VeloNews.com http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:11:33 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 2014 Tour of Utah preview: 10-year-old race adds seventh stage http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/2014-tour-utah-preview_339018 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/2014-tour-utah-preview_339018#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 17:11:33 +0000 John Coon http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=339018

The Tour of Utah expands to seven stages for 2014, and will continue to include challenging terrain and top professional teams. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

The Tour of Utah is now North America's longest stage race, adding a seventh stage, more climbing, and a stage start in Wyoming

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The Tour of Utah expands to seven stages for 2014, and will continue to include challenging terrain and top professional teams. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Going the distance will take on a new meaning in the 2014 edition of the Tour of Utah.

Organizers have added a seventh stage for the first time. It also marks the first time a portion of the 10-year-old race will be held outside of Utah.

The newest stage will start in Evanston, Wyoming and follow the scenic Mirror Lake Highway through the Unita Mountains into Kamas, Utah. The new stage is one of a collection of tough stages that take cyclists to rugged destinations like Powder Mountain and Little Cottonwood Canyon.

This year’s Tour of Utah will be the longest stage race in North America at 753.8 miles. The race also tackles 57,863 feet of vertical gain over seven stages. As daunting as it sounds, tour officials feel the crop of 2014 racers are up to the challenge.

“Our tagline is America’s toughest stage race,” Tour of Utah president Steve Miller said. “I don’t think anybody is going to be taken by surprise. They know when they come to Utah it is going to be hot. They know it’s likely to be windy on more than one day. They know that there are mountains here. So they know before they get here. They see the routes. Many of them come in and scout the routes ahead of time.”

Deep, international field

Indeed, six teams ranked among the top 15 on the UCI World Tour will make the trek to Utah. BMC Racing, Trek Factory Racing, Belkin, Lampre-Merida, Garmin-Sharp, and Cannondale will headline the 16-team field. A total of 128 pro cyclists from 26 countries will compete in Utah.

For the first time, three grand tour champions will be included among this group. Reigning Vuelta a España champion Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) returns to the Tour of Utah after a second-place finish a year ago. Joining Horner are two-time Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Basso (Cannondale) and 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans (BMC).

As the race’s stature increases, teams are taking it more seriously than ever before. Many come to scout stages in advance, to adjust to the altitude, and get a feel for climbs and sprints.

Better strategy and greater talent could mean an even more exciting finish in 2014. Last year saw close racing, as American Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) held off Horner to win the tour on the final day.

“Teams want to win this race,” Miller said. “They want to win a stage in this race. There’s a lot of teams that have been coming here for a long time that haven’t ever won a stage. They’re tired of coming out here and getting shelled, so they want to do everything they can to stack the deck in their favor.”

A climber’s delight

More arduous climbs have been added to the race this year. Stage 4 from Ogden to Powder Mountain features a climb that will take riders up more than 3,000 feet in just six miles, without the luxury of switchbacks to break up the ascent. Stage 5 from Evanston to Kamas takes riders to Bald Mountain Pass which, at 10,759 feet above sea level, is the highest point ever featured in the Tour of Utah. The race also tackles the six-mile climb up Little Cottonwood Canyon in the queen stage and a trek over Empire Pass in stage 7 on the final day.

Charting a sufficiently challenging course without making it too challenging is a tightrope that tour organizers walk every year. Exciting courses draw in spectators and racers. Too much, however, can force some cyclists to pass on the race.

Miller acknowledged that Tour of Utah officials routinely solicit input from top pros to get a better feel for how to structure the routes each stage will take.

“There’s a lot of pro riders that test and train here in Utah, so they’re familiar with the roads,” Miller said. “We’ll send them a file and we’ll say, ‘What about this (course) as a stage?’ Now we don’t completely rely on them, but we don’t want to have access to those kinds of resources and not take advantage of them either.”

Utah towns clamor for opportunity to play host

Many pros embrace the chance to test themselves against the rugged and beautiful Utah scenery. Local Utah communities are also eager for the chance to host a stage.

Expanding to southern Utah in 2013 paid off for the Tour of Utah. An estimated 260,000 spectators turned out to view one of the six stages. Statewide, it generated approximately $17.5 million in economic impact and $14.17 in media publicity value. The addition of a seventh stage is expected to boost those numbers in 2014.

Kamas Mayor Lew Marchant admitted feeling some initial hesitation about hosting a stage. Once he saw the exposure the race brought to other Utah communities, he decided it offered a unique opportunity a small town could not afford to let slip away.

“As we looked into it more, we thought this might be a real benefit to the businesses in the city,” said Marchant, who noted that Kamas began preparing to host the fifth stage more than three months ago. “We changed our thinking and we’re pretty excited about it.”

The 2014 Tour of Utah will start on August 4 and run through August 10. FOX Sports Networks (FSN) will broadcast 21 hours of race coverage to national audiences — including 14 hours of live coverage. All seven stages of the race can also be followed live via the Tour Tracker available at the official Tour of Utah website.

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Team Belkin announces sponsorship agreement with Dutch Lottery, BrandLoyalty http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/team-belkin-sponsorship-outlook-looks-improving_339002 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/team-belkin-sponsorship-outlook-looks-improving_339002#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 15:22:17 +0000 Spencer Powlison http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=339002

Lars Boom's Belkin team appears to have resolved its uncertain sponsorship fate, with an agreement to work with the Dutch Lottery and BrandLoyalty. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Team Belkin and Team BrandLoyalty sign a formal declaration of intent to create a combined cycling and speed skating team

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Lars Boom's Belkin team appears to have resolved its uncertain sponsorship fate, with an agreement to work with the Dutch Lottery and BrandLoyalty. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The Dutch Lottery and BrandLoyalty have publicly declared their ambitions to become the title sponsor and sub-sponsor of the Belkin cycling team.

Team Belkin and Team BrandLoyalty — a speed skating team based in the Netherlands — signed a formal declaration of intent with Lotto and BrandLoyalty to create a combined cycling and speed skating team.

“We aspire a collaboration of two years, with the option to add another two years,” said Arno de Jong, marketing director of De Lotto. “This would make Lotto the name-giver of the first combined cycling/speed skating team. We are currently working on the details. Everything is focused on Lotto and BrandLoyalty joining forces to make sure the first professional speed skating/cycling team will start next season.”

