Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Tue, 03 Mar 2015 23:02:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies starts season with wins on two continents Tue, 03 Mar 2015 22:59:18 +0000

Mike Woods (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) claimed his first professional victory at the Clássica Internacional Loulé on Sunday. Photo: © João Fonseca

Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies' Woods claims his first international win in Portugal, while Zwizanski takes the title in Chico Stage Race

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Mike Woods (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) claimed his first professional victory at the Clássica Internacional Loulé on Sunday. Photo: © João Fonseca

Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies started its 2015 season with convincing wins in both California and Portugal.

Across the pond, Canadian Mike Woods won Sunday’s Clássica Internacional Loulé, soloing away from the field to claim his first professional victory. And just 10 days prior, Woods notched a fifth-place result in the fifth stage of Volta ao Algarve, which was won by Team Sky’s Richie Porte.

“Racing at Algarve definitely had an impact on my performance today,” Woods said on Sunday. “Throughout that race, I really felt like I was riding at a level that I have never ridden at before, and this gave me a big confidence boost. Combine that with a solid recovery week and our team pre-riding all of the course and we felt like we had a shot at winning.”

With 12km to go, Woods used a short hill as a launchpad for his winning move. He attacked twice on the kicker and was clear after his second move. There was a lull in the field, and the chase became fragmented, helping Woods open the gap he needed.

“The team was phenomenal today, even though we had some guys that are really sick and some who were not able to start. When Guillaume told me to attack with 10km to go in the race, I had the confidence to do it, and a solid sense of where I needed to launch.”

Meanwhile in California, Scott Zwizanski won the overall title at the Chico Stage Race, a four-stage, three-day event, which finished on Sunday.

“My form may be good, but this was certainly a team win,” Zwizanski said. “We worked together well and took advantage of every opportunity that was given to us to win the race together. The behind-the scenes guys like [Tom] Soladay and [Bjorn] Selander might not be on the podium, but their hard work and tactical savvy made everything possible.”

In the end, the Optum squad stood together on the final podium, having won the team prize, a feat that was also achieved by the European squad at Loulé that same day.

Although Alison Tetrick didn’t have the same firepower for support in Chico — she was the only Optum rider in the race — she still won Saturday’s road race stage and finished fourth on GC, despite a mechanical that spoiled her ambitions for the overall title in the final-day time trial.

“Alison was particularly strong and enthusiastic with her new teammates at camp,” Optum women’s performance director Patrick McCarty said. “It is absolutely no surprise to me she smashed the competition at her first race after this camp. Unfortunately, she had some bad luck in the TT that derailed her chances at winning the overall, but that certainly won’t be happening at most races, so we are very happy with her result.”

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Gerrans returns at Strade Bianche Tue, 03 Mar 2015 20:08:31 +0000

Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) is ready to return to the peloton after missing out on early season Australian races with a broken collarbone. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

A crash while mountain biking in December led to Simon Gerrans' longest time away from the bike, but he's back and ready to race Saturday

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Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) is ready to return to the peloton after missing out on early season Australian races with a broken collarbone. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

After his longest break from racing since turning pro 11 years ago, Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) returns to competition this weekend at Strade Bianche.

The veteran Australian crashed three months ago, leaving him with a broken clavicle, and with a snap of the bone, he was forced to forfeit a chance to defend his title at the Santos Tour Down Under in January.

Coming off an intense training camp in South Africa, Gerrans vows to make up for lost time.

“I’m always excited to get racing underway, but this year more so than ever,” Gerrans wrote on his personal website. “Now that I’ve gone such a long period without racing, I’m really looking forward to getting back into it again and getting the season started.”

Gerrans, 34, hasn’t raced since coming oh-so-close to the rainbow jersey with second behind Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-Quick-Step) at the world championships last September in Spain.

A mountain biking crash derailed his plans to open the 2015 season at the Tour Down Under and vie for the Australian national championship. Now back to full health, Gerrans was training with teammate Daryl Impey in South Africa, including rides across Kruger National Park.

After Strade Bianche this weekend and GP Nobili, also in Italy, on March 19, Gerrans will race the Volta a Catalunya before heading into the Ardennes, for Amstel Gold Race and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Missing from his tentative schedule is Milano-Sanremo, the race he won in dramatic fashion in 2012. He’s also swapped Paris-Nice for Catalunya, with hopes of avoiding illness or a physical setback in the French race that’s often held under nasty weather conditions.

The ideal is to be firing on all cylinders in time for his Liège defense in late April.

“For my first few races, I may be at a bit of a disadvantage due to a lack of race fitness. I will be lining up against guys that have done a few races already this year, and they’ll obviously have more top-end fitness than myself,” Gerrans said. “The plan last year was to race only half of Paris-Nice to get some racing in the legs, and head home before I got sick. But even after going home midway through the race, I still came down ill off the back of it. The program change was made even before I was injured in December.”

Gerrans’ late start could be a blessing in disguise. While he admits he will be short of top-end form coming into the early season races, he’s hoping he will be fresher and even stronger for the Tour de France, where’s he hopes to add to stage wins from 2008 and 2013, and the world championships, held on a course that suits him in Richmond, Virginia, in September.

“I think the late start will work in my favor,” he said. “It should enable me to be a lot fresher for my goals to come, particularly in the later parts of the season.”

For Strade Bianche, Orica-GreenEdge will be racing across the white roads of Tuscany for the first time in team history.

“We are certainly not favorites. We haven’t got any race experience here, so we are going in for a bit of a hit out, but the best way to go for a hit out is to have a go to try to get a result,” said sport director Neil Stephens in a team release. “To a degree, we are coming in from the shadows.”

Joining Gerrans in his 2015 season debut will be Esteban Chaves, Magnus Cort, Luke Durbridge, Matthew Hayman, Michael Hepburn, Svein Tuft, and Adam Yates.

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In the News: Woman dies after feedzone crash in Belgium Tue, 03 Mar 2015 18:20:35 +0000 A 54-year-old woman is hit in a feedzone at a Sunday race in Belgium. She died Monday in a hospital

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Sporza reports that a 54-year-old woman has died after being struck by a rider during a race in Belgium on Sunday. The victim, who was the wife of ex-pro Ludwig Wynants, was taken to a hospital but succumbed to her injuries on Monday.

She was hit by an 18-year-old racer in the Brustem-Sint-Truiden race, an event for elite riders without pro contracts. The rider said a sudden gust of wind caused the crash. He suffered a concussion and a shoulder injury.


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In the News: Wellens retires from professional cyclocross racing Tue, 03 Mar 2015 17:51:14 +0000

Bart Wellens announced his retirement from professional cyclocross on Tuesday. Photo: (File).

Two-time world cyclocross champion Bart Wellens ends his 15-year career after a season of disappointing results and back pain

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Bart Wellens announced his retirement from professional cyclocross on Tuesday. Photo: (File).

Sporza reports that two-time world cyclocross champion Bart Wellens (Telenet-Fidea) announced his retirement on Tuesday. He told Sporza that he made the decision after an underwhelming 2014-15 season that was hampered by back pain.

Wellens is also implicated in the ongoing investigation into Belgian doctor Chris Mertens, who is accused of providing ozone therapy to top athletes.

The 34-year-old Belgian won the rainbow jersey in 2003 at Monopoli, Italy and a year later in Pont-Château, France. He also won the cyclocross World Cup in 2003 and the Superprestige series in 2004.


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Kevin de Weert says he’s not under investigation in ozone doping case Tue, 03 Mar 2015 16:03:27 +0000

Kevin de Weert (LottoNL-Jumbo) is free to race, according to his team, despite a connection to Dr. Chris Mertens during his time with Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Photo: BrakeThrough Media | (File).

Kevin de Weert is not under investigation in relation to the Dr. Chris Mertens, his team announced Tuesday

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Kevin de Weert (LottoNL-Jumbo) is free to race, according to his team, despite a connection to Dr. Chris Mertens during his time with Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Photo: BrakeThrough Media | (File).

Kevin de Weert is not under investigation in relation to Dr. Chris Mertens, who faces trial for allegedly providing banned ozone treatment to athletes. De Weert’s team, LottoNL-Jumbo, made this announcement hours after Belgian daily Het Laaste Nieuws connected him to the inquiry on Tuesday.

“I was a patient at doctor Mertens’ practice for a short period of time in 2012, which is close to my home. At the moment I received notice of the investigation, I immediately looked for a different physician,”said de Weert in a statement. “At the end of 2013, I received a court letter with the request to voluntarily provide them with DNA material because they wanted to close the case. In the beginning of 2014, I voluntarily gave them samples of my DNA, and I do not have to justify myself at the court or my sports federation, because I never received any summons for hearing.”

De Weert, a Belgian climber who was riding for Omega Pharma-Quick Step in 2012, is free to race and will start Tirreno-Adriatico next week, according to his team.

Mertens is being investigated for providing ozone therapy to top athletes in cycling and other sports, a procedure wherein blood is removed, infused with ozone, and then re-injected. He is also accused of prescribing the injection of Vaminolact, an infant medication. Vaminolact is not illegal itself, but administering it with an infusion breaks the UCI’s no-needle policy.

