VeloNews.com » News http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Fri, 27 Mar 2015 22:33:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Sagan star flickering http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/the-sagan-star-flickering_364727 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/the-sagan-star-flickering_364727#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 22:15:47 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364727

Aside from one victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, Tinkoff-Saxo's Peter Sagan has yet to find his winning form this season, which was highlighted by a poor result at E3 Harelbeke on Friday. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Last year's winner of E3 has a disappointing day out, casting more doubts on his capabilities to fly the flag for Tinkoff in the classics

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Aside from one victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, Tinkoff-Saxo's Peter Sagan has yet to find his winning form this season, which was highlighted by a poor result at E3 Harelbeke on Friday. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — The Peter Sagan star appears to be flickering, judging by his finish in E3 Harelbeke, a race he won a year ago and one that should be easy for a cyclist aiming at the monuments like next week’s Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Team Tinkoff-Saxo’s Sagan followed the attack of Geraint Thomas (Sky) and Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick-Step) on the Oude Kwaremont and raced away with the two, but when they approached the business end of the 215-kilometer race, his lights began to fade.

“It’s shit because in that group of three he should’ve been the fastest,” Tinkoff sports director, Tristan Hoffman told VeloNews.

“He was so disappointed. Then, to make it worse, [the] whole group passes him.”

Sagan faded as fast as the setting sun over Harelbeke when Thomas attacked for the win, 4.3 kilometers out. Instead of responding, he looked to Czech champion Stybar, who rode away on his own. Making matters worse, as Hoffman pointed out, the group swallowed up Sagan before the finish. He finished in 30th place.

The 25-year-old from Slovakia explained to the team that he felt empty and like vomiting in the last kilometers when Thomas attacked.

“He hadn’t done anything crazy on the front, but suddenly he went empty,” Hoffman added. “Of course, he was one hour at his maximum to stay on the front and that’s how it is.”

The explanation might have worked if Sagan was still a first-year professional, but he is in his sixth year and being paid a reported $4 million a year to win races. To that point, Hoffman said, “It’s shit.”

“He also had it before in Strade Bianche, so it’s not the terrain or his experience,” Hoffman continued.

“It wasn’t a hunger flat. That’s what you’d think it is, but he said, ‘I’ve been eating and that’s not a problem.’ For sure, Bobby Julich, his trainer, and the others will talk. Of course, we will analyze the race and try to do better.”

The cycling world hyped Sagan as the next king when he emerged in 2010. He rocketed ahead to wins and the accompanying points jersey in almost every stage race. In the Tour de France, he has four stage wins and three green jerseys.

In the classics, he was just as impressive. Winning the E3 Harelbeke in 2014 and Gent-Wevelgem in 2013. He stopped just shy of a major monument win with second place in both Milano-Sanremo and the Ronde van Vlaanderen in 2013.

In 2014, though, the “Saganator” slowed. The idea was that, with the backing of Tinkoff-Saxo, the team he joined on a three-year deal this winter, he would flower in 2015. That has not happened yet.

“Some riders need to fight for four years to get to a certain level, but Peter comes in and he’s the best, but now the others moved up to that level,” Hoffman said.

“He’s not worse. He’s still an extraordinary rider in the peloton even if he doesn’t win as often as before.

“It will come again. He’s a professional, he really wants to improve, he doesn’t just want to sit and leave it how it is. He wants it, and the team wants it, no doubt about it.”

His troubles could not come at a worse time for the team. This week, the Russian/Danish team announced it sidelined team manager Bjarne Riis. It is reportedly due to a lack of results and a rift with team owner, Oleg Tinkov.

Hoffman did not want to talk about the issues.

“I want to just concentrate on the racing, not other stuff,” Hoffman.

“I think if Oleg [Tinkov] watched the race today, he’d be happy to see what the boys did, but of course he’d be disappointed with the result.”

Sagan arrived later to the neon yellow bus and went inside immediately. After coming out, he could not explain what is going on.

“I think you can see on television how I felt,” Sagan said.

“I was on the front, but afterwards … We will see now on Sunday [in Gent-Wevelgem], and then it’s another two weeks.”

Hoffman explained that Sagan could bounce back in the next two weeks, when he will race the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday, April 5, and Paris-Roubaix on Sunday, April 12.

“Peter has the condition, no doubt,” Hoffman added, “but now we have to work to make sure he gets his head turned around so that he believes in it and in his chances to win races.”

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Quintana’s cobblestone adventure ends safely with confidence for Tour http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/quintanas-cobblestone-adventure-ends-safely-with-confidence-for-tour_364721 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/quintanas-cobblestone-adventure-ends-safely-with-confidence-for-tour_364721#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 21:54:52 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364721

Tour favorite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) got a taste of the northern cobblestones at Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke in preparation for stage 4 of the Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

After a training camp on the cobbles and successful sorties at Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke, Quintana feels prepared for the Tour

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Tour favorite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) got a taste of the northern cobblestones at Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke in preparation for stage 4 of the Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will never win Paris-Roubaix, but the Colombian knows if he wants to win the Tour de France, he’ll have to survive a version of the “Hell of the North” this summer.

The spindly climber might have looked out of place at the start line of E3 Harelbeke, surrounded by brawny cobble-bashers, but Friday’s race marked the end of a weeklong experiment of getting a taste of what lies ahead this July in the Tour.

“It was important for Nairo to race on the cobbles here this week,” Movistar sport director José Luis Jaimerena told VeloNews. “It’s one thing to see them, but it’s something else to ride them at race speed. What we want is to avoid surprises.”

Surprises, bad luck, crashes, and disaster — those are the key words to describe what all the main GC riders will be looking to avoid during stage 4 of the 2015 Tour. For the second year in a row, Tour organizers are including treacherous sectors of the feared pavé in the race route.

Last year, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) paved the way toward his first career yellow jersey thanks to a spectacular performance across the pavé. The Italian took nearly three minutes out of archrival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) on a day that also saw Chris Froome (Sky) abandon the race.

After seeing how popular the stage was among media and fans, Tour organizers have included another stage featuring cobblestones in the first week. Stage 4 from Seraing to Cambrai will feature seven sectors of pavé totaling 13km. Like last year, the stage may prove decisive.

For Movistar, the main worry will be shepherding Quintana safely across the bumpy hurdles. To prepare for the looming onslaught, Quintana and his teammates spent five days in Belgium to get a taste of what is in store.

“We went to the pavé sectors that will be featured during the Tour, and we had a very good look at them,” Jaimerena continued. “It’s something new for Nairo. He’s never raced in such conditions, so it was important that we made some time to inspect the sectors and race here.”

In 2014, Movistar made the same investment with Alejandro Valverde, who raced in Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Prijs Harelbeke. It paid off, as Valverde survived the cobbles to ride into the Tour’s final week with real podium options (he eventually finished fourth overall).

“The first week of the Tour is going to be about not losing the race,” Jaimerena continued. “What you want to avoid is losing all options for victory in the first week. If we can get Nairo through the first half of the Tour in good shape, then we’ll see what happens in the mountains. What we want to do is avoid disaster, and deliver him in a position to take flight in the mountains.”

Following inspections of the Tour stage earlier in the week, the 2014 Giro d’Italia champion raced Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday to 78th place without mishap. Friday’s wild and wooly Harelbeke race was something else. Four of Quintana’s Movistar teammates crashed out, and as the tension ratcheted up on the narrow roads, Quintana wisely pulled the plug with about 60km to go.

“In a race like Harelbeke, it’s dangerous no matter where you are in the bunch. Look what happened to [Fabian] Cancellara today,” Jaimerena continued. “Nairo got a sense of what it was like to be on the cobbles at race speed, but there was no sense in taking unnecessary risks.”

A Giro defense is definitely not in the cards. Quintana will line up next at the Vuelta a País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), a race he won in his breakout 2013 season. The team remains undecided if he will start in the Ardennes classics and/or the Tour de Romandie. Either way, he’ll go home to Colombia to train at altitude before returning to Europe in June, with either the Critérium du Dauphiné or Tour de Suisse ahead of the Tour de France.

After a morale-boosting victory at Tirreno-Adriatico against the likes of Nibali and Contador, Quintana takes renewed confidence out of his cobblestone adventure this week.

When VeloNews jokingly asked if Quintana could win Paris-Roubaix some day, Jaimerena turned serious.

“One thing about Nairo, he fears nothing,” Jaimerena said. “Of course, he’ll never win Roubaix, but now he knows what to expect when the Tour comes in July. It will only give him more confidence.”

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Gallery: 2015 E3 Harelbeke http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/gallery-2015-e3-harelbeke_364675 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/gallery-2015-e3-harelbeke_364675#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 20:52:08 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364675

A wild and dangerous day in Flanders saw favorites Cancellara and Van Avermaet crash out and Thomas soar to victory alone

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Gallery: 2015 Volta a Catalunya, stage 5 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/gallery-2015-volta-a-catalunya-stage-5_364640 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/gallery-2015-volta-a-catalunya-stage-5_364640#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 19:14:51 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364640

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked his way to win number two at Volta a Catalunya on Friday. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Crosswinds surprise the peloton, allowing Porte to take the lead, as Valverde attacks to another stage win in Spain

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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked his way to win number two at Volta a Catalunya on Friday. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

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From Wales to Flanders: ‘G’ gets his big win at Harelbeke http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/from-wales-to-flanders-g-gets-his-big-win-at-harelbeke_364660 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/from-wales-to-flanders-g-gets-his-big-win-at-harelbeke_364660#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 18:59:51 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364660

Geraint Thomas (Sky) was elated to win his first major classic in Flanders on Friday at E3 Harelbeke. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

After years of hard knocks in the pro peloton following a slow transition off the track, Geraint Thomas has arrived with a huge win at E3

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Geraint Thomas (Sky) was elated to win his first major classic in Flanders on Friday at E3 Harelbeke. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — Wales seems like a world away from Belgium and the bumpy, cobblestone roads of Flanders. As a teenager growing up near Cardiff, Geraint Thomas and Sky teammate Ian Stannard used to watch videos of the Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix belonging to John Barkley, a legend in UK cycling, who would ferry aspiring riders across the Channel to witness the northern classics in person.

