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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, June 24, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

I have known war as few men now living know it. It's very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a means of settling international disputes. - Douglas MacArthur

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National Championship team reports

Cannondale-Drapac was happy with how the Irish ITT Championships went:

It was mission accomplished for Ryan Mullen in Wexford, Ireland on Thursday night. The 22-year-old recorded a personal best 40-minute power average en route to time trial gold at the Irish National Road Championships. It’s Mullen’s second elite time trial title and Cannondale-Drapac’s first national title of the 2017 season.

“It means a lot to me,” said Mullen. “I felt like I was under a bit of pressure to win, especially after Worlds last year. To be honest, I expected to win and would have been disappointed if I didn’t. I’m glad I wasn’t unrealistic or over-confident about my chances.

“Being a national champion is something I’m very proud of,” he added. “I will always make an effort to come to Nationals, even if the timing or the location doesn’t make it the easiest race in the world to include in my schedule."

Mullen covered the 33-kilometer course in a winning standard of 40:48. It was 15-seconds quicker than the time set by defending champion Nicolas Roche (BMC) in second place.

Ryan Mullen

Ryan Mullen racing the World U23 Champs in 2014

“The race was run on this country road,” noted Mullen. “The surface was really bad, with holes everywhere, and it was hard to pick your line. I think that played to my strength as a heavier guy. The lighter guys probably bounced about. There wasn’t much in the way of climbs. It was a fairly straightforward course.”

A stiff headwind on the way out required a measured approach to the first half of the race. “I had to start a little bit harder than what I could sustain,” said Mullen. “I got to the halfway point, and I hadn’t over-paced. I was 15-seconds down. I thought: ‘Well, shit. This hasn’t gone to plan.’ But Roche went out too hard as well, and I pulled back 30, 40 seconds on him going back.”

Mullen will line up for Ireland’s road race championship on Sunday. “I haven’t even looked at the course yet,” he said. “I was all in for the TT. I wanted that skinsuit back. That was the big goal for the weekend.

“I did the double in 2014 [as a U23], and I’ll try to do that again, but for the road race, most of the field just sits on the WorldTour riders, there are four of us, so it’s not anything like a normal race,” he added. “I’ll definitely give it a crack.”

BMC sent me this report on the Italian time trial championships:

23 June, 2017, Caluso (ITA): Manuel Quinziato continued BMC Racing Team's run of podium finishes this week after securing the bronze medal at today's Italian National Time Trial Championships behind winner Gianni Moscon (Team Sky).

As defending champion, Quinziato was the final rider to roll off the ramp and out on the 38.3km course, he was chasing Moscon's benchmark of 44'33". Quinziato eventually stopped the clock at 46'09" to set the third-fastest time of the day and head onto the podium for the fifth time in his career at the Italian National Time Trial Championships.

Manuel Quinziato: "It was really hot today and in the end, I think everyone found that difficult. I came here to defend my title and I felt like I had the legs to do that but the heat hit me harder than I expected. It was a really strong performance from Gianni Moscon (Team Sky) and I was still able to make it onto the podium so I am happy and I think I honored the race. Of course, I wish I could have kept the jersey but the young guys were stronger than me today."

"Last year was really special for me but I have now been on the podium here five times and every year is different. The only result I was aiming for today was the win so, I am a bit disappointed but reflecting on my performance in today's conditions, I think I can be happy."

"I think as a team we have a really strong and motivated group of riders for the Road Race Championships on Sunday. It's a pretty hard course and we don't know the final circuit so, we will see what happens."

Here's Team Sunweb's report on the Austrian ITT Champs:

Team Sunweb have taken their second national victory today as Georg Predlier (AUT) reclaimed his time trial title, taking the win in Austria to wear his national colours for the next year.

Preidler set out to reclaim the title he had in 2015 in Austria today, aiming to add a second national time trial victory to his palmares. It was a day where all of the variables matched, with the hilly course suiting Preidler's strengths. After a powerful, flawless time trial the Austrian stormed past his rivals to take the victory by almost 40 seconds with a time of 32 minutes and 46 seconds.