A number of cyclists have been connected to the doctor, including cyclocross star Tom Meeusen and BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet. The latter has been named as a client of Mertens but is not under investigation in the ozone case.

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Technical FAQ: Di2 options, hot brakes, and more Tue, 03 Mar 2015 15:39:48 +0000

Disc brakes may not be the answer to solving hot brake issues on road bikes, writes Lennard Zinn. Photo: Logan VonBokel |

Lennard Zinn addresses a variety of questions ranging from using two Di2 modules to follow-ups about exploding tires at the Tour of Oman

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Disc brakes may not be the answer to solving hot brake issues on road bikes, writes Lennard Zinn. Photo: Logan VonBokel |

Using two Di2 control modules

Dear Lennard,
I had another thought in terms of mixing an XTR Di2 rear derailleur with a Dura-Ace or Ultegra Di2 front. Could this be done with two control modules — one for each derailleur — or would that require two batteries? Being unfamiliar with the mechanical aspects of Di2, it occurred to me Shimano may use the power wires for the control signals, in which case it wouldn’t work with just one battery. But if that were the case, how big a penalty would it be to have two batteries, or is that just not feasible?
— Steve

Dear Steve,
If you have two separate batteries, the trim function won’t work, which is a key part of Di2. In other words, the front derailleur moves over at two different points during the rear derailleur’s movement across the cassette to provide rub-free performance in any cross gear. This obviously cannot happen if the two derailleurs are running as separate systems.
— Lennard

MTB trainer setup

Dear Lennard,
I’d like to set up my 1×11 drivetrain (SRAM X1) MTB to ride on a Wahoo Kickr trainer until the weather improves a bit. The Kickr is a wheel-off setup and I’m concerned about compatibility of the cassette that comes with it. You can get the Kickr with an 11-speed cassette, but I suspect it’s a road cassette, and I don’t know if it will work with the rest of the drivetrain. I thought maybe I could just pick up a compatible cassette and replace the one on the Kickr, but the least expensive SRAM 11-speed mountain cassette is about $300 — more than I’m excited to spend on a cassette that will live out its life on a trainer. Do you think the 11-speed cassette that comes with the Kickr will work? Or can I buy one of the less expensive SRAM or Shimano 11-speed road/cross cassettes and use that?

— Chester

Dear Chester,
Either choice will work; the spacing is the same on an 11-speed road or MTB cassette as your X1 cassette, so the derailleur will shift just fine with the Kickr stock 11-speed cassette or any SRAM or Shimano 11-speed cassette.
― Lennard

More on exploding tires at the Tour of Oman

Dear Lennard,
Bontrager (and others) has introduced tubeless-ready versions of their D3 Aeolus carbon wheels. Could a good tubeless rim/tire/sealant combination have mitigated the danger of exploding tires?
— Eric

Dear Eric,
Some of the dangers would disappear, but I still foresee plenty of problems in that kind of heat with prolonged braking.

No, you could not tear off valve stems as with a tubular with liquefied rim cement. And you could not melt inner tubes as with a clincher.

But with full-carbon tubeless clincher rims, you still run the risk of the rim walls folding outward like a limp taco shell if the Tg (Glass Transition Temperature) of the resin is exceeded.

The potential for the tire itself to fail would be the same as with a standard clincher. The enormous heat and pressure could cause the tire to fail and would certainly do so if its melting point were to be exceeded.

With rims converted to tubeless with plastic rim strips, whether aluminum or carbon rims, another concern could be melting the rim strips to the point that the air pressure blows out through the spoke holes.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
If the peloton would switch to disc brakes, the heat would not be a problem anymore!
— Todd

Dear Todd,
That is not entirely true. Yes, the overheated rims and tires we saw in Oman would cease to be a problem with disc brakes. In those conditions, I believe the heat at the caliper and rotor would be a problem, however, and, as I said in my column about Oman, could lead to total brake failure.

Even if the UCI were to allow disc brakes in road racing, for them to gain wide acceptance, road racers would insist on superlight versions that are also low in profile. Racers are not going to be interested in brakes that render their $10,000 aero road bike less aerodynamic than road bikes of the 1970s. Calipers and rotors sticking out in the air create drag, as do the crossed spoking patterns and more spokes required with disc brakes.

But answering some of these demands by reducing the size and weight of the calipers and rotors means there will be very little thermal mass in the system, making them subject to overheating. Too much heat in the caliper can boil the fluid and can burn through the resin pads that good performance with tiny rotors requires.

If hydraulic fluid boils in a brake system, the brakes do not work. Hydraulic brakes work because fluids are essentially non-compressible, so pushing on one end of a column of fluid will result in just as much push at the other end of the column of fluid. Gases, however, are compressible. That’s why we ride on pneumatic tires. So if the fluid boils, gas bubbles will appear in the fluid, and the push from the master cylinder piston in the lever will not push the pistons in the calipers out hard enough to stop the bike.

We’ve discussed this here in the past. Different brake fluids have different boiling points, but all of them do have a boiling point.

As for the pads, resin pads get a stronger initial bite on the rotor than do metallic, a.k.a. sintered, pads. And if the rotor size is going to be tiny, like 140mm (or smaller yet) in order to satisfy the desires of road riders for low weight and low wind drag, you will need a lot of brake bite. But resin pads will rapidly be destroyed with the kind of heat that slowing down a road bike on a steep, fast descent in high ambient temperatures requires.

As an example of the issues involved, I can point to experience with a super strong, super-tall, 330-pound customer of mine who owns five custom Zinn titanium bikes we’ve built for him here in Boulder. The last two have been with hydraulic disc brakes, because he had so many brake and tire problems with rim brakes similar to the ones I discussed in my article about Oman.

This man rides a lot, all over the world, and he does things like back-to-back six-week riding camps in the Alps in summertime. (He gets stronger and stronger, but, contrary to what you might expect, his weight does not change significantly.)

With Shimano hydraulic road disc brakes, he was getting just one day (!) out of organic (a.k.a. resin) pads, even on cool days, and that’s using XTR rotors, 180mm front, 160mm rear, not the 140mm rotors that come with the Shimano Di2 road disc brakes. Yes, his disc brakes work way better for him than rim brakes ever did, and they eliminated the tire problems he was having, but daily pad replacement was overly burdensome for him. So he switched to sintered pads, and on his trips to the Alps, he now goes six days between pad changes. He’s not overjoyed about the hassle, but he can deal with weekly, rather than daily, pad replacement. He also has to forgo the nice initial bite of a resin pad.

Despite Shimano’s insistence that he should need neither the large rotors nor the sintered pads, that is what he ended up with, because he could not stop with 140mm rotors. Imagine the braking power it takes to slow his bike down while descending the Col du Tourmalet. He and his bike weigh 350 pounds, the same as a 175-pound man and his 135-pound wife on a 40-pound tandem. If you’ve ever ridden a tandem down a steep descent (like the Tourmalet!), you know how fast it picks up speed. I know from personal experience how terrifying exactly this circumstance can be. Now imagine the minimal sense of security you would feel if all that stood between you and your partner and flying off a cliff in the Alps were a pair of road disc brakes with 140mm rotors.

It is my opinion that prolonged braking in 120-degree Fahrenheit (49C) temperatures would bring about similar brake problems for a rider of a more average weight.

Cable-actuated disc brakes could solve some of these problems, but they are not likely to be used by road racers. When coupled with sintered pads, cable-actuated disc brakes would eliminate most heat problems at the rim and at the caliper, other than perhaps warped rotors (or even melted sandwich-style rotors). But they are bulkier, heavier, and less aerodynamic than hydraulic discs can be, and they have less power and modulation.

My point is that I don’t think a magic bullet yet exists for being able to do prolonged braking on a steep descent at 120-degree temperatures. The best thing you can do in the meantime is not hold onto the brakes but instead brake harder and let off for a few seconds in between, rather than letting them continue to heat up. Or alternate front and rear braking to let one cool at a time if you have to maintain a slow speed, like in a neutralized descent.
― Lennard

Patching tubes

Dear Lennard,
Can latex tubes be patched the same way that butyl tubes can? Will the vulcanizing Rema Standard Patch Kits, #21 work on both types of tubes?
— Brian

Dear Brian,
Yes and yes.
― Lennard

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Wiggins to race Paris-Nice Tue, 03 Mar 2015 15:11:19 +0000

Bradley Wiggins was part of a successful first outing for Team Sky in the 2015 cobbles season, riding in support of eventual winner Ian Stannard at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Bradley Wiggins will fine-tune his form at Paris-Nice in advance of a run at Paris-Roubaix later this spring

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Bradley Wiggins was part of a successful first outing for Team Sky in the 2015 cobbles season, riding in support of eventual winner Ian Stannard at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Photo: Tim De Waele |

PARIS (AFP) — Bradley Wiggins, winner of the 2012 Tour de France, was named Tuesday in Team Sky’s lineup for the six-stage Paris-Nice race which begins Sunday.

Wiggins won Paris-Nice in 2012 prior to his Tour triumph. The race is a key part of his farewell schedule before he leaves Sky to set up his own team. Australia’s Richie Porte, who won the Paris-Nice in 2013 and Welsh rider Geraint Thomas, who led last year’s edition, are also part of a strong Sky lineup featuring Bernhard Eisel and Nicolas Roche.

The 2015 edition of Paris-Nice looks to favor climbers, with a summit finish and a final-day uphill time trial, which means Porte may be Sky’s protected GC rider this time around.

For Wiggins, 34, Paris-Nice will be a warm-up for the prestigious Paris-Roubaix classic, which he is keen to win as his final race with Sky on April 12. His classics season is off to a positive start after supporting teammate Ian Stannard, who rode to his second consecutive win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, on Saturday.

Wiggins has won 25 of his 37 victories with Sky, while his finest hours remain the Tour de France triumph and the Olympic time trial title won on his home streets of London in 2012.

Meanwhile, Sky leader Chris Froome will take part in the Tirreno-Adriatico, which begins March 11, in Italy, and which also features Vuelta champion Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and Giro d’Italia champion Nairo Quintana (Movistar).

In Italy, Froome will be backed up by new teammate Leopold Konig, seventh in the Tour de France last year, Spaniard Mikel Nieve, and British duo Stannard and Peter Kennaugh.

Sky team for Paris-Nice:

Bernhard Eisel (A)
Lars-Petter Nordhaug (N)
Richie Porte (Aus)
Nicolas Roche (Irl)
Luke Rowe (GB)
Ben Swift (GB)
Geraint Thomas (GB)
Bradley Wiggins (GB)

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Sky nearing classics zenith with monuments approaching Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:59:08 +0000

Ian Stannard's teammates helped put him into position to win Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The squad has molded itself into a strong classics contender since it first raced in 2010

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Ian Stannard's teammates helped put him into position to win Saturday's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Photo: Tim De Waele |

MILAN (VN) — With Ian Stannard’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad win Saturday in Gent, Belgium, Sky showed it is reaching a new level in classics racing after dominating in grand tours over the past five years. With the monuments on the horizon, the result boosted the British team’s morale and sent a warning out to established squads like Etixx-Quick-Step.

“We were all quite young at the start of the team in 2010, but we’ve been growing together and learning the races,” Stannard told VeloNews in February. “It comes down to experience, knowing and learning the races.”

Stannard took on and beat the three-to-one odds Saturday to win Belgium’s first classic of the year. Etixx had Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, and Stijn Vandenbergh in the winning group of four. Vandenbergh attacked and Terpstra countered, but the 27-year-old Brit Stannard still was able to repeat his 2014 victory.

The victory came thanks to Stannard’s tactical wizardry, but also on the back of Sky’s work. He relied on teammates like Luke Rowe, Christian Knees, Bernhard Eisel, and 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins.

Geraint Thomas sat out Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, but he will further re-enforce the team for E3 Harelbeke and other classics.

The robustness of the team easily outshines what Sky had when it debuted on the cobbles of northern Europe in 2010. It relied on Edvald Boasson Hagen and Juan Antonio Flecha, but lacked experienced supporting characters. Thomas and Stannard were still young and Rowe had yet to turn professional.

Boasson Hagen left and Flecha retired, while Thomas, Stannard, and Rowe have matured. Last year, Thomas placed seventh in Paris-Roubaix ahead of Wiggins (ninth), who switched from grand tour racing.

“I think we are learning as a team,” said Rowe, who placed ninth behind Stannard on Saturday. “We are now riding perfectly together.”

Team manager David Brailsford must be pleased because the result Saturday fits in perfectly with the “2020 vision” he presented in the offseason.

“The first chapter of Team Sky was successful. We set out to win the Tour de France, to do it clean and to do it with a British rider,” Brailsford said.

“And we are now hungrier than ever. Our mission for 2020 is very simple — for Team Sky to be indisputably and consistently the best cycling team in the world, and to be viewed as one of the very best sports teams in the world. We will do that by winning more races in the next five years than we did in the past five years. And do that consistently in grand tours as well as classics and monuments.”

Etixx remains the benchmark for classics racing, which it partially demonstrated by putting three of its men in the winning move Saturday. It failed to win, but turned around and did so the next day in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Sky appears to be just as sharp as the first monuments of 2015 approach, starting with Milano-Sanremo on March 22 and continuing with the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) on April 5 and Paris-Roubaix on April 12.

“It’s no secret that Quick-Step is the strongest team in these races,” Rowe explained, “but when you go through the names that we have with Geraint, Bernie, and a couple of others … there’s no reason we can’t challenge teams like Quick-Step.”

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Specialized adds to saddle lineup with Power model Tue, 03 Mar 2015 14:17:51 +0000

The Specialized Power saddle is designed for road racers and triathletes. It resembles a time trial saddle, with its stubby nose, but the Power saddle is designed for any rider who spends a lot of time in a low position, whether that's in the drops or on the aero bars. Photo: Logan VonBokel |

Specialized's new saddle is designed for riders who prefer an aggressive position and seek a blend of support and comfort

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The Specialized Power saddle is designed for road racers and triathletes. It resembles a time trial saddle, with its stubby nose, but the Power saddle is designed for any rider who spends a lot of time in a low position, whether that's in the drops or on the aero bars. Photo: Logan VonBokel |

Specialized’s line of saddles is getting close to being as large as its line of bicycles. The newest model, the Power saddle, takes design elements from Specialized’s time trial saddle, the Sitero, and Specialized’s popular Phenom saddle.

At first glance, the Power saddle stands out with its wide cutout. Then you sit on it and feel the Power’s extremely stiff carbon shell.

“The Power saddle is made using a new construction that combines carbon and advanced polymers, achieving the stiffness of carbon and the durability of plastic,” Specialized’s Lucas Hartman said.

Hartman went on to claim the Power saddle’s base is 20 percent stronger than other S-Works saddles and is 12 percent stiffer. While I cannot corroborate the claim in regards to strength, as I’ve only ridden the Power saddle for a few hundred miles, I can say it’s the stiffest saddle I’ve ridden. But don’t misconstrue that to mean it’s uncomfortable because it’s not.

Fans of more classically shaped saddles, such as the Fizik Aliante and Selle San Marco Regal, will likely find the stiffness of the Power off-putting. Those riders’ test rides won’t take them further than the bike shop’s parking lot. The lower-level Expert model uses a less-stiff shell and a little thicker padding than the two higher-end models and it’s also heavier, but riders scared off by the S-Works stiffness might try the less expensive model.

It is also available in two width options: 143mm (tested) and a slightly wider 155mm.

The snub-nose of the Power saddle is another eye-catcher. Hartman said the Power saddle has a nose about 3cm shorter than more traditional saddles. The nose is also at a different angle than the tail end. Specialized recommends to install the saddle so the nose is level with the ground, which will make the tail flare up. When you’re bent down in the drops and pushing on the pedals, the flare in the back keeps your behind planted, rather than sliding backward on the saddle.

I’ve spent about 300 miles on the Power saddle. It’s unlike any other saddle I’ve ever ridden. It’s not a saddle I would opt to ride for a long day of rough roads or in a cyclocross race, but that’s not what’s it’s designed for. It would make for a great option for someone who wants to ride the same saddle on both their road and time trial bikes.

Similarly, I would recommend any road racers who are suffering from numbness in their nether region to give the Power a chance. Specialized claims the Power gives riders the best blood flow of any saddle when they are in aggressive positions, such as in the drops. Whether or not that’s true I couldn’t say, but I can say that I didn’t experience any numbness while riding this saddle on two different road bikes, and I have dealt with numbness with many other saddles.

Now that I’ve put that image in your head, my recommendation: If you’re happy with your saddle, stick with it. But if you suffer from some discomfort, you might want to see if your Specialized dealer is going to have any Power demo saddles to try out.

Suggested retail price: S-Works: $300; Pro: $200; Expert: $130.
We like: Once dialed in, it’s surprisingly comfortable. You can feel the support without numbness after a long day.
We don’t like: Looks pretty silly, but unless you’re in the WorldTour, no one is likely to photograph your saddle before a race.
The scoop: Something different, but in the saddle world, the word “different” is taboo. It’s a great option for the rider who suffers from numbness and is looking for something new.

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Talansky headed to Paris-Nice with 2015 season built around Tour de France Tue, 03 Mar 2015 13:46:47 +0000

Andrew Talansky in the new Cannondale-Garmin colors. Photo: Courtesy of Cannondale-Garmin | Jake Hamm.

Andrew Talanksy begins his 2015 season at Paris-Nice with one objective in mind — success at the Tour de France

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Andrew Talansky in the new Cannondale-Garmin colors. Photo: Courtesy of Cannondale-Garmin | Jake Hamm.

After a rollercoaster 2014 season that brought American Andrew Talanksy his greatest sporting achievement to date and also his lowest moment, the Cannondale-Garmin rider heads into the 2015 season with one objective in mind — success at the Tour de France.

What success at the Tour look would look like for Talansky, against a field that is expected to include three former winners, remains to be seen.

A 10th-place finisher at the 2013 Tour, Talansky, 26, won the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné, taking advantage of the rivalry between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome to pull of a daring final-stage coup. He headed into last year’s Tour as a contender for, if not the podium, then perhaps a top-five finish.