“BrandLoyalty has always declared its intention to support Jac Orie’s speed skating team for a longer period of time,” said Marco van Bilsen, BrandLoyalty marketing director. “Next to this, it was a common goal to create a model that would provide more security and continuity. This was a reason for BrandLoyalty to make room for this unique construction.”

The teams will both continue to operate with dedicated, distinct support organization. Speed skating coach Jac Orie will maintain his staff, as will Richard Plugge, general manager of the Belkin cycling team.

However, De Jong allowed that there will likely be opportunity for the two disciplines to work together: “With this construction, the teams can collaborate organizationally as well as commercially and the collaboration can lead to the transmission of knowledge between the teams, which will ultimately lead to an optimal facilitation of the athletes.”

At the time of the announcement, Lotto and BrandLoyalty would not confirm the new team’s name, colors, roster, or budget.

Since June, Belkin team officials have sought a new sponsor, after the consumer electronics brand unexpectedly announced its departure from the sport after only one year of sponsorship.

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Photo Essay: 2014 Tour de France ends in Paris http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/gallery/photo-essay-2014-tour-de-france-ends-in-paris_338936 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/gallery/photo-essay-2014-tour-de-france-ends-in-paris_338936#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:57:43 +0000 BrakeThrough Media http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338936

BrakeThrough Media was on hand to capture the final moments of the 2014 Tour, highlighted by Vincenzo Nibali’s victory

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Gallery: La Course by Le Tour de France http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/gallery/gallery-la-course-tour-de-france_338904 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/gallery/gallery-la-course-tour-de-france_338904#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 19:56:46 +0000 VeloNews.com http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338904

Photos from the first-ever La Course, held Sunday on the Champs-Élysées in Paris

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New Zealand, Canada dominate Commonwealth Games mountain bike races http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/new-zealand-canada-dominate-commonwealth-games-mountain-bike-races_338899 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/new-zealand-canada-dominate-commonwealth-games-mountain-bike-races_338899#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:14:19 +0000 Alistair Watson http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338899

Catharine Pendrel won the cross-country mountain bike race at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, continuing a string of dominant performances by Canadian women at the event. Photo: Dave McElwaine | VeloNews.com (File)

Anton Cooper and Catharine Pendrel claim gold medals in the cross-country mountain bike race in Glasgow

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Catharine Pendrel won the cross-country mountain bike race at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, continuing a string of dominant performances by Canadian women at the event. Photo: Dave McElwaine | VeloNews.com (File)

GLASGOW (AFP) — Mountain biking made its return to the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday with Canada and New Zealand coming out on top at the Cathkin Braes course in Glasgow. The event was dropped four years ago when the event was held in Dehli.

New Zealand claimed the top two spots in the men’s cross-country, as teenager Anton Cooper narrowly won ahead of compatriot Samuel Gaze.

Cooper crossed the line in a time of 1:38:26, just three seconds ahead of Gaze. Daniel McConnell, who had been second with less than a kilometer to go, took the bronze for Australia.

“It’s a dream come true. The last couple of months of training have been tough, but this is huge for me,” said 19-year-old Cooper.

Canada continued its dominance of the women’s event as it claimed gold and silver.

Former world champion Catharine Pendrel cruised to victory in a time of 1:39:29, more than a minute ahead of countrywoman Emily Batty.

Australian Rebecca Henderson, matched her boyfriend, Daniel McConnell’s bronze medal performance, battling hard with Trek Factory Racing teammate Batty over the 31.95km course, but eventually settling for third place.

In the men’s race, a leading pack of Cooper, Gaze, McConnell and Canadian Max Plaxton quickly left the rest of the field behind.

The group exchanged the lead several times over the grueling 37.15km course before Cooper made his move on the final lap and found the strength to sprint to the line.

“I wouldn’t say the course suited me particularly, but if your legs are there, you are capable of winning,” Cooper said. “You normally wouldn’t see results this tight in a race like this and it’s just the style of the course. If you’re able to sit in at the right spots you can conserve energy, and I just had enough punch left for the last lap.”

‘Go hard’

Pendrel started among the favorites for the women’s race and soon opened up a gap on the rest of the field.

By the time the 33-year-old completed her first lap, she already had a formidable 34-second advantage over Henderson and Batty, which was to increase lap by lap.

“Anyone who has watched me race knows I just like to go hard from the start,” Pendrel said. “I really thought the race would stay together a lot longer than it did, but when you get some space between you and other riders, you just go for it.”

Canada has dominated the event, which made its Commonwealth Games debut in Manchester in 2002. Canadians have taken gold in both previous editions of the women’s event.

Pendrel admitted she had been desperate to continue that tradition. “It feels amazing to win the gold for Canada,” she said. “I was trying hard to ignore the fact that Canada has never not gotten gold in mountain bikes at the Commonwealth Games, and I really didn’t want that pressure coming into this.

“I knew how quick Emily was going as well so I knew we had a strong chance, but I just tried to do my best and I’m glad it was gold. Every victory is really special, but the Commonwealth Games are definitely unique and special. When you are competing for your country, you know if you do well you will make millions of people back home happy.”

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Emma Pooley announces retirement http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/emma-pooley-announces-retirement_338884 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/emma-pooley-announces-retirement_338884#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:40:18 +0000 Spencer Powlison http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338884

Emma Pooley pulled off a gutsy victory in stage 6 of the Giro Rosa. She said it was the most emotional win she's ever experienced. Photo: Nicola Ianuale | Photo Ianuale

Former world champion will focus on triathlon after her final races as a professional cyclist at the Commonwealth Games

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Emma Pooley pulled off a gutsy victory in stage 6 of the Giro Rosa. She said it was the most emotional win she's ever experienced. Photo: Nicola Ianuale | Photo Ianuale

On Tuesday, Olympic silver medalist Emma Pooley announced her retirement from cycling. Sunday’s road race at the Commonwealth games in Glasgow will be the final race of her career.

The 32-year-old Briton has raced as a professional since 2006. Along the way, she’s collected many victories, including three time trial national championships (2009, 2010, 2014).

Pooley saw some of her greatest successes in 2010, winning road race national championships, La Flèche Wallone, Tour de l’Aude, and time trial world championships.