Flash forward more than a decade, and the 28-year-old Thomas took the reins of E3 Harelbeke, delivering a race-winning attack against Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick-Step) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) in a move worthy of any highlight reel.

“I grew up dreaming about these races. I was traveling over to Belgium with some guy in London who took us over,” said Thomas, referring to Barkley. “Ian [Stannard] and I would turn up at his house on a Friday night, and we’d watch these DVDs, with the bad weather, the cobbles. I dreamed of wanting to be a part of them, so to be here, to be competitive, and winning today, it’s fantastic.”

It’s been a dream-come-true for Thomas. More than a decade ago, Stannard and Thomas were gangly teenagers, dreaming of perhaps racing as professionals. Just arriving to the pro level and starting races like the spring classics seemed like a faraway mirage, but Thomas said fellow Welsh rider Nicole Cooke helped stoke their imaginations.

“I remember seeing Nicole Cooke as a kid. She only lives down the road, if she can do it, why can’t I do it?” he said. “It’s that whole snowball thing. It’s been great for British cycling the past few years.”

He’s been part of the wave of tremendous success in UK cycling over the past decade. And Thomas’s road from Wales to the victor’s podium in Harelbeke on Friday has been one full of highs, lows, and setbacks. After being part of Great Britain’s track “dream team,” winning back-to-back gold medals in the team pursuit in 2008 and 2012, Thomas has completely focused on the road. After three years with Barloworld, he joined Team Sky in 2010, and has slowly matured into the one of the anchors of the team.

“I now have the experience and confidence to race these races. By far, it’s the biggest win of my career,” Thomas said. “When you look at guys who’ve won this race, they’re all legends.”

Nicknamed “G” by his teammates, Thomas would often go on the attack, but just as often, he would end up on the tarmac. Battered and bloodied, Thomas always picked himself up, and kept fighting. That perseverance paid off in spades Friday. When he helped initiate the winning attack up the Oude Kwaremont, only Stybar and Sagan could follow. This time, there was no bad luck.

“Crashes are part and parcel of the sport. I’ve had a few crashes over the years,” Thomas said. “In these races, you just don’t want any bad luck.”

Even since they were teenagers, Stannard has been right alongside Thomas. On Friday, despite a hacking cough that deflated his chances for Milano-Sanremo last weekend, Stannard could celebrate the victory of his friend and teammate.

“It must be amazing for him, and it sounds like he tore it up there in the end. That’s the best way to win it, solo. That’s pretty cool,” Stannard told VeloNews after crossing the line. “It’s a massive win for ‘G.’ It’s just as hard as Flanders. They chuck the climbs right from the start. This win really lifts the team.”

Things couldn’t be going better for Team Sky. Also on Friday, Ben Swift won a stage at Coppi e Bartali in Italy while Richie Porte took over the GC lead at the Volta a Catalunya, which ends Sunday in Barcelona. The victories are coming from riders who are maturing into the team’s next generation of leaders. With Bradley Wiggins set to race a farewell Paris-Roubaix next month, Sky is turning the page without looking back.

Sky sport director Servais Knaven, who won Paris-Roubaix in 2001, said the victory at E3 Harelbeke is not only well-deserved for Thomas, but also a confirmation that he can now challenge for the major monuments of the spring calendar.

“This is a great result for the morale for the team. This race has a big history. It’s WorldTour. All the big names are here, they all want to win,” Knaven told VeloNews’ Gregor Brown. “If you can win this race, you can also win Tour of Flanders. We knew he was in great shape. On these roads, he is one of the best in the peloton now.”

The victory at Harelbeke was as significant as it was impressive, and the experience from racing the cobbles over the past several seasons paid off in the key moments of the race. Thomas knew he wouldn’t have much of a shot against Sagan if the trio came in for the sprint, so he wanted to try his luck from far away.

“I wanted to go fairly early and try to catch them a bit by surprise. I waited for Stybar to do his turn, and for him to swing over, and hit them then, and hoped that they would look at each other,” Thomas explained. “That’s what gives you the gap. It couldn’t have worked out better.”

The shot was fatal. Thomas buried himself in the final 1,500 meters, dropping Stybar for good, who crossed the line second, 25 seconds back. Sagan was so demoralized, he gave up the chase, forfeiting his third-place podium to Matteo Trentin (Etixx-Quick-Step), and crossed the line 1:14 back in 30th.

Thomas admits he’s more professional than ever, and has stayed out of the pub in the off-season. He’s near his Tour de France weight of 152 pounds, and wants to stay there.

“I am trying to stay around that weight, but it’s not easy here in Belgium when you have ‘Speculoos’ on the table, breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” he joked. “Weight is such a big issue in cycling. I am trying to be more professional, and I am still thinking about the Tour. I don’t want to finish Roubaix and ease off, because before you know, you’re 3kg [6.6 pounds] heavier, and that takes a month to lose that.”

Thomas and Team Sky now look ahead with renewed confidence. Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem and next weekend’s Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) are two more races Thomas, Stannard, and Sky’s remaining classics crew can win.

“I am super happy about today, and that means we can go into the next few races and really enjoy the racing. We can get stuck in, and try to be on the front all the time, and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “Confidence-wise, this victory is great for us. Hopefully we can continue this momentum, without any pressure.”

Later tonight, alone in the team hotel, it’s not hard to imagine Stannard and Thomas pinching themselves to remind each other this isn’t a dream. And they’ll be hoping to ride that same way next weekend across the cobbles of Flanders to make another highlight reel.

Maybe some kid in Wales will be watching.

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Thomas emerges victorious from crash-marred E3 Harelbeke http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/thomas-emerges-victorious-from-crash-marred-e3-harelbeke_364631 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/thomas-emerges-victorious-from-crash-marred-e3-harelbeke_364631#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 16:45:09 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364631

Geraint Thomas (Sky) unleashed a punishing attack with four kilometers left in E3 Harelbeke and took it all the way to the line alone. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Geraint Thomas jumps Stybar and Sagan in the final four kilometers of E3 Harelbeke to win his first major classic in solo fashion

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Geraint Thomas (Sky) unleashed a punishing attack with four kilometers left in E3 Harelbeke and took it all the way to the line alone. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Geraint Thomas (Sky) claimed his first big spring classics win on Friday with a canny late-race attack in the closing kilometers of E3 Harelbeke.

Pre-race favorites Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick-Step) and Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), who had broken away with him with 41km to go, on the Oude Kwaremont, had no response when the Welsh rider went.

“I thought if I could hit them a bit earlier, I could take them by surprise,” Thomas said. “They would look at each other. It worked out perfectly, really I can’t believe it.”

After Sagan was dropped in the finale, Stybar, the former cyclocross world champion, was no match for his quarry, the two-time Olympic gold medalist in the team pursuit. Thomas crossed the line with a comfortable gap at the end of 218 kilometers of racing.

“I just imagined I was trying to hold [Ed] Clancy’s wheel in team pursuit,” Thomas said.

Photo gallery >>

The race was shaken up by a major crash early on, which claimed perennial classics favorite, Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). He will miss the rest of the spring season with two fractured vertebrae.

Ahead, the breakaway included Sean De Bie (Lotto-Soudal), Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka), Dries Devenyns (IAM Cycling), Adrea Dal Col (Southeast), Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot), and Sebastien Turgot (Ag2r La Mondiale). With 100 kilometers left, their lead was just under six minutes.

Soon, Dal Col was dropped from the lead group.

In the peloton, Daniel Oss (BMC) whipped up the pace on the Taainberg, breaking a small group off the front of the peloton.

They were soon brought back by the peloton after a few kilometers of flat road.

Tinkoff-Saxo began to chase hard, bringing the break’s gap down to under 2:30 with 67 kilometers left. Sky also pitched in at the front.

As the gap fell to 1:16 by 47km to go, with help from BMC, van Ginneken was dropped.

When the lead trio reached the Paterberg, their lead was merely 43 seconds, and Devenyns set off alone.

When the peloton reached the short, steep berg, LottoNL-Jumbo’s Sep Vanmarcke went on the attack, but a slipped chain derailed his move and nearly caused another crash. Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) took over toward the top of the climb, stretching the field and breaking free with a small group

But the peloton consolidated again.

Next up was the Oude Kwaremont. There, Sagan, Stybar, and Thomas jumped free and soon passed Devenyns.

“I was in my backyard, and I received a lot of encouragement,” Devenyns said in a team statement. “I was not riding my best at the start of the season due to a virus I was suffering from, but then I found my groove. I am happy with my day, and it has done me a lot of good mentally.”

With the gap out to 13 seconds, BMC chased hard with help from LottoNL-Jumbo.

The three-man break worked well together, and with 20km left, their lead was 36 seconds.

