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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Wednesday, February 18, 2015

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

Today's Racing

Before going on to the news, here are the races going on today (Feb 18):

First, the ongoing Tour of Oman. And then, starting today are Portugal's Volta ao Algarve and the Spanish Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista del Sol. All three are stage races and we'll post full results for all three.

Here is Lotto-Soudal's news about the Ruta de Sol

"On Wednesday 18th February the Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucía starts, a five-day Spanish stage race also known as the Ruta del Sol. It’s the first race of the season for Jurgen Van den Broeck, who finished second overall two years ago.

Pim Ligthart

Pim Ligthart at this year's Etoile de Bessèges. He'll be at the Ruta del Sol

"On the first day of the Ruta del Sol two stages are scheduled. First there’s a stage of 118.3 kilometres, then a time trial of 8.2 kilometres. There are two short hills in the time trial in Coria del Río. In the second stage, on Thursday, the riders go from Utrera to Lucena. The stage is mainly flat but at nine kilometres from the finish there’s a climb of third category which can cause a split in the peloton. On the third day it’s the first summit finish. There are two climbs of first and second category on the route.  The strongest riders can make the difference on the Alto de Hazallanas, a 7.3 kilometres long climb. Also the next day there’s a serious amount of climbing to do. After three climbs of third category the finish lies on top of the Alto de Allanadas. It’s a steep climb of 5.4 kilometres with a maximal gradient of 21%. On Sunday the riders go to Alhaurín de la Torre where they can sprint for the victory.

"Louis Vervaeke: “We start with a strong team. Pim Ligthart won the GP la Marseillaise and was really strong in the Etoile de Bessèges, just like Maxime Monfort. Tim Wellens proved on the third day of the Challenge Mallorca that he’s in good shape. We have several riders that can battle for a stage win and a good GC. I will try to support them, because I feel the condition is good. I should be able to ride the final to help them. Who knows I can join a breakaway in one of the stages.”

“At the end of January I rode my first races for Lotto Soudal, in the Challenge Mallorca. It is my first full season in the pro peloton, so it’s exciting. I had a perfect winter, I didn’t have to skip any training. The first training camps with the team were great and then I trained four days in Álora, close to Málaga, together with Tim Wellens and Sean De Bie. A perfect preparation, but it’s always waiting to see how the first races go.”

"Selection Lotto Soudal: Bart De Clercq, Pim Ligthart, Maxime Monfort, Jurgen Van den Broeck, Jelle Vanendert, Louis Vervaeke and Tim Wellens.

"Sports directors: Bart Leysen and Marc Wauters.


Tinkoff-Saxo's Plans for Ruta del Sol

This came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

"Tinkoff-Saxo’s first European race of 2015 is imminent, as the team is gearing up for this season’s beefed up, mountainous edition of Vuelta a Andalucía Ruta Ciclista del Sol starting Wednesday in southern Spain. Ruta del Sol features one of the toughest routes of the early season and will produce a six-stage clash between several Grand Tour favorites including Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador.

DS Steven de Jongh, who will direct Tinkoff-Saxo’s Andalusian campaign, tells it’s no secret that the team will be looking for success in the GC. “We look forward to the first race of the year for Alberto and we definitely aim at a top spot in the GC. Tinkoff-Saxo goes to Ruta del Sol with that goal. Alberto is ambitious about this race and wants a good start in a season in which he has very high ambitions. The goal is to have a squad with good teamwork and I feel confident we can achieve this”, says Steven de Jongh, who is backed by his Spanish captain.

“After many training passes, I want to compete, which is essentially what I like. I’m focused on the Giro and Tour, which will be a big challenge, but I look forward to Ruta del Sol and to compete with Chris Froome, who is one of my biggest rivals. I have to see how advanced he is in his preparations, but it’s nice with an early battle, because cycling needs these clashes”, comments Alberto Contador.

Contador will lead a strong group consisting of Ivan Basso, Jesús Hernandez, Sergio Paulinho, Evgeny Petrov, Matteo Tosatto and Michael Valgren.

Ivan Basso

Ivan Basso, now a Contador teammate, racing in his old Cannondale colors.

Ruta del Sol is characterized by being a race for the climbers, and this year’s exceptionally difficult edition is no different. The riders will tackle two mountain stages, one on stage 3 to Alto Hazallanas with a 16.7km finishing climb and again on stage 4, where the specialists will fight on the final, steep 5km climb to Alto de Allanadas.

However, the GC favorites will already compete on the first day of the race, as the split stage 1B brings a short, highly technical time trial of 8.2 kilometers.

“Out of the race's six stages, three will be decisive for the GC: the time trial and the mountain stages on day 3 and 4 with uphill finishes. We know it’s going to be an exciting and challenging race, as we have some strong opponents including Chris Froome”, comments Steven de Jongh.

For Ivan Basso, Ruta del Sol will not only be the first race of the season but his debut race in the Tinkoff-Saxo colors. He’s dedicated to perform his best in support of team captain Alberto Contador.

“Since the moment I joined Tinkoff-Saxo, my ambition has been to reach the start of the season with all forces available to provide my best for the team. I'm very happy to kick off the season by the side of our extraordinay captain, Alberto Contador. I think we are at a very good level right now, as a group, and personally I feel very well”, says Ivan Basso and continues: “I am convinced we have given our best this winter. We’ve given thorough attention to every detail and I think these efforts will pay off. I feel ready to take up the challenge and help Albert to reach the goal we have in Ruta del Sol, which is basically to win”.

Steven de Jongh is excited to see the dedicated Italian in action. “Ivan Basso will make his debut for Tinkoff-Saxo at Ruta del Sol. The goal for Ivan here in Andalucía is to be a valuable domestique for Alberto and contribute towards our overall target. Ivan didn't have a very good season in 2014, since he wasn't in top shape. However, he has been putting in a strong effort during the last few months and has been training very hard. I feel confident he's in a form to perform well”, finishes de Jongh.

For Basso, Contador, Hernandez and Paulinho Ruta del Sol will mark the start of the racing season, while Valgren, Petrov and Tosatto have already seen action in Dubai. Ruta del Sol starts Wednesday with two split stages.

Alberto Contador's Retirement Comments

This also came from Tinkoff-Saxo:

Alberto Contador had this to say, "I'm happy to be here because it is a race I have never done in my career and I feel good. I had a winter the way I wanted, I did a lot of groundwork thinking about the Giro and the Tour, as they will be the two cornerstones that will mark my season. Perhaps I will lack a bit of explosiveness here, but I'm bringing a strong team and we can do a good job."

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador in the 2014 Milano-Torino

This year’s edition of Vuelta a Andalucía features a parcours that suits the Spanish captain. "It's a very attractive route and I support this kind of parcours because it engages the public, and fans like it thanks to the time-trial and the two uphill finishes. I am familiar with the third stage, Hazallanas, and I know it's particularly hard. That’s where we will see how I compare to the other riders. I'll try to do my best and we'll see, where I stand."

In effect, Alberto Contador thinks he's a little late compared to last year. "This year I put on a little less intensity, thinking precisely on the Giro and the Tour. I wanted to have a good level, but not wear me out more than necessary. Maybe I'm a little further back than last year," Contador commented.

For the first time ever, Alberto Contador and Ivan Basso will ride together. According to Contador “it is a dream for me to have him on my team. We have an extraordinary relationship and I am honored that a champion of his level will work for me."

Given his current form, Contador doesn't want to think about the result of the race, even though he assures he will try to give his best. "I'm a rider that likes to give the maximum in every race and this is what I will do here as well. It will be my physical condition that decides how it all goes. I will do my best to finish with a result as good as possible, but if we refer to winning, I think it is complicated."

Finally, Alberto Contador commented on his statement made on Monday, when he talked about his possible retirement in 2016. "There have been many comments on what I said about my retirement, but you have to be aware that there are still two full seasons ahead. It seems as if I were to retire tomorrow and there are still a thousand races left ahead of us, in which a thousand things might happen. What I want, is to enjoy every moment, every race and continue the way I have been doing so far. Two years is still a long time," concluded the leader of Tinkoff-Saxo.

Giant-Alpecin's Upcoming Race Plans

This came in from Giant-Alpecin:

"Team Giant-Alpecin continues its period of racing in Spain this week at the five day, six stage Ruta Del Sol in Andalucia. The race features a series of tough stages that overall favour the lighter climbers, but the race offers various different opportunities.

"The opening day sees the riders take on two stages, first a 121km road stage that features an uphill rise to the finish, and this is followed by a short, 8.2km individual time trial in the afternoon.

"The following stages feature two uphill finishes, a tough puncheur's stage, and finally another potential power-sprint stage to finish.

"Simon Geschke (GER) and Koen De Kort (NED) return to racing after training periods following the Tour Down Under in January, while the other five riders come to the race from the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia this past weekend.

Jon Degenkolb

Giant-Alpecin rider John Degenkolb at the 2014 Worlds

"For Andalucia we continue with the objective of racing aggressively, but also to work on getting back into the mindset and rhythm of racing as a team," explained coach Christian Guiberteau (FRA).

"We will target stages here, and there are different opportunities for our team. The early time trial will be a good test for Tobias, while there should be some possible sprint opportunities with John and we will need to study the uphill stage finishes to make the best plan here.

"In the mountains I think that Daan can target a stage and test himself along with the support of the others. It is still early in the season though and so there's not any immediate pressure on results in a race like this one."

COACH: Christian Guiberteau (FRA)

John Degenkolb (GER)
Caleb Fairly (USA)
Johannes Fröhlinger (GER)
Simon Geschke (GER)
Koen De Kort (NED)
Tobias Ludvigsson (SWE)
Daan Olivier (NED) 


"The team lines up for its first race on French soil of the season this weekend, with the two-day Tour du Haut Var-matin on the agenda.

"Two tough, hilly stages await the riders but last year showed that despite the rolling parcours, the punchy sprinters can still make it over the climbs and to the finish in sight of victory.In 2014 the team came away with a second place on the opening stage through John Degenkolb (GER) and the team this season brings sprinter Luka Mezgec (FRA) to the race to challenge for if the chance of a fast finish arrives. He is joined by a strong team including road captain Roy Curvers (NED), fresh from racing in Dubai. Chad Haga (USA) also continues his season here at Haut Var after already having raced at both the Tour Down Under and the Dubai Tour.

"We will focus on riding offensively with the goal of a stage result through the riders in final preparations for the Flemish classics, in Albert, Roy and Zico," explained team coach Aike Visbeek (NED).

"Chad made a good impression in Dubai and can do well overall here. At first sight the profiles don't show much chance for Luka. However we have a sprinter to take the opportunity if a stage comes down to a reduced bunch sprint, and he has shown his strength at getting over the climbs when needed in the past."

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