VeloNews.com http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Fri, 03 Jul 2015 17:16:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 Froome behind Tour rivals, says Quintana http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/froome-behind-tour-rivals-says-quintana_376219 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/froome-behind-tour-rivals-says-quintana_376219#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 17:14:59 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376219

Of the "fantastic four" favorites for this year's Tour de France, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) says Chris Froome (Sky) is the least of his worries. Photo: A.S.O / B.Bade

Nairo Quintana doesn't consider former Tour champ Chris Froome to be his biggest rival on the eve of a race tailor-made for the Colombian

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Of the "fantastic four" favorites for this year's Tour de France, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) says Chris Froome (Sky) is the least of his worries. Photo: A.S.O / B.Bade

UTRECHT, Netherlands (AFP) — Climbing specialist Nairo Quintana (Movistar) said 2013 Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) is behind his main rivals in the race for this year’s yellow jersey.

Most observers have been talking about the “fantastic four” with reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Giro d’Italia winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) completing the quartet.

And despite Froome winning the Tour tune-up Critérium du Dauphiné last month and also triumphing at the Vuelta a Andalucia in February, Quintana does not consider him to be at the same level as Nibali and Contador.

“I think [Nibali] and Contador are the favourites. In any case, they’re my most dangerous rivals,” said Quintana on Friday, on the eve of the Grand Départ.

“Alberto is aiming for the Giro-Tour double, and I think he can do it. As for Chris Froome, he’s a little bit behind, but I’m not ruling him out.

“Of course I’m riding to win, I’ve prepared well as always.

“I like the course; there are some tough stages, but I’ve trained hard to get over them. It should be a great Tour de France.” With just one individual time trial — Saturday’s opening stage — at just 13.8km and six summit finishes, many people believe this year’s course is tailor-made for Quintana to succeed.

The 25-year-old Colombian is the smallest and slightest of the four main contenders and the weakest in races against the clock, but considered by many to be the best climber.

But he’s not counting his chickens just yet. “Yes, I’m nervous. I’m the leader in a very strong team which expects a lot from me,” he added.

“If everything goes well, we’ll ride for the yellow jersey. That’s how I feel. I’m determined to win.

“They [his Movistar team] have faith in me, and the proof is that a rider of the caliber of [Alejandro] Valverde is aiming to help me win the Tour de France.”

Two years ago they were joint leaders when debutant Quintana finished second overall to Froome, and Valverde could manage only eighth, before taking a career-high fourth place last year when Quintana missed the Tour to ride the Giro instead, which he won.

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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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Talansky riding into form ‘at the right time’ http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/talansky-riding-into-form-at-the-right-time_376162 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/talansky-riding-into-form-at-the-right-time_376162#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 16:36:51 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376162

Andrew Talansky won the stars-and-stripes jersey at this year's U.S. national time trial championships.
Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

American Andrew Talansky started summer on the back foot due to illness but says he's riding the momentum of building form ahead of Tour

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Andrew Talansky won the stars-and-stripes jersey at this year's U.S. national time trial championships. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Garmin) was on the form of his life last summer, fresh off a victory over Alberto Contador at the Criterium du Dauphiné, when fate intervened. A crash in the Tour de France’s stage 7 sent him off the back, chasing, his back contorted, alone in televised tears. He would finish barely inside the time cut on stage 11 but would abandon the next day.

It was an imperfect end to what had the makings of a perfect summer campaign.

So perhaps it’s not so surprising that the young American is using his imperfect early season, which saw him out of the Amgen Tour of California with respiratory illness and slightly off the pace at the Dauphiné, as a source of inspiration and confidence, rather than anger.

If nothing else, the attitude shows maturity from the 26-year-old.

“You know, the thing I learned last year is that the Tour is gonna go how the Tour is gonna go,” he told VeloNews. “You do all the work, you do everything you can, and then the truth is, for you to get the result you are capable of, you’re going need a little bit of luck. It’s not [that] you need everything to go perfectly, you just need to avoid anything going catastrophically wrong, like it did last year.”

The lessons of last year’s crash, and eventual exit from the Tour, provide “peace of mind,” Talansky said. Things could hardly go worse, after all.

