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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, June 10, 2016

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

When asked, "How do you write?" I invariably answer, "one word at a time." - Stephen King

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Bicycle Guide Mondonico frame test

It's hard to believe it has been twenty years since I was involved with one of the most fun projects I ever had the pleasure of being part of.

Back in 1996 the Mondonicos built seven identical frames, the only differences being the tubing. They were then built with identical Sachs New Success groups. Bicycle Guide (probably the finest modern American cycling magazine ever) tested the bikes, not knowing with bike had which tubing. I kept the key, not letting anyone know which bike had which tubing until the test was performed.

Larry Theobald of CycleItalia Cycling Tours sent me a link to a site that had scanned that story. You can read it here.

Mondonico and Masi

Antonio Mondonico and Faliero Masi at the 1991 Milan bike show

Tinkoff's Critérium du Dauphiné report

With a flat finish and a long run in to catch any breakaways, today’s stage was made for the sprinters. In spite of the day’s break managing to stay out for almost the entire length of the 176km stage, after being denied on yesterday’s stage by a late attack, the sprinters and their teams weren’t going to be denied today. After a brutal final few kilometres, which saw a crash nearly take Alberto down, the Tinkoff leader’s quick reactions helped him keep hold of the GC lead, crossing the line a few seconds down on the sprinters.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador remains the Dauphiné's GC leader

With the Critérium du Dauphiné entering the mountains tomorrow, today was the last day the sprinters were going to contest the stage win. On the 176km route, there were only two fourth category climbs to traverse, and with these out of the way before the 100km mark, the profile before the finish was relatively flat, with only a couple of small humps for the riders to negotiate. With the final 35km of the stage a loop of the town of Belley, the sprinters would have a chance to ride the final stretch as part of the finishing circuit, giving them a tactical insight into the end of the stage.

As has been the character of the race so far, the attacks came from the very start of the stage. Needing to protect Alberto Contador’s race lead, the Tinkoff riders had to be careful who they let go, however with some significant time gaps forming in the GC standings owing to the aggressive pace of the previous days’ stages, today’s first break was allowed to go out, the strongest rider being more than ten minutes down on Alberto in the GC.

With the group of three building up their advantage and the gap stabilising at around five minutes ahead, the peloton was relaxed, with Tinkoff being supported by some of the sprint teams to maintain the pace in the peloton. Today’s race was slower than usual, owing to some headwinds reducing the average speed to a little over 30km/h, but in spite of this, and some rain falling on the stage, the peloton was slowly reeling the break in as the stage reached its 100km point. With 75km to the finish, the sprint teams took over at the head of the peloton, their intentions for the stage confirmed.

The breakaway was pushing hard to hold the peloton at bay, and with 21km of the stage remaining, the break put on a sudden surge of effort to increase their gap again before, at 13km out, one of the escapees – on his home roads – went it alone. The sprint teams weren’t going to allow a breakaway to win another stage however, and with 4km to go it was all back together for the run in to the sprint finish.

From the finish, Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, knew the sprinters would push hard after being denied yesterday. “The sprint teams wanted to sprint today, which meant we didn’t have to work all day, which was good. It was a tough day out there though – we had to keep the pace at the start and towards the end the sprinters were working really hard to take the win, which made the last few kilometres really difficult.”

With the stage nearing its end, the lead up to the sprint was becoming more and more chaotic, as Alberto experienced first-hand. "It was a relatively calm stage until the finale, which was truly crazy. Initially, it seemed as if the group would cross the finish line together. However, right after the 2km mark there was a big pile-up which caused gaps in the peloton.”

With the pace high, it was clear the sprinters were battling hard for their chance to take the stage. With everyone pushing hard at the front, there was a big crash right in front of Alberto that saw bikes flying and the Tinkoff leader having to swerve hard to avoid being caught up in the immediate aftermath. As the GC contenders pushed to the front so as not to lose time, it became imperative for Alberto to stay safe, with many choosing to drop back a little to keep upright than become caught in the mayhem of the sprint, while others expected the 3km rule, where the GC riders would take the same time as the bunch, to be applied. With the sprinters across the line, Alberto crossed shortly afterwards and for another day maintained his hold on the GC lead.

De Jongh, was disappointed that Alberto had ultimately lost some time after the crash. “Unfortunately we lost some seconds today. The crash caused some real uncertainty in the group. We were expecting the 3km rule to be applied, but we ended up losing time. Alberto and some of the other GC riders tried to fight back to the front, but some of the other teams’ sprint train riders sat up and delayed the riders behind and the commissaries allowed the time gaps to stand. We were hoping the decision would be clearer – sometimes the jury will make a decision that goes for you, sometimes it goes against you, but the uncertainty creates lots of stress for the GC riders. It needs to be clearer so the sprint teams can take the risk, and the GC riders can stay safe – especially at the end of the day where there can be a lot of street furniture that can cause crashes.”