“I’ve decided to retire from cycling after the Commonwealth Games,” Pooley said. “That’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I want to stop at a time that’s right for me. Now I have the time and opportunity to do triathlon in the second part of this year, in 2015, and maybe the two years after that as well. I want to stop at the right moment. Even if I hadn’t won three stages at the Giro Rosa I would have stopped and have been satisfied with the season, because I did my best, and I’ve been very happy in the Lotto-Belisol ladies team. I’m very lucky to be able to choose when to stop and not to be forced because of an injury, for example. And I’m grateful to have the backing 100 percent of the Lotto-Belisol team in my decision.

“The first UCI race I won, a stage in Thüringen-Rundfahrt in 2007, was definitely one of the highlights in my career. Obviously the World Championships were that as well just as the silver medal in the 2008 Olympics. The sixth stage at the Giro this year was the most emotional win I’ve ever had. Partly because I didn’t believe I could do it, and partly because it was so hard to win. It had been a long time since I had won a race on that level. I knew that it’s so nice to finish on a high, and it was one of the last chances to win a stage there.

“What I will miss most when I’ll have quit cycling are the people,” she said. “Certainly my teammates, but also the people from other teams. I’m privileged to know so many amazing people, who I’ve met over the years in the sport. The Commonwealth Games are still a big personal target. I’m focusing on the time trial. After the Giro Rosa I did many trainings on my time trial bike. I’m really looking forward to the race. All my family is coming to watch. That will be really special.”

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First look: Look 795 Aerolight frame http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/bikes-and-tech/first-look-look-795-aerolight_338828 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/bikes-and-tech/first-look-look-795-aerolight_338828#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:29:30 +0000 Caley Fretz http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338828

The integration on Look's new 795 Aerolight serves a purpose beyond tidy looks. Look’s goal was to develop an aero road frame that could compete with the best available — bikes like Cervelo’s S3, the BMC TMR01, and Felt’s AR series. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

Look takes another step towards integration with its first dedicated aero road frame

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The integration on Look's new 795 Aerolight serves a purpose beyond tidy looks. Look’s goal was to develop an aero road frame that could compete with the best available — bikes like Cervelo’s S3, the BMC TMR01, and Felt’s AR series. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

PARIS (VN) — Look doesn’t play it safe.

The company’s new 795 Aerolight road frame oozes integration, stepping into a realm typically reserved for narrowly-focused, ultra-aggressive time trial bikes. It’s another bold step from the relatively small French brand, which has never been afraid to throw out tried-and-true designs, the modern headset and stem for example, in favor of its own inventions.

The brakes are hidden away, tucked inside the fork and under the bottom bracket. The cables, housing, and Di2 wires are only seen for a brief moment before they dive into the frame, away from the wind. The bike’s clever Di2 routing is among the cleanest the industry has ever produced. Even the stem is tucked away, notched into a steeply rising head tube to create a single, uninterrupted swoop of a line from the handlebars back to the rear dropouts.

The looks, well, you either love them or you hate them. The 795 is a piece of industrial design that is either ahead of its time, or woefully off the mark. I’d argue for the former; lovers of classic lines will certainly see the opposite.

795 Aerolight aerodynamics

The 795’s integration serves a purpose beyond tidy looks, of course. Look’s goal was to develop an aero road frame that could compete with the best available — bikes like Cervelo’s S3, the BMC TMR01, and Felt’s AR series.

To that end, the 795 borrowed aero features from bikes already in the company’s range, notably the brakes from the 695 aerolight and integrated stem from the 675, and combined them with deeper, more aerodynamic, NACA (National Advisory Council for Aeronautcs) tube shapes throughout the frame.

Look did not provide test results relative to its peers, but does claim that the new frame decreases drag by 8.7 percent relative to the 695. Based on our recent wind tunnel testing of that frame (available in the July issue of Velo), the 795 should fall in the same ballpark as the fastest frames available.

Brake details

The 795 uses the same front brake that was debuted on the 695 last summer. The small linear-pull brake sits inside the fork legs, with each arm flush with the outside of the fork. Look claims that the brake is 20 percent more powerful than a traditional brake, and VeloNews testing can indeed confirm that it’s a powerful solution. Modulation is somewhat diminished, though.

The rear brake will be based around the Shimano direct-mount standard, and is located behind the bottom bracket on the chainstays. The 695, which places its rear brake in the same position, had some issues with brake rub under high load, so the chainstays of the 795 have been stiffened considerably. Looks says that the rubbing issues are now gone.

Of course, integrated brakes are not for everyone. Swapping wheels takes a bit more time, and the brakes cannot be easily adjusted for different rim widths. Thankfully, Look will also sell a version of the 795 with traditional caliper brakes mounted on the fork and seat stays. The company expects about 75 percent of customers to opt for the fully integrated version, but wanted to make the traditional brakes available for racers.

Brake cable routing is clever and clean. The cables enter the front of the head tube and are then routed around the headset bearings before splitting towards their respective brakes. Di2 wire routing enters at the same port and exits at the derailleurs. The frame even includes a slot on the top tube that hides away the Di2 junction box completely.

Integrated stem

The 795’s integrated stem is identical to the stem found on Look’s 675 endurance frame. It’s light — just 160 grams — and offers an impressive range of adjustment, from 17- to 13-degrees. With the 110mm version installed, that’s just under 60mm of vertical adjustment. You’ll get more with a longer stem, less with a shorter one.

Of course, a traditional stem/spacer setup will still provide more range of adjustment. If you ride with a particularly high or low bar position, take a very close look at the geometry charts. The front end of the 795 has been built in between traditional race and endurance geometries, so it should work for most riders but not everyone.

There is some room for adjustment along the fork steerer as well, but raising the stem will interrupt its smooth transition to the top tube. The 795 uses Look’s Head Fit 3 headset, which allows for stem adjustments without altering headset adjustment. There’s no compression cap, just a carbon ring that threads onto the steerer itself to compress the bearings.

The stem is available in lengths from 80 to 130mm, in 10mm increments.

New E2 seatpost

Look has used its integrated E2 post for years, which slots into an extended seat mast and is adjusted with rubber spacers, but the 795 gets an updated version. The shape has changed due to the bike’s aerodynamic seat tube, and it’s 30 percent lighter. Best of all, though, is the new locking mechanism; a single half-turn of an allen key is all that is required to loosen or tighten the post.

The new E2 post is compatible with Monolink saddles as well as standard railed saddles.