With 17 kilometers remaining, BMC’s leader, Van Avermaet, crashed out of the chase group on a narrow righthand bend. Katusha then took up the reigns in the chase group as the lead extended to one minute approaching the final 10 kilometers.

Despite the frantic pursuit behind, the breakaway had a 40-second gap with five kilometers left. But that was not good enough for Thomas, who attacked and set off alone with four kilometers left.

Stybar opened up the throttle to chase and Sagan was dropped. Thomas’ advantage over the Czech was 14 seconds with two kilometers left.

“It’s no secret how I felt in the last kilometers, I think you could see it on television as well,” said Sagan in a press statement. “I feel confident that Sunday will be better.”

Thomas rode alone to glory, winning with a comfortable gap. Stybar was second, and his Etixx teammate Matteo Trentin sprinted to third from the peloton.

“[Thomas] went really fast and Sagan didn’t really react,” Stybar said in a team statement. “I hesitated for maybe two seconds too long, and the race was over. I was very disappointed in that moment because I felt I could win today.”

“I felt pretty good from the second half of the race, really just committed,” the winner said. “It was hard out there. The three of us had to work well together. Fortunately it was great for me.

“These six weeks from Paris-Nice to Paris-Roubaix was the big hit for me early season. Paris-Nice was really disappointing. To get the win now … anything else is really a bonus.”

Full results >>

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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Valverde wins again in Catalunya http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/valverde-wins-again-in-catalunya_364623 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/valverde-wins-again-in-catalunya_364623#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:59:00 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364623

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked his way to win number two at Volta a Catalunya on Friday. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Alejandro Valverde takes his second stage win in Volta a Catalunya, moving up to fourth overall as Richie Porte assumes race lead

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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) attacked his way to win number two at Volta a Catalunya on Friday. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won his second stage of the week at Volta a Catalunya, claiming stage 5 in a late-race attack on Friday.

The 195-kilometer stage was a mostly downhill route from Alp to Valls, but it did offer a category-two climb in the final 15 kilometers. In the finale, Valverde launched a solo move to win the day.

“When I saw a gap, I dug. I was able to leave them behind and snatch those five more seconds,” Valverde said.

“I would like to ride like this until the Ardennes and this year will be the first time I go to the Tour of Flanders,” he said. I want to get to know it and I would like to do well, but obviously it is just to try it out.”

Photo gallery >>

Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick-Step) finished second, and Astana’s Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) sprinted to third ahead of Richie Porte (Sky).

Porte and Valverde were among the beneficiaries when strong winds split the peloton into three groups with just under 50 kilometers to go. Overnight leader Bart de Clercq (Lotto-Soudal) was unable to stay with the leaders. Valverde was always well-positioned at the front of the leading group and made his successful break for the line three kilometers from the finish.

“It was a really beautiful day for all of us,” said Valverde. “We knew there was going to be some wind in the finale, the whole team was attentive and always riding on the front, and we decided to accelerate. We were able to make the gap, left De Clercq and Martin behind, and also cooperated well with the other teams, since we all had an interest to leave the rivals behind — we really pushed at 100 percent.”

Porte now leads the overall, five seconds ahead of Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale). Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) is seven seconds back in third. With his stage win and the time bonus, Valverde is now only 16 seconds behind in fourth overall.

“The race is a long way from over,” said Porte. “Not only for me, but for those behind me, as there are plenty of riders bunched together in the general classification looking for the bonus seconds.

“The next two days could be dangerous, but especially in Barcelona, it will be hard.”

On Saturday, the race will run 194.1km from Cervera to Port Aventura on a route that includes two categorized climbs.

Full results >>

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report.

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Specialized recalls 8,300 aero bars http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/specialized-recalls-8300-aero-bars_364617 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/specialized-recalls-8300-aero-bars_364617#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:27:51 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364617

Specialized announces that aluminum and carbon bars on Shiv bikes sold between 2012 and 2015 are unsafe

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Specialized has issued a recall of about 8,300 aerobars that were sold on the Shiv — model years 2012 through 2015 — and 2013 Transition time trial bikes.

There have been four instances of users having the bolt, which holds the aero extensions, loosening. There have been no reported injuries. Owners of this bar are instructed to return it to their Specialized retailer and have it swapped for no charge. Riders who feel inconvenienced will receive a $100 credit toward Specialized merchandise.

The handlebars were sold in carbon and aluminum in black color with a white Specialized logo. Bars sold in the aftermarket were priced between $200 and $575.

Specialized dealers have been notified that the fix requires mechanics to swap to low-stack aero extension, which use two bolts, rather than a single bolt. This swap, Specialized claims, should put riders in a similar position, but if not, they can contact Specialized Rider Care.

For more information on the recall, take your affected bike into your local Specialized dealer, and read more here.

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Aldag did not have ticket for doomed flight http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/aldag-did-not-have-ticket-for-doomed-flight_364605 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/aldag-did-not-have-ticket-for-doomed-flight_364605#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:00:13 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364605

Rolf Aldag was behind the wheel at E3 Harelbeke for Etixx-Quick-Step, despite false reports that he nearly boarded the jet that crashed in the Alps earlier this week. Photo: Andy Hood | VeloNews.com

Amid erroneous media reports, Rolf Aldag confirmed he never had a ticket to board the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps

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Rolf Aldag was behind the wheel at E3 Harelbeke for Etixx-Quick-Step, despite false reports that he nearly boarded the jet that crashed in the Alps earlier this week. Photo: Andy Hood | VeloNews.com

Former pro Rolf Aldag confirmed to VeloNews that he did not have a ticket to fly on the doomed Germanwings flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, Germany, which crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday, killing all 150 people onboard.

Aldag characterized media reports as “ridiculous” that the technical director at Etixx-Quick Step had a ticket for the flight, but did not board.

“I don’t know where these reports have come from. I never had a ticket for that flight. I never planned to fly from Barcelona,” Aldag told VeloNews. “I was never in Spain this week.”

A news story that Aldag had a ticket on the doomed flight went viral over social media, but Aldag just laughed and shook his head when he heard about the story. He said his phone was ringing off the hook the past few days following the unfounded media report.

“Perhaps there was some confusion, because I often do fly to Dusseldorf airport,” Aldag said. “I traveled straight from Italy after Milano-Sanremo to Belgium. I never went to Spain.”

On Friday morning, he was very happy to be safe and sound in Belgium for the start of E3 Harelbeke, and expressed condolences for the victims of the accident.

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Racing without Boonen: Etixx-Quick-Step refits classics tactics without star http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/racing-without-boonen-etixx-quick-step-refits-classics-tactics-without-star_364602 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/racing-without-boonen-etixx-quick-step-refits-classics-tactics-without-star_364602#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:43:54 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364602

Zdenek Stybar is on great form coming off a win at Strade Bianche, but will it result in more success for Etixx-Quick-Step in the spring classics?. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Etixx-Quick Step will still be racing to win the spring classics despite the absence of cobbles superstar Tom Boonen, out with injury

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Zdenek Stybar is on great form coming off a win at Strade Bianche, but will it result in more success for Etixx-Quick-Step in the spring classics?. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — There were crowds of fans around the Etixx-Quick-Step bus Friday morning ahead of the start of E3 Harelbeke, but not Tom Boonen-huge crowds.

Without the presence of the Belgian superstar, who is missing the entire spring classics campaign with injury, there is a very different vibe around the team bus of the perennial cobblestone favorites.

With Boonen at the start line, there was a guarantee that Etixx-Quick-Step would be a favorite for victory in any of the northern classics. Without Boonen, the team is tackling the most important two weeks of its season, hoping to see different players step up.

“It’s very different, but it’s not necessarily easier for us during these classics,” Etixx-Quick-Step technical director Rolf Aldag told VeloNews. “We believe we have a super-strong team for the team classics. We can still frustrate others, because of the numbers we can have at the front. We hope we can maintain that strength with the team, even without Tom. The only thing that counts is to try to win.”

Perhaps more than any other team, Etixx-Quick-Step lives and dies in the spring classics. While the team has expanded its program to include GC aspirations with Rigoberto Urán and the sprints with Mark Cavendish, the team’s soul remains on the cobblestones.

And the rider that’s carried that pressure and success for more than a decade was Boonen. With seven monuments to his name, Boonen’s 2015 classics campaign came to an abrupt end in Paris-Nice, suffering an AC-joint dislocation. That immediately torpedoed his hopes for the northern classics, but Etixx-Quick-Step vows to push on.

Riders such as Zdenek Stybar, who won Strade Bianche in March, and Niki Terpstra, winner of last year’s Paris-Roubaix will look to fill the void. Behind them will be others, such as Matteo Trentin, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck, dubbed as the ‘next Tom Boonen’ in the Belgian media, and Stijn Vandenbergh.

Boonen’s presence meant the others could ride without pressure, but with his absence, that pressure for results will move to their shoulders.

“Riders want those chances, but the pressure comes with that opportunity,” Aldag told VeloNews. “What changes is for the other guys, because with Tom in the race, you could always count on him, so the other guys riding at the front didn’t have the pressure.”

Stybar seems up for the task. Speaking to VeloNews during Tirreno-Adriatico, he said the team is making its adjustments to race without Boonen.

“We will have a strategy to race, even with Tom not being able to race,” Stybar said. “The good thing about this team is that there are many who are strong.”

Terpstra, too, is ready to step up. His dramatic victory in Paris-Roubaix last year came thanks to Quick-Step’s large presence at the sharp end of the action, when he was in the winning group that also included Stybar and Boonen. The others knew the numbers were stacked against them, and when Terpstra attacked, no one tried to chase him down, knowing the other Quick-Steps would counter from behind.

