VeloNews.com » Road http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Sun, 05 Jul 2015 14:32:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Guarnier wins Giro Rosa stage 2, takes GC lead http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/road/guarnier-wins-giro-rosa-stage-2-takes-gc-lead_376440 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/road/guarnier-wins-giro-rosa-stage-2-takes-gc-lead_376440#comments Sun, 05 Jul 2015 14:32:16 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376440 U.S. national champion Megan Guarnier wins the second stage of the Giro Rosa, sprinting out of a small group to claim the GC lead

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U.S. national champion Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) continued her brilliant 2015 season with a win in stage 2 of the Giro Rosa on Sunday, and to make it that much sweeter, she claimed the GC lead as well.

The Rabo-Liv team started the 121.5km ride from Gaiarine to San Flor with the leader’s jersey on the shoulders of Lucinda Brand. However, the Dutch squad couldn’t keep the maglia rosa as Brand’s teammate, Anna van der Breggen, finished second to Guarnier. Ashleigh Moolman (Bigla) rounded out the day’s podium in third.

It was the fourth major win of the season for Guarnier, 30, who also won the Strade Bianche, stage 1 of Euskal Emakumeen Bira, and road nationals in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Van der Breggen trails Guarnier by two seconds in the overall. Moolman is five seconds behind, third on GC

On Monday, the Giro Rosa will offer up the longest stage of the race at 130km, from Curtatone to Mantova.

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Nibali leads Fab Four after Tour’s Grand Depart http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/nibali-leads-fab-four-after-tours-grand-depart_376434 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/nibali-leads-fab-four-after-tours-grand-depart_376434#comments Sat, 04 Jul 2015 18:29:09 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376434

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) went off last as defending Tour champion. He delivered a strong performance, only behind Pinot and van Garderen, among the GC favorites. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The defending champion was 18 seconds faster than Colombian Nairo Quintana, with Chris Froome and Alberto Contador in between

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Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) went off last as defending Tour champion. He delivered a strong performance, only behind Pinot and van Garderen, among the GC favorites. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — The window is small, only 18 seconds between them, but Italian Vincenzo Nibali leads the “Fab Four” after the Tour de France’s Grand Départ.

While Australian Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) began to celebrate his stage win, Nibali completed the 13.8km stage in the cycling-mad Dutch city of Utrecht. He ended it in a time of 15:39 minutes, 18 seconds faster than Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) slotted in between the two favorites. When you strip out the other riders, the Fab Four classification looks like this: Nibali first, Froome second at seven seconds, Contador third at 15, and Quintana fourth at 18.

Nibali, who suffered through the early season with an injured Achilles tendon and team problems, rebounded just when he needed to. The result was a repeat of 2014, when he zipped away from his rivals for an early stage win and the yellow jersey in Sheffield. Quintana did not start the Tour last year while Contador and Froome abandoned following crashes, and Nibali went on to win ahead of Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ).

Pinot might have been the biggest surprise of the short day that kicked off the race in a sweltering hot Utrecht. The Frenchman went two seconds faster than Nibali.

“Looking at the classification, the only one who rode better, who put in a good ride, was Thibaut Pinot,” Nibali said. “He was two seconds fast than me, and gained time on the others. We knew he was in condition, but I am also happy with my effort. I didn’t know how it was at the finish, but now looking at all the times, I can say that I’m satisfied with a day like this.”

The times on the results sheet also showed others like Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing) rode well. The results showed Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), sixth overall in 2014, nearly one minute behind Nibali.

And of course, looking only at the Fab Four, would exclude the excellent ride by American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing). While teammate Dennis won the stage, van Garderen made steps towards his ultimate goal of a podium finish in Paris with a time that was one second ahead of Nibali.

“It couldn’t have gone much better, gaining time on some rivals and [his BMC team] taking the yellow jersey,” van Garderen said. “It’s good on all fronts, when things start well, it kind of snow-balls that way.”

Van Garderen said that with teammate Dennis in yellow jersey, the team will automatically slot in the front. “That’s crucial,” he added of the hectic stages ahead.

Froome admitted that that he had hoped for “a better start” over his rivals.

“There’s not a huge difference between the GC contenders,” Froome added. “I’m happy with my time, though. I would’ve taken it if you offered it to me at the start of the day. This is going to be a long three weeks and this is just the start.”

Quintana, finishing last of the four, may have been the wisest. He decided to set off on his Tour ride around two hours earlier. The decision could have saved him from losing more than 18 seconds as Froome, Dennis, and others noted that the winds picked up in the afternoon.

Contador was the most disappointed. “I’m close to my rivals, which is something,” he said, “but I didn’t feel good.”

One can expand these results, reading into their form and how they will perform over three weeks. It could be that Contador paid from the efforts it took to race and win the Giro d’Italia in May.

The results today in Utrecht, however, may mean little when the overall is calculated on the top of Alpe d’Huez on July 25, the last challenge of this year’s Tour de France. By then, Utrecht will likely seem a world away.

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Tough week ahead for determined Rohan Dennis http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/tough-week-ahead-for-determined-rohan-dennis_376405 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/tough-week-ahead-for-determined-rohan-dennis_376405#comments Sat, 04 Jul 2015 18:09:17 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376405

Dennis has had a busy year so far, holding the world hour record for a spell and now grabbing the Tour's yellow jersey in stage 1. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Seaside echelons, the Mur de Huy, and cobblestones will seek to separate Dennis from his yellow jersey in the first week of the Tour

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Dennis has had a busy year so far, holding the world hour record for a spell and now grabbing the Tour's yellow jersey in stage 1. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Seaside echelons, the Mur de Huy, the cobblestones of northern France, and the re-introduction of finish-line time bonuses stand between Australian Rohan Dennis and the retention of his newly-acquired yellow jersey.

Dennis would like to keep the jersey “until the team time trial,” more than a week away, he said in Saturday’s post-race press conference, but the odds — and 52 riders within a minute of his lead — are stacked against him.

“I won’t want to be a one hit wonder,” Dennis said when asked how long he’d seek to defend the lead. “I don’t want to lose the jersey after one day of wearing it. It’s always a bit rough only being in the jersey for one day.”

Adding to the struggle that lies before the young Australian, a former world hour record holder, is the ASO’s decision to bring back finish-line time bonuses of 10, 6 and 4 seconds for the top three riders in stages two through eight.

Sunday’s stage from Utrecht to Zélande sends the peloton along a coastal route, across exposed bridges and dikes, with moderate winds in the forecast. A strong team could scatter the race into a series of echelons, and time gaps are likely.

It’s Monday’s stage, though, that will be the first real test for Dennis. A trip through Belgium will finish atop the Mur de Huy, the same short, steep ramp used in the finale of Flèche Wallone.

Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumb), who finished this year’s Flèche just four seconds off winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), sits 30 seconds off the lead, the closest of any Ardennes specialist. Bauke Mollema (Trek Factory Racing) is a further seven seconds adrift. Valverde is 56 seconds behind, meaning that even with a win he’d need to take 46 seconds out of Dennis — unlikely on the short Mur given the Aussie’s form.

Ardennes stars Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick-Step) are 1:17 and 1:06 back, respectively.

Dennis is untested in the Ardennes. He’s never started Fleche, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, or Amstel Gold. But Monday’s stage, 40 kilometers shorter than Flèche, is far from a true classic.

Dennis spent a year racing in Belgium and the Netherlands before turning professional, learning to race in the wind and across Belgium’s slightly tamer cobblestones, he told reporters after the stage.

It’s likely, then, that Dennis can hang on to his lead at least through Monday evening. Tuesday, which will see the Tour hit the singularly devilish cobbles of Paris-Roubaix, is another story.

Three-time Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara is just six seconds off the lead, and represents the greatest threat to Dennis’ GC lead. The winner of last year’s cobble stage, Lars Boom (Astana), is 44 seconds back. John Degenkolb, winner of this year’s Roubaix, is 45 seconds back.