Look 795 technical specs

The 795 will be available in two versions, the Aerolight, with integrated brakes, and the Light, with standard brakes.

Six sizes are on offer, from XS to XXL.

Look did not provide a bare frame weight, noting only that the 795 weighs about the same as the 695 — around 1,000 grams. Module weight, which includes frame, fork, crankset, seatpost, headset, stem, and brake calipers, is claimed to be 2,400 grams.

Look’s Tunisian factory is producing the 795 now, and frames will being shipping in the next few weeks.

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Q&A: Tour rookie Alex Howes on reaching Paris http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/qa-tour-rookie-alex-howes-on-reaching-paris_338863 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/qa-tour-rookie-alex-howes-on-reaching-paris_338863#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:18:34 +0000 Matthew Beaudin http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338863

Alex Howes on the Champs-Élysées after finishing his first Tour de France. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

VeloNews catches up with the Garmin-Sharp rider about finishing his first Tour de France

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Alex Howes on the Champs-Élysées after finishing his first Tour de France. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

PARIS, France (VN) — It’s finally all over. The barricades are long gone and the riders are off to various parts of the world before the next big thing.

But for three weeks in July, the riders knock into one another every single day, gentle, or not, reminders of a line, a wheel. And who better to ask about the experience of a Tour de France than an eyes-wide-open rookie?

VeloNews talked to Garmin-Sharp’s Alex Howes as he warmed up before the stage 20 time trial. He was about to do what he’d set out to do.

VeloNews: How are you?
Alex Howes: Good. I’ve actually come around in the third week. Feeling good.

VN: Physically, what’s it felt like?
AH: I think more than anything it’s mental. You know doing anything for three weeks is a long time. And you know, I feel like 17 days, you get up, you have your oatmeal, put your shorts on. And you say, “We’re still doing this. Still doin’ it.” So OK.

VN: It’s a bit like Groundhog Day.
AH: It’s very much like Groundhog Day. Just the same routine every day. Dialed in like that. It wears on you a little bit. But physically it’s been pretty trying. To be honest, when you go back and you look at the numbers from all of it, you don’t really comprehend that you did that. It’s like, “Did I do that?” I guess I did.

VN: What’s your routine? You wake up in the morning, etc. Take me through it.
AH: Get up. Throw your bag out, because you’re usually switching hotels. Then you stumble around. Get some water. Use the bathroom. Get out. Go get some food. Usually end up eating about 10 times as much as you want to. And then, maybe you have a minute or two to drink some coffee. Maybe you jump on the bus. If it’s a long transfer, try and take a nap. If it’s not super long, try and wrap your head around doing some bike racing. Then show up, get the music going. Have some more coffee. And clean your shoes off. Clean your glasses and helmet for the next day from the day before. Get some food. Go sign in. And get ready to go to war.

VN: Is that what it feels like — the brutality of the mountains. Is there a point when you say, “This is not for me. I’m going to go become an English teacher?”
AH: You definitely have your moments. There’s times when you think that this is the best thing on earth. And there’s nothing I’d rather be doing. And then there’s times when you’re like, “This is so stupid. This is so hard. This makes no sense. I’m flying down this mountain. I got spit all over my face. I’ve just like been digging so deep over that last climb. Flying down this hill totally naked. I’m freezing cold. I hate this.” And then there’s times you’re just like, “This is great, I’m the man. This is rad.”

AH: It’s almost like a hard Tour stage packs in an entire spectrum of emotions in one day, one ride.
AH: 100 percent. Just yesterday [stage 19], big example. We start the stage. I was gung-ho to be in the breakaway. And we’re sniffing, sniffing, sniffing. Tom [-Jelte Slagter] drew the card and I didn’t. I was pretty pissed. Really wanted to be up there. So that kind of put a damper on my morning. Then the rain shows up and I’m like “Ugh.” … Then it starts dumping rain. Riding along in the crosswinds in the rain. Can’t see anything. “Why do I even want Tom to finish the Tour de France? This is stupid, this sucks.” Then we turn it on for the final, get all the boys together. Like, “All right, we’re one unit and this is cool.” And then we win the stage and it’s like, “Ahhhh this is amazing. You totally forget about that hour and 20 minutes and it’s like, “I’m just going to get off my bike, get in some car, and go back to America.”

VN: Do you feel famous? You rode the Tour. People notice.
AH: I don’t feel famous.

VN: You look famous with that hair.
AH: Well, yeah. You certainly get some recognition. But I think I’m a long ways from being a celebrity. I’m no Ramunas Navardauskas.

VN: Is this race more nuanced than we can see on TV? We can only know so much without being in it.
AH: Yeah. There’s a lot of subtleties out there. There’s a lot of old grudges. There’s a lot of new grudges. And I think especially at the Tour. You really go no friends out there. This race more than any other I’ve noticed is kind of kill or be killed.

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Video: How to corner in a bunch http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/video/video-corner-bunch_338856 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/video/video-corner-bunch_338856#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:26:59 +0000 VeloNews.com http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338856

GCN

Cornering within a pack of riders requires precision, caution, and common sense

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GCN

Cornering within a pack of riders requires precision, caution, and common sense

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Valverde lashes out at critics after missing Tour podium http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/valverde-lashes-out-at-critics-after-missing-tour-podium_338841 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/valverde-lashes-out-at-critics-after-missing-tour-podium_338841#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:03:19 +0000 Andrew Hood http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338841

Alejandro Valverde lost time on his rivals in the final week of the Tour and finished fourth. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The Spaniard has come under fire following his fourth-place performance in the Tour de France

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Alejandro Valverde lost time on his rivals in the final week of the Tour and finished fourth. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) angrily defended his fourth-place finish in the Tour de France, saying armchair critics don’t have the right to question his performance.

Valverde has come under fire in Spain for “blowing” his best and perhaps last chance at the Tour podium, finishing fourth behind winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and two French riders, Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr).

Speaking on the Spanish sports radio chat show, “El Larguero,” Valverde angrily shot back at critics.

“You can accept the critics, but there are people who think that everything is easy, that everything comes easy, but that’s not all,” Valverde said. “A lot of these critics have not ever ridden a bike, let alone raced … They have no idea.”

The 34-year-old Spaniard was poised to finish on the final Tour podium, riding out of the Alps sitting second overall. With the abandonment of pre-race favorites Chris Froome (Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Sky), Valverde, backed by the powerful and experienced Movistar team, was looking good for a first-ever podium.