“I’m going do the race I’m capable of and take it day by day and look forward to getting in those mountains and showing what I can do,” he said.

Talansky’s early-season troubles, including the illness that sent him out of California in May, put him on the back foot coming into June. It was a slower rise in form than previous seasons.

“It’s felt like more of a progression this year, which means maybe I didn’t get a better result at Dauphiné or a better result in the spring, but it feels like I’m coming into my best form this year, right at the right time,” he said.

In June, Talansky earned his first and only victory of the season, taking the national time trial championship in Chatanooga, Tennessee. Two weeks later, he finished well off the podium at the Dauphiné in June, 4:17 back in 10th, clearly missing a little something on the long climbs he used to launch himself to victory last year.

“The results that you get in March or April have no bearing on how you’re going to be in July. Sometimes results in June don’t even have a bearing on how you’re going to be in July,” he said.

The three weeks between that final tune-up event and the start of the Tour have been spent sharpening.

“I definitely did a little bit more work and fine-tuning between Dauphiné and now, and I’m ready to go,” he said.

“I knew a top-10 finish [at the Dauphiné] would build momentum in the right way toward the Tour. I ended up 10th,” he said. “The way I felt in some of those days was definitely promising.

This season couldn’t match the last, at least not yet. But it’s momentum, not results, that keeps Talansky’s head up.

“I could tell I was nowhere near 100 percent, but I was still hopeful, I was still close, I was starting to feel how I like to feel when the road goes uphill. Sometimes that’s the most important thing.”

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Quintana shoots down suggestions he’s off the radar in Colombia http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/quintana-shoots-down-suggestions-hes-off-the-radar-in-colombia_376209 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/quintana-shoots-down-suggestions-hes-off-the-radar-in-colombia_376209#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 16:18:13 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376209

At the Movistar team press conference, Nairo Quintana assured journalists that he was subject to anti-doping tests while training at home in Colombia. Photo: Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto ©2015

Defending Tour champ Nibali makes waves implying Quintana is dodging anti-doping tests in Colombia; Movistar leader refutes rumors

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At the Movistar team press conference, Nairo Quintana assured journalists that he was subject to anti-doping tests while training at home in Colombia. Photo: Luca Bettini/BettiniPhoto ©2015

UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — Nairo Quintana (Movistar) shrugged off suggestions that he’s dodging anti-doping controls when he returns home to Colombia for weeks at a time during the racing season.

Defending Tour de France Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) caused ripples this week, in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport, with comments that seemed to be mistranslated or misunderstood. Nibali said “no one’s seen” Quintana, a comment that the Italian insisted was more about Quintana’s form than any suggestion that the Colombian was somehow avoiding anti-doping controls by spending weeks at a time in South America. That hasn’t stopped the insinuation from spreading.

“I think that’s more of a misunderstanding,” Quintana said of Nibali’s comments. “I always go home to Colombia to prepare for races, like I always have, to be near my family. This year is the same as any other year.”

In 2015, Quintana raced in Europe from March, starting with Tirreno-Adriatico, through early May, at the Tour de Romandie, before heading home to the Colombian Andes, staying at an altitude of 8,500 feet. He returned to Europe last week to race the Route du Sud, where he was second to Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Nibali, too, clarified the comments during his press conference Friday, saying his words were taken the wrong way.

“All I said is that, ‘We don’t know where Quintana is,’ because we have not seen him since Romandie,” Nibali said. “It wasn’t a controversy, just a way of saying we haven’t seen him since May. I’m sorry if it was taken the wrong way.”

Last year, Chris Froome (Sky) raised a stink when he suggested that GC favorites training atop the Teide volcano were not being tested during important pre-racing windows ahead of the 2014 Tour. This year, the favorites confirmed they were submitted to controls at the towering volcano on Spain’s Tenerife island.

Tenerife is a favorite for riders such as Froome, Contador, and Nibali, who are searching for mild weather and high-altitude training terrain in the weeks and months ahead of the Tour. The hotel where riders sleep is at about 7,700 feet on the slopes of the volcano.

Quintana has the advantage of living in a village above Cómbita, high in the Colombian Andes. He’s regularly returned home to Colombia since turning pro in 2012. Unlike many pros who settle into Europe, Quintana said he simply likes to go home to train.

“Everyone has their own way of preferring to train and prepare,” Quintana said. “I like to go home, be close to my family, and train on the roads that I know. Based on my racing schedule, I always try to return home when I can.”

Quintana also confirmed that he undergoes anti-doping controls when he returns to Colombia.

“I have had five controls this year in Colombia, and others when I am at the competition. Wherever I go, there are always controls,” Quintana said. “It’s unfair to say that in Colombia there are not controls. They control us all year long, from January to December.”

When asked if he has a “secret weapon” ready at his disposal to take on the Tour de France, Quintana tipped his hat toward his Movistar teammates.

“If I have any secret weapon during this Tour, it’s my team,” he said. “I know they are backing me; they will support me through the stages, and it’s thanks to them that I can aspire for the maximum in this Tour.”

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Gallery: 2015 Tour de France teams presentation http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/gallery/gallery-2015-tour-de-france-teams-presentation_376190 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/gallery/gallery-2015-tour-de-france-teams-presentation_376190#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:54:28 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376190

Utrecht, Netherlands welcomes the Tour de France teams and riders with boat rides, water stunts, and big crowds

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Cavendish admits Kittel’s absence helps Tour chances http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/cavendish-admits-kittels-absence-helps-tour-chances_376180 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/cavendish-admits-kittels-absence-helps-tour-chances_376180#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:28:15 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376180

Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step) is ready to return to his winning ways after missing out on the 2014 Tour due to a stage 1 crash and subsequent injury. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Mark Cavendish happy to be back to racing after aborting Tour with crash in 2014, says he's not concerned about Kittel or overall win tally

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Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step) is ready to return to his winning ways after missing out on the 2014 Tour due to a stage 1 crash and subsequent injury. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UTRECHT, Netherlands (AFP) — Mark Cavendish reluctantly admitted on Friday that the absence of Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin) improves his chances of winning stages at the Tour de France this year.

The 30-year-old Manxman has won 25 Tour stages but was upstaged by new sprint king Kittel over the last two years.

While the burly German won four stages in each of the last two Tours, Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step) claimed just two in 2013 before crashing out of last year’s race in the first stage.

Kittel will miss this year’s Grande Boucle after failing to find race form in time after a season disrupted by illness, and Cavendish was forced to admit that the German’s absence boosts his own chances.

“Sure, but of the near-200 riders that will be starting on the start line, I think if you take any of them away it increases my chances of winning,” he said.

Asked if he would miss the challenge Kittel would undoubtedly have posed, Cavendish said he was more concerned about his own presence at the Tour than anyone else’s.

“To be fair, I miss racing more. I crashed out of the first stage in last year’s Tour de France in Harrogate, and I missed the race a lot,” he said.

“We’ve looked at trying to come to the Tour de France in the same form as I was in last year and hopefully get back to winning ways.”

Cavendish has had a good season so far, winning one stage at the Tour de San Luis, two at the Dubai Tour, three at the Tour of Turkey, and four at the Amgen Tour of California.

He also claimed overall victory in Dubai and won the Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne one-day semi-classic race in March.

With 25 Tour de France stage wins, he needs three more to equal five-time Tour champion Bernard Hinault’s mark of 28, second on the all-time list behind another five-time overall winner, Eddy Merckx, who won 34.

But Cavendish reacted irritably when asked about his chances of matching Hinault’s mark.

“I don’t come into the Tour de France trying to beat Bernard Hinault to be fair,” he said.

“I’ve won a range of different numbers of wins in most Tours de France I’ve competed in, and I’d like to add more than one stage to that.

“But one stage of the Tour de France in a career makes a rider’s career, let alone one per year.”

