Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Wed, 07 Oct 2015 12:40:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Book excerpt: ‘How Bad Do You Want It?’ Wed, 07 Oct 2015 12:40:26 +0000

In a new book from VeloPress, author Matt Fitzgerald considers the psychology behind Greg LeMond's brilliant 1989 Tour victory.

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Editor’s note: This excerpt is republished from “How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle,” by Matt Fitzgerald with permission of VeloPress.

Greg LeMond woke up in a strange bed. For a second or two he knew nothing more, his mind hovering in that narrative-free state of animal consciousness that greets each of us at the threshold of wakefulness. Then it all came back to him. He was in a hotel room in Versailles, France. The date was Sunday, July 23, 1989. At 4:14 that afternoon, he would compete in the final stage of the Tour de France. It was going to be the most important race of his life.

He dressed in a yellow T-shirt and baggy blue shorts and made his way down to the ground floor, where he sat at a long table and ate a hearty breakfast of pasta, bread, cereal, eggs, and coffee with his teammates on the ADR cycling team. An hour later, they were on their bikes, just cruising, loosening up their legs for later. Overcast skies loomed above them as they pedaled away from the hotel, but by the time the ride was complete the clouds had burned off and the air temperature had risen into the low 80s. LeMond later told writer Sam Abt what he told his trainer, Otto Jácome, when he returned to his lodgings.

“My legs are good. I’m going to have a very good day.”

There was plenty of time left to kill. As the second-place rider in the general classification (GC), or overall race standings, LeMond would start the conclusive 24.5km individual time trial next to last among the Tour’s 134 surviving competitors, two minutes before Frenchman Laurent Fignon, the race leader. A two-time winner of the Tour de France, Fignon stood merely 50 seconds ahead of LeMond after 20 stages and more than 2,000 miles of riding. LeMond was the stronger time trialist, but he would have to make up an improbable two seconds per kilometer between Versailles and Paris to overtake Fignon in the GC and claim his own second Tour de France victory. Whichever way it went, it promised to be the closest finish in the event’s 76-year history.

A 24.5km cycling time trial is an exercise in pacing. So are all races that last longer than 30 seconds. In races that last less than 30 seconds, competitors go all-out, pedaling, striding, or stroking at absolute maximum intensity from start to finish. They hold nothing back and utilize their full physical capacity. In races that last longer than 30 seconds, competitors do hold back. They pedal, stride, or stroke at less than maximum intensity at all points of the race except perhaps the very end. Instead of going all-out, they maintain the highest intensity they feel capable of sustaining through the full race distance.

Why 30 seconds? Because humans cannot sustain maximum intensity exercise longer than about 30 seconds without exceeding the highest level of perceived effort they can tolerate. Athletes are conscious of their effort in shorter races, of course, but because they know their suffering will end quickly they do not use this perception to control their pace, which is constrained only by their physical capacity. But when an athlete starts a race that he knows will last longer than 30 seconds, he holds back just enough that his perceived effort limit is not reached until he is at the finish line. That is the art of pacing.

What happens when an athlete tries to sustain a maximum intensity of exercise longer than 30 seconds? Anna Wittekind of the University of Essex answered this question in a 2009 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Nine subjects were asked to ride stationary bikes outfitted with power meters as hard as they could for 5 seconds, 15 seconds, 30 seconds, and 45 seconds on separate occasions. When she reviewed the results, Wittekind found that the subjects had generated slightly less power during the first 15 seconds of the 45-second test than they had in the 15-second test. In other words, they had not pedaled as hard as they could at the start of the longest test ride, even though they had been instructed to do so. Instead, they had unconsciously paced themselves.

Wittekind speculated that, on the basis of past experience, the subjects recognized that they could not sustain a true maximal effort for 45 seconds without exceeding their maximum tolerance for perceived effort, so they held back just a little without even realizing it. These results suggest that the limit of maximum perceived effort tolerance is so impenetrable that athletes are not psychologically capable of even trying to sustain a maximum exercise intensity longer than approximately 30 seconds.

The fact that pacing is required to maximize performance in all races lasting longer than half a minute has some interesting implications. A sprinter finishes every race knowing he went as fast as he could (technical errors notwithstanding). Longer races are different. Because it is necessary to hold back to some degree at almost every point in these races, it is impossible for the athlete to know upon finishing whether he might have gone faster — if only by a second or two — if he’d held back just a bit less somewhere along the way.

Many automobiles have a “range” feature that displays the number of miles the vehicle can travel before it runs out of gasoline. This number is not open to interpretation. If the range display says 29 miles, you’d better find a gas station within the next 29 miles. The mechanism of regulatory anticipation that athletes use to control their pace in races is different. It’s not a number but a feeling, and like all feelings it is open to interpretation. One of the most important and valuable coping skills in endurance sports is the ability to interpret the perceptions that influence pacing decisions in a performance-maximizing way. As an endurance athlete, you want to get better and better at reading these perceptions in such a way that your internal pacing mechanism functions more and more like an automobile’s range display. You want to be as correct as you can possibly be when determining the swiftest pace you can sustain to the finish line without exceeding your perceived effort tolerance.

Setting and pursuing time-based race goals is very helpful in the process of calibrating anticipatory regulation. This practice enables athletes to interpret their effort perceptions in a more performance-enhancing way by transforming the racing experience from an effort to go as fast as possible into an effort to go faster than ever before. Validation of this approach comes from a 1997 study done by researchers at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University and published in the Journal of Sports Science. High school students were subjected to a test of muscular endurance and then spent eight weeks training to increase their time to exhaustion. Some of the students were given a nonquantitative goal to “do their best.” Others were given a quantitative goal to better their performance in the initial test by a certain percentage. Even though all of the students did the same training, those who pursued quantitative goals improved their performance significantly more when the muscular endurance test was repeated after eight weeks.

More recently, a team of researchers led by Eric Allen of the University of California found that finish times in marathons tend to cluster near the round numbers (such as 4:30 and 4:00) that runners typically pursue as goals. This pattern would have carried little significance if Allen and his colleagues had not also noted that those runners who end up closest to these round numbers at the finish line slow down less than other runners in the final miles of a marathon — evidence that the pursuit of these round-number goals enhances performance. Regardless of how an athlete chooses to train, her training will yield greater improvement in race times if improving race times is the explicit goal of the training process.

Paying attention to the clock reduces the uncertainty associated with reaching beyond past limits and in this way facilitates effective pacing. While it may be impossible for an athlete who completes a race of a certain distance to know if he could have tried harder, it’s relatively easy for an athlete who completes a race of a certain distance in a certain time to aim to cover the next race of the same distance a second or two faster than he did the last time.

According to Samuele Marcora’s psychobiological model of endurance performance, the amount of effort that an athlete puts into a race is influenced by her perception of the attainability of her goal, a concept borrowed from Jack Brehm’s theory of motivational intensity. If the goal seems to fall out of reach at any point during the race, the athlete is likely to back off her effort. If the goal seems attainable, but only with increased effort, the athlete is likely to increase her effort, provided she’s not already at her limit. By keeping track of, and aiming to improve, personal best times for specific race distances, athletes can exploit this phenomenon to try harder than they would otherwise be able to. The goal of improving your time for a certain distance by 1 measly second almost always seems attainable. And if that goal is attainable, then the very slightly greater level of perceived effort that an athlete must endure to achieve it is likely to seem more endurable than it would seem if the athlete were going entirely by feel. It’s not the time goal itself that enhances performance but the effect that the goal has on how the athlete interprets her perception of effort.