Assuming the classics men can reach the top of the Mur without losing too much time to Dennis, the Australian will need an incredible ride to hang onto yellow across the pavé.

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BMC remains committed to van Garderen after Dennis win http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/bmc-remains-committed-to-van-garderen-after-dennis-win_376402 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/bmc-remains-committed-to-van-garderen-after-dennis-win_376402#comments Sat, 04 Jul 2015 17:45:51 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376402

Tejay van Garderen (BMC) rode to a solid 20th place, ahead of all other major GC favorites, except Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

BMC is sticking to its plan to ride for Tejay van Garderen for the GC, despite Rohan Dennis's huge win Saturday in the opening time trial

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Tejay van Garderen (BMC) rode to a solid 20th place, ahead of all other major GC favorites, except Thibaut Pinot (FDJ). Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — Don’t be surprised to see the yellow jersey taking pulls in Sunday’s second stage at the Tour de France.

Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) ripped the legs off the peloton in the opening day of the 2015 Tour, setting a new speed record and snagging the yellow jersey.

Heady stuff for the 25-year-old, who many believe has major GC potential. Yet despite the fast start by the promising Australian, BMC Racing promises to stick to its plan to support Tejay van Garderen during this Tour.

“There is no change in our GC strategy. Of course, we’re ecstatic with Rohan’s win, and we knew he would have a chance, but we’re here to help Tejay. And tomorrow, Rohan will be helping if he has to,” BMC Racing general manager Jim Ochowicz told VeloNews. “We expect a sprint Sunday, and Rohan will have to find his way a little bit, because the guys will be building a wall around Tejay to keep him out of trouble.”

BMC Racing rolled into this Tour committed to supporting van Garderen all the way to Paris, with the goal of reaching the final podium. Dennis, one of the peloton’s most promising time trialists, was selected specifically to ride against the clock in Saturday’s time trial opener and next weekend’s team time trial stage.

On Saturday, Dennis lived up to his end of the bargain, stopping the clock in 14 minutes, 56 seconds, the only rider to punch in under 15 minutes on the 13.8km course on narrow, technical roads in Utrecht. With an average speed of 55.4kph, Dennis beat back the favorites, and set a new Tour record, bettering the 21-year record set by Britain’s Chris Boardman. (Dave Zabriskie’s mark of 54.676kph, set in 2005, was disqualified as part of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s ruling in 2012.)

“We knew that he would be close. That’s why we wanted him here at the Tour, because we wanted a good prologue [stage 1, — Ed], also to have good car position,” Ochowicz continued. “We wanted Rohan to be our trendsetter, to help us start this Tour off on the right foot. Rohan prepared especially for this time trial. He’s been close a few times this year, so it’s great for him to get the win. We’re elated. This is big for our organization to have the yellow jersey again.”

Among the GC contenders, van Garderen posted a solid performance, stopping the clock 42 seconds slower than his teammate in 20th. That was one second faster than defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), eight seconds faster than Chris Froome (Sky), 15 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and 19 seconds faster than Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

“Tejay had a solid ride, without taking any unnecessary risks. These time trials are big opportunities to take some time on some of the rivals,” Ochowicz said. “Seconds are seconds, and that time could prove decisive in the fight for the podium. The best place for us to take time is in the time trial today and the team time trial.”

Dennis echoed his team manager’s sentiments, that his huge win Saturday in no way changes the team’s overall GC goals of shepherding van Garderen toward the Tour podium.

“The team’s 100 percent for Tejay. I don’t want to be a one-trick pony, and lose the jersey after one day of wearing it,” Dennis said. “It could be good if I could keep it for a day or two more. That’s better for Tejay, to have less pressure, as we work toward the second and third week.”

How long BMC will ride to protect Dennis’s jersey remains to be seen. Sunday’s second stage along the windy Dutch coast could provoke echelons, and with a forecast for possible rain showers, BMC will be riding at the front to protect van Garderen.

Dennis could hitch a ride on the sprint trains, and hang onto yellow. Monday’s stage three features the Mur de Huy finale, and Tuesday’s stage four bumps across the cobbles, so Dennis might not see a long run in yellow no matter how BMC plays it.

Ochowicz said the dynamics of the opening stages could help BMC keep Dennis in yellow without having to burn too many matches.

“We won’t just give it away, but we won’t kill ourselves either. We’ll get help from other teams anyway,” Ochowicz said. “We will have to take it stage by stage. Tomorrow should be a sprint, so the sprinter teams will be looking to control the race. Their interests will help us control the race without having too use too much energy.”

Saturday’s scorcher was the ideal start for BMC Racing, which takes the yellow jersey for the first time since the now-retired Cadel Evans won the 2011 Tour.

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Italy’s Barbara Guarischi wins stage 1 of Giro Rosa http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/italys-barbara-guarischi-wins-opening-stage-of-giro-rosa_376363 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/italys-barbara-guarischi-wins-opening-stage-of-giro-rosa_376363#comments Sat, 04 Jul 2015 16:59:59 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376363 By finishing second on the stage, Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv) is the new race leader, taking the maglia rosa from Annemiek Van Vleuten (Bigla)

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Italy’s Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM) won the 102km stage 1 of the Giro Rosa in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in a field sprint.

By finishing second on the stage, Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv) is the new race leader, taking the maglia rosa from the shoulders of Annemiek Van Vleuten (Bigla) winner of the opening 2km prologue on Friday.

“I waited until 100m to go because there was a headwind and when I won, I was overwhelmed,” Guarischi said. “It was too much. I’m so happy.”

The stage win came as redemption for Guarischi, whose season was derailed by a broken rib in a crash

Guarischi’s victory was made possible by a superb lead-out from her Velocio teammates, especially European Games gold medalist Alena Amialiusik, who put Guarischi in position for the final sprint. Guarischi’s teammate Tiffany Cromwell finished third.

The stage was marked by a two-rider breakaway from Malgorzata Jasinska (Alè-Cipollini) and Ana Maria Covrig (BePink-La Classica); the peloton caught the duo about five kilometers from the finish line.

On Sunday the Giro Rosa leaves Slovenia and arrives in Italy; stage 2 starts in Gaiarine, and ends in San Fior.

Top 10, stage 1 (Kamnik – Ljubljana, 102.5 km)

1. Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM) 2h32’23”
2. Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv) +0”
3. Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM) +0”
4. Elena Cecchini (Lotto Soudal Ladies) +0”
5. Floortje Makaaj (Liv-Plantur) +0”
6. Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle Honda) +0”
7. Annalisa Cucinotta (Alè-Cipollini) +0”
8. Anna Zita Maria Stricker (Inpa Sottoli Giusfredi) +0”
9. Mia Radotic (BTC City Ljubljana) +0”
10. Anna Trevisi (Inpa Sottoli Giusfredi) +0”

General classification after stage 1

1. Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv) 2h35’06”
2. Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM) +4”
3. Annemiek Van Vleuten (Bigla Pro Cycling Team) +5”
4. Roxane Knetemann (Rabo-Liv) +6”
5. Tiffany Cromwell (Velocio-SRAM) +7”
6. Anna Van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv) +7”
7. Ellen Van Dijk (Boels Dolmans Pro Cycling Team) +8”
8. Ashleigh Moolman (Bigla Pro Cycling Team) +8”
9. Valentina Scandolara (Orica-AIS) +8”
10. Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans Pro Cycling Team) +9”

The leader’s jerseys of the 26th Giro Rosa, after stage 1

Pink Jersey: Lucinda Brand (Rabo – Liv)
Ciclamino Jersey: Annemiek Van Vleuten (Bigla Pro Cycling Team)
Green Jersey: Malgorzata Jasinska (Alè-Cipollini)
White Jersey: Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo-Liv)
Blue Jersey: Barbara Guarischi (Velocio-SRAM)

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MTN-Qhubeka makes history as first African team in Tour http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/mtn-qhubeka-makes-history-as-first-african-team-in-tour_376326 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/mtn-qhubeka-makes-history-as-first-african-team-in-tour_376326#comments Sat, 04 Jul 2015 15:27:33 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376326

MTN Qhubeka at the 2015 Tour de France team presentation in Utrecht. Photo: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com.

