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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion:
Saturday, September 26, 2015

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

Racing schedule:

This is World Road Championships week. Yesterday we had the Junior Women and Men Under 23 Road Championships.

Saturday the 26th the Junior Men and Elite Women will race and the Elite Men's World Championships will be Sunday, the 27th.

Pope Francis to be given Breezer Bike

This, from Momentum Mag:

Pope Francis is set to arrive in Philadelphia, PA, this weekend for the World Meeting of Families, which will be taking place in the City of Brotherly Love from the 26th-27th of September. As is commonplace with papal visits, Philadelphia mayor Michael A. Nutter has a couple of gifts to present to the pope to honor the visit and his work.

Alongside an ivory-bone China bowl featuring images of Indepedence Hall and St. Peter’s Basilica, mayor Nutter and the Philadelphia Bicycling Advocacy Board are taking the opportunity to present Pope Francis with a bicycle. The bike, a custom-designed Breezer Downtown 8, was received by Archbishop Charles Caput at a ceremony held in the Philadelphia Convention Center on September 22nd.

The style of bike was chosen by Mayor Nutter; the Breezer 8 is a classic commuter – a “people’s bike” – which Nutter felt best represented “The People’s Pope”. The bicycle was chosen to celebrate and honor the pope’s advocacy for environmentally responsible modes of transportation. Accompanying the gift, the city will also donate 100 commuter bikes to bicycle-based community programs around Philadelphia.

Lotto-Soudal's world championships news:

Saturday the junior men and women elite will fight for glory and on Sunday the men elite will battle for the rainbow jersey.

The course in Richmond has a Flemish character. Especially the three hills – of which two are cobblestone hills – in the last five kilometres trigger to attack. De men elite will cover 261.4 kilometres on a road circuit which is 16.2 kilometres long. The peloton heads west from Downtown Richmond, which leads them to the historic boulevard Monument Avenue. After taking a 180-degree turn at the Jefferson Davis monument, the riders will ride through the Uptown district and the Virginia Commonwealth University. Next, the peloton follows the road along the canal to the 200 meter narrow and twisty Libby Hill Park, a cobbled climb, which is the first of three hills. Not much longer, the riders face the next obstacle, which is the climb on 23rd Street. This is a straight cobbled road which is the steepest of the three hills on the course. In the last kilometre the riders have to concur Governor Street, which is the same climb as the one that the riders had to face in the team time trial and in the individual time trial. At the top of this 300 metres long ascent, there is still 680 meters in a slight slope to the finish. Conclusion: A challenging circuit where we probably will see the classic riders face the power sprinters.

Nine Lotto Soudal riders will participate at the World Championships for men elite on Sunday. One of them is Adam Hansen who will wear the Australian colours. The Aussies are one of the favourites to take the title, with Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews as team leaders. Greg Henderson will put on his New-Zealand kit. He is one of the three Kiwis along with Sam Bewley and Jesse Sergent. Neither of the three is a favourite to win the race, so maybe we will see them in attacks. In the Danish selection we find Lars Bak, accompanied by Matti Breschel who will lead the red-white troops. The Norwegian team will start with two strong finishers: Boasson Hagen and Alexander Kristoff. Both riders can count on the strong legs of Vegard Breen.

Also Pim Ligthart will ride the elite men road race. The Dutch team consists of a combination of attackers and time trial specialists. Ligthart will probably join Lars Boom and Niki Terpstra in their mission to make the race hard to avoid a bunch sprint. However, someone who is interested in a bunch sprint is André Greipel. The German Mannschaft has brought some serious power to Richmond. Together with Greipel they have John Degenkolb and Tony Martin at the start. Greipel can also count on the qualities of Lotto Soudal rider Marcel Sieberg.

Pim Ligthart

Pim Ligthart

André Greipel: “John Degenkolb is our leader. He is one of the favourites to conquer the rainbow jersey. My role depends on how the race develops, in which the weather can be decisive. In rainy conditions, the circuit will be dangerous because of its many corners. This means that the race will be harder, so there will be bigger gaps and less riders who can win the race. After I did a recon of the circuit, I am not sure if a bunch sprint is a possibility. It looks easier than it actually is. I think that a rider who is able to attack on the final climb can make it to the finish line. My form is still good, but it will be hard to survive.”

In the French team, we see both sprinters and attackers on the start list. One of their riders is Tony Gallopin. Together with Julien Alaphilippe, he will probably choose for the attack. If the race ends on a bunch sprint, the French can count on the fast legs of Bouhanni and Démare.

Tony Gallopin: “I’m already two weeks on this side of the world after I first did the Canadian WorldTour races and the team time trial afterwards, both times with a good team result. On Monday, all French riders came together and we worked towards this World Championship. We believe that we can win the world title, because we have different types of riders in the selection. This means that we can play our role in different scenarios. Alaphilippe and myself will race attentive in the final if there are big names who try to attack. And if there’s a bunch sprint, we have Bouhanni and Démare.”

“Personally, I think that we shouldn’t be seen as favourites. The Germans, Norwegians an Belgians need to carry the weight of this race. Traditionally, we will have our pre-race tactics meeting on Saturday, but I am already sure that I will not wait on a bunch sprint. The legs are as good as last year in Ponferrada, but this year’s course is totally different. In Spain it was a very hard circuit, something for climbers and puncheurs, which suited me better. This year the course is not that hard, which is ideal for strong, fast riders. My prediction? Kristoff, Degenkolb or Matthews.”

Last but not least we have Tiesj Benoot who’s one of the Belgian riders. With just 21 years he is the youngest rider at the elite men road race. He can rely on the more experienced riders like Boonen, Gilbert, Van Avermaet and Vanmarcke. If he can help these leaders in the final of the race, then his WC-debut would be successful.

Tiesj Benoot: “In the previous days, we did some good training rides. Wednesday we did our last long training. Now it’s all about resting and recovering for the race on Sunday. The nice weather in Richmond makes the training rides really enjoyable. Yesterday we had a first look at the course. Today there is a motor pacing training and Saturday we will do an easy ride. The atmosphere in the Belgian team is very relaxed. I already knew a big part of the riders before this championship.”

“Since July, everything was focussed on this week. After an altitude training camp in Livigno, I participated in some races. First, I raced in Plouay and afterwards I did the two races in Canada. In the GP Quebec I felt really good, but unfortunately I crashed and therefore couldn’t show my good legs. However, the form was still good and this resulted in a fifth place in the GP Montréal. After this race, I did an extra training of two and a half hours. I can’t tell what the tactics for Sunday are. But I had a good talk with Carlo Bomans (Belgian national coach) and I know what the team expects from me.”

As it is a tradition, it is to be expected that the Italians, Spaniards, Brits and Americans – on their homeground – will play a great role in the race. Beside these teams there are also dangerous Einzelgängers like Stybar (Czech Republic) and Peter Sagan (Slovakia).

Mikel Landa moves to Team Sky

This just in from Sky:

The 25 year old from Murgia, Spain, enhanced his reputation as one of the world's best climbers this season with two stage wins at the Giro d'Italia being followed by another stage success at the Vuelta a España.

The Basque rider has competed in six Grand Tours during his five seasons as a professional, including an impressive third-place finish at the 2015 Giro.

On signing for Team Sky, Mikel Landa said: "Team Sky is one of the best teams in the world and this is a great opportunity for me. "The team has an excellent reputation for being professional and methodical, and I know I can continue to develop and improve with their guidance. Team Sky has an excellent group of riders and I'm looking forward to joining up with them next year. I'll do everything I can to bring success to the team."

Mikel Landa

Mikel Landa climbing in Vuelta stage 11

Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: "Mikel is a rider we have followed closely for the last four or five years. He has always demonstrated a big talent and we have always recognised that. "He really stepped up at the Giro d'Italia this year, but we had already identified him as a target. He has shown he is one of the best climbers in the world, and he is only 25 years old. We are very excited at the opportunity of developing this young rider over the coming years."

