» Road Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Sat, 06 Feb 2016 11:27:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Silent but deadly Worrack wins Ladies Tour of Qatar Fri, 05 Feb 2016 20:31:20 +0000

Trixi Worrack has long been a top rider in the pro women's peloton. Her Velocio-SRAM team won team time trial world championships in 2015. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

German Trixi Worrack and her Canyon-SRAM team are off to a good start with a win at Ladies Tour of Qatar.

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Trixi Worrack has long been a top rider in the pro women's peloton. Her Velocio-SRAM team won team time trial world championships in 2015. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Trixi Worrack may be one of the smaller and quieter cyclists in the women’s peloton, but those close to her say that she makes up for that with her tactics and strength. Canyon-SRAM’s German won the Ladies Tour of Qatar overall Friday in Doha. Her keen eye and experience delivered victory in the oil-rich Persian Gulf state after four days of racing.

“As our DS said at the start of this week, ‘Trixi is always in the right breaks.’ I thought, ‘I better stick with Trixi wherever she goes,'” teammate Tiffany Cromwell told VeloNews. “She knows how to get into the moves, but also make moves that count. She gets big results, and for me, she’s a great person to learn from.”

Worrack is not new to the sport. The five-foot-three 36-year-old won the 2015 Tour of California, the 2004 Tour de l’Aude Cycliste Féminin, and a silver medal in the 2006 world championships.

When the race split to pieces in the wind-swept Qatari countryside Thursday, the experienced German made sure she was in the front group with Tiffany Cromwell. Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans) won the stage, but Worrack took the leader’s golden jersey with enough time to make it impossible to be dislodged today along Doha’s seafront.

“I was teammates with her for three years in a row,” van Dijk said. “She’s a complete bike racer, she can ride echelons, and she has a lot of experience because she has been racing for a long time already. She’s classy. I didn’t win the overall, but it’s good to see her win.”

Within the peloton, Worrack is one of the bosses. Like Cromwell, many younger cyclists look to her for advice and leadership.

“I roomed with her here and I’ve seen how professional and focused she is up close. I have everything to learn from her,” teammate and Italian champion Elena Cecchini said.

“She’s taught me how to eat well at the big stage races. I’ve never been with such a big leader. Up until now, I’ve always been in smaller teams, so I’m trying to learn everything from her. How to sleep, eat, and recover well. This is the basis of being a champion.”

Worrack said that the classification win would show the women’s peloton where German team Canyon-SRAM stands ahead of the first Women’s WorldTour races. She is racing all the major classics coming up, including Strade Bianche on March 5.

“It’s a step into the classics seasons,” she said. “It works as a stepping stone for the whole team. We know what we are capable of and where we stand.”

Do not expect Worrack to say much more — she is quiet, talking more with her legs than with words. Dutchwoman Van Dijk  laughed, “She’s German, of course she doesn’t say much! She’ll celebrate this Tour of Qatar win with beers, for sure. Find her at the bar then for sure you’ll have a good interview!”

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Chris Horner to ride for Lupus Racing Fri, 05 Feb 2016 20:15:50 +0000

Chris Horner won the Vuelta in 2013. Photo: Tim De Waele |

2013 Vuelta champ Chris Horner will race another season in the U.S. with Georgia-based Continental team.

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Chris Horner won the Vuelta in 2013. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Lupus Racing announced its roster for the 2016 season, including 2013 Vuelta a España champion Chris Horner, 44, who raced for Airgas-Safeway last season.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for me and I am very glad to race with the Lupus Racing Team. It was a priority for me to continue racing this year with a U.S.-based team. The Lupus team has put together a solid roster and has a great reputation. I couldn’t be more excited about 2016,” said Horner, who finished fifth overall at the 2015 U.S. Pro road national championships.

Lupus is entering its second year as a UCI Continental men’s squad and will field a roster of 15 riders for the coming season.

“We are excited to have a proven champion like Chris Horner as part of the Lupus Racing Team this season. He wanted to continue his racing career, and was eager to be part of our growing program. We are focused on making a solid presence in every race in which we compete this year. It’s all about being aggressive and being the best each and every day, and for years to come. Chris will be a great leader for our young team,” said sport director Phil Cortes.

Lupus Racing 2016 roster

Chad Beyer
Winston David
Oliver Flautt
Chris Horner
Matthieu Jeannes
Marcos Lazzarotto
Bryan Lewis
Jonah Mead-VanCourt
Barry Miller
Evan Murphy
Michael Olheiser
Michael Stone
Nolan Tankersley
Nicolae Tanovitchii
Thomas Vaubourzeix

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Gallery: 2016 Dubai Tour, stage 3 Fri, 05 Feb 2016 19:47:29 +0000

Lobato celebrated with Movistar teammate Jonathan Castroviejo after the stage. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Juan Jose Lobato wins on Hatta Dam, and Giacomo Nizzolo moves into the overall lead at the Dubai Tour.

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Lobato celebrated with Movistar teammate Jonathan Castroviejo after the stage. Photo: Tim De Waele |

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Bradley Wiggins, leader of his own apprentice program Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:26:55 +0000

Bradley Wiggins stands with his team after the Dubai Tour's second stage. Photo: Caley Fretz |

Bradley Wiggins is racing at the Dubai Tour with no agenda other than to help the young riders he's taken under his wing.

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Bradley Wiggins stands with his team after the Dubai Tour's second stage. Photo: Caley Fretz |

DUBAI (VN) — Bradley Wiggins sits at breakfast, tucked into a corner of Le Meridien hotel wearing a blue and red Team Wiggins t-shirt that fits a bit tighter than it would have three years ago. Hotel patrons and race staff bustle around him, paying little attention to the Tour de France champion, world hour record holder, and four-time Olympic gold medalist. He leans on a tattooed elbow and pokes at an iPhone. The rest of Dubai’s racers are in a different hall, eating their morning buffet. Wiggins is alone, a few hundred physical meters and a symbolic world away from the Dubai peloton.

In Dubai, Wiggins is a bike racer at a bike race with no intention of bike racing. That was clear from the first sentence of his first public utterance.

“First off, I have no intention of doing anything,” Wiggins said to open the pre-race press conference. His voice hinted at a combination of amusement and exasperation in the media’s desire to talk to him anyway. The change in attitude in the two years since his Tour de France victory is remarkable.

But there is a reason he came to Dubai. Two reasons, actually. One is the upcoming world track championship, and by extension the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer. Dubai is one of a small handful of road events Wiggins is using as fitness boosters throughout the season. That blue and red t-shirt with his last name emblazoned across its chest denotes the second. There are seven young Team Wiggins riders who are most definitely here to race, to prove themselves, and to develop their skills. They’re all under 25, most under 23, fresh-faced and motivated. Wiggins is here for them.

“I like coming back in this sort of capacity because there’s not any pressure really. I’m not talking about Tour de Frances or even selection for the Tour de France, it’s quite nice now,” Wiggins said. “Like I said in the press conference yesterday, I’m the only person here who’s probably got no aspirations to actually do anything in the race, which is quite rare really. Everyone’s sort of fighting for contracts. Well, I’m the boss here, I won’t lose my job. I don’t have to worry about that. But at the same time, it’d be nice for a guy like Chris Latham to get up there and mix it with Cav and the likes.”

“It’s an honor, isn’t it,” said Latham, 21, the team’s designated sprinter, who stands well over 6 feet with a physique indicative of his native habitat. He was eighth at an Abu Dhabi Tour stage last fall and is fighting at the front again here in Dubai. On Tuesday, Wiggins took a massive pull to line up the entire squad at the front of a world-class field; it was a bit too early, but the line of eight RAF roundels on the back of the team’s kits was an impressive sight.

“Yesterday, when he was moving me up, he’s just got so much respect in the bunch,” Latham said. “Everyone just moves out of his way. Just like, ‘coming through!’ You can definitely tell.”