“Last year, we created many opportunities to win because this team is so strong,” Terpstra said. “That doesn’t change. We will have the same strategy, to race to win, like we always do.”

The team will lose its ace in the hole with Boonen, but Aldag said its strategy of riding as a group doesn’t change.

“It’s true that others have more chances, but it’s not like we’re going out there with eight guys, and say, ‘good luck!’” Aldag said. “We still have a good structure around Niki and Stybar, whom we believe can win. And we have others who can profit from that out of long breakaways.”

So far, Etixx has had a mixed run through some of the early season races. Stybar took a brilliant victory at Strade Bianche, thanks to his good form, but the team seemed out of sync at such races as Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Le Samyn. At Milano-Sanremo, world champion Michal Kwiatkowski and Stybar both crashed coming off the Poggio. Now that Flanders week is firmly underway, the team will be under the gun to deliver results.

Even without Boonen, Aldag said the team would not shirk from its role to control and be protagonists in the spring classics.

“This team lives for these races. It has more than 20 years of experience in the classics,” he said. “That won’t change.”

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Cancellara breaks vertebrae in E3 Harelbeke crash, out of classics http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/cancellaras-classics-campaign-in-doubt-after-e3-harelbeke-crash_364594 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/cancellaras-classics-campaign-in-doubt-after-e3-harelbeke-crash_364594#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:43:16 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364594

Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) crashed out of E3 Harelbeke, breaking two vertebrae and ruining his plans for a run at Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Fabian Cancellara's spring classics campaign comes to an unexpected end as he breaks two vertebrae in early crash on Friday

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Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) crashed out of E3 Harelbeke, breaking two vertebrae and ruining his plans for a run at Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

HARELBEKE, Belgium (VN) — Fabian Cancellara’s 2015 cobbled classics campaign ended before it began in earnest after a crash 39.4 kilometers into the E3 Harelbeke on Friday in Belgium. He fell on his left wrist and fractured two vertebrae according to early reports from the hospital.

“It all happened so fast. Someone slammed the brakes and there was no way to go, just straight into it,” Cancellara said to AFP. “I flew over a couple of riders and then landed in a pile of bikes. There were riders everywhere. I fell so hard and felt pain everywhere. It was sort of reflex to get back on the bike, but the pain was hard, in my lower back, left wrist, and my ribs on the back.”

The Swiss classics champion — a three-time winner of both the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) and Paris-Roubaix — crashed on the cobbled Haaghoek sector with around 40 to 50 other riders. He continued for 10km more, but the pain was too much and he abandoned.

“I felt right away that it was a serious crash, but I wanted to try to keep going. I had to stop; the pain was too much. We went to the hospital for scans and this confirmed the pain.”

“Unfortunately Fabian Cancellara has abandoned the race after his crash. We will keep you informed on his situation as soon as possible,” Trek Factory Racing said on its Twitter account of Cancellara, who won the 2009, 2010, and 2013 editions of the race.

A photo from the race showed Cancellara favoring his left wrist after the crash.

An update from journalists at the hospital confirmed he would have to end his classics campaign early. The problem was not his wrist, but his back. He will not require surgery, but will be forced to miss the upcoming classics.

“It seems that a water bottle fell on the cobbles and caused it,” Trek sport director Dirk Demol told Sporza TV.

“He hit his wrist and the lower part of his back. He couldn’t stay on the pedals anymore. He wasn’t looking good at all.”

The 34-year-old Swiss rider reportedly said his classics season is over. He is aiming to repeat in the Ronde van Vlaanderen on April 5 and Paris-Roubaix on April 12.

Cancellara went immediately to the hospital in Waregem for X-rays, which ended Demol’s and the team’s hopes for a quick recovery.

Milano-Sanremo winner John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Lars Boom (Astana) were also involved in the crash. They continued. Abandoning with Cancellara were Niccolò Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida), Robert Wagner (LottoNL-Jumbo), Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Garmin), Vegard Breen, Gert Dockx (both Lotto-Soudal), Andrey Amador and Imanol Erviti (both Movistar).

Demol said Cancellara would skip Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, but his entire cobbled classics campaign could be a wash if his wrist is fractured. The update confirmed he could not continue, due to his back injury.

In 2012, Cancellara had to abandon the Ronde when he crashed and fractured his collarbone. He skipped Paris-Roubaix a week later. In 2013, he collected his third Paris-Roubaix title and in 2014, he did the same in the Ronde.

Cancellara’s long-time rival Tom Boonen (Etixx-Quick-Step) already had to pull the plug on his 2015 classics campaign. The Belgian crashed and dislocated his shoulder in stage 1 of Paris-Nice earlier in March.

“There is nothing you can do with this injury — no cast, no surgery — but just biting the pain,” he said.

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Inside the mind of a champion: A chat with Georgia Gould http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/inside-the-mind-of-a-champion-a-chat-with-georgia-gould_364513 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/inside-the-mind-of-a-champion-a-chat-with-georgia-gould_364513#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:52:26 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364513

Georgia Gould, warming up before the 2012 Olympic cross-country race, where she took a bronze medal. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

A candid discussion about the struggles elite athletes face — “the longer you race, the more hard times you’re going to have”

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Georgia Gould, warming up before the 2012 Olympic cross-country race, where she took a bronze medal. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

What is it that defines a champion? Is it winning the most important events in a given discipline? Does one major victory constitute a champion, or is this a quality that’s defined by an era of domination? Is the title something that lasts forever?

Furthermore, how much of it is mental, rather than physical?

By almost any account, Georgia Gould would qualify as a champion. She’s been crowned the national champion on five occasions — four national cross-country titles and one short-track cross-country title. She’s never been a world or Olympic champion, but she’s medaled at both.

Other accolades abound. Gould has never been a national cyclocross champion — she’s finished second three times behind 11-time winner Katie Compton — but she won the series title at the U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclocross on three occasions. She’s never won a World Cup, though she was well on her way to victory in Windham in 2012 when a late puncture took the air out of that dream and saw her Luna teammates pass her at the finish.

When it comes to the pantheon of the greatest American women cyclists — Compton, Dunlap, Armstrong, Hammer, Demet, Holden, Furtado, Carpenter, Twigg — few would argue that Gould’s name doesn’t belong.

Gould is in Colombia this week for the Continental Championships. A victory would pair nicely with the gold medal she earned at the 2007 Pan American Championships in Argentina.

After her victory at the Iceman Cometh, I called Gould and got a window into the mind of a champion, a candid discussion about the internal struggles that elite athletes face — even the best, and the most experienced. Even a champion.

From double bronze …

Gould was buzzing, fresh off winning Iceman in Michigan, three minutes ahead of Canadian Emily Batty (Trek Factory Racing). Unlike some cross-country events, Iceman is flat and fast, a tactical battle where pure power reigns supreme. Gould opened a gap in a muddy section and stayed clear to the finish, where she was greeted by a large crowd, a confetti cannon, and a bit later, a massive party. It was, Gould said, “an awesome way to end the season.”

The weekend before Iceman, Gould had raced three days of UCI cyclocross at the Cincy3 Cyclocross Festival, finishing fifth and eighth, and finally third in the Pan-American Continental Cyclocross Championship, behind Compton and Meredith Miller (Noosa). They were decent results, but she hadn’t managed a win.

In 2011, Gould won a national title, five Pro XCT events, and a medal at the Olympic test event. The 2012 season brought a national title, several World Cup podiums, and bronze medals at the Olympic and world championships. Coming off her best seasons to date, Gould had struggled in 2013 and 2014. Her 2013 had been, in her estimation, “sucky,” and 2014 had been only marginally better.

At age 34 (she’s 35 now), Gould spent the 2014 season considering walking away from the sport. After her disappointing 2013 campaign, she worked hard during the 2013-14 off-season, intent on early results — to undo the damage 2013 had done to her confidence. It didn’t happen.

“In 2013 I had no good results,” Gould explained. “I really struggled at the World Cups. By the end of 2013, I was so sucky, I was so disappointed, that by the time I got to the World Cup finals, I was not even excited to race. I couldn’t even get up for it. It was hard to get excited, just to be disappointed. I was just ground into the dirt. So I busted my ass over the winter, just really focused on my training. I wanted to come out to the early races on top form. I needed the confidence. I wanted to come out of the gates swinging. Even if that meant I was sucking in September, so be it. I needed that feeling, to be back on top.”

… To rock bottom

Gould started her 2014 season at the Mellow Johnny’s Classic in Dripping Springs, Texas. Though she finished third behind Luna teammates Katerina Nash and Catharine Pendrel, the result doesn’t tell the full story. From the gun, she was “dropped immediately.” She finished 4:28 off the winning pace.

“It was not what I was expecting,” she said.

The disappointment of her 2013 World Cup season, compounded by her inability to race at the front domestically, came to a boil for her two weeks later — March 15, 2014 — at the Bonelli Pro XCT race in San Dimas, California.

During the race, Gould said, she’d gone deep into a negative space, so much so that she was ready to quit and walk away.

“For a few reasons, I overdid it the week before the race,” she said. “In the race, I started thinking to myself, ‘This is no fun; this is miserable. I quit. I worked this hard, over the winter, and if this is how I’m racing, maybe I need to just stop.’”

She finished eighth, 5:09 behind teammate Katerina Nash; it was her worst finish in a domestic cross-country race in several years.

“Halfway through the race, I had checked out,” she said. “I was just riding around, and I hate that. It disrespects other people who are trying hard. I was embarrassed with myself. I started taking this asshole attitude, ‘Oh really, now she’s gonna pass me?’ The way I was reacting. It was so shitty. I don’t want to be that person. And I started thinking ‘Maybe this isn’t for me, if that’s how I’m going to be.’ It is an ego thing, not riding where you want to be riding. I had busted my ass, I had worked so hard, and it wasn’t just that I didn’t win — I wasn’t even in the race.”

Gould said the period following following the Bonelli race was among the toughest of her racing career, which began in 2004.

“I was super bummed after that race,” she said. “I talked to my brother on the phone, and I told him, ‘I think I’m just done. And he told me, ‘you need to get your shit together. You’re a professional. That’s your job, racing against people who are fired up. They’re fired up to race, and they’re fired up that they’re beating Georgia Gould. You need to get rid of your ego, and just race like you’re racing. So go and put one foot in front of the other, even if they are little steps.’”

It wasn’t what Gould had wanted to hear. “It wasn’t sympathy,” she said. “It was basically, ‘Take your big shit pile, turn it into a little shit pile, and then square your shit away.’”

Gould said the problems she was having at the domestic level in 2014 were only exacerbated when racing at the international level.

“I had lost my confidence,” she said. “I was questioning myself. ‘Do I still know how to do this? Maybe I used to be better at going hard, at digging deep … What’s the problem?’ At World Cups, other riders were super aggressive with me. Some riders were basically like, ‘Get out of my way! You’re not fast any more.’ It really affected my confidence, and at the end of 2013, I felt like what I needed was to have some good momentum — not continue spiraling with bad momentum.”

That didn’t happen, and Gould looked to her coach, Jim Lehman, for answers; they’d started working together midway through her dismal 2013 season. He recommended that she have her blood tested, which she did, four times — twice through mandatory UCI monitoring, and twice individually. There were no discernible indications of what might be wrong.

“Jim was like, ‘check your iron levels … what is wrong with you?’ When there is a whole season like that … you want to have some sort of explanation. When I looked at my power numbers, they were all good, and that was the hardest thing. I wish there was something to explain it away, like quitting gluten, or some issues with my iron, but it wasn’t that simple.”

While her 2013 season was, in her words, “sucky,” 2014 was not without its struggles. Sub-par international results continued, but she also had top-five finishes at four of the seven domestic Pro XCT events. Specifically, Gould took second at the national cross-country championship in July, just 15 seconds behind Lea Davison (Specialized). She followed that up with a pair of wins the following day in the Super-D and short-track cross-country races. She was, once again, a national champion.

“The first few World Cups of 2014, I didn’t do that well,” Gould said. “I came back to the States, and the Colorado Springs race was good for me, I almost won the cross-country race, but Katerina passed me on the last lap. I won the short-track cross-country race, that was my first win in a year or so. That was cool. I raced well tactically, and I was feeling good. [Cross-country] nationals went well. I didn’t win, but I didn’t lose by much.

“As for the World Cups … maybe being there, at the venue, for so long before racing, I think that might have hurt me more than helped me. The courses have jumps and stuff, and you want to have enough time to see it, but part of it might be that, by the time the race came around, I was just cracked. It was like, ‘If I have to ride this one section, one more time. … Honestly, I don’t know what the problem was. I would have a decent race in Vermont, racing against Lea and Katerina, and they were on the podium at World Cups, a week later. I don’t know what the disconnect was at World Cups. My results, on paper, weren’t where they could have been, but based on my training … I had some good training rides. I had confidence from my training, and that made the sting a little less from the race results.”

A different perspective

Last year, Gould started working with a sports psychologist from the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs.

“He works with different athletes, so he brings a different perspective, from outside of cycling,” Gould said. “It’s useful, to have someone to talk to that is not following every race I’m in, or doesn’t know me so well. He can pick up on things, like what I first start talking about when we meet, or how I bring him up to speed on things. He’s an insightful guy. He’s really helpful. I was hoping he would tell me, ‘in the race, repeat this mantra …’ or something that might just flip the switch. But I’m realizing it’s not like that, it’s doing the best you can with what you’ve got.”

When I spoke with Gould in November, her mood was reflective, but positive. She’d just won Iceman, she’d placed fifth at Cross Vegas, and she’d had good cyclocross races in Boulder and Madison, with podium finishes at both, though she didn’t register a win.

“My attitude was better at the end of season,” she said. “I just let go. I was not so wound up about my results. I had gotten myself so … After Bonelli, that was a sad time. I was not doing very well. It was good to pull through that.”

Heading into 2013, she’d done almost nothing, coming off an exhausting and successful 2012 campaign. Heading into 2014, she’d gone full-blast after a disappointing 2013 season. Heading into 2015, coming off an up-and-down season that had ended well, she basically did whatever she felt, whether that meant ripping singletrack, racing cyclocross, or riding motorcycles near her home in Fort Collins, Colorado. What she wasn’t doing was adhering to any sort of training schedule. It was unstructured, and it was working.

“I needed a mental break, as much as anything,” she said. “I can’t just repeat my 2011 or 2012 season in 2015. I’m not the same person. I’m not the same athlete, and really, the beginning of 2012 wasn’t awesome for me — I had a bad race in South Africa. It’s about not forcing it, or trying to recreate it. That won’t work for me. It’s about, ‘How can I be happy, and healthy, and hopefully make it to the Olympics, and hopefully win the damn gold medal this time?’

“One thing I’ve learned is that when I start doing things out of fear, or panic, that doesn’t do good things for me. At the Cross of the North [last October 12], I was racing with Katie Clouse. The week before, I had been riding motorcycles in the mountains, not training for bike racing at all. I made a last-minute decision to race, and suddenly this 13-year old is riding at the front with me, and challenging me … and I started thinking, ‘So a 13-year old is going to beat me?’ It was one of those things where no one really cares about how I do … unless I don’t win. But you know what? Good for her if she beats me. She’s racing on fire, and I’m racing out of fear. That can’t be my mindset. No anxiety, no fear … I mean, sooner or later, she is going to beat me. And I have to accept that.”

New year, new attitude

Gould traveled to Austin, Texas in January for the national cyclocross championship, finishing fourth. Her mountain bike season started on March 14, in Bonelli, where she’d bottomed out a year earlier. This time around, she finished third, 1:05 behind Batty and 27 seconds behind world champion Pendrel.

Had she erased the ghosts she’d left behind one year earlier at the San Dimas event?

“This year at Bonelli was pretty much diametrically the opposite,” she said. “I was comfortably riding with the top three, but then I crashed, and I had to stop in the tech zone. I basically took myself out of the running with one and a half laps to go; I lost contact with the top two riders. But I was feeling good, like I might do something to try to drop these guys. It was the feeling of being in control, versus at the mercy of everyone else. My confidence took such a blow in 2013 and 2014, I think I still need some more races to build that up. I’m comfortable in the lead group, but I’m not yet sure if I want to attack or try to hold on.”

On March 21 in Fontana, Gould finished second, nine seconds behind Nash. She’s currently in Cota, Colombia, at the Continental Championship. She’ll head home for a week, and then back to Bonelli, with, hopefully, an increasingly improved perspective.

Gould also knows that, ultimately, her time at the top cannot last forever. Her competitors are significantly younger. Two-time national champion Lea Davison, whose name may soon be on that list of all-time American women, is 31. Batty is just 26, and seems to get incrementally better each season. Soon enough, a phenom like Katie Clouse could become the next Juli Furtado. By the time the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics roll around, Gould will be 36 and will have been racing for 13 seasons. Asked if one more Olympic medal is the end goal, Gould said that, yes, for now, that was the farthest horizon she could see.

“My contract is through 2016,” she said. “I don’t think I’ll be racing World Cups after that. I don’t think I’ll just retire; I like racing too much. As far as being elite, at the World Cup level, that might be over. The Rio Olympics are still pretty far away. Oh God, that’s exhausting just to think about … It was such an amazing experience. I’d love to go again. But the way I rode in 2013 and 2014, I just needed to get through the season. I’m trying not to think about the disconnect between where I want to be and where I am. I’m trying to not be so hard on myself, and hope that brings me incremental progress through the 2016 Games.

“I just need a few more races, to keep building on the start that I’ve had,” Gould continued. “Success, failure — it’s always a combination of things, all these little things. A lot of people think the pros have it all figured out, but that’s not always the case. Maybe some people have it all figured out, and if they do, they should let me know. Your body changes, the way you respond changes, your mental motivation changes. You have to be able to adapt to that, and the harder times, they make you reevaluate, why am I doing this? What is it that I’m getting out of this? Do I want to keep doing this? It makes you come to terms with all of that. And the longer you race, the more hard times you’re going to have.”

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Utrecht marks 100 days to Tour de France start http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/utrecht-marks-100-days-to-tour-de-france-start_364581 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/utrecht-marks-100-days-to-tour-de-france-start_364581#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 22:20:22 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364581

In October, Tour de France director, Christian Prudhomme, and the Mayor of Utrecht, Jan van Zanen, announced that stage 1 in the Netherlands will be a short individual time trial. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The Netherlands' bike-friendly city is getting ready to host the Grand Depart on July 4

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In October, Tour de France director, Christian Prudhomme, and the Mayor of Utrecht, Jan van Zanen, announced that stage 1 in the Netherlands will be a short individual time trial. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UTRECHT, Netherlands (AFP) — The historic Dutch city of Utrecht on Thursday launched celebrations to mark 100 days before the 2015 Tour de France with a sound and light show.