After the win Preidler said: "I'm really happy with the result. I had expected to maybe get onto the podium but didn't anticipate winning whatsoever. The competition was so fierce with two other really strong guys that I thought would take the win. I gave it my all and it worked out that I was fast enough. I'm really pleased to be able to wear the jersey again."

Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts (AUS) added: "Georg has had a really heavy lead up to the championships with a tough Giro followed by the Tour de Suisse but he came through it all fit and healthy. Knowing that the course today would suit him well we fine-tuned his training to go for the title. He has put in a great ride tonight to take the jersey and it's very well deserved."

And here's the Belgian ITT championship report from Team Quick-Step Floors:

After two years in which he finished runner-up, Yves Lampaert has finally won the race against the clock on home turf, notching the team's 33rd UCI victory of the season.

2017 is shaping up to be Yves Lampaert's best season since turning pro. Winner of Dwars door Vlaanderen three months ago and part of the team that helped Philippe Gilbert take a memorable victory at De Ronde van Vlaanderen, Yves now crowned himself Belgian Time Trial Champion, following a brilliant ride on the Chimay motor circuit.

Yvems Lampaert

Lampaert winnng Dwars door Vlaanderen

Four Quick-Step Floors riders participated in the 38.2km-long race on Thursday afternoon: Dries Devenyns, Laurens De Plus, Yves Lampaert and Julien Vermote. First to roll down the ramp was Dries, who rode a solid ITT and stopped the clock in 48:13, remaining in the hot seat for more than an hour. Two riders improved that result, before Yves went out on the course and scorched the circuit in 46:43, putting in a blistering ride and setting the reference time at both intermediate splits, before sealing one of the biggest wins of his career.

At the end of the day, Lampaert's time – which landed his maiden success at the Nationals – was 17 seconds faster than the one of last year's champion, Victor Campanaerts (LottoNL-Jumbo), who crashed in the last bend and finished runner-up, ahead of Ben Hermans (BMC).

Lotto-Soudal previews the Belgian Road Championships:

Next Sunday the road race at the Belgian Championships takes place. The course in Antwerp is seventeen kilometres long. The women need to cover six laps (= 102 kilometres) and already start at eight o’clock. At a quarter to twelve the men start the first of fourteen laps, which will amount to a total distance of 238 kilometres. In the last five kilometres of the course there are two cobblestone sections. The first is one kilometre long, the second about 500 metres.

Sports director Herman Frison: “In the past we’ve seen that Belgian championships on a flat course were often ridden at a high speed. Although the course is flat, the field can definitely fall apart. A peloton sprint is a possibility, but I don’t think it is very likely.”

“The Belgian Championship is always an unpredictable race and difficult to control. There are many possible scenarios for Sunday. If the pace is high right from the start, the cobblestone sections could influence the race at the end. Someone could chose for a late attack for example.”

“At Lotto Soudal we don’t have a specific leader for the race. We have a group with several riders who can win on this course. You will need to grab your chance at the right moment, but it’s impossible to predict when that will be. That can be in the first lap, but also in the last lap. Philippe Gilbert is the main favourite according to me. He is having a very good season. And he dares to go early.”

The Dutch national championships will take place on a hilly course of 231 kilometres in Montferland. In total the riders have to complete fourteen laps of 16,6 kilometres each. There are three short climbs in each lap. On top of that, the final 600 metres of each lap are going slightly uphill. Moreno Hofland has proven to be in good shape during the Ster ZLM Toer and he is an outsider for next Sunday.

In Germany, the riders face eleven local laps of 19.4 kilometres in and around Chemnitz, which amounts to 213.4 kilometres in total. It is expected to be a hard race, as there is an elevation gain of 1980 metres. Some of the world’s best sprinters are present, which makes that this race will probably lead to a bunch sprint. Titleholder André Greipel is one of the riders to watch. He gets the support from Marcel Sieberg during the race, who will help him to conquer a fourth national title.

