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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, March 22, 2016

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

There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book. - Marcel Proust

Racing just completed:

Today's race:

Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen race will be run

As of Tuesday, March 22, 12:30 PM Belgian time, the Dwars door Vlaanderen race is still on, despite the terrorist attacks in Brussels, including the airport. Race organizer Carlo Lambrecht said he had heard nothing yet from the government telling him to shut down the race.

It remains questionable whether all riders from all teams can be at the start because incoming flights to Brussels (the airport is closed at least through Thursday) have been diverted and the riders will have to find some way to get to their hotels.

A final decision regarding holding the race will not be made until Wednesday morning.

Tinkoff reports of the Volta a Catalunya first stage

This came from the team:

Alberto Contador got his Volta a Catalunya campaign underway today, finishing the 175.8km course safe and well with the peloton after a bunch sprint in Calella. Lining up with some of the pro peloton's strongest Grand Tour riders, Tinkoff kept their leader safe as he crossed the line with the same time as the peloton, with Ivan Rovny the first Tinkoff rider home in 16th position.

The first day's racing covered 175.8km, starting and finishing in the popular tourist town of Calella. The race wasted no time in setting a hard pace, with a breakaway group forming 5km into the stage, and crossing five categorised climbs, one of which being the first category Coll Formic, at 1,1,45m, reaching the summit 118km into the stage. While the climbs dominated the course profile, the sprint trains formed on the descent of the Alt de Collsacreu, and in spite of a last ditch attack from Team Sky's Roche, the peloton caught up with 2km to go and the finish was decided by a bunch sprint. All Tinkoff's riders crossed the line safely, with Rovny, Contador, Poljanski, Trofimov and Hansen taking the same time as the sprinters.

Nacer Bouhanni

Nacer Bouhanni wins the first stage.

The stage panned out as the team expected - the aim being to bring team leader, Alberto Contador, to the finish safely, as Sport Director, Sean Yates, explained from Calella. "It was largely a straightforward stage today - