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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, May 3, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. - Jack Kerouac

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Giro d'Italia downhill competition cancelled

The Giro organization's original plan to have a competition for best descender has been cancelled after widespread criticism of the idea from many riders. The plan was to clock the riders on ten descents, including the legendary Stelvio. Trek-Segafredo rider Jasper Stuyen was particularly outspoken in his opposition to the idea.

Giro boss Mauro Vegni was angry over the criticism of the plan, insisting that rider safety remains the foremost of his concerns.

The 2017 Giro, it's 100th edition, starts Friday.

Stelvio

Part of the incredible Stelvio Pass

You can read the story (in Italian) in La Gazzetta dello Sport here.

Cannondale-Drapac squad for the Giro d'Italia

The team sent me this:

Formolo. Dombrowski. Rolland. Villella. Woods. Slagter. Koren. Howes. Carthy. Cannondale-Drapac is rolling into the 100th Giro with a squad that’s poised to attack the race and look for opportunity along Italy’s fabled roads. The team is not beholden to a single leader at the Giro, and head director Charly Wegelius hopes the riders make the most of such freedom.

“My hope is that they can enjoy that and try things, and experiment with things, and just push their limits without fear of losing anything or having to do any sort of defensive decision making,” Wegelius said. “They can just see how it works out on the road and grow from it. I think that’s pretty precious in the development of a rider.”

The lineup, however youthful and opportunistic, isn’t a stranger to the Giro. Formolo won a stage in 2015. Rolland finished fourth overall in 2014. Dombrowski lit up the final week of the race last season. Howes is a steady hand wherever he goes. Slagter has performed well on varied terrain his entire career. Woods showed in the Ardennes he’s got bite. Koren knows Italian roads and Italian racing, same as Villella. Carthy just rode a gritty Tour of the Alps.

Pierre Rolland

Pierre Rolland is going to do the Giro-Tour double.

The season’s first grand tour has been affectionately dubbed the “connoisseur’s grand tour.” It lacks the absolute control of the Tour de France and its fans — tifosi — are among the sport’s most vibrant. The roads are spectacular. The weather is unpredictable. The Giro can feel like a three-week one-day race.

“It’s a big event, but it’s still real enough to have a genuine character. The Tour de France is a massive global event, but the Giro has still got its quirks, and it basically represents everything that’s great about Italy and the Italian culture. It’s effervescent and it’s bubbly, and it’s unpredictable, colorful,” Wegelius said.

The Giro begins on Friday in Sardinia. It ends on the 28th of May in Milano.

THOUGHTS FROM SOME OF OUR GIRO RIDERS

DAVIDE FORMOLO: The Giro for me as Italian is something you cannot explain with words. It’s just a dream. It’s the race an Italian kid dreams of growing up; it’s the race we learn from. This parcours is something special, too. We start from one of the nicer places in the word, and then we head toward some of the most famous climbs in the sport. My ambition for the race is to let the Italian fans enjoy this amazing race and this amazing sport. 

MIKE WOODS: From a state-of-mind perspective, I am pumped to be doing this race.  Last year I managed, through some bad decisions on my part and bad luck, to not start any grand tour on the calendar.  This has made the significance of this one, to me, that much greater.  Aside from the excitement, there is definitely some respect that I am storing up for that final week of racing and the process of getting there.  I know crashes, illness and just a few off-days can derail even the best riders in the peloton, so I am making sure not to get too far ahead of myself. 

KRISTIJAN KOREN: This is my first Giro d’Italia, so I am really looking forward to it. I expect three hard weeks in a beautiful landscape surrounded with very friendly fans. 

ALEX HOWES: This is my first Giro. I’ve done a couple of Vueltas and a couple of Tours but I have this funny giddy feeling like this is my first “real” grand tour. Growing up, the Giro always had this special — almost romantic — charm and appeal that no other race had. It was always the “real” race. A race of not just legs but a competition of heart and spirit. 

HUGH CARTHY: I’ve never ridden the Giro before but in the past few years as a professional it is the one grand tour that I have wanted to ride more than others. People who have ridden it describe it as the most beautiful, brutal yet enjoyable race. Having spent a lot of the season so far in the company of my Italian teammates, the significance and specialness of the centenary edition is clear to see. 

JOE DOMBROWSKI: I like the feel of the Giro. I like Italian food and I like Italian culture. The start villages are cool. The country is beautiful. The traditional format with big mountain stages, some transitional stages, and some truly flat pure sprint stages, are a good thing, in my opinion. The racing is less scripted. It’s more interesting to watch. 

TOM-JELTE SLAGTER: Racing in Italy is special, and the Giro is the absolute top. Everything is pink and all the people who come to start and finish makes a great atmosphere. The parcours is always special, with famous climbs and typically Italian roads, nothing else is like that… I want to try to win a stage and help the guys for the GC. I like to race with those two goals because then you don’t focus for three weeks on just one thing.

PIERRE ROLLAND: When I think of the Giro, I think of course that this racing is mythic, that the history of cycling is written on its roads on these climb like the Mortitolo, the Stelvio and others. There will be a lot of difficult days, and the last week will be by far the most difficult. My goal will be above all to win a stage. Maybe be a side classification can be interesting depending on the circumstances of racing. The sprinter jersey suits me this season (laughs). 

DS CHARLY WEGELIUS ON EACH RIDER'S SELECTION TO THE #GREENARGYLE GIRO TEAM

HUGH CARTHY: Hugh’s coming to the Giro on the back of his first three-week race of the end of last year in the Vuelta. He’s going to discover the Giro, and I hope he’s going to find out what I suspect, which is that he’s a prototype Giro rider. He’s very resilient despite his young age. He’s robust. I think he can give his best on steep climbs, which the Giro offers in a way the Tour doesn’t. He’s another one of the guys who, despite the fact that he’s very talented and performing well, still needs space and time to find himself and to develop. I think that this is his first real rendezvous on that journey.

JOE DOMBROWSKI: I think Joe got a glimpse last year of what he can do at the Giro, and for someone like Joe who has very high quality capabilities, but in very specific types of races, the Giro is always going to be attractive to him. When we get to the high altitude in the last week, he can do his best, so we need to wait for him until the last week. 

DAVIDE FORMOLO: He’s really going to benefit from what he did at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. It’s been something I’ve been pushing him on for a bit, to really commit, and really open up, and I think that's what he did at Liège. I hope it’s convinced him that he’s on the right track, and that he’s got the legs, and that he’s competitive. I think he can do well, but Giro is a long, long way. He’s going to have to be patient, but I’m sure we’ll see something great from him in the three weeks. 

ALEX HOWES: Despite the fact Howes isn’t that old for our team, which is still the youngest WorldTour team by quite a long way, he is developing into one of our road captains. He’s smart, he knows how to position in the races, and this is a role that we’ve asked him to do a few times this year, starting in Australia, and I think it’s a role that he can really grow into and give a lot of value in over the next years. In the context of that younger group that we have in the Giro, he’s the perfect senior figure to have in that race, and call the shots, and kind of set the tone also off the bike. 

KRISTIJAN KOREN: He’s ultra-reliable, very solid, knows the Giro, knows Italian races. He’s been riding well all year, and he’s just one of those plug-and-play riders who you know is going to deliver what we ask of him time in, time out. He’s going to be super steady for the flat and the medium stages. 

PIERRE ROLLAND: Pierre’s got one of the heavier racing programs of the riders, because he’s doing the Giro and the Tour double, but he’s so resilient and so solid that I think he’s one of the few riders in cycling who genuinely expect to pull off the Giro/Tour double successfully. That’s a lot of the reason why he’s had a relatively quiet spring, but in the Tour of the Alps we saw him really starting to ramp it up, and I think we will see something good from Pierre in the race.

TOM-JELTE SLAGTER: I hear there’s a few stages in the race that suit him, with punchy finishes, and he’s going to have to take those chance when they come along. The Giro’s a race that’s going to give a lot of opportunities. It offers stages all different types in a way that the Tour doesn’t. 

DAVIDE VILLELLA: He’s developing nicely. Took a win in the Japan Cup last year, and is another rider who, despite the fact he’s not that old, manages a heavy block of racing well. Similarly to Formolo, I think he took a confidence boost from Liège. With his potential, he could perform like that much more regularly if he just believes in himself a bit more. I think if he can do a nice ride in a couple of stages in the Giro, and I think he can take another step in basically self-belief.

MIKE WOODS: First grand tour. He’s put out there for everybody over the spring that he’s completing this sort of transformation from top-level athlete to top-level bike racer, and that’s not an easy task, learning to race in a European peloton and fight for position, and the whole technical aspect. He’s really learning very, very fast, and racing a three-week race will be another step on that level, because all riders when they first ride a three-week race make a jump in progress. 

Cannondale-Drapac for the 2017 Giro d’Italia:

Davide Formolo (ITA)
Joe Dombrowski (USA)
Pierre Rolland (FRA)
Daivde Villella (ITA)
Mike Woods (CAN)
Tom-Jelte Slagter (NLD)
Kristijan Koren (SVN)
Alex Howes (USA)
Hugh Carthy (GBR)

Lotto-Soudal's Giro d'Italia preview

The team sent me this update:

Next Friday, 5 May, the hundredth Giro d’Italia starts. The riders commence a three week ordeal on the island of Sardinia. After three stages, the caravan is heading for Sicily. Two days later, the peloton sets foot on the Italian mainland. From the foot of the boot, the riders are heading north where a difficult final week in the Dolomites awaits them. The Giro ends on Sunday 28th of May with a time trial in Milan. Lotto Soudal is going for a stage win with André Greipel, Bart De Clercq and Maxime Monfort are the GC riders. Sports director Bart Leysen comments on the selection of nine riders.