Next Sunday, Great Britain will also hold its national championships on the Isle of Man. The 193.7-kilometre race is divided over two separate circuits. First, the riders have to complete two laps of 60 kilometres each. Afterwards there is a second local circuit of 7.25 kilometres, on which the riders must race ten laps. As the second circuit is almost completely flat, it is perfectly suited for a bunch sprint. Neo-pro James Shaw is to only Lotto Soudal rider to start the race.

The past three years Lotte Kopecky each time finished second at the Belgian Championship for women. This year the 21-year-old rider gets a new opportunity, although her preparation was far from perfect with a hamstring injury and illness. She rode her last race on May 14.

Lotte Kopecky: “At the moment I’m feeling fine. I did a recon of the course and know what to expect on Sunday. It’s good that there are two cobblestone sections on the course, because otherwise it would be a bit dull. It are two straight sections, but the cobblestones are not in a perfect state. You can’t avoid them though. I find it a nice part. I think the cobblestones can definitely cause a selection in the pack. That is if the pace isn’t only raised on the cobbles, but if the tempo has been high for a while. The rest of the race takes place on nice roads. There are a few corners, but these aren’t technical.”

“Sport Vlaanderen can definitely make the race hard as they are big in numbers. Also Lares and Lensworld could play a similar role. As a team we should also race aggressively. There can’t be a breakaway without one of us. Jolien D’hoore of course has a huge chance of taking the title. Sanne Cant also seems in a good shape and the course suits Valerie Demey. And of course there are the Druyts sisters for whom this is a home race.”

“At the beginning of the season this was a big goal for me. I still want to win, but because of my illness and injury I haven’t raced for six weeks and I am a bit uncertain about my condition. The advantage is that I don’t need to put any pressure on myself. I will give the best I got, you can be sure of that.”

Movistar's Nairo Quintana analyzes the 2017 Tour

Here's Movistar's post:

24 days after snatching his second podium finish in the Giro d’Italia, Nairo Quintana is trying to make the most of the nine sleeps remaining before the start of the Tour de France (he’ll have enjoyed 33 while getting ready for his second Grand Tour of the season). The Colombian climber from the Movistar Team preferred to avoid long journeys and remained at his European home in Monaco, where he rested up after the ‘Corsa Rosa’ and prepared his mind and body for a fourth ‘Grande Boucle’ appearance. In his previous three Tour de France, the ‘Cóndor’ made it to the Paris podium (2nd in 2013 and 2015; 3rd last year), having also obtained KOM and Young rider honours in his debut in the race four years ago, following his only stage win to date atop Semnoz / Annecy. Here are the reflections from the Cómbita-born rider before travelling to Germany next week:

Giro analysis: “Now that it’s a bit longer behind us, I still feel that what I did in the Giro was good. We were so close to accomplish our goal, and we claimed a very decent podium finish, with excellent teamwork from all of the squad’s members. It was obviously a bit sad not seeing things go as we expected in the end, but that makes me even hungrier and more determined to chase the goals left in this season. I just hope I’m healthy and fortunate enough to take that final step forward in the Tour.”

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana racing 2017 Giro d'Italia stage 14

Approaching the Tour: “After the end of the Giro, I stayed off the bike at home for like a week, and following a couple more days of active rest I started to train more seriously, and took advantage of the race-free month to check some of the key stages in the Tour. The past week and this one are being the most intense ones when it comes to training. The fact that we went last week on a recce of the Alps stages made it quite more demanding, but it was good, since our plan for this week was taking on some harder training to finetune our form for the Tour. The approach to the Tour is pretty much complete – now it’s all about staying healthy and keeping the legs fresh before the start of the race.

“To put the focus on either resting up or training more – well, it’s difficult to find balance between them. In my case and in hindsight, I think that it was more important to get some rest and recover well before starting taking on serious training. Those three, four weeks were enough time to put on some good mileage between the two races.”

Feelings: “I’m feeling good on the bike so far this month. I should be getting stronger in the next few days and thus reach the start in the best possible condition. But after all, you can only see where you stand when you’re into the race. Everything has been different for me this season. It’s true that I’ve ridden two Grand Tours several times already in my career, but this Giro-Tour double is quite different to anything I’ve done in the past. Also, the time of the year, the weather – it changes things a lot. The Giro went good for me, in that sense of approach, and that makes me tackle the Tour with good expectations.”

The challenge: “My feelings towards the double haven’t changed after the result I got in Italy. We prepared for the Giro and the Tour with an aim to win both, even though we knew it was so difficult. We were so close to claiming the Giro GC, we weren’t able to, but it doesn’t matter. We’re as focused on completing this double strongly as we were before the Giro. We’ll try and get them this time in the Tour.”

Contenders: “To me, Froome still looks like the big favourite. He always approaches the Tour perfectly, he’s a race he’s been brilliant at in the past, and I’m sure he’ll be at 100% condition in July. Porte – we’ve all seen him riding strong for the past few years, and he’s shown great abilities that make him a strong contender. Then there’s Contador and Bardet, two riders with different skills, but as much dangerous. Also the Orica riders, with Yates and Chaves; the Astana duo, with Aru and Fuglsang, who seem to be getting to the start in great form – and, as I said before the Giro and the Dumoulin success, there’s always some sort of surprise, riders you don’t count on to get a result and end up contesting the GC.”

Valverde / Movistar Team: “Having Alejandro by my side for the last few years made me stronger, as everyone could see. He’s talented, he’s experienced, he knows what to do. His race craft is something no one can bring to me. And his immense strength creates a serious threat to the other rivals, who fear what he can achieve. It makes you so calm to have him on your team. Our seven team-mates are still not confirmed, but I’m sure we’ll have an excellent group lining up in Germany. They will give everything for me, as they’ve always done. It should be a mixture of veteran riders and strong youngsters, rouleurs and climbers, all of them talented. I’ve got 100% confidence in my team.”

Route – 1st week: “We start off with a short time trial where we will try to do our best, but then again, the biggest goal on that opening week is avoiding any troubles. Sometimes you just focus on getting 100% to the race and forget about how important is to avoid any danger, to be able to control your nerves, ride well inside the bunch and also be a bit lucky into those first days in the Tour. It’s all about about remaining focused and keeping the front, to try and reach the mountains with a 0-0 on your rivals, no own goals. I don’t know La Planche des Belles Filles, but it should be a significant climb already on day five. We’ll see how our rivals fare and who is brave enough to show his cards so early in the race. There’s also two stages in the Jura, who should probably play a big role in the final results. Those are demanding stages, with several consecutive climbs, that will create a lot of wear and tear inside the bunch. Its exigence should be important for will come next.”

Route – 2nd week: “The two Pyrenees stages are really hard, and after them we should have a clear GC in hand. The Peyragudes day looks like the most demanding to me, with 214 kilometers and many hours up and down into those tough climbs. However, the second one will be a really short one, with lumpy climbs, and we’ve seen in the past how great is the effect of short routes on Grand Tour designs. You just go flat out, at full steam from start to finish – those end up being spectacular.”

Route – 3rd week: “The race scenario should be pretty much clear after the Pyrenees, and the Alps will clarify who’s on the podium – and whose are those places. We know all climbs, we’ve raced on them in the past and were part of our recon – they’re just amazing, so hard. The weather conditions could also be important, since they change rapidly at such heights. Finally, the Marseille TT – it’s a really atypical route, since you’ve got terrain for time trial specialists and they should take advantage there, but you’ve also got a hard climb where GC specialists will have to push hard. Still, I feel like, with all mountains prior to that stage, the one who goes into that final TT in yellow will be almost certain to win”.

Orica-Scott has named its TDF squad:

ORICA-SCOTT has today named the nine-rider team selected to race the Tour de France in support of the team’s Grand Tour general classification focus identified at the start of the year.