Landa's signing is Team Sky's sixth for 2016, and follows those of Alex Peters, Gianni Moscon, Michal Golas, Danny van Poppel and Benat Intxausti.

Jens Keukeleire re-signs with Orica-GreenEdge

The team sent me this update:

Belgian Jens Keukeleire, a member of ORICA-GreenEDGE since its inception in 2012, has committed to the Australian outfit for a further two seasons. The 26-year-old has developed into a crafty all-rounder for the outfit but is best known for his ability in the Classics, including his effort to record ORICA-GreenEDGE’s best ever cobbled-Classic result with a sixth place at Paris-Roubaix this year.

“I have been here from the start and it’s actually been really special,” Keukeleire said. “During the Vuelta we had a chat about who is still here from the beginning and it’s a very special feeling to have been here from the start and to still be here now.”

“I think program wise, there isn’t a lot of teams that I can have a better or nicer program than I am doing now, especially the races I target too, I get more and more my own chances. And off the bike, you hear from everybody that ORICA-GreenEDGE must be a nice team to be in and that is just the way it is. This team is really nice to be in, there is always a good atmosphere.”

Jens Keukeleire

Jens Keukeleire

Not surprisingly, Keukeleire lists the Classics as his highlights so far, but also as his biggest objectives to come over the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

“I’m really confident that with a good winter I can step up again in the Classics,” he said. “I finished sixth in Roubaix, going for the win, after a less than perfect winter. With no problems, I think I can do even better. The main thing is to feel that you progress every year and I hope to have a good winter this year.

“They say if you have a good Vuelta you take it with you into the winter so when you start training again you have that little bit extra and then you take that winter with you into the Classics. I just completed my first Vuelta and I’m really curious how that is going to work out.”

Sport director Matt White said the Belgian provided value to the ORICA-GreenEDGE team in a lot of different areas. “Jens has been with us since day dot and he is still progressing,” White said. “His ride at Roubaix this year was a bit of a taste for what he is capable of. We expect Jens to keep maturing over the next couple of years, especially in that Classics period which is a big passion of his.

“He is also a guy we have taken to the Tour de France and to the Vuelta a Espana. He is a very complete bike rider and he ticks a lot of boxes for us right across the board - in stage races and one-day races.”

Jens Keukeleire
Date of birth: 23rd November 1988 (26)
Nationality: Belgian
Turned pro: 2010

Palmares:
- 6th 2015 Paris-Roubaix
- 9th 2015 E3 Harelbeke
- 1st 2013 Vuelta a Burgos – Stage 2 and 3

Enrico Battaglin joins LottoNL-Jumbo

Team LottoNL-Jumbo signed the Italian rider Enrico Battaglin for the 2016 cycling season. Battaglin, who rode to Giro d’Italia stage victories in 2013 and 2014, will focus on the Ardennes Classics when he joins the Dutch team.

“After four years with Bardiani-CSF Pro Team, it’s a good moment to move to a WorldTour team,” Battaglin said about his transfer. “I didn’t ride a superb season, so I’m very glad for this chance. I spoke with several teams, but Richard Plugge quite easily convinced me to join Team LottoNL-Jumbo.”

“We have a big Italian sponsor with Bianchi,” sports director, Nico Verhoeven explained. “We were looking for a Italian rider who fits with the structure of our team and who gives our team a boost, as well. Enrico has won two stages in the Giro d’Italia in the last three years. There are not many riders who did that, especially when you notice that he isn’t a bunch sprinter or a superb climber. Besides that, he was never part of a WorldTour team, so when he performs in a better structure from the beginning of the season, he will probably be able to improve. We will enjoy this collaboration.”

Enrico Battaglin

Enrico Battaglin at the 2014 Giro d'Italia

Battaglin looks forward to his time with Team LottoNL-Jumbo and finds the collaboration with Bianchi a nice plus. “I love the fact that I’m going to ride a Bianchi bike. Bianchi is huge in Italy and I’m really looking forward to test the Specialissima frame,” he said. “I’m an explosive rider and that’s why I think that the Amstel Gold Race, the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège suit me. I participated in the Italian WorldTour races in the last years and now, I’m able to explore the other high-level races, as well. Besides the Ardennes Classics, I want to ride a grand tour next year.”

“My transfer to Team LottoNL-Jumbo is a big challenge,” Battaglin continued. “I’m the only Italian in the team. I don’t know my new team-mates personally, but I know who they are and what they’re capable of. Wilco Kelderman is a big talent and Sep Vanmarcke is a world-class rider in the spring classics. I want to adjust to my new team as quick as possible. The team’s giving me a great chance and I want to grab it.”

Verhoeven isn’t worried about that. “We’re going to teach him Dutch,” the sports director said. “George Bennett learned the language in half a year. Enrico’s English is good enough, as well, so I am not expecting any communication problems.”

Rasmus Gulhammer stays with Cult Energy

Cult Energy-Stölting Group has signed a two year contract with Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s allrounder, Rasmus Guldhammer so the commitment lasts until the end of 2017. Rasmus has had 23 top-10 results this season alone and he is looking forward to continuing his development at Cult Energy-Stölting Group.

About the mutual agreement, Rasmus Guldhammer says: “Cult Energy-Stölting Group was the best choice for me. I’ve been through a good development this year and I've been feeling stronger and stronger over the season. It has been very important for my motivation that I have had the role as a captain in quite a few races and I’ve been able to compete for the wins as well. At the same time, it’s crucial for me having a strong network within the team and I couldn’t find a better set of loyal teammates and friends than on this team”, says Guldhammer.

Rasmus Gulhammer

Rasmus Guldhammer

DS, André Steensen says about the partnership: “It is a great recognition of our talent project that Rasmus chooses us next year, because I know that he has had several major teams to choose from, which is only natural on top of the great season he has had. Besides being a very talented rider, Rasmus secures a true fighting spirit and spirit of unison that we want to be the hallmark of our team. And with the success he has had this year, Rasmus will be a rider for the hilly races in the spring campaign in 2016. He has already shown his class with top-10 results in the World Tour races like Plouay and Vattenfall and in races like Brabrantse Pijl and Laigueglia. If we can use the experience and maintain the motivation from this autumn, we can expect a strong 2016 from both Rasmus and the team,” concludes DS, André Steensen.

Marko Kump joins Lampre-Merida

The Italian team sent me this release:

In 2016 and 2017 Lampre-Merida's roster will be enriched by a pure winner.

Team manager Brent Copeland signed Marko Kump, Slovenian sprinter who won 18 races in the season, in addition to 4 second places and to 3 third positions.

He was born in Novo Mesto on 9/9/1988 and he became pro in 2007, obtaining 30 successes in his career and prestigious victories as Under 23 (as an example, the Tour des Flandres espoirs and one stage in the Tour de l'Avenir).

His actual team is the Slovenian group Adria Mobil and on Sunday, in Richmond, he'll be one of the most important riders for the Slovenian National Team in the World Championship. When he'll be back from the USA, he'll meet the management and the medical staff from Lampre-Merida to set definitely the transfer to the team.

Marko Kump

Marko Kump wins the first stage of the Tour of Azerbaidjan

Team manager Brent Copeland explained that: "For us as Team Lampre-Merida, it's a honor to welcome the second most winning cyclist in 2015. Thanks to 18 successes, Kump is just behind Kristoff: we're sure he'll be able to confirm all his qualities in our team too, also because he had already lived a past experience in the World Tour.

He will complete the group of the sprinters and he won't have problem to get settled into the team, also because he had already worked with the sport director Philippe Mauduit, who had explained us all his good skill".

"It was great to receive an offer for a transfer in a top team as Lampre-Merida: as soon as I got offer from them, I didn’t hesitate for a second, because working and racing on such a high level has always been my goal - Kump explained - In the past, I spent two years in Saxo-Tinkoff, learning a lot about racing in the World Tour, so I think I'm ready to help the team in achieving ambitious goals.
I thank Lampre-Merida and their sponsors and I also say thanks to my current team, which gave me the opportunities to demonstrate my skills".

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary