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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Sunday, April 10, 2016

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

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. - Michelangelo

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Philippe Gilbert Update

This came from BMC:

09 April, 2016 Liège (BEL) Following the incident involving Philippe Gilbert and Loïc Vliegen during training on Friday which left Gilbert with a fractured finger, BMC Racing Team provides the following update.

The surgery to implant five pins to secure fractures in his finger went well, BMC Racing Team Chief Medical Officer, Doctor Max Testa said.

Gilbert is now recovering at home and he and Vliegen will provide their statements to the police on Monday when the station is open. 

Gilbert has provided the following information on the events that unfolded.

Philippe Gilbert

Philippe Gilbert has had bad luck in the past as well. Here he is after crashing in the 2015 Milano-San Remo

"Loïc and I had been riding for five and a half hours and were on our way home from doing a recon for Liège-Bastogne-Liège when a car drove at as full gas from behind while we were in Theux which is when the altercation started. I will cooperate fully with the police with their investigation."

Given this matter is an ongoing police investigation, Gilbert is unable to provide more details at this time until he has provided his statement.

He will no longer line up for Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday but his participation in Amstel Gold will be decided later in the week.

Alberto Contador wins Vuelta al Pais Vasco

Tinkoff sent me this report:

Tinkoff leader Alberto Contador took the GC win at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco with an exceptional performance in the final day’s time trial that saw him take both the stage win and the overall GC. At the end of stage 6, Alberto won the TT with a time of 29:13 – five seconds ahead of second place – and winning the race overall with a time of 22:44:43 – twelve seconds ahead of the next placed rider. The País Vasco becomes the first race Alberto has won four times in his professional career, and with this victory he equals the record of wins at the famous Spanish race.

The final stage of the 2016 Vuelta al Pais Vasco may have been a time trial, but while there were some aero helmets, there were few time trial bikes to be seen on the course today. The 16.5km route, starting and finishing in Eibar was brutally steep in places and a technical descent and final kilometre meant riders had to have full control over their bikes on their way to the finish.

Going into the final day, Alberto was second in the GC, six seconds behind the leader. After a hard week’s riding, where he showed confidence in attacking his rivals on some of the Vuelta’s steepest climbs, it was all going to come down to a race against the clock. After the week’s riding, Sport Director, Sean Yates, was clear of Alberto’s challenge. "It's been a long week, with the time trial looming at the end, and as we predicted it was always going to be the deciding stage of the race. Before this you have to bide your time, not lose time and take time where you can - this is exactly what Alberto and the team did here and it all came together today.”

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador nails the time trial

On the day, weather conditions were wet, meaning there was potential for wheels to slip on the climbs with the riders out of the saddle, while on the descents, standing water and wet road markings made the conditions even more treacherous. Riders had the option of being cautious and potentially losing time, or pushing their bikes and their bike-handling skills to the limit and risk crashing. Alberto was smooth and in control, although pushing hard, throughout the stage, summing up his ride from the finish. "I rode cautiously and tried to avoid taking unnecessary risks and at some point I was close to losing the stage win. However, that was secondary and in the end, I also got that. I now have to rest and recover after an intense start to the season.”

Yates continued, discussing the Tinkoff leader’s ride over the tough stage. "Alberto laid out his effort well today, he went really quick up the climb and had a good cushion there over the next riders over the summit going into the downhill - not only for the GC but for the stage too. Then when we saw Quintana was coming back he had to really go for it as we wanted the stage win along with the GC.”

With both the stage win and the GC taken care of, Alberto was thankful for all the support he had received. “The fans were crazy today at the time-trial. I consider the Basque fans to probably be the best in the world and since my amateur days I have strong links to this place. For me it was a pleasure racing and winning the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. It's a very hard race, one that is difficult to control and where a thousand things can happen. When I think about it, it still seems incredible that I won. I'd like to dedicate this victory to all the fans and to Oleg Tinkov for his support, his passion and for making this team a reality. This victory goes to him.”

After an exceptionally hard week’s racing, over one of the most mountainous stage races on the UC World Tour, Yates had nothing but praise for Alberto and the team. "He's in great shape and deserves this win after his second places in Algarve, Paris-Nice and Catalunya. We had a few injuries and illness coming into the race and lost three guys along the way but the team stayed solid. Things played into our favour this race, and never taking the leaders jersey worked for us, as we didn't have to ride and defend. And now the stage win is the icing on the cake.”

On the podium, celebrating his stage win, Alberto made his trademark ‘El Pistolero’ salute, and pointed with pride at his Tinkoff jersey. The win was well-deserved, Yates concluded. "It's Alberto's fourth win in this race, and as always he dedicated a lot of time and effort to be in great shape. The whole team is really happy with the result today."

While Alberto had announced earlier in the season that 2016 would be his final year as a professional cyclist, this victory may well have delayed that decision. “Recently, I have been pondering and thinking about my future with my entourage and most probably I will continue riding. I'm sure this isn't the last time I come here. To be honest, I don't like finishing second. After two second places in Paris-Nice and Catalanuya, this is a nice victory. However, I'm aware that the level of the peloton is always very high and there are strong rivals. However, it's good to finish this part of the season and go to a much-need rest with a victory."

Etixx-Quick Step had this to say about the stage:

Strong ride for Brambilla in Pais Vasco time trial: On a day soaked in rain, the 28-year-old Italian came 14th at the finish in Eibar.