Valverde was wildly inconsistent, however, dropping Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) over the Port de Bales climb in stage 16 before losing time to Peraud and Pinot up Hautacam during stage 18. Despite starting 15 seconds out of second place in the final time trial, Valverde could not post a strong ride and settled into fourth.

“We were in the Tour, we fought for the podium right until the final stage — so you didn’t reach it? — but we were as close as you can be, and everyone gave everything they had, so we have to be content,” Valverde said. “Everyone has a right to think what they want, but you have to be here at the Tour, and finish fourth … I am not mad, I am just saying things the way they are.

“I wanted to be there, but in the end, I just couldn’t do it,” Valverde continued. “I don’t know why. Maybe it was the pressure of having [the podium] so close. That’s rare for me, because I am used to the pressure, but the Tour is the Tour … and maybe the pressure cost me a little bit. I was confident to reach the podium, but in the end it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Valverde admitted he doesn’t know what his future holds. According to sources, Valverde still has not re-upped with Movistar for next season. Valverde reportedly was waiting to see what happened with the team backed by Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, but that project looks dead in the water.

With Giro d’Italia winner and last year’s runner-up Nairo Quintana waiting in the wings, Valverde said he’s a “realist.”

“Was it my last chance? I don’t know. Look at Peraud, he’s 37, and he ends up second. I am not going to obsess about it,” Valverde said. “I know that Nairo is coming up very strong. Above all, I am a realist, and we all know that he’s going to be stronger than me, and that’s it.”

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Technical FAQ: Tire widths, pressures, and more http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/bikes-and-tech/technical-faq/technical-faq-tire-widths-pressures-and-more_338846 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/bikes-and-tech/technical-faq/technical-faq-tire-widths-pressures-and-more_338846#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:00:52 +0000 Lennard Zinn http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338846

Wider tires, like the 27mm FMB Paris-Roubaix, can be used at lower pressures to increase ride comfort. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

Is it OK to combine tires of two different widths? Does handling suffer at lower pressures? Lennard Zinn chimes in

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Wider tires, like the 27mm FMB Paris-Roubaix, can be used at lower pressures to increase ride comfort. Photo: Caley Fretz | VeloNews.com

23mm vs. 25mm tires

Dear Lennard,
I ride with a group of recreational road riders who do, on average, 100 kilometers per week. Recently, most of the riders have switched from 23mm to 25mm tires and like the ride better (whatever that means). As a theoretical question, if you had one 23mm and one 25mm, which would you put on the front and why?
— Doug

Dear Doug,
Well, I would put the bigger tire on the rear. It gives you more cushioning, and that’s where you need it more. The bigger tire size also reduces rolling resistance, and that will make more difference on the tire that is supporting more weight — the rear tire.

The 25mm tire also gives you more traction, assuming you’re running lower pressure in it than in the 23mm one. I suppose arguments about traction could be made for either the front or rear wheel.
― Lennard

Mixing 23mm, 28mm tires

Dear Lennard,
I’m running road tubeless on a pair of Dura-Ace C24 rims. Due to limited Hutchinson availability at my favorite shop (and my own impatience to ride TODAY), I find myself running a 23mm Fusion up front and a Sector 28 in the rear. The rear fusion 23 was beyond repair and I was, and still am, too cheap to pop for two Sector 28s.

I’m aware of the multiple aesthetic violations here and I feel certain that Boulder has municipal codes that bar such a combination. However, I was wondering if you think the handling will suffer. After one ride, the rear end feels completely different — very loose.
— Carson

Dear Carson,
A bigger tire, especially when run at lower pressure (which it ought to be), will have more give to it. This can certainly lead to a loose feeling in the rear. When I was first experimenting years ago with running pressures of around 30psi in cyclocross races on tubulars (32-34mm section), it was such a loose feeling that I couldn’t imagine how Sven Nys and the other top cyclocrossers could do it. But once I became used to riding on squirmy tires, I actually felt MORE secure with pressures as low as 28psi than up around 40psi; I had better grip and I didn’t get bounced around as much. Tire pressure for cyclocross is tire-, course-, and condition-specific as well as dependent on rider weight (I weigh 170 pounds). And if the conditions called for really low pressure, I certainly found I preferred it.

So I think your combination may actually be a good one to ease you into using bigger tires, because I think the loose feeling would be exaggerated were you to have 28mm tires front and rear.
― Lennard

Concerns about wet tires and rims

Dear Lennard,
I got some water in my basement this week. Sadly I was sloppy, and had left my ’cross tubulars — Shimano WH 7850s — sitting on the floor (trying to take advantage of the humidity down there to lengthen glue life). It appears that water seeped into the front wheel. I can force water out through the stem and the weep holes in the rim, but there is still some sloshing around inside. What do you think has been compromised:

1. Is the tire shot, since I have water inside (Tufo Primus 32s).

2. Would you trust the glue job or am I safer just to peel off and re-glue?

3. Any concerns about the rim itself? I was out of town when this happened but my sister pulled them out after about an hour of being wet.
— Rich

Dear Rich,
That is one of the best tubulars you could get water in because it doesn’t have an inner tube. You can’t use a shop vacuum with a thin tip on the hose to suck water out of a tubular with an inner tube in it because it will just suck the tube against the base of the valve stem and prevent anything further from coming out. But you can suck out a Tufo tubular that way. Here’s an article I did on that. (Regarding that link, note that I no longer rinse sealant out of tubulars, as I think getting the water back out is harder on the latex inner tube than the sealant is. I just squeeze out as much sealant as I can, and then I leave the valve closed so that air won’t get in and dry the sealant.)

It’s always a good idea to check a glue job before relying on it. On the other hand, a good glue job should be able to take an hour of being submerged in water without becoming compromised.

