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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, April 1, 2017

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary | Our YouTube page
2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

If a lie be believed only for an hour, it hath done its work. - Jonathan Swift

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Author Les Woodland talks about Belgium's most brutal, yet most important day of bicycle racing, the Tour of Flanders. The Belgian spring classic is known to the bike-mad Flemish as the Ronde van Vlaanderen.


Jan Bakelants breaks clavicle

I got an email from the Ag2r-La Mondiale team with the sad news that Jan Bakelants broke his clavicle in a crash while on a training ride Friday. He was operated on the same day.

At this time, the team doesn't know how long Bakelants will be out of action. Bakelandts was scheduled to ride the Tour of the Basque Country, which starts Monday, the third. His place on the team will be taken by Julien Bérard.

Jan Bakelants

Jan Bakelants winning stage 4 of the 2016 Mediterranean Tour

Team Quick-Step Floors previews Ronde van Vlaanderen

Here's the team's latest news about the race:

Three-time winner Tom Boonen and Belgian Champion Philippe Gilbert will headline our squad for the season's second Monument.

Once again, the Oude Kwaremont – Paterberg combination will be the focal point of the Ronde van Vlaanderen (260.8 kilometers), despite the mythical Muur van Geraardsbergen (1075 meters, 9.2%) returning to the course. For the first time in history, the peloton will roll out from Antwerp, Flanders' largest city, and will get its first taste of the cobbles 84 kilometers from the start, when they will go over the Lippenhovenstraat sector, followed shortly by the 2.3km-long Paddestraat.

After the riders will leave behind the first 110 kilometers of the race, 18 steep and tough climbs will follow in succession; besides the aforementioned ones, other iconic hills – such as Leberg, Berendries, Tenbosse, Koppenberg or Taaienberg – are set to feature on the route to Oudenaarde, all having the potential to make or break dreams and plans.

In the past 15 years, Quick-Step Floors built an astonishing palmares at Ronde van Vlaanderen, as the team managed by Patrick Lefevere won the prestigious event five times in addition to four other podium places, results which make it one of the most successful outfits in the event's history. For the 101st running of Flanders, Quick-Step Floors will be again motivated to shape up the race and leave its mark on the result sheet of the Belgian Monument.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert is just coming off winning 3 Days of De Panne

This year's edition of Ronde van Vlaanderen will be Tom Boonen's final outing at the race which will forever be linked to his first Monument win, back in 2005, following a beautiful solo attack launched inside the final 12 kilometers, when he took all his opponents by surprise. Since then, two other triumphs followed, one in the rainbow jersey (2006) and one at the first edition which used the Oude Kwaremont – Paterberg combination (2012), making Tom one of the only six riders to finish victorious on three occasions at Vlaanderens Mooiste.

Despite not riding Ronde van Vlaanderen since 2012, Philippe Gilbert is no stranger to the roads and cobbles set to feature at Sunday's race. A two-time podium finisher at De Ronde (2009, 2010), the 34-year-old Belgian Champion showcased his form in the past week, notching runner-up spots at Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke, before racking up a spectacular confidence-boosting solo win on the opening stage of Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde.

Iljo Keisse, Dwars door Vlaanderen victor Yves Lampaert, Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra – the only Dutchman in the past decade and a half to place on the podium here – Matteo Trentin and Julien Vermote will add depth, experience and firepower to the Quick-Step Floors team lining out in Antwerp this Sunday for one of the toughest one-day events of the calendar.

"We are heading to the race with a strong team. The guys proved over the past weeks that they are ready for this challenge. It's no secret how important Flanders is to our team, but we are also aware we will face some stiff competition. Sagan and Van Avermaet are the two favourites, but we will try to ride an aggressive race and play a role in the finale. The most important thing will be to stay focused, don't make any mistakes, give our best and don't have any regrets at the end of the day", said Wilfried Peeters, one of the squad's sport directors at Ronde van Vlaanderen.

Team Sky looks back at its Ronde van Vlaanderen history

The Tour of Flanders takes place on Sunday and it'll be the eighth time Team Sky have taken part in the race. We've experienced mixed fortunes at 'De Ronde' over the years, and here's our story so far…

2010

We went into our first appearance full of confidence after Juan Antonio Flecha followed up his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad win with a top-three finish at E3 Harelbeke. The team rode well on the day too, with numbers towards the front when the race hit the Koppenberg. Nobody could match the magnificent Fabian Cancellara though.

