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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Monday, March 2, 2015

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There were three important races Sunday, the first of March. Most notable was the Belgian semi-classic Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne. In France there was La Drôme Classic and in Switzerland riders were competing in the GP Città di Lugano.

After such a busy day, the teams had lots to say.

Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne Comments

This came from Lotto-Soudal:

Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the second part of the Belgian opening weekend, ended with a bunch sprint. Mark Cavendish won, Belgian champion Jens Debusschere finished seventh. First Marcel Sieberg and Kris Boeckmans were part of a front group of nineteen, afterwards Lotto Soudal decided to go for the sprint.

Around noon the riders started the race of 195 kilometres. There were nine hills on the course. At the end the riders had to cover two local laps of fifteen kilometres. The early breakaway consisted of eight riders, with two guys who rode for the Lotto Belisol U23 team last year: Xandro Meurisse and Dimitri Peyskens. On the Oude Kwaremont Sep Vanmarcke escaped from the peloton. Kris Boeckmans joined him, together with Tom Boonen and Zdenek Stybar. More riders bridged, also Marcel Sieberg. This group reeled in the members of the early breakaway at sixty kilometres from the end.

Mark Cavendish wins Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

Mark Cavendish wins Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne

Other names in the new front group of nineteen, apart from Lotto Soudal riders Boeckmans and Sieberg, were Tom Boonen, Mark Cavendish, Philippe Gilbert, Alexander Kristoff, Ian Stannard, Sep Vanmarcke and Elia Viviani. The peloton didn’t give up, teams like MTN Qhubeka, Topsport Vlaanderen – Baloise and Wanty Groupe Gobert led the chase. At 34 kilometers from the end the leaders were caught. Katusha, the team of Kristoff, took control of the bunch and there were no new attacks. With five kilometres to go Philippe Gilbert jumped away. He stayed in front till the final kilometre. It was Marcel Sieberg who led the peloton at that moment, setting up the sprint for Jens Debusschere. The Belgian champion eventually finished on place seven. The victory was for Cavendish, he beat Kristoff and Viviani.

Marcel Sieberg: “I was riding on the front rows of the peloton on the Kwaremont. There fell a gap which I and some others closed in the descent. That way I got in a breakaway with Kris Boeckmans. Kris and I didn’t pull too much because Etixx - QuickStep had five guys in the group. It thought we could make it, especially with such strong riders. We didn’t know for sure how big the group behind us was and who’d do the work. There was a lot of headwind on the way to Kuurne, that was no advantage for us.”

“The peloton closed the gap just before the start of the two local laps. Our whole team was still present, so we decided to put all on the sprint for Jens Debusschere. We came to the front in the last five kilometres. It was quite windy but we managed to stay together. I set up the sprint with one kilometre to go and led Greg Henderson and Jens Debusschere to 500 metres. Because of my acceleration I closed the gap on Gilbert. I have a good feeling after this Belgian opening weekend, better than last year. Now I’m going to Paris-Nice.”

And this is what LottoNL-Jumbo had to say about Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne:

Strong Van Asbroeck sprints to fourth place in Kuurne: Tom van Asbroeck nearly reached the top three of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne this Sunday. The young sprinter delivered a very strong mass-sprint in which only Mark Cavendish, Alexander Kristoff and Elia Viviani finished in front of him.

“When you look at the riders who defeated me today, I’m allowed to be satisfied with my result,” Tom Van Asbroeck said after the race. “Those three riders are a little bit stronger and a lot more experienced than me. Especially the experience made the difference. I was also a little unlucky because, with 1,5 kilometres to go, I lost the slipstream of Robert Wagner. Because of that, I had to make my own way to the front. That was tough.”

In the hill section of the race, a dangerous breakaway started with twenty riders in it. Sep Vanmarcke and Maarten Wynants were two of them. The Oude Kwaremont was the part of the race where the breakaway was created. Vanmarcke showed his strength at that climb.

“Sep showed everyone that he is right on schedule,” said Nico Verhoeven. “It’s clear that he always shows up in the classics and that he is one of the strongest classics’ riders. It’s a great confirmation that Maarten and he were in the leading group. Maarten is at a level that is high enough to reach the finale of a classic with Sep and that gives us a good feeling.”

After the hill section, Vanmarcke was hesitating about doing a late attack, but under these circumstances, that would’ve been futile. “After the first round, I saw that there wasn’t enough side wind for an attack in the last kilometres,” the strong Belgian analysed after the race. “But I’m happy with the fact that I proved to be in good condition, in general. Today, I was a little bit worse than yesterday, but still good enough. It’s no surprise that I am not at my best after a hard day like yesterday. Everyone has that problem, so I was able to show off at the Oude Kwaremont.”

A mass-sprint was inevitable in the end. Van Asbroeck’s team leader told him, on time, that it would be all for him in that sprint. “The last round was a true team effort,” Van Asbroeck explained. “All of them kept me out of the wind. I had a quick chat with Sep and he told me that he was going to give it all for me. That was just perfect. I was at the right place at the right time. I made a little mistake myself when I lost Robert’s slipstream. I had to pay for it in the end, the fourth place was the highest I could reach today.”

GP di Lugano Pro Team Comments

First, this came from Lampre-Merida, the team of winner Nicolo Bonifazio:

Lampre-Merida began with a victory the month of March: Niccolò Bonfazio obtained the success in the Gp Lugano, celebrating his first seasonal success.

The twenty-one year old Italian cyclist won the final sprint, at the end of the 184.9 km of the course, preceding Francesco Gavazzi, Montaguti and Guldhammer, completing in the best possible way the great performance of the whole blue-fuchsia-green team.

Lampre-Merida, in fact, was always ready to be in the head of the race in the key moments, strarting with the young Slovenian rider Pibernik, who joined a breakaway with 17 members. The attackers led the race for 150 km, then the bunch completed the chase just before the final passage on the hill of Soragno, where Niemiec reached the summit in the front positions.

In the approach of the final climb of the course (Ruvigliana), 8 riders escaped and Conti was among them, but the attack was neutralized soon.

In the downhill the bunch was selected and Cimolai was forced to drop because of a contact with an opponents, but Niemiec was perfect in preparing the sprint for Bonifazio, who did not miss the winning shot . The success in Gp Lugano is the 7th victory in career for "Nick the Quick", the 5th one for Lampre-Merida in 2015.

Bonifazio wins GP Lugano

Bonifazio wins the 2015 GP Lugano

"I'm very satisfied for this first seasonal victory, Gp Lugano is a demanding race and so this result makes me happy - Bonifazio explained - The past season ended with many victories, so I could spend a calm winter and I trained with huge passion and with the aim of improving my skills. The 2015 began in Australia and from there my condition went better and better and now the level of my competitiveness is good, that's why today I could avoid to be dropped on the climbs. I thank the team that supported me and I share this joy with my team mates".

"The team was great in performing what we had planned for the race - sport director Pedrazzini said - Pibernik was in the main breakaway and Conti was activated in the final part of the race, while Niemiec was a perfect pilot for Bonifazio in the topic moment.

"Niccolò demonstrated his very good condition, because he could resist in the front of the group that had been selected on the last climb. An additional value of this victory is the fact that the protagonists of today's race, Bonifazio, Conti and Pibernik, are all under 22 years old".

Tinkoff-Saxo sent this:

The Swiss one-day race GP Lugano was settled after a sprint finish in a decimated front group. Despite numerous attacks from Tinkoff-Saxo on the last lap, a front group of 22 riders was formed on the descent towards the finish line in Lugano, where Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) proved the fastest on the line, while Tinkoff-Saxo's Manuele Boaro finished 8th.

Tinkoff-Saxo’s sports director, Bruno Cenghialta, was satisfied with how the team had performed, despite the final efforts to avoid a sprint finish proved to no avail.

“We are satisfied with the way we raced here in Lugano. Being a very fast race and not having Peter Sagan in the squad, we sought to approach it the best way suited to us. Overall, we are satisfied with what we achieved. We were in the main breakaway, Paulinho and Basso performed well and Boaro was in the last sprint. But of course, we would have liked to cross the finish line fourth rather than eighth. It wasn't an extraordinary day but it was a race where we did our homework well”, comments Bruno Cenghialta after the race.

The 2015 edition of Gran Premio di Lugano featured an undulating 185km route, which offered plenty of uphill sections that were used to toughen the race. A group of no less then 17 riders including Jay McCarthy formed soon after the race start. But the main peloton was not content with letting such a big group get a comfortable gap and a safe distance was maintained during the race, until the remaining part of the early break was brought back on the final lap.

“The big breakaway of the day lasted 150km, with Jay McCarthy in it. Jay raced very well and showed excellent form. When the peloton reached that breakaway, another group of about 10 riders went away with Chris-Anker Sørensen in it. But the pack brought it back before the finale. Both Jay and Chris-Anker were racing for the very first time this year and I think they had an excellent performance”, continues Cenghialta.

The fight was ongoing into the finale, as the riders had to tackle three short climbs before the finishing straight down towards Lugano. Tinkoff-Saxo launched several attacks with Ivan Basso and Sergio Paulinho. But it was difficult to create the decisive gap on the fast descent, Cenghialta explains: “We attacked with Paulinho on the climbs and then with Basso but the race was too fast to get away. Like I said prior to the race, it was going to be very fast and it did end in a reduced bunch sprint of 22 riders”.

On the final descent with 5km to go, the main group of favorites got organized and brought in a late attack from Paulinho. In the sprint, Niccolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) took the win, while Manuele Boaro crossed the line as eighth.

After the race, team leader Ivan Basso had a good feeling. “I, personally, felt in top shape and that gives me great confidence for the next races and my personal goal, which is to help the team. I am already focused on the work I have to do this week, which will mainly consist of fine-tuning and paying considerable attention to the small details. I have to be in top shape for the Tirreno-Adriatico, where we’ll provide support to our team leader, Alberto Contador”, says Ivan Basso and continues: "At Tirreno, we will have to go head to head against some of the best teams but we have put on a lot of hard work in the last few months and we are convinced it will pay its dividends. We are ready to fight and take Alberto Contador to victory at the Tirreno-Adriatico”, concludes Basso.

Tinkoff-Saxo will return to action on Saturday at Strade Bianche, March 7th.

This from Cult Energy:

The Cult Energy Pro Cycling climbers were in action in the Swiss one-day race, GP Cittá di Lugano today where three Italian riders eventually conquered the podium. A late move from Cult Energy Pro Cycling's Linus Gerdemann was neutralized 7 kilometers to go but Dane, Rasmus Guldhammer was waiting behind.

A big group of 17 riders managed to form today’s long-lasting breakaway but eventually, the group started to crumble on the climbs and the increased forced pace by the galloping field behind. Entering the final lap on the circuit in and around the city of Lugano, all escapees were back in the field where Tinkoff-Saxo set a furious pace until the final few climbs.

Here, a series of stinging attacks was launched from the now diminished peloton and with 10 kilometers remaining, Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s Linus Gerdemann was in a select group of ten riders in front of the pack. Unfortunately, the unrepresented teams joined forces and reeled in the front group with 7 kilometers to go, which resulted in multiple counter-attacks. But the race was eventually concluded in a reduced bunch sprint where Cult Energy Pro Cycling's Rasmus Guldhammer was up there among the best and finished fourth with Gerdemann right behind him. Nicolo Bonifazio (Lampre-Merida) was the fastest of all.

Linus Gernemann

Cult Energy rider Linus Gerdemann in 2013 when he rode for Radio Shack

Director Michael Skelde states, "The boys did a super job out there and were aggressive but still waited for the right moment to move and when finishing 4th and 5th, I can hardly be displeased with their effort. Naturally, when you're this close to the podium, and we have been several times now this year already, it gets a little frustrating. But I'm also aware that when the boys are riding so fast this early in the season, we'll get the victories in our pocket eventually."

Rasmus Guldhammer says, "We were rocketing up towards the finish line and I was moving up to third place but the guy in front of me boxed me in close to the barrier so I had to break and move up on the other side of him with 50 meters to go and then it was too late. However, I'm happy about this result and the way we are riding together. Naturally, off the road, it's been a rather chaotic week with the stolen bikes in mind but on the road, we're getting stronger all the time", says a happy Rasmus Guldhammer.

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