Setting time-based goals that stretch you just beyond past limits is like setting a flag next to a bed of hot coals to mark the furthest point reached in your best fire walk. That flag says to you, “This is possible, and you know it. So why wouldn’t it be possible for you to make it just one step farther the next time?”

A real-world example of this process of using time-based goals to recalibrate perceived effort in a performance-enhancing way is South African runner Elana Meyer’s career progression at the half-marathon distance. In 1980, when she was 13 years old, Meyer took her first shot at 13.1 miles, winning the Foot of Africa half-marathon in a mind-boggling time of 1:27:10. Nine years later, Meyer made her professional debut at the same distance, running 1:09:26 in Durban. In 1991, she smashed the half-marathon world record in London, clocking 1:07:59. Between 1997 and 1999, Meyer broke the record thrice more, running 1:07:36, 1:07:29, and finally 1:06:44 in Tokyo at age 32.

Obviously, Meyer’s development as an athlete was responsible for much of this improvement. But her pursuit of time goals also played a role. It is interesting to note that her margins of improvement tended to get smaller as her career advanced. Her big leaps from 1:27 to 1:09 and from 1:09 to 1:07 were undoubtedly fueled principally by gains in fitness. Meyer probably wasn’t even thinking about her first half-marathon when she made her pro debut, so much stronger was she by then. But her last two world records were set on familiar courses on which she had already posted fast times, and in each of these cases she set out deliberately to run faster than ever before. It’s likely that Meyer was not any fitter at the 1999 Tokyo Half Marathon, where she ran 1:06:44, than she had been a year earlier in Kyoto, where she ran 1:07:29, but she had the crucial advantage of having run 1:07:29 already.

But wait: If Meyer was just as fit (not to mention a year younger) when she ran the slower time, then can it not be said that timekeeping held her back in the 1998 Kyoto Half Marathon, even as it pulled her beyond the world record of 1:07:36 she had set on the same course in 1997? There is indeed evidence that the influence of clock watching on endurance performance is two-sided. The same time goal that enhances performance when it is perceived as a target constrains performance when it is perceived as a limit.

The potential for time standards to become performance limiters is most apparent at the elite level of endurance sports. There have been many noteworthy cases in which a performance breakthrough by one athlete triggered a widespread revolution in performance and thereby revealed that previous standards had been holding the sport back. Between 1994 and 2008, for example, the women’s world record for triathlon’s Ironman distance was stuck at 8:50:53. Only seven women recorded times under 9 hours in that 14-year span. When Yvonne van Vlerken finally lowered the Ironman world record to 8:45:48 in July 2008, the floodgates were opened. Six other women dipped under the 9-hour barrier in the next few months. Van Vlerken’s mark lasted only one year, as did the subsequent record. By the end of the 2011 season, the Ironman world record for women stood at 8:18:13, and sub-8:50 performances had become commonplace. Was the new generation of female triathletes that much more talented than the previous one? No. These women just weren’t held back by a tendency to regard the time of 8:50:53 as an unsurpassable human limit.

In consideration of the two-sided nature of time’s effect on endurance performance, it is tempting to ask what sort of time goal would have the best possible effect on performance. Such a goal would need to seem reachable, but barely so. (Indeed, in the Ben-Gurion University study I mentioned above, students given a “difficult/realistic” goal improved more than those given either an “easy” goal or an “improbable/unattainable” goal.) This ideal goal would also need to be sufficiently well defined to pull the athlete beyond past limits, yet somehow vague enough that it did not place an artificial ceiling on the athlete’s performance.

LeMond’s situation at the start of stage 21 of the 1989 Tour de France met these requirements perfectly. LeMond had to beat Laurent Fignon’s time in the 24.5km time trial by 50 seconds. But Fignon would start behind him, so LeMond could not approach the race with a specific time in mind, such as the 27:30 clocking that Thierry Marie posted early in the day, which stood as the best time in the field when LeMond started his ride. Instead, LeMond knew only that he had to ride 50 seconds faster than the best time Fignon—one of the world’s best time trialists besides LeMond himself — could conceivably achieve on his best day.

LeMond told reporters before the race that he believed the task facing him lay at the very outer limits of the achievable. He was not certain that he could pull it off even if he gave more than he had ever given before on a day when he had more to give than ever before. Nor was he certain that he couldn’t. It is hard to imagine a goal construct that would have elicited a better performance from LeMond in the most important race of his life.

After lunch, LeMond checked out of the hotel and made his way toward the Palace of Versailles, a Vatican-like architectural colossus in front of which a comparatively flimsy temporary starting platform had been erected under a white canopy. A massive crowd had gathered there to witness the showdown between the two men at the top of the overall. Behind the start line was a small warm-up area. Within its narrow confines a handful of riders traced tight loops. LeMond joined them and soon met Fignon head on. LeMond averted his gaze. Despite this demurral, Fignon thought the American looked relaxed. In fact, LeMond was terrified, his stomach knotted with dread of the suffering he was about to inflict on himself.

At 4:12, Pedro Delgado, who stood 1:38 behind LeMond in the GC, rolled off the starting ramp and accelerated down the broad Avenue de Paris. It was now LeMond’s turn to mount the platform. Television cameras rolled as a silver-haired race official with black-framed glasses held LeMond’s bright red Bottechia time trial bike upright and a countdown was intoned over loudspeakers.

“Cinq … quatre … troix … deux … un … Allez!”

LeMond stood on the pedals and began a hard windup, his feet churning like the steel wheels of an accelerating locomotive. When he hit 100 revolutions per minute, he dropped his butt onto the saddle and settled his forearms into the aero bars. A pair of police motorcycles guided him down the runway-wide boulevard as a flotilla of vehicles, including a white Peugeot containing ADR team manager José de Cauwer, followed behind.

LeMond’s plan was simple: to ride just a bit faster than he ever had, holding back a little less than he had ever dared in similar circumstances. LeMond lowered his head and rode with his eyes cast straight downward, as though indifferent to where he was going, looking up only briefly every few seconds to check his line. His meaty quadriceps billowed with every downstroke.

LeMond was already more than a mile down the road toward the Parisian suburb of Viroflay when Fignon set off behind him. With his granny glasses and blond ponytail, he looked more like a high school drama teacher than a professional cyclist as he sprinted away from the starting gate. Fignon had been seen fiddling around with a set of triathlon bars earlier in the day, but he’d elected to leave them behind. His bike did have the advantage of being outfitted with two aerodynamic disk wheels, however, whereas LeMond, expecting more crosswinds than he actually would encounter on the course, had gone with spokes in the front.

Fignon felt strong and confident. He zipped through Viroflay and approached Chaville, the crowds thinning as he went. After he passed five kilometers, his team manager, Cyrille Guimard, shouted from the trailing car, his words captured by a nearby cameraman’s mic.

“Six secondes!” he called out. “Vous avez perdu six secondes!”

He had already lost 6 seconds to LeMond. Fignon turned his head and stared incredulously at Guimard. LeMond was not yet gaining the 2 seconds per kilometer he needed to overtake the Frenchman, but given how well Fignon himself was riding, he couldn’t believe the American was going that much faster.

Up the road, LeMond received the same news from José de Cauwer. Before the race, LeMond had asked Cauwer not to supply any such information, and he tersely reminded his manager of that wish now. For the remainder of the time trial, his mind would be focused entirely on the image of creating distance between himself and the man behind him, and on the only number that mattered: 50 seconds.

Passing through Sèvres, on the west bank of the River Seine, LeMond came to an overpass. He moved his hands to the outer bars and pedaled from a standing position to avoid losing speed as he climbed. If the policeman on a motorcycle cruising close behind him had checked his speed gauge at this moment, he would have seen the needle fixed at 54 kilometers per hour.

Minutes later, LeMond crossed the Pont de Sèvres, a bridge over the River Seine, at the far end of which he made a sharp right turn onto the Quai Georges Gorse, carving the corner with such bold precision that his right shoulder came within centimeters of clipping spectators leaning against a barrier on the inside of the turn.

At 11.5 kilometers, LeMond passed an official time check. His split of 12:08 was the fastest of the day by 20 seconds. Fignon reached the same point 2 minutes and 21 seconds later, having now lost 21 seconds to LeMond since the start. If Fignon continued to lose time at the same rate, he would complete the time trial 45 seconds slower than LeMond and would win the Tour de France by five seconds.

The Quai was as flat and straight as a drag strip. LeMond took full advantage, settling into a chugging rhythm that nudged his speed even higher. The drivers of any trailing cars with manual transmission would have been forced to shift into fourth gear to keep up.

As LeMond approached 14 kilometers, the Eiffel Tower rose into view ahead. Fignon’s deficit had risen to 24 seconds. LeMond still was not gaining time quite fast enough, but as hard as he was pushing himself, he still felt strong, whereas Fignon’s shoulders had begun to rock, a telltale sign of encroaching weariness. A clear difference in the relative speeds of the two men became apparent to cycling fans watching the battle on television at home. Every 10 or 15 seconds, the coverage jumped from Fignon to LeMond, and when it did, the passing scenery accelerated noticeably.

The last part of the course skirted the famous Jardin des Tuileries — Paris’s Central Park — and dumped riders onto the Champs-Élysées for the homestretch to the finish line. Tens of thousands of spectators lining the streets there erupted when LeMond came into view. (His French surname, French language skills, and all-American charm had won him many admirers in the Tour’s host nation.) He passed under a banner marking four kilometers to the finish line. His advantage was now 35 seconds. LeMond had stolen exactly two seconds per kilometer from Fignon over the last 6.5 kilometers; he would have to nearly double that rate of separation on the Champs-Élysées to win the Tour.

LeMond’s last best chance to gain that separation lay just ahead of him, at three kilometers to go, where a false flat rose gently from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. It wasn’t much of a hill by Tour standards, but to an exhausted rider — as Fignon was quickly becoming — it would feel like a Pyrenean switchback. LeMond attacked it hard, telling himself that his career depended on it. As he neared the top, his torso began to pump up and down like an oil horse. Any consideration of good form had gone out the window — all that mattered now was effort at any cost.

At the Arc de Triomphe, LeMond made a hairpin right turn and entered the final straight to the finish line. Moving down the same false flat he had just ascended, he hit 40 mph, approaching the motor vehicle speed limit on the Champs-Élysées. He passed under the 1-km banner. Over the race radio came word that LeMond still needed 10 seconds.

Ahead on the road, LeMond saw the rocking posterior of Pedro Delgado, who had started two minutes before him. LeMond felt a magnetic pull, and he used it to raise his effort level one more excruciating notch for the final drive to the finish line. He crossed at 26:57, beating the previous best time of the day by 33 seconds. LeMond hung his head like a recipient of bad news as he coasted to a stop. A moment earlier his legs had felt as though they were going to explode. Now they suddenly felt capable of going another 10 miles. Had he done enough?

The waiting began. LeMond dismounted and turned back toward the racecourse and the finish line clock, understanding that if it displayed the number 27:47 before Fignon finished, he had won the Tour de France. The anticipation was unbearable. When Fignon came into sight, LeMond reflexively shaded his eyes and looked away — but only briefly.

Fignon was shattered with fatigue, no longer able to hold a straight line and nearly drifting into a barrier of scaffolding at the outer edge of the 70-meter-wide road in his flailing efforts to drive his machine toward the line. The seconds ticked by with surreal slowness. But the magic number finally appeared, and when it did, Fignon was still 100 meters from the finish. He stopped the clock at 27:55. LeMond had won the Tour by eight seconds.

LeMond’s average speed for the 24.5km time trial was 33.89 mph — an all-time record for Tour de France time trials, by a long shot. And to this day, no Tour rider has ridden faster than LeMond except in shorter time trials undertaken on fresh legs on the first day of the race instead of the last.

It would seem that, in the right circumstances, an old-fashioned stopwatch — properly used — can affect endurance performance more powerfully than either the finest equipment or the most potent chemicals — not to mention lift an athlete to his finest hour even after his best days are behind him.

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Video: Col Collective rides Col d’Izoard (Guillestre) Tue, 06 Oct 2015 20:54:12 +0000

Ride the massive 30-kilometer ascent of the Col d'Izoard, which has featured in both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia.

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Editor’s Note: This video is courtesy of The Col Collective. 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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UCI announces 2016 pro team applicants Tue, 06 Oct 2015 19:48:21 +0000

Photo: Tim De Waele |

The UCI's list of WorldTeam and Pro Continental Team applicants provides a glimpse of what next year's pro peloton will look like.

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Photo: Tim De Waele |

The UCI announced Tuesday a list of teams applying for WorldTeam and Pro Continental status in 2016. Based on this preliminary list, we have a few glimpses of what next year’s peloton will look like, and so far, it should seem fairly familiar to cycling fans.

The number of WorldTeams remains at 17 — one short of the 18-team limit set by the UCI. None of these squads are seeing major sponsorship changes. There are only two notable updates: Both Cannondale and Tinkoff are dropping co-sponsors from their team titles. Those squads will no longer carry the Garmin and Saxo names, respectively. Cannondale team officials have confirmed that Garmin will remain involved with the team in the coming season.

The Pro Continental list sees a few fresh names in the mix. As previously reported, Direct Energie will take over as sponsor of the French outfit that previously flew the flag for Europcar. Fortuneo-Vital Concept takes over for Bretagne-Séché Environvement, also based in France. Dimension Data is another major player in the second division, and that sponsor takes over the MTN-Qhubeka squad. It remains to be seen if the South African team will keep its striking black-and-white stripes. Delko Marseille-Provence KTM is aiming to step up from the Continental to Pro Continental ranks. This French team formerly raced as Marseille 13-KTM. Similarly, Swiss team Roth-Skoda is applying to upgrade to the second tier. Tharcor is also a new name among the Pro Continental teams. Manager Angelo Citracca confirmed that it is the name of a management company which will take over Team Southeast, which has been plagued by numerous doping scandals in recent years.

UCI WorldTeam applicants

Ag2r La Mondiale
BMC Racing
IAM Cycling
Team Sky
Trek Factory Racing
Cannondale Pro Cycling

UCI Professional Continental Team applicants

Bora-Argon 18
Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
CCC Sprandi Polkowice
Cult Energy-Stolting Group
Delko Marseille Provence KTM
Direct Energie
Dimension Data
Fortuneo-Vital Concept
Nippo-Vini Fantini
Novo Nordisk
Roompot Oranje Peloton
Topsort Vlaanderen-Baloise
Wanty-Group Gobert

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Video: Top-10 weirdest mountain bikes ever Tue, 06 Oct 2015 18:54:45 +0000

Global Mountain Bike Network digs up 10 of the weirdest, ugliest mountain bike frame designs every seen on dirt.

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Editor’s Note: This video is courtesy of Global Mountain Bike 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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Peter Sagan’s world champion Specialized S-Works Tarmac Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:56:01 +0000

Sagan's world champion bike shows off the champ's panache and style. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

Specialized unveils the special world champion edition S-Works Tarmac that Peter Sagan will ride in the Abu Dhabi Tour and next season.

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Sagan's world champion bike shows off the champ's panache and style. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

Attacking over the penultimate climb and charging through the final corners, Peter Sagan held off the peloton to win the 2015 UCI World Road Championships in Richmond, Virginia this September. To celebrate the Slovak’s performance and his upcoming year in the rainbow jersey, Specialized created a custom bike for Sagan.

His S-Works Tarmac’s new paint job showcases the rainbow colors, camouflage, and includes a gold head badge. The design also features the names of all of the previous world champions on the down tube. Finally, the paint includes elements of Slovakia’s flag as a nod to Sagan’s nationality and heritage.

“I didn’t want to be creatively limited by adhering rigidly to the traditional rainbow stripes, so avoiding them was a definite design choice for me,” explained Ron Jones, lead road designer at Specialized. “I choose a black and rainbow base over a more traditional white, and my goal was for this to be disruptive — kind of like Sagan’s personality and style is.”

After viewing the custom bike for the first time, Peter Sagan said, “I really like this bike. I am really satisfied to able to ride it next year together with the rainbow jersey. I’ll have a lot of responsibilities, but I am ready for the challenge.”

Sagan will debut his bike and rainbow jersey at the Abu Dhabi Tour, which starts Thursday.

Lizzy Armitstead, winner of the 2015 women’s worlds road race, will also received a custom Specialized paint scheme to ride along with her rainbow stripes next year. The women’s season is already over, so Armitstead will receive her special bike in the next couple of months, according to Specialized.

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Giro organizers hope diverse 2016 route will entice top riders Tue, 06 Oct 2015 14:00:37 +0000

Former Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali (left) might not compete in the 2016 race. Ivan Basso (center) is retired and Alberto Contador is expected to race the Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Giro d'Italia organizers unveiled the 2016 route Monday, and they're hoping the diverse stage lineup will attract top riders.

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Former Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali (left) might not compete in the 2016 race. Ivan Basso (center) is retired and Alberto Contador is expected to race the Tour de France. Photo: Tim De Waele |

MILAN (AFP) — The allure of the Tour de France yellow jersey cast its glow over the Giro d’Italia as organizers unveiled the 2016 route Monday in the presence of champions they desperately hope will be competing.

Starting in Apeldoorn, Netherlands on May 6, the 99th edition of the three-week race has something for everyone, with three individual time trials, a handful of sprinters’ stages, and enough mountain climbing to keep the suspense going until the penultimate stage before the race finishes in Turin on May 29.

But there’s a caveat for fans expecting fireworks in the Dolomites and Italian Alps: Alberto Contador won’t defend his title, 2013 champion Vincenzo Nibali is still unsure, and the course is unlikely to entice another potential candidate in Great Britain’s current Tour champion Chris Froome.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Contador, who failed in his attempt for a rare Tour-Giro double earlier this year, will retire at the end of 2016 — a year in which he is expected to aim for a third Tour triumph.

Astana leader Nibali has not raced the Giro since his impressive triumph in the snow-hit edition in 2013. And although the Italian gave an indication Monday that next year’s race could tempt him to return, he is expected to attempt to win the Tour de France for a second time following his 2014 victory.

Standing atop the most prestigious podium in the sport in July is a feat Froome has also experienced twice — in 2013 and ending Contador’s hopes earlier this year.

A duel between the Kenyan-born Briton, who says he is staunchly against doping, and the Spaniard, who served a two-year ban for taking clenbuterol, would be a tasty appetizer before the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

They are likely to be joined in focusing uniquely on the Tour by Colombian climbing specialist Nairo Quintana, the diminutive Movistar rider who won the 2014 Giro and, now with two runner-up places at the Tour de France (2013, 2015), is edging closer to that top step of the podium on the Champs-Élysées.

Giro organizers went to great efforts, highlighting the race’s growing international appeal and success as they unveiled the route to hundreds of onlookers at the Milan World Expo.

But in the coming months, they could be pleading with the leading UCI WorldTeams to urge their top riders to take part.

‘Attraction of Tour’

Giro race director Mauro Vegni admitted the race for the pink jersey still plays second fiddle to the race for the fabled yellow one.

“I’d like all the top riders to race here but that’s the attraction of the Tour,” he said. “I hope we’ve done enough with this route to offer some of them, and others, an alternative because only one of them is going to win the Tour.”

Vegni confirmed “Contador said he’s not racing” because of his Tour ambition.

And while Nibali admitted, “It looks like an intense edition. I like it,” the Astana rider, fresh from winning his maiden Il Lombardia on Sunday, added, “it’s still too early to make a decision yet.”

Held over 21 stages from May 6-29, next year’s Giro totals 3,383 kilometers and features six mountaintop or uphill finishes and four days in the thin air of the high mountains.

After the opening time trial of 9.8km in Apeldoorn and two further, flat stages in the Netherlands, the peloton transfers to the “sole” of the Italian peninsula, where the race resumes on stage 4 at Catanzaro.

The first foray into the high mountains comes on stage 14, a 210km route from Alpago to Corvara — one of three stages on the race given a five-star difficulty rating.

The next day’s stage, a 10.8km uphill time trial from Castelrotto to Alpe di Siusi, has an average gradient of 8.3 percent.

A further three days will be spent in the high mountains, on stages 16, 19, and 20, taking in trips across the border to neighboring France, which hosts the summit finish of stage 19 in Risoul.

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Charlie Cunningham recovering from head injury Tue, 06 Oct 2015 13:57:53 +0000 Mountain bike pioneer Charlie Cunningham suffers a severe head injury and is recovering in a hospital after brain surgery.

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Mountain bike pioneer Charlie Cunningham is slowly recovering from emergency brain surgery after suffering a subdural hematoma due to a bicycle crash in August.

Cunningham, of Fairfax, California, is recovering from the injury in a hospital and undergoing therapy to regain his ability to perform basic tasks like walk, talk, and eat. Friends and family are raising money to help him with his medical expenses and the cost of rehabilitation.

