise through the ranks, from intern to full-time employee, is one of my proudest achievements in my time as the leader of the VeloNews editorial team.

I’m also very proud to announce that, in March, Matthew Beaudin was promoted to the title of Senior Writer.

Matthew, who started with us as a Staff Reporter in May 2012, recently covered the Giro d’Italia, and is about to head to his third consecutive Tour de France.

At the Grand Départ in Leeds, Matthew will join Tech Editor Caley Fretz and European Correspondent Andrew Hood, who continues to crank out the copy from all the major European races.

What else? Velo Managing Editor Chris Case recently returned from a honeymoon spent riding many of the iconic climbs of Switzerland and Italy. Our part-time web editor, Jason Devaney, is set to get married, in Virginia in early July, and Caley is also getting married, in Colorado, in August. Our team is growing, and we have a lot to celebrate.

And of course we are still proud to work with a talented pool of freelance contributors, such as Lennard Zinn, Ryan Newill, Gregor Brown, Dan Wuori, and most recently, Steve Maxwell, who runs the site The Outer Line, which provides a roadmap to repair pro cycling.

Along with longtime photographer Casey B. Gibson, and Jim Fryer and Iri Greco from Brakethrough Media, this year we’ve added Belgian ace Tim de Waele to our stable of contributors; I hope you’ve enjoyed all the great photos they’ve delivered this year.

As for me, by the time you’re reading this, I’ll be deep into singletrack bliss at the seven-day BC Bike Race, and then headed over to France for a week at Le Tour.

I think the fact that I felt comfortable stepping away from the desk in the days heading into the Tour, and again in the middle of the race, demonstrates how much faith I have in our editorial team. It really is an all-star squad.

On top of our daily web coverage, and our monthly magazines, already in 2014 we’ve put together official guides to the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France; in July, in addition to our full web and print coverage of the Tour, we’ll be putting together the official USA Pro Challenge Guide, for a fourth consecutive year.

Later this year we’ll be putting together the official guide for the 2015 UCI world road championships, to be held in Richmond, Virginia.

Once again, American cycling will take center stage, and once again VeloNews will be in the middle of it all, bringing the best stories the sport has to offer back to you, our audience.

As I wrote two years ago, this editorial team has always been, and will continue to be, authentic, authoritative, and accessible.

Velo and continue to be produced by cyclists, for cyclists. Our editorial and sales teams are proud to understand and embrace the sport of bicycle racing.

And we are, as we always have been and always will be, focused on quality over quantity.

Thanks for joining the ride. I hope you enjoy the Tour, and I hope you continue to enjoy our coverage of the sport we love.

If you have feedback or constructive criticism, I welcome your input. Please shoot me an email, or reach out to me on Twitter. I can’t always reply, but I read every message.

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Leipheimer: ‘People don’t want to hear what I have to say, and I don’t blame them’ Mon, 16 Jun 2014 23:23:16 +0000 Neal Rogers

No longer racing, Levi Leipheimer still rides regularly on the roads of Sonoma County in Northern California. Photo by Jamie Tuell/Culture Pop Films.

VeloNews editor in chief Neal Rogers spoke with Levi Leipheimer, to find out where he sits with his controversial past, and what lies ahead

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No longer racing, Levi Leipheimer still rides regularly on the roads of Sonoma County in Northern California. Photo by Jamie Tuell/Culture Pop Films.

Levi Leipheimer is a man between endpoints. How those endpoints are currently defined, however, he can’t quite say.

Leipheimer is a former world-class athlete, but with a permanent stain on his legacy. He spent half his life building toward achievements that many see as meaningless. He is a former role model, but a man without a platform. He carries a wealth of knowledge about professional cycling, but is uncertain where that information is welcomed. He’s apologized for his actions, knowing full well that many will never forgive him.

It’s been 20 months since USADA’s reasoned decision blew the lid on organized doping within the U.S. Postal Service team, and since Leipheimer, and several other American riders, admitted to doping at various points in their careers.

And while many of those riders continued racing after serving six-month off-season suspensions, Leipheimer’s career ended after he was unceremoniously dropped by his Omega Pharma-Quick Step team — an action that USADA CEO Travis Tygart called “a classic omerta move.”

An aging athlete in transition, Leipheimer, now 40, is not without his outlets. He still rides, regularly, in his hometown of Santa Rosa, California — sometimes alongside fellow resident Peter Stetina, of BMC Racing. He works with young riders from the NorCal High School Cycling League.

And Leipheimer has his namesake event, Levi’s Gran Fondo, the annual event, now into its sixth year, that attracts 7,500 participants and has taken on added significance to him in his post-racing life.

In a trailer for a new documentary about his gran fondo (below), and how the event has fared in the aftermath of the USADA revelations, Leipheimer says, candidly, “People don’t want to hear anything that I have to say, and I don’t blame them.”

Yet we wanted to hear what Leipheimer had to say.

VeloNews spoke with him twice last month. First, during a bike ride in Sonoma County, in the days before the Amgen Tour of California, a race he won three times; a second conversation, presented here, occurred several days after the California race had ended.

The objective? To find out where Leipheimer sits with his controversial past, and what lies ahead in his future.


VeloNews: So… what have you been up to?

Levi Leipheimer: That’s not an easy one to answer. I was racing for 17 years. It’s been a big transition. Bike racing was my career, my profession, and it became second nature. I’d thought during my career, ‘what would I do afterwards? What would my life be like?’ and I always told myself I would take some time off, to decompress.

After being a pro, watching the Giro d’Italia recently, on TV, it makes me realize how stressful it was. There was a lot of pressure involved. At the time you tell yourself it’s not that much pressure, but it’s been a big decompression for the last year and a half.

I’ve been focused on the gran fondo, which is kind of my baby. It’s something I’m quite proud of. We’ve been able to support a number of beneficiaries, like the NorCal League, and I’ve worked with some kids, dome some camps with them, been to some races. I think that what NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) and the NorCal League are doing is revolutionary. I am super proud that this ride, which I thought up years ago, is now a sponsor of the NorCal League.

My wife Odessa has been volunteering for the Forget Me Not Farm for almost six years now, and through the GranFondo we have raised a half-million dollars over the last five years, for a very worthy cause — it’s a therapy farm that services kids who have had an extreme upbringing, just extreme experiences in their lives. It’s an effort to break that cycle of abuse. We’ve raised money for these kids, and these animals. I feel like it is something for me to focus on. I love being involved.

I am still able to keep riding, and to be healthy, and it makes me happy to be able to be fit and do long rides on my bike. After all those years, I realize the main reason I was ever at that level is because I loved to ride my bike, and I am very fortunate to still do that. I realize that more than ever.

I’ve also gotten back into my first love, skiing, which I put off for a long time, it was something I had to put off. When I was racing, I would see photos, or ski races on TV, and I always looked forward to the day I got back into it. That’s been super cool, just trying to ease my way back into a normal life.


VN: Is it really possible to have a normal life, living in Santa Rosa, where you are so associated with both the Amgen Tour of California and the gran fondo?

LL: I define normal as… not having to be physically the best you can be at all times. I had to race 100 days a year, the season lasts nine months… you sacrifice a lot. You’re always either killing yourself on the bike, or resting, there is not a lot in between. I still ride, but I’m not worrying about it. If there’s a get together, or a late night out in San Francisco… during my career I just wouldn’t do it, I was super strict with my lifestyle. Now I don’t have to be so uptight with my physical state. I don’t have to worry about being sharp as a knife. I don’t get a regular massage anymore. For me, that’s how I define a normal life. I don’t have to put myself first all the time.


VN: Hearing you say, “I don’t put myself first all the time” — that sounds like something you hear from new parents. Which is interesting, considering that you and Odessa don’t have any children. It’s also interesting, given that you both are involved now in organizations that benefit children.

LL: For a few reasons, Odessa and I decided early on that we weren’t going to have kids, but we are both big animal lovers. She has been heavily involved in animal rescue and advocacy for 14 years now. We have 22 pets at home, that are all rescues, horses, goats, llamas, pigs, sheep, and they are pretty much our children. We made a documentary a few years ago about the gran fondo, and she is interviewed in the documentary, and she went to the farm, and got to work with these at-risk children, and after working there for a while, she said that she was never meant to have her own kids, these were the kids she was meant to help in this world, and it surprised her in a way. I feel that way a bit about NICA and the NorCal League, I get to give back to these kids and give back to the sport of cycling.


VN: So there will be people — parents in particular — reading this that will stop there and say, ‘What is Levi Leipheimer doing, working with kids in cycling, after admitting to having doped, and lied about it, for years?’ How do you reconcile that?

LL: It’s a fair question. I don’t have kids, but I know, from my parents, they made mistakes in their lives, and they didn’t want to see their kids make mistakes. I think that is something every parent can relate to. However [young riders] want to take my story is up to them, but to hear it from someone like myself, it can only benefit them. Obviously I am not telling kids to take drugs, I am just answering questions. My attitude is, ‘let’s not pretend this never happened,’ no one is going to learn from that. I didn’t want that situation. I never dreamed about taking drugs as a 12 year old, but somewhere along the way I crossed that line, and I justified it. If you read the news of cycling, this was a problem. I wish it wasn’t a problem when I was a pro, and I’d like to continue to see it get better.

In a new documentary, which is out now, there’s a scene where I am talking to some kids, and they asked me anything that came to mind, and I answered best way I knew how. It was candid: When was the last time I took drugs? What it was like? It’s not a fun thing to live with now. I guess that’s what I am known for now. It gets tricky. I am just doing my best to help them understand the situation, and understand my experience, and continue to help make cycling better. I realize that, by choosing to do drugs, I didn’t help the situation.


VN: After the USADA report came out, the cards fell differently for different people. Your career ended, others’ did not, and they’re still racing. Do you feel that you were not treated fairly once the truth came to light?

LL: We were part of this world where…I don’t have the right to claim anything was unfair. I knew the rules all along, if you were caught, it was most likely the end of your career. The Garmin guys were on the right team. Jonathan Vaughters has a very progressive view, and, they were lucky to be on that team.