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Pro Bike Gallery: Lars Boom’s Specialized S-Works Shiv http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/gallery/pro-bike-gallery-lars-booms-specialized-s-works-shiv_376123 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/gallery/pro-bike-gallery-lars-booms-specialized-s-works-shiv_376123#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:46:00 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376123

Stage 1 in Utrecht will be flat, fast, and hot, so riders like Boom are making adjustments for as much speed in the heat as possible

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Pro Bike Gallery: Nibali’s Specialized Tarmac and Roubaix http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/gallery/pro-bike-gallery-nibalis-specialized-tarmac-and-roubaix_376134 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/gallery/pro-bike-gallery-nibalis-specialized-tarmac-and-roubaix_376134#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:33:07 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376134

The defending Tour champion's quiver includes his all-rounder bike and his cobble-stage bike, among others

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Video: 10 riders to watch at the Tour de France http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/video/video-10-riders-to-watch-at-the-tour-de-france_376170 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/video/video-10-riders-to-watch-at-the-tour-de-france_376170#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 14:08:08 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376170

Global Cycling Network breaks down who to keep an eye on during the Tour de France

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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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Ride with VeloNews and Cognoscenti this August http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/road/ride-with-velonews-and-cognoscenti-this-august_374169 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/road/ride-with-velonews-and-cognoscenti-this-august_374169#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 23:10:46 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=374169

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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Tour de France mobilizes 20,000 to guard against terrorism http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/tour-de-france-mobilizes-20000-to-guard-against-terrorism_376098 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/tour-de-france-mobilizes-20000-to-guard-against-terrorism_376098#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 21:48:17 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376098

The French government will mobilize 20,000 officials from a variety of security forces to protect the Tour de France this July. Photo: BrakeThrough Media

The French ministry of the interior says it is prepared for the threat of terrorism on the eve of the world's third-largest sporting event

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The French government will mobilize 20,000 officials from a variety of security forces to protect the Tour de France this July. Photo: BrakeThrough Media

PARIS (AFP) — Some 20,000 police, gendarmes, and firefighters have been mobilized to ensure the safety of the Tour de France this year, in the face of the ever-present threat of terrorism.

“In addition to road safety and public order, the terrorist risk is obviously not ignored. It should even encourage, in the current context, the greatest caution,” said Pierre-Henry Brandet, spokesman for the French ministry of the interior.

“The intelligence services are mobilized to detect upstream any possible hint of danger,” he added. All officials mobilized by the Place de Beauvau “are perfectly aware of the threat along the route and that posed at the start and finish of each stage.”

“Vigilance will be heightened on the course to identify suspicious behavior,” the spokesman added, in the face of a “very elevated threat of terrorism.

“Checkpoints will be especially strengthened at the departures and arrivals of the stages,” Brandet said.

However, according to internal sources, the ministry has not increased the number of officials for the Tour, a sporting event third in magnitude behind the Olympics and the soccer World Cup.

This year’s 198 Tour cyclists will be under the watchful eye of 20,000 officials, as in previous years: 40 Republican Guard motorcyclists in the caravan, 12,000 gendarmes on course, 12 others inside the caravan, and over 8,000 police officers in the urban areas they ordinarily patrol.
  
The Tour de France, which attracts two million spectators, according to the interior ministry, remains a “major concern of public authorities. … For sure we are bracing ourselves,” Brandet said.

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The Pro’s Closet museum series: Steve Potts http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/mtb/pros-closet-vintage-video-steve-potts_376089 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/mtb/pros-closet-vintage-video-steve-potts_376089#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 20:43:36 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376089

Steve Potts talks about the craft of building mountain bike frames.

The Pro's Closet talks to mountain bike pioneer Steve Potts, who has been fillet-brazing bikes for decades, since the early era of MTBs

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Steve Potts talks about the craft of building mountain bike frames.

Special thanks to The Pro’s Closet, which is curating a museum of noteworthy vintage bicycles at its headquarters in Boulder, Colorado.

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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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Ask a Mechanic: How to pop a bottle with your bike http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/video/ask-a-mechanic-how-to-pop-a-bottle-with-your-bike_376078 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/video/ask-a-mechanic-how-to-pop-a-bottle-with-your-bike_376078#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:26:30 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376078

Ask a Mechanic explains how to open a bottle with your bike.

Art's Cyclery has a few clever ways you can open a bottle using only the components on your bike

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Ask a Mechanic explains how to open a bottle with your bike.

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Sagan forgotten ahead of Tour with Contador star burning bright http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/sagan-forgotten-ahead-of-tour-with-contador-star-burning-bright_376061 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/sagan-forgotten-ahead-of-tour-with-contador-star-burning-bright_376061#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 19:21:32 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=376061

Though Peter Sagan has twice won the Tour's green jersey, he'll likely have to shelve those ambitions this year to ride for Tinkoff-Saxo team leader Alberto Contador. Photo: AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG

Peter Sagan will have to play second-fiddle to Alberto Contador as the Tinkoff-Saxo team is solely focused on the battle for yellow jersey

The post Sagan forgotten ahead of Tour with Contador star burning bright appeared first on VeloNews.com.

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Though Peter Sagan has twice won the Tour's green jersey, he'll likely have to shelve those ambitions this year to ride for Tinkoff-Saxo team leader Alberto Contador. Photo: AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG

UTRECHT, Netherlands (VN) — Behind Alberto Contador and a yellow canary, Peter Sagan attracted the least amount of attention from the media Thursday at a Tinkoff-Saxo press conference ahead of the Tour de France.

Press wanted to know about Contador’s form after winning the Giro d’Italia and ahead of an attempt at the Giro/Tour double. They wanted to know what Contador thought of the route and his rivals. Photographers pushed forward to have a shot of the king of the grand tours with a yellow canary that Dutch journalists presented to him.

Sagan sat to the right of Contador. When asked if they had questions for him, journalists queried Contador more about his preparation and the meaning of winning the double. Later, Sagan received questions, but his short and vague answers discouraged more inquires.

“Peter is happy he is here and to help Alberto [Contador],” Tinkoff-Saxo’s sport director, Steven de Jongh said when asked how it must be difficult for a star cyclist to sit in a packed room and receive little attention. “Journalists come here for Alberto because he’s trying to achieve something great.”

Tinkoff-Saxo signed the 25-year-old Slovak on a three-year contract over the winter from Italy’s now-defunct Cannondale team. Owner Oleg Tinkov reportedly agreed to pay Sagan $4.5 million annually.

Sagan, after coming second in Milano-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, and running clear in many other one-day races like Gent-Wevelgem, was seen as cycling’s new god. His former team even talked about a day when he could switch from racing for stages and the green jersey to winning the Tour de France.

Around mid-season in 2014, though, the Saganator appeared to switch off. He bagged a third points jersey in the Tour, but went nine months, from the national championships until the sixth stage in the 2015 Tirreno-Adriatico this March, without raising his arms in victory.

Sagan bounced back slightly with two stages and the overall win in the Tour of California and two more stage victories in the Tour de Suisse, but it did not make up for his flop in the classics this spring. Tinkov, when asked about Sagan’s big-dollar contract in an exclusive interview at the Giro, told VeloNews, “I won’t make that mistake again.”

At the Tour, Sagan will have little space to make amends for the classics.

“The most important thing is the yellow jersey,” de Jongh added. “If Alberto [Contador] needs help in the final, he’s there to help Alberto in the final. If Peter can sprint at the end of the stage and win, that’s nice and a bonus, but we aren’t going to pull for sprints.

“He knows that on this team there’s Alberto, and there’s this great opportunity to win the double, [he] knew this before the start of the season.”

The attention remained on Contador for the hour or so that the press had in the team’s hotel on the outskirts of Utrecht, where the Tour starts on Saturday with a time trial. Sagan was left off to the side like the elder child when a family welcomes a new baby. Sagan may be the new arrival in the Tinkoff team, but Contador remains the king and demands the attention, especially when it comes to grand tours.

“I’m also part of the team; I’m not on the side,” Sagan said. “I’m happy, and it’s a pleasure to ride with Alberto [Contador] in the team. I don’t feel alone, we have a good group.”

When a small group of journalists circled Sagan after the main press conference, he had more time to speak but gave answers just as short as before. “If I have a chance, I’ll sprint,” he explained. “We’ll see day by day. For sure, the day with the cobbles, I’ll have to stay by Alberto.”

He said that California and Suisse, and winning another national championship title, helped his confidence ahead of the Tour.

“Compared to last season, I think this season was better,” he said. Asked about Tinkov’s comments and if he feels pressure to perform, he added, “No, it’s just important to do my best for the team and Alberto. I don’t feel pressure.”

The post Sagan forgotten ahead of Tour with Contador star burning bright appeared first on VeloNews.com.

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