Team Wiggins was created as a development program and is directed by former British Cycling coach Simon Cope. It carries over many of the sponsors of Wiggins’ old Sky program, including Rapha, Pinarello, Jaguar, and Sky itself. By promising to occasionally ride for the team in competition, Wiggins leverages his considerable star power into both race entries (beyond Dubai, the team will race major international events like the Amgen Tour of California and Tour of Britain) and sponsorship dollars.

It’s a team that is at the same time tied and definitively distinct from the British Cycling program, and operates at both a different level and with a different attitude from Team Sky. Many of its riders also compete for the national program, particularly on the track. Its top riders, like Andrew Tennant and Tour of Britain points competition winner Owain Doull, are shooting to ride for the British pursuit squad in Rio right alongside their mentor. Team Wiggins is more amenable to competing road and track schedules than most road-only development squads.

“It’s quite a relaxed team, really, even all the staff,” Wiggins said. “They’re all kind of ex-BC [British Cycling] rejects. We picked them for a reason: To create that atmosphere. They’re basically all my mates, really, that I wanted to give a job to. It’s nice; it’s a nice environment to be in. It’s a lot different to the previous one I was in, which is obviously about results and about winning big races. This is more of a brand team that’s trying to facilitate the track program.”

Wiggins said he wants his team to be the premier development program in the UK, a British version of Axel Merckx’s highly successful Axeon – Hagens Berman U23 program in the U.S.

The younger riders clearly enjoy the extra attention their namesake brings, and they are receiving quick lessons in celebrity protocol. A large crowd slowly grows around the team’s paddock each morning in Dubai, which is home to a large British expat population, in expectation of Wiggins’ arrival.

Asked if he feels more like a father or a boss, Wiggins quipped, “Well, it’s my name on the jersey.” But his riders say that out of the spotlight, he feels just like one of them.

“I’d say he’s more one of the lads, to be honest, more than one of the bosses,” Latham said. “We have a laugh, he’s quite funny.”

Liam Holohan, who is in his first race with the team in Dubai, agreed.

“He’s just one of the guys, he’s a good laugh. Just a normal bloke,” Holohan said. “He’s always got advice, he’s one of the older guys. He’s done a lot more racing at this level than most of us. So he always chips in with a bit of advice. At the meeting at night, Simon Cope, our DS, is giving the talk and Brad will chip in with a bit of advice here or there.”

Wiggins, always a man of few public words, seems to prefer leading by example. He’ll guide his riders through the field, sometimes pull them up into position, they say. Here in Dubai, Latham has one of the biggest motors in the sport as a domestique.

“He doesn’t really say much, maybe ‘get on.’ It’s better just to do it. You can’t really talk, can’t really say many words, going flat out to the finish, can’t really have a conversation,” Latham said.

The team benefits Wiggins, of course. It’s good for his brand, to be seen giving back, and it allows him to pop in and out of fitness-building road racing as he pleases and on his terms. While compatriots like Mark Cavendish attempt to balance tight road and track schedules, Wiggins is very much on his own program.

But the notoriously dedicated Brit doesn’t really need these road races, and he certainly doesn’t need to win them. It’s the satisfaction of riding for his young teammates that brought him to this desert.

“I just think that cycling’s changing all the time. The sport is so different now to 10 years ago, 12 years ago, and they couldn’t be getting into it at a better time,” Wiggins said. “Just by being in a race like this, with some of the names that are here, that’s a great experience for them. Some of the guys are only 19, when do they have the opportunity to mix it with these guys? If I can just help them in some way that’s my goal more than anything for this week.”

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Lobato climbs to stage 3 win at Dubai Tour Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:41:49 +0000

Juan Jose Lobato crossed the line first atop Hatta Dam. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Juan Jose Lobato takes the third stage at the Dubai Tour as Trek – Segafredo rider Giacomo Nizzolo surges into the overall lead.

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Juan Jose Lobato crossed the line first atop Hatta Dam. Photo: Tim De Waele |

DUBAI (AFP) — Movistar’s Juan Jose Lobato clinched a summit finish victory in the crucial third stage of the Dubai Tour Friday as Giacomo Nizzolo of Trek – Segafredo seized the overall leader’s blue jersey.

Finishing the race at the steep Hatta Dam way after a 172-kilometer ride through the city and the desert, Lobato also took second place in the overall standings from Marcel Kittel of Etixx – Quick-Step. Kittel is now third at 6 seconds.

“I knew this finale from last year and it’s exactly the kind of finish that I like,” Lobato said. “It was all about being well positioned before the last climb and I was indeed. I’m very happy to get my first win of the year here.”

Nizzolo, who was in third place after the first two stages, steadily made his way to the overall lead on Friday.

“After two podiums on the flat stages, it’s satisfying to finish second uphill here,” Nizzolo said. “It’s a good sign… The last climb was just a strong and brutal effort.”

Friday’s third stage embarked from the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort to the Hatta Dam near the border with Oman, where racers were challenged with two climbs and descents.

“I hope that I can keep the jersey tomorrow,” Nizzolo said.

Silvan Dillier of BMC Racing, Trek’s Fabian Cancellara, and Dillier’s teammate Philippe Gilbert arrived four seconds after Lobato and rounded out the top 5.

The first kilometer of the race featured a breakaway led by Skydive Dubai’s Francisco Mancebo. Later as the road began to climb toward the Hatta Dam, Astana’s Dimitry Gruzdev led another escape.

Saturday’s fourth and final stage will run 132km within the city of Dubai before ending at the iconic Burj Khalifa — the world’s tallest building.

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Haga thankful, recovering after brush with death Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:17:58 +0000

Chad Haga rode in the Giro d'Italia last year. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The Giant – Alpecin rider and five of his teammates were hit by a car head-on during a recent training ride.

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Chad Haga rode in the Giro d'Italia last year. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Chad Haga takes pleasure in the small things now. Not that he didn’t before, but after what he’s been through, the mundane, everyday tasks that are otherwise taken for granted — like walking around the park or cutting mushrooms for an omelet — take on a deeper meaning.

The 27-year-old is grateful, relieved, and almost in disbelief. Two weeks ago, a car plowed straight into a group of Giant – Alpecin riders returning from a pre-season training ride. Now, back at his apartment in Spain, not only can he walk, cook, and move around, despite some lingering aches and pain he can soon aspire to return to training and racing. He knows it could have been so much worse.

“Multiple bullets,” Haga said when asked if he dodged a bullet in the horrendous crash. “My legs are going to be OK. My head is OK. Incredibly, I just have flesh wounds. I’m very relieved. It very easily could have been much, much worse.”

Much, much worse is an understatement. Haga was among the worst off among the group of six riders involved in the horrendous crash, and he was taken by helicopter to a Spanish hospital. Barely two weeks later on Friday, Haga had the last of the nearly 100 stitches taken out of his face, neck, and limbs. Despite some heavy blows, including bruising and contusions all over and a fracture to the orbital bone above his right eye, the 27-year-old was otherwise not seriously injured. Head-on impacts with moving vehicles while on a bicycle quickly put things into perspective. To escape with the injuries he sustained is incredibly lucky, and nothing short of miraculous.

“Nothing major is broken,” Haga told VeloNews in a telephone interview. “I only broke my orbital around my right eye, nothing else. No concussion, either. I don’t know how you crash into a car with that speed and don’t get a concussion.”

‘I only have brief memories’

Haga cannot remember much. Just snapshots of a disaster that the mind would otherwise like to forget: a brisk return after a training ride, the vision of a car, the panic, the crunch of impact, the whir of helicopter blades, and the blur of the operating table.

The afternoon of January 23 unfolded like any other along Spain’s Costa Blanca for the major teams that ply the roads during winter training camps. Haga and his teammates, including classics star John Degenkolb, were riding two abreast as they were spinning back to the team hotel. It was along a road that Haga and the others had ridden dozens of times in the popular training area along Spain’s Mediterranean Coast. As the group eased around a corner, they couldn’t believe what they saw — a car in their lane driving directly at them — and no one had time to react.

“I only have brief memories,” Haga said. “I remember seeing the car coming at us in the wrong lane, and just that brief moment of panic. Is this real? What do we do? Just that feeling of panic and surreal feeling is all that I can remember.”

A 73-year-old British woman, driving a UK-style car with right-hand steering, was later charged for reckless driving. A photograph of the crumpled bikes in the aftermath of the crash revealed just how lucky Haga and the others were. No one was killed, and no one was so injured that their racing careers are in jeopardy. Degenkolb confirmed he will miss the spring classics this year, and others involved, including Warren Barguil, Max Walshcheid, and Ramon Sinkeldam, all suffered fractures and broken bones.

After a brief stay in a Spanish hospital, no major surgery was required and Haga returned to his European base in Girona, Spain. His fiancé and brother are helping him with his recovery. Simple tasks like eating, sleeping, and walking require monumental determination, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Doctors say he will be able to resume a normal life and begin training again in a matter a weeks or months, with the goal of returning to the peloton this season.

“The injuries are healing pretty well. My neck is getting stronger. For awhile, it was exhausting just to look down and cut my food into small bites,” Haga said. “My knees took a really big hit. Both got hyper-extended in the crash. I can walk, and I’ve been taking long walks of two or three miles a day. The more I move around, the more I loosen things up. I’ve been going to the gym, spinning on the bike a little bit. Thankfully, the team is putting no pressure on me at all. The most important thing is to get fully healed, and then we’ll see where we are.”

‘I’m not ready to let it go’

Haga is determined to return to professional racing. The accident came just as the Texan was entering his third year in the big leagues, and he was poised to step up. A college graduate and a trained classical pianist, he could easily walk away from professional cycling. Yet he’s found new resolve to come back and see how far he can go. He doesn’t want one horrific, freakish accident to take all that away from him.

“I was in such a good place mentally and physically, and I was really excited to race. I was ready to be a factor in the races, not just do the work early and set up other riders. I wanted to affect the race,” Haga said. “I’m not ready to let it go. It’s a setback, for sure. I want to get healthy and make the most of the rest of the season.”

Haga’s return will not be too fast, because he also admits there will be a mental hurdle to overcome before he can return to the open roads. Cycling is a dangerous sport and he doesn’t expect there to be a problem, especially because he’s never had any sort of training accidents before, but he doesn’t want to force anything, either. He’s at home now, safe and healthy, surrounded by loved ones, and will let his body tell him when it’s time to push a little harder. A brush with death puts everything into a new perspective.

“I hug everyone a bit tighter now,” Haga said. “It can all end very quickly. I try not to think about it too much, or think that I shouldn’t ride again. I want to live my life the best way I know how, and God will decide.”

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Doha worlds to feature challenging, maze-like circuit Fri, 05 Feb 2016 13:37:46 +0000

Echelons formed during the 2015 Tour of Qatar. Photo: Tim De Waele |

This year's world championships will take place in the Persian Gulf state in October, and the road race circuit is a maze through the city.

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Echelons formed during the 2015 Tour of Qatar. Photo: Tim De Waele |

DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Much like the Persian Gulf state of Qatar and its capital city of Doha, the 2016 UCI Road World Championships in October will wallow on glitz and glamor. The circuit will unfold on a $15 billion artificial island — amid high-rise towers with luxury homes and shops — that sprung up from nothing over the last 10 years. John Lelangue, the national federation’s director of sport, says the island loop makes sense.

The Doha worlds builds on the Tour of Qatar, which has been on the calendar for 15 years, and acts as gear in Qatar’s methodical drive to host the Olympics. It is the first time the UCI will host a world championships in the Middle East.

“We have a worlds circuit that constantly changes direction,” Lelangue told VeloNews. “You will always have to be in the front to relaunch after each change of direction.”

Unlike the Tour of Qatar with its wind-swept desert roads to the north and west of Doha and its final stage along the city’s shore flanked with gardens, the worlds mostly keeps to the new island development north of the city center. Only the men will race on the desolate roads that often split the peloton into bits and force riders into angular lines or echelons to survive.

The men will start at Sealine Beach to the south of Doha and will cover 73.5 kilometers before reaching the 15.3km circuit. The women stay close to Qatar’s oil-rich and rapidly expanding heartland of Doha, with a start only 16km away at the Aspire Zone sport complex.

Even if the local organizer wanted to do differently, a UCI rule stipulates at least 100km of a worlds course needs to be on the circuit. Wind and will permitting, that leaves the elite men to try to explode the peloton of national colors between Sealine Beach and Doha to the north. The rest will unfold on the maze-like island circuit that includes more turns than any recent edition of the worlds.

“It depends on the wind, if it is windy like today, it could be really challenging,” Lelangue said before the second stage at the Ladies Tour of Qatar, which saw the group shattered after 1km because of wind. “It could be cross-winds, it depends on where the wind will be. The last two years, in the same period, it was really windy. Will it be windy in October 2016? I don’t have any guarantees.”

As with the Tour de France that finishes each year on Paris’s famous Champs-Élysées and under the Arc de Triomphe, the Qatari stage race concludes with laps along the garden-flanked Corniche with a hot dog circuit that runs up and down so local sheikhs may have a good seat.

“The Corniche is a really good thing for the last stage of the Tour of Qatar because people spend their Fridays there, but for the world championships, if you have to make 18 loops on the Corniche, I’m not sure it’d be very interesting,” Lelangue said. “If there is an escape, the group would see it passing on the opposite U-turn. Instead, we have a worlds circuit that constantly changes direction, you will always have to be in the front to relaunch after each change of direction. It is also good for the fans, who can see the race two to three times each circuit.”

The women in the Tour of Qatar began their final stage Friday morning from the Aspire Zone, the start of the worlds. Likewise, the men will start the final stage of their race at Sealine Beach next Friday.

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Video: GCN’s one-on-one with Mark Cavendish Thu, 04 Feb 2016 21:49:22 +0000

Global Cycling Network takes a ride with Mark Cavendish

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Editor’s Note: This video is courtesy of Global Cycling Network. The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily represent the opinions of, Velo magazine or the editors and staff of Competitor Group, Inc.

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Farrar: ‘The stars aligned there for a few years’ Thu, 04 Feb 2016 21:18:37 +0000

Though he has had plenty of success on his own as a featured sprinter, Tyler Farrar will spend some time as a lead out man this season at Dimension Data. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Once among cycling's fastest sprinters, Tyler Farrar is happy to lend his services to his teammates as a lead out rider at Dimension Data

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Though he has had plenty of success on his own as a featured sprinter, Tyler Farrar will spend some time as a lead out man this season at Dimension Data. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Tyler Farrar is ready to slot into a helper’s role in the lead-out of the man who was once his most bitter rival, Mark Cavendish. Five years ago, the pair battled in the sprints, but Farrar is a realist and optimist at heart, and he’s excited to be part of the Cavendish Express for 2016.

Cavendish’s high-profile move to Dimension Data this season means that Farrar will become an ally to the rider who he once battled against in the sprints. During his magical run from 2009 to 2011, Farrar was one of the few sprinters who could match up against Cavendish. A half-decade later, the pair is linking up at Dimension Data as Cavendish looks to regain his crown as the king of the sprints.

Now 31, Farrar admits his fastest days are behind him, and he is more than willing to help his former nemesis turned teammate. In fact, Farrar said there’s a budding friendship replacing the sometimes bitter acrimony that once existed between the pair. VeloNews sat down with Farrar to talk about sprinting, Cavendish, and the African explosion in cycling.

VeloNews: How would you measure last year’s season both for you and for the team?
Tyler Farrar: We have to call our season last year a success. We set some high goals, and we met almost all of them; winning stages at Tour and Vuelta, putting a guy on the leader’s jersey. The team had already won Milano-Sanremo a few years ago, but last season went a long way to establishing this team. When I signed with this team in the latter half of 2014, their goal was to get into the WorldTour, so when last year went so well, it accelerated the whole process. And here we are now.

VN: You used to be the main sprinter at Slipstream, but when you came to this team, you’ve taken on the role of road captain; was it easy to make that transition?
TF: I’ve enjoyed it, but it was an interesting transition. I’ve been around for awhile now. I am 31, but this is also my 14th year as a pro. We have so much young talent, and it’s been so much fun to be part of it. These guys are going to be successful if I am here or not telling them to do that or do this, but I am happy to have the opportunity to share a bit of knowledge. I remember how much that meant to me when I was 23 or 24, to have some of the older guys on the team who were willing to lay out a plan, and not just do their own thing. It’s coming full circle, and now I can help those young guys on their progression.

VN: Who helped you when you were younger?
TF: I was lucky, and I touched on a lot teammates over the years. When I was really young, it was Gord Fraser. Those two years with him were massive in my development as a sprinter. Then I went to Cofidis, and I had Nick Nuyens, and riding with him in the classics with him was a huge learning experience. Then I went to Garmin, where I got to race with Dave Millar, Julian Dean, and Christian Vande Velde, and then Andreas Klier came onto the team. I was lucky throughout my career to always have one or two experienced guys to kind of sponge off of.

VN: Looking back at that sweet run you had from 2009-11, what happened, and can you pinpoint what went wrong?
TF: You look back on it, and try to figure out what was working, and what wasn’t. It’s tricky to say. There are so many different factors, both on and off the bike, in what makes you successful on the bike. The stars just aligned there for a few years, and I had a ton of success. When you have a run like that, when you’re really at the top of the game for three years, and when you’re not winning with that consistency, you’re always chasing it, and trying to rediscover it. When it happens, it just happens, and you fall into it, and when you try to recreate it, after you’ve slipped out of it, it’s not so easy sometimes. I’ve had moments when it’s clicked since then, and moments when it hasn’t. All things considered, I still don’t know why it worked, but it definitely worked for those few years there.

VN: You won stages in all three grand tours, and then you started coming very close, with a lot of podiums, but no wins, what’s the difference from winning or not?
TF: Sometimes it’s a very small difference between first and second, but in the world of cycling, seconds and thirds don’t count anywhere near what a victory does. You can get second or third place 15 times in a year, but one big victory can out-weigh all those. That’s the sport of cycling.

‘Cannot remember this kind of depth in sprints’
VN: How much has sprinting changed over the past decade?
TF: It’s really evolved. At least since I’ve been aware of professional cycling, I cannot remember when you have this kind of depth in the sprinting talent. Not just depth in the sprinters, but also in the teams that are supporting them. There are so many very good dedicated sprint trains. Historically, there was always been two or three teams that dominated the sprint trains, and then a handful of sprinters who would operate off those trains. You look at the sprints now, there are five or six dedicated trains now in the sprint finishes. It makes for some crazy sprints. It’s the natural progression in sport. The sport evolves, and each generation builds off what came before them. The sprinter’s today have evolved off the first guys, like Cipollini and Zabel, who were putting together the first true sprint trains, and you see the way that’s kind of evolved and dispersed into the sport. Here we are now.

VN: Is it frustrating that just as the sport sees a bounty of sprinters that the grand tours are making sprints a rarity?
TF: I remember doing grand tours early in my career, when as a sprinter, you would have eight or nine opportunities in a 21-stage race. Now, if you get five or six sprints in a grand tour, you should be happy. And of those sprints, you might have to drag yourself over 2,500 meters of climbing before you get to the sprint. That’s also part of the evolution of cycling. That’s what the organizers want, and the fans seem to like it. You have to adapt to the races as they’re designed. As a sprinter, or now as a helper to a sprinter, it was nice doing those grand tours, because if you missed out, you’d know you’d get a lot more chances. It’s not like that anymore.

‘Cav is a cool guy’
VN: In the past, you and Cavendish were bitter rivals, is there any trepidation about riding with him on the same team now?
TF: Not at all. We were down at Cape Town, and Cav and I now get along quite well. I thought, if we were teammates when we were 24-25, we would have been really good friends. It’s different when you’re sprinting against someone. You both want to win, but we’ve both grown up a lot since then. Cav is a cool guy, and I am really looking forward to this year.

VN: When did you first hear about the possibility of Cavendish joining the team?
TF: They started talking last summer. I chatted with him during a few races, but discussions were moving along pretty fast. I think it’s fantastic. This is a team that has a lot of fast guys on it, but we never had anyone who was a true, consistent closer for the big sprints. You cannot ask for much more with a guy like Cavendish, who is arguably the best sprinters of all time. I’m excited about having him come to the team, and being part of that train. On paper, we can put together one of the best lead-out trains in the peloton. I’ve certainly raced against Cav, and his leadout train, so it will be fun to be part of a that for a little while.

VN: Has the team worked out who will ride where in the lead-out for the sprints?
TF: We’ve talked about it, and bounced some ideas around. That starts in these early races. We’ll try to get the system worked out, and we’ll all be together at the Tour of Qatar. You’re going to get it wrong from time to time, but you get it wrong now, not at the important races later in the season.

VN: Any idea where you will fit in?
TF: We’ll try different things, and move guys around a little bit, to see who fits best where. I don’t think we’ll mess with the Renshaw-Cav combo, and that will stay as it is. I am excited to be part of it, and see exactly where I fit in during that whole process.

‘Worlds will be a big goal’
VN: What would be an ideal season for you?
TF: I want our team to win a classic. That was the big objective that we missed in 2015. Last year was tough, losing Edvald [Boasson Hagen] with a broken collarbone at Gent-Wevelgem. He is our main guy for the classics, so we’ll see. If we put a Dimension Data on a podium, we’d call that a success. Also, having the world championships in Qatar is a pretty big deal for sprinters. This could be the last chance for a guy like me to chase a result in the worlds. The upcoming courses look quite challenging. The worlds will be a big goal, and it’s a big honor to race for your country, so that will be important for me to make that team, and ride well. On this team, I try to slot in and do well when they need me. Whether that’s the Tour or the Vuelta, we’ll wait to see.

VN: You’re still young, but as you said, you’ve been around awhile, how much longer do you see yourself in the peloton?
TF: This is my 14th year as a professional. You cannot do it forever, but I am not hanging it up just yet. I am very happy on this team. I am very happy to be part of it, and I hope to continue for a few more years.

‘Africa has a massive talent pool’
VN: You’ve talked about how this team is different, is there a certain African flare that sets it apart?
TF: It’s a unique environment. Every cycling team is international these days, but having the African side of things, it’s so different than any other team in the peloton. We have guys coming from completely different cultural backgrounds, and it’s really been eye-opening. You hear guys talking about how hard it is to make the pros, to race as juniors in Europe and being away from home, and then you talk to a guy like Adrien Niyonshuti, who survived the Rwandan genocide, and then it puts everything massively in perspective. It’s fun to race with these guys. They have great attitudes, and they’re so talented. They’re so fired up, and so eager, and there is a lot of positive energy on this team.

VN: How long before the peloton sees a an East African Tour de France winner?
TF: Africa has a massive talent pool. They dominate endurance track and field events, so if you can win a marathon, you’ve got the engine. You just have to translate that into cycling, so once that is truly tapped into, you will see more and more riders coming out of Africa. We are not the only team with riders coming out of Africa. Before, it was just Robbie Hunter. Now there are guys on all kinds of teams. A big part of the future of cycling is Africa. The talent pool is there. I think it’s very realistic.

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Van Dijk wins stage 3 in Ladies Tour of Qatar Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:35:28 +0000

Ellen van Dijk won stage 3 of the Ladies Tour of Qatar. Photo: Ladies Tour of Qatar

Ellen van Dijk solos away from a large breakaway to win stage 3 of Ladies Tour of Qatar; Trixi Worrack assumes GC lead.

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Ellen van Dijk won stage 3 of the Ladies Tour of Qatar. Photo: Ladies Tour of Qatar

On a wind-lashed day in Qatar, the early break stayed away, and Ellen van Dijk prevailed with a solo victory in stage 3 of the Ladies Tour, a 112km race ending in Madinat Al Shamal.

After only a few kilometers, 13 women made the crucial break, including former race winner Kirsten Wild (Hitec Products), and van Dijk, riding for Boels-Dolmans. Orica-AIS’s Gracie Elvin initiated the hostilities, attacking with about 12 kilometers to go. She was caught about four kilometers from the line, and after a brief lull, van Dijk made her winning solo move, with two kilometers remaining.

The day’s race leader, Orica’s Katrin Garfoot, missed the early move and ceded the golden jersey to Canyon-SRAM’s Trixi Worrack, who finished fifth on the day. Friday is the Ladies Tour of Qatar’s final stage, a 73km circuit around Doha, which should favor sprinters.

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Team manager: More TV coverage coming for women’s racing Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:04:28 +0000

Anna van der Breggen climbed the Mur de Huy at La Flèche Wallonne Féminine last year. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Wiggle – High5 boss Rochelle Gilmore says women's racing is starting to catch on with race organizers and broadcasters.

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Anna van der Breggen climbed the Mur de Huy at La Flèche Wallonne Féminine last year. Photo: Tim De Waele |

DOHA, Qatar (VN) — More women’s bike races will be aired on television in 2016 and more fans will follow, says former professional rider and current Wiggle – High5 manager Rochelle Gilmore.

This week, the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) organizer announced it would air the final 35 kilometers of the women’s event alongside the men’s race. Flanders is one of the few races, along with La Flèche Wallonne, that feature men’s and women’s races on the same day.

“The biggest thing moving forward is that more race organizations are putting in effort to have television coverage for their events, which we obviously benefit from,” Gilmore said.

“We just saw the Flanders announcement that the race will be getting some lovely TV coverage, and I’m sure that we’re just going to keep hearing that all throughout 2016, that race organizers and networks are fighting to get women’s racing.”

This year, with the newly announced women’s WorldTour, there is a UCI requirement for the organizer to facilitate some sort of coverage of its race, even if it’s not broadcast live. In 2015, the UCI aired the World Cup races live on the Internet and made packages available to EuroSport to air on TV.

Some races, such as the Netherlands’ Ronde van Drenthe, are already aired live on local television. Big events like the Olympics and the world championships receive international coverage.

“Every women’s race that has had a chance to get in the limelight has been super exciting. Of course, when there’s more and more television, they are going to come across some super boring races, that’s just how it is,” Gilmore said. “At the moment, the opportunities we had at the worlds-level and Olympic-level, we’ve really demonstrated that women’s cycling is interesting.”

The Australian raced through the 2014 season and switched to managing team Wiggle, which includes top stars Giorgia Bronzini and Emma Johansson. In women’s cycling, the top 20 ranked teams receive automatic invitations to the 17 WorldTour races. The UCI created the WorldTour series for 2016 and axed the World Cup designation.

“It’s great we developed a women’s WorldTour and it’s just easier for people to relate to how important it is because there’s a men’s WorldTour,” Gilmore said.

“The status of the women’s WorldTour right now is benefiting many race organizers because that status means they can lure other top teams to come in because it has the weight of the points. Then they can benefit from being able to sell that, with all the top tier teams there, to bring in broadcasters. That in turn benefits us because we need TV exposure for our sponsors.”

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Degenkolb confirms he won’t start classics after training crash Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:21:05 +0000

John Degenkolb won't be back in Roubaix this year to defend his 2015 title. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The German and five of his teammates were injured when a car plowed into them during a training ride last month.

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John Degenkolb won't be back in Roubaix this year to defend his 2015 title. Photo: Tim De Waele |

John Degenkolb admitted he won’t be ready in time to defend his titles at Milano-Sanremo or Paris-Roubaix this season.

Still recovering from serious injuries suffered during a horrific crash when a car plowed into a group of Giant – Alpecin riders training on Spanish roads last month, the German posted a note on his Facebook page accepting the inevitable.

“It’s very likely I won’t be at the start for the classics,” Degenkolb wrote. “The injuries wouldn’t necessarily prevent me from racing, but after missing so much training, I wouldn’t be at the top level.”

Degenkolb returned to Germany last week after being treated for a deep cut to his thigh as well as a nearly-severed finger. He was able to ride on the trainer for the first time since the January 23 crash, but said he needs more time for his injuries to fully heal.

“The healing process is coming along,” he said. “The best thing to do is to give my injuries enough time to heal.”

Six Giant riders were involved in the crash, with Degenkolb and Chad Haga the most seriously injured. Others included Frederik Ludvigsson, Ramon Sinkeldam, Max Walscheid, and Warren Barguil.

Without Degenkolb, coupled with the departure of three-time Scheldeprijs winner Marcel Kittel to Etixx – Quick-Step, Giant will be under pressure to match its previous performances in the northern classics this season.

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Viviani takes stage 2 at Dubai Tour Thu, 04 Feb 2016 13:47:07 +0000

Elia Viviani captured a stage victory in Dubai Thursday. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The Sky rider was able to avoid a crash in the final kilometer that seemed to hold up his sprint rivals.

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Elia Viviani captured a stage victory in Dubai Thursday. Photo: Tim De Waele |

DUBAI (AFP) — Elia Viviani, riding for Team Sky, sprinted to victory in the second stage of the Dubai Tour on Thursday after a crash in the final kilometer appeared to affect his sprint rivals.

Viviani seized the overall race lead from stage 1 winner Marcel Kittel, who rides for Etixx – Quick-Step.

“Yesterday I opened my sprint too early and was left alone with no teammate with 1km to go,” the Italian said. “I’m less fast than sprinters like Kittel and [Mark] Cavendish, so to have a chance to beat them, I need everything to be perfect. We spoke about what went wrong last night and we rode perfectly as a team today. My leadout was excellent.”

After the 183km run from the Dubai International Marine Club to the man-made Palm Jumeirah island, Italian sprinters Sacha Modolo and Giacomo Nizzolo came in second and third.

Viviani has the same time as Kittel in the overall standings but has the No. 1 spot. Trek – Segafredo’s Nizzolo is 2 seconds back in third. Modolo of Lampre – Merida and Cavendish are 4 ticks back in fourth and fifth.

“Today’s stage was contested at a slower pace than yesterday’s and I was in an ideal position when the gap was closed on the breakaway riders,” Viviani said. “This finale suits me. I won here last year as well. It’s beautiful to begin the year with a victory in Dubai.”

The second of four stages featured an escape led by Polish rider Marcin Bialoblocki 5km into the race. He was joined by Silvan Dillier, Koen de Kort, and Francisco Mancebo.

A crash at the end of the underwater tunnel of Palm Jumeirah appeared to impact Kittel and Dimension Data’s Cavendish, the latter who was last year’s overall winner.

“When we came out of the tunnel, a guy from skydive Dubai, I don’t know his name, he turned right and, bam. I had to brake, and it was an uphill,” Cavendish said. “I went, was too far behind, Guardini had a leadout man so I thought I’d stay with Andrea Guardini and he’d go, but he never went. Shit happens.

“It’s just sketchy. Too many risks being taken. A lot of teams… too many risks.”

Kittel said his Etixx squad made a few mistakes coming into the finish.

“Like I said yesterday, there are days when we won’t be able to get the result that we want,” Kittel said. “I think that the team tried as hard as possible. The final was difficult, we made some mistakes, we have to be honest about that. But better to do those mistakes now than later in the season.”

Friday’s third stage embarks from the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort to the Hatta Dam near the border with Oman, where racers will be challenged with two climbs and descents.

Caley Fretz contributed to this report.

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The mapmakers: Creating the Tour de France route Wed, 03 Feb 2016 21:47:52 +0000

Christian Prudhomme (left) and Thierry Gouvernou design the entire Tour de France course every year. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The three-week-long, 3,500km, 198-rider, millions-of-roadside-spectators beast that is the Tour route? Just two people create the entire

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Christian Prudhomme (left) and Thierry Gouvernou design the entire Tour de France course every year. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The lights dim inside the 4,000-seat Palais des Congrès in Paris, and Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme takes center stage. It’s late October, and in one of cycling’s seasonal customs, Prudhomme is unveiling next year’s Tour de France route with the pomp that cycling’s greatest stage race demands.

As he takes the audience through each stage, Thierry Gouvenou sits a few rows back, hidden from the spotlight but glowing like a proud father. A former pro who ranks behind only Prudhomme in the Tour’s organizational hierarchy, Gouvenou is Prudhomme’s sole partner in the creation of the Tour de France route. The presentation marks the end of three years of hard work for the pair — which means that even as Prudhomme is on stage, he and Gouvenou are already deep into the planning of the 2017 and 2018 routes.

“It is curious to see the reactions to the route presentation,” says Gouvenou, who ascended to his current role in 2014. “Designing the route each year is a big challenge, and when we see the riders commenting that it looks hard, then we know we did a good job.”

The Tour de France is a sprawling beast, involving roughly 3,500 kilometers, 21 stages, three weeks, and, oftentimes, international border crossings. It is also by far cycling’s most important event. Given the scope and prestige, it seems odd that only two men should be responsible for planning each and every route. Yet that’s the reality. There is no official input from the UCI, the teams, or even ASO colleagues. What Prudhomme and Gouvenou decide is what the peloton gets.

Given the evolving intrigue and experimentation that have marked recent editions of the Tour, the pairing works just fine, in part because the two men have such different but complementary personalities.

Prudhomme, 55, is a former TV journalist and suave Parisian, comfortable in the spotlight and no stranger to controversy. He took over as Tour director in 2007, after serving for three years as assistant director under Jean-Marie Leblanc. He has the connections, experience, vision, and force of personality to help modernize the Tour.

He is the point man who secures the high-profile deals to bring the Tour to lucrative new mar- kets. He was instrumental to bringing the race to Yorkshire, England, in 2014, for what some view as the most successful Grand Départ ever.

“The fans and the broadcasters do not like predictability, and we strive to add to adventure,” Prudhomme says. “Something every day must be interesting. That is the challenge we face.” In contrast to his boss’s visionary style, the 46-year-old Gouvenou is a former journeyman pro who never won a race and is content to work in the trenches, helping to give life and texture to Prudhomme’s overarching vision. The director determines the major host cities along the route, then leaves it to Gouvenou to find the roads that connect those dots.

“We work in tandem,” Gouvenou explains. “Christian paints the big picture. He has the context and vision to be able to step back. Once the general vision is laid out, then he passes it to me with carte blanche.”

Keeping an historic sport relevant in a modern media landscape for an audience with an ever-shorter attention span is no easy feat. When Prudhomme came on board, the Tour was stuck in an increasingly predictable rut, punctuated more by doping scandals than surprising routes. He quickly moved to strengthen anti-doping efforts, then turned his attention to the route itself. He wanted to change what a stage race looked like.

“We always strive for innovation, to keep things interesting,” Prudhomme says. “Why should the Tour be predictable? I think it should be the opposite.”

The Tour’s traditional routes through the Alps and Pyrenees obviously had to stay. So where Prudhomme knew he could make the biggest difference was in the transition stages. For years the Tour would take brief forays into the mountains, connected by days and days of predictably flat sprinters’ stages. Prudhomme began adding spice to the transitions with punchy uphill finales, varied terrain, and even pavé. Sprinters were having a hard time winning stages. One trademark addition was the Mur de Bretagne, introduced in 2011. The finishing climb transformed that year’s stage 4 from a routine sprint stage to one that saw GC riders marking each other while classics specialists looked to grab a bit of Tour glory. There’s a reason the Mur was back for the 2015 Tour: It was thrilling stuff.

Once Prudhomme provides the general framework, it’s up to Gouvenou to decide on the roads, pick the climbs, designate where the sprints will be — basically, to take care of all the details that determine the race.

“I’ve always liked maps and geography, so to design the Tour is a fun endeavor,” Gouvenou says. “Many of the roads are from memory, from racing and training, but we use new technology as much as we can.” That includes not just predictable tools like GPS and Google Earth but even Strava, which Gouvenou has used to dis- cover new roads and climbs.

Of course, at some point he has to get out on the roads themselves. He spends numerous weeks traveling each year and, by September, has driven the following year’s finalized route in its entirety.

While Prudhomme and Gouvenou are the sole architects of the route itself, they do need approval from a third person, Stéphane Boury, to make the route a reality. As ASO’s coordinator of each day’s finish line, Boury has to make sure the routes are practical. With an entourage topping 5,000 people, plus hundreds of vehicles, millions of fans, and all the attendant infrastructure, the Tour is a logistical beast that is exponentially more difficult than, say, hosting a soccer match in a stadium.

“We start working one or two years ahead of time,” Boury explains. “I have to go to every candidate city or finish line for an inspection. The imprint of the Tour is very big, and every stage must meet certain criteria.” Among the requirements is that each finish needs about 10,000 square meters (2.5 acres) of space.

“There are 120 trucks that travel with the Tour,” Boury says. “We have 400 to 500 technicians on each stage, and we have to lay 10 to 20 kilometers of fiber optic cable each day for the TV, for the press rooms. It’s like a military operation.”

The space required to accommodate the finish-line apparatus rules out a lot of villages and mountain summits, though sometimes Boury can find creative solutions. In 2011, stage 18 finished atop the Col du Galibier, at 8,650 feet — the highest finish in Tour history. The podium area was squeezed onto a tiny patch of flat ground, while the remainder of the daily entourage was directed to a spot nearly 2,000 feet below.

“We had to lay 12 kilometers of fiber optic line by helicopter, but it was worth it,” Boury says. “It was spectacular!”

The first Tour de France consisted of six stages over three weeks, but each route averaged more than 400 kilometers. Tour founder Henri Desgrange made things up as he went along, adding the first mountains in 1910 and pushing further into the Pyrenees and Alps over the next few years. By the 1920s, the Tour was starting to look like what we now think of as a three-week grand tour — shorter stages, but more of them, held daily for three weeks.

In the 1970s, in an effort to make more money from cities — who pay to host starts and finishes — the Tour began running double stages, with racing in the morning and afternoon. This allowed the organization to double its fees. But it was also an obvious burden on the riders, who put a stop to the practice in 1978, when Bernard Hinault lead a now-famous strike in Valence.

By the 1990s, the UCI had codified the modern outline of grand tours. They had to run from 15 to 23 days, with two rest days, no half stages, no stages longer than 240 kilometers, and a maximum total distance of 3,500 kilometers.

But if the framework was helpful in protecting riders and providing some stability, it also became slightly suffocating. The Tour — as well as the Giro and Vuelta — became predictable and even boring, with five or six exciting days of racing surrounded by unimaginative flat stages ending in bunch sprints. The nadir came in 2003, when Alessandro Petacchi won 15 stages across all three grand tours — putting a quantity and a face to the lack of variety.

It was the Giro and Vuelta that started to rattle the cage. Looking to differentiate their races as the Tour began to overshadow everything else in cycling, the Giro added things like gravel roads and 25-percent gradients to summits like Monte Zoncolan — challenges unlike anything the Tour could offer. The Vuelta’s solution was to drastically reduce the length of its stages, to an average of just 120 kilometers each. The results were stunning. Riders attacked in the neutral starts, and the action was non-stop.

The Tour got the message. Over the past five years, the race has become decidedly more challenging and less predictable, especially in the first week. “We cannot follow a script, even if it’s a new script,” Gouvenou says. “There won’t be pavé every year, there won’t be hills every day, but there will be something new.”

Some say things have gone too far, highlighted, perhaps, by the brutally mountainous 2015 route. “The 2015 Tour was relentless,” Prudhomme told French TV at the finish line in Paris last year. “We must innovate, we must bring the sport close to the people. We must take to the roads, to the hidden corners, to the new discoveries.”

But ultimately, Prudhomme says, it’s the riders, not the course, that make the race hard: “Even if we have flat roads, they are going full-gas. They race 50kph when it’s flat, so they make it hard,” he argues. “We simply try to give the riders and the public an interesting backdrop.”

Still, for 2016, he and Gouvenou have eased off the gas, at least a bit. Sprinters will find more opportunities this year, and the reintroduction of time bonuses will enliven the fight for the yellow jersey, especially in the first week.

As always, the race will visit the mountains, but even there Gouvenou says he has some surprises. “We have 10 new climbs for 2016,” he says. “That will make the race interesting. What we aim to do is to keep spicing things up. We want to have the suspense in the race until the final moment. The rider who wins in 2016 will have to be strong for the entire three weeks.”

And only weeks after the announcement gala in Paris, Gouvenou was in Germany, the host country for the 2017 Grand Départ. “There are more than 200 cities who are wanting to be part of the Tour,” he says. “We are already looking at 2018 and 2019.”

The Tour waits for no one.

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Olds has goals beyond the Rio games Wed, 03 Feb 2016 20:52:41 +0000

Shelly Olds has multiple goals for 2016. Photo: Gregor Brown |

Shelly Olds has ambitions beyond the Olympics

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Shelly Olds has multiple goals for 2016. Photo: Gregor Brown |

DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Shelly Olds aims to represent the U.S. in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this August, but given her experience four years ago, she is not risking her entire 2016 for the race.

Olds participated in the 2012 Olympics in London, however her preparation was inconsistent and she suffered a crash just before the race. During the Olympic race, she made the winning group of four with 50 kilometers left to race, only to puncture with 20km to go. She finished seventh.

“I learned that you can’t really pin your season on one race,” Olds told VeloNews. “My goal [this year] is not only the Olympics. I worked really hard over the winter, I’ve done everything I can to prepare, just like in 2012 before London, I just do every that’s I can that’s in my control to be the best I can be. What happens, happens.”

The U.S. will take four cyclists to the women’s road race in Rio. USA Cycling will narrow down the short list of 10 down over the next few months. A win in the WorldTour guarantees a cyclist a place to race for the gold medal.

“It’s about being consistent, that’s my goal, to be consistent and enjoy it along the way because if you put too much pressure on yourself in an Olympic year, you lose the fun in it,” Olds said. “My idea is just to focus on one race at a time, do the best I can and see what happens.”

Olds, 35, is already firing on all cylinders. She placed second overall in the Tour Down Under in Australia. In Qatar, she wants to continue in the same vein, racing for the win and helping her new team progress. Last year, she split with team Bigla and joined Ale-Cipollini mid-way in the season.

Olds declined to comment on the split from Bigla, other than to say the situation was “not a good fit.”

“My new team is spectacular, amazing,” Olds said. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for my whole career with great sponsors, great management, great staff, great riders. It’s really well supported and with Cannondale now in the women’s peloton.”

Olds said the overall level of women’s racing has improved during her career, which is a bright spot for the sport. “Every race is a big race now that we have so many WorldTour events,” she said.

Olds faces four upcoming WorldTour events that will be important both individually and for the Rio selection: Strade Bianche, Ronde van Drenthe, Trofeo Alfredo Binda, and Gent-Wevelgem. First, Olds is giving her attention to the wind-swept roads in Qatar.

“The Tour of Qatar is big on it’s own,” Olds said. “It’s both, it’s a high-level race and you have the best teams here, and of course, everyone wants to start her season on a good foot.”

In stage one, partly on the 2016 world championship circuit, she placed fifth behind stage winner Kirsten Wild (Hitec).

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Wind punishes peloton at Ladies Tour of Qatar Wed, 03 Feb 2016 20:33:54 +0000

The barren landscape and high winds dictate the tactics at the Ladies Tour of Qatar. PHOTO BRUNO BADE-ASO

Women endure desert winds in Qatar

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The barren landscape and high winds dictate the tactics at the Ladies Tour of Qatar. PHOTO BRUNO BADE-ASO

DOHA, Qatar (VN) — The Tour of Qatar produces attacks and echelons like no other bicycle race, thanks to its windswept countryside and flat roads. During Wednesday’s second stage of the Ladies Tour of Qatar, which was held on the roads north of Doha, Orica-AIS rider Katrin Garfoot had the strength and good fortune to take advantage of those conditions.

Garfoot made one successful move after another, advancing into a group of 26, which was then whittled down to 10. She eventually attacked with 300 meters to go to take the victory. She now leads Trixi Worrack (Canyon-SRAM) by 17 seconds with two stages remaining.

The day’s big loser was overnight leader Kirsten Wild (Hitec), who suffered a nasty crash and lost time, crossing the finish line in Al Khor nearly four minutes behind the leaders.

“I’m just bruised, crashing on my elbow, my knees and face,” Wild said. “I’m happy that al my teeth are all OK, so I can still smile!”

No one was smiling during the race’s final hour, as the wind cut the group into pieces. The peloton’s taller and more powerful riders excelled in the winds. Others had to fight even harder not to lose time.

“There is no race like it all year, it’s totally unique,” said American Shelly Olds (Cyclance), who finished in 12th place, 1:44 down. “You race in Holland, it’s something, but this is just something different – big roads and windy.”

Olds missed the front group, when it separated itself with 15km remaining. Her group tried to keep the gap below one minute. “I wanted my group to ride, but there was no organization and I was alone,” Olds said. “It really helps to have a team around you when you are fighting against girls three times your size.”

After the first sprint of the day, the road turned right and wind from the left buffeted the group. Just when some order was established, the road and wind-direction turned, and the fight began again.

Dutchwoman Ellen van Dijk (Boels-Dolmans said she actually hoped for wind.

“You have to be sharp, focused. You have to be there at the front, if you are not, you are screwed because you’ll miss the echelon,” said van Dijk, who finished sixth. “It’s a big fight to get in there with elbows, knees, with everything, all you got, otherwise someone will just push you out.”

After winning the stage, Garfoot said the conditions were similar to those in Holland. Born in Germany, the Australian rider said it created multiple splits during the stage.

“The wind was average today, but it was enough to break up the bunch,” she said. “This wind forces you to go to the front if you don’t want to miss the split.”

Some were able to watch from afar and enjoy the show that the desert roads and 90 women in the Ladies Tour of Qatar created. Rochelle Gilmore raced the Qatari tour five times before retiring and becoming team manager for Wiggle-High5.

Gilmore said the stage was one of the most exciting she’s seen at Qatar.

“Al the teams and quite equal and there many tactics that come into play with the cross-winds and different directions,” Gilmore said. “The situation kept chasing, so that was good. Unlike in other races around the world, no one is waiting for the hills, they have to make it happen.”

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Gallery: 2016 Dubai Tour, stage 1 Wed, 03 Feb 2016 16:33:12 +0000

Coming into the final sprint, Marcel Kittel was well-positioned, while Mark Cavendish was stuck against the inside fencing without much room to maneuver. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Wearing his new Etixx – Quick-Step colors, Marcel Kittel sprinted to his first victory of 2016 in Dubai.

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Coming into the final sprint, Marcel Kittel was well-positioned, while Mark Cavendish was stuck against the inside fencing without much room to maneuver. Photo: Tim De Waele |

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Garfoot wins Qatar stage 2, assumes GC lead Wed, 03 Feb 2016 16:08:58 +0000 Australian Katrin Garfoot wins day two of the Ladies Tour of Qatar as Kirsten Wild suffers bad luck and loses time.

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Australian Katrin Garfoot rode to a solo victory on Wednesday in Ladies Tour of Qatar, 13 seconds ahead of three chasers, and with her stage 2 win, the Orica-AIS rider also claimed the overall lead. Four-time winner Kirsten Wild held the lead after Tuesday’s race, but Wild broke a chain and crashed during the 120km stage to Al Khor Corniche, eventually losing 3:48.

“I’m pretty stoked to take the win today — after a windy and quite stressful stage,” said Garfoot. “With 25km to go, I made it into a group of about eleven riders where Gracie [Elvin] was and we managed to work well together taking turns. It broke up with about six kilometers to go and I managed to stay at the front as it dropped to about four riders.

“I kept going and turned around with maybe two kilometers left and couldn’t believe I was alone.”

Garfoot attacked in a group of 10 riders with about 18 kilometers left and then persisted with three others in the closing kilometers. Just outside the final kilometer, the Aussie made her winning move. Canyon-SRAM’s Trixi Worrack won the sprint for second, ahead of Wiggle-High5’s Amy Pieters. Those two — a German, and a Dutchwoman — now follow Garfoot in the overall standings at the four-day race’s halfway mark.

On Thursday, the race runs 112 kilometers from Al Zubarah Fort to Madinat Al Shamal.

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Bookwalter looking to build on 2015 breakout season Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:01:52 +0000

Brent Bookwalter pictured during a team training camp in Spain. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The 31-year-old American has helped his BMC Racing teammates to several wins since 2008, but he's found a way to earn his own results too.

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Brent Bookwalter pictured during a team training camp in Spain. Photo: Tim De Waele |

It’s hard to imagine a breakout season after nearly a decade in the elite peloton, but that’s what happened to Brent Bookwalter in 2015.

The 31-year-old American had comfortably slotted into a helper’s role at BMC Racing, helping Cadel Evans to victory the 2011 Tour de France and later riding to back Tejay van Garderen. Last year, however, Bookwalter got more chances, and he turned the disappointment of not being selected to go to the 2015 Tour into positives, and posted his best results in years.

“It was looking like I had a Tour start, but I didn’t get the nod,” Bookwalter said at a team camp. “I was a little frustrated, but that happens on a team as deep as BMC, and I was able to turn that into some good performances.”

Bookwalter poured that frustration and form into the pedals, performing with consistency over the mountainous Tour of Austria, with fourth overall, before returning to the United States, where he emerged as one of the main protagonists on the summer calendar. He notched seven top-3s in stages at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, including a stage victory at Arapahoe Basin, en route to podium finishes in both races. He finished it off with a top-20 result in the world championships in Richmond, Virginia.

For Bookwalter, it was just desserts for a rider who’s been part of BMC since its inception in 2008.

“I was very satisfied with the season,” Bookwalter told a small group of journalists. “I quickly fell into that worker role … and that was amazing and fulfilling, but as I got older and more mature, I realized that I could still be a good teammate, but get my own results as well.”

As Bookwalter admits, finding those individual opportunities isn’t so easy on a team packed with big names. Van Garderen and newcomer Richie Porte require an entire squad of support riders at nearly every race they start. Philippe Gilbert and Greg Van Avermaet equally dominate the one-day classics, meaning BMC brings top challengers for victory to just about every major race on the WorldTour calendar. That leaves very little room for the team’s other 20 or so riders.

Like many top teams, however, BMC does try to give its riders a chance to lead, at least a few times during the long racing season. And last year, Bookwalter took full advantage of those opportunities. For 2016, he hopes to find a balance between working for others and taking the reins when he can.

“You have to make your own opportunities,” he explained. “I used to get frustrated with my calendar, but I had a big epiphany when I won a stage at the Tour of Qatar [stage 1 in 2013]. I realized I don’t need the perfect schedule. I can still win a stage, even when I am working for others, in the right opportunity.”

With the departure of Peter Stetina to Trek – Segafredo, Bookwalter might get a chance to lead at this year’s Amgen Tour of California, but he’s not sweating it. The team might send Rohan Dennis and instead send Bookwalter off to the Giro d’Italia. Bookwalter prefers to focus on what he can control, and that means being prepared and in top physical condition wherever he races.

“I don’t want to get fixated on any one race. My schedule changes all the time, and that’s been an asset of mine, that I can go with the flow,” Bookwalter continued. “I am trying to approach the season with that attitude.”

Bookwalter, who is an active voice for change within the peloton, said his heart is in performing well in the North American races. He does, however, want to return to the Tour de France. He’s raced three Tours, including Evans’ victorious bid in 2011. With the arrival of Porte, he believes BMC will go a long way come July with the pairing of the Tasmanian and van Garderen, twice fifth at the Tour.

“I’m very excited about Richie coming to the team,” Bookwalter said. “I think they will work very well together. It’s not going to be a burden to have two of the best guys in the Tour. Richie did it with [Sky’s Chris] Froome, so I think he and Tejay will mix it up pretty good.”

Bookwalter is hoping to be there for a front-row seat to see if the pair can live up to the BMC challenge of aiming for outright victory in the Tour de France.

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In beating Cav, Kittel excises the ghosts of a season lost Wed, 03 Feb 2016 14:16:50 +0000

Marcel Kittel celebrates after winning stage 1 at the Dubai Tour. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Marcel Kittel endured a difficult 2015 season, but he began 2016 on a high note Wednesday by winning the Dubai Tour opener.

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Marcel Kittel celebrates after winning stage 1 at the Dubai Tour. Photo: Tim De Waele |

DUBAI (VN) — Marcel Kittel followed a perfect leadout from his brand new Etixx – Quick-Step squad and jumped at 250 meters to go Wednesday, crossing the first finish line of his season with arms in the air in an act of triumph that helped excise the ghosts of a year lost.

Kittel’s 2015 story need not be retold. The illness, the bad form, the Tour de France snub, the critics clambering for the results he’d proven capable of — all are well known by now. The season the German sprinter would rather forget is still bitingly fresh in his memory, so much so that proving his doubters wrong was a primary source of motivation when he outkicked rival Mark Cavendish of Dimension Data to take his first win of the year at the Dubai Tour.

“I’m really happy to win today, because I think it was not everyone’s expectation that I could win like this,” Kittel said, sitting on a small white stool under a blue tent, a dozen microphones pointed at his face. “That was, for me, the challenge. To show all the critics that I got over the last months and year, who [said] I’m maybe not motivated, maybe lazy, to prove that completely wrong.

“The only thing that I found a bit disappointing was that people…” Kittel began, before pausing to re-think his answer. “Maybe there are reasons why they can’t see the whole story. I mean, I was sick, that was the reason, that was the problem for me in 2015. If you cannot start a season in a good way that you lose so many kilometers, then you will miss it at the end of the year. It destroyed my whole season.”

The first stage of the Dubai Tour was a long-awaited matchup between Cavendish and Kittel, a pair of sprint kings on new teams and coming off seasons that were rife with disappointment. It lived up to its billing: Kittel crossed the line first, Cavendish was second. The difference, it appeared, was mostly in the leadout. Kittel’s was close to perfect, Cav’s less so. Cavendish jumped once finally free of traffic and closed some of the German’s gap, but it was too late. That’s sprinting, a high-speed game of talent, team strength, and motivation.

On paper, the two teams are roughly equal. Much of Kittel’s leadout on Wednesday were members of Cavendish’s leadout before he left Etixx last year. Iljo Keisse, Tony Martin, and Matteo Trentin, in particular, are all well trained in the art of sprint finishes. On the other side of the duel, Cavendish’s old HTC-Highroad band is back together at Dimension Data. The team signed Bernhard Eisel and Mark Renshaw, the latter of whom was a crucial half of what was perhaps the most powerful leadout/sprinter duo in the history of the sport.

“For me, it’s not [in] my head that Cav was there before me,” Kittel said of taking Cavendish’s place at the back of the Etixx train. “We are now completely focused on us, on doing good leadouts, on winning races, and Cav is doing the same with his team. There are so many sprint challenges coming up this year, there will be a moment when we lose a sprint against Cav, or someone else. This is part of the sport.”

Kittel seemed somewhat surprised by the day’s success and how smooth the victory was. The team worked on its sprint tactics over the winter, but nothing can replicate a real race scenario.

“It’s hard to work on a leadout, but we worked on sprint training,” Kittel said. “We also talked about how the composition of the team can be the best for the sprints. We brought a really strong team here. In the end you’re never sure what’s going to happen in the first day, especially for me because I had never raced with the boys in this group. It’s a very good level that we can start [from] now.”

The confidence an early win can bring shouldn’t be undervalued. For a smiling Kittel, who now holds the overall lead and the sprinter’s jersey at Dubai, the early success surely took pressure off. He proved that last season was the fluke, not the success that came before it.

“Other people started to say, ‘he’s maybe lazy.’ That was really the challenge,” Kittel said. “This year I really wanted to win. I’m super happy that it happened already this stage.”

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