VN: Was it hard to end your career on those terms? Or had you spent the 2012 season thinking, ‘this could be it’?

LL: I knew that could be it. The way everything went down was not ideal. I had a long career, I crossed that line, like a lot of guys did, and I knew the rules. It was a difficult thing to go through. I knew what I was doing when I made the choice. I have to accept what happened. That’s the bottom line.


VN: When you’re with a young pro, let’s use Peter Stetina as an example — how do you address the topic of doping in cycling when it comes up?

LL: I’m totally open and honest. There’s nothing to hide about it. It’s not like it’s something he brings up often, but if it’s relevant, we’ll talk about it. I try to take what I learned from all that, how we justified doing it, and recognize some of the mistakes we made.


VN: When you say ‘mistakes we made,’ what exactly does that mean?

LL: I think it’s hard for people, when they see a really great performance, given the history of the sport, it’s human nature to doubt it. With younger guys, I remind them that you can’t always think there is something fishy going on. That breaks you down over time. I think, with the [doping] controls the way they are now, there is no wiggle room. Guys can’t fool around with what we did, with what we went through. When we were seeing amazing performances, we knew what was going on, it was obvious, and it became very easy to justify doing it ourselves.

I try to steer them away from those pitfalls. It is human nature to doubt. But you still see great performances, and now that all that stuff is out there, the fans, everyone, Chris Froome, have to defend themselves left and right. People are a bit scorned. But in the example of a young rider like Pete, I try to steer them towards not worrying about it so much. If you think about that stuff too much, it doesn’t help you to do your best.


VN: The 2012 edition of your grand fondo was held right before the USADA report came out; you had almost a full year before the 2013 edition to brace yourself for any potential backlash, as the namesake of the event. What was that like?

LL: We sent out an email to everyone who has ever done the fondo, and I personally answered a lot of the replies. We put out a documentary, which had a piece in it about this. We also have a new documentary coming out, which focuses on that question. It’s hard to answer it in one sentence. A lot of people have been supportive and understanding. I think people are forgiving, and I’m asking for forgiveness and many people have given it to me. I feel fortunate for that.

All of our perspective changes over time. Nothing is ever black and white — it’s only a matter of how much attention you want to give it that determines your level of grayness. I understand if people don’t want to give it any time, or thought. People who have given it some thought, have been understanding, and forgiving. I think over time that will become more and more clear, and I think cycling, in the end, can turn into a positive, cycling will come out stronger from this dark period. I feel like it’s made me a better person, and I see that for cycling as well.


VN: You said you understand that people don’t want to hear what you have to say. So why do an interview? Why talk about it at all?

LL: I guess my motivation, for talking about all this, is that we’re trying to show some character — trying to be stand-up about it, trying to take responsibility for our actions. I realize some people don’t want to hear that, and that’s fine, but some people have been forgiving, and understanding, and they’ll hold us to a higher standard form here on out.


VN: How much bigger can the fondo get? It has 7,500 participants, and it sells out every year.

LL: I don’t think we quantify our event with numbers. We’ll hold steady at 7,500. The main goal is to make it better every year. Trying to have the biggest numbers isn’t the way to make it better. We want to improve the quality of the event. There is a big story there that has to do with our community. We have over 1,000 volunteers, people who love cycling, they know what it means to our community. To me it is a reflection of our community, the appreciation of what it means to ride out, through the redwoods to the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the best places to ride your bike in the world.

I love the sport, I love Sonoma County, I love Northern California, and I am super proud of what we’ve done with the fondo. The team, the guys from Bike Monkey, Carlos [Perez] and Greg [Fisher], it was total luck on my part that they are here, and that they have gotten behind me, and created something really cool, with a great story behind it. That’s my motivation.

I don’t make any money from the fondo. I have never taken a penny from it, that’s not my motivation for creating this event, or trying to promote it. That’s not what it’s about. It was a very pure concept. I moved to Sonoma County in the early part of my career, and I feel like this place forged me into a better cyclist — the roads, the geography, the community, the people, my friends, I just wanted to … it hit me, that this, the event, was the way to tell the story, to show people what it was like, what it was that inspired me to train every day, despite how I felt, or what the weather was like. It wasn’t about having an event and charging people money; that never even entered my mind.


VN: Where do you see yourself in five years?

LL: I don’t have a clear answer for that. At some point I need to make a decision. I love cycling, but I don’t think I’ll be involved on the competitive side, with a team, or as a director. I love the sport, I just have to find a niche where I can give back, or at least do my best to make amends.


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Reijnen defends title at Philly Cycling Classic Sun, 01 Jun 2014 21:53:18 +0000 Neal Rogers

For Reijnen, victory came not only as vindication — he started the race as defending champion — it also served as the ultimate birthday present to himself. Photo: Casey B. Gibson.

For Reijnen, victory came not only as vindication — he started the race as defending champion — it also served as the ultimate birthday

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For Reijnen, victory came not only as vindication — he started the race as defending champion — it also served as the ultimate birthday present to himself. Photo: Casey B. Gibson.

PHILADELPHIA (VN) — With the no.1 bib of the defending champion pinned on this back, UnitedHealthcare’s Kiel Reijnen stopped all challengers to take a second consecutive title at the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic on Sunday.

After an explosive burst up the steep, kilometer-long Manayunk Wall in Philadelphia, Reijnen won the 120-mile, UCI 1.1 race, crossing the finish line well ahead of Jure Kocjan (SmartStop) and Dion Smith (Hincapie Development).

The win came as an added bonus for Reijnen, who was celebrating his 28th birthday.

“I was first onto the hill after [John] Murphy dropped me off, so I had to gauge the effort myself,” Reijnen said. “As soon as it steepened, I kicked, just a little dig, to see how people would respond, and there were a few counterattacks, I tagged onto that. I gave another kick, which kind of thinned it some more, and then towards the end of the steep part, I knew that was my last opportunity to kick. When I did that, and I saw the shadow that was on my wheel kind of back off a bit, I just went full. I guess it was enough, I never looked back.”

Video of Reijnen speaking with VeloNews immediately following his win can be found here.

Though the race no longer starts and finishes on Benjamin Franklin Parkway like its predecessor, the Philadelphia International Classic, it still uses Kelly Drive, Lemon Hill, and of course, the Manayunk Wall.

The 10-lap, 120-mile race was animated by an eight-man breakaway that didn’t form until about 35 miles in.

In the group was Jonny Clarke (UHC); Joey Rosskopf and Robin Carpenter (Hincapie Development Team); Blaz Jarc (NetApp-Endura); Tom Zirbel (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies); Clay Murfet (Astellas); Alex Wohler (Budget Forklifts); and David Williams (5-Hour Energy).

The gap to that group never stretched to more than about two minutes, however, as SmartStop, Optum and Jamis chased, with UnitedHealthcare’s Danny Summerhill, Jeff Louder, and Chris Jones patrolling the front of the peloton

“Initially, it took a while for the break to go,” Reijnen said. “This race is always a little bit risky, you can’t let 30 guys roll over the top of the hill, or you could be out of the race. You’ve always got to watch it, so that takes some effort. I think it was about 80km before the break went, so we had to do some early digs, and my legs felt that a little bit.”

Reijnen may have taken top honors, but the day was perhaps no more special than for Carpenter. The Philadelphia native grew up just one block away from the start/finish line, and  graduated from Swarthmore College at 10 a.m.  Sunday morning, showing up to the race with 30 minutes to spare; he rolled up to the start line with his graduation cap on. He then promptly rode into the day’s breakaway, and spent much of the race at the front.

“I guess I was just amped” Carpenter said. “It was a crazy day. On the climb, where it starts to level off, that’s where my contingent of family and friends were, and I didn’t even have to pedal up the second half of the Wall. You get goosebumps, and you can’t tell if they are from dehydration, or just the moment.”

Rosskopf, Carpenter’s teammate, took the day’s KOM points from the breakaway, largely uncontested.

With two laps remaining, and SmartStop, Optum and Jamis chasing, that group was brought back, and a five-man breakaway went clear, containing Isaac Bolivar (UnitedHealthcare), Joeseph Schmalz (Hincapie), Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly), and Josh Berry (SmartStop). Canadian rider Bruno Langlois bridged across to make it a five-man move with a 30-second advantage. Berry scooped up enough sprint points from the break to take the day’s sprint competition.

“Around halfway through, I could see some tired faces in the field. It was thinning, and I still felt okay,” Reijnen said. “The second to last time up Lemon Hill, I wasn’t trying very hard and I just kind of went from the back to the front, I didn’t even realize it, and at that point, I knew I had the legs.”

Atop the penultimate climb of Manayunk, just as the splintering peloton was reaching the break, Langlois jumped from the  break and crossed the finish line, arms aloft, one lap too early, a sight that has been oddly common in this 2014 season.

A group of about 40 survivors battled throughout the last lap, with UnitedHealthcare at the front, fighting to keep Reijnen in position. He came through the final turn at the bottom of the climb first, and one long kilometer later, crossed the finish line in the same position.

“The team made it so easy. I didn’t have to do anything, all day long,” Reijnen said. “They kept me protected, they kept me well hydrated, fed, the whole thing. Coming into the last climb they just said, ‘sit,’ and dragged me around the last lap. [John] Murphy took me into the last corner. In that final stretch, he said ‘which side do you want to come in on me?’ and I said ‘the right side,’ and he said ‘on the left-hand turn?’ and I said ‘I thought you meant the first turn,’ and he said, ‘no, no, I’ll take you to the base of the climb.’ And I said ‘I only want you to keep going if you’re first through the corner,’ and he said ‘I’ll be first through the corner,’ and he was first. I owe a big thanks to those guys.”

Asked about his finish-line salute, which included one hand over his chest and one finger pointed to the sky, Reijnen said it was dedicated to his wife, Jordan, who had encouraged him to “follow my heart,” in his racing. He also spoke of a hawk feather he’d had fastened to his helmet on the day.

“I was racing with my heart in the last 300 meters,” he said. “That’s what my wife always tells me to do. I think it’s really easy to overthink a finish like that. I wanted to do it by feel. For me, the hawk feather means that —  ’race with your heart, race by feel, race because you love it.’ The feather comes from a cabin that belongs to my wife’s family, up in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado. I go there to train a lot, and we’ve spent a lot of time there since we got married.”

Reijnen was the second repeat winner on Sunday; in the morning’s women’s race, Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) also defended her 2013 title.

Like the women’s field, the men’s field offered a total prize list of $31,000, with cash payouts going 25 deep, as well as prizes to the winner of the KOM, sprint, and under-23 competitions.

Rosskopf won the KOM competition; Josh Berry (SmartStop) won the sprint competition. Jelly Belly rider Jacob Rathe finished ninth and took the $1,000 prize as best young rider.

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Stevens wins Philly Cycling Classic for 2nd consecutive year Sun, 01 Jun 2014 19:04:43 +0000 Neal Rogers

The women's podium at the Philly Cycling Classic. Photo: Neal Rogers

Stevens out-kicks Albrecht to win her second consecutive Philly Cycling Classic

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The women's podium at the Philly Cycling Classic. Photo: Neal Rogers

PHILADELPHIA (VN) — For the second consecutive year, American Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) has conquered the Manayunk Wall to win the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic.

Stevens outkicked Canadian Lex Albrecht (Twenty16) for the win, with American rider Lauren Hall (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) finishing third.

It was the first road win for Stevens since June 15, 2013, when she won a stage of the Giro Trentino; she won the Pan-American individual time trial championship on May 8 of this year in Puebla, Mexico.

Stevens has now won both editions of the Parx Casino Philly Cycling Classic, a race that rose from the ashes of the former Philadelphia International Classic and its long history as the former USPRO national championship event, which began in 1985.

And though the course has changed — it no longer includes the start/finish on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, instead starting and finishing atop the Manayunk Wall — the Philly race, and its UCI 1.1 designation, still carries considerable prestige for both the men’s and women’s peloton, including equal prize lists for both fields.

“This is a really special race for me,” Stevens said. “I raced here for the first time in 2009, and have done it every year it’s been held since then. It is a big race for our team. It means a lot to me, to win again, and to win here.”

Stevens finished third at the U.S. national road championship last weekend, behind winner Alison Powers (UnitedHealthcare), who won that race on a solo breakaway.

And as she did in Chattanooga, Powers again went solo and opened up a dangerous lead ahead of the field. However, this time around Powers went early in the race, on the second of five 12-mile laps.

“For me personally, this wasn’t a finish that suits me at all,” Powers said. “I was supposed to wait for the second half of the race, but I knew I had strong teammates behind me, so why not give it a go? It was up to 1:10, and they held me there, but I racked up KOM points, and sprint points.”

Though her advantage stretched out over one minute, Powers was reeled in on the fourth of five trips over the Wall, setting the stage for a fast and frenetic final lap as teams battled for position heading into the final kilometers.

Stevens’ teammate Carmen Small launched an attack at the bottom of the Levering Street, the early slopes of the Wall, setting up Stevens for a perfectly timed counterattack on the steepest stretch, on Lyceum Avenue.

“My teammates did a perfect job for me,” Stevens said. “Unfortunately my teammate Karol-Ann Canuel went down in a crash early, so we had to change our dynamics a little. There were only three left to work. We had Ally Stacher do everything; ride on the front, covering moves. We had to be conservative, with Tayler Wiles and Carmen Small, because we knew we’d need the horsepower in the final lap.

“This race always comes down to that final climb, it’s like a sprint coming into the climb in the right spot. For me, to throw elbows, is not common, but I had my elbows out.”

Runner-up Albrecht agreed — for those who can power up the kilometer-long climb at the end of the race, it does come down to being in the right spot — and she lamented her positioning coming into the climb.

“Second place is bittersweet,” Albrecht said. “I was really hungry for us to get the win, and I really love this race. But I’m happy to be on the podium. I started [the climb] a little too far back. We lost some girls that got caught up in some crashes. [Teammate] Alison Tetrick did a big attack a few kilometers from the finish that helped keep it strung out at the front.

“I knew it was essential to be at the front of the chicane area, at the bottom of the hill. I had to make up a lot of ground. It’s so fast there, it’s all fighting for position. I needed to be in the top five, and I was in about 15th or so. But Evie is a super strong rider, and for me, it’s an honor to share the podium with her.”

Stevens timed her move to perfection, and said she had a good idea she’d won the race with 100 meters to go. The effort was so intense, however, that Stevens collapsed to the ground across the line.

“This year, at Flèche Wallonne, I think I lost a podium spot in the last 25 meters, so I was not going to look back or give up until I was over that line,” Stevens said. “There was no victory salute. I just wanted to make sure I had it.”

Like the men’s field, the women’s field boasts a total prize list of $31,000, with cash payouts going 25 deep, as well as prizes to the winner of the KOM, sprint, and under-23 competitions.

Powers won the KOM and sprint competitions. Tibco-To the Top rider Kristabel Doebel-Hickock finished 11th and took the $1,000 prize as best young rider.


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Was a race vehicle to blame for Taylor Phinney’s broken leg? Tue, 27 May 2014 06:17:28 +0000 Dan Wuori

Taylor Phinney crashed against this barrier on the descent into Chattanooga, resulting in a compound fracture. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Taylor Phinney crashed at high speed and broke his left leg in the U.S. nationals road race Monday. Was a race moto to blame?

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Taylor Phinney crashed against this barrier on the descent into Chattanooga, resulting in a compound fracture. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee (VN) — BMC Racing’s Taylor Phinney had hoped to become the first American man to win both the U.S. time trial and road race championships in the same season this weekend in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Instead, a broken left leg suffered during Monday’s road race leaves the remainder of the 23-year-old’s season in doubt.

The question is: Was a race vehicle to blame?

UnitedHealthcare rider Lucas Euser was descending just behind Phinney, when the pair encountered a race moto as they rounded a sharp left-hand turn on their first descent of Lookout Mountain.

Euser said the pair had to take evasive action to avoid the race moto, which left Phinney in Chattanooga’s Erlanger Medical Center Monday night.

“We were descending really fast,” Euser told VeloNews at the race finish. “Taylor is an amazing descender and I know that, so I was comfortable coming close to him. He probably had 10 or 20 meters on me.”

As the pair rounded a sharp left turn, disaster struck.

“We came into that left-hander really fast, and [Taylor] caught the lead moto. The moto got these wobbles and it took Taylor on the inside of the corner. And there was nothing he could do. When you go on the inside of that corner that fast, you’re going down.”

Euser says the pair split off in opposite directions, each seeking to avoid a collision with the motorcycle.

“He went inside left and I went right. I thought for sure we were both K.O.’d at that point. I felt like I was going down,” a visibly shaken Euser explained. “I went into the concrete wall and I disintegrated my rear wheel and my pedal and everything. I popped up against that wall, while he hit the guardrail. That’s what did his damage.”

Garmin-Sharp’s Tom Danielson was descending in the same area. He told VeloNews that the pair was lucky to survive.

“Taylor came around me going Mach 10, with Lucas on his wheel,” Danielson said. “There was  maybe one turn that was hard on that descent, and that was it. It just kind of comes back on itself. Lucas was very lucky. I thought he was gone, too. I saw him and I was like, ‘You know? That’s it.’”

Live video, during the moments the crash developed, were not shown on USA Cycling’s live webcast from Chattanooga.

Phinney underwent surgery Monday evening to repair a compound fracture of the left tibia and fibula; his left knee was also injured in the crash, though the extent of that injury has not been determined.

Euser, who suffered only a superficial wound to his elbow, abandoned the race to stay beside Phinney.

“From what I saw when I first got to him I knew he would [need surgery],” Euser said. “It was just a matter of not letting him move and keeping him calm until the medics got there. I’ve been in that position, that other position, and I know that at that point you need someone to just be there and make sure you get help as soon as possible.”

Euser told VeloNews that the accident scene spoke to its severity.

“Taylor’s bike was 40 feet down the road, and he was underneath the barrier. I didn’t see exactly how he crashed, because I was trying not to die myself. When the BMC car got there they were like, ‘Where’s his bike?’ and they pointed down the road. They were wondering how it got there.”

VeloNews contacted USA Cycling Monday to seek additional information on the role of the race moto. In a pair of emails, USAC spokesman Bill Kellick was unable to substantiate the cause of the crash.

“We do know there was no contact between any rider and any vehicle, but we are still looking into exactly what happened,” Kellick wrote.

At time of publication, the identity of the moto driver was unknown.

Incidents of riders being taken down by race vehicles are abundant in pro cycling; the most glaring recent example occurred at the 2011 Tour de France, when a media car took out Dutch rider Johnny Hoogerland and Spaniard Juan Antonio Flecha.

In a press release regarding the men’s road race, USA Cycling made no mention of the cause of the injury to its newly crowned national TT champ, writing, “The men’s road race was marred by a crash on the first descent down Lookout Mountain that resulted in Friday’s time trial champion, Taylor Phinney (Boulder, Colo./BMC Racing Team), suffering a broken leg.”

VeloNews spoke with Taylor’s father, former 7-Eleven sprinter Davis Phinney, from his home in Boulder, Colorado, Monday evening.

“It’s such a bummer,” the elder Phinney said of the crash. “[Taylor’s mother Connie Carpenter] called me right before he went into surgery and she handed the phone to Taylor, so I was able to chat with him. He was amazingly coherent. As [Taylor] related it, he came upon a motorcycle and the [driver] was either confused or uncertain. I was really surprised to hear how the accident had happened because I’m so secure in Taylor’s descending skills.”

The younger Phinney won a stage of the Amgen Tour of California on May 15, largely on the strength of his skills down the descent from San Marcos Pass. He won his second national time trial championship on Saturday, and had planned to debut a custom stars-and-stripes skinsuit in the prologue of the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday, June 8. The mishap almost certainly scuttles Phinney’s hopes to ride his first Tour de France in July.

But the BMC racer’s father said his son will be back… in time.

“He was definitely resolute in that he was like, ‘I’m going to come back and kick some ass.’ But you know, saying that and doing it… I totally believe that he can, and will, come back as good as ever. It could have been worse, but it is still is so, so disappointing.”

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Triple crown: Powers wins third concurrent national championship Mon, 26 May 2014 22:43:16 +0000 Dan Wuori

Alison Powers doubled up with a win in the women's road race. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

UnitedHealthcare rider made history as first American woman to simultaneously hold national titles in all three road cycling disciplines

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Alison Powers doubled up with a win in the women's road race. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

UnitedHealthcare’s Alison Powers made American cycling history Monday in Chattanooga, Tennessee, becoming the first American woman to simultaneously hold national titles in all three road cycling disciplines.

Powers soloed to victory in the Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Road Championship, besting 2012 winner Megan Guarnier (Boels-Dolmans) and Evelyn Stevens (Specialized-lululemon) by 22 and 25 seconds respectively.

Powers, who also holds the national criterium championship, won her second time trial title on Saturday.

“It’s amazing. It just proves that anything can happen, especially when you have a really strong team,” the 34-year-old Powers said after the race. “We had a plan of how to win using our strengths.  And it was a plan that we executed perfectly.”

The women competed on a 64.7-mile course that included two 16.5-mile “long laps,” which included ascents of Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain, as well as three 5.4-mile finishing circuits in the downtown area.

Powers was joined in Chattanooga by UnitedHealthcare teammates Katie Hall and Mara Abbott, who successfully defended her 2013 title as the race’s Queen of the Mountains.

Hall attacked the group of race favorites as the peloton entered downtown Chattanooga for the first of three closing circuits and led the race solo for roughly 10km before being joined by Specialized-lululemon’s Tayler Wiles.

An elite chase group including Powers, Guarnier, and Stevens caught Wiles and Hall with 9.2km to the finish, at which point Powers attacked solo, opening a gap that would prove decisive.

“We had a plan that any of us could win,” Powers explained. “To be honest, I thought Katie and Tayler were going to. Once they were brought back, the next job was for one of us to counter attack.”

All that was left was for Powers to time trial her way to the finish.

“I knew I was either going to win or blow up. With the record on the line it had to be one or the other. [The gap to Guarnier and Stevens] was 10 seconds, 10 seconds, 10 seconds…as soon as it went up to 15 seconds, I was like, ‘Yeah.’

The win is the fifth national championship for Powers, who shared in the 2008 team pursuit title and held the women’s time trial title that same year.

Guarnier, the sole American on the Dutch Boels-Dolmans team, rode the race as a team of one for the second consecutive year.

“It’s definitely different,” the Glens Falls, New York, native admitted after the race. “In Europe I race with the same team support as the other girls here. On a day like today I have to look around to see who will work with me, even though I’m not on their team. It’s a bit of a gamble. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. That’s cycling.”

New for 2014 is a special perk for the men’s and women’s road winners: a one-year loan of a new Volkswagen GTI. (Saturday’s time trial championship was held on the grounds of race sponsor Volkswagen’s Chattanooga assembly plant.)

After being awarded the car’s keys on the podium, Powers announced that the team’s riders had agreed in advance to award the vehicle to teammate Jacquelyn Crowell, who was diagnosed in with a malignant brain tumor in October 2013.

On Monday afternoon Crowell posted a YouTube video of a speech she delivered during the Amgen Tour of California. In it, she vows to return to the race and calls her fight for life “my Tour de France.”

After the race, Crowell’s teammates describe her as the unseen fourth member of their nationals squad.

“We decided [to give Crowell the car] a really long time ago and we just didn’t tell her,” explained 2013 Giro Donne winner Mara Abbott, who spoke with Crowell by telephone just after the race.

“National championships are the trickiest races to win. They get won by fractions of a percent. And I said to her, ‘Do you think the motivation of knowing we could give this to you maybe gave us that extra fraction of a percent?’ It was really a four member team.”

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Taylor Phinney breaks leg at road nationals Mon, 26 May 2014 22:17:44 +0000 Dan Wuori A broken left leg suffered during Monday’s road national championship leaves the remainder of the 23-year-old’s season in doubt

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Taylor Phinney crashed against this barrier on the descent into Chattanooga, resulting in a compound fracture. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Taylor Phinney crashed against this barrier on the descent into Chattanooga, resulting in a compound fracture. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

BMC Racing’s Taylor Phinney had hoped to become the first American man to win both the U.S. time trial and road race championships in the same season this weekend in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Instead, a broken left leg suffered during Monday’s road national championship leaves the remainder of the 23-year-old’s season in doubt.

Phinney crashed on the descent of Lookout Mountain, appearing to have collided with a roadside barrier. He was transported to Chattanooga’s Erlanger Medical Center, where X-rays confirmed the break. Commentators on the race’s webcast said a compound fracture was suspected.

At 6:24 EDT on Sunday, BMC Racing tweeted that Phinney was undergoing surgery “for lower left leg fracture and injury to his knee.”

The team later issued a statement, which read, “Phinney crashed on a left-hand turn approximately 43 kilometers into the 165.5-km race. BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa said Phinney was undergoing surgery Monday night at a Chattanooga hospital for injuries that included a tib-fib fracture of his left lower leg, and an injury to the same knee.”

The mishap almost certainly scuttles Phinney’s hopes to ride his first Tour de France in July. He won the  USA Cycling Professional Time Trial Championship on Saturday, telling VeloNews that he planned to debut his custom stars and stripes skinsuit in the prologue of the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday, June 8.

This story will updated throughout the day as news of Phinney’s condition is released.

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Close friends, on different teams, to square off at U.S. road nationals Sun, 25 May 2014 21:21:05 +0000 Dan Wuori

Members of "The Wolfpack" will face off against each other, man against man, at Monday's U.S. road nationals. Photo by Dan Wuori.

A group of riding partners based in Boulder, Colorado, that calls itself "The Wolfpack" will face off against each other during Monday's

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Members of "The Wolfpack" will face off against each other, man against man, at Monday's U.S. road nationals. Photo by Dan Wuori.

As the Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Road Race Championship hits Chattanooga, Tennessee this Memorial Day, there is an invisible team whose jerseys won’t be represented among the colors of the men’s peloton.

Its members call it “The Wolfpack.”

Based in Boulder, Colorado the group of riding partners, which began as a local training camp designed to support Taylor Phinney’s 2012 Olympic road race ambitions, includes a who’s who of Monday’s likely podium contenders, including Garmin-Sharp’s Alex Howes, UnitedHealthcare riders Kiel Reijnen and Lucas Euser, Julian Kyer of Team SmartStop, Optum-Kelly Benefits rider Bjorn Selander, and, of course, Phinney himself.

“It’s just kind of a group of guys that have all known each other for a really long time, either on the national team, or racing against each other on trade teams,” Phinney explained. “We all live in Boulder. So when we’re back we always try to bring everyone together.”

(Recently retired pro Craig Lewis, Phinney said. is also a lifelong member of the ‘Pack.)

Convened by Phinney via group text message, the ‘Pack benefits from both camaraderie and the support to which the BMC rider has now grown accustomed, including a follow car (with custom Wolfpack car magnets) and food and bottle support from Phinney’s assistant and soigneur, Reed McCalvin.

As for the origins of the Wolfpack moniker, Howes and Phinney both acknowledge it was loosely inspired by a scene from the movie “The Hangover,” in which a group of buddies visit Las Vegas for a bachelor party.

“It’s just kind of like, when a group of dudes gets together, what do you call it? The Wolfpack seemed right,” Phinney told VeloNews. “It’s better than calling us ‘Cycle Bros’ or something.”

Come Monday, the ‘Pack will have it’s work cut out for it as the American men’s peloton tackles a 102.8 mile course, which includes four accents of Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain and seven climbs of a steep downtown block of Kent Street, known as “The Wall” for its steep 20-percent grade. (Earlier in the day, the women will compete on a 64.7-mile variation of the same course, featuring two mountain ascents and five Wall climbs.)

Could Wolfpack membership have its privileges come race day, particularly in a setting where riders like Phinney (who will race with a single BMC Racing teammate, Peter Stetina) will be unable to rely upon team tactics?

On this question, Phinney is firm.

“There’s no collusion between the members of The Wolfpack,” the recently crowned national time trial champion told VeloNews. “Alex really wants to win Monday, Kiel really wants to win Monday. Bjorn and Optum have a pretty specific game plan, I think.”

Howes agreed, noting that group members may be afforded certain niceties — but not race wins.

“When you spend five hours a day with a group of guys you tend to get pretty close,” said the Garmin-Sharp rider. “[Friends] look after one another in races. Those are the guys you may give a couple of extra inches to in the group. But when it comes down to winning nationals, it’s every man for himself.”

Still the competition remains friendly, said Howes. “We’ve always said, ‘If I don’t win it, I wouldn’t hate you if you did.’ Which isn’t the case for everybody,” the 26-year-old Golden, Colorado native laughed. “It would be hard to see one of those guys with the [stars and stripes] on his back. But either way I don’t think we’re going to lose any friendships over it.”

A win by Phinney in Monday’s road race would make him the first man in American cycling history to simultaneously capture both the national road and time trial jerseys. But Howes and Reijnen (a podium finisher at the national road race in 2010, 2012 and 2013) may each be better suited to the demands of Monday’s course than Phinney, who at 6-foot-5, and 180 pounds, is not exactly a pure climber.

Howes says the addition of “The Wall” within both the Chattanooga long laps and closing circuits could make for a smaller group at the finish than in 2013, when Jelly Belly’s Freddie Rodriguez sprinted to victory.

“I think that a lot of people were pretty frustrated last year,” Howes said. “The group that came to the finish was pretty darn big, maybe 20 guys? Out of a field of 80 that’s the peloton, it was probably the biggest group still out on the road. So a lot of teams will be looking to correct mistakes they made last year. I think it will be a more select group and that [the inclusion of “The Wall”] will play a part.”

With or without the assistance of his Boulder brethren, Howes says winning the stars and stripes in Chattanooga would be a dream come true.

“For me it would be everything. We spend half of the year in Europe, so wearing that jersey on your back and getting to represent America would be amazing. It would be kind of like a safety blanket, you know? Something to remind you of home no matter where you are.”

The Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Road Race Championship will kick off at 9 a.m. Eastern time Monday with the women’s road race, to be followed by the men’s race at 1:30 p.m. Both races will be streamed live via the USA Cycling Tour Tracker app.

VeloNews’ Dan Wuori will be providing live updates throughout the holiday weekend. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dwuori.


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Phinney, Powers take U.S. national TT titles in Chattanooga Sun, 25 May 2014 02:22:54 +0000 Dan Wuori

Taylor Phinney won the U.S. national time trial championship, 51 seconds ahead of defending champion Tom Zirbel. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) and Alison Powers (UnitedHealthcare) took U.S. national time trial titles in Chattanooga, Tennessee

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Taylor Phinney won the U.S. national time trial championship, 51 seconds ahead of defending champion Tom Zirbel. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

In the end, Taylor Phinney always had it in the bag. Or in this case the box.

Asked, after winning his second U.S. national time trial title, whether he had given any thought to the potential design of his champion’s skinsuit, Phinney admitted to a secret that spoke volumes about his confidence coming into the Volkswagen USA Cycling Professional Road Race and Time Trial Championships.

“Um…you guys might hate me when I say this, but I actually have [the completed skinsuit] already,” the 23-year-old BMC Racing rider told the assembled press. “I didn’t trust them to make a cool one and I have to go straight to France on Tuesday, so I said ‘Look, we’re going to make this and we’ll just set it up as a template for future years if I don’t win this year.’ And so I may or may not already have one in my hotel room.”

Phinney promised he hasn’t opened the box – but now he can, after blazing to an impressive victory in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The Boulder, Colorado native, who also held the title in 2010, finished the rolling 19.2 mile course in 37:48, some 51 seconds faster than 2013 champion Tom Zirbel of Optum-Kelly Benefit Stratgies.

David Williams of 5-Hour Energy-Kenda scored the final podium place with a time of 39:12.

“I’m really happy with this,” said Phinney after his victory. “This is a big weight off my shoulders. I was confident going into today, but I was actually super nervous, mainly because it was one of the first time trials I’ve gone into where I’ve been the overwhelming favorite. I still can kind of play the underdog card in all the World Tour time trials, so this is the first one where everyone was looking at me, so I was quite happy to pull it off.”

Although Zirbel found himself trailing Phinney by 13 seconds at the halfway time check, he still felt confident he could make up the deficit on the second lap.

“I felt like I was still in it at that point,” said Zirbel. “I usually try to negative split in the TT and go a little conservative. For whatever reason I kind of fell apart that second lap and didn’t realize it was happening until I was going into the corners a lot slower than the first lap. My effort was there but I just didn’t have the legs in the second lap.”

Phinney wasn’t the only one feeling confident going into the day’s event.

Asked when she knew she had the women’s title secured, UnitedHealthcare’s Alison Powers, who triumphed over much of the same field at the Amgen Tour of California’s Folsom time trial on May 12, was equally straightforward.

“I knew last week [after California],” she said. “Today was just about execution.”

Powers rode to victory in 42.23, besting 2013 champion Carmen Small and her Specialized-lululemon teammate Evelyn Stevens by 29 seconds and 1.03 respectively.  Tayler Wiles, also of Specialized-lululemon, took fourth, at 1:04.

Small said she came into the race as the defending champion, but with less lofty goals.

“I chose not to get any splits (from her team car),” said Small. “I was thinking top 10 would be a great ride. Going into it I had a completely different mindset so I’m pretty happy with second place today. Alison rode a great race and I couldn’t have gone any harder today. It’s too bad I lost the jersey, but it’s not like I lost it to just anyone. Alison is a returning champion and she’s an incredible bike racer.”

After what she describes as a disappointing third place finish in 2013, Powers, who last held the U.S. TT champion’s title in 2008, says she thought long and hard about her approach to the weekend.

“I really had to reevaluate my plan and give some thought to what I could do better, and what I did wrong [in 2013],” she said. “I think I developed a really good plan for today. I rode with confidence that the plan was going to work and rode exactly to the plan. And in the end it worked perfectly.”

Powers’ win, like Phinney’s, creates an interesting opportunity for Monday’s national road race championship. No female rider has simultaneously held the national time trial and road race championship titles since Kristin Armstrong in 2006, while no male rider has ever accomplished the feat. But Powers, who also holds the U.S. women’s criterium championship, now stands poised to become the first American ever to hold all three titles concurrently.

“I’ve always been proud of the fact that I’m fairly strong in all [disciplines],” Powers told VeloNews. “My fiancée is always drilling in the fact that I can win any race. I don’t ever believe him, but he’s right. It’s really cool to think that I could be the only person who’s won all three. At the same time, a race is a race and there are a lot of strong people here. All you can do is race your best and hope for a good result.”

Powers, Small and Stevens will make up the U.S. women’s individual time trial team at the 2014 UCI Road World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain, this September. Powers qualifies with her victory on Saturday, while Small qualified via her bronze-medal performance at last year’s world championships, and Stevens by virtue of her gold medal at the 2014 Pan American Continental Road Championships earlier this month.

A win during Monday’s road road would be big for Phinney, as well. The rider, who will debut his national champion’s skinsuit in the prologue of June’s Critérium du Dauphiné, is in the running for his first Tour de France selection in July.

“That’s my biggest goal of the year, to go to the Tour,” explained Phinney. “Especially now, having the [national champion’s] skinsuit. There’s a long time trial on the penultimate day and I’d love to go fly the flag.”

Monday’s road race will feature multiple ascents of Chattanooga’s Lookout Mountain and a steep 20-percent climb up Kent Street, known locally as “TheWall.”

Both the men’s and women’s races will be live streamed via the USA Cycling Tour Tracker app, with coverage of the women’s race beginning at 9:00 a.m. Eastern time.

Dan Wuori will be on site in Chattanooga throughout Memorial Day weekend. For updates on follow him on Twitter at @dwuori. 

Men’s Time Trial - 30.9km
1. Taylor Phinney (Boulder, Colo./BMC Racing Team) 37:48.92
2. Tom Zirbel (Boulder, Colo./Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) +0:51
3. David Williams (Grand Rapids, Mich./5-Hour Energy p/b Kenda) +1:24

Women’s Time Trial - 30.9km
1. Alison Powers (Pinecliffe, Colo./UnitedHealthcare) 42:23.09
2. Carmen Small (Durango, Colo./Specialized-lululemon) +0:29
3. Evelyn Stevens (Dennis, Mass./Specialized-lululemon) +01.03


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Phinney, on his classics critics: ‘I don’t have anything to be worried about’ Tue, 20 May 2014 05:42:21 +0000 Neal Rogers

Taylor Phinney said that, after his 2014 spring classics season, he has "nothing to be worried about." Photo by Neal Rogers.

BMC's Taylor Phinney said that he's got plenty of time to win a classic like Flanders or Roubaix

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Taylor Phinney said that, after his 2014 spring classics season, he has "nothing to be worried about." Photo by Neal Rogers.

Expectations, particularly in sport, can be a double-edged sword. Live up to them, and you’ve accomplished what was anticipated. Fail to live up to them, and you’ve disappointed, often no matter what the circumstances.

Such is the case for BMC Racing’s Taylor Phinney, particularly when it comes to the spring classics.

Few riders came into the sport with as much hype as Phinney, the son of world-class cyclists Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter.

So prodigious is his natural ability, that when Phinney qualified for the 2008 Olympics in the individual pursuit at age 18, and went on to take an elite world title nine months later, physiologist Allen Lim gave him the nickname “All-Twitch,” a term used to describe his unusual blend of slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers.

Because Phinney twice won the under-23 Paris-Roubaix (at ages 18 and 19), it was widely predicted that, upon turning professional, he would promptly become a classics king, a perennial Roubaix contender.

That hasn’t happened yet, though Phinney did place 15th on his debut of the Queen of the Classics, in 2012. Last year, he attacked early, in the Arenberg Forest, and was dropped when the action heated up late in the race. Last month, his third attempt at Roubaix, he was riding in the front group when he punctured in the Carrefour de l’Arbre with 15km remaining. There’s no telling how he might have ended up, but it’s safe to say he would likely have finished in the lead group of 11 riders.

A week earlier, Phinney had ridden in the daylong breakaway at the Tour of Flanders, riding in support of Greg Van Avermaet, who finished second. A month earlier, Phinney had finished seventh, in the lead group, at a wet and wild Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Two months earlier, he’d won the overall at Dubai Tour after winning the time trial. Eleven months earlier, he’d finished seventh at Milano-Sanremo in his second attempt. Twenty-three months earlier, he’d won the prologue at the Giro d’Italia and worn the maglia rosa, when he was not yet 22.

Somewhere in there he also finished fourth at the London Olympics, in both the road and time trial events, and took silver at the world time trial championship. Yet he hasn’t won a major classic yet; in fact, he hasn’t reached the podium.

Because he he’s now in his fourth season as a professional, it’s easy to forget that Phinney is only 23 years old. He turns 24 on June 27, a week before what will likely be his Tour de France debut, riding in support of longtime friend and Colorado pal Tejay van Garderen.

Heading into the Amgen Tour of California, Phinney had his hopes pinned on winning the 20km stage 2 time trial in Folsom. That wasn’t meant to be; Bradley Wiggins scorched the course, 44 seconds ahead of the next-best man. But that next-best man was another 23-year-old, Aussie Rohan Dennis of Garmin-Sharp; Phinney placed third on the day, 52 seconds down. It was a subpar performance for Phinney on a day when only a perfect day could have brought him within striking distance of one of the sport’s best-ever time trial specialists.

That day also saw BMC’s appointed leader, Peter Stetina, fail to deliver against the clock and lose all chance of reaching the podium, giving Phinney free rein to chase after stage wins. And Phinney knew exactly where he would make his move — on the descent into Santa Barbara, which bottomed out nine miles from the finish line.