I think there is no cause for concern about the rim. Ride it some to let water be thrown out of the weep hole and allow it to dry. But compared to riding for hours in the rain, what happened to your wheel and glue job is pretty minor.
― Lennard

Referencing tire widths

Dear Lennard,
I have seen, on your illustrious site as well as many others, references to tire width where well-meaning people for some reason put the letter ‘c’ in place of the letters ‘mm’ to denote size. One can read at length about the merits of 25c tires and 28c tires but as a person who prefers precision, this makes me want to rip my hair out. I suspect the same may be true for you. I for one am glad I don’t have to explain to customers about which letter denotes which width, as used to be the case. We’ve basically gotten past all that thanks to good ol’ ERTRO, but old (misunderstood) habits die hard I guess. Can you please send out an APB that tire width is measured in millimeters, not in letters, and make sure that at least I don’t see it on VN?
— Carl

Dear Carl,
There’s your APB, in your own words. I think I generally refer to tire width in millimeters for road tires and in inches for MTB tires, but since the “c” doesn’t “make me want to rip my hair out,” I can’t guarantee that I have not used it sometimes. I have managed to live with the letters on the rim size, which have no meaning in millimeters or inches or any other measure (please tell me how to make sense of 700C or 700A or 700D, or 650A, B, or C), so using a “c” in place of “mm” for tire size doesn’t bother me.

I do agree that it’s more useful to give people a meaningful tire-width measurement, but, as you know, many manufacturers use the “c” nomenclature, and in product reviews, we tech writers have a tendency to simply pass on the manufacturers’ specs. I passed your note on to the Velo editorial team, and perhaps as a result you won’t see it again on VeloNews.com or in Velo but alas, I wouldn’t bet on it.
― Lennard

Air quality and latex tubes

Dear Lennard,
I wanted to add a contribution to your recent (and informative) column on latex tubes.

Ambient air quality is another factor that can adversely impact the life of latex tubes (and other bicycle parts made of natural rubber). As a rider/occasional racer in Southern California for nearly 25 years, I have long noticed accelerated cracking/crumbling of rubber goods, including latex tubes. It appears that chronic, high levels of air pollution, especially ozone, can play a significant role in the accelerated breakdown process. In Southern California, these conditions are most acute in the San Gabriel Valley and inland areas to the east. I’ve heard of cyclists storing expensive sew-ups in impermeable bags filled with nitrogen, but can’t personally attest to the effectiveness.
— Stuart

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2015 Giro to start along the Italian Riviera http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/2015-giro-to-start-along-the-italian-riviera_338835 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/2015-giro-to-start-along-the-italian-riviera_338835#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:10:19 +0000 Andrew Hood http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338835 The race is slated to begin with an 18km time trial along the Ligurian coast

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The Giro d’Italia returns to Italy for 2015, with a three-day “Big Depart” along the Italian Riviera for early May next year.

After a highly successful start in Belfast, Northern Ireland this year, the Giro returns to home roads for the start of the 2015 edition.

Giro officials confirmed Tuesday that three stages will roll along the spectacular Ligurian coast, marking the fifth time in Giro history the race will start in the region known for its hilltop towns and sparkling beaches.

The Giro will open on May 9 with an 18-kilometer team time trial along a bike path built over an old railroad right-of-way along the Italian Riviera. The route will start near the base of the Cipressa climb, and hug the coast all the way to Sanremo. The pathway, which was recently inaugurated, is more than two meters wide, offering a narrow raceway for the technical, high-speed team race against the clock.

Stage 2 will run along roads, from Albenga to Genoa in a sprint-friendly stage. The stage will conclude with four laps on a 7.5km urban circuit.

The following day pedals further south, straddling the spectacular Cinque Terre coastline, hitting the Biassi climb before the finale that should test the GC riders right from the start. The race will conclude on May 31.

Recently crowned Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has hinted he would return to the Giro next year, setting the stage for a run at the Giro-Tour double, a feat not equaled since Marco Pantani won both in 1998.

Defending Giro champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who returns to competition next week at the Vuelta a Burgos, has suggested he will not return to defend his pink jersey next season, focusing instead on the Tour.

Complete Giro route details will be released later this year.

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Froome’s spirits are high as he looks ahead to Vuelta http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/froomes-spirits-high-looks-ahead-vuelta_338813 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/froomes-spirits-high-looks-ahead-vuelta_338813#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 22:19:39 +0000 Spencer Powlison http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338813

Chris Froome has been training in California, looking ahead to the Vuelta a Espana. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File)

"I’m riding around with a splint still," says Chris Froome. "For now I just want to get to the race. Try to get fit enough so I can race"

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Chris Froome has been training in California, looking ahead to the Vuelta a Espana. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com (File)

Speaking to NBC Sports from Santa Barbara, California, 2013 Tour de France champion Chris Froome struck an optimistic tone, looking ahead to his recovery and the Vuelta a España.

“Spirits are high,” Froome said. “I’m looking forward to getting back into some racing. Trying at least to get something out of this season.”

Team Sky’s captain withdrew from stage 5 of the Tour de France, suffering a broken left wrist and another fracture on his right hand.

Looking back at how the Tour unfolded after his exit, Froome said, “It really would have been a different race had Alberto and I been there in the mountains. It’s been difficult for me to watch from afar actually, watching how Nibali in the mountains has been relatively unchallenged. He hasn’t had people attacking him, it hasn’t been a sort of mano-a-mano fight for the yellow jersey. That’s sad for a race like the Tour de France. I would have loved to been there to actually have that race up in the mountains with him.”

But Froome was quick to say, “Nibali definitely does deserve to win this year. He’s ridden a really good race.”

He was cautious not to set expectations too high for his run at the Vuelta a España. “I’m riding around with a splint still,” said the Briton. “For now I just want to get to the race. Try to get fit enough so I can race the Vuelta a España. There’s gonna be a lot of tough competition there.”

Froome is enjoying a stint of training in California, heading up to Napa to ride. “I look forward to spending a few hours in the saddle and maybe catching up with Andrew Talansky [in Napa],” he said.

Based on Froome’s state of mind, it’s unlikely that the two battered Tour leaders will do much commiserating. They’ll probably be looking ahead to their late-summer trip to Spain.

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The Cycling Podcast: Tour de France wrap-up http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/cycling-podcast-tour-de-france-wraps_338807 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/cycling-podcast-tour-de-france-wraps_338807#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 20:29:10 +0000 VeloNews.com http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338807

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

Matthew Beaudin and Caley Fretz reflect on the 2014 Tour de France with The Cycling Podcast

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

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Video: On board with Marianne Vos in La Course sprint finish http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/video-board-marianne-vos-la-course-sprint-finish_338801 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/video-board-marianne-vos-la-course-sprint-finish_338801#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:45:58 +0000 Spencer Powlison http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338801

On-board footage from Marianne Vos' sprint victory in Paris at La Course by the Tour de France.

Marianne Vos won the inaugural edition of La Course by the Tour de France on Sunday. Ride along as she sprints to win in the final kilometer

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On-board footage from Marianne Vos' sprint victory in Paris at La Course by the Tour de France.

Editor’s Note: Marianne Vos (Rabo-Liv) won the inaugural La Course by the Tour de France on Sunday. Rabo-Liv provided this on-board footage from the final kilometer of racing on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

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How France reclaimed the Tour from Britain http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/france-reclaimed-tour-britain_338792 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/france-reclaimed-tour-britain_338792#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:26:20 +0000 Barnaby Chesterman http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338792

AG2R La Mondiale won the team classification, thanks in part to Jean-Christophe Péraud's second-place GC finish. In more ways than one, their moment on the final Tour podium represented a new, upward trajectory for French cycling. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The 2014 Tour de France started out with great promise for Britain, but in the end, the Tour's host country had the strongest showing

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AG2R La Mondiale won the team classification, thanks in part to Jean-Christophe Péraud's second-place GC finish. In more ways than one, their moment on the final Tour podium represented a new, upward trajectory for French cycling. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

PARIS (AFP) — When the 2014 Tour de France started in Britain, with a British reigning champion riding for a British team, there was the feeling, in some quarters, that a piece of French heritage was being dragged across the channel.

To make things even worse, Dave Brailsford, the British manager of the defending champion’s team, Sky, had almost condescendingly said that his next challenge might be to try to win the Tour with a Frenchman.

The insinuation was that it had been easier to win the Tour with a rider from a country with almost no cycling culture than it would be to do so with a cyclist from the sport’s spiritual home.

For the previous two years, Britain had been the epicenter of the Tour de France as Team Sky won the 2012 and 2013 editions with Bradley Wiggins and then Chris Froome.

On top of that, the best sprinter over the last few years was another Briton, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

French viewers and commentators could only stand back in awe, too, at the reception the Tour got, first in Yorkshire where the first two stages took place, and then along the route from Cambridge to London.

German sprinter Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) described the crowds as “amazing” while two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) said he had been “speechless” at the reception.

Garmin-Sharp’s American manager Jonathan Vaughters said he’d only ever seen hordes that big on Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps.

Some were asking whether Britain was launching some sort of Trojan Horse takeover of the Grand Boucle.

But already, by the time the Tour left London to reconvene on the shores of its true home, the cracks in British domination were starting to show.

Cavendish crashed out of the race on the first stage, leaving only three Brits in the race.

It took only two more stages for Froome to crash out and leave Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) to dominate the race. Without Froome, Sky capitulated as Australian Richie Porte proved to be a poor substitute leader, finishing the race 23rd overall, more than an hour behind Nibali, and actually behind two of his domestiques.

By the end of the race, Welshman Geraint Thomas was the only Briton left, finishing 22nd overall, almost an hour in arrears.

In the meantime, the French were bristling.

Veteran Jean-Christophe Péraud (AG2R La Mondiale) proved his 37 years were no barrier to success, gradually improving as the race progressed to climb all the way up to a second place finish.

Behind him, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) secured third place, ensuring France had two riders on the podium for the first time since Laurent Fignon bested legend Bernard Hinault in 1984 for his second Tour win.

French team AG2R La Mondiale won the team competition, helped in no small measure by Péraud but also 23-year-old Romain Bardet’s sixth-place finish and Blel Kadri’s stage 8 win from Tomblaine to Gérardmer La Mauselaine.

In Pinot, 24, and Bardet, the future looks bright for French cycling. They finished first and second in the young riders’ white jersey competition and both held their own with the best in both the mountains and time trial.

As well as those two, France has a whole host of talented, young up-and-coming riders.

Sprinters Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr), 22, and teammate Nacer Bouhanni, 24, were French national road race champions in 2014 and 2012 respectively, with the latter also winning the sprinter’s jersey at May’s Giro d’Italia.

Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol), 26, won the Tour’s 11th stage and wore the yellow jersey on Bastille Day. He’s a puncheur who many believe could become an overall challenger.

But the most brilliant of the lot is perhaps climber Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano), who won the Tour de l’Avenir — the Tour de France for young riders — in 2012 and claimed two stages in last year’s Vuelta a Espana.

In Paris, Brailsford’s tone was a bit humbled, though he seemed confident in Sky and Britain’s future.

“We won this race twice and that was fantastic,” he said. “When you win you have to win with dignity, and when you lose you have to lose with dignity. We had the pleasure of winning this great race twice, so chapeau to all the riders who rode well, especially to Nibali and also the French who have done well this year. This year wasn’t our year but we’ll try again next year.

“It’s good for everyone,” the Sky boss added. “It’s good for the French because it is, after all, the Tour de France. It’s good for all of French cycling and we’re happy for that.”

The future of the Tour appears to be bleu, blanc, and rouge — coincidentally the same colors found on the Union Jack.

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Marcel Kittel to target green jersey in future http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/marcel-kittel-target-green-jersey-future_338781 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/marcel-kittel-target-green-jersey-future_338781#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 18:31:57 +0000 Barnaby Chesterman http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338781

John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel represent a new wave of German cyclists, hoping to change their nation's attitude toward a sport tarnished by doping scandals. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Kittel may aim for the points competition in future Tours, and he hopes Germany's resurgence at the Tour will reignite interest in the sport

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John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel represent a new wave of German cyclists, hoping to change their nation's attitude toward a sport tarnished by doping scandals. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

PARIS (AFP) — Sprint ace Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) said he will target the green points jersey in the future after winning on the Champs-Élysées for the second year in a row.

The burly German exactly matched his achievement from last year, winning both the opening and final stages among four in total, and he wore the yellow jersey for a day.

And although he hadn’t tried to win the sprinters’ green jersey this year, the 26-year-old said he would challenge for it one day. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) claimed that honor for a third year in a row despite not winning a single stage.

“To think now already about the future is for me personally too much. I would like to enjoy this moment,” said the Giant-Shimano rider. “My goals won’t change regarding my future, especially in the Tour de France. I’d like to go for stage wins. I’m not focusing on records.

“Also, I said many times before the green jersey can be an option for me in the future.”