The Swiss champion jumped clear with Tom Boonen and then left his rival in the dust with a stinging attack on the Muur van Geraardsbergen and won by over a minute. Flecha, Mathew Hayman and Geraint Thomas were all present in a 30-strong peloton that was led home by Tyler Farrar in fifth position, and after the race Thomas was keen to stress the positives.

Fabian Cancellara

Fabian Cancellara winning the 2010 Ronde

He said: "The result doesn't reflect how well we rode. We performed as a team and followed our plan, but Cancellara was just head and shoulders above the rest."

2011

Geraint Thomas cemented his reputation as a Classics rider by claiming his first-ever top-10 finish in a Monument in 2011. The Welshman had impressed by finishing 2nd at Dwars door Vlaanderen a fortnight previously, and rode brilliantly again in Flanders to finish in a seven-man group with Juan Antonio Flecha, just eight seconds behind surprise winner Nick Nuyens.

Team Sky were active from the off with Jeremy Hunt making an early break, and at the end Thomas and Flecha helped chase down several attacks before Nuyens slipped clear with Fabian Cancellara and Sylvain Chavanel in the last 4km. Nuyens then went on to claim the biggest win of his career by outsprinting his higher-profile rivals at the line.

After the race Sport Director Steven de Jongh said: "When G and Flecha made it into that last group we began to think that maybe today would be our day. They both looked strong but didn't have anything left in the tank to challenge Nuyens, Chavanel and Cancellara at the end. It was a great performance though and they deserve some praise."

2012

Edvald Boasson Hagen was our leader in 2012 but got held up behind a crash with 39km to go on the infamous Paterberg. Although Bernhard Eisel, Christian Knees and Ian Stannard rode hard to guide him back into contention, the effort meant he couldn't follow the day's decisive move when Alessandro Ballan, Tom Boonen and Filippo Pozzato broke clear on the Oude Kwaremont.

That trio stayed ahead to sprint it out for the win, with Boasson Hagen rolling home 38 seconds down in 19th position after Boonen had claimed a record-equalling third triumph. Flecha's performance also deserves a mention - he finished just one place behind Boasson Hagen despite making his return in the race after breaking a bone in his hand.

2013

After skipping the Classics in 2012 to concentrate on his Olympic track preparations, Geraint Thomas was our protected rider in 2013 but suffered a high-speed crash on the approach to the Oude Kwaremont. With G out of contention, Edvald Boasson Hagen took up the mantle but was distanced just after the Paterberg and finished 17th after Fabian Cancellara had solo'd to his second win. 

Afterwards, Sport Director Servais Knaven said: "A few of our riders were struck down by illness and this was a disappointing result - the riders expected more. They'd trained hard for such a long time so to get sick in the days before is tough to take. We can't fault their effort though, they gave everything and it was unfortunate to see Geraint go down at such a key point in the race."

Fabian Cancellara

Cancellara winning in 2013

2014

Geraint Thomas crashed on the cobbles again in 2014 but managed to battle back on this occasion and claim a new best result in the process, finishing eighth after Fabian Cancellara had defended his title.

Thomas took a nasty tumble before the Padderstraat but Sir Bradley Wiggins and Christian Knees shepherded him back into the mix and he and Edvald Boasson Hagen were in front of a large crash which split the peloton in the closing stages.

Boasson Hagen went on the attack on the approach to the Taaienberg, and although Thomas missed the move which saw Cancellara win a four-man sprint for victory, he battled all the way to the finish and crossed the line just 37 seconds adrift.

A battered and bruised Thomas said: "My back and face are sore and I felt terrible for the most of the race. Being able to finish in the top 10 after all that is pretty pleasing, especially given I almost got off the bike at one point."

2015

Geraint Thomas stayed upright and launched an attack on the final ascent of the Oude Kwaremont as he attempted to bridge over to Alexander Kristoff and Niki Terpstra.

Unfortunately Thomas's move didn't stick however, and he crossed the line in a group of eight riders 48 seconds after Kristoff has outsprinted Terpstra to take the win.

The result was disappointing for Thomas given that he'd triumphed at E3 Harelbeke nine days before, and at the time he said: "I lacked that punch I had last week.

"I had to have a go as the boys rode so well all day for me. I just didn't quite have the legs at the end. When you're feeling a bit average it feels like everyone is following you. Once I was in that group behind nobody would work together and it was attack after attack. That's the way bike racing goes I guess."

2016

Luke Rowe stepped up to the plate last season to produce Team Sky's best result at 'De Ronde' to date. A hard-fought fifth place came out of one of the toughest and most aggressive editions in recent years. After earlier moves from Ian Stannard and Michal Kwiatkowski, Rowe dragged himself into contention on the Paterberg, but was unable to do anything about the trio ahead - with Peter Sagan winning the race. Thomas backed up his fellow Welshman in 12th.