MTN-Qhubeka promises to attack and hunt stages in its historic Tour appearance as Africa's first squad to appear in the race

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MTN Qhubeka at the 2015 Tour de France team presentation in Utrecht. Photo: Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com.

UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — It’s rare that there is more celebration at the start of the Tour de France than at the end, but that was the case around the MTN-Qhubeka bus on Saturday.

With Daniel Teklehaimanot as the first rider down the start ramp at the 2015 Tour, a new chapter was being written in cycling history. Teklehaimanot and Eritrean compatriot Merhawi Kudus became the first black Africans to race the Tour, as part of the first African-registered team ever to start the Tour.

There was a sense of history-in-the-making, and it wasn’t lost on team staffers and riders.

“This is huge for African cycling. This is the first black African to race the Tour. The amount of euphoria in Africa is just massive,” MTN-Qhubeka general manager Brian Smith told VeloNews. “It was a privilege to become the first African team to get the invitation.”

MTN-Qhubeka came into the 2015 season with the singular goal of earning a bid to race the Tour. After starting the Vuelta a España last year, it reached the milestone as the first African-registered team to compete in a grand tour.

For 2015, the team knew it needed to round out its roster to legitimately make the claim to have Tour-level quality, and it signed such riders as Edvald Boasson Hagen, Steve Cummings, Tyler Farrar, and Serge Pauwels, all four who were racing Saturday in Utrecht.

But the core of the team remains African, and management was insistent that African riders remained at the center of the team heading into Utrecht. Five Africans are part of the nine-man Tour squad, with two from Eritrea and three from South Africa.

“After Daniel won the climber’s jersey at the Critérium du Dauphiné, we sent him back for the national championships, and he was mobbed at home,” Smith said. “People are aware, and they’ve seen the progression. We hope to inspire more Africans to race. The African continent have to be proud and get behind this team, because in the future, I believe African riders can not only compete for stages, but to win the yellow jersey as well.”

The untapped potential of African cycling is seen as the sport’s final frontier. The hold of the Tour has spread to the Americas, Australia, and across every corner of Europe and even into Asia. The rise of Chris Froome, who was born in Kenya and raised in South Africa yet holds a British passport, has helped spur interest in the African continent.

Many are working across the continent to put athletes on bikes, to teach the required skillset to compete at a high level, and provide the training and materials to give them opportunities. Investments by the UCI, as well as ex-pro Jock Boyer, who works closely with athletes in Rwanda, are helping push talent into the peloton.

Those dreams are very much the here and now for MTN-Qhubeka. History aside, the teams is coming into this Tour to race and to animate the action. Smith admits it’s not here to fight for the yellow jersey, but they have a plan to try to reach their stated goal of winning a stage.

“We’ve set ourselves a goal of a stage win, and to wear a leader’s jersey at some point,” Smith explained. “What we’re going to do is to try to win 21 stages. And if you try to win 21 stages, the percentages of winning one is far greater. We’re going to have a plan every day. We are going to be an opportunist team.”

With Boasson Hagen and Farrar, they have riders who can try to win the classics-style finales. Louis Mentjies and Teklehaimanot will have shots in the mountains. The remainder of the team will have their chances in breakaways.

“We don’t have a GC contender. We don’t have a pure sprinter, so we’re going to look for our chances elsewhere,” Smith said. “We are going to attack every day. Our plan is to try to win 21 stages. There will be different riders every day, trying their luck. We know we cannot compete against the likes of Contador, Nibali, or Cavendish in the sprints, but we’re going to try to force the moves and the counter-attacks.

“We have a strategy, with certain riders, for certain stages,” Smith said. “No one can win 21 stages, but if we win we will be happy.”

So would an entire continent.

 

Brian Smith on MTN-Qhubeka’s five African riders at the Tour de France:

Merhawi Kudus, 21 (Eritrea): He’s our youngest rider, and among the youngest in the Tour. He’s here to gain experience, and to try to get into some breakaways. He’s a huge talent, with a big future.

Louis Meintjes, 23 (South Africa): “He’s already shown what he’s capable of. If he doesn’t come away with a stage win here, I would be disappointed. This is his second grand tour, and in his first [2014 Vuelta a España], he was fifth on a stage. We saw him climbing strong in the Dauphiné.”

Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, 26 (South Africa): He’s always there, always consistent. He’s got a big motor, and we want to see him get into breakaways, to attack.”

Jacques Janse van Rensburg, 26 (South Africa): “He has a lot of responsibilities, and he’s one of our workhorses. These guys are not afraid of getting into the breakaways. This team is not frightened of anyone, and like we saw last year at the Vuelta, Jacques will be riding into the breakaways.”

Daniel Teklehaimanot, 26 (Eritrea): “We’ve always known he’s good, and so did Orica, but now people are starting to believe, too, after the Dauphiné. There will be a lot of opportunities for Daniel in this Tour. The ideal would be a stage win, but if there’s an opportunity, we’ll chase the climber’s jersey as well.”

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Lampre-Merida hedges bets with double threat in Qinghai Lake http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/lampre-merida-hedges-bet-with-double-threat-in-qinghai-lake_376312 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/lampre-merida-hedges-bet-with-double-threat-in-qinghai-lake_376312#comments Sat, 04 Jul 2015 14:20:46 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376312

Gang Xu (left) and Taiwanese road champion Chun Kai Feng (right) give Lampre-Merida a one-two punch at China’s Tour of Qinghai Lake. Photo courtesy Tour of Qinghai Lake.

Gang Xu and Chun Kai Feng give Lampre-Merida a one-two punch at China’s 13-stage Tour of Qinghai Lake

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Gang Xu (left) and Taiwanese road champion Chun Kai Feng (right) give Lampre-Merida a one-two punch at China’s Tour of Qinghai Lake. Photo courtesy Tour of Qinghai Lake.

Xining, CHINA — Missing one rider on their seven-man roster due to Rui Costa’s brother Mário having visa issues, Lampre-Merida is feeling the pressure heading into the 13-stage, 2.HC Tour of Qinghai Lake, which starts on July 5 with a 121km Xining Circuit.

Held on along the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau with an average altitude of around 9,000 feet, the Tour of Qinghai Lake is considered the “highest” international road cycling race in the world.

As the only WorldTour squad on the startlist, the Italian team is making no secret that this is a race they must control.

“Yes of course, there is pressure,” Lampre-Merida road captain Gang Xu told VeloNews. “Qinghai Lake is a very different race, and the outcome will depend on the condition of our rivals. [But] We are a WorldTour team so we have to win a stage and win the race.”

The 31-year-old Chinese rider is hoping to reverse a string of three DNFs after a solid showing at the Tour of Turkey, dating back to the Giro d’Italia in May and followed by GP du canton d’Argovie and the Tour de Suisse.

“Qinghai Lake is the top race in the Asia Tour,” said Xu, a former Tour de Korea stage winner. “For me, our team and our sponsors it’s very important. I want to win at least one stage and I will have a good look at everyone else in the first week to determine my own chances for GC.”

Aside from riders from Southeast, AirGas-Safeway, Synergy Baku and RTS-Santic, which features Colombian Mario Rojas and Iranian Hossein Alizadeh, one rider who Xu acknowledges could be a legitimate stage contender is Lampre teammate Chun Kai Feng. The reigning two-time Taiwan road champion has shown great promise since joining the team late last year, including two top-10 mountains classification finishes, including eighth at Tour de Taiwan in March, and second at Tour of Japan, in May.

However, the 26-year-old neo-pro is downplaying his personal ambitions prior to the start of the race.

“It is important for me to support my team and continue learning,” said Feng, a three-time Tour de Taiwan KOM. “I will do my job, whether that is collecting [bidons] or working on the front, and hope the team can do something to get a result.But if the opportunity for me to get in a break is there I will take it.”

Joining Xu and Feng is climbing specialist Tsgabu Grmay, as well as Ilia Koshevoy, sprinter Luka Pibernik, and GC hopeful Mattia Cattaneo.

“Overall we will try with Cattaneo, but he has not raced in 40 days due to right knee injury,” Lampre-Merida sports director Bruno Vicino told VeloNews. “We did not bring a pure sprinter to the race, so we will be looking for Xu and Feng to each try for a stage win or two. Xu has been very supportive in the European races and is our leader at Qinghai Lake, so we will see how he performs in that role.”

Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews.

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The Yates brothers: British twins in the Tour peloton http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/yates-brothers-twins-in-the-tour-peloton_376297 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/yates-brothers-twins-in-the-tour-peloton_376297#comments Sat, 04 Jul 2015 13:45:48 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376297

Adam Yates won the Tour of Turkey, an eight-day stage race, in 2014. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

If the young British twins Adam and Simon Yates were not already in the spotlight, they will be after beginning the Tour together for the

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Adam Yates won the Tour of Turkey, an eight-day stage race, in 2014. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — Chris Froome is racing for the win in the Tour de France, which began today in Utrecht, but another British storm is quietly brewing in colors different than Sky’s black and blue.

If the young twins Adam and Simon Yates were not already in the spotlight, they will be after beginning the Tour together for the first time.

The duo blasted through the Under 23 ranks with wins in the Tour de L’Avenir and the Tour of Britain, and surprised many when they signed for the Australian team Orica-GreenEdge, for 2014. Last year, they kept going strongly at the WorldTour level: Adam won the Tour of Turkey and placed sixth at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and Simon 12th in the País Vasco and debuted at the Tour. Now, for the first time, they are both in the Tour peloton, and wearing the same colors.

Sky general manager David Brailsford told VeloNews last year that ultimately he’d like to have the British twins on his British squad. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out,” he said. “At a certain point in time, we’d like to think they’d ride for Sky.”

The Yates, instead, have extended their contracts with Orica through 2016. Along with Colombian Esteban Chaves, they are the team’s grand-tour hopes.

During the first half of 2015, the twins have continued to prove that they are likely the next big thing out of Great Britain, ready to take the spotlight from Froome and classics star Geraint Thomas. Adam rode to ninth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico behind Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and last month, Simon placed fifth behind Froome in the Dauphiné.

“In the Tour, we are not going for the overall. The idea is to win a stage,” Simon said at a press conference Friday. “I don’t think I’m ready, I’ve not even finished a grand tour yet. A few more years down the line, we can talk about that, right now, mentally and physically, I’m not ready.”

Simon spoke to the press with the coolness that comes with having already  raced the Tour. Adam, who raced and completed the Vuelta a España in 2014, appeared nervous when talking to a small group of journalists off to the side.

“I need that experience, especially in the first few days of the race, but it’s more off-the-bike stuff that makes the difference,” added Simon. “Even now doing the press conference or the team presentation… Last year, I was shaking and didn’t know what to say, but now it feels normal.”

What is striking and what their directors and coaches say, is that they are both determined and confident. They speak clearly about what they want and not with the air of young, second-year professionals.

“I think Froome, and all the big GC favorites, are a lot stronger than both myself and Simon,” Adam said. “We are 22-year-olds. Hopefully, in a few years we can be at that level, and fight for victory.”

“Throughout this year, I’ve had the legs to stay with these guys on some of the hilly days and harder days,” added Simon. “I feel a bit more confident being at the front with those guys and not overawed, but at the grand tour level, it’s still a different kettle of fish.”

Orica manager Matt White said he believes the young British twins could one day have overall victory hopes, but at just 22 years of age, they are not yet ready for that responsibility.

“The biggest thing for us is to leave an impact on the race, that would be our number one goal,” White said. “One stage win would be pleasing, multiple stage wins even more so. As far as GC it’s not a goal, and never has been a goal. It would be pretty unprofessional of us to put pressure on the Yates boys, who we see as GC talents, in their first Tour de France that they’re hoping to finish. They’ve shown throughout the year, and since joining the team, that they’re very capable of achieving some great results against the best guys in the world, but that’s for stage victories, not GC.”

Though they are not the first twins to compete in the Tour de France — most recently, Peter and Martin Velits rode together in 2012 — they could be the most powerful pair coming through. They both have a strong finishing sprint, they both climb well, and they both are working to improve their time trialling. To their advantage in the Tour, they have each other – and Simon’s music.

“We can draw on rooming together? Yes, it feels more like home,” Simon said. “We share a flat in Girona, so it’s almost the same. Every day, I wake up and go for breakfast and I see his face. It feels a bit more at home, as much as home as you can have at the Tour.”

“He always plays his music really loud which pisses me off. House music… full gas,” Adam added. “I like the music, but not at 11 or 12 at night!”

“I just don’t like the silence,” continued Simon. “This small issue keeps coming up. He’s getting a bit annoyed with me.”

For those trying to tell them apart, Adam sports a scruffy beard, wears black socks and green sunglasses, and will wear number 108. Simon wears white rim sunglasses with 109 on his back and bike.

The rest, including what their future holds in the world’s biggest bike race, is a story that remains to be told.

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Van Vleuten wins Giro Rosa prologue http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/road/van-vleuten-wins-giro-rosa-prologue_376241 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/road/van-vleuten-wins-giro-rosa-prologue_376241#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 19:26:33 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376241

Annemiek van Vleuten celebrated her prologue victory wearing the pink jersey of the Giro Rosa. Photo: Bigla Pro Cycling Team

Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) claims the first pink jersey of the 2015 Giro Rosa women's stage race

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Annemiek van Vleuten celebrated her prologue victory wearing the pink jersey of the Giro Rosa. Photo: Bigla Pro Cycling Team

Just like she did last year, Annemiek van Vleuten (Bigla) kicked off the Giro Rosa with a prologue victory. She won by a narrow margin Wednesday, eking out first place over Lucinda Brand (Rabo-Liv) by one second in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

“It feels super cool because I also won the prologue in Bira and this again is a special feeling to get to wear the maglia rosa tomorrow. I’m so happy for the team,” van Vleuten said.

“You can’t make any mistakes in a prologue like this. You might come here as a favorite, but it’s not so easy because everything has to go perfect. I feel on good form and I was really focused. I practiced a lot. I think I did the turnaround corner 15 times.”

Van Vleuten, 32, former winner of Ronde van Vlaanderen and La Route de France stage race, blazed the two-kilometer course in two minutes, 48 seconds. She finished eighth overall in last year’s Giro Rosa and won stage 3 in 2014, as well as the prologue.

Another Rabo-Liv rider, Roxanne Knetemann, rounded out the podium in third, finishing in the same time as Brand.

The race stays in Slovenia on Saturday for the first road stage. The 102.5km day starts in Kamnik and finishes in Ljubljana. The sprinters should have their day, as there is only one category 3 climb, midway through the mostly flat stage.

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Tour de France 101: A beginner’s guide to understanding the race http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/road/tour-de-france-101-a-beginners-guide-to-understanding-the-race_376047 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/road/tour-de-france-101-a-beginners-guide-to-understanding-the-race_376047#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 18:10:29 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376047

The Arc de Triomphe is a welcome site for the Tour peloton after three weeks of demanding racing, inhospitable weather, and frequent crashes. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Trying to identify the riders or understand the commentators? Here's VeloNews' beginner's guide to the Tour de France

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The Arc de Triomphe is a welcome site for the Tour peloton after three weeks of demanding racing, inhospitable weather, and frequent crashes. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

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In the News: Driver faces attempted murder charges for alleged intentional crash http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/in-the-news-driver-faces-attempted-murder-charges-for-alleged-intentional-crash_376217 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/in-the-news-driver-faces-attempted-murder-charges-for-alleged-intentional-crash_376217#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 16:50:24 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376217 Alamar Houston is accused of purposefully crashing his car into three cyclists in two separate incidents outside of Sacramento, California

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The Sacramento Bee reports that Alamar Houston was arraigned Thursday on two counts of attempted murder, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon (a vehicle), and felony driving under the influence of drugs, according to the California Highway Patrol. He is charged with intentionally crashing a car into three cyclists in two separate incidents.

