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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, August 17, 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

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this - no dog exchanges bones with another. - Adam Smith

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BMC's statement regarding Samuel Sánchez anti-doping violation

BMC sent me this bad news:

17 August, 2017, Nimes (FRA): BMC Racing Team was notified on Thursday, 17 August by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) of a potential anti-doping violation for the presence of GHRP-2 and its metabolite, in an out-of-race anti-doping control for Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez.

In accordance with BMC Racing Team's zero tolerance policy and UCI regulation, Sánchez has been provisionally suspended with immediate effect. Until the results of the B sample are provided, no further action will be taken.

Samuel Sanchez

Samuel Sanchez

All riders and staff are held to the highest ethical standard and BMC Racing Team is extremely disappointed to share this news on the eve of the Vuelta a España. Loïc Vliegen will replace Sánchez at the Vuelta a España.

Marcel Kittel signs two-year contract with Katusha-Alpecin

Here's the team's press release:

Team KATUSHA ALPECIN has made a two-year agreement with Marcel Kittel, bringing the German rider to the team for the 2018 and 2019 cycling seasons.

“We are very happy to have Marcel in the team. We can say that he is at the moment the best sprinter in the world. He showed this quite  impressively in the Tour de France where he won five stages. He will be one of our most important riders and can look forward to strong team support. We will try to support him in the best possible way to ensure that he can continue his successful results,” said general manager José Azevedo.

"I'm really looking forward to a new challenge in new colors. For me, this moment is exciting. With this step, I also hope  to get new inspiration. I think, I find all the requirements in the team that I need to be strong in the sprint finals. I saw that the sprint train is functioning very well. Team KATUSHA ALPECIN has undergone a major change in recent years. I've been watching these changes for a long time and I think it's good. That is why I am looking forward to being part of the team and share the direction they are headed. Team spirit has always been important to me and for this reason also I've become a pro cyclist,” said Marcel Kittel.

Marcel Kittel

Marcel Kittel (in green), winning stage 10 of this year's Tour de France

Kittel, 29, born in Arnstadt, Germany, was a time trial specialist in his youth where he earned twice gold in the Junior World Championships and has won the U23 European Championships. He turned professional in 2011 and rapidly developed his dominance in the sprints. In the 2017 Tour de France he won five stages, bringing his career total to 14 for the Grande Boucle. He is the most successful German of all time at the Tour de France in terms of stage wins. In addition, he has four stages in the Giro d’Italia (2014, 2016), one stage in Vuelta a España (2011) as well as five wins in Scheldeprijs, the overall twice in the Dubai Tour and five stages in the Tour de Pologne, plus this year’s opening stage in the Tour of California. He currently rides for Quick-Step Floors.

“The little icing on the cake is of course to race again in the same team with my good friend Tony Martin. He gave me good insight into the team in my decision-making process. His opinion about the team was of course important to me," added Marcel Kittel.

Quick-Step Floors announces Vuelta team

Here's the team's update:

Nine riders representing six countries will make up our squad for the three-week race which will take place between 19 August and 10 September.

A plethora of summit finishes, nine more precisely, through the mountains of Andalucia, Cantabria and Asturias, will be the salt and pepper of the 72nd Vuelta a España, which is set to start from France, making it just the third time in history that the race will kick off from a foreign country, after 1997 (Portugal) and 2009 (Netherlands). Calar Alto, La Pandera, Sierra Nevada and Angliru will be just some of the race's main difficulties, which should shape up the overall rankings, together with the opening team time trial and the 40.8km-long stage against the clock scheduled on the final week.

Only Spaniard to wear the coveted red jersey at the previous edition of the Vuelta a España, David De La Cruz will return to his home race this year as part of a very strong Quick-Step Floors squad ready to take on the season's final Grand Tour and stick to its aggressive and spectacular style of racing, which earned plaudits and netted over 40 victories since January. The 28-year-old, a stage winner in 2017 at Paris-Nice and Vuelta al Pais Vasco, will be motivated to show his prowess on the mountains and leave again his mark on the general classification.

Winner of back-to-back white jerseys in the Giro d'Italia, Bob Jungels is slated to start the grueling Spanish race three years after making his Grand Tour debut here and notching up two stage top-10 finishes; if the 24-year-old Luxembourger will ride his second three-week race of the season, the same can't be said about Julian Alaphilippe, who gets to ride his first Grand Tour this year, after a knee injury kept him out of the Tour de France.