After the race Rowe explained: "We had numbers in the front. Tactically we were really good, we didn’t miss any moves, but the three strongest guys who were away in the end were the three strongest guys in the race."

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan winning in 2016

BMC Racing Team looking for opportunities at Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco

Speaking of the Tour of the Basque Country, BMC sent me this update:

31 March, 2017, Santa Rosa, California (USA): BMC Racing Team will be targeting stage wins at the demanding six-day Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, the next UCI WorldTour stage race of the season.

Sports Director Yvon Ledanois said the eight-rider team is lining up with multiple options and a wealth of experience. "We will be looking to carry the strong team dynamic that we saw at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya into this race. While we are not going in with a specific team leader, I am looking forward to seeing how Samuel Sánchez, who won a stage last year, will perform. I have already seen that he is riding at a similar level to last year."

"We have a good group of riders lining up, and I trust in the abilities of everyone to ride aggressively and challenge for stage wins over the six days. This will be our first priority, and then we will see how the General Classification develops from there."

Samuel Sánchez is looking for further success at the UCI WorldTour race.  "Following a tough edition of Volta Ciclista a Catalunya comes one of the main objectives of the year, Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco. On paper, this year's parcours seems less demanding than previous editions of the race, however, judging by the list of strong riders heading to the start line I feel this won't be the case."

"I will definitely be hoping to repeat last year's performance and try and get as far up the General Classification as possible while at the same time, as a team, we will be looking for opportunities and fighting for stage wins," Sánchez explained. 

Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco (April 3 - 8)

Rider Roster: Damiano Caruso (ITA), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Nicolas Roche (IRL), Samuel Sánchez (ESP), Dylan Teuns (BEL), Loïc Vliegen (BEL), Danilo Wyss (SUI)

Sports Directors: Yvon Ledanois (FRA), Max Sciandri (ITA)

Bardiani-CSF to race Volta Limburg Classic

The team sent me this news:

Bardiani-CSF continues its Northern campaign by racing tomorrow, April 1, at Volta Limburg Classic, second event after the three stages of Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde in Belgium. Dutch road race (198 km, UCI 1.1) has a thrilling route, twisted and turned around Limburg region and very similar to classic race Amstel Gold Race.

Line up - Led by team director Stefano Zanatta, the #GreenTeam selection includes the riders which already raced on Belgium road: Vincenzo Albanese, Enrico Barbin, Mirco Maestri, Marco Maronese, Paolo Simion and Alessandro Tonelli. New addition, as seventh rider, Lorenzo Rota.

Facts - Bardiani-CSF always collected bold performances at Volta Limburg but never takes the win. In four editions, it took three second places with Colbrelli (2013, 2014 and 2016) and one fourth place with Battaglin (2015). 2017 line up includes two debutants, Albanese and Maronese. As happened in De Panne, the #GreenTeam will be one of the youngest team at the start - 23 years old the average age (all the riders born in the nineties), with Albanese the youngest (1996) and Barbin the oldest (1990).

Canyon U.S. to be led by industry veteran Blair Clark; German brand sets up California office

Big changes are coming to the bicycle business. Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this important piece:

KOBLENZ, Germany (BRAIN) — Canyon Bicycles GmbH has made several key hires in the U.S. as it prepares to begin selling direct to consumers in late summer. Blair Clark has joined as president of Canyon US and Thomas Baumann has been appointed general manager, combining industry experience and an outside perspective in the management of its U.S. office.

Clark most recently was president and chief operating officer of GU Energy Labs. Before that he was senior vice president of sales and marketing for Smith Optics for more than a decade. He also is a former vice president at Specialized and president of Giro. He has been an IMBA board member and is chairman of the People for Bikes Foundation.

Clark got his start in the industry working bike retail in the early 1980s at Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos, California.

Baumann was president and CEO of Orbitak, principal of VW Consulting and manager of the Center of Project Management Competence. He has a doctorate in economics from the University of Bremen and will be handling all operations and creating the blue print for Canyon's future international subsidiaries.

"I've known Blair and Thomas for some time and when they came to the forefront of our executive search, I knew they were the right fit for our company and these roles," said Roman Arnold, Canyon founder and CEO. "Since 2008, Canyon's international sales have surpassed German sales and our brand has continued to grow strongly across the globe. Entering the U.S. marks the next big step for Canyon, and this team will provide the right blend of experience and leadership to guide our U.S. operations."

You can read the entire story here.

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