The Australian outfit will support young climbers Simon Yates and Esteban Chaves at the three-week Tour, following their support of Adam Yates at the Giro d’Italia and ahead of a similar focus at the Vuelta a Espana later in the season.

Simon Yates

Simon Yates after stage 4 of this year's Tour de Romandie

“Nothing has changed all year with our focus,” sport director Matt White said. “We’ve had an interrupted program with Esteban’s knee injury and also a little with Simon following the change after Romandie but we are still going to the Tour de France fully supporting the pair for general classification rides.”

“For Simon, we’d like to challenge for the white jersey and if we can beat the likes of Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) in that competition, it also makes a top ten result viable.

“Realistically, we don’t know what will happen with Esteban. He’s podiumed twice before at Grand Tours but it’s his first Tour de France. Everything has gone well since the injury. As we have said before we don’t know how the lack of racing will impact his Tour de France, but regardless it will be a great experience and it will set him up for the rest of the season.”

White and the management team have selected a versatile group to support Yates and Chaves. In total, the nine-rider group has an average age of 30 and 27 Tour de France appearances between them, with two debutants. We have two guys to support and seven guys to do it,” White explained. “We have a very versatile team and in terms of depth for what we are trying to achieve at this year’s Tour, it’s as good as we have got.”

“There will be the opportunity to go for stages but the main objective is to support our leaders. This year’s route bucks the recent trends of race organisers. It’s been a long time since we have had nine or ten opportunities for pure sprinters and there isn’t many chances at all for the opportunists.”

The road captain role will be shared between experienced Australian Mathew Hayman on the flatter stages and Czech Roman Kreuziger come the mountains. “Hayman is our captain for the flat stages and with so many flat stages he is going to have a very important role,” White said. “He will be our go-to guy for a big part of the race.”

“Roman comes with a wealth of experience and he has finished in the top ten on three occasions at the Tour de France himself. He has also been a part of Grand Tour winning teams in the past. This experience and knowledge will be of immense value to our young climbers.”

Joining Kreuziger with a crucial role in the mountains will be second debutant Damien Howson. Howson and Hayman are joined by Luke Durbridge as the three Australian representatives.

“Damien is making his Tour debut which is really exciting for him,” White said. “He has worked extremely hard to get here and he has proved a very valuable member of the team. His performances at the Giro and Vuelta have shown he is ready for the Tour de France.”

“Luke is a big weapon in our engine room. He is one of the strongest guys getting around and whatever our daily plans are, he lays it on the line and we can rely 100% on him, not just flat stages but across a lot of terrain.”

The team is capped off with the versatility of South African Daryl Impey, Swiss Michael Albasini and Belgian Jens Keukeleire. “Impey is one of the most versatile riders in our team, he can be used across a variety of stages,” White explained. “He is a great teammate and knows when to pick his opportunities too.”

“Albasini, like Daryl, has a wealth of experience and can be relied on across all terrains to do the necessary work for the team. The pair, along with Keukeleire, who has had a stellar year, know how to take their chances when they arise, but their primary role is to look after our leaders.”

The 2017 Tour de France runs from the 1st to the 23rd of July, starting in the German town of Dusseldorf and finishing with the traditional circuits on the Champs Elysees in Paris. The 21-day race features two time trials, nine flat stages, five medium and five mountain stages.

ORICA-SCOTT at the Tour de France (1st – 23rd July):

Michael Albasini (SUI, 36) - 9th TDF appearance
Esteban Chaves (COL, 27) - debut
Luke Durbridge (AUS, 26) - 4th TDF appearance
Mathew Hayman (AUS, 39) - 3rd TDF appearance
Damien Howson (AUS, 24) - debut
Daryl Impey (RSA, 32) - 5th TDF appearance
Jens Keulekeire (BEL, 28) - 2nd TDF appearance
Roman Kreuziger (CZE, 31) - 8th TDF appearance
Simon Yates (GBR, 24) - 3rd TDF appearance

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