Cyclist Donald Dumaine, 51, suffered minor scrapes when he was pushed off his bike by a 2015 Hyundai police said was driven by Houston, 38. Dumaine said the vehicle pulled close to his side before pushing him off the road, between West Sacramento and Clarksburg, California.

Minutes after Dumaine was struck, Houston allegedly hit two teenage cyclists on purpose as well.

Read more >>

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BMC confident in van Garderen’s chances for landing on Tour podium http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/bmc-confident-in-van-garderens-chances-for-landing-on-tour-podium_376119 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/bmc-confident-in-van-garderens-chances-for-landing-on-tour-podium_376119#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:57:02 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376119

BMC boss Jim Ochowicz thinks his star GC rider Tejay van Garderen can land on the Tour podium in Paris. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

BMC Racing thinks American Tejay van Garderen has a legitimate chance of landing on the Tour de France podium

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BMC boss Jim Ochowicz thinks his star GC rider Tejay van Garderen can land on the Tour podium in Paris. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — BMC Racing uttered the “P word” on Friday. Not just once, but over and over again. Confidence is sky high, and the U.S.-registered team is buzzing that Tejay van Garderen can aspire to finish in the top 3 at the Tour de France.

“Is the podium possible? Absolutely,” BMC Racing general manager Jim Ochowicz said. “This is the best Tejay we’ve ever seen.”

Confidence is sky high following a strong showing at last month’s Critérium du Dauphiné, in which van Garderen held the leader’s jersey and finished second overall. BMC isn’t hiding its ambitions, and is bringing a strong, experienced squad to back the 26-year-old American’s bid for a top finish in the 2015 Tour.

“I believe it’s possible Tejay can finish on the podium,” BMC’s Manuel Quinziato said. “After how we saw him race at the Dauphiné, everyone is excited to work for Tejay. We have a very strong team here for the Tour.”

Last month, van Garderen delivered a morale-boosting performance at the eight-day Dauphiné across the French Alps, finishing just 10 seconds behind 2013 Tour winner Chris Froome (Sky). Froome won back-to-back stages to snatch away van Garderen’s race leader’s jersey, but BMC is reading the Dauphiné as a very good sign of things to come in July.

“We’ve never seen Tejay climbing so good. He stayed close to Froome, closer than he did before. In previous years, he would get gapped out 30 to 40 seconds. At the Dauphiné, he was only 10 seconds behind. And the way he’s riding now, maybe he can close that gap, and even counter,” Ochowicz continued. “I think if he can avoid trouble and get into the mountains, he can stay with the best. We’ll have the team to protect him.”

BMC is bringing a similar squad to what it had in 2011 when Cadel Evans won the Tour. Van Garderen will count on the likes of Samuel Sánchez, Damiano Caruso, and Danilo Wyss in the mountains, but the remainder of the team almost looks like a classics group. Quinziato will be joined in the trenches by Greg van Avermaet, Michael Schar, and Daniel Oss. Dennis Rohan will be a motor for the team time trial and play utility man.

“We’re one of the few teams in this year’s race that’s won this event,” Ochowicz said. “Tejay is a podium contender, and that’s our priority. We’ve prepared well for every stage, and we can handle all the factors that we’ll have to face over three weeks. I think Tejay can go head-to-head with anyone. Our job is protect Tejay, and then we think he can finish off the job in the mountains. Our primary goal is to make the podium.”

That’s setting the bar very high, especially against a deep field that also includes defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), 2014 Giro d’Italia winner Nairo Quintana), and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). Behind the “Fab Four” are another half-dozen riders with podium potential.

It isn’t just BMC that believes in his chances, but also van Garderen, who is sounding more confident and mature than ever.

Last year, van Garderen fought through crashes and a bad day in the Pyrénées to equal his career best of fifth. This year, van Garderen said he’s enjoyed an injury-free approach to the Tour, something that’s going to make a difference in the long haul of a very demanding Tour route.

“Last year, I came into the Tour always on the back foot. That hip fracture in Romandie meant I had to try to fast-forward everything, cram in training, and put on fitness quickly,” van Garderen said. “This year, I’ve been able to go about things at a proper pace. I feel much more well-rounded and relaxed. My strong result in June confirms that I did the work properly. All around I feel a little bit stronger.”

Many pundits might not count van Garderen a legitimate podium favorite, but the buzz inside the peloton is different. Quinziato said the other teams saw how strong van Garderen was climbing during the Dauphiné.

“I was talking to [Michele] Scarponi on Astana, and he said the team was surprised by how strong he was,” Quinziato said. “The peloton always sees very quickly who is looking strong. For me, Tejay has the legs to stay with the top guys. Now we will work to keep him out of trouble the first week, and arrive to the mountains.”

With the 2015 Tour starting Saturday, Paris appears very far away, but the podium seems closer than ever for van Garderen.

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2015 Tour de France, a Tour for everyone http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/2015-tour-de-france-a-tour-for-everyone_376108 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/2015-tour-de-france-a-tour-for-everyone_376108#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:36:18 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376108

The Tour de France peloton has changed over the past decade. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

With no two stages alike, the route for this year's Tour de France plays to all types of riders in the peloton

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The Tour de France peloton has changed over the past decade. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UTRECHT, Netherlands (AFP) — In recent years, a lot of focus on cycling — and in particular the Tour de France — has been about how things have changed in a new, cleaner era.

While no one believes doping has been completely eradicated, so to a large extent it has at least been reduced and what remains is perhaps less effective.

The worry now is about hard-to-detect micro-doping rather than the game-changing blood doping brought on by EPO and blood transfusions.

The effect on the peloton has not gone unnoticed with the winning gaps, particularly on high mountain stages, greatly reduced.

It has changed slightly the way riders race but there is also another thing responsible for that — the course.

These last few years, Tour organizers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) and Tour director Christian Prudhomme in particular have gone to great lengths to create exciting, unpredictable stages.

Gone are the days when the Tour would amble through the first 10-14 days of carbon-copy flat stages with a breakaway followed by a chase and usually a bunch sprint finish. The true race would begin in a handful of mountain stages in which a powerful team would ride at a leg-burning tempo until its leader attacked on the final climb, decimating the competition.

Prudhomme has created a Tour route in which no two days are alike and therefore no two challenges equal — although there are still appetizing tidbits both for sprinters and climbers.

Right from the start, there will be a complete examination of a rider’s cycling capabilities, and indeed intelligence.

The race begins with a short individual time trial before a team race against the clock on stage 9, but again relatively short at 28km — no rider should lose the Tour because either he or his team are weak at time trialling.

Stage 2 is flat and ideal for a sprint finish but there is the possibility of crosswinds coming off the North Sea and causing splits in the peloton, meaning everyone will be fighting for a place near the front, driving up the pace, increasing the tension and provoking probable crashes.

Stage 3 ends on the short, brutal climb called the Mur du Huy which is also the finish of La Fleche Wallonne, one of the three Ardennes classics. The puncheurs will be out in force on that day, as well as stages 6 to Le Havre and 8 to the Mur de Bretagne, which have similar short, sharp climbs to the finish.

Mini Paris-Roubaix

Before then you have stage 4 with its seven cobbled sections totaling 13.4km that make the stage a mini Paris-Roubaix, which should catch the attention of the cobbled classics specialists.

By the time the peloton reaches the first mountain stage on the 10th day of racing, there will have already been several opportunities not only for the favorites to put time into each other, but also for other riders to perhaps stoke interest in the race by also being involved in the business end.

Stage 10 finishes with an hors category climb at the end of a lumpy but relatively gentle stage.

It’s followed by a far more brutal mountain stage with six categorized climbs but with a long descent off the hors category Col du Tourmalet before a short third category climb to the finish, favoring either a breakaway or a specialist descender.

The variety continues the next day with a category 2 climb, two first category ascents, and then an hors category to the finish at Plateau de Beille — perfect for a specialist climber in a breakaway but also sure to set the fireworks going amongst the contenders.

The first three mountain stages provide very different challenges and the theme continues with the lumpy finish to an otherwise flat stage 14 and then the long descent and short climb to the finish of stage 17.

Stages 16 and 18 are far from flat but could favor a polyvalent sprinter determined to stick with the pace on the climbs.

Stage 19 has a regular feel to it, with four categorized climbs — including the first category finish at La Toussuire.

Stage 20 then throws a little surprise at an unusually short and punchy 110.5km, but it does include two punishing hors category climbs, including the finish on the mythical Alpe d’Huez.

The organizers have done everything to provide drama, spectacle, challenge and uncertainty to the route; now it is just up to the riders to live up to it and put on a show.

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The biggest names not at the Tour de France http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/the-biggest-names-not-at-the-tour-de-france_375972 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/the-biggest-names-not-at-the-tour-de-france_375972#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 13:16:05 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=375972

Fabio Aru finished second in the Giro d'Italia but will not race in the Tour. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The Tour has plenty of big name firepower, but there are several riders not at the French grand tour

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Fabio Aru finished second in the Giro d'Italia but will not race in the Tour. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — The 102nd Tour de France starts with perhaps its deepest GC field ever, with four five-star favorites and a host of other riders banging on the podium door.

But there are more than a few major names who are not racing. Here’s a quick list of who’s not here, and why:

Andy and Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing)

For the first time in a decade, a rider with the last name Schleck will not be part of the Tour. Andy retired at the end of last season with a devastating knee injury, while Frank succumbed to injury this spring and will miss the Tour as well. The Schlecks became the first brothers to finish on the Tour podium in 2011, but their fortunes have soured since then. “Not being at the Tour, it’s a big thing for me,” Frank Schleck said. “It’s disappointing not to be able to race there.”

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin)

A winner of eight stages over the past two years, the big German sprinter was dogged by illness and poor form all season. Despite holding out hope for recovery, Kittel admitted last week he won’t be racing this year’s Tour. His absence opens up huge possibilities for sprinters, such as Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step), André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) to pad their palmares. “Not being nominated is without doubt the most difficult time of my career,” Kittel said. “This is just another blow to me.”

Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol)

Third in 2010 and fourth in 2012, the Belgian GC hope never had the Tour on his program this season. After riding to 12th in the Giro, he will target the Vuelta a España later this season.

Fabio Aru, Mikel Landa (Astana)

These two blew through the Giro, finishing second and third, respectively, behind Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo). Though there was some pressure in Italy to take Aru, both will likely race the Vuelta. Aru is expected to make his Tour debut in 2016.

Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step)

Despite missing out on the spring classics with a shoulder injury during Paris-Nice, there is no love lost for Boonen and the Tour. Even with the cobbles in stage 4, Boonen will bypass the Tour and focus on the worlds in Richmond, Virginia. Terpstra, another classics strongman, also missed out on the competitive Etixx squad that has wealth in numbers. And finally, Etixx decided it was too early to bring 23-year-old French hope Alaphilippe, who enjoyed a breakout spring, to the rigors of the Tour for what would be his grand tour debut.

Philippe Gilbert, Peter Stetina (BMC Racing)

The 2011 world champ is missing the Tour with a lingering injury dating back to the spring classics. Despite winning two stages at the Giro d’Italia, there will be no yellow jersey hopes for Gilbert despite a first week that’s ideal for his style of racing. Stetina suffered a horrible crash during the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) when he struck a metal pole that was left on the finishing straight.

Bradley Wiggins, David Lopez, Mikel Nieve, Danny Pate (Sky)

Chris Froome sees a wealth of support for his bid for second a maillot jaune, but support riders such as Nieve and Lopez were squeezed out by the arrival of riders such as Woet Poels, Leopold Konig, and Nicolas Roche. Sky also put a heavy UK accent on the team this year, leaving off American Pate, who rode in last year’s Tour for Sky. And Wiggins, the winner of the 2012 Tour, retired following Paris-Roubaix. To some, it remains extraordinary that Wiggins became the first British rider to win the yellow jersey and then never raced the Tour again. He will focus on track cycling in a bid to win another Olympic gold medal in team pursuit during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Dani Moreno (Katusha), Jesus Hernandez (Tinkoff-Saxo)

Friends in high places doesn’t always guarantee a starting spot. Moreno is the right-hand man of podium-hope Joaquim Rodríguez, but he was overlooked at Katusha, who brought more men to support sprinter Alexander Kristoff. Hernández, too, was always the sidekick to Alberto Contador, but with the team packed with superstars, he was muscled off the Tour squad.

Only three Americans

And finally, there are only three U.S. riders among the peloton in this year’s Tour, the lowest number in two decades. Several riders who were here last year were not selected for 2015, and a few, like Stetina or Alex Howes (Cannondale-Garmin), were struck by injury and illness. Andrew Talansky (Cannondale), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), and Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka) are the only American starters this year.

Bjarne Riis

One more notable absence is former Tinkoff-Saxo general manager Riis, who was fired by Oleg Tinkov in March. Once one of the major forces inside the peloton, Riis’ star seems to have faded of late. After selling his team to Tinkov in late 2013, the controversial ex-pro came under fire from an investigation by the Danish cycling federation, released last week, that revealed doping within the ranks of Riis’ former teams. Weathering the storm is a Riis trademark, and there are already reports from Denmark that Riis vows to find new sponsors and rebuild a team from scratch. For the first time since the early 2000s, the “Eagle from Herning” will not be in the Tour entourage.

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Winning Tour opener a tall order for Cancellara http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/winning-tour-opener-a-tall-order-for-cancellara_376150 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/winning-tour-opener-a-tall-order-for-cancellara_376150#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 12:48:03 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376150

The 2015 Tour de France could be Fabian Cancellara's last appearance at the race. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The veteran is no longer the king of time trials, and Saturday's stage 1 TT at the Tour de France is packed with potential victors

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The 2015 Tour de France could be Fabian Cancellara's last appearance at the race. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UTRECHT, Netherlands (AFP) — Veteran Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) will have his work cut out if he is to begin his 10th Tour de France in yellow following Saturday’s 13.8-kilometer time trial.

The 102nd edition of the Grand Boucle starts with a short race against the clock around Utrecht in the Netherlands.

The “fantastic four” overall favorites of reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Giro d’Italia winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and the two men they succeeded, 2013 Tour winner Chris Froome (Sky) and 2014 Giro champ Nairo Quintana (Movistar), are unlikely to challenge for the victory on Saturday, although they will be looking to make time gains or limit losses against each other.

Of the quartet, Froome is widely regarded as the strongest time trialist and Quintana the weakest, so the race will be on to see how much time Briton can put into the Colombian.

But at the front of the race, Cancellara, 34, will be aiming to win an opening Tour stage or prologue for the sixth time, and don the famous yellow jersey for perhaps the last time.

The Swiss rider known as “Spartacus” admitted this could be his last Tour.

“I thought about this could be my last participation and last possibility to arrive in Paris, yes this is in my mind,” he said Thursday.

Cancellara is probably not the favorite, though, despite his incredible time trial record, winning Olympic gold in 2008 and four world titles.

German Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick-Step) has surpassed Cancellara in recent years as the king of the time trials, winning three straight world titles from 2011-2013 before he was beaten by current Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins last year.

Martin rarely loses a time trial and has won three at the Tour since 2011 — missing out only in 2012 to Wiggins.

Martin won time trials at the Volta ao Algarve and Tour de Romandie earlier this year and those were similarly short, at 19km and 17km respectively.