He was inducted to the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1988 — a charter inductee. Cunningham began building bikes in 1977 using aluminum rather than steel, which was far more common at the time. He also co-founded Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB) with Steve Potts and Mark Slate.

Cunningham’s Go Fund Me page >>

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Reviewed: Cannondale SuperX Hi-Mod CX1 Tue, 06 Oct 2015 12:58:57 +0000

At this price, the SuperX is an exceptional value. It's race-ready, though some of the component specs might not make sense for some racers. Photo: Dan Cavallari | VeloNews

Cannondale's SuperX Hi-Mod has a great frame design for 'cross racing, but a few of its kit choices left us scratching our heads.

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At this price, the SuperX is an exceptional value. It's race-ready, though some of the component specs might not make sense for some racers. Photo: Dan Cavallari | VeloNews

MSRP: $5,330
Weight: 16.93 pounds (54cm)
We like: Frame design is spot-on, lightweight, more competitively priced than other high-end CX race options.
We don’t like: Quick-releases seem dated on a modern ‘cross bike, short-cage rear derailleur limits cassette choices, flexy wheels.

Cannondale has been hitting it out of the park in 2015, specifically with the release of the new SuperSix Evo road bike and its XC hardtail, the F-Si (tested in the September issue of Velo). Both bikes are fast, light, and innovative in their own ways, so we had high expectations for the SuperX Hi-Mod cyclocross bike.

Indeed, the SuperX has many of the same features that make the SuperSix Evo great, like “BallisTec” carbon and shaped tubes that Cannondale calls “Speed Save.” These features are intended to combine compliance, stiffness, and strength throughout the frame. The tube shaping in particular has done much to help Cannondale tailor the ride feel of its bikes, and if the SuperSix Evo is any indication, the SuperX should follow suit with a comfortable ride that doesn’t sacrifice the lateral stiffness that’s so important on the cyclocross course.

We tested the SuperX briefly in rural New York this past August at the team training camp, but it wasn’t enough for us to really get a sense of the bike, so we had one shipped to us in Boulder, Colorado so we could put it through its paces at Valmont Bike Park, site of the 2014 cyclocross national championships. It was here we discovered what makes the SuperX a worthy addition to Cannondale’s line of light and fast bikes — as well as some of its curious weaknesses.

Light, tight, and right

Cannondale has made much of its BallisTec carbon, touting it as some of the lightest and strongest frame tubing out there. It’s hard to argue with that; the SuperX frame and fork combine for a feathery 1,500 grams, for which your shoulder will thank you on the run-ups. The light frame and smart tube shaping lend themselves to an excellent ride feel: Dive hard into a corner, launch out of it, and the SuperX is right there with you. That sort of confident handling means the frame combines the right amount of flex for compliance and stiffness for power transfer.

Cannondale thinned out the seat tube in places to allow for some flex, yet the bottom bracket itself is fairly stout for when you stomp on the pedals. Similarly, the seat stays and chain stays feature custom shaping. The top tube tapers, too, as it meets the seat tube, which not only continues the ride-tailoring for stiffness and compliance, but also provides a flat, even place for shouldering the bike on run-ups.

The frame and fork never feel harsh, either. That’s surprising given how well the bike seems to track through turns — likely thanks to its stiff bottom bracket and head tube. Though the SuperX never went to our lab for stiffness testing, its confident handling was noticeable on the dirt.

Behind the curve

With all the attention Cannondale paid to the frame, there are a few curious features. First and foremost, what’s up with the decision to stick with quick-releases? Cannondale is definitely off the back on this one, as just about every other major player has made the switch to thru-axles on cyclocross bikes. According to Cannondale’s representatives, the company uses the quick-release system because it combines light weight, simplicity of use, and solid performance, though future inclusion of thru-axles wasn’t ruled out. But there is one solid reason to switch to thru-axles even if the axles themselves don’t do much to improve performance: Boost 148 only comes in a thru-axle option, and in our experience, Boost works.

In fact, if the Cannondale was sporting Boost, the Stan’s Grail Team tubeless wheels might have felt less flexy. A wider hub spacing provides a more stable platform laterally, and tall wheels like 700c and 29ers really benefit from Boost. Serious racers would upgrade these wheels for race day anyway, but for budget-conscious racers who don’t have the coin for a set of Zipp 303s, the non-Boost Grails will be disappointing.

Those weren’t the only curious build decisions. The short-cage rear derailleur also felt out of place. We’re a fan of 1X drivetrains, but with a short-cage rear derailleur, cassette gearing options are limited; a medium-cage derailleur would allow racers to run a range wider than the included 11-28 cassette, a near-necessity on courses with a fair bit of climbing. An extended-range cassette or cog upgrade to a 40-tooth? Out of the question with a short-cage rear derailleur.

The crankset includes a 40-tooth chainring, so with a low-end gearing of 40-28, you might find yourself running some of the steeps that others are riding. Usually we’d say just run 2x if you need more range, but the Cannondale doesn’t come with a front shifter, adding more dollars to a potential upgrade.

To be fair, Cannondale isn’t the only bike manufacturer out there that’s using a short-cage rear derailleur on 1X setups, but for versatility without adding a double up front, a medium-cage derailleur just makes sense.

The build decisions Cannondale made tend to make the bike somewhat out of place in real race situations. That said, while $5,000 is expensive, when compared to other race bikes in this weight category like the Felt F1X (16.7 pounds) or the Santa Cruz Stigmata (16.7 pounds), the SuperX comes in between $1,600 and $2,000 less expensive than those competitors, making for a decent bargain. Racers might have room left in their wallets for a few key upgrades, particularly to the rear derailleur and wheels.

Overall, Cannondale has added a very good bike to its ever-improving lineup, but with a few tweaks, the SuperX would be an excellent addition, not just a very good one. They’ve nailed frame design; now, a smarter build and thru-axles should be on the list.

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Dumoulin to plan 2016 season around Olympic time trial Tue, 06 Oct 2015 12:36:52 +0000

Tom Dumoulin is looking forward to racing in Dutch colors next summer in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

The Dutch rider says his 2016 season will revolve around the time trial at the Olympics, not competing for GC in a grand tour.

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Tom Dumoulin is looking forward to racing in Dutch colors next summer in Rio de Janeiro. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (VN) — Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, despite nearly winning the Vuelta a España, would forgo racing for classification in a grand tour to try winning a gold medal in the Olympic time trial for his country in 2016.

He and team Giant-Alpecin will decide this winter what path Dumoulin will take to arrive to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympic time trial, scheduled for August 10 next summer. The path may not include leading the team in a grand tour, even if he performed well in the 2015 Vuelta.

“I am not sure [about racing for the classification at a grand tour] yet,” Dumoulin said. “It has to fit into my program for Rio. Rio is the main focus, for sure, you shouldn’t have too many goals.”

The 24-year-old began the Vuelta mostly noted for his time trial abilities. However, it became evident early that his climbing had improved drastically after finishing second in a stage behind Esteban Chaves of Orica-GreenEdge and winning a stage ahead of Sky’s Chris Froome.

Despite his newfound climbing legs, Dumoulin still motored to the time trial stage win in Burgos in the third week of the race. The win put him in the red leader’s jersey, which he only lost on the final mountain day.

Fabio Aru of Astana eventually cracked him, seeing him slip from first to sixth overall.

Instead of switching fully to grand tours, however, Dumoulin wants to keep his focus on Rio in 2016. In a sense, he is putting nation before team because at the Olympics, cyclists race in their home colors without their trade team sponsors’ markings on their clothes or bikes.

This has caused problems for some. Etixx-Quick-Step boss Patrick Lefevere said he did not want Mark Cavendish to skip normal races in order to focus on an event where he is wearing a British kit and riding a blacked-out bike.

“The team and sponsors are willing to work with me to be 100 percent at the Olympics,” Dumoulin explained.

“We haven’t talked about it, but I cannot imagine that they have other ideas. Of course, if someone gets a gold medal, me or whoever, you are Olympic champion for the rest of your life. That’s interesting for a team, it’s a big publicity thing.”

Dumoulin said Giant, which races with a German license, is not pressuring him to race for the overall in a grand tour.

“That’s not how it is so far,” he added. “We will have to speak about it this winter, but I can’t imagine that suddenly it will all change and suddenly the team goes with the flow. We just have to think clearly, and objectively about it, and we’ll make a good plan.”

Rival grand tour cyclists have already seen enough to believe Dumoulin should immediately give grand tours more attention.

“He already showed to be strong at the Vuelta,” Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali said of Dumoulin. “We don’t know how much more he can improve, but he’s already shown a lot. For sure, he can be a rival in the future.”

Alberto Contador of Tinkoff-Saxo, cycling’s most successful current grand tour rider, said the 2016 Giro d’Italia, presented Monday in Milan, and its three time trials adding up to nearly 60 kilometers would be perfect for Dumoulin.

“In the Vuelta he was very strong, incredible, even if his team wasn’t ready,” Contador said. “This Giro would be very good for him, there are two very good time trials, the first and also the second one. If he’s at the same level as the last Vuelta, then he has a big option to win.”

However, for now, Dumoulin says the only win that matters is the one in Rio.

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Gallery: 2015 l’Eroica Gaiole vintage bike event Mon, 05 Oct 2015 18:08:05 +0000

Classic Italian event showcases vintage bicycles and beautiful Tuscan countryside with rugged gravel roads.

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UCI WorldTour points championship — what does it mean? Mon, 05 Oct 2015 17:31:22 +0000

Alejandro Valverde sprinted to fourth in Il Lombardia and clinched another WorldTour points title, but who was keeping track of those points? Photo: Tim De Waele |

Alejandro Valverde won another WorldTour points championship title on Sunday, but did anyone really care?

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Alejandro Valverde sprinted to fourth in Il Lombardia and clinched another WorldTour points title, but who was keeping track of those points? Photo: Tim De Waele |

Every year at about this time, the same question always comes up: Does the UCI WorldTour points championship really mean anything?

Once again, veteran Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde clinched the individual title, with Joaquim Rodríguez, Nairo Quintana, Alexander Kristoff, and Fabio Aru rounding out the top five. Remarkably, Valverde and his countryman Rodríguez, have combined to win this title five out of the six years since the WorldTour began.

While both men are consistently top riders, and are widely acknowledged as among the strongest and smartest racers in the peloton, some question if they are the absolute best in the world. Alberto Contador — multiple grand tour victor, often considered the best stage racer of this generation — has never won the points championship. Chris Froome — winner of two of the last three Tours de France — hasn’t won it either.

Although well-intended, the WorldTour points championship has really never caught on with the public for several reasons. The scoring system and rationale is not easy to understand. For example, why isn’t the rider who won the most races (Kristoff) the champion? Why aren’t the winners of the big grand tours (Contador, Froome, Aru) ranked more highly? Winning in pro cycling is a game of inches — often literally. It’s possible that a rider ends up with half the points of his archrival, even though he was only a wheel-width from winning. Is that fair? And finally, some ask, “How can this be a real championship if the outcome is known before the season is even finished?”

Several ideas have been proposed to make the point system more equitable and more reflective of the true nature of the sport. The UCI could “flatten out” the points so they aren’t as focused on the winner or top finishers. It could rebalance the relative importance of races, so that points better reflect the historical or financial significance of races. Maybe it could award extra points to the individual jersey winners in tours? Or to all the riders on the winner’s team? What about the more subtle, strategic aspects of the race — how about some “domestique of the day” points?

But none of those changes would remove the controversy. In fact, they could make it worse. The other ranking models, developed by stat sites like Cycling Quotient and ProCyclingStats, utilize more complex algorithms, and they still suffer from the same qualitative weaknesses and arbitrary judgments. And at some point, more analytical detail runs into the law of diminishing returns — a fancier system won’t have much appeal if it is inscrutable.

Plus, all these systems tend to come up with the more or less the same answer anyway: Valverde leads in all three major ranking systems.

The real problem with the points system occurred a few years ago, when it was used to determine which teams did or did not qualify for a WorldTour license. Fortunately, with a smaller pool of top pro teams at the moment, this is not a problem. The point-buying schemes, controversial rider transfer shenanigans, and irrational teamwork disincentives (see “What’s the Point?” in the July 2013 issue of Velo magazine) have lessened. But the UCI does need to ensure that it finds another more logical and less disruptive way to measure “sporting criteria,” so that these problems don’t reoccur, should the pool of teams increase again in the future.

At the end of the day, the points system basically works as intended — a simplified measure for fans to track the best all-round, most consistent day-to-day and season-long GC rider. Not necessarily the strongest, the fastest, the most popular, or the winner of the biggest races — just the most consistent. And let’s face it; at the end of the day, cycling just doesn’t lend itself to the sort of clear-cut quantitative analysis that other sports like baseball or basketball do.

There will never be a single best rider, best climber, or best domestique. Instead, in every race, cycling presents a rich and diverse fabric of differing physical strengths and mental skills. There are many different kinds of winners, and that is part of the allure and magnificence of the sport.

Steve Maxwell is a business consultant, writer, and cyclist in Boulder, Colorado. He is a frequent contributor to VeloNews, and is also the co-editor of, which publishes detailed analyses of structural, economic, and governance issues in pro cycling. Follow him on twitter @theouterline.

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Gallery: 2015 Superprestige Gieten Mon, 05 Oct 2015 16:39:12 +0000

Wout Van Aert had no trouble winning a sandy opener to the 2015-16 Superprestige cyclocross season.

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Ivan Basso, 37, retires from pro cycling Mon, 05 Oct 2015 15:09:25 +0000

Ivan Basso has decided to end his professional cycling career. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The 37-year-old Italian, who underwent cancer surgery in July, will remain with Tinkoff-Saxo in a management role.

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Ivan Basso has decided to end his professional cycling career. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Two-time Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Basso retired from professional racing on Monday, saying his light as a top-level cyclist is “dimming.”

The 37-year-old Basso, who underwent successful surgery in July after being diagnosed with testicular cancer during the Tour de France, made the announcement Monday during the Giro d’Italia 2016 route unveiling at the Milan World Expo.

