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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion
Tuesday, March 31, 2015

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Today's Racing

Tuesday sees the first stage of the HC ranked 3 Days of De Panne-Koksijde. It will run through Thursday, April 2.

Sunday, April 5 is the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders).

Terrible Belgian Weather Hits Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde

This year's Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde

More news about Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde here

The rough Belgian weather that hit Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday continues to harass racers. Today the Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde was slammed by high winds from Spring storms. To protect the riders, organizers neutralized the first 12 kilometers of today's 201.6 km stage from De Panne to Zottegem. For top Belgian pro Gert Steegmans, recent racing has been no fun. During Gent-Wevelgem he was blown into a ditch and during today's De Panne stage he crashed and had to leave the race.

Gert Steegmans

Gert Steemans racing in last year's Driedaagse de Panne and enjoying much better weather.

Contador Says Riis Very Important to His Career

Alberto Contador gave a substantial interview to the Spanish daily El Dario Vasco. In it he discussed his career and plans for this season. Looming before Contador is his attempt to win the Giro and the Tour the same year, an accomplishment last performed by Marco Pantani in 1998. Seven riders have done it, Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Pantani. These are greatest riders of the post-war era and if Contador succeeds, he will join the greats.

What follows are generously paraphrased translations from the Spanish article.

Regarding his plans, he said "A lot of people believe it [Giro-Tour double] is impossible and I think it is not. I'm going to try because I think things are impossible until someone does it and that's my challenge for this year."

Contador said he had, "mortgaged the early season to prepare for the challenge." "I think everything is going well and I hope that within forty days, that's when I'll be in the Giro, the legs will be in the shape I want."

Alberto Contador

Contador riding in this year's Tirreno-Adriatico

Speaking of the 33 days between the end of the Giro and the start of the Tour, he said that many believe that is a lot of time to recover, but he disagrees. It is little time to recover both physically and psychologically from a three-week race like the Giro. "I'll see what condition I can bring to the Tour," he said

Contador currently rides for Tinkoff-Saxo. Regarding the squad's ex-manager Bjarne Riis (who was just discharged by team owner Oleg Tinkoff), he said that there is a lot more information about the about the termination that has not been published, and that the publishing media does not know exactly how things have been in the team. He said that Riis contributed a lot to his racing and he relied on Riis during some "very difficult" moments. "He was a very important person in my career and though the professional relationship will not continue, things remain excellent between us." He said the team's performance will not be affected by Riis' discharge because they are all professionals focused on their jobs.

Regarding his crash at the Volta a Catalunya, he said he is quite bruised and that yesterday was difficult for him. He noted that the immediate days after a crash are more painful than the crash day. He was happy to note that he had no fractures and he just hopes to be ready for the Giro.

Regarding his Grand Tour competition, Contador thought Vincenzo Nibali looks to be a little late in his preparation, Christopher Froome was very strong and that Nairo Quintana had achieved a good level at Tirreno-Adriatico. He thought the probable coming fight with Richie Porte in the Giro would be a good one.

Driedaagse De Panne - Koksijde Starts Today

I got several notices from teams about the race:

Here's Sky's De Panne-Koksijde line-up:

Team Sky has confirmed its rider line-up for  Driedaagse De Panne, [March 31– April 2]: Nathan Earle, Bernhard Eisel, Andy Fenn, Christian Knees, Danny Pate Chris Sutton, Elia Viviani and Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Christian Knees

Sky rider Christian Knees at the 2014 Eneco Tour

Lampre-Merida sent this:

Filippo Pozzato will be in the team selection for Three Days of De Panne, on the contrary Bonifazio will be out and his place will be taken by Roberto Ferrari: these are the news for Lampre-Merida in view of the stages race that will take place from the 31st of March to the 2nd of April.

Sport directors Scirea and Righi will guide these riders: Cimolai, Ferrari, Modolo, Oliveira, Pibernik, Pozzato and Richeze.

Filippo Pozzato

Filippo Pozzato will be at the 3 Days race. Here he races at this year's Tirreno-Adriatico.

Pozzato will have the opportunity to check his form after having recovered from the viral illness that forced him to renounce to Gp E3 Harelbeke and to quit Gand-Wevelgem; Modolo will try to honour his participation in the race that gave him two outstanding victories in 2014.

Ferrari, who has just finished the Volta a Catalunya, will try to exploit the good shape he reached during the Spanish race.

Cimolai, Oliveira, Pibernik and Richeze will have the opportunity to try to achieve personal goals, considering that the Three Days of De Panne usually grants chances to those riders who can exploit their strengths.

Lotto-Soudal had this to say about the Belgian stage race:

Between 31st March and 2nd April the 39th edition of the Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde, a Belgian Europe Tour stage race, takes place. The riders have to get over several hills in the Flemish Ardennes and Heuvelland.

In the first stage, 200 kilometres long, the peloton will head from De Panne to Zottegem. There are thirteen hills to cover. After the first one hundred kilometres the riders start the first of two local laps of 44.5 kilometres. In this lap the riders have to race over the cobbles of the Haaghoek and get past the Leberg, Berendries, Valkenberg, Eikenmolen and the uphill Klemhout Street. Then there are four flat kilometres left before the finish.

On day two there’s a stage of 217 kilometres. This time the riders go from Zottegem to Koksijde. Also this stage they’ll have to climb some tough hills. The Mesenberg, Monteberg, Kemmelberg, Rodeberg and Vidaigneberg will cause several riders to drop. The last day consists of two stages. In the morning there’s a flat stage of about 111 kilometres with start and finish in De Panne. This is an opportunity for the sprint teams. The second stage is an individual time trial of fourteen kilometres. Also this one takes place in and around De Panne.

Fris Boeckmans

Kris Boeckmans wins the 2015 Nokere Koerse

Lotto Soudal takes the start with among others André Greipel, Kris Boeckmans and Jens Debusschere. Sports director Bart Leysen gives his preview of the race.

Sports director Bart Leysen: “I expect the wind to be an important factor the next few days, just like in Ghent-Wevelgem. According to the weather forecast  the riders will have tailwind in the first stage, so there’s a big chance of echelons. Together with the number of hills in the Flemish Ardennes in the second part of the stage, I think a limited group of riders will contest the stage win, which has its consequences for the number of riders that can win the overall classification.”

“On day two we go back to the coast, probably with a headwind, with few hills in Heuvelland, and thus maybe a bigger chance of a sprint with a larger group, although this also depends on the team of the leader after day one. With Boeckmans, Debusschere and Greipel we have several fast and experienced riders, so we have different options. But it’s a fact that we cannot just wait for  a sprint, but will have to make the race hard. Etixx – Quick-Step is the team to beat and a number of other teams have riders who hope to take their chance in the time trial.

Team Selection for Lotto Soudal: Lars Bak, Kris Boeckmans, Sean De Bie, Jens Debusschere, André Greipel, Pim Ligthart and Boris Vallée.

Sports directors: Bart Leysen and Frederik Willems.

Stage 1: Tuesday 31st March: De Panne – Zottegem (201.6 km)
Stage 2: Wednesday 1st April: Zottegem – Koksijde (217.2 km)
Stage 3a: Thursday 2nd April: De Panne – De Panne (111.4 km)
Stage3b: Thursday 2nd April: De Panne – De Panne (14.2 km) (ITT)

Cult Energy's 3 Days plans:

Tuesday 31st of March, Cult Energy Pro Cycling take on the Belgian/Dutch stage race, Three Days of De Panne-Koksijde with four stages in three days. The first two stages are hilly and the wind is usually a crucial factor as well. Traditionally, it’s a messy race with multiple breakaways along the way and because of the undulating and physically demanding conditions, riders are crossing the finish line in smaller groups and not in a big peloton.

DS, André Steensen says: “I expect it will be a tough race where we’ll be up against the best classic riders in the final preparation for the Tour of Flanders, so the field will be strong and it will undoubtedly make the competition fierce. We enter the race to prepare for the important month of April and we’ll seize the opportunity of fine-tuning the form. We will try to grab the chances at hand and show that despite our role as "under-dogs", we’re going out with a fighting spirit and energy to participate in breakaways and get results where we can. Hopefully with Rasmus Quaade on the final stage.”

Cult Energy Pro Cycling’s line-up: Rasmus Quaade, Martin Mortensen, Russell Downing, Mads Pedersen, Troels Vinther and Michael Reihs.

Russel Downing

Russel Downing will be at De Panne

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