Alberto shared his Sport Director’s frustration with the response to the crash. “I was caught at the back and I lost nine seconds to some GC contenders. The truth is nine seconds don't worry me, but what worries me more is the 3km rule. It has to be applied and we need clarity.”

With the sprint stages finished now, the race will start to take shape for the GC contenders. Tomorrow the Dauphiné will venture into the Alps, where on the shortest day of the race, at 140km, the most climbs will be ascended by the peloton. Stage 5 features seven climbs, including the uphill finish into Vaujany, with the toughest being the first category Col du Barrioz, which at 7.8km in length, featuring an average gradient of 6.5% and ramps approaching 10%. Closely following the Barrioz, the Col des Ayes is shorter, at 3.8km, but an average gradient of 8.1% will hurt riders – especially when there are still 90km still to ride before the finish. With a long stretch in the bottom of the Isere valley before the climb to the ski town of Vaujany, it’s uncertain whether an escape will go in this gently-undulating section, or if the attacks will wait until the final 6.5% climb, where a 9.4% ramp in the final 2km might split the field.

Ahead of tomorrow’s stage, De Jongh was expecting it to come down to the final climb. “There are a lot of climbs, but most of them come in the first half, then there’s the long stretch before the uphill finish. We will wait and see what we’re going to do – we’ll decide tomorrow morning. Tomorrow kicks off a hard few days in the mountains so we’ll see how we’re feeling. It will come down to the final climb – if it goes away before then, the other GC teams will take control, so we’ll see what happens then.”

Alberto was waiting until the stage started tomorrow to gauge how he was feeling and how he would ride. "The Dauphiné is like the Tour. You don't know how you feel until you reach the mountain stages. I will take it day by day. We finished this first half of the race with the yellow jersey, something that wasn't in our plans. Our goal was to have a good first day and then see how we are reaching the mountain stages. Despite having the yellow jersey we won't take more responsibilities than necessary. We will see how tomorrow unfolds and we will adapt our plans. We will take it one day at a time, see how the legs feel and check our form."

Tour of Switzerland team updates

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's news:

Team LottoNL-Jumbo starts the Tour de Suisse with a clear goal this Saturday: put Wilco Kelderman or Robert Gesink at or near the top of the final classification. The team leaders returned last week from an altitude training camp and are ready.

The Swiss WorldTour stage race starts Saturday with a time trial in Baar and continues through next Sunday, June 19.

"We are going to the Tour of Switzerland with a clear goal," said Sport Director Jan Boven. "We want to finish with a good general classification with our two leaders."

LottoNL-Jumbo’s six other riders will work for Kelderman and Gesink, and will have little space for their own chances. "The course does not lend itself to that. The Tour of Switzerland is always tough, but this year, they made the stages even heavier. The only riders who will be going for stage victories are our leaders, and if we plan to do so, we’ll decide that morning on the bus. It’s clear that our main goal is the general classification."

Kelderman is restarting in the Tour de Suisse after the Tour de Romandie in April. He returned from altitude training in Tenerife on Sunday, happy to pin on a race number. "I can’t wait to race again," he said. "I’m in a good shape and I returned fit from our altitude training."

Wilco Kelderman

Wilco Kelderman

It's been three years since Kelderman raced the Tour de Suisse. "It's always nice to ride in Switzerland, it is all well organised and the stages are challenging. My goal is to achieve a high level and it’s hard to say if means a good general classification, but a top 10 spot should be a logical outcome if I have a high level."

The stage race is Gesink’s last major event before the Tour. "I’ve worked hard and it’s paying off," Gesink said. "This is a beautiful race to test my form and level and to cross the T's and dot the I's."

Gesink last raced over a month ago. "In the first few days, I’ll find my race rhythm and hopefully start the last difficult days with good legs. The race is tremendously difficult this year. The Rettenbach stage in Austria [stage seven] will be the highlight, literally and figuratively."

The Tour de Suisse starts with a short 6.4-kilometre time trial and ends on Sunday in Davos. Each stage requires climbing legs, especially the fifth, sixth and seventh stages. The organiser planned another time trial, one of 16.8 kilometres, for stage eight.

Line-up: Tom Asbroeck Koen Bouwman, Twan Castelijns, Robert Gesink, Wilco Kelderman, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Paul Martens and Bram Tankink.

