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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, March 31, 2016

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

The only change is that baseball has turned Paige from a second class citizen to a second class immortal. - Satchel Paige

Current racing

UCI Top 40 Riders

Here is the current World Rider ranking from the UCI:

Rank Name Nation Team Age Points
1 (2) Peter SAGAN Slovakia TNK 26 1645
2 (1) Greg VAN AVERMAET Belgium BMC 31 1338
3 (3) Richie PORTE Australia BMC 31 1048
4 (13) Fabian CANCELLARA Switzerland TFS 35 1007
5 (12) Alberto CONTADOR Spain TNK 34 859
6 (7) Arnaud DEMARE France FDJ 25 835
7 (4) Simon GERRANS Australia OGE 36 755
8 (6) Nacer BOUHANNI France COF 26 753
9 (36) Michal KWIATKOWSKI Poland SKY 26 720
10 (18) Thibaut PINOT France FDJ 26 696
11 (5) Geraint THOMAS Great Britain SKY 30 678
12 (8) Alexander KRISTOFF Norway KAT 29 604
13 (9) Sergio Luis HENAO Colombia SKY 29 580
14 (20) Ilnur ZAKARIN Russia KAT 27 560
15 (155) Nairo Alexander QUINTANA Colombia MOV 26 550.25
16 (11) Ben SWIFT Great Britain SKY 29 546
17 (10) Diego ULISSI Italy LAM 27 538
18 (495) Sep VANMARCKE Belgium TLJ 28 520
19 (15) Zdenek STYBAR Czech Republic EQS 31 507
20 (14) Petr VAKOC Czech Republic EQS 24 495
21 (30) Romain BARDET France ALM 26 493
22 (33) Jurgen ROELANDTS Belgium LTS 31 483
23 (37) Tiesj BENOOT Belgium LTS 22 466
24 (16) Dylan GROENEWEGEN Netherlands TLJ 23 456
25 (17) Sonny COLBRELLI Italy BAR 26 453
26 (19) Vincenzo NIBALI Italy AST 32 440.75
27 (53) Jasper STUYVEN Belgium TFS 24 439
28 (21) Gianluca BRAMBILLA Italy EQS 29 421
29 (22) Alejandro VALVERDE Spain MOV 36 407
30 (26) Edvald BOASSON HAGEN Norway DDD 29 405
31 (23) Arthur VICHOT France FDJ 28 395
32 (24) Jon IZAGUIRRE Spain MOV 27 391
33 (25) Jay MCCARTHY Australia TNK 24 390
34 (27) Bob JUNGELS Luxembourg EQS 24 374
35 (28) Andrea FEDI Italy STH 25 365
36 (333) Viacheslav KUZNETSOV Russia KAT 27 365
37 (29) Peter KENNAUGH Great Britain SKY 27 361
38 (85) Tejay VAN GARDEREN United States BMC 28 352
39 (32) Issak TESFOM OKUBAMARIAM Eritrea 25 350
40 (64) Giacomo NIZZOLO Italy TFS 27 345

Tinkoff leads World Tour rankings

Tinkoff sent this:

This weekend was not only a successful one for Tinkoff with results on the road, including a maiden win as UCI World Champion for Peter Sagan and a second place overall at the Volta a Catalunya for Alberto Contador. The team also moved onto the top step of the podium in the UCI WorldTour rankings. Further to this, Peter and Alberto also sit first and third overall in the individual rankings, highlighting their consistency so far this season.

The UCI WorldTour rankings are based on results in the races ranked as WorldTour in the UCI calendar, arguably the biggest and best races on the international calendar. To lead the rankings, results are needed in depth rather than just through one leader in a selection of races – results that are a just reward for the hard work and dedication put in by the team in the build up to this season and over the opening months of the race calendar.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan winning Gent-Wevelgem

“Compared to last year we have definitely had a good start to the season, with two strong leaders in Peter and Alberto scoring well on two fronts,” explained Sport Director Steven De Jongh, returning from the week-long Catalunya race. “Of course the team’s strategy is to support these riders in their respective target races, but it is a nice demonstration that the teamwork is paying off.

“We had a really good winter, coming together first to build bonds and work on the base, before moving to more specific camps and separate altitude camps with Alberto and Peter, together with other guys. We also spent time working on some changes in the race programme and this has started to pay off. So it’s a real bonus to the results we’ve been achieving, and it shows the momentum we have as a team now.”

The team started to gather points right from the start of the season, with the first win going to young Jay McCarthy, claiming stage 2 of the Tour Down Under, before finishing fourth overall. Although not a WorldTour race, the results kept coming at the Ruta del Sol with Daniele Bennati and Oscar Gatto winning stages, as Rafal Majka and Roman Kreuziger finished third and fifth overall respectively.

Peter Sagan was consistently passing close to victory, with several top four finishes at Tirreno-Adriatico, eventually taking second overall. This provided the springboard for a strong start to his classics campaign with second place at E3 Harelbeke before a big win at Gent – Wevelgem.

Alberto Contador’s campaign has also been a consistent one, getting his arms in the air early on the final stage of the Volta ao Algarve before starting to score WorldTour points at Paris-Nice and the Volta a Catalunya. Alberto finished second overall in both, with second places on stages and strong showings throughout. Little separates the Tinkoff leader and his first big victory of 2016.

“It’s a well-earned reward for all the hard work that everyone has put in, not only the riders on and off the bike but also all of the staff behind the scenes that make the whole team work. There’s still a long way to go, but hopefully we can continue and still be ranked highly come the end of the season.”

Other strong results of note include young Erik Baška's win at the Handzame Classic, a fifth place overall for Jesper Hansen at the Tour de Langkawi, as well as strong domestique rides across the board. Next up on the WorldTour calendar for the team is this Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen and Vuelta al Pais Vasco.

And while we're at it, Tinkoff sent this note about Driedaagse de Panne:

At the end of another nervous stage at Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde, Tinkoff’s young sprinter Erik Baška came over the line in ninth position after a hard day out battling climbs and crosswinds. In a strong position coming into the final few kilometres, Erik slipped backwards and had to come from some way back in the push for the line, once again showing a strong turn of speed in a bunch kick.

The race all came back together after the remnants of the day’s breakaway were reeled in with 15km to go. From here the situation remained stable but nervous heading into the finish as the sprint trains lined up for a fast finsh. The guys worked hard to get Erik into a strong position before dropping him off to do his sprint.

Sport Director Tristan Hoffman explained further how the team’s race panned out. “The plan today was to go for a sprint with Erik Baška at the end if the group was all back together. We saw with his win in Handzame that he has a fast finish, and today he was up there but not close enough to the front to mix it for the win. But we can still be satisfied with a ninth place.”

Elia Viviani

Elia Viviani wins the second De Panne stage

The race got underway to a steadier start than the previous day, with a breakaway of eight riders pulling clear. Behind this the peloton was happy to let them go set a tempo that saw the break extend its lead to over seven minutes. At 211.1km, the longest stage of the race, there was plenty of time to bring the break back and so the Tinkoff riders set about sticking together and out of trouble over the day’s five categorised climbs, included the Kemmelberg.

The race threatened to split inside of 85km to race as crosswinds split the peloton into echelons, but as the pace eased and the direction of the race changed, the groups gradually came back together.

“It was hard again in the crosswinds but eventually the race came back and the guys were all up there,” explained Hoffman. “It was nervous in the bunch and on the cobblestones Michael Kolar and Juraj Sagan both came down in a crash but they were able to rejoin and finish in a good way."

The front eight was reduced to three as they started to attack each other, and in the final 25km just one remained out front, with a fast reducing gap over less than two minutes. Maciej Bodnar punctured at this point but was able to rejoin, looking relaxed ahead of tomorrow afternoon’s time trial.

Once the race had all come back together, all eyes were on the bunch sprint. “With two kilometres to go the guys brought Erik to the front and onto the back of Quickstep's lead-out, inside the front 10 riders. This was a good situation but it was hectic and he did what he could to take ninth.

Hoffman finished by saying: “Tomorrow morning we will look to another sprint, and we’ll make a plan this evening for that. And then for the afternoon time trial, Bodnar is focused on a result. There are still opportunities for us here and the guys are focused on the final day tomorrow.”

Erik Baška gave his thoughts on the stage from the team bus, saying: “It was a hard day, a steady tempo from the beginning as the break was let go but then the wind started to increase and the race got harder. Then at 110km we started the climbs, up and down on narrow roads and there were some splits in the bunch here, with Michael and I in the second group so we had to ride to get back to the front.

“Then in the crosswinds there were four of us that got held up in the crash on the cobblestones, so again we had to push to get back up there. Overall I’m satisfied with my shape – it’s getting better and better now, but I would like to be further up in the result today.”

LottoNL-Jumbo will be at Ronde van Vlaanderen

The team sent me this update:

Sep Vanmarcke is confidently looking forward to the Tour of Flanders this Sunday in Belgium after his second place in Gent-Wevelgem. The Belgian will lead Team LottoNL-Jumbo in the race of his dreams and be supported by a mix of experience hands and talented youngsters.

“Sep Vanmarcke is our front man and the other seven riders need to help him,” Sports Director Nico Verhoeven said. “Some of them have to make sure that they make it into the final of the race so that they can support him as long as possible.” The final probably starts near the same point as last year because “the final 60 kilometres will be the same. From the second time up the Oude Kwaremont climb, the final starts. The race is tough before that point, as well, but no one will go full gas in that part of the race. You have to be focussed in those kilometres, though, because you can easily lose the race there.”

Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s front man agrees that the Oude Kwaremont will be the first important point in the race. “After that point, we will ride a loop with all the famous climbs,” Vanmarcke added. “That’s very hard and you need to be in position all the time.”