However multiple crashes, including a dramatic finish-line collision with Australian Simon Gerrans on stage 7, saw Talansky on the back foot, struggling to survive. His string of bad luck and frustration came to a head on a dramatic day spent riding alone from Besançon to Oyonnax, over four categorized climbs, pressed to make the time cut. In the span of six weeks, Talansky had experienced an all-time high, followed by a very public low, both on the roads of France.

The Florida native abandoned the Tour the following day. He closed out his season at the Vuelta a España, in a support role riding for Dan Martin, and at the UCI Road World championships, where he placed 15th in the time trial.

Talansky comes into the 2015 season recharged, with all eyes on redemption, and improvement, at the Tour de France.

This year’s major Tour favorites — Froome (Sky), Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and 2014 Giro d’Italia champ Nairo Quintana (Movistar) — will square off at Tirreno-Adriatico, but Talanksy will instead start his race season on March 8, at Paris-Nice, which overlaps with the Italian stage race. He’ll follow that with Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, March 23-29, and then Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, April 6-11, before taking a break. It’s the same spring race schedule as his American GC rival Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), who finished fifth at last year’s Tour, and more recently finished second overall at the Tour of Oman.

But when it comes to team depth, Talansky won’t have the same support as van Garderen, or any of the other major Tour favorites. After the retirement of teammate David Millar, following the 2013 retirements of Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie, this iteration of the former Garmin squad is the youngest since it launched in 2008, with the lowest average age of any 2015 WordTeam.

Though he’s just 26, Talansky was named one of the squad’s three road captains, along with Martin and Ryder Hesjedal.

At an early season Cannondale-Garmin team launch in Manhattan, Talanksy spoke with VeloNews about his 2015 objectives, his dramatic 2014 season, his young Garmin squad, and whether or not he and van Garderen should be considered rivals.

VeloNews: What can you share about your race schedule and season objectives?
Andrew Talanksy: My schedule is pretty simple for 2015. I made a couple slight changes based on wanting to be kind of even better in June and July, but also with the goal of really being able to focus on the early part of the season 100 percent, being as good as I can possibly be, come March and April for that time of year. I’m going to be doing Paris-Nice, Cataluyna, and Pais Vasco, so yeah, three one-week races with essentially one week in between each one. It’s a little different whereas in the past I’ve done Paris-Nice and then Critérium International, and then Tour de Romandie. I’ve done Paris-Nice and Basque combos but I’ve never done that three-race block, but I like the idea of … in the past I’ve tried to be good for Paris-Nice and then again at Romandie and then again for the Tour. So this year I’m focusing on being as good as possible for that three-race block, and then come back again for Dauphiné and the Tour. That’s the plan.

VN: Pais Vasco is one of the hardest one-week stage races on the calendar …
AT: Yeah, it’ll be the third race in a row, but it’s kind of like a grand tour — it’s not a grand tour, it’s not strung together three weeks — but kind of with that idea, mentally you can just switch on for that whole time. For those, it’ll be five weeks by the time it’s done. For those five weeks you’re 100 percent switched on, focused — race, recover, race, recover. And I like that, I like where you have a very clear goal; a very clear period of time that you know you need to be good, and then can take a proper rest than I have in the past, a little longer, because Romandie is a little later in the year and you can’t take as long of a break after it, before the Tour. So we’ll take a proper break and then rebuild, maybe for nationals on the way to Dauphiné, and then Dauphiné and the Tour.

VN: Heading into just your fifth season on the WorldTour, 26 is pretty young to be a leader of the team at the Tour de France.
AT: I think this team; we’re kind of growing together. With David Millar retiring in the last year, he was kind of … we still have riders from the original squad, but Christian, David … they both took on pretty heavy leadership roles. They were kind of the heads of state of the team, and with both of them gone, it’s definitely a transition. We have a younger team, and we’re kind of growing into it together. We have great directors, to fill that missing gap, but I don’t think age is the crucial factor. It’s how you interact with your teammates, how you are on and off the bike, that’s what really makes you a leader. There are guys who are 35 who aren’t leaders, because that’s just not what they do. I think between myself, Dan, and Ryder, we’ll do pretty well.

VN: How do you feel this new, young squad is going to help you achieve your season’s goals?
AT: I think they’re going to do well. I think you saw a preview of it last year at the Dauphiné and the Tour. That was momentum building; you saw it again with Dan in the Vuelta. It’s like when we send a team for Dan, to Lombardi, or Beijing, when you send a team to accomplish something with the group we have, I think we’re very, very good at doing it. Obviously the team is younger, but we’ve raced together for years. Ben King and myself, Alex Howes and myself, Dan and myself, I mean we’ve raced together for years. Dan has been here since we’ve been on the team, Ryder has, so this will be five years racing together and a lot of people change teams every year or two in cycling and don’t end up building those kind of relationships. I’ve raced with Alex Howes and Ben King on the national team in 2010, so we might be younger, but we have a pretty close relationship, and Sebastian Langeveld is another great example of a person who is just from last year, but I have a lot of trust in him, he’s an incredible teammate, he’s a great person on and off the bike.

I think we have the right structure both on and off the bike — the riders, the staff, the directors, everybody — to accomplish the goals we set out, and I have 100 percent confidence that with the goals we’ve laid out, for me personally next season, that the team will be ready to support them and I will be ready to accomplish them for the team.

VN: Last year you went to the Vuelta in a support role. Obviously the Tour is your ultimate objective, but have you had thoughts about trying to win one of the other grand tours, whether it be the Giro or the Vuelta, before taking on the Tour?
AT: Well I can tell you it probably won’t be the Giro. I love racing in Spain and France. Italy is, for whatever reason… the styles of racing are different, the courses are different, so it probably wouldn’t be the Giro, I can tell you that. You know, I think we can address that when we come to that point. I do think there’s something to be said for that, but everyone’s different. I mean you look at what Nibali did. He took a year off the Tour and did the Giro and the Vuelta. I want to get some good results at the Tour first. I would like to do the GC that I think I’m capable of, that the team thinks I’m capable of. But say you do it for three or four years, and you’re fifth, and you’re fourth, and one year you’re nothing, and maybe even third, then there’s something to be said for it. If you’re at the level where you can podium at the Tour, then you’re probably at the level where, if you focus 100 percent on the Vuelta, it’s something you might be able to win. So I think there’s something to be said for that, because winning and being third of fifth, or whatever, is always different. The time for that is not right now, but I wouldn’t be completely opposed to that. If I get to that point that means that I’ll be at a very, very high level, if I’m going to another grand tour to win. That would be a good situation.

VN: When you talk about a good result at the Tour in 2015, what is a realistic good result for you at the Tour? The podium?
AT: That would be a dream result. I got 10th a couple years ago. I felt I was capable of a good result, well within the top 10, last year, and that didn’t happen, but that doesn’t matter because you can sit here all day and say, “I think I would have been able to do this,” and that’s great. But this year, that’s what the goal is still. I’ve had that 10th place, and the goal is obviously to improve on that, and as long as I ride the race to the best of my ability, and get to ride the race that I know I can do, and get to the mountains and get to do my thing, then I know the result is going to be one that I will personally be very happy with, that the team will be happy with, and that I think the American fans will be pretty excited about as well. As long as you get to race the race you know you’re capable of.

VN: Your 2014 season was pretty wild, with the Dauphine win, the crashes, and the dramatic day at the Tour. How much have things changed for you since all of that, and how did all of that affect you, emotionally?
AT: There was obviously a great high, with winning the Dauphine and everything, and a pretty low point with having to go home from the Tour. But I would say that’s kind of something that, in the moment, you can get a little caught up in things, but what I take pride in is that, that’s the result. We get to do the races, that’s our showcase to the world, of all the hard work we’ve put in, that’s what people get to see. But it doesn’t change the job at all, it doesn’t change home at all, you have to do the same work, you have to be just as dedicated, and I’m not any more or less dedicated to my job than I was before winning Dauphine, or than I was two years ago. It’s always stayed the same. The only thing is that I’ve progressed in what I can do physically, and obviously mentally progressed a bit, to the point where I can win a race like that.

It was a lot to absorb in the moment. It definitely took time. It’s something I’m very, very proud of. In the back of the race books they have a list of people who have won the race, right? It’s not first, second, third — it’s first. It’s whoever won, and my name will be there forever, and that’s an exciting feeling. But I definitely didn’t change off the bike. The result may change the way others may view you, but ideally it doesn’t change who you are and the way you act, and I like to think that’s true for myself.

VN: You and Tejay are the two biggest U.S. stage racers in the spotlight. You are similarly aged, you have similar strengths, you both ride for American teams. I’m curious about that relationship. Is it a rivalry, is it a friendship, or is it somewhere in between?
AT: There’s definitely rivalry. When we’re at races we’re competing against each other. There’s definitely pride to be had, in terms of being the best American in a race. But I think both of us are at a point in our career where we very much realize it’s not about that. Neither of us are the other’s biggest concern in a race. We’re racing against Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali, Chis Froome, Joaquim Rodriguez — there are people who we need to deal with before dealing with each other. There are a few other obstacles. So it’s a rivalry, but I wouldn’t say it’s really any more than the other guys we’re competing with, at least for me.

I don’t talk to Tejay much during the year, but when we’re at a race, or at worlds, we’ll talk, we’ll chat, and we can definitely ride well together, and get along fine when we’re together. There’s no ill will or anything like that, so that’s nice. I was happy Tejay was in the Tour, and ended up fifth, because it gave the American public something to be excited about, and we both recognize that’s the most important thing; giving the American people something to really get behind in cycling — especially at the Tour — and have something they can follow every year, whether it’s me or him. Obviously I’d prefer it to be me, but I still take pride in it, that we have an American up there. The year before I was 10th, he was fifth that year [2012] … so yeah, there’s a rivalry, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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Study: 103.7 million Americans ride bikes Mon, 02 Mar 2015 22:22:42 +0000

Photo: Logan VonBokel |

A new study indicates that bicycling participation among Americans is substantially greater than initially thought

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Photo: Logan VonBokel |

Bicycling participation among Americans is substantially greater than initially thought, according to a new study released Monday.

The U.S. Bicycling Participation Benchmarking Report, commissioned by PeopleForBikes, indicates that 34 percent of Americans age three or older rode a bike at least once in 2014. For comparison, the same study found that 40 percent of Americans ran or jogged outside last year.

Previous studies had pegged U.S. bicycling participation much lower. The 2014 National Sporting Goods Association data indicated a bicycling participation rate of only 12 percent.

“We’re happy and excited about the methodology, because frankly we’ve always been frustrated with existing traditional bicycle participation reports,” said Tim Blumenthal, PeopleForBikes’ president. “They would either focus on recreational riding, or some, like the U.S. census, exclusively on transportation riding, and this one is comprehensive.

“This gives us a platform, a base, from which we can ask the same questions again and again over time and determine trends and have confidence in the findings.”

Fifty-seven percent of those who rode a bike last year did so for recreation.

However, the study also found that 48 percent of U.S. adults do not have access to a bike at home, and 52 percent worry about being hit by a car while riding.

“A lot of Americans ride bikes, but unfortunately from our point of view, most or many only ride occasionally,” Blumenthal said. “Thirty percent rode five days or less, and a pretty big number rode only once in the last year.

“There’s tons of potential. If we can address the concerns of those millions of people, a lot more people are going to ride bikes, and that’s going to be good for the business, good for safety, and good for the country.”

The research was commissioned by PeopleForBikes and conducted by Breakaway Research Group, which surveyed 16,193 U.S. adults for the study.

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Roche understands Contador’s motivation to take on Giro-Tour double Mon, 02 Mar 2015 20:50:32 +0000

Nicholas Roche admires former teammate Alberto Contador's ambition for the Giro-Tour double. Now riding for Team Sky, Roche (shown here in a 2013 Tinkoff training camp) feels Contador needed a new challenge. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

Nicholas Roche's father is one of seven to pull off the double. Though he rides for Team Sky, he admires his former teammate's ambition

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Nicholas Roche admires former teammate Alberto Contador's ambition for the Giro-Tour double. Now riding for Team Sky, Roche (shown here in a 2013 Tinkoff training camp) feels Contador needed a new challenge. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

Nicolas Roche has an interesting take on Alberto Contador’s run at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double.

Not only did he ride two seasons alongside the ambitious Spaniard in 2013-14, but also his father, Stephen, was only one of seven riders to have matched the feat, when he won the Giro and Tour (not to mention the world championships) in 1987.

Roche, now racing with rival Team Sky, said he understands Contador’s ambitions.

“It’s great to see that he’s aiming for the double. Alberto is someone who likes to prove he can do the impossible. He’s won nine grand tours [seven after disqualifications from the 2010 Tour and 2011 Giro], so winning one more or one less isn’t going to change that much for him,” Roche told VeloNews. “Doing something that people is say is impossible, that’s a good challenge for him. He finds motivation in that.”

Contador is trying to become the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro and Tour in the same season. Only seven riders have achieved the feat in cycling’s long history. Many consider the double too difficult in today’s peloton, but Contador is trying to defy the prevailing logic.

Roche also said times have changed since the day when his father was racing in the 1980s. He said today’s peloton is much deeper and competitive, making the elusive double even more difficult.

“Yes, my dad did it. Those were different times. Now, the general level is much higher, and the way the racing [is] much different,” Roche continued. “Back in the day, you had 10 or 15 guys who were winning all season long. Today, there are 30-40 guys who can win races. Not the Tour. Realistically, there are only three or four who can win the Tour, but every other race, there are 30 to 40 guys who can win.”

Roche, of course, won’t be cheering for Contador. Since joining Team Sky for 2015, he will be firmly backing teammates Richie Porte and Chris Froome to win the Giro (though Roche won’t be racing there) and Tour, respectively.

Roche will be supporting Porte at Paris-Nice, and then riding a full spring classics campaign with a heavy focus on the Ardennes, before building for the Tour, and later, the Vuelta a España.

“I’m really enjoying my time so far at Sky,” Roche said. “I am looking forward to be in good shape, to give even more.

“I had a bit of an infection early on this month, and it took me out a bit. I did a great winter, so it’s a question before the legs come back. My plan is to back up Richie and G (Geraint Thomas) at Paris-Nice, and I know that I am in much better for in the second part. Slowly but surely, no panic.”

Roche also had a front-row seat to the clash between Contador and Froome at the recent Ruta del Sol. Both were gnashing their teeth to win, with Froome edging Contador by just two seconds to take the overall.

“Alberto showed that he was already close to his top. It’s not because you win the Ruta that you’re going to win the Tour in a few months’ time,” Roche said. “I think it’s great that Alberto is going for the double.”

With a wink, he left it at that, wordlessly saying whom he truly wants to win come July.

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Fairly ‘fitting in nicely’ at Giant-Alpecin Mon, 02 Mar 2015 19:18:08 +0000

Caleb Fairly is looking forward to working for Giant-Alpecin's impressive line-up of sprinters and its aspiring GC favorites. Photo: Andrew Hood |

Caleb Fairly is one of a trio of Americans on the German team who is aiming to leave a mark at WorldTour races this season

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Caleb Fairly is looking forward to working for Giant-Alpecin's impressive line-up of sprinters and its aspiring GC favorites. Photo: Andrew Hood |

Caleb Fairly says he’s “fitting in nicely” with his new team, Giant-Alpecin, and is looking forward to a season in the trenches for the squad’s big guns.

The 28-year-old Texan joined the Dutch-German outfit for the 2015 season after riding for American teams High Road and Garmin since 2010.

“There are differences in the cultures. It’s definitely more Dutch or German; it’s also very relaxed. I am fitting in nicely,” Fairly told VeloNews. “At the same time, it’s very structured and organized. I am liking it so far. They are very punctual, very specific. I can say there is never any confusion about what’s going on, or what your job is that day. That’s good for riders.”

Fairly said he had contact with the Giant-Alpecin organization when High Road was folding at the end of 2011. He spent a season with SpiderTech and joined Garmin for two seasons, where he rode and completed his first grand tour at the Vuelta a España in 2013.

With riders getting squeezed out by the Cannondale-Garmin merger coming into 2015, Fairly found a chance to reconnect with Giant-Alpecin.

“I had a few interactions with them a few years ago after High Road folded, I was interested in making a change, and this team seemed like a good fit,” he said. “There were a few fellow Texans there, with Chad [Haga] and Lawson [Craddock], so it was nice that it worked out. I am pretty happy.”

He’s also reconnected with former High Road teammate John Degenkolb, who has emerged as a budding classics superstar and a threat in harder sprint finales. Fairly already got a taste of what will be in store this season while doing some heavy work at the recent Ruta del Sol to try to set up Degenkolb for a stage win.

“It’s always a lot of hard work when you have the best or favorite sprinter in the race. It’s nice to know that when you’re working for the guy, he has a chance to win,” Fairly continued. “I’ve known John since the High Road years, he’s a really great guy. Everyone gives 100 percent when those guys are in the race. You also get fitness pretty fast when you’re out there hammering away.”

Fairly, however, will also support the team’s growing GC ambitions in stage races and the Ardennes classics.

With Degenkolb and sprint king Marcel Kittel leading the team over the past few seasons, Giant-Alpecin is slowly but surely expanding its GC aspirations. Warren Barguil, who battled to a top-10 in last year’s Vuelta, might be getting a nod to start the Tour de France this summer. Tom Dumoulin will be expanding his stage-race ambitions, in such races as Paris-Nice and the Vuelta al País Vasco, while Simon Geschke will be getting his chances at Tirreno-Adriatico and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“There is a still a really big focus on the sprints, with Kittel, Degenkolb, and Luka [Mezgec], there are so many guys who can win in the sprints. They are starting to focus more in the GC and stage races, so that’s where I hope I can help out,” Fairly explained. “My goals are little bit later in the season, helping guys like Warren, Tom, and Simon, in some of the Ardennes, or the stage races.”

And what about his own ambitions? Fairly’s never won an elite, European-level race, but he’s hoping to get his chances with Giant-Alpecin this season.