Bob Jungels

Bob Jungels will be riding his second Grand Tour this season

The team will be rounded out by Eros Capecchi, Tim Declercq, Belgian ITT Champion Yves Lampaert, neo-pro Enric Mas (confidence-buoyed after climbing to second overall at the Vuelta a Burgos earlier this month), Niki Terpstra – the most experienced rider of our Vuelta a España roster in terms of Grand Tour participations, with 11 presences under his belt – and Matteo Trentin.

"Vuelta will be again a tough race, with many brutal climb and steep gradients, some kicking out at 25%. Will be grueling even for the best climbers, and the extreme temperatures will make everything even more difficult and test the riders throughout these three weeks", said sport director Geert Van Bondt.

"We hope to do a good race and be up there when it comes to both stage wins and the general classification. David De La Cruz will set his sights on a good result in the overall standings, and after finishing in the top 10 last year, we believe he can be again among the protagonists, but we will take it one stage at a time and see how the race progresses. If you look at the average age of our team, you can see it's very young but nonetheless it is a complete team, with several experienced riders, capable of winning in almost every terrain, so we're heading to the start in Nîmes with confidence and optimism", Van Bondt concluded.

Lotto-Soudal director previews the Vuelta a España

The team sent me this:

Saturday the Vuelta begins with a team time trial in Nîmes, France. It will be the third start abroad of this Grand Tour. In this preview Lotto Soudal sports director Mario Aerts talks about the role of the nine riders, the goals of the team and the course.

Mario Aerts: “Jens Debusschere is our sprinter for this race. There are four chances for the pure sprinters: the second, fourth, thirteenth and twentieth stage. In some of the tougher stages Jens might survive the climbs and sprint for victory.”

“Maxime Monfort has chosen a different approach this year: not aiming for GC, but aiming for a stage win. In some stages he can stay in the gruppetto and save energy to be as fresh as possible to join the break in other stages. Bart De Clercq will also try to win a stage, there are several opportunities for him too. The same goes for Thomas De Gendt. He is keen to win a Vuelta stage after he already won at Giro and Tour.”

“This season Sander Armée set some nice performances at 4 Jours de Dunkerque and Tour of Norway. That was the first time he was our man for GC. In the Vuelta he will get a free role. Sander can hang on very long uphill and we’ll see how far that gets him in the next three weeks. We don’t aim for a specific position on GC. We don’t put any pressure on Sander.”

Sander Armee

Sander Armée

“Tomasz Marczyski is a very important member of the team, both during and after the race. He is a strong domestique and creates a good atmosphere. Tomasz can ride uphill and considering the fact that there are some technical finales this Vuelta, he will definitely get occasions to take his chance.”

“This will be the first Grand Tour for Rémy Mertz. He is still young, but has done very well so far as a neo-pro. Rémy can pull at the head of the peloton for many kilometres without suffering. He has a lot of stamina. Now he might have a go of his own. Jelle Wallays rode his first Grand Tour last year. He was still very strong at the end of the Vuelta and he joined a breakaway twice. A new Grand Tour will make him even stronger for next spring. Jelle will need to take Jens to the front for the sprints. In other stages he is free to attack.”

“As he incurred a hip fracture on training, Rafael Valls had to be replaced in our line-up. We added Adam Hansen to our team. Adam wasn’t selected for the Vuelta at first due to saddle sore. Now he’s part of our line-up, he will be able to contribute to the sprint preparation.”

The sprints:

Mario Aerts: “In the sprint stages Jens is our man and for the other stages we have no specific leader; all riders are free to attack. Everyone will get his chance, there are enough opportunities. We will go full in the team time trial. On Sunday a sprinter can take over the jersey and that could be Jens. There are only four real sprint stages. In the sixth stage a climb of second category lies on the course at forty kilometres from the finish. The seventh stage has a technical finale with a third category climb close to the finish. A reduced bunch will sprint for victory. That are two extra opportunities for Jens. Although John Degenkolb will definitely be a strong opponent on those occasions.”

“At the Tour teams are built around a sprinter and the race is more controlled. That’s less the case at the Vuelta. If there should be a late attack there might not be enough riders to close the gap. That diminishes the chances of a sprint in the stages that are not one hundred per cent suited for a sprint.”

Steep climbs:

Mario Aerts: “On Monday there’s already a mountain stage to Andorra, and that is soon. It would be good for breakaway riders if there’s already a first, small selection on GC. The climb to Xorret de Catí in the eighth stage shouldn’t be underestimated either. But the first Vuelta week has already been tougher in the past. There are no steep finishes for punchers the first week. Further down the race the course does take the riders over some steep climbs. Those parts could be fatal for escapees, but that depends on what the GC riders want too. The Angliru is part of the course again, on the penultimate day. On stage seventeen the riders need to climb Los Machucos, with gradients above twenty per cent!”

“I find it a nice course and less extreme than in the past. Many of our riders have the necessary experience in this race and that’s an advantage. I see some great opportunities for our team during these three weeks and I hope our aggressive way of racing will get us a stage win.”

BMC announces squad for EuroEyes Cyclassics

The team sent me this release:

16 August 2017, Santa Rosa, California (USA): BMC Racing Team is set to line up at EuroEyes Cyclassics, the next UCI WorldTour one-day race of the season, on Sunday (20 August) with a motivated and well-rounded team.

Sports Director Fabio Baldato thinks BMC Racing Team's line-up provides multiple options depending on how the race develops. "We have seen in the past that this race is one for the sprinters and if this is once again the case, we have Jempy Drucker on our roster who, as we saw at the Prudential RideLondon Surrey Classic, is in good shape. We also have riders like Silvan Dillier, Loïc Vliegen and Manuel Quinziato who we know can race hard and can go with any strong moves on the circuit. Of course, we also have Greg Van Avermaet lining up, and he is coming into the race, as he always does, in strong form and will be motivated to score some more UCI WorldTour points if the opportunity presents itself," Baldato said.

Van Avermaet is looking to use EuroEyes Cyclassics as a stepping stone towards his goals at the end of the season. "My shape was really good at Binck Bank Tour, and my legs were where I wanted them to be. I was really happy with how I raced, so I am feeling good heading into the next UCI WorldTour one-day race. For me, my main goals for the rest of the season are still to come, but this will be a good opportunity to continue to build my form and keep that race feeling in my legs heading into next month," Van Avermaet explained.

Drucker is confident in his form heading into the one-day race. "It was a tough week of racing at Binck Bank Tour, but I felt like my form was there and that I was able to work hard for the team. My legs have been feeling good, and I know that my speed is there, so I am motivated to produce a good result at EuroEyes Cyclassics if the race comes down a bunch sprint," Drucker added.

EuroEyes Cyclassics (20 August)

Rider Roster: Silvan Dillier (SUI), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Floris Gerts (NED), Amaël Moinard (FRA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Loïc Vliegen (BEL), Danilo Wyss (SUI)

Sports Director: Fabio Baldato (ITA)

And here is the UAE Team Emirates' EuroEyes Cyclassics news

The team sent this update:

On August 20th, the World Tour series will take the UAE Team Emirates to Germany – to Hamburg, to be exact – for the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg, an in-line race covering a distance of 220.9 km.

After a first part covering a simple altimetry, the route will take the riders to the final circuit in Hamburg, featuring three laps on the Waseberg hill; the last uphill lap will be 15.5 km from the arrival.

The eight riders selected by the Emirate team’s technical staff are:
– Simone Consonni (Italy)
– Roberto Ferrari (Italy)
– Filippo Ganna (Italy)
– Marko Kump (Slovenia)
– Marco Marcato (Italy)
– Oliviero Troia (Italy)
– Ben Swift (United Kingdom)
– Diego Ulissi (Italy)

Sports Manager: Orlando Maini (Italy)

Ben Swift had these insights as to his expectations for the German race. “The EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg is usually a wide open race, with various chances to attack, although a final sprint is still the most probable outcome. I will try to seize the moment and the right situation to try to get into a tight group in which I can make my move during the sprint to the finish line.”

Sports Manager Maini: “Usually this race is the perfect battleground for sprinters; this is why we would like to give Ferrari the chance to go up against the best sprinters of the pack. Roberto is always impeccable in the role of last man in the leading-train for our other speedsters, but he has always been ready when he’s been assigned a captain’s rank as well. The Waseberg is the only part of the route that could weed out the group; Ulissi, Swift and Marcato are going to have to be ready for it.”


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