The world’s most famous cycling race gets underway in the Netherlands on July 4 with Utrecht officials keen to highlight the city’s “pro-bicycle” commitment.

Mayor Jan van Zanen welcomed Tour de France organizers to Utrecht’s 12,500-capacity bicycle park, presented as the “biggest in the world.”

“Utrecht is a bicycle town,” the mayor said. “Every day 25,000 citizens (of 350,000 habitants) travel to work by bicycle; 90,000 inhabitants use their bicycle every week.”

It was Utrecht’s promotion of cycling which attracted organizers of the three-week race to choose the town.

“This promotion of cycling for all, daily, pushed us to come here,” said Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.

It is the sixth time the Tour will start in the Netherlands, the last time being in 2010 when it kicked off in Europe’s largest port of Rotterdam.

“It will be as fabulous as in Rotterdam, where a million spectators turned out. I’m sure that in 30 years we’ll still remember, it will be magnificent,” promised 1980 Tour de France winner Joop Zoetemelk, Utrecht’s ambassador for the “Big start”.

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Q&A: L’Eroica founder Brocci brings golden age of cycling to California http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/qa-leroica-founder-brocci-brings-golden-age-of-cycling-to-california_364294 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/qa-leroica-founder-brocci-brings-golden-age-of-cycling-to-california_364294#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 21:39:01 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364294

"L'Eroica means pedaling along peripheral roads which require dexterity and speed but which, at the same time, distance you from the pressure of the motorized world, make you look around, rediscover your surroundings and a healthy way of life." Photo: John Watson |TheRadavist.com

An interview with the iconoclastic founder of L'Eroica, Giancarlo Brocci, ahead of the first-ever Eroica California in Paso Robles

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"L'Eroica means pedaling along peripheral roads which require dexterity and speed but which, at the same time, distance you from the pressure of the motorized world, make you look around, rediscover your surroundings and a healthy way of life." Photo: John Watson |TheRadavist.com

L’Eroica started in 1997 because of one man, Giancarlo Brocci, who admired the values of cycling’s past so much that he wanted to reconnect others to that heritage, one inspired by Italian history, literature, culture, and music. L’Eroica also began as a foundation for the protection and preservation of the last gravel roads in Tuscany. The ride was born and held in and around the Chianti region, with 92 “hunters of feelings and emotions,” as Brocci calls them, at the first event.

Now, the charm and effort of riding a vintage bike over rolling country hills has spread throughout the world, including events in England, Spain, and Japan, and, this year, California.

On April 12, Paso Robles, California, will host Eroica California, taking advantage of the beautiful unpaved and paved roads through the vineyards, oak-studded rolling hills, and coastal mountain ranges of San Luis Obispo County in central California. It will be the first Eroica with an ocean view.

VeloNews spoke with founder Brocci (through a translator) to learn more about the event and the L’Eroica phenomenon.

VeloNews: Why L’Eroica? Why did the world need an event like this?
Giancarlo Brocci: Why L’Eroica? Because sport needs new, credible heroes, who awaken people’s enthusiasm.

L’Eroica, in today’s world, considering how sport has been molded to business, is a return to the deep roots of cycling, rediscovering the beauty in fatigue, getting back to real needs, like hunger and thirst, which must be satisfied, or being physically tired, as opposed to stressed.

L’Eroica means pedaling along peripheral roads which require dexterity and speed but which, at the same time, distance you from the pressure of the motorized world, make you look around, rediscover your surroundings and a healthy way of life.

L’Eroica today is also an opportunity to rethink the cycling of the future, the type of cycling that is capable of attracting people to a world of adventure and unexpected events, enterprise and crisis, and of champions that we can start to trust again.

VN: How did you decide on the rule that participants must ride bikes built prior to 1987?
GB: Bit by bit we adopted this rule to establish a selection criteria. Initially, all types of bikes could participate in L’Eroica, although prizes were only given to those taking part on vintage-style bikes. Then we excluded MTBs, and from 2009 modern bikes, reserving our event exclusively to “Heroic Bikes.” The year 1987 was chosen for various reasons, but basically, bikes participating in L’Eroica must have external brake cables, down-tube shifters, and pedals with toe straps.

Bianchi is creating a special model with these characteristics; “Bianchi for L’Eroica” will provide a vintage-style bike in modern sizes, especially for young people who often have difficulty finding old bikes that are suitable.

VN: What is the golden age of cycling, in your opinion? Is it in the past or future?
GB: For us Italians, the golden age of cycling coincides with the sporting duel of the century, between Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi. Their rivalry told of a deep passion that involved and divided the whole country, well beyond the reaches of their battle on the road. Their victories also marked the rebirth of Italy in relation to the rest of the world, following World War II.

Here again the bike prevailed over the arrogance of the motor; cycling was on the front pages of all our newspapers and the feats of the cyclists, more recounted than witnessed, became legend overnight. Ask me about that era of cycling and you’ll get an obvious answer — the answer was the creation of L’Eroica. You must start from cycling’s amazing past if you wish to rebuild the future of this great sport.

It is no surprise that my idea to bring professional cycling to the white roads — obviously considered folly by the experts — was met with huge world acclaim: Strade Bianche [for professional riders] was followed by the Montalcino stage of the Giro d’Italia in 2010, and the inclusion of a cobblestoned stage in the Tour de France.

VN: Would you like today’s professionals to use less sophisticated bikes?
GB: Without exaggerating with the nostalgia, I think that something can be done to restore the original traits of cycling. I am not a great technical or mechanical expert, but I am happy to see that efforts are being made to stop hyper-technology from distorting an essentially beautiful vehicle. All too often, safety is sacrificed in the quest for speed and performance. It is also useful to remember that the Tour de France forbade the use of gears until 1937. Not putting limits on the use of gears leads to a type of uphill cycling that is in no way “historical” and is decidedly unromantic to watch.

VN: Who are your favorite professionals today? Is there anyone who reminds you of past greats? Are there any heroes in cycling today?
GB: I would say [Vincenzo] Nibali and [Fabio] Aru, because they are talented and they are both good and serious athletes; and [Fabian] Cancellara for his physique and showmanship.

Of course they could remind us of past greats but today’s cycling is in the hands of trainers and rule-makers: without asking them, it is difficult to understand when we’ll be able to rekindle our enthusiasm. We will end up losing interest and that is the worst thing that can happen to any passion.

The young pro cyclists of today are already heroes just by virtue of the fact that they have chosen such a difficult sport in the 21st century. [In the past, cycling] was a relatively easy choice for most people, as the choice was simply between various [difficult professions], and as the great Alfredo Martini once said, “At least cycling means that you get to eat in restaurants often.” Today, top-level cycling is not a need, it’s a vocation; cyclists should automatically be put on a pedestal.

But, those who manage today’s cyclists don’t want them to be heroes; restrained by the business of sport, [pro cyclists] receive highly specialized training to reach their “peak” performance; they get thinner and thinner, it’s terrible to watch, crazily pushed on by the power-to-weight ratio.

Let them eat! Introduce a minimum body weight. Then they will be attractive to watch again, and they will last more than one month a year. One of our L’Eroica mantras is: “From heroic cycling to the sweet life,” when cyclists were good-looking sex symbols, not to be pitied, like anorexic models or patients suffering from a chronic illness, queuing up for a drip.

VN: What’s your favorite thing about the bicycle?
GB: As a boy, my passion for cycling was brought to me by those around me, at the clubhouse by the old people of the village, because when there was a cycling race, there was always a party.

Then, when I went from reading about cycling to practicing the sport, my bicycle became a life companion, enabling me to discover slow tourism, a healthy lifestyle, a special sense of freedom, it helped me to lose weight — very gradually — I felt capable of great feats which were only valid in my own head. I still feel really young, although I’m now a grandfather. With good reason, the beautiful Gaiole in Chianti, my hometown and that of L’Eroica, was nominated by Forbes magazine as one of the “best places to live in the world.”

VN: The idea of L’Eroica has spread around the world. Where would you like to see it in the future?
GB: It is fantastic to see how many people, sharing the same values, also share the concept of L’Eroica. Participation is growing among young cyclists, women and English-speakers, exactly those who never knew this type of cycling. A real community is forming, of people who are happy to be together, sharing their experiences, feelings, and passion and, in some ways, a lifestyle.

After Japan and England, I went off to discover the wonderful roads around Paso Robles in California and those of the Rioja in Spain; like my own home where we have Chianti Classico and Brunello, these are also great wine regions offering gravel roads, without traffic and with breathtaking landscapes.

The future? The south of the world. I’ve seen a lot of it and it would be fantastic, during our winter, to cycle in the southern hemisphere, where cycling is younger and where it is easy to capture the idea of adventure and wide-open spaces. Where would I like to go? South Africa and Australia are the two objectives that seem closest; Argentina is my heart’s desire.

