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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories Photo Coverage

With the cancellation of this year's Tour of the Mediterranean, Photoreporter Sirotti, who supplies our site with most of those neat same-day photos, will be covering the Vuelta a Murcia and Clasica de Almeria instead.

We are currently covering the Tour of Qatar. Today's stage will be a 10-km individual time trial.

Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde, winner of the 2014 Vuelta a Murcia

Lotto on Conclusion of Etoile de Bessèges

The Etoile de Bessèges finished Sunday, the 8th. I got this press release on the race from Lotto-Soudal:

A time trial of almost twelve kilometres, with start and finish in Alès, was the last stage of the Etoile de Bessèges. Tony Gallopin set the second best time. He finished at nineteen seconds of stage winner Bob Jungels. With this result Jungels moved up to the top of the GC, also followed by Gallopin, at nine seconds. Lotto Soudal has four riders in the top ten of the overall classification. Kris Boeckmans finished on the third place, at ten seconds. Maxime Monfort got eighth and Pim Ligthart tenth. The team won two stages in Bessèges. Kris Boeckmans was the fastest in the first stage and yesterday Tony Gallopin sprinted to the victory.

Tony Gallopin

Tony Gallopin hammering the the time trial. Fotoreporter Sirotti photo

Tony Gallopin: “I started the time trial aiming for the overall win, although I knew it would be hard. The first nine kilometres were flat, then it got steeper. Those final kilometres were an advantage. There was much wind again, it has been a factor the whole week. I’m slightly disappointed that I finished on the second place, but Bob Jungels was really strong.”

"I’m really glad with my stage win. The finish in Laudun really suited me. The final kilometre was uphill and it kept getting steeper. Five kilometres from the end the team took the lead and perfectly led me to the finish line. I just had to launch my sprint at the right moment. It was a victory of the entire team, everyone had his part in it.”

"This definitely was a good start of the season. Pim Ligthart won the GP la Marseillaise last Sunday, Kris Boeckmans the first stage of the Etoile de Bessèges and I the fourth one. On top of that we end up in top ten with four riders. I’m satisfied after my first race days of the season. The first race is always special. Both the team and I have shown that the legs are good, that’s reassuring and makes us keen for the next races. The Tour of the Algarve will be my next race. I want to further work on my condition and be top in Paris-Nice.”

BMC on Tour of Qater

We're currently covering the Tour of Qatar. I got this release on the race's second stage from BMC last night:

Al Khor Corniche, Qatar - Greg Van Avermaet finished third and Marcus Burghardt was eighth for the BMC Racing Team as both moved into the top 10 overall Monday on a chaotic, wind-swept Stage 2 of the Tour of Qatar.

Qatar stage 2 finish

2015 Qatar stage 2 finish. Alexander Kristoff wins, Andrea Guardini is second and BMC (red/black kit) is third. Sirotti photo.

Ahead of Tuesday's 10-kilometer individual time trial, Van Avermaet is third overall, three seconds behind new race leader Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha), who won the stage. Burghardt sits sixth overall, nine seconds off the lead. Both BMC Racing Team riders made the decisive front group of 15 riders late in the 194-km race.

Van Avermaet said after another day of riding at the front - he was in five-man breakaway for nearly 80 kilometers after soloing away for a time in Sunday's opening stage - he is not sure of his form for the time trial.

"I will see how it goes," he said. "I have spent a lot of energy the first two days already. Last year, I did a good time trial and there is not a specialist up front (in the overall standings). So if I can stay close to Tom Boonen and the other guys, that will be good. I am feeling pretty good. The breakaways were not as long as normal, but I feel my form is good. It is a good sign for the classics."

Spurred on by a strong tailwind, the peloton averaged more than 54 kilometers an hour the first two hours of the longest stage of the race. Strong winds - combined with sandstorm conditions - wreaked havoc almost immediately. Echelons formed, mechanical issues ensued and the race ran more than 20 minutes ahead of its fastest schedule.

"It was crazy from the start, with all kinds of sand on the roads," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Valerio Piva said. "When the group split to 40 riders, we had Greg, Marcus, Philippe Gilbert and Jempy Drucker there. But then Gilbert had a flat at a moment the car was not behind him, so he was dropped."

Drucker, who was the BMC Racing Team's best finisher on the opening stage, also saw his chance of staying up front ruined by a mechanical problem when he touched the wheel of the rider in front of him, Piva said.

Kristoff won the sprint from Andrea Guardini (Astana Pro Team) with Van Avermaet ahead of Slovakian national road champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Etixx-Quick Step's Boonen, a four-time winner of this race, in fifth.

"It was a hard sprint with the tailwind," Van Avermaet said. "They surprised us a little from the back so I had to close the gap and then Kristoff started his sprint. So it was hard to come over him. I think I did a good sprint to get third place."

Tinkoff-Saxo had this to say about the Qatar Tour's second stage:

Tinkoff-Saxo has secured a good starting point before the crucial time trial on stage 3 at Tour of Qatar. Both Peter Sagan and Maciej Bodnar finished in the decimated and select front group at stage 2 and are now 7th and 10th respectively in the GC. Sagan also takes over the white jersey after sprinting to fourth place in the finale, which was won by Alexander Kristoff.

Stage 2 was marked by heavy crosswinds, which affected the race throughout the entire stage. Peter Sagan says:

“It was a really tough day. We had headwind at the start, which then soon after turned into crosswind and lasted for almost the rest of the stage. It was a battle throughout the day with many splits and gaps. Overall, I think it was a good day for me and for Tinkoff-Saxo, as we had two guys in the leading group. I’m very motivated and we all look forward to tomorrow’s time trial, which will be very important”.

Stage 2 from Al Wakra to Al Khor Corniche presented the riders of this year’s Tour of Qatar with 194,5 kilometers of long open roads exposed to crosswinds from the west. A rapid start fractured the peloton into pieces after a few kilometers and the average speed soared to a whooping 54kph after two hours of racing. Overnight leader José Rojas (Movistar) was like many other riders and favorites caught behind and eventually shaken loose, as the sandstorms engulfed the front group.

In the end, a 15-man group emerged victorious from the crosswind battle and hit the finale almost an hour ahead of the fastest race schedule – among them were Tinkoff-Saxo’s Peter Sagan and Maciej Bodnar. After an edgy approach to the final kilometer, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) started his sprint with 200m to go and held on to the lead to take the stage win and overall lead. Peter Sagan came fast from behind in the last 50 meters but had to settle for 4th in the sprint.

According to Sport Director Tristan Hoffman there’s no doubt that the stage was one of the most exciting seen in a long while.

“Today was incredible. It was one of the most exciting days I’ve seen from a team car. The riders went full gas from kilometer zero to the finish in sandstorms and crosswind with gaps being created all over the place. I think the team did a great job, at some point we had six guys in the front group and we finished with our two leaders, Sagan and Bodnar, in the front group. Sagan has the white jersey and they are both in the top-10 ahead of the time trial tomorrow, so we are satisfied”, comments Tristan Hoffman.

Peter Sagan is the best-placed Tinkoff-Saxo rider in 7th followed by Maciej Bodnar in 10th place. Tomorrow’s stage 3 is a 10,9km desert time trial. With the first 13 riders in the GC all within 10 seconds, it will surely become a close battle for the top-spot.

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