What the present brought, though, was one record as Kittel’s fourth stage win took the total won by German riders in this Tour to a new high of seven.

Tony Martin added two, including Saturday’s time trial, and Andre Greipel also won a sprint finish on stage 6.

Kittel said that those results sent a message to German public television, which pulled out of live coverage of the 2007 Tour due to doping scandals — including that of 1997 German Tour winner Jan Ullrich — and have not changed their stance since.

“I think that’s a big signal to all fans at home in Germany and a big signal to the media, without going into too many details,” said Kittel.

“Everyone can be proud of it, it’s great to see so many German riders here. You can talk about the seven victories, but don’t forget the two second places of John Degenkolb. With seven plus two that’s half the Tour in which Germans were in front. It shows German cycling is part of the top of the cycling world and that’s awesome.”

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Gallery: 2014 Tour de France, stage 21 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/gallery/gallery-2014-tour-de-france-stage-21_338753 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/gallery/gallery-2014-tour-de-france-stage-21_338753#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:44:27 +0000 VeloNews.com http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338753

Marcel Kittel triumphs on the Champs-Élysées while Nibali celebrates a dominant Tour de France victory

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China’s Ji Cheng to take post-Tour break after earning lanterne rouge http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/chinas-ji-cheng-take-post-tour-break-earning-lanterne-rouge_338747 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/chinas-ji-cheng-take-post-tour-break-earning-lanterne-rouge_338747#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:23:40 +0000 Barnaby Chesterman http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338747

China's Ji Cheng (Giant-Shimano) may have finished dead last on GC, but he spent a lot of time at the front of the peloton on sprint stages, bringing back the breakaway on behalf of his team's sprinters. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Ji finished six hours behind Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali, the race's biggest gap between first and last since 1954

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China's Ji Cheng (Giant-Shimano) may have finished dead last on GC, but he spent a lot of time at the front of the peloton on sprint stages, bringing back the breakaway on behalf of his team's sprinters. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

PARIS (AFP) — Chinese rider Ji Cheng said he wants to get away from cycling for a while after completing the Tour de France on Sunday.

Ji was a visible member of the peloton over the last three weeks, relishing his role as the “breakaway killer” for his Giant-Shimano team.

And although the 27-year-old did not set the world alight with his performances, he did gain cult status over 3,659 kilometers of racing around France.

But he’s had enough for this year.

Asked what he would do now, he said: “I have no idea. I will try to relax because I got married but 20 days later I came back to Europe for a training camp and then racing and it’s been eight months now since I’ve been home.

“That’s really long, I will try to relax and not think any more about cycling.”

It’s not been easy for Ji, who was expected to ride at the front of the peloton day after day to control breakaway groups and ensure his Giant team would be able to reel them in later so sprinter Marcel Kittel could finish off his work.

Kittel won four stages in total while another German sprinter, John Degenkolb, finished second in two others in which the lumpy run-ins weren’t suited to Kittel’s raw straight-line power.

But Ji’s also had his own challenges to overcome, having suffered from a knee problem.

“The hardest moments were just the first week and the last week,” he said. “The first week had more sprint stages and we had more chances for victories so I was working hard to control the group and working hard on the front. That was a hard week.”

“And the last week because I was injured in the left knee. Already I wasn’t looking forward to the mountains because of my injury which was so painful.

“But the second week was nice for me, I had more time to enjoy the race.”

Enjoyment would be a curious word for a race that lasted more than 90 hours.

And in Ji’s case, he rode for more than six hours longer than winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), in so doing managing the biggest gap between first and last since 1954.

Ji, who was 164th, also finished more than 50 minutes behind the second-to-last finisher and crashed on the final stage on the Champs Elysees, even suffering the ignominy of being lapped by the peloton as it completed eight circuits of the famous avenue.

But every day, Ji managed to get inside the time limit. And it’s not the first time he’s completed a grand tour.

He finished 175th (last place) at the 2012 Vuelta a Espana, although sickness prevented him from completing last year’s Giro d’Italia.

While the native of Harbin in the northeast of China may be the Tour’s “lanterne rouge,” the rider who finishes last, he at least finished, which is more than what 34 other starters managed, among them defending champion Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, and Mark Cavendish.

All three crashed out and Ji says that’s one of the risks in cycling.

“In cycling sometimes dangerous things can happen like a crash, or you can get sick or have a fever,” he said. “It’s normal, last year at the Giro the same thing happened to me. I got very sick before stage five and couldn’t start it.

“It’s really sad but it’s like this. Maybe next year I’ll have this situation. I was pretty lucky really, I didn’t crash or get sick or anything.”

Having made history as the first Chinese rider to compete in the Tour, Ji said he hopes to be a pioneer for his countrymen, but said it will take more than just him to change things.

“I hope so but a cycling project in the country cannot be one man like me,” he said. “Maybe I can show them something but I cannot change anything.

“I hope they can see it’s possible to build a team or train riders to be top professionals. That’s what I hope.”

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In the news: UCI chief Brian Cookson wants Astana’s Alexandr Vinokourov to testify http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/news-uci-chief-brian-cookson-wants-astanas-alexandr-vinokourov-testify_338740 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/07/news/news-uci-chief-brian-cookson-wants-astanas-alexandr-vinokourov-testify_338740#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:58:10 +0000 VeloNews.com http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=338740

Alexandr Vinokourov's presence on Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team staff attracted some criticism during this year's Tour de France. Now, Brian Cookson wants the Kazakh to testify before the anti-doping commission. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

UCI chief Cookson wants Vinokourov and Riis to speak, says he's “delighted” that Lance Armstrong has testified to the commission

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Alexandr Vinokourov's presence on Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team staff attracted some criticism during this year's Tour de France. Now, Brian Cookson wants the Kazakh to testify before the anti-doping commission. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The UCI president, Brian Cookson, has called upon Alexandr Vinokourov and Bjarne Riis, the heads of the two most prominent teams in this year’s Tour de France, to testify before the independent commission on cycling’s doping history as a way of helping the sport move on from its past.

Vinokourov, who is in charge of the Tour de France winner’s Astana squad, tested positive for blood doping in 2007. Riis, who is in charge of Tinkoff-Saxo, winners of three mountain stages and the king of the mountains prize, confessed to having used erythropoietin to win the 1996 Tour; he was initially expunged from the record but subsequently reinstated.

Read the complete article on The Guardian >>

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