Andre Greipel

André Greipel wins 2016 Giro stage 5

Bart Leysen: “Last year, André Greipel won three stages; let’s now try to start with one. The opportunities for the sprinters are limited to the two first weeks, starting with the first stage on Sardinia. The nature of that stage is better for André than the start of the Giro last year. Then there was a prologue in Holland followed by two nervous stages. During this Giro, there are six opportunities for the sprinters.”

“We have a strong team to help André during the sprint stages. Sean De Bie will assume the role that is normally for Marcel Sieberg. He has to bring André to the front of the peloton on the right moment. Sean feels these moments very well and he also stays calm. Last year, he participated in his first Giro and he ended it very well. Then he did a lot of work for the team and I expect it to be the same this year. Jasper De Buyst is the ideal man for the last three kilometres. He can really put his ambitions aside for a teammate, but obviously he also has fast legs. When he is a part of a breakaway, he can certainly use them. In principle Moreno Hofland will be the lead-out for André. Depending on the course of the race, Moreno and Jasper can also switch places. It can be really chaotic during the Giro and thus it is good to have somebody up your sleeve.”

“After an absence of four years, Bart De Clercq is returning to the Giro.    He has really set his mind to it. He was strong in the Walloon classics, he is ready for it. I see him finishing between the tenth and fifteenth place on GC. Higher is also good of course. The last three years Maxime Monfort finished each time in the top fifteen. Like last year I think it is good to try to move up in the classification by joining a breakaway. Max can maintain a constant level for three weeks and he has a lot of experience in the Giro which will come in handy during the last difficult week.”

“In the mountains Bart and Maxime can certainly count on the support of Tomasz Marzynski. Also during other stages Tomasz will be a great help to the team. You can really rely on Tomasz, he is a real team player. He does not back down from, while riding uphill, returning to the team car to collect water bottles. Tomasz is really appreciated.”

“With his experience Lars Bak can act as a link between the team car and the riders in the peloton. He is good at feeling the race and can judge well the situation. You can rely on a regular old hand as Lars. Also Adam Hansen has tons of experiences in the Grand Tours. Paris-Nice was not a success due to illness but after that he could prepare himself perfectly for the Giro. He can help his teammates in the flat stages as well as in the mountains. Adam is not afraid to take his chance and in this Giro he can certainly do this.”

“If we win a stage with André Greipel, our Giro will be a success. Everything that follows, is a bonus. Last year we won four stages but you cannot expect this every year. The fact is that if you win once, everything goes easier. André is returning in competition after a period of rest and a one-day race in Frankfurt, so he might have to get back into the rhythm. But I will be satisfied if we can play a role.”

The hardest part of the Giro is clearly the last week. Starting with a stage over the Mortirolo and Stelvio after the third rest day. Everything before, can certainly not be underestimated though. Before the second rest day, a finish lies on top of the Etna and also on the Blockhaus.

Bart Leysen: “Stages such as the one to Blockhaus (152km) just before the second rest day and the fourteenth stage to Oropa (131km) can be very dangerous for the GC riders. The stages are relatively short with only at the end a climb that awaits the riders. The GC contenders will want to seriously shake things up on that final climb. The pace will be so high that the time differences can be considerable. Before the second rest day it will be clear who is really good and that mental advantage will play a role for the rest of the Giro.”

“Sometimes the danger can be lurking around every corner. On Sicily, we will have to ride over very small roads. If there the pace is high, GC riders can come into trouble if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Besides, the finish of the fourth stage is on the Etna. Also echelons can play their part in the first and seventh stage. In the seventh stage it can be a good thing for us if Bart and Max are in good position because André can win that stage. The finale is comparable to the first stage that André won last year.”

“This year there are two time trials on the route. One just before the second rest day, the other on the last day. For the GC riders it is always an important day but the time trials will not be so crucial. I expect that on the last day there will be not much change at the top of the general classification. The selection will be made earlier that week. During the last stages, some leaders will certainly get into trouble. For the final victory, Nairo Quintana is my top favourite.”

Accell Group stops takeover talks with Pon Holdings

This bike business news piece came to me from Bike Europe:

HEERENVEEN, The Netherlands – Accell Group announces that it is stopping the exploratory discussions with Pon Holdings about Pon’s 11 April bid for a takeover. Accell's statement comes even after Pon raised its bid for the Accell shares one euro to € 33.72 per share. Today’s statement by Accell digs deeper in the reasons why it turns down the offer made by Pon Holdings.

Main reason for ending the talks and negotiations is in Accell’s conclusion that “Pon Holding’s offer does not sufficiently reflect the future value creation of Accell Group as well as due to the lack of sufficient support from the shareholders.”

Accell's statement also says “Having conducted a number of discussions on the original offer, Pon Holdings subsequently indicated on 29 April last it wanted to raise its indicative offer with one euro to € 33,- per share in cash (excluding the dividend of € 0.72 for 2016) while maintaining the remaining terms of its proposal. However, this increase did not significantly affect the assessment of the proposal.”

You can read the entire story here.

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