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Gallery: 2015 Volta a Catalunya, stage 4 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/gallery-2015-volta-a-catalunya-stage-4_364550 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/gallery-2015-volta-a-catalunya-stage-4_364550#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 18:57:45 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364550

With lots of climbing on the menu, the Catalunya GC gets shaken up once again, and Tejay van Garderen claims his first win of the season

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Problems still brewing in team Tinkoff-Saxo http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/problems-still-brewing-in-team-tinkoff-saxo_364540 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/problems-still-brewing-in-team-tinkoff-saxo_364540#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 18:01:02 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364540

Bjarne Riis (left) and team owner Oleg Tinkov (right) seem to be at odds over team Tinkoff-Saxo's performance so far this season. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

Ahead of a busy springtime full of important races, Tinkoff-Saxo organization seems threatened by a rift between Tinkov and Riis

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Bjarne Riis (left) and team owner Oleg Tinkov (right) seem to be at odds over team Tinkoff-Saxo's performance so far this season. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File).

GHENT, Belgium (VN) — Team Tinkoff-Saxo heads into the busiest time of the year with issues left unresolved. Team owner Oleg Tinkov benched founder and manager, Bjarne Riis and created a leadership vacuum ahead of the biggest one-day races.

Peter Sagan, the team’s new $4 million star, led the team in Milano-Sanremo on Sunday. Tomorrow, he will line up with dossard #1 to defend his 2014 E3 Harelbeke title. However, he is racing without the master tactician, Riis.

Riis sat home while Sagan raced to fourth place in Milano-Sanremo and had to leave Alberto Contador in Stephen De Jongh’s hands in Spain’s Volta a Catalunya stage race this week. The problem appears to be a power struggle between him and the team’s owner and Russian businessman, Tinkov.

Tinkov bought the team from Riis in December 2013 and appointed the Danish 1996 Tour de France winner as team manager. Early this year, however, he reportedly began second-guessing Riis’ decisions. It came to a head in Tirreno-Adriatico, where Contador’s inability to respond to Nairo Quintana’s (Movistar) attack would have only highlighted the team’s quiet year.

So far, Tinkoff-Saxo counts only two wins this year with Sagan’s stage in Tirreno-Adriatico and Contador’s in the Ruta del Sol. By comparison, Etixx-Quick-Step counts 18 and Sky 13.

One morning in the Tirreno-Adriatico race, Riis reportedly drove off without Tinkov. Ahead of stage two in Camaiore, the two were in a lengthy discussion and Tinkov would not speak to the press afterward.

Riis was then a no-show at Milano-Sanremo and the team issued a statement Tuesday to clarify, albeit unsuccessfully, the situation.

“Bjarne Riis is not being actively involved in the team’s activities,” it read. “However, he was not suspended of his active role.”

CEO of long-time sponsor Saxo Bank, Lars Seier Christensen, is trying to save the ship and its crew before it sinks.

“I respect Oleg Tinkov’s right as team owner to act as he wishes, but I would also like to stress that Bjarne Riis’ able leadership is a major reason why Saxo Bank has sponsored the team for eight seasons,” Seier Christensen said on his Facebook page.

“I have spoken with the parties involved over the last few days, and there is nothing to prevent the matter from being resolved amicably, if they really [want] to do so.”

The Dane said he would be in Belgium ahead of Ronde van Vlaanderen, April 5, but that comes after another week of important races for Contador, Sagan, and the rest of the team.

It may not matter, as Tinkov could have his own plans.

“Dear Fans @tinkoff_saxo, I assure you that team will be stronger than ever this season,” he wrote on Twitter Thursday. “We’re Super TEAM, and minus 1 won’t change nothing.”

Spanish website, Bici Ciclismo reported that Tinkov could give the team manager role to Italian Omar Piscina, who was a sport director in Tinkov’s first team, Tinkoff Credit Systems.

If Tinkov boots Riis for good, then he would likely be unable to renew Saxo Bank’s sponsorship for 2016 and would have to find new sponsors. He may be trying to do so via his “exclusive membership” Tinkoff Sport Club.

Such a move could cause a rift in the team, which already appears under pressure to up its win count well above two.

“There is no doubt that Tinkov is a huge problem to have on a team,” former rider Anders Lund told Demark’s Feltet website.

“He delivers some money, but he also provides some unrest and a lot of noise for the riders, which is not beneficial.

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Van Garderen bounces back with stage 4 win in Catalunya http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/van-garderen-bounces-back-with-stage-4-win-in-catalunya_364534 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/road/van-garderen-bounces-back-with-stage-4-win-in-catalunya_364534#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 15:50:28 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364534

One day after a harrowing crash in Volta a Catalunya, Tejay van Garderen (BMC) celebrated a stage win after a mountainous day of racing. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

American Tejay van Garderen takes first win of the season a day after a harrowing crash in the Volta a Catalunya

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One day after a harrowing crash in Volta a Catalunya, Tejay van Garderen (BMC) celebrated a stage win after a mountainous day of racing. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Tejay van Garderen came correct on Thursday, winning stage 4 of Volta a Catalunya after losing significant time in a crash the day before.

BMC’s Van Garderen attacked on the final climb, a category one ascent to the La Molina ski area, and was able to hold off Richie Porte (Sky), and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) who gave chase on the final ramp.

“I have very good memories of this race from last year,” said van Garderen, who won Volta a Catalunya’s stage 4 in 2014. “I have an up and down relationship with this race. It was an unfortunate event yesterday with the crash. Luckily I came away with minimal damage. I changed the tactic from the overall to put everything into winning the stage.

“We stayed positive, so I think we’ll try to go for more breakaways, maybe try to win a stage with someone else.”

Photo gallery >>

The early break again included Cannondale-Garmin’s Tom Danielson, along with Riccardo Zoidl (Trek Factory Racing), Jérome Coppel (IAM Cycling), Loic Chetout (Cofidis), and Jose Herrada (Movistar).

Danielson and Zoidl emerged from the lead group after the day’s progressively harder climbs — first the Alt de Bracons, then the Alt de Coubet, leading into the day’s HC climb, Alt de la Creueta. The 188.4km day finished on the category one La Molina.

Early in the day, Chris Froome was dropped from the main chase group, so Team Sky put all of its chips in for Porte, who was sitting eighth overall and poised to climb the GC with race leader Pierre Rolland (Europcar) dropped on the early climbs.

The lead duo’s advantage was 1:23 with 32 kilometers left. As they approached the final climb, with 15km to go, the gap was down to 40 seconds. Team Sky mercilessly drove the chase behind.

Danielson and Zoidl held on until the final five kilometers. Then, Sky’s Vasil Kiriyenka attacked from the field and caught the leaders.

Kiriyenka crept off the front at the base of the climb, but before long, Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) attacked from the field to attempt a bridge. Then, van Garderen followed with an attack of his own, riding past Martin.

Behind, van Garderen’s teammate Darwin Atapuma rode clear of the group with Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin).

With three kilometers left, van Garderen had caught Kiriyenka.

After waiting in the wings, Contador delivered a fierce acceleration, catching the chasers. Atapuma hopped on the Spaniard’s wheel.

With two kilometers left, Kiriyenka cracked, and van Garderen was off the front alone.

In that time, Porte had responded and rode clear of the group to join teammate Kiriyena and Atapuma, just behind Contador, who was nine seconds behind the American leader.

Porte surged in the final kilometer and Contador went to follow, but it was too late for the stage, as van Garderen rode away with the win. Porte rolled in three seconds behind, and Contador reached the line eight seconds back. Martin was fourth and Kelderman fifth.

“Sometimes it’s really hard not to look behind you, but I tried my hardest just to look at the road in front of me and stay focused, and when I saw 400 meters to go, I just thought: I can’t let anyone deny me of this,” van Garderen said.

“I wanted to play a little from the back, maybe that cost me a little at the end,” said Contador. “But I’m happy. The legs are increasingly better, although it was a little tough.

“What’s important now is to recover and move on.”

Rolland was unable to keep the overall lead after stage 4. Instead, his stage 1 breakaway companion Bart De Clercq (Lotto-Soudal) moved into the GC lead, 21 seconds ahead of Porte. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale), Wednesday’s winner, is 26 seconds behind in third. Martin and Contador round out the top five in that order, 27 and 28 seconds behind, respectively.

“Before the start of this race, I had never thought I would wear the leader’s jersey after the fourth stage,” said De Clercq. “In the first stage, the peloton gave the break I was in a big advantage, but now I will do all I can to grab this opportunity with both hands. I’m not used to lead the overall classification, but I’ll have to be really attentive the next days, follow my opponents and defend the jersey with all I got. The condition is good, I don’t have to be afraid of that.”

The race continues Friday with a 195-kilometer stage from Alp to Valls, a route that includes a category two climb in the final 15 kilometers.

Full results >>

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Abu Dhabi Tour announces four-stage race route http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/abu-dhabi-tour-announces-four-stage-race-route_364527 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/abu-dhabi-tour-announces-four-stage-race-route_364527#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:29:15 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364527

The inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour will feature four stages, one of which will offer a difficult climb. The final day will be a nighttime race

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — Organizers announced the route for the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour on Wednesday, which will include four stages, a total distance of 555 kilometers, and uphill finish on the third day. The race, to be held October 8-11, is promoted by Abu Dhabi Sports Council and UAE Cycling Federation, in partnership with RCS Sport.

In its first running, the Abu Dhabi Tour will be a UCI category 2.1 event around the capital of the United Arab Emirates and the surrounding desert.

“When I heard about the Abu Dhabi Tour I was super excited,” said Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step). “I know that Abu Dhabi is a place full of tradition, that also looks to the future, I think it’s a great place to have a bike race.

“There’s three sprint stages, which obviously bodes well for myself and Etixx-Quick-Step. And even the one stage that is more suited for climbers, we’ve got guys who can do well there, so Etixx-Quick-Step and myself will be looking to go there and do well.”

Route details

Stage 1 – The Liwa Stage (175km): The first day takes place in the Rub al Khali desert, part of Abu Dhabi’s western region. Starting at Qasr Al Sarab Resort, the undulating race route accumulates about 3,940 feet of vertical climbing as the race loops around Liwa and the nearby oasis. The riders then head north along straight roads for 55km. After a first passage of the finish line, the peloton enters a final 15km loop, to be ridden just once. A sprint is expected, although the desert winds could influence the outcome.

Stage 2 – The Capital Stage (130km): A flat stage across the city, starting at the Yas Marina Circuit and heading toward the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Exhibition Hall. The peloton will then return to Yas Island, then follow the Corniche as far as Marina Island. This is the setting for the final 7.6km circuit, to be completed five times, featuring long, straight stretches with wide sharp bends. It should be another day for the sprinters.

Stage 3 – The Al Ain Stage (140km): The toughest stage of the inaugural Abu Dhabi Tour. Starting from Al Qattara Souq, the first 33km follow a series of broad, straight roads, then the peloton will trace a wide circle around the city, crossing the Green Mubazzarah oasis before starting the final climb. At 11km long, the Jebel Hafeet ascent reaches an altitude of 3,281 feet on gradients that average 7.5 percent and touch 12 percent on the lower slopes. The climb, on wide, well-surfaced roads and with long, sweeping bends, eases into a short descent with 1.5km to go, before resuming a shallow climb to the finish line. The final climb will likely decide the general classification.

Stage 4 – The Yas Stage (110km): The final stage takes place at night, under the floodlights of the Yas Marina Circuit. The peloton will complete 20 laps, interspersed with intermediate sprints. The circuit is wide, and the road is in impeccable condition.

“Our race is well-balanced, with a true mountain stage where the overall winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Tour is likely to emerge, and three flatter stages where pure sprinters like Mark Cavendish will compete until the very last meter of the Yas Island Circuit,” said Aref Hamad Al Awani, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

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Veteran rider Bookwalter relishing new chances at BMC http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/veteran-rider-bookwalter-relishing-new-chances-at-bmc_364515 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/veteran-rider-bookwalter-relishing-new-chances-at-bmc_364515#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:47:03 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364515

Brent Bookwalter is currently in his eighth season with BMC Racing. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

With Cadel Evans now retired, Brent Bookwalter is seeing more chances to be at the sharp end of the peloton this season

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Brent Bookwalter is currently in his eighth season with BMC Racing. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Brent Bookwalter is relishing fresh opportunities to race to win this season at BMC Racing.

The veteran American was long a loyal lieutenant to 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, but with the Australian retiring in January, Bookwalter is once again seeing chances to be at the sharp end of the action.

“I already have had my chances in the early part of the season. I’ve had freedom to make my own races. Little opportunities like that, when I am not the second man to do the work, it’s fun,” Bookwalter told VeloNews in a recent interview. “I still enjoy working, especially when we have guys on fire, and I am happy to lay it on the line. It’s nice to be in the mix, reminding myself what it’s like to be racing for the win.”

Bookwalter, 31, has developed into one of the most consistent riders at BMC. He’s often in the trenches, doing the heavy lifting for his teammates to shine, and it’s a role he said he enjoys. Changes within BMC, marked by the arrival of Allan Peiper as sporting manager in 2014, helped to shake things up at the U.S.-registered team.

The team’s focus remains on the season’s major goals, at the spring classics and the grand tours, but the team also aims to be competitive in every race it starts. And that means there are more opportunities for riders like Bookwalter.

Bookwalter said the challenge is helping him and others on the squad to maintain their enthusiasm and motivation in the sometimes-brutal peloton.

“It’s easy to get maybe a little too comfortable in this worker role. It’s very important for the team, but at the end of the day, most of us got into racing because we loved riding bikes, and at some points of our careers, whether it was the junior ranks or mountain biking, we knew what it was like to win,” Bookwalter explained. “Or to race for the win, to be competitive, so it’s important to get back to that. I haven’t had any wins yet, but just being in the mix, being in the top 10s, smelling the finish line, that’s important.”

Now in his eighth season with BMC, Bookwalter has seen it all since the team’s inception. In fact, Bookwalter, along with Danilo Wyss, are the only current riders who remain part of the squad since its first season on the U.S. domestic circuit.

The signing of Evans in 2010 forever changed the direction and trajectory of the team. Along with the arrival of such riders as George Hincapie and Alessandro Ballan, BMC suddenly became a big-time team in the European peloton.

Bookwalter fought hard to keep his place with the arrival of several more top riders, and he earned the respect of his teammates and sport directors for his selfless dedication and hard work in the name of his captains. He became one of the intimate teammates to Evans, and rode with him as he made history as the first Australian to win the Tour in 2011.

Evans’ retirement in January also marks a new chapter for BMC Racing, with the rising prospects of such improving talents as Tejay van Garderen and Rohan Dennis, who won the overall at the Santos Tour Down Under in what was Evans’ final UCI WorldTour appearance.

“We are transitioning into the post-Cadel Evans era. We started the year off like that,” Bookwalter said. “I think it was kind of fitting that Rohan Dennis took the reins in Australia, and despite Cadel still being able to be competitive, he passed the torch quite eloquently, and Rohan picked it up, and we’ve been moving forward since then.”

Once again, Bookwalter is motivated to keep his place within the team hierarchy. So far in the 2015 season, Bookwalter overcame an off-season foot injury, and has been getting those chances he’s been counting on, riding into the top-20 at the Dubai Tour, Trofeo Laigueglia, and Drome Classic. Later this season, it’s likely to the Giro d’Italia or Tour de France, once again reverting to the helper role for the GC captains.

“I have ambitions to grow into a more prominent role with the team. I have been through a lot with this team, and know they can count on me,” Bookwalter said during a BMC team camp at the start of the season. “I am more aware of my own capabilities, and I know I have a lot more in me. I am excited to have the chance to show that.

“The last year or two, we have broken out of the mold of how we used to race. We are starting to race with a new aggressive style that bodes for us to move on after Cadel.

“With Cadel, we knew he could always deliver, so we started to race a bit defensively, knowing he could throw the big bomb at the end of the race. Due to broadening our mentality, we are seeing guys getting a lot more opportunities.”

It’s not as if Bookwalter hasn’t had results in the pro ranks. In 2013, he won a stage and finished second overall at the Tour of Qatar, and in 2010, barely missed out on the pink jersey in the opening prologue in Amsterdam. The man who beat him by two seconds? Bradley Wiggins.

“Every prologue is a different creature. Just because you do good in one, doesn’t mean you’re going to do well in another. Every since I did that prologue in 2010, people think, ‘oh, it’s a prologue, this is great for you!’ Well, actually, it was great for me that day,” he said. “There is no formula in a prologue.”

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Q&A: Pinot building form into Criterium International http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/qa-pinot-building-form-into-criterium-international_364507 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/qa-pinot-building-form-into-criterium-international_364507#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:34:44 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364507

Thibault Pinot (FDJ) heads into Critérium International with strong form after finishing fourth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Young French star Thibaut Pinot is aiming to win in his first run at Critérium International with improved TT skills and strong form

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Thibault Pinot (FDJ) heads into Critérium International with strong form after finishing fourth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

After the 2014 Tour de France, it was clear that Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) had arrived. He left the grand tour with the white jersey awarded to the best young rider, and he finished third overall, behind fellow countryman Jean-Christophe Péraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) and winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).

Now, he looks ahead to the Critérium International, which comprises two stages on Saturday — a flat 92.5km race and a 7km individual time trial — and a hilly 189.5km Sunday stage with a summit finish.

Pinot, 24, is coming off of a fourth-place finish at Tirreno-Adriatico. This will be his first time racing Critérium International.

Question: 
Thibaut Pinot, you have already put in some impressive results in 2015. Do you feel particularly relaxed at the start of the season?
Thibaut Pinot: Everything has gone well, and I got into competition shape very early. My first important test was Tirreno-Adriatico. I went with the goal of riding in the top-five and finished fourth. It was a little frustrating to finish just off the podium, but I had reason to be pleased. On the Terminillo stage, I stayed with a very good group [sixth on equal time with Contador, Rodriguez, and Uran]. The conditions were very harsh, but they suited me, so it went well.

Q: If we remember, last year, the rider who finished fourth at the Tirreno [Péraud] went on to win the Critérium International. Does this give you any ideas?
TP: Yes, I’m coming to win. This is the first time I am participating in the Critérium International, but it is a race that has history for French riders. It’s always a hard choice to make with the Volta a Catalunya, but I think the route suits me better and it will be possible to put in a good result. … The Critérium International is a race that carries a lot of weight on the calendar.

Q: Do you consider the Porto-Vecchio time trial as a chance to gain experience, as you look to the Tour de France?
TP: I am happy that there will be one. I would‘ve even preferred it be a little longer. It’s in an area where I’ve made good progress and I also want to see if I am capable of confirming.

Q: Nevertheless, the Col de l’Ospedale on the last stage will be the decider. Do you like this scenario?
TP: I know this climb very well, because we trained here three years in a row at Porto-Vecchio with the FDJ team. I’ve ridden [it] several times, so I know it is a fine mountaintop finish. There might not be many chances to pull out big leads, but you can attack. It will all happen in the last three or four kilometers. That’s what I am hoping for, that we have a fast race before the arrival, in a way that can create a small group. Then, you have to be sure not to attack too early … For sure; you’ll have to be on form!

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