“They’ve said there will be opportunities for me. Maybe within races, finding a good breakaway in some of the long stage races,” he said. “I’d like to try my luck.”

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Schleck a scratch for Paris-Nice Mon, 02 Mar 2015 18:34:31 +0000

Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) will not start Paris-Nice due to an injury suffered in February. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

Frank Schleck's recovery from an injury that knocked him out of Ruta del Sol is going slower than expected, and he will not start Paris-Nice

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Frank Schleck (Trek Factory Racing) will not start Paris-Nice due to an injury suffered in February. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

Frank Schleck’s 2015 season is off to a rocky start. The Trek Factory Racing rider crashed out of Ruta del Sol on the first day, suffering a deep muscular hematoma in his quadricep.

On Monday, the team confirmed that the reigning Luxembourg national champion would not start Paris-Nice, which runs March 8-15.

“I am recovering, but it has not gone as fast as I had hoped,” said Schleck in the team’s announcement. “It’s still painful, especially walking; on the bike it actually feels better. So I am able to train a couple hours on the road now, but obviously this is not enough to be ready for a race like Paris-Nice.”

Schleck, 34, headed into the new season without the company of his brother, Andy, who retired from the sport after 2014. Frank Schleck only had one major win to his credit last year, the Luxembourg national road race championships. In 2009, he finished second overall at Paris-Nice.

“I am obviously very disappointed; when I crashed, even though it was super painful, I always thought I would be at the next race,” Schleck said. “It has been a frustrating injury and a slow healing process, but it is still early season and I will be back. I should be fine for GP Nobili [March 19].”

Trek Factory Racing’s lineup for Paris-Nice includes Bob Jungels, Riccardo Zoidl, Giacomo Nizzolo, Gert Steegmans, Kristof Vandewalle, Gregory Rast, Eugenio Alafaci, and Marco Coledon.

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Contador, Froome, Nibali, and Quintana primed for Tirreno Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:25:57 +0000

Alberto Contador returns to Tirreno-Adriatico as the reigning champion, but he'll face stiff competition from the world's best grand tour racers. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The stage is set for the first major showdown between GC heavy-hitters, in early March, at Tirreno-Adriatico, a one-week WorldTour race

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Alberto Contador returns to Tirreno-Adriatico as the reigning champion, but he'll face stiff competition from the world's best grand tour racers. Photo: Tim De Waele |

MILAN — Four of the modern era’s most dominant grand tour winners are set to face off at Tirreno-Adriatico, March 11-17 in Italy.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador, winner of three Vueltas a España, a Giro d’Italia, and one Tour de France will rekindle his rivalry with Chris Froome (Sky), who recently bested the Spaniard at the Ruta del Sol. Froome, who won the 2013 Tour, will be joined by reigning Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali. Like Contador, Nibali has won all three grand tours in his career and is looking to ramp up his form after a modest 20th-place finish at the Tour of Oman. Last, but not least, young Colombian climbing star and 2014 Giro champ Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will join his grand tour rivals in Italy to test his early season form.

“I am really looking forward to returning to this race because I had fantastic sensation there last year, and it gives me another opportunity to meet the Italian fans, who have always made me feel at home,” said Contador.

Contador is the reigning Tirreno-Adriatico champion, but Nibali won two consecutive editions (2012 and 2013) and is looking for a hat trick. Froome is also no stranger to the one-week race, finishing second in 2012. Quintana is recovering from an injury suffered in early February at Colombian nationals but will look to better his second place result earned last year.

Beyond the GC, sprinters Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick-Step), Marcel Kittel (Giant-Alpecin), and Elia Viviani (Team Sky) will aim for stage wins and the red points leader’s jersey.

2015 Tirreno-Adriatico teams and leaders

Ag2r La Mondiale (F) – Pozzovivo, Betancur
Astana (Kaz) – Nibali, Cataldo
Bardiani CSF (I) – Battaglin, Pirazzi
BMC Racing (USA) – Van Avermaet, De Marchi
Bora-Argon 18 (G) – Huzarski, Bennett
Colombia (Col) – Duarte, Rubiano Chavez
Etixx-Quick-Step (B) – Cavendish, Uran
FDJ (F) – Pinot, Roy
IAM Cycling (Swi) – Brändle, Pelucchi
Lampre-Merida (I) – Pozzato, Modolo
Lotto-Soudal (B) – Van Den Broeck, Roelandts
Movistar (Sp) – Quintana, Malori
MTN-Qhubeka (SA) – Boasson Hagen, Ciolek
Orica-GreenEdge (Aus) – Durbridge, Yates
Cannondale-Garmin (USA) – Martin, Hesjedal
Europcar (F) – Rolland, Arashiro
Giant-Alpecin (G) – Kittel, Mezgec
Katusha (Rus) – Rodriguez, Moreno
LottoNL-Jumbo (Nl) – Gesink, Vanmarcke
Team Sky (GB) – Froome, Viviani
Tinkoff-Saxo (Rus) – Contador, Sagan
Trek Factory Racing (USA) – Cancellara, Mollema

The stages

The race will start from Camaiore’s renowned Lido, in the Italian Versilia region, with a 22.7km team time trial.

The second stage, starting from Camaiore and finishing in Cascina (153km), is mostly flat and is likely to see the fastest sprinters in the peloton vie for the win.

Cascina will be the starting location of the 203km third stage and will end in Arezzo, on the same climb that saw Peter Sagan win last year.

Saturday will offer a deceptively challenging 226-kilometer fourth stage, held between the Umbrian and Le Marche regions. The stage will start from Indicatore (Arezzo) with four king of the mountain climbs: Foce dello Scopetone, Poggio San Romualdo, and the final Crispiero climb twice just before the short descent to Castelraimondo.

The 197-kilometer queen stage will be held on Sunday, starting from Esanatoglia and finishing at the summit of Monte Terminillo (5,495ft), with two KOM climbs earlier in the day (Passo Sallegri and Le Arette climbs).

The penultimate stage is ideal for sprinters and will bring the peloton from Rieti to Porto Sant’Elpidio over 210km.

The race concludes in San Benedetto del Tronto, with a final-day 10km individual time trial.

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Out of Africa: MTN-Qhubeka’s model may change pro cycling Mon, 02 Mar 2015 15:20:15 +0000

MTN-Qhubeka has ridden its way into the European peloton, and will debut at the Tour de France in 2015, the first-ever African team to do so. Photo: Tim De Waele |

MTN-Qhubeka slowly climbs the ranks, and it races with a mission to inspire and empower Africans by supporting the Qhubeka charity

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MTN-Qhubeka has ridden its way into the European peloton, and will debut at the Tour de France in 2015, the first-ever African team to do so. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Editor’s note: This is an excerpt of an article from In it, Steve Maxwell and Joe Harris examine the unique approach that MTN-Qhubeka takes to organizing and operating a pro cycling team.

The South Africa-based MTN-Qhubeka team has received a good deal of attention this year, with its off-season signings of Tyler Farrar, Edvald Boassen Hagen, and Matt Goss among others. Its invitation to participate in this year’s Tour de France was also particularly ground-breaking. But apart from being the first African-registered team to earn a spot for the Tour’s starting line, and its notable racing successes over the last few years, the team is also driven by a different and unique philosophy — one which may eventually impact pro cycling at the highest level, and help to evolve the sport toward a more sustainable model.

Team founder and owner Douglas Ryder sees his squad as pioneering the future of African cycling in a way that will lead to more UCI events on the continent, and eventually, more African riders having the opportunity to race on top global teams. “If our success and visibility can help expose the incredible talent and people from this continent, we will help to drive interest and investment in Africa on a broader scale,” says Ryder. By focusing his team on developing and showcasing African talent, Ryder sees no reason why every WorldTour and Pro Continental team shouldn’t include African riders in the not-too-distant future.

In time, Ryder believes that this nascent program has the power to transform cycling, just like African athletes transformed endurance road running in the 1960s and 1970s.

The foundation for this team’s success was laid down in the early 2000s. Ryder began to identify athletes, secure financial and sponsorship partners, and set up relationships with the key people necessary for building a future bridge to the European and WorldTour levels of racing. It started as a Continental Team in 2007 with MTN and Microsoft as the key sponsors. MTN is a major South African telecommunications company, which provides telephone and wireless services to over 200 million people in Africa and the Middle East, and has been the team’s key financial partner for the past eight years. Team management forged a very close relationship with the company. “I see them almost weekly,” says Ryder. MTN has supported cycling at many different levels in South Africa, from the pro team down to local cycling clubs and events. As its riders performed better, and as the team became ready to take on the international world of cycling, they were able to attract a broader array of potential sponsors.

When Samsung signed on as a co-sponsor three years ago, additional funds from this global electronics and manufacturing giant enabled the team to make the jump to the Pro Continental ranking. Plus, MTN and Samsung already work very closely in South Africa, helping leverage their team sponsorship.

“Perhaps because we have come from a different or ‘foreign’ place, relative to the historical origins of most other cycling teams,” says Ryder, “we have been able to approach our sponsors in a different way than many teams — to treat them more as a true partner. In turn, they feel more a part of the team; they are included in many team decisions and are not held at an arm’s length, as is the case in many more traditional teams.”

In 2011, the team created a new relationship with the Qhubeka bicycle charity. Qhubeka is a Zulu word that means “to move forward,” and the organization aims to help rural communities progress by donating bicycles to children in return for work done to improve their environment and their community. Perhaps unique among pro cycling teams, Qhubeka is a named partner but does not provide any funding to the team. Instead, the team provides a platform for Qhubeka’s rural initiatives by donating the space and providing the exposure that would usually be occupied by a team sponsor.

“By displaying the Qhubeka logo on our jerseys and carrying the charity’s mission in our hearts,” says Ryder, “we hope, in some small way, to be able promote greater visibility and awareness of the potential of the African continent.”

This shift in the sponsorship model is different from any other in professional cycling. Rather than relying on publicity and viewership to inspire its target market, the team seeks to empower a new generation of riders by providing the very thing that drives participation in the sport: bicycles. What’s more, the gift of mobility — particularly to kids in rural and under-served areas of Africa — helps to improve education, economic, and healthcare opportunities by reducing the travel barriers between people.

“And as more African kids get more bikes,” adds Ryder, “we will be able to develop more African talent at the top professional level.

“Our team will provide the heroes and the icons to look up to — and Qhubeka will provide the bicycles — so that aspiring youngsters across Africa will have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps. The Tour de France will give us the biggest opportunity yet to tell our story to millions of people, people who can make a real difference to the future of Africa.”


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Etixx’s hard lesson at Omloop pays dividends in Kuurne Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:44:45 +0000

Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory in Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Dan Seaton analyzes Etixx's loss in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, which the team followed by winning Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

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Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory in Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Photo: Tim De Waele |

KUURNE, Belgium (VN) — Once again, the contrasts could not have been more stark. On Saturday, for the second straight year, Belgian powerhouse Etixx-Quick-Step failed to deliver at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, its first home race of the season. On Sunday, for the second straight year, it took revenge at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

In 2014 the difference was largely weather: Saturday’s wet, frigid gloom gave way to the kind of lovely early spring sunshine in which Etixx’s Tom Boonen has built the better part of his career. This year, the difference was simple patience.

At Omloop, overeager racing in the final kilometers erased what had appeared to be a certain victory for the Belgians, and Sky’s Ian Stannard overhauled Nikki Terpstra in the race’s final meters. In Kuurne, by contrast, the Etixx squad put everything into delivering sprinter Mark Cavendish first to the finish line. They adapted quickly when a late breakaway evaporated some 30km out and held their fire until the red kite was well behind, even in the face of an audacious but — at least for a moment — plausible attack by BMC Racing’s Philippe Gilbert, and delivered exactly the victory they had planned.

A night of undoubtedly uneasy sleep was apparently all it took to absorb the lesson of one of the more monumental strategic blunders Belgium has seen in a long time.

The errors at Omloop

Moments after Etixx’s Zdenek Stybar crossed the finish line in seventh position on Saturday, he pointed hopefully to teammate Terpstra. The implicit message of the gesture was clear: “You won? Of course you won, right?”

Terpstra’s shrug and shake of the head told far more than just an answer in the negative. His loss, he seemed to say, was almost unexplainable.

For nearly all of the final 40km of Saturday’s race, Etixx’s riders seemed poised for certain victory. The team, arguably fielding the strongest lineup of the day, broke the race open on the Haagheok cobbles with an attack that eventually set up a three-on-one battle up front: Boonen, Stijn Vandenbergh, and Terpstra against Stannard.

If that wasn’t enough, Etixx had another card up its sleeve. Stybar was sitting in the only serious chase group, perhaps 20 seconds down, alongside Sep Vanmarcke (Lotto NL-Jumbo) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). On paper, Etixx and its smothering tactics appeared to have the race sewn up.

It did not.

Stannard, racing in a weak position, had far less to lose than the Etixx boys in the event. Vanmarcke, who Etixx director Patrick Lefevere later tipped as the race’s strongest man, managed to haul the break back. While Boonen and company launched into a 40km team time trial, Stannard sat comfortably in the slipstream. When the trio started attacking with 5km to go, Stannard covered every move, eventually forcing Terpstra to ride leadout for him as they approached the sprint, handing him an apparently easy victory.

“I was a little bit worried about [being outnumbered],” Stannard said on Saturday. “I thought they were going to attack me pretty hard at the end. But, you know, the group behind was only 20 seconds behind, so they couldn’t try too much. So I could just play poker on the back. You know, Tom tried to attack me and I rode back up to him. When you ride back up to a guy like that, you know your legs are pretty good.”

After the race, Etixx boss Lefevere stoked controversy, telling reporters he saw things differently, that he believed Stannard had not done his part to secure the break against the challenge from behind.

“Stannard did what he had to do,” said Lefevere. “But a rider at his level from that team should have done his share until the gap was 40 seconds. He played tough, OK, but tomorrow or next week it’s another race, and we could play it that way.”

Sky sport director Servais Knaven knows a thing or two about Lefevere’s smother-the-competition tactics. His own biggest victory, in the epic, muddy 2001 Paris-Roubaix, was built on the back of just such a gambit. In that race, his Domo-Farm Frites team, an earlier Lefevere venture, put four men into the top five, a show of force that suffocated what may have been American George Hincapie’s best chance to win the monument.

On Sunday, Knaven told VeloNews he believed Stannard had played a weak hand perfectly.

“I don’t think he should have [worked in the break],” he said. “I think he made the right decision from the beginning not to pull. The guys were going fast enough, and they took 20, 25 seconds immediately. That’s sometimes the other side, when you are that strong as a team, it’s not always the best situation to have so many guys up there. That means you have to work.”

Though Knaven acknowledges Etixx had probably not played the final perfectly, he declined to say they had made a tactical error.

“They played it like this and they didn’t win it, so it was probably not the best tactic,” Knaven said. “I didn’t expect Tom to attack, I thought they would play his card for the sprint. Also because he was sitting on the wheel of Ian the last 10km. But of course that’s easy. If Terpstra had won the sprint everything would be different. It was only 50cm of difference. I’m not going to say they did a stupid tactic. At the end it was good for Ian, but you have to remember Ian still had really strong legs and he had to close all the gaps. He didn’t steal it.”

Etixx sport director Wilfried Peeters, a key player on that same 2001 Domo squad that brought Knaven to victory in Roubaix, told VeloNews he basically agreed with his former teammate’s assessment.

“We were very, very strong with the team. We had four guys in the top seven. OK, we were missing the victory, that’s a mistake from us, also from me and from the team, and it’s not going to happen anymore. But I am very, very happy after the race with the team results. Not with the victory, but hopefully the next races it won’t happen anymore.”

But he walked a very fine line, siding with his boss Lefevere on whether Etixx would use the similar tactic on Sky had the roles been reversed while simultaneously acknowledging Stannard’s limited options.

And the Etixx men who occupied the lower steps on the podium, both of whom had watched victory slip from their grasp in the closing moments of an otherwise near-perfect race?

“Today we made a mistake in the final,” Boonen said. “We were in control of the race with three riders in the front group. In the final kilometers we attacked.

“But Stannard had the strategy to ride on the wheels of us three in the lead group, and save his energy until the final kilometers, so he was a bit fresher. He was also strong today. So, he caught me. The best thing to do at that point would have been to stay calm and wait for the sprint. But we had been full gas for the last hour, so really it was about instinct at that point. So, Niki attacked again, then Stannard, and then the final sprint was between those two guys.

“There is a thin line between a great race and a costly mistake and unfortunately we took the risk of not waiting for the sprint, and it didn’t work out.”

Terpstra echoed Boonen, crediting Stannard for savvy racing and an impressive sprint.

“[Sitting in] was a smart move by [Stannard], any of us would have done the same thing,” he said. “In the final we attacked with the three of us in front. But after a few attacks he countered and then attacked. In the end I was alone with Stannard. I was in front for the sprint. I saw it was 300 meters and I decided not to go yet. Then I accelerated at 200 meters. Normally that is perfect for me, but I didn’t have the perfect sprinting legs after the big effort all day. I thought I had him until 50 meters in front of the finish line. I had nothing left in my legs at that point.

“Looking back, maybe it would have been better to wait for the sprint with Tom and not attacking, but it’s a question of moment and circumstances.”

Etixx strikes back

An hour before Kuurne kicked off, Etixx’s Peters was clear the team did not intend to repeat Saturday’s mistakes.

“We need to have a clear plan every race,” he told VeloNews. “And every race we will say ‘OK, you are the leader now.’”

And indeed, in Kuurne, the team went all-in for Cavendish.

“Tom [Boonen] has won here three times,” said Cavendish later. “But he said this morning on the bus, ‘I’ll be leadout for Cav for it.’ You know it could have been easy for him to want to go for his fourth, but to commit for the sake of the team and guarantee the win as best we could here was nice.”

This time it worked. The team accounted for five of the 19 men in the breakaway that went clear as the peloton rolled through the final climbs of the race. With four men and Cavendish in what appeared to be the decisive move, again the race appeared to belong to Etixx.

When the break faltered, reeled in with about 35km to go, Etixx regrouped around Cavendish, putting him in perfect position just as the peloton reeled in Gilbert’s damn-the-torpedoes move.

They didn’t smother the race, but Etixx’s quick-change tactical plan, and a return to fundamentals — patience, execution, and overwhelming firepower — made the second time a charm.

“It wasn’t easy. F—king hell, it was Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne,” said the victorious Cavendish. “It was hard all day. It wasn’t easy, but I got great support from Etixx-Quick-Step and I was able to sprint at the end.”

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Gallery: 2015 Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne Sun, 01 Mar 2015 18:31:15 +0000

The sprint unfolds. Photo: Tim De Waele |

Tim De Waele captures the action at the 2015 edition of the semi-classic Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne

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The sprint unfolds. Photo: Tim De Waele |

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Results: 2015 Drome Classic Sun, 01 Mar 2015 18:05:14 +0000 Results from the 2015 Drome Classic

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  • 1. Samuel DUMOULIN, AG2R LA MONDIALE, in 5:10:41
  • 3. Sébastien DELFOSSE, WALLONIE-BRUXELLES, at :07
  • 4. Cyril GAUTIER, TEAM EUROPCAR, at :09
  • 5. Peter STETINA, BMC RACING TEAM, at :09
  • 10. Gianluca BRAMBILLA, ETIXX-QUICK STEP, at :19
  • 12. Ivan SANTAROMITA, ORICA GreenEDGE, at :28
  • 13. Romain BARDET, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :39
  • 14. Mikael CHEREL, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 1:49
  • 15. Alo JAKIN, AUBER 93, at 1:49
  • 16. Brent BOOKWALTER, BMC RACING TEAM, at 1:49
  • 17. Yannick EIJSSEN, WANTY-GROUPE GOBERT, at 1:49
  • 18. Daryl IMPEY, ORICA GreenEDGE, at 1:49
  • 19. Laurent PICHON, FDJ, at 1:49
  • 20. Steven TRONET, AUBER 93, at 1:49
  • 21. Jasper STUYVEN, TREK FACTORY RACING, at 1:49
  • 22. Maxime RENAULT, AUBER 93, at 1:49
  • 23. Antonio MOLINA, CAJA RURAL-SEGUROS RGA, at 1:49
  • 25. Maxime BOUET, ETIXX-QUICK STEP, at 1:49
  • 26. Romain SICARD, TEAM EUROPCAR, at 1:53
  • 28. Serghei TVETCOV, ANDRONI GIOCATTOLI, at 1:55
  • 33. Pierre-Henri LECUISINIER, FDJ, at 1:59
  • 34. Pierre ROLLAND, TEAM EUROPCAR, at 1:59
  • 35. Benoît VAUGRENARD, FDJ, at 1:59
  • 37. Rémy DI GREGORIO, TEAM MARSEILLE 13 KTM, at 2:03
  • 39. Riccardo ZOIDL, TREK FACTORY RACING, at 2:10
  • 40. Ignatas KONOVALOVAS, TEAM MARSEILLE 13 KTM, at 2:10
  • 41. George BENNETT, TEAM LOTTO NL-JUMBO, at 3:18
  • 42. Boris DRON, WANTY-GROUPE GOBERT, at 5:20
  • 43. Nick VAN DER LIJKE, TEAM LOTTO NL-JUMBO, at 5:30
  • 44. Calvin WATSON, TREK FACTORY RACING, at 5:37
  • 45. Guillaume BONNAFOND, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 5:37
  • 47. Nicolas EDET, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 5:58
  • 49. Adam YATES, ORICA GreenEDGE, at 6:28
  • 50. Martijn KEIZER, TEAM LOTTO NL-JUMBO, at 7:50
  • 52. Julien GUAY, AUBER 93, at 7:50
  • 53. Ben GASTAUER, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 7:50
  • 55. Rigoberto URAN URAN, ETIXX-QUICK STEP, at 7:50
  • 56. Yoann PAILLOT, TEAM MARSEILLE 13 KTM, at 7:50
  • 58. Edwin Alcibiades AVILA VANEGAS, COLOMBIA, at 10:29
  • 60. Anthony MALDONADO, AUBER 93, at 11:01
  • 61. Simon YATES, ORICA GreenEDGE, at 11:15
  • 62. Michael ALBASINI, ORICA GreenEDGE, at 13:29
  • 63. Gianfranco ZILIOLI, ANDRONI GIOCATTOLI, at 15:53
  • 64. Alexandre BLAIN, TEAM MARSEILLE 13 KTM, at 19:39
  • 65. Chetout LOIC, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CREDITS, at 19:39
  • 66. Christian MEIER, ORICA GreenEDGE, at 21:50
  • 67. Heiner Rodrigo PARRA BUSTAMENTE, CAJA RURAL-SEGUROS RGA, at 21:50
  • 68. Juan Pablo VALENCIA, COLOMBIA, at 21:50
  • 69. Timo ROOSEN, TEAM LOTTO NL-JUMBO, at 21:50
  • 70. Marinus Cornelis MINNAARD, WANTY-GROUPE GOBERT, at 21:50
  • 71. Alberto NARDIN, ANDRONI GIOCATTOLI, at 21:50
  • 72. Walter Fernando PEDRAZA MORALES, COLOMBIA, at 21:50
  • 73. Axel DOMONT, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 21:50
  • 75. Jorge Camilo CASTIBLANCO CUBIDES, COLOMBIA, at 21:50
  • 76. Jhoan Esteban CHAVES RUBIO, ORICA GreenEDGE, at 21:50
  • 77. Pierre GOUAULT, AUBER 93, at 21:50
  • 78. Amaël MOINARD, BMC RACING TEAM, at 21:50
  • 79. Joseph ROSSKOPF, BMC RACING TEAM, at 21:50
  • 81. Bertjan LINDEMAN, TEAM LOTTO NL-JUMBO, at 21:50
  • 82. Bryan NAULLEAU, TEAM EUROPCAR, at 21:50
  • 83. Yukiya ARASHIRO, TEAM EUROPCAR, at 21:50
  • 84. Thomas VOECKLER, TEAM EUROPCAR, at 21:50
  • 86. César BIHEL, AUBER 93, at 23:57
  • 88. Fumiyuki BEPPU, TREK FACTORY RACING, at 23:57
  • 89. Brian BULGAC, TEAM LOTTO NL-JUMBO, at 23:57
  • . Carlos Mario RAMIREZ BOTERO, COLOMBIA, at 26:31
  • DNF Jean-Christophe PERAUD, AG2R LA MONDIALE
  • DNF Alexandre GENIEZ, FDJ
  • DNF Kévin REZA, FDJ
  • DNF Anthony ROUX, FDJ
  • DNF Arthur VICHOT, FDJ
  • DNF Magnus Cort NIELSEN, ORICA GreenEDGE
  • DNF Leonardo Fabio DUQUE, COLOMBIA

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Samuel Dumoulin wins 2015 Drome Classic Sun, 01 Mar 2015 17:54:13 +0000

Samuel Dumoulin wins his first race in nearly two years. Photo courtesy Yves Perret | AG2R La Mondiale

Samuel Dumoulin wins for the first time since May 2013 with a last-ditch attack at the Drome Classic

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Samuel Dumoulin wins his first race in nearly two years. Photo courtesy Yves Perret | AG2R La Mondiale

Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R La Mondiale) used a last-ditch attack to seize the victory on Sunday in the Drome Classic.

Dumoulin took his first win in nearly two years  by just four seconds over Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing), with Sébastien Delfosse (Wallonia-Brussels) third at seven seconds.

The 200km race around Livron was marked by a four-man break that included Danny Summerhill (UnitedHealthcare), Grégoire Tarride (Team Marseille 13 KTM), Axel Domont (AG2R) and Bert-Jan Lindeman (Lotto NL-Jumbo).

The escapees took some four minutes on the peloton, led by FDJ.

Once they had been retrieved, 2014 winner Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Trek teammates Bauke Mollema and Riccardo Zoidl had a go some 15km from the finish.

Bardet had another dig on the descent before being joined by Peter Stetina (BMC Racing Team) and Mollema. Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Yann Guyot (Equipe Cycliste de l’Armee de Terre) joined up as well.

It seemed that the quintet would battle for glory at the end. Then the 34-year-old Dumoulin — who had not won a race since taking the GP de Plumelec-Morhiban in May 2013 — made his move on the final climb, seizing the victory in the final few hundred meters.

“This morning, Jean-Christophe Péraud told me I was the best chance for the team. Honestly, I didn’t believe him,” said Dumoulin. “The team did a great job. In the last climb, Romain did everything to help me.

“I love this kind of situation, to be under pressure to finish the job. I haven’t won in two years and sometimes, it was difficult. … I worked hard this winter. Last week, I wasn’t at the top in Tour du Haut Var but I didn’t lose confidence.”

Stetina crossed fifth on the day, nine seconds down. He said via Twitter afterward that his finish was “done the hard way.”

“Jump from attack to attack in last 20k. Happy kuz day’s goal was to get fresh gloves in freezing rain earlier.”




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