One of the best descenders in the sport, Phinney, who is 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, knew that if he could open up a gap, he might well be able to hold off a chasing peloton to the finish. Few riders in the sport are capable of such a feat — Fabian Cancellara and Tony Martin are two that come to mind. Phinney took the solo victory just ahead of the bunch, similar in style to his first road win, at the Tour of Poland, last summer. For the last 17 minutes of the stage, he averaged 407 watts.

Ever the entertainer, Phinney took a bow as he crossed the finish line. He hadn’t won the the time trial, but he wouldn’t be leaving California empty handed.

Prior to the start of the Amgen Tour, VeloNews sat down with Phinney in Sacramento to talk about California, the Tour de France, and the spring classics — specifically, the criticism he’s received for not yet reaching the podium of a monument such as Sanremo, Flanders, or Roubaix, though he’s only 23. An excerpt from that interview is presented here.

VeloNews: How would you rate your spring classics season?

Taylor Phinney: It was alright. It could have gone better, it could have gone worse. I feel like I made a significant step up from last year, and the year before. Maybe it didn’t show in the results, but just in the way I was able to prepare for the races, and how I felt in the races, and my general understanding of the races, is much better.

VeloNews: You had some tough luck over the spring, more than once.

Taylor Phinney: I think the crash in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, right at the front of the race, was really something I couldn’t have done anything about. And then there was a difficult Paris-Nice, with another weird, freak crash involving the team car when I was getting bottles. And then getting sick after Paris-Nice, I kind of had three weeks there where I was in limbo. Those three weeks are really important where you’re trying to build. I missed Milan-Sanremo, which I think would have been a great opportunity for me because it was terrible conditions, and all that brings the level down to a point, and I don’t necessarily feel that effect [of the weather], I feel pretty much the same in crappy conditions than as I do when it’s normal conditions. I tried to bounce back, and got into Gent-Wevelgem just to get a one-day race under my belt.

Then I went into Flanders and Roubaix, and had a really good Flanders, getting into the breakaway, being the team player there. Getting to see that race from the front, the whole day, was very important for the future. And then at Roubaix, I was in the front group until the Carrefour de l’Arbre, and had an untimely flat there, and that’s just the end of your race. That’s the first time I’ve ever made it to the Carrefour de l’Arbre with the front group. I’ve had better results, on paper, but in the previous years I was dropped basically with 55km to go, or 40km to go. And you know, this year I made it to 15km to go. It was a different race, there were a lot more people in the front, but I felt like I was a lot smarter, and played my cards better, and really just was able to do the best with my situation and with my fitness and with my health. Personally I couldn’t have asked for any more. I know that the team is looking at me for the future as a leader of the classics, and I’ll need to show that with results for the next couple years. I know my trajectory is very strong and going in the right direction, so that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.

VeloNews: It seems like you could easily point to Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, as well as the moment before you punctured at the Carrefour de l’Arbre, and that’s a top 10 at Omloop, which is the beginning of the classics season, and a top-10 at Roubaix, at the end of the classics. Much of what happened in between was a rough patch.

Taylor Phinney: Yeah, I mean Omloop Het Nieuwsblad was kind of a breakout performance in my eyes, just being to be where I needed to be and making all the selections, and then [BMC teammate Greg Van Avermaet] going up the road, just so many things, tactics-wise, and just knowing the course. You need to have that whole mental sense of the race before it even matters how fit you are. So I thought that was a really good success, and started off the classics season off really well. It was just a step forward, winning the Tour Dubai, that was big, it seems like a long time ago, but everything, I felt, in my mind, was a step up. And as an athlete, as a professional, as a human, that’s really all you can ask for every year.

VeloNews: Prior to the big races, people were saying, “it’s time for Taylor Phinney to prove himself at the classics.” The same was said of Peter Sagan, and he just turned 24. Tom Boonen was 24 the first time he won a monument, and Fabian Cancellara was 25. They are two of the best classics riders in history. How do you react to that sort of criticism?

Taylor Phinney: There are a lot of people out there who call themselves cycling fans, but have very strange expectations for the riders. It is just sport in general, it’s “what have you done for me lately?” Even when I came into the sport, I didn’t appreciate the amount of time it would take me, personally, to reach a level to where I could be really competitive in these races. It’s a professional sport, at the end of the day.

I think Sagan, in his own right, is definitely an anomaly, he’s a one of a kind. And I can’t compare myself with him, even though we are the same age, just because of what he’s already accomplished. I realized, pretty early on, it was going to take me a little longer than I thought, maybe longer than what your average fan thought. I’ve had some pretty stellar, breakout rides, in the Olympics, and world championships. I just respect the process. I can’t read any criticism and take that to heart.

For sure you think about the pressures, and things like that, but I’ve always based my career, and my trajectory in the sport of cycling, off of the current greats, like Cancellara and Boonen. And it took them a little while. Sagan is way far ahead of both of those guys when it comes to just winning semi-classics, and just being on the podium at these races. He doesn’t have anything to be worried about, and I don’t have anything to be worried about. I know I’m going to be there. It’s just a matter of time. It’s a matter of not losing that mental focus, and not letting that pressure get to you. Because that’s the only deterring factor, getting demoralized by people having unrealistic expectations, and then turning other people’s expectations into your own.

VeloNews: Races like Flanders and Roubaix, they take a few years to really figure out what it takes to win them. It seems like there’s point in a career, after a rider has raced them a few times, but before a rider has gotten on in years and perhaps lost a step, there’s a sweet spot of five or six years, where you’ve got it figured out and you’re at your physical peak. And you’re not there yet.

Taylor Phinney: That’s late-20s, early 30s. Most stage races, maybe 80 percent of the peloton doesn’t know the roads you’re racing on, maybe a select few have done recon, or lived in the area. When you go into a race where there are a lot of people on a similar physical level that don’t know every single corner, it’s a little “easier” to do well, because it comes down to your physical abilities. But at the one-day classics, there is so much learning. We go race in Flanders, and 90 percent of the peloton knows exactly where we are, at any moment. That’s a huge advantage, and it’s something you try to learn as you go through those races. They also know how those races unfold, and what happens… it is almost a different sport, racing a one-day race versus racing a stage race.

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Orica’s Chaves wins at Mountain High, Wiggins extends California GC lead Sat, 17 May 2014 00:20:55 +0000 Neal Rogers

Esteban Chaves wins Stage 6 with a big attack out of the break with 3.5 km to go. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Orica rider Esteban Chaves took a solo victory at Mountain High, while race leader Bradley Wiggins preserved his race lead at the Amgen

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Esteban Chaves wins Stage 6 with a big attack out of the break with 3.5 km to go. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Atop the biggest climb of this year’s Amgen Tour of California, Orica-GreenEdge rider Esteban Chaves took a solo victory at Mountain High, while race leader Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) preserved his race lead on what is likely the race’s final decisive day for the general classification.

On a stage that began in temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the 24-year-old Colombian rode clear of his daylong breakaway companions with 6km to go, winning the race’s sixth stage with a 13-second advantage over David De la Cruz (NetApp-Endura).

American Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) finished third on the stage, 41 seconds down, the last of the day’s six-man breakaway to finish ahead of the remnants of the main bunch.

Orica’s Adam Yates finished fourth on the stage, 53 seconds down, in front of Wiggins, who not only defended his lead over second-place rider Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp), but also extended it by two seconds.

The day’s breakaway included Chaves, Danielson, De la Cruz, Jack Bobridge (Belkin), Chris Jones (UnitedHealthcare), and Javier Megias (Novo Nordisk).

“Everyone in the break was dangerous, it wasn’t an ideal breakaway today so we had to ride straight from the start and make sure they didn’t get too much time,” Wiggins said. “It was quite dangerous.”

Though the stage featured almost 12,000 feet of climbing, it was always going to come down to the climb to Mountain High ski resort, with its 4,000-foot elevation gain over the final 40km (24 miles).

Once on the climb, Jones and Megias were the first riders dropped. Behind, four Sky riders drove the chase — Danny Pate, Christian Knees, Joe Dombrowksi, and Josh Edmondson — their jerseys unzipped and flapping in the hot wind.

Also in the dwindling front group were: Dennis, Ben King, and Janier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp); Michael Schar and Peter Stetina (BMC Racing); Tiago Machado (NetApp); Carson Jones (Optum-Kelly Benefits); Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano), and Yates (Orica-GreenEdge).

From the dwindling peloton, Garmin’s King attacked, attempting to bridge across to Danielson. Behind, Sky didn’t flinch, while Dennis sat poised on Wiggins’ wheel.

Up ahead, Bobridge dropped from the breakway, leaving three men off the front, with a three-minute advantage and 10km to go. The former world pursuit champion clawed his way back on with 5.7km to go, prompting Chaves, the 2011 Tour de l’Avenir champion, to attack, shedding Bobridge, De la Cruz, and finally Danielson.

“I knew that the last kilometers of the climb were steep, and I felt good today,” Chaves said. “When I attacked at first, I was not thinking of winning. I only knew in the last three kilometers that I could win. I knew some riders worked really hard at the start of the climb, so I thought I could try. It’s important to try. To win here with riders like Tom [Danielson], it is fantastic.”

Further back, Dombrowski went to the front and set a blistering pace, spreading out the small group single file. Acevedo jumped from the group with 4km to go, attempting to bridge the 1:30 gap to two leaders — De la Cruz fought his way past Danielson and momentarily clawed his way back up to Chaves.

“I just wanted to make it as hard as possible for Sky, and so with me up the road, they had to chase hard,” Danielson said. “I went with every breakaway to try to blow them up, and then I drove the breakaway as hard as I could all day. I wasn’t really thinking about the stage, I was just thinking about Rohan. It was about trying to break the other teams. [On the final climb] I was pretty tired from the whole day. I wasn’t thinking about myself, I was thinking about the whole team and the GC overall.”

With 3km left and Dombrowski again on the front, Acevedo was reeled in, with Stetina sitting second wheel. The BMC rider attacked, momentarily putting Wiggins into trouble, as Dombrowski left his team leader to follow Stetina’s wheel. But Wiggins played it cool, allowing the gap to open, which Dennis closed with Wiggins on his wheel.

“Surprisingly, I was pretty comfortable with 4k to go,” Wiggins said. “Then the altitude kicked in.”

Dennis, who started the day 28 seconds down on Wiggins, knew he’d have one opportunity to attack in the final kilometers and make it stick, and in that moment, the opportunity seemingly came and went.

“I just faked that I was a bit dead for minute to get Pete [Stetina] to attack, and that just finished Pete off,” Wiggins said.

From there, Wiggins took a turn on the front that was too powerful for anyone to respond.

“After that, I knew I could wind it up to the line,” Wiggins said. “It was a little bit of tactical bluffing, and it worked.”

Yates brought the group across the line, with Wiggins on his wheel. Dennis crossed two seconds later; he now sits 30 seconds down on Wiggins, his shot at the overall win likely over.

“We had Tommy D off the front, so we were watching what Sky were doing,” Dennis said. “Hopefully, they were riding hard and they would just blow up like they did on Diablo. But, it wasn’t quite as steady an uphill, there was some downhill to recover. But when we got up to the last kilometer, I don’t think I’ve pedaled like that for a while.”

Craddock, who is the race’s best young rider, finished 23 seconds behind Wiggins to move into third overall, 1:18 behind Dennis and 14 seconds ahead of Machado.

“The whole team all day really, once again, the guys rode all day to keep the break at four minutes and then on the last climb, everyone from Danny Pate, Christian Knees, and then Joe at the end there,” Wiggins said. “It was an incredible team effort throughout the day to put me in that position in the final kilometer to wind out the legs.”

Saturday’s stage 7, from Santa Clarita to Pasadena, features two significant climbs in the Angeles National Forest, however the last climb tops out 31 miles from the finish, with the final 30 miles all downhill, to the three three-mile finishing circuits in Pasadena. A bunch sprint is expected, with little change on GC likely. The race ends Sunday in Thousand Oaks, after a hilly circuit race that includes three ascents — and descents — of the popular Rock Store climb.

“The job’s not done,” Wiggins said. “We’re 90 percent there, and just get through the next few days and just focus again and get the job done.”

Jen See contributed to this race report.

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Success: Taylor Phinney’s magical day in Santa Barbara Fri, 16 May 2014 13:41:09 +0000 Jen See

Taylor Phinney wins Stage 5 with a late attack on the descent to Santa Barbara. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

BMC Racing's Taylor Phinney had circled Thursday’s Amgen Tour stage as a target, but he had never really intended to shoot for the stars

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Taylor Phinney wins Stage 5 with a late attack on the descent to Santa Barbara. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

SANTA BARBARA, California (VN) — Taylor Phinney’s talent has long been evident. He won a junior world time trial title at age 17, and he is the son of not one, but two, former professional cyclists — Davis Phinney and Connie Carpenter. All the same, Thursday’s victory into Santa Barbara at the Amgen Tour of California was only the second time Phinney has won a road stage in the pro ranks.

More typically, Phinney’s best results have come in the time trials. His career highlights include winning the prologue and wearing the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia, a silver medal in the world time trial championship, and two elite world titles on the track in the individual pursuit.

Though he twice won the U23 Paris-Roubaix, victory in the elite ranks has come more slowly. In part, this reflects the difficulty of the races that suit Phinney’s talents. The monuments such as Paris-Roubaix or the Ronde van Vlaanderen tend to reward weathered experience over youthful exuberance.

Phinney’s highest finish so far at Paris-Roubaix is fifteenth in 2012, which was his début appearance. Though he has yet to better that result, Phinney’s performances at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Gent-Wevelgem this season suggest that he’s steadily growing into his talent in the classics. Phinney’s trajectory is not unusual, either. Fabian Cancellara won the Tour de France prologue at age 23 before eventually developing into one of the best one-day riders of his generation.

And it looks as though Phinney has added a new weapon in his arsenal. The late, solo attack is the classic tactic of the time trial specialists, whose best chance to win races is a long, hard, lonely effort. Phinney won his first road stage last year at the Tour of Poland in just this way. It’s not an easy move to pull off; impeccable timing, the right terrain, and stellar legs are essential. When it works, it’s certainly memorable.

“Winning time trials is nice, but you don’t get the same feeling as when you win a road stage,” he said. “You don’t have that moment where you put your hands up with a couple hundred meters to go and soak in the energy from the crowd and you get goosebumps and you just have this electric shock that goes through you. You don’t get that magic when you win a time trial.”

Phinney started Thursday’s stage with hopes of a high finish, and he had solid support throughout the day from his BMC Racing teammates. “I said I wanted to do well today, and they really helped me — Larry Warbasse, Greg Van Avermaet, and Thor Hushovd, especially.” Though he worried about the climb and the effects of the heat, which hit close to 105 degrees, Phinney drew confidence from his team’s support.

“You believe in yourself more with a team that believes in you,” he said. “I’m sure when I attacked at the top of the climb, they were like, ‘oh what is this idiot doing, he’s ruining all this work that we did for him all day.’ But it worked out.”

Phinney had circled Thursday’s stage as a target, but he had never really intended to shoot for the stars. In fact, he had planned to wait until around four or five kilometers to go before making his move. But on the stage’s final climb, Phinney saw that sprinters Mark Cavendish and John Degenkolb had been dropped. Their absence meant two fewer teams to contribute to the chase, which improved his chances.

“I saw the way that Cannondale was kind of isolated,” he said. “The guys that Cannondale had, they just didn’t seem that fresh and powerful. If there is a chance to thwart the sprinters, it’s a race like this, especially a stage like today with the heat and the climb.”

Phinney also knew the long descent into Santa Barbara suited him, because he frequently trains in the area. The descent down San Marcos Pass is smooth, wide, and high-speed. There are no tricky corners —the road was built to replace a far steeper road that follows an old stagecoach route down the coastal mountains above the city. Get aero and stay off the brakes is the name of the game.

“I knew the descent, I just knew it was full-speed, and you didn’t need to brake, ever,” he said. “There’s only one time in cycling I have an advantage, and it’s when we’re riding downhill. I weigh a lot more than everyone else and I was able just to pull away, just tuck and pull away.”

Even as the gap stretched out on the descent, to about 30 seconds, Phinney didn’t think he would make it to the finish. “I wasn’t convinced it was a very smart move,” he said. But once committed, he never looked back, not until he was inside the final kilometer.

Now he’s hoping it’s the second in a long series of victories to come, perhaps eventually, in some of the sport’s biggest races. But Phinney isn’t in a hurry. He’s willing to savor each magic moment that comes his way.

“To do what I did, it’s kind of one of those things where you get to the finish and you think, ‘how did I do that? And why did I do that?’” he said. “But sometimes it works, [and] when it does, it’s really, really special. To be able to put your hands up so far before the line and really soak everything in, that’s what we all live for. That’s what I live for.”

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Bissell’s Daniel impresses in California debut Fri, 16 May 2014 13:18:08 +0000 Jen See

Greg Daniel worked well in the break, and it led to the first podium for the Bissell Development team. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Nineteen-year-old Gregory Daniel managed a career-best second place behind stage 4 winner Will Routley at the Amgen Tour of California

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Greg Daniel worked well in the break, and it led to the first podium for the Bissell Development team. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

SANTA BARBARA, California (VN) — As the breakaway swept into Cambria at the end of Wednesday’s stage, one of the Amgen Tour of California’s youngest riders sat tucked into the six-rider group. Nineteen-year-old Gregory Daniel is racing his second season in the U23 ranks for Bissell, and he managed a career-best second place behind stage winner Will Routley.

“It was surreal, I can’t believe it,” said Daniel. “I was happy to be selected for the team to come here and get to race. I really wasn’t expecting to get a podium finish at all during the Tour, so it’s great to be here and to represent the team and get some TV time. It was fun, I was just taken away by it all.”

Daniel started riding at age 13, and initially, he had ambitions to turn into a triathlete. He quickly discovered that swimming was not his sport, so he decided to focus entirely on cycling. When he won his first bike race, he figured that maybe he was on to something. “I just kept going,” he said, “and I didn’t look back.”

Since then, Daniel has steadily accumulated results in the junior and U23 ranks. In 2011, he finished second in the U.S. junior national time trial championship. That same year, he also won two national titles on the track in the team and individual pursuit events. He returned in 2012 to win the junior national time trial title.

Bissell sports director Omer Kem has touted Daniel as a strong all-arounder, and believes the young Colorado native has the talent to make it to the WorldTour ranks. Kem also noted that much could change as Daniel grows up in the sport.

“He’s a second-year U23. He’s 19, and he’s going to turn 20 this year,” said Kem. “Between 19 and 20, there’s a huge amount of just physical development, just growing up that happens. It’s really hard to say what kind of rider Greg is going to be. He has a pretty good sprint at the end of 100 miles.”

Bissell has worked closely with the U.S. national team to get riders the European racing experience they need to make the jump to the pro ranks. The team travelled to Europe earlier this season for the U23 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and will return in June for a raid on the U23 Paris-Roubaix.

“Even with the Americans in their first year in the U23, they spend so much time in Europe,” said Kem. “And what that does is, you bring them back, and you have a 19-year-old Greg Daniel, who has the depth to race at the end of 105 miles at the Tour of California.”

Daniel enjoys the challenges of European racing and finds the dynamics of the racing considerably different due to the more technical roads. Positioning tends to be more important Europe, but it’s still the same sport.

“You have to be aggressive,” Daniel said. “There’s more fighting for position [in Europe]. But I try to keep it the same. What works in Europe, works in the United States, too.”

And like many riders, Daniel dreams of the Tour de France. “I like the climbs, and just the history of the race is, so big and significant,” he said. “A lot of races over there have a big history, but the race that would suit me best would be the Tour. I’m not quite a cobble crusher yet.”

After the Tour of California, Daniel is looking forward to riding the U.S. Pro Championship with his Bissell teammate Tanner Putt. With only two riders, it will be difficult for the young guns to get a result, but Daniel is excited about the challenge. And he’ll get his chance to try out the famous cobbles in June at the U23 Paris-Roubaix.

For now, Daniel is happy to bring home a result from the biggest race of his young career. “It’s hard to trump a second-place at the Tour of California,” he said. “Obviously, first would have been nice, but it’s definitely the biggest result I’ve had.”

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Dennis strikes back on Diablo, as Wiggins shows vulnerabilities Wed, 14 May 2014 09:00:07 +0000 Neal Rogers

Rohan Dennis halved his time gap to Bradley Wiggins on Tuesday. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Rohan Dennis turns the Amgen Tour into a two-man race after exposing the former Tour de France champion's weaknesses high up on Mount Diablo

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Rohan Dennis halved his time gap to Bradley Wiggins on Tuesday. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

SAN FRANCISCO, California (VN) — When Bradley Wiggins won Monday’s 20-kilometer time trial in Folsom by 44 seconds, he made it clear he was the strongest man at the Amgen Tour of California, with a seemingly insurmountable lead on the general classification.

And when Wiggins drove a strong tempo at the front of a select group with 5km remaining on Mount Diablo Tuesday, shedding riders behind him, it looked as though the Sky rider was also unbeatable in the mountains.

Wiggins looked to be confirming his supremacy — a Tour de France and multiple-time Olympic champion among mere mortals — and relegating any suspense for the remainder of the Amgen Tour to that of stage wins, and final podium finishers.

But then something happened. The gradient kicked up, and Wiggins, who had been isolated for much of the final 10km, was swarmed by a group of hungry GC contenders anxious to claw back time on the race leader.

Suddenly, Wiggins’ vulnerabilities were exposed.

In just 400 meters, stage winner Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp), second to Wiggins in the time trial, halved the GC margin between the two, to bring their time differential to 24 seconds.

“My mission was to be in a position to limit any losses and not explode,” Wiggins said. “It is why I was riding tempo making sure no one got up the road. … We did this climb a little over a week ago. I knew how it kicked up the last 300 meters.”

Two other riders, Tiago Machado (NetApp-Endura) and Lawson Craddock (Giant-Shimano), sit over one minute down, with fifth-placed Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) more than two minutes back.

No, the race for the overall win is not wide open. However, after Tuesday’s summit finish, it’s an interesting two-man battle, and not the blowout some had anticipated following Monday’s time trial.

Even Dennis had seemed resigned that the battle for the overall was likely over, conceding on Monday that his chances for the GC win were slim, but that he believed his chances for the overall podium were very good.

Those chances were exponentially better atop Diablo, where Dennis enjoyed the double satisfaction of a stage win and a much more realistic GC differential.

“I knew after the effort he did, he [Wiggins] wouldn’t be able to punch and win the stage,” Dennis said. “I was waiting, and hoping the attacks would start at 5K, or 3K to go, actually. But Bradley knew it had to go hard then, to make people think twice about [attacking].”

It was a much-needed boost of morale for Garmin, which saw four of its riders crash heavily last week at the Giro d’Italia’s opening team time trial, forcing two men, Daniel Martin and Koldo Fernandez, to exit the race with broken collarbones.

Though he is only 23, Dennis is no stranger to battling for GC in major UCI stage races. A former member of Australia’s world champion team pursuit squad, the 6-foot, 160-pound Dennis won the overall at the inaugural Tour of Alberta last year; he also placed fifth overall at the 2012 Santos Tour Down Under, when he was just 21.

With five stages remaining, and the next major GC battle expected in stage 6 on Friday, Dennis now sits in perfect position.

Wiggins still leads by 24 seconds; Sky will ride at the front to defend his lead, while Garmin can shelter behind the British squad, preserving energy. And Dennis sits ahead of Machado by over 40 seconds, a comfortable margin that allows him to focus on Wiggins rather than on preserving second place overall.

The finish on Friday, at Mountain High, is steeper, and at a much higher elevation than Diablo. Assistance from teammates will be crucial on Mountain High, and it’s likely that, after another three days of riding at the front, Sky’s domestiques will be tired. Wiggins could again be isolated on the final climb, while Garmin has several strong climbers, including Janier Acevedo, Phil Gaimon, and Tom Danielson, who will aim to help Dennis in the most important moments of the stage.

“It does give me a bit of confidence [for the overall],” Dennis said. “But I think, now, that Sky will almost ask us to help out, and tactically that will keep more of their guys for the finishing climbs. It will be harder to isolate Brad from here on out.”

Wiggins may well be the strongest rider in the race, but on Tuesday, his young Sky team was unable to simultaneously defend the leader’s jersey and also preserve a climber for the final kilometers. Likewise, Wiggins was unable to respond to accelerations when the road really kicked up.

“It was a tough climb,” Wiggins said. “Every day is a tough day when you’re in yellow.”

Wiggins may still win the Amgen Tour of California, but after Mount Diablo, it’s far from assured. It’s now, very much, a two-man race.

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Folsom TT Blues: The Wiggins, and losers, of the California time trial Tue, 13 May 2014 03:23:42 +0000 Neal Rogers

Rohan Dennis is second overall, at 44 seconds, following Monday's stage 2 time trial at the Amgen Tour of California. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Neal Rogers examines the Wiggins, and losers, of Monday's Tour of California time trial

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Rohan Dennis is second overall, at 44 seconds, following Monday's stage 2 time trial at the Amgen Tour of California. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

FOLSOM, California (VN) — After a hot day of racing 20 kilometers against the clock, there was no shortage of upsets and disappointments — of winners and losers — in Folsom, at the Amgen Tour of California.

As expected, Sky’s Bradley Wiggins won the stage 2 time trial, and took the overall race lead.

What few may have expected, however, was how significant Wiggins’ lead would be, or how lackluster many of his opponents would perform.

Wiggins was the clear-cut winner on the day, finishing in a time of 23:18 on the mostly flat, 12.4-mile course, for a blistering average speed of 51.7 kph, or 32.12 mph. He finished a staggering 44 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp).

For perspective, over a rolling 20km course, Wiggins went more than two seconds per kilometer faster than Dennis, the next-fastest rider on the stage.

“I didn’t plan to have taken as much time as that, but it was a great course for me, and I’d prepared well for it,” said Wiggins.

BMC Racing was easily the biggest loser on the day. The team’s GC contender, Peter Stetina, lost a full 2:30, while TT specialist Taylor Phinney could only muster a third-place finish, 52 seconds behind Wiggins, and eight seconds behind Dennis.

“It was not my best ride,” Phinney said. “I wasn’t feeling amazing the whole time. I think Wiggins was in a whole other category. It was an interesting distance. It’s not as aerobic as a longer, 40- or 50-minute time trial, and not as anaerobic as a prologue. So it was kind of an interesting distance to wrap your head around.”

BMC had hoped for a stage win and a well-placed GC contender after Monday’s time trial. Instead, in addition to Phinney, three other BMC riders — Larry Warbasse, Greg Van Avermaet, and Martin Kohler — placed ahead of Stetina, who had hoped to contend for the final podium, but now sits 42nd overall.

“I was suffering out there. I was really hot. I was hoping to be closer. I lost a fair amount of time to Wiggins, but we have two big days in the mountains,” Stetina said. “I’m going to have to attack in the hills. I knew I was going to have to do that before the time trial. I hope I can make some of that time up.”

Behind Wiggins, Garmin’s Dennis was the big winner on the day. After crashing in the crosswinds on the run-in to Sacramento on stage 1, Dennis finished second on the time trial, 44 seconds down on Wiggins.

Among GC contenders, Dennis is closest to Wiggins, though he’s fully aware that 44 seconds is a large margin to overcome with two summit finishes remaining — a final podium spot is likely, but the overall win is not.

“It was pretty warm out there. It wasn’t as windy as it was yesterday. I’m pretty happy with how it went,” Dennis said. “I was right on, with my power, in the first half. It dipped a little in the second half, but that’s how things work. ‘Wiggo’ is the one to beat. He’s one of the best there has ever been, and unless he has a problem midway through the race, that’s out of his control, he’s going to be tough to beat.”

Another loser on the stage was national TT champion Tom Zirbel, of Optum-Kelly Benefits, who finished 11th on the stage, 1:28 down on Wiggins.

“The course suited me really well this year and it was an honor to wear the stars and stripes in the biggest race on American soil, but I’m a little disappointed that I wasn’t in the hunt for a podium today,” Zirbel said. “I wasn’t quite able to ride at the level that I was hoping for.‎”

If there’s a question about Wiggins’ advantage, it surrounds his Sky team, which consists of several young riders, including Americans Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell. BMC director Max Sciandri went as far as to call the team “weak,” though Sky director Servais Knaven told VeloNews that the team was more than capable.

“We have a pretty strong team,” Knaven said. “Maybe not all the names that everybody knows, but we have three American guys who are decent bike riders. We have Christian Knees, we have Luke Rowe for the flats, we have Nathan Earle and Josh Edmondson. It’s a young group of riders, but also with older riders like Knees, and Danny Pate. I think we have a pretty solid team. I think they’re ready to control it.

“The other teams will attack us, on the mountaintop finishes, and in other moments,” Knaven continued. “Dennis is a good rider. He’s the big rival for the week. We’ll have to keep an eye on the time bonuses for the stages. It’s not going to be easy.”

Belkin’s Laurens Ten Dam also came up on luck’s bad side Monday. After crossing the finish line in 41st, 2:20 down on Wiggins, Ten Dam collided with another rider immediately after crossing the finish line.

“We’d hoped to end up in the top 20 with Laurens,” said Belkin director Nico Verhoeven. “Now, it looks like he’s out of the GC battle. Tomorrow, we’re facing the queen stage. We have to wait and see how Laurens gets through the night after his crash.”

Monday’s stage was the first of an expected three critical stages for the overall classification at the eight-stage Amgen Tour of California. Tuesday’s third stage finishes atop Mount Diablo, in an expected 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. Though the climb is not steep, heat could well play a factor.

After a few transitional days down the coast, stage 6, on Friday, finishes at the Mountain High ski area, at an elevation of 6,000 feet.

“I’m in a good position, and I’m climbing well,” Wiggins said. “We’re used to being in this position now, as a team, after the last few years, so we know what to do.”

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