After Gent-Wevelgem, the Belgian’s status chanced a bit. “Suddenly, I’m one of the big favourites. I wasn’t before this weekend, but it doesn’t change anything in my mind. I’ve been working for these weeks and I showed last weekend that I’m good.”

Sep Van marcke

Sep Vanmarcke

Vanmarcke will be supported by experienced cyclists Maarten Wynants, Maarten Tjallingii, Robert Wagner, Tom Van Asbroeck and Bram Tankink, and Flanders rookies Mike Teunissen and Timo Roosen.

“Those guys proved to be strong,” Verhoeven said. “They will participate in this race for the first time so they don’t know what is waiting for them. That makes it a big challenge, but I have the feeling that the whole team is ready for it.”

Line-up: Sep Vanmarcke, Maarten Wynants, Maarten Tjallingii, Bram Tankink, Timo Roosen, Mike Teunissen, Robert Wagner and Tom van Asbroeck.

Sports director: Nico Verhoeven and Jan Boven.

Lotto-Soudal's Ronde van Vlaanderen news

In a week marked by several tragic events, the peloton is preparing itself for the Ronde Van Vlaanderen. The 100th edition of the most important Belgian race will take place on Sunday 3 April. What the course is concerned, the organisation decided to maintain the same concept as previous years. Who will be the strongest after 255 kilometres, six cobbled sections and eleven hills?

The start takes place on the Market of Bruges, as usual. After eight kilometres in the neutralized zone, the official start will be given in Loppem. The peloton rides in West-Flanders for a while before it goes towards the hill zone. All hills and cobbled sections are situated in the final 150 kilometres and they are divided over three laps. The first lap contains ten hills and five cobbled sections, among those some well-known names such as Oude Kwaremont, Eikenberg, Paddestraat and Haaghoek.

After that the riders will come to the important part of the race. With about 70 kilometres to go, the peloton enters the second lap. This one contains five hills (Oude Kwaremont, Paterberg, Koppenberg, Steenbeekdries and Taaienberg, LTS) and one cobbled section (Mariaborrestraat, LTS). After this lap, it can be expected that the peloton will be seriously reduced and the riders then can prepare themselves for the real finale. The Kruisberg, Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg are the final hills on the course, they will certainly determine the race. After that, thirteen kilometres need to be covered towards the finish line in Oudenaarde.

Lotto Soudal really looks forward to this Spring Classic. The team will start with riders such as Tiesj Benoot, Jürgen Roelandts and André Greipel. They will compete against Fabian Cancellara, Jasper Stuyven, Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, Peter Sagan, Greg Van Avermaet, Sep Vanmarcke and last year’s winner Alexander Kristoff to name just a few contenders.

Tiesj Benoot

Tiesj Benoot

Today Tiesj Benoot and Jürgen Roelandts did a recon of the Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Jürgen Roelandts: “Tiesj and I did a recon of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. It’s always good to take a thorough look at the course a few days before the race, for example to have a better idea of the wind direction. It’s also good to do a recon on Wednesday in between Ghent-Wevelgem and Ronde van Vlaanderen. I felt very well in Milan-Sanremo, but last Friday at E3 Harelbeke I got pain in the back and couldn’t continue the race unfortunately. Saturday I felt sick. On Sunday I still had some problems, but I managed to finish seventh, so the condition hasn’t disappeared. In the meantime I’m feeling much better.”

“The course of the Ronde has slightly changed. Before we get to the Molenberg we have to ride over some narrower roads with lots of turns, so it will be harder to control the race at that point. It’s still early in the race then, but it will make riders tired. For me that’s a good thing. The big favourites are known: Cancellara, Sagan and Van Avermaet. I don’t have any specific allies in mind, but maybe I will get some during the race. I certainly will have Tiesj by my side. It’s a pity Jens Debusschere won’t be able to ride on Sunday because of his injury. He has never been in such a good shape before the Ronde than this season.”

Last year Tiesj Benoot, a neo-pro of 21 years at that time, finished fifth in his first Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Tiesj Benoot: “Last year was the first time I rode such a long race and I liked it. This year I’ll start with a different feeling, but that doesn’t mean I am more nervous. I start with lots of confidence. The past three races (Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem, LTS) I always rode the finale. That proves the condition is good. The Ronde van Vlaanderen is a race that suits me. Because of the distance and the hard route only the strong survive. You know much can and will happen during the race, although you never know when. It’s all about choosing the right moment, but I won’t tell my plans.”

Herman Frison, sports director “Due to injuries of among other Jens Debusschere and Jelle Wallays we had to change our team roster for the Ronde. Our leaders Jürgen Roelandts and Tiesj Benoot are in excellent shape, that’s a fact. Today the two of them did a recon of the Ronde. The other guys from the selection for Sunday are all part of the team at the Three Days of De Panne and will be ready, I am convinced of that. Look at Pim Ligthart who attacked today or Sean De Bie.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot, Sean De Bie, Jasper De Buyst, André Greipel, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts and Marcel Sieberg.

Sports directors: Herman Frison and Frederik Willems.

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