Sport Directors: Jan Boven and Frans Maassen

This came from Cannondale:

Talansky, Dombrowski head up Cannondale Pro Cycling Team TDS squad

What’s known as the season’s fourth grand tour begins on Saturday in Switzerland for its 80th running. The mountain stages are more difficult this season, and to that end Cannondale Pro Cycling Team brings a squad designed for longer climbs.

Andrew Talansky and Joe Dombrowski head up the roster for the nine-day tour, which features three mountaintop finishes and two short time trials. The GC tussle will lean toward climbers, but the route also has opportunities for sprinters and the breaks.

“I am looking forward to Suisse, it is a new challenge and something different compared to what I have done during June in years past. It looks like a great race route, back loaded with the hard climbing days and TT towards the end,” said Talansky.

“A successful Tour de Suisse for me would mean continuing to improve on where I was during Tour of California," Talansky added. "That was a great race for the team. We rode well together and came away with the results to show it. I would like to be riding strongly in the second half of Suisse and of course put in a good performance in the TT towards the end. For the team I think we have options to fight for stage wins as well as come away with a top GC result.”

Andrew Talansky

Andrew Talansky

Director Charly Wegelius noted the proximity of the Tour de France to the Suisse race, which finishes later than its June counterpoint, Criterium du Dauphiné.

“Suisse is challenging because it’s close to the Tour,” he said. “If you do the Dauphiné, there’s still some time to correct fitness. Suisse is more of a reveal. And that can be a good or a bad thing.”

“I do think the race can suit Andrew — steady, wide roads. It’s a longer race, which suits him. People get worn down a bit more. It’s a harder edition this year than in the past,” Wegelius said. “It’s a really prestigious race in itself. I suppose it’s the fourth national tour, as it were.”

The Swiss race marks an opportunity for Dombrowski as well, who came up just short of winning a mountain stage at last month’s Giro d’Italia.

“He came out well of the Giro,” Wegelius said. “If you’ve got your head screwed on right and you can suffer a little bit through the first two hours of the race, then you can get really good results in June. Swiss is not super technical, it’s just hard. A good GC from Joe isn’t off the cards, but it would be really nice to see him win a stage. I think that’s what he deserved at the Giro in the last week, but he didn’t get it.”

Dombrowski wasn’t initially slated to race the Tour of Switzerland, but after the Giro, the decision to send the climber to the race was made.

“I finished the Giro strong and healthy and I'm looking forward to putting that good form to use at Tour de Suisse. It's one of my favorite races of the year, and it seems that this year's parcours suits me really well,” Dombrowski said.

The race also features a special package between the race organizer and Velon, a collection of 11 World Tour teams aiming to build a better revenue model for the sport. As part of that deal, viewers of the race will see live performance data and on-bike camera angles.

“The packaging that has been created for fans is a step in the right direction. At the end of the day cycling is one of the greatest spectator sports in the world, fans have access to all the pros before the start, after the finish, they have a level of interaction that does not exist in any other profession sport in the world,” Talansky said. “That said, engaging the fans in the ‘on the bike’ action has always been where this sport has come up a little short, so it is encouraging to see steps being taken to involve the fans with everything happening within the race.”

Cannondale Pro Cycling Team for Tour de Suisse 2016: Patrick Bevin, Matti Breschel, Joe Dombrowski, Kristijan Koren, Toms Skujins, Andrew Talansky, Davide Villella, Ruben Zepuntke

Here's Lotto-Soudal's Swiss Tour news:

The day after tomorrow, Saturday 11 June, Lotto Soudal will stand at the start of the nine-day stage race Tour de Suisse. This year the WorldTour race is working together with Velon. During the live broadcast data of the riders will be shown. Lotto Soudal is very pleased with the cooperation between Velon and the Tour de Suisse and wants to contribute to a beautiful race.

It all begins with a time trial of 6.4 kilometres on Saturday. The three following days the riders don’t have to climb higher than 800 metres of altitude. Those stages can be divided between the sprinters and Classics riders. As of Wednesday the peloton will hit the high mountains. There are three hard mountain stages in a row, which all have a summit finish. Davos will host the last weekend of the race. On Saturday there is an individual time trial of 16.8 kilometres and on Sunday a mountain stage is scheduled with two climbs hors catégorie and a long descent in the finale.

At Lotto Soudal Rafael Valls would normally have been selected for the Tour de Suisse, but because of a shoulder injury it’s impossible for him to start. Sports director Frederik Willems gives more info about the selection and tells what he expects of the riders.