“Every athlete knows that his light will not shine bright throughout his career,” said Basso, who won the Giro in 2006 and 2010. “Inevitably, at some stage it will start dimming and it’s the sign of a wise athlete to know when the moment has come to turn it off.”

Basso first turned professional in 1999 with Riso Scotti, and, after stints with Fassa Bortolo and Team CSC, later rode with Lance Armstrong on the Discovery Channel squad in 2007. He then rode for the Liquigas/Cannondale franchise from 2008-2014 before signing with Tinkoff-Saxo for 2015.

According to a Tinkoff press release, Basso will remain with the team in a “newly-created position in the team that will combine managerial and technical aspects.”

“I don’t regret putting an end to my racing career,” Basso said. “Cycling is a passion that runs in my family and I feel extremely lucky I have a team that believes in me and gives me this opportunity to start this new endeavor without practically stopping.

“I look forward to working closely with the team management, its sport directors and all the riders. I’d like to also thank the owner of the team, Oleg Tinkov, who makes all this possible driven by his profound passion for the sport of cycling.”

Basso teetered on pulling the plug on his career over the last year, but a new weight was added to that decision after his cancer treatment.

After what many considered a drawn-out Giro 2016 presentation at Milan’s EXPO 2015 Monday, organizer RCS Sport pulled on stage one of Italy’s favorites. It awarded him a plaque from his last Giro win, but failed to underline the “Smiling Assassin” was bowing out. Basso, too, did not put it into clear words.

“It was wrongly reported that I’d be going to the Japan criterium that ASO is putting on,” Basso said. “This is it, it’s over.”

Basso last raced the Tour de France. After noticing something was wrong following a stage 5 crash and a doctor’s check, he pulled out on the first rest day in Pau.

Basso came back from a doping ban for transfusing his blood with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes to win his second title at the Giro, but could not find the needed energy to come back from cancer treatment.

“It’s a special day for me, but it came naturally for me because it’s been really difficult in the last period,” Basso added.

“I rode, trying to do what I needed to do, but many times, I wasn’t comfortable or where I needed to be – that is not good enough. I don’t want to ride just to ride my bike.”

Basso walked off stage with a Tinkoff-Saxo team helper in a grey and black top. Changing out that neon yellow racing kit, he too will wear such colors in 2016 helping his former teammates.

“It’s important to finish my career in the right moment. I want to finish my career with energy, because I need my energy for my family and for my work in cycling because I’m stopping, but I’m starting straight away,” he said.

“In this period, we will work to find a good [role in Tinkoff], just to start and know what I’m good at doing to help cycling and my team.”

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Gallery: 2015 KMC Cyclocross Festival, day two Mon, 05 Oct 2015 15:01:35 +0000

Conditions dried out for Sunday's second day of racing in Providence, as Stephen Hyde and Katerina Nash rode to victory.

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Gallery: 2015 Il Lombardia Mon, 05 Oct 2015 14:32:47 +0000

Vincenzo Nibali's bold attack and daring descent on the Civiglio earns him his first-career monument victory in Italy.

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Time trial-heavy 2016 Giro route unveiled in Milan Mon, 05 Oct 2015 14:04:45 +0000

Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali, Ivan Basso, Alberto Contador, and Peter Sagan were on hand for the unveiling of the 2016 Giro d'Italia route. Photo: ANSA/​CLAUDIO PERI

Organizer RCS Sport announces the course at the Milan World Expo Monday, and it includes three time trials.

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Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali, Ivan Basso, Alberto Contador, and Peter Sagan were on hand for the unveiling of the 2016 Giro d'Italia route. Photo: ANSA/​CLAUDIO PERI

MILAN (AFP) — Organizers revealed three time trials in the 2016 edition of the Giro d’Italia, which was announced at the Milan World Expo on Monday.

Apart from the 9.8-kilometer stage 1 race against the clock in Apeldoorn, Netherlands — which had already been announced in June — there will be two others during the three-week race starting on May 6.

The main one will be on the May 15 ninth stage around Chianti, a 40.4km solo effort.

But before the end of the race in Turin on May 29, there will be a 10.8km mountain time trial a week earlier in the 15th stage from Castelrotto to Alpe di Siusi.

Alberto Contador of Tinkoff-Saxo won the 2015 Giro ahead of Astana duo Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa.

2016 Giro d’Italia

May 6: Stage 1 — Apeldoorn (Netherlands) time trial, 9.8km
May 7: Stage 2 — Arnhem (Netherlands) to Nijmegen, 190km
May 8: Stage 3 — Nijmegen to Arnhem, 189km
May 9: Rest day at Catanzaro
May 10: Stage 4 — Catanzaro to Praia a Mare, 191km
May 11: Stage 5 — Praia a Mare to Benevent, 233km
May 12: Stage 6 — Ponte to Roccaraso, 165km
May 13: Stage 7 — Sulmona to Foligno, 210km
May 14: Stage 8 — Foligno to Arezzo, 169km
May 15: Stage 9 — Radda in Chianti to Greve in Chianti time trial, 40.4km
May 16: Rest day at Campi Bisenzio
May 17: Stage 10 — Campi Bisenzio to Sestola, 216km
May 18: Stage 11 — Modena to Asolo, 212km
May 19: Stage 12 — Noale to Bibione, 168km
May 20: Stage 13 — Palmanova to Cividale del Friuli, 161km
May 21: Stage 14 — Alpago to Corvara, 210km
May 22: Stage 15 — Castelrotto to Alpe di Siusi time trial, 10.8km
May 23: Rest day at Bressanone
May 24: Stage 16 — Bressanone to Andalo, 133km
May 25: Stage 17 — Molveno to Cassano d’Adda, 196km
May 26: Stage 18 — Muggio to Pinerolo, 234km
May 27: Stage 19 — Pinerolo to Risoul (France), 161km
May 28: Stage 20 — Guillestre (France) to Sant’Anna di Vinadio, 134km
May 29: Stage 21 — Cuneo to Turin, 150km

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A Case for Suffering: Amateur hour Mon, 05 Oct 2015 13:45:59 +0000

For Chris Case, the hour proved the perfect way to test the potential of man and machine — and the fastest way to hurt like never before.

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Kittel leaves Giant, replaces Cavendish on Etixx roster Mon, 05 Oct 2015 13:06:34 +0000

Marcel Kittel and his famous blond hair will ride for Etixx-Quick-Step next season. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The German was able to work out a deal with current team Giant-Alpecin to sever his contract early.

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Marcel Kittel and his famous blond hair will ride for Etixx-Quick-Step next season. Photo: Tim De Waele |

MILAN (VN) — One super sprinter out, another in. Belgian team Etixx-Quick-Step has officially replaced Brit Mark Cavendish, who joined Dimension Data last week, with German Marcel Kittel.

The tall blond, who won four stages and wore the yellow jersey in both of the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Tour de France, has jumped from Giant-Alpecin to Etixx, it was announced Monday morning.

The writing had been on the wall as far back as when the German UCI WorldTeam left Kittel off its 2015 Tour de France roster following an early season slowed by a virus. It became official Monday via an Etixx press release announcing a two-year deal that starts in 2016.

“In the last years he showed incredible pure speed, which makes him one of the best sprinters in the history of the sport,” Etixx general manager Patrick Lefevere said in the release.