‘Really special’

But perhaps the smart money will be on Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), who is riding on home roads. He is a growing force in time trials and beat Cancellara in two races against the clock at the recent Tour de Suisse.

He was third in the time trial world championships last year, 40 seconds behind Wiggins.

And while he may not yet be able to beat Martin over a similar distance to that — it was a 47km course in Ponferrada — over the shorter distance and roared on by a partisan crowd, many feel Dumoulin could have the edge.

The 24-year-old is looking forward to the challenge.

“It will be really, really special and we saw last year in England when we started there it was absolutely incredible to have all the crowds there and I hope it will be the same or even better here,” he said.

Other potential winners include Australia’s Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) and Mathias Brandle (IAM Cycling) of Austria.

Both briefly held the world hour record recently before Wiggins stretched that out to a mark that will be hard to match.

Brandle managed to ride 51.852km in October last year but just over three months later, Dennis pushed it out to 52.491km, although that mark lasted less than three months before Britain’s Alex Dowsett (Movistar) added another 500m. Wiggins put 1.5km on top of that in June.

In fact, Dowsett is another rider who could be in contention on Saturday, and all three could pull a surprise on the likes of Martin, Cancellara, and Dumoulin.

As for Froome, Contador, Nibali, and Quintana, it will be a first chance to gain a psychological boost in the race for the yellow jersey, which will likely be decided in the high mountains in the final week.

There will also be a few outsiders, including the likes of young French pair Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), who will be eager to show they have the form to make a charge for a podium finish.

And with temperatures expected to hit around 95 degrees, Saturday’s stage promises to be a scorcher.

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Photo: Kevin Batchelor

Come ride some of Colorado's best roads, dine at Boulder's top restaurants, and experience the USA Pro Challenge up close and personal

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Photo: Kevin Batchelor

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Dangerfield calls out British Cycling for overlooking two of his six TT titles http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/dangerfield-calls-out-british-cycling-for-overlooking-two-of-his-six-tt-titles_376102 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/dangerfield-calls-out-british-cycling-for-overlooking-two-of-his-six-tt-titles_376102#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 22:08:54 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376102

Alex Dowsett (Movistar) won his fourth elite British national time trial championship in late June. Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

British Cycling claimed Dowsett tied the elite men’s TT nationals record with four wins, but Stuart Dangerfield says he has six

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Alex Dowsett (Movistar) won his fourth elite British national time trial championship in late June. Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

SYDNEY — Recent hour-record holder Alex Dowsett (Movistar) left little doubt as to his time trial prowess after capturing his fourth British national championship on Thursday, June 25, at the ‘mini-Nürburgring’ in Cadwell Park, England.

However, what immediately came into question following the 26-year-old’s win was whether or not his tally of four time trial titles equals the number recorded by retired Olympian Stuart Dangerfield as the British Cycling press release stated on the governing body’s official event website immediately following the race.

Dangerfield took issue with the report and was quick to set the “record” straight to clear up any confusion following the erroneous statistic published by British Cycling, which was later mistakenly picked up by media outlets around the world, including VeloNews.

“I’ve won six national time trial titles, not four,” Dangerfield told VeloNews upon learning of the slight. “British Cycling held the inaugural time trial championships in 1995, which I won, along with 1996, 1998, 2001, 2003 and 2005.

“My first win in ’95 was the first race that was considered the British Cycling Federation individual time trial championships, as at the time we also had the Road Time Trial Council (RTTC), which had its on set-distance titles, such as a 10 mile, 25 mile, 50 mile, etc.

“But that initial race was the first time the British championship colors were on offer — and I won them.”

Dangerfield went on to successfully defend his title in 1996 before losing to Graeme Obree in a close race in 1997. Dangerfield would reclaim his title in 1998 before trading wins with Chris Newton and Michael Hutchinson over the next seven years.

When asked to verify the correct number of championships won, British Cycling emailed VeloNews a document that indeed backed Dangerfield’s claim, but did not offer any statement or make any corrections to the original story as of press time.

The Wikipedia pages for both Dangerfield and Dowsett still incorrectly claim the pair are tied at a “record four wins” each, while the British national time trial championships page only dates back as far as 1997 — clearly omitting Dangerfield’s back-to-back wins that started it all.

“I’m happy for Alex [Dowsett] as he is doing a fantastic job,” said Dangerfield, 43, who now works as a chief mechanic and bike-fitter for The Lab in Sydney, Australia. “He is at a higher level than what I was when I was racing.

“I’d just like to set the record straight, as I am very proud of many things in my cycling career and owning six national titles is most definitely towards the top of the list.”

“But at the end of the day, my name is on that annual trophy six times and there is no denying that,” concluded the three-time Commonwealth Games representative and 2001 10-mile (16km) time trial record holder. “Alex still has a couple more to go if he wants to catch me.”

Aaron S. Lee is a cycling and triathlon columnist for Eurosport and a guest contributor to VeloNews

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Giro Rosa Preview: Difficult second half awaits http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/giro-rosa-preview-difficult-second-half-awaits_376012 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/giro-rosa-preview-difficult-second-half-awaits_376012#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 20:27:42 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376012

Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) won the 2014 Giro Rosa, but this year's race could be wide-open, as she'll miss the stage race due to injury. Photo: Nicola Ianuale/Photo Ianuale

The biggest women's stage race of the season kicks off Friday and should offer ample climbing and an exciting penultimate-stage time trial

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Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) won the 2014 Giro Rosa, but this year's race could be wide-open, as she'll miss the stage race due to injury. Photo: Nicola Ianuale/Photo Ianuale

Spanning 10 days and covering nearly 900km, the Giro Rosa is the grand tour of women’s cycling. The 2015 race kicks-off Friday in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana with a short 2km prologue time trial. Two-time winner Mara Abbott (Wiggle Honda) and current world champion Pauline Ferrand-Prevot (Rabo-Liv) headline the start list.

Defending champion Marianne Vos will not be present, as an injuries continue to hamper her season.

2015 marks the 26th edition of the Giro Rosa, as the race runs July 3-12 and mostly takes place in northern Italy. A testing 21.5km time trial over rolling terrain on the penultimate day will test the stamina of the riders. The final day will provide plenty of fireworks, as the stage finishes atop a category 1 climb to the ski resort in San Domenico di Varzo.

“Together with all teams, we want to put on a great show of women’s cycling for the partners and supporters of the sport,” Bigla Pro Cycling team manager, Thomas Campana, said.

The second half of the race is tailored to the climbers, but the first few days suit the sprinters. The mass gallops should see fantastic battles between two-time world champion Giorgia Bronzini (Wiggle-Honda) and all-rounder Anna van der Breggen (Rabo-Liv). Also, don’t count out Sara Mustonen-Lichan (Liv-Plantur), as she has shown great form lately with two silver medals at the Swedish national championships.

The always-active Orica-AIS team brings a young squad to the race, as four members of the team will be making their Giro Rosa debuts. “It’s a great race and this year it’s all in the north of Italy so we are really excited that we will be racing pretty much in our backyard,” Orica-AIS sport director Gene Bates said.

Another young team, Liv-Plantur, will be looking for a high GC placing with Claudia Lichtenberg, who won the race in 2009 and finished fourth last year.

The American contingent will be in full force. Boels-Dolmans has a strong duo in Evelyn Stevens and U.S. national road race champion Megan Guarnier.

Stevens has twice finished in the top five — third in 2012 and fifth in 2013, and Guarnier finished seventh last year. Along with teammate Elizabeth Armitstead, the Boels-Dolmans team should be a force to be reckoned with at this year’s race.

Abbott, of course, will aim for a third overall title, and Tayler Wiles (Velocio-SRAM) will be racing her third Giro Rosa. Carmen Small will make her debut, both at the race and with the Bigla team after switching squads a mere 14 days before the start.

2015 Giro Rosa stage summaries

Prologue: City Ljubljana – 2km

The race kicks off in the capital of Slovenia with short 2km individual time trial. The quick effort has the chance to cause some surprises, as the course includes two U-turns. The riders must be fully focused to avoid mistakes before the real racing gets underway.

Stage 1: Kamnik to Ljubljana – 102.5km

The race stays in Slovenia for the first road stage with a departure in Kamnik and finish in the capital city. The sprinters should have their day, as there is only one category 3 climb, midway through the mostly flat stage. Positioning will be key coming into the finale with the last corner coming a mere 300 meters from the finish line.

Stage 2: Gaiarine to San Flor – 121.5km

The second stage brings the race into Italy with a 121.5km ride from Gaiarine to San Flor. The beginning of the stage is pancake-flat, but with about 50km to go to the finish, the course turns lumpy. The riders will face a category 3 climb followed by two category 2 climbs before descending into San Flor. The final climb peaks with 20km to go, but a short, non-categorized climb coming with 6km to go could be where the stage-winning move is made. This could be the first time the GC contenders will show their form.

Stage 3: Curtatone to Mantova – 130km

The third stage, the longest of the Giro Rosa at 130km, kicks off four days in the Lombardy region of Italy. The course from Curtatone to Mantova has sprint finish written all over it, with a fast and straight final 500 meters to the line.

Stage 4: Pioltello to Pozzo d’Adda – 103km

The fourth stage from Pioltello to Pozzo d’Adda will again suit the sprinters of this year’s Giro Rosa. The fatigue of a stage race will begin to set in and a breakaway could go the distance, as many of the teams will be focused on getting ready for the GC battle to begin.

Stage 5: Trezzo sull’Adda to Aprica – 128.4km

Stage five kicks off a hard second half to the Giro Rosa. A 128.4km stage from Trezzo sull’Adda to Aprica will finally let the GC contenders stretch their legs. The climb to Aprica isn’t steep, but the riders will be facing a positive gradient for the last 30km of the stage. A reduced-group sprint should be expected. Look for a rider who can climb moderately well, but definitely has a fast-finishing kick to win the stage.

Stage 6: Tresivio to Morbegno – 102.5km

The sixth stage from Tresivio to Morbegno should be hard racing from start to finish. The riders begin a category 2 climb only 10km into the stage, before tackling the 7km category 1 climb to Sondrio. The climb up to Sondrio will definitely whittle down the peloton, but once over it, the day’s climbing isn’t over. The riders still have one more cat. 2 climb to ride before a fast descent and long flat run-in into Morbegno.

Stage 7: Arenzano to Loano – 89.7km

After a long transfer, the Liguria region welcomes the Giro Rosa for the final three days. The seventh stage from Arenzano to Loano will be a little easier on the legs of the riders, but not so in the beginning of the stage. Two major climbs mark the day, with a short, steep category 1 climb in the opening 25km. The second climb, a category 3, is long and gradual and shouldn’t create much separation. A long, fast descent to the sea should create an exciting finish to the stage.

Stage 8: Pisano to Nebbiuno – 21.7km individual time trial

The penultimate-stage 21.7km individual time trial from Pisano to Nebbiuno will definitely have an impact on the general classification. The course is full of narrow, winding streets, so good bike-handling skills are a necessity. The route is not flat, but rather rolling with no major climbs. A slight 1km uphill drag occurs inside the final 3km of the course, before a fast run-in into Nebbiuno. Coming toward the end of the race, the time trial will show who has the stamina to go the distance.

Stage 9 Verbania to San Domenico di Varzo – 92.7km

The final stage of the Giro Rosa will be no celebratory affair, as the race finishes at the ski resort in San Domenico di Varzo at 1,400 meters (4,593 feet). The climb is a brutal one, at 10km in length and averaging just under 8 percent it is for the pure climbers.

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Gallery: 40th anniversary Red Zinger retrospective http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/road/gallery-40th-anniversary-red-zinger-retrospective_375679 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/road/gallery-40th-anniversary-red-zinger-retrospective_375679#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 16:42:00 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=375679

A look back at the first running of one of America's most influential cycling races during the sport's formative years

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Cancellara’s final Tour de France? ‘Nothing is decided yet’ http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/cancellaras-final-tour-de-france-nothing-is-decided-yet_375990 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/cancellaras-final-tour-de-france-nothing-is-decided-yet_375990#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 14:08:38 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=375990

Fabian Cancellara is a contender to win Saturday's stage 1 time trial at the Tour. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The Swiss superstar has a chance of winning Saturday's stage 1 and wearing the yellow jersey

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Fabian Cancellara is a contender to win Saturday's stage 1 time trial at the Tour. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) is refusing to be nostalgic about what might be his final ride in the Tour de France.

The Swiss superstar, who’s won five opening prologues during his Tour career, admitted Thursday he doesn’t know if he will race one more Tour in what will be his final season in 2016.

“Nothing is decided yet,” Cancellara said about his 2016 racing schedule. “In cycling, you never know how your program can be changed. It might look like it will be my last Tour. I am focused on what is now.”

Trek officials confirmed that Cancellara has a contract to race through 2016, something the Swiss superstar said will be his last. With the Olympic Games on the radar and one more gallop across the spring classics also in the cards, there is a possibility that this Tour might be Cancellara’s last.

“This is my 10th Tour. I thought that this could be my last Tour, and my last chance to ride into Paris. This is on my mind,” Cancellara said. “I want to enjoy the race, and all the experience I have in the race. It is a special and tough race. I will do what I have to do.”

“Spartacus” has had a tremendous Tour career, winning eight stages, including five prologues or opening-day time trials. With 28 days in the yellow jersey, the most among active riders, he ranks 11th on the all-time list for days in the maillot jaune. Beginning with his prologue win in 2004 in Liège, Belgium, Cancellara also won opening prologues in 2007 (London), 2009 (Monte Carlo), 2010 (Rotterdam), and 2012 (Liège).

A searing back injury that knocked him out of this year’s spring classics and the inevitable advance of age sees a different Cancellara lining up for Saturday’s 13.8km time trial to open the 102nd Tour.

Under normal conditions, Cancellara would be a five-star favorite for another yellow jersey. But after struggling through the Tour de Suisse, even Cancellara admits he might not be the top hope to claim a sixth Tour opening-day win. Cancellara pointed to the obvious favorites — Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick-Step), Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), and Dutch rider Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) — but said he will go down swinging.

“It’s a different type of time trial. In my past, I’ve been successful on non-French roads,” he said, referring to his prologue wins, all out of France. “I am confident, and I am looking forward to it. I had a tough time before and during the Tour de France, but this is what I’ve been training for. I am used to the pressure. It’s you against your bike. You have to give your maximum effort.”

Talk of Cancellara’s Tour farewell underscores a major shift inside the hierarchy of the Trek Factory Racing team. The previous incarnations of the team, under the banner of Leopard-Trek, were built on the pillars of Cancellara and the Schleck brothers. Things are clearly changing. Andy Schleck retired with a knee injury at the end of 2014, and Frank Schleck is missing this year’s Tour also due to injury. For the first time in a decade, a rider with the last name of Schleck will not be in the Tour.

Trek is already building a new base for the future, signing Dutch hope Bauke Mollema over the winter to lead the team’s GC ambitions. The 28-year-old Dutchman, who slotted over from the Rabobank/Belkin team, is aiming for a top-5 overall.

“I rode many Tours with [the Schlecks], and we shared a lot of good and different things. Now it’s a new chapter,” Cancellara said. “We don’t have Frank here. Now we have Bauke, with have 100 percent to play with him. I have my experience to help. Bauke is Bauke. He’s not Andy or Frank. We are all professionals, we know what to do.”

The first week of this Tour is brutal, stacked with classics-style courses that include cobbles, wind, and sharp, uphill finales that are perfect for Cancellara’s style of racing.

“The first week gives a lot of possibilities for the yellow jersey,” Cancellara said. “It’s quite a tough first week. I don’t know if I’ve seen such an intense first week. We have team goals, my goals. With Bauke, we have heaps of possibilities.”

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