Frederik Willems: “At the moment Rafael Valls is training on the rollers, but racing isn’t possible. At the end of the month he might take part in the Spanish Championships and in July he will ride the Tour de Pologne. Rafa was our GC rider for Switzerland, so it’s such a shame that he can’t start. No we go to Switzerland without aiming for GC. Our goal is to win a stage, we have several options.

“There are a few opportunities for the sprinters and in those stages Jürgen Roelandts or Tosh Van der Sande will be our man. Recently Tosh set again some good results in sprints on a tough course. Also Jürgen has the capacities to do well in the kind of sprints that we can expect in Switzerland. Pim Ligthart can help with the sprint preparations.”

“Last year, Tiesj Benoot rode the Dauphiné, but now he chose for the Tour de Suisse. He did very well in the Dauphiné, he performed well in some of the mountain stages last year. When you take a look at the stages in Switzerland there should be more opportunities for him in this race. In the second stage, which consists of four laps, it’s possible that the teams wait for a long time to try something. When the battle starts Tiesj is the right man to jump along. He always races attentively and feels when it’s the right moment to attack. Jelle Wallays is a man from our Classics core as well. After a crash in the Volta ao Algarve it was difficult for him to get back on track. It’s his first year in a WorldTour team and we want to let him experience a big one-week stage race, which is a preparation for the Tour for many.”

“For the mountain stages Sander Armée, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens are our leaders. Sander could join an early breakaway and see how far it goes. It’s also good for him to show him on this level, like he did at the Tour de Romandie. No doubt, Tim will also want to show himself in the mountains. He could set a good result by joining a breakaway or, like in the Giro, by attacking in the finale. Also for Jelle Vanendert there are some opportunities. He was still strong at the end of the Giro, so that’s a good sign.”

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens having a good afternoon at this year's Giro d'Italia

Jelle Vanendert: “It was a fantastic Giro as our team won four stages, which is a rare performance in a Grand Tour. The fact that we all contributed to the success is wonderful. In the stages that André won, I started pulling at the head of the peloton quite early in the race to make sure the escapees stayed close. We all made sure that André could get to the sprint in the best possible conditions. What the victory of Tim Wellens is concerned, it is beautiful to see how a young rider becomes a team leader more and more and is always achieving bigger victories. Nonetheless, it was a hard Giro, at the end I was tired from all the efforts. I had also participated in the Walloon Classics, so I had been riding at the highest level for a long time. Still, I felt like I had survived the Giro quite well. The past two weeks I took a lot of rest to get ready for what’s coming. The season is still long and there are several races I like such as the Belgian Championships, Tour de Wallonie, San Sebastián, the Canadian races and Lombardia.”

“At the moment I don’t know what to expect of the Tour de Suisse. It could be that all runs smoothly right from the start, but it could also be that I need a few days to adjust to the race rhythm. But there are definitely some opportunities for a rider like me. In the real mountain stages of course, but also in the other stages a small group could ride to the finish. I could take my chance on the climbs in those finales.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Sander Armée, Tiesj Benoot, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts, Tosh Van der Sande, Jelle Vanendert, Jelle Wallays and Tim Wellens.

Sports directors: Mario Aerts and Frederik Willems.

And here's Tinkoff's review of the Swiss Tour:

Having won at least a stage and the green jersey at the race for the past five seasons, Peter Sagan returns to the Tour de Suisse in search of continued success in the 2016 edition, and to continue building his form ahead of Le Tour. After a resounding return to racing at the Amgen Tour of California, where he scored two stage wins as well as winning the points classification jersey, Peter will come into the nine-day WorldTour race in search of stage results and further race speed in the legs.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan wins stage three of last year's Swiss Tour

Lining up alongside the UCI WorldTour rankings leader is team with a mixture of youth and experience. Manuele Boaro, Jay McCarthy, Evgeny Petrov and Ivan Rovny come to the race from the Giro d’Italia, joined by Maceij Bodnar and Oscar Gatto who recently raced the Tour de Luxembourg. The team is completed by Peter's brother, Juraj Sagan.

Looking ahead to the race, Sport Director Patxi Vila said: “We go to Switzerland with a mixed line up, some guys coming from the Giro and others from California or back from injury. We’ll be aiming for stage results as we don’t have a main rider for the GC here.

“Jay and Rovny come here from the Giro and will see what they can do overall but it will be a really tough race, and a bit of a shot in the dark for the GC – we will see how they feel day by day. On the other side, we have a strong team to fight for stage wins with Peter. Already, stages 2, 3 and 4 look good for him. Then we have Boaro and Bodnar for the time trials. On the other days we will look to fight for the breakaways and go for results from here."