In what was arguably one of the toughest individual time trials this season will see, Gianluca Brambilla gave his all against a classy opposition and finished in the top 15, around one minute and a half adrift of the best time recorded. On a year in which he already improved and took things to a totally different level, Gianluca made the most out of his climbing skills on Santuario de Arrate and showed once again that he is close to hit the top form that he hopes will land him other wins, following the one he scored in January, at the Challenge Mallorca.

Gianluca Brambilla at 2016 Tirreno-Adriatico

Gianluca Brambilla at 2016 Tirreno-Adriatico

Provisional leader at one point in stage 6 of Vuelta al Pais Vasco, the Italian was 14th at the end of a day which witnessed the triumph of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) over Sergio Henao (Team Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar). In the same general classification, best rider of Etixx – Quick-Step was neo-pro Laurens De Plus, in 25th place, an impressive performance considering the Belgian is only 20-years-old and raced just his second World Tour event of the season, after last month's Volta a Catalunya.

Here's Cannondale's Basque Country race news:

American Lawson Craddock rode to ninth-place finish in one of the season’s roughest races, the Vuelta al País Vasco.

Craddock entered the race’s final day — an uphill time trial — in seventh overall and waged a gritty campaign against the clock in the rain to retain a top 10 on the general classification. He finished ninth overall on GC, 2:52 behind the victor, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). Craddock, 24, won the best young rider classification by 23 seconds over Lotto-Soudal’s Louis Vervaeke.

“Ninth place overall at Pais-Vasco is something that I can take a lot of positives from, but at the moment I'm left wanting more,” Craddock said. “To slip a few spots on the final day my initial reaction is disappointment, but in a few days I think I can be proud of the steps that I have taken. My main goal this spring was to consistently ride at a very high level, and I think that is something that I have been able to do. At this point now, I've just got to focus on recovering from this race and making sure I hit the Ardennes Classics in the best possible condition I can. With the level that I have been riding at, I think I can help the team perform at a really high level.”

Much of the Basque race was contested in driving rain upon steep, narrow climbs. The result is a nod to Craddock’s determination and versatility. Traditionally a rider who fares well in heat, the Texan showed poise in the rain all week. He finished in the top 10 on two difficult climbing stages, staying with the sport’s best.

Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters praised Craddock for his determination during the race and for his dedication in the offseason. "Ninth place in the toughest week long race out there is a great step forward for a guy who’s going to have an extraordinary career as a bike rider,” Vaughters said.

Juan Manuel Gárate, in his first season as a director with Cannondale Pro Cycling, was pleased with the team’s effort throughout the week. “The team did a great job,” said Gárate. We knew from the first day that Lawson could do a really good ride. But we were not putting pressure on him. We let him know the race was one of the most important one-week races of the year. We said to him that he has to enjoy the race… and it’s what he did, really. We rode really aggressive. Really competitive. It was a really good race.”

“The weather was super bad. Raining. Cold. They were so cold, but they were always competitive. They came into the bus every day with good spirits, a good atmosphere. No one was complaining about the weather,” Gárate added.

Saturday’s time trial was a complicated, slippery test; a steep ramp, treacherous descent, and lengthy flat section tested a weary peloton.

Garate’s last bit of advice for Craddock? “I said to him, on the steepest part of the climb, he has to arrive on the top with something in the legs. And that’s what he did.”

Craddock, for his part, wanted a bit more from the stage. On the day he finished 25th. “Today wasn't a traditional TT,” explained Craddock. “With a 4-kilometer climb that had a lot of sections over 20 percent, it was going to be tough no matter what. The technical descent that followed was also going to be a big challenge in the rain. Unfortunately, it wasn't the best day for me. I laid it all out on the line, but it wasn't quite the result I was looking for.”

On the whole, the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team was consistent and morale remained high all week, in spite of the rain. The result was an important one for a team that’s battled through sickness early this season.

“This week felt really good to come out and race,” Craddock said. “From the start, we truly raced like a team and it was special to be a part of. The overall result that we earned was due to the commitment that we showed to each other. With everything that the team has been through this spring it's really nice to see things start to come together. Every race has gotten better and better and it's really exciting to look towards the future races.

And here's what Lampre-Merida had to say about the race's final day:

It was concluded the Tour of the Basque Country 2016, with the individual time trial of Eibar for a total of 16.5 km. The crono of Basque town, was an atypical test, very close to an uphill time trial, but sandwiched by a descent made unsafe by copious rain that fell for the whole race.

The rider better positioned for Lampre Merida at the start today was Rui Costa, returned from a good test in yesterday's Queen stage.

The Portuguese, ran a crono to expectations, running well the effort along the entire path and coping with the cunning also the descent and the dangerous curves that the trace exhibited.

" Rui was very good , he going strong and never gave signs of yielding. Its value emerges in these tests where the strength and the character come exalted to the maximum. We are pleased at the end, to have brought home a good placement in the top ten of the general" explained the Ds Marzano.

Rui Costa at the end of the stage against time, has obtained the 7th place at 1'16 " from the winner Contador and has closed 7th also in General, with a delay of 2'19" seconds from the same leader Contador.

Good signals also from the young Petilli, which after having spent a lot in the previous stages in search of the decisive escape , has shown a good condition even today , in a trial really hard. The rider of Lampre Merida, has closed his test at 29^place at 2'13 " from the winner.

" Simone has demonstrated once again to be a young talent on which we can work well in view of the future. I think that is one of our young guy that fits best to the stages races, being complete and very methodical. We come back from the Basque Country happy about his test", these impressions of Marzano on the young Lombard.

Tomorrow the team will return from Spain, to reorganise itself in view of upcoming appointments.

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