“As a team we will do our best to put him in the right condition, building a group of riders around him. He showed his potential in just a few years time, with dominating performances among his palmarès. We are sure that, together, we can achieve more big goals, and that we have yet to see the best of Marcel Kittel.”

And with the 27-year-old Kittel, Lefevere has his “Cav” killer.

Cavendish won 26 Tour stages over the last eight years, but he has showed signs that he may be weakening, with fewer wins in the last two seasons. After a long delay to announce his new team, Cavendish signed with MTN-Qhubeka last week, which will race as Dimension Data in 2016.

Cavendish gave Etixx 34 wins over the last three years, but Kittel will be the next super sprinter the squad relies on for victories. He could do so in head-to-head matchups with Cavendish, keeping Lefevere on top and delivering a double-blow to his outgoing star.

They could race against each other as early as February at the the Tour of Qatar. Kittel did not speak directly about racing against Cavendish, but he did address starting a “new chapter.”

“I want to thank the team for the faith they’ve put in me, and that they will support me in this new chapter of my career,” said Kittel, who worked out a deal with Giant to break his contract in order to defect to Etixx.

“This team has one of the best, well organized structures around its riders. I can continue to develop and improve.”

Financial details about Kittel’s contact were not disclosed.

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Nibali may be only ‘big’ to race 2016 Giro Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:52:46 +0000

Vincenzo Nibali had something to celebrate on Sunday (victory in Il Lombardia) and may be looking forward to racing his national tour in 2016. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Vincenzo Nibali, star of the show at Il Lombardia, will take the spotlight at the Giro 2016 announcement too

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Vincenzo Nibali had something to celebrate on Sunday (victory in Il Lombardia) and may be looking forward to racing his national tour in 2016. Photo: Tim De Waele |

COMO, Italy (VN) — After Il Lombardia’s barriers and podium were packed Sunday in Como, organizer RCS Sport turned its attention to Monday’s 2016 Giro d’Italia presentation in Milan. Its star for the show, and likely for the grand tour May 6-29, will be Vincenzo Nibali.
Those following the situation closely in Italy say there is an 80 percent chance that Nibali, who won the Giro in 2013 and the Tour de France the next year, will lead Astana in Italy while teammate Fabio Aru — whose say in the team is growing with a contract that runs through 2017 and a Vuelta a España win under his belt — should headline the Tour team.

Speaking this week at the Tre Valle Varesine, which he won solo by eight seconds, Nibali said: “I’d like to race the Giro d’Italia, but the team has to decide.”
VeloNews understands that the decision will come mid-November when the Kazakh squad meets for its 2016 camp in Montecatini Terme.
If Nibali were to race the Giro, he would be the only one of the “bigs” to do so. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and Chris Froome (Sky) are likely to steer a direct course for the Tour de France.
Nibali’s presence would be a coup for the organizer after the 30-year-old Sicilian skipped the last two seasons to focus on the Tour.
Other stars are racing, but they shine less brightly than the four mentioned above. Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) could attend the first half, which includes a long time trial through Chianti. Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), third in the 2014 Tour, and Spaniard Mikel Landa, who is switching to Sky after placing third in the 2015 Giro with Astana, should also be on the start line in the Netherlands on May 6.
Nibali has had a rollercoaster month, with wins in the Coppa Bernocchi and Tre Valle Varesine, an ill-timed puncture at the world road championships, and a victory in Sunday’s ”Race of the Falling Leaves,” Il Lombardia.

But the summer is not that far behind him.
Though Nibali managed a Tour stage win, to the ski resort of La Toussuire, his season was largely viewed as a flop. Nibali largely flew under the radar through the first half of 2015 and at the Vuelta, in search of some redemption, sunk lower. The jury caught Nibali cheating, holding on to the team car to accelerate from a chase group, and ejected him after only two days of racing.
Nibali was said to be on the verge of breaking his 4 million-euro contract with Astana a year early this season. Instead, he and the team had some peace talks to sort out their problems. And now, he’s eager to put 2015 behind him and prepare for 2016.
“I’m going to restart my season on the 16th or 17th of November,” Nibali told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
“Mistakes to avoid? First, even if my fans don’t like it, I won’t have an end-of-year party this year. It takes way too much energy. Last year, I traveled around too much.”
For now, just one trip remains — to this week’s four-stage Tour of Abu Dhabi, which will mark the end of the season for the Shark of Messina.

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Marked on the climbs, Nibali gets inventive on descent Sun, 04 Oct 2015 17:22:44 +0000

Vincenzo Nibali's capacity for what the Italians call "grinta" was on full display on Sunday in Il Lombardia. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The Italians call it "grinta," and Vincenzo Nibali had it in spades on Sunday, dive-bombing a descent to win Il Lombardia

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Vincenzo Nibali's capacity for what the Italians call "grinta" was on full display on Sunday in Il Lombardia. Photo: Tim De Waele |

COMO, Italy (VN) — Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) underscored his status as one of cycling’s greats in Il Lombardia on Sunday. Along the lakeside in Como, not only did he win his first monument, he surpassed his grand-tour rivals.
Nibali is considered one of the four “bigs” in grand tours with Chris Froome (Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). However, he is the only one to perform so well in one-day monuments, and after Sunday, with a solo attack and ride from the penultimate climb 17.3 kilometers out, he is the only one of the four to win one.
Nibali broke away on the Civiglio climb, flew like a bird set free from its cage on the descent, and defended himself over the San Fermo della Battaglia climb and on to the finish line near Como’s main square.
“I’ve had this capacity for some time, but I’ve not been able to pull off the win,” Nibali said in a boat that organizer RCS Sport used as a pressroom.
“Racing to win grand tours, you lose some of that explosiveness needed for one-day races. In one-day races like this and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, though, you can use your climbing experience and try to win.”
Besides the win in Como, Nibali placed third in Milano-Sanremo and second in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège monuments.
The last grand-tour cyclist to claim a one-day monument was Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck, who counts wins in both the Tour de France and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Nibali is one of only six cyclists to win in all three grand tours, the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and Vuelta a España. The short list includes Contador, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault.
The win rounds out his palmarès nicely.
It showed that while the 2015 season did not go as he planned, with a fourth place in the Tour and a disqualification in the Vuelta, he is one of the gutsiest cyclists in the peloton. The Italians call it “grinta,” and it was on display in the last kilometers with his Civiglio attacks and torrential pace down the backside.
“Was it risky? No, no, maybe just one moment with the motorbike that I came upon, that was it. For the rest, I was in control, I felt fluid, measuring up every trajectory, and trying to take time in every curve,” Nibali said.
“That’s what I had to do because everyone was watching me on the climb and we had equal power in our legs, so I tried to invent something on the descent that would win me the race. Am I better than Peter Sagan? I don’t know, but I can tell you that he’s crazier.”
Nibali also closed a long dry period for Italian cycling in the five sacred one-day monuments. Not since Damiano Cunego, in the 2008 edition of Il Lombardia, had a cyclist from what many consider the greatest cycling nation won a monument.
He will next turn his attention to grand tours. He will attend the 2016 Giro d’Italia presentation on Monday in Milan, a race he is expected to focus on in the following season.

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