The race gets underway with a 6.4km opening time trial in the municipality of Baar, over a largely flat parcours which will suit the time trial specialists. The action then kicks off in earnest on stage 2 with a 187.6km stage based on four laps of a large circuit, with a testing ascent each lap but not difficult enough for the pure climbers to break the race.

Stage 3 will be another opportunity for a fast finish, and if Peter and the team didn’t score their first result the previous day, this one will be marked in the road book as a big opportunity to score a result early in the race.

The first uphill finish falls on stage 5, a day that also takes in the difficult Furkapass and Gotthardpass, the first of which climbs to over 2400m. Two more tough days follow each with mountain top finishes, before the race’s second time trial – a longer 16.8km individual effort around Davos. The GC battle could go down to the final stage, a testing, short 117.7km race that features two more HC mountain ascents – the Albulapass and the Flüelapass.

“Past experience has shown that Peter goes better in Switzerland than in California, so we hope that this build of form will continue here,” explained Vila when looking at Peter’s form. “It will be his last race before the Tour de France so it will be a good one for him to test his legs again.”

"The Tour de Suisse is a traditional final test before the Tour de France for me,” explained Peter ahead of the race. “During its nine, tough, stages I’m going to check my current form, and of course, if it’s possible, I would like to add some stage victories to my collection. The second, third and fourth stage could be ideal, because there’s a good chance that they will end with a bunch sprint.”

The Race:

Stage 1: Baar – Baar, 6.4km ITT: The race gets underway with a rolling time trial that will suit the specialists, with Manuele Boaro and Maciej Bodnar in particular looking for an early result here. With riders starting at minute intervals, the course takes them on a twisty town route for the first half, with a long, straight run back towards the finish, ending in a 90-degree right bend before the last push for the line.

Stage 2: Baar – Baar, 187.6km: After the initial time trial to set the jersey hierarchy, the road action gets going on stage 2, and the team is immediately presented with a good opportunity for Peter Sagan over the rolliung 187.6km route around Baar. Based on a circuit with a climb each lap, four in total, the race suits a reduced bunch sprint, with some of the pure sprinters potentially losing touch over the hills.

Stage 3: Grosswangen – Rheinfelden, 192.6km: The third stage presents another selection of short climbs for the riders to tackle, with the first categorised climb coming after 105km of racing. This is the first of six categorised ascents in the final 90km, with the last cresting just over 10km from the finish.

Stage 4: Rheinfelden – Champagne, 193km: Stage 4 is the most obvious chance for a sprint all week, with an early climb after 38km preceding a long section of flat until the second and final climb after 182km. This late test could provide the puncheurs with a launch pad for attacks, but the sprinters will be wanting their shot at glory in Champagne.

Stage 5: Brig/Glis – Carì, 126.4km: Stage 5 sees the first major climbs of the race, with the Furkapass climbing to over 2400m, and cresting after 56km of racing. The descent that follows runs straight into the second mountain ascent of the day, the Gotthardpass  -a regular at the Tour de Suisse. The stage then culminates with a mountain top finish in Carí at over 1600m altitude. Expect a major reshuffle of GC by the finish.

Stage 6: Weese – Amden, 162.8km: A steady start gives a deceptive feel to the difficulty of stage 6, with the climbing not starting until around 80km in, at which point the riders start the long, 20km ascent of the Klausenpass. A long descent to the valley roads follows before another mountain top finish in Amden after 162.8km of racing.

Stage 7: Arbon – Sölden, 224.3km: A third mountain top finish in succession on stage 7 will see the GC riders doing battle once again. Again there is just one categorised climb before the finishing ascent, the Hochtannbergpass after 85km, followed quickly after by the Aaribergpass which takes the riders to 1780m altitude. A steady interlude follows before the steep slopes of the climb to Sölden to finish.

Stage 8: Davos – Davos. 16.8km ITT: Stage 8 will see a return of the aerodynamic equipment, and the Specialized S-Works Shiv TT bikes for the Tinkoff riders as they tackle the second individual time trial of the race. Starting at over 1500m altitude, the profile rolls down for the first 4.5km before a short climb. This leads into another descent before the main difficulty, a three kilometre drag to Davos Ciavadel. A fast descent follows before the final run in.

Stage 9: Davos – Davos, 117.7km: The final stage of the race could still provide a late surprise if the GC fight is close, with two tough mountains to tackle during the stage, both cresting at over 2300m altitude. With the finish line coming at the end of a 17km descent from the top of the final climb – Flüelapass – the suspense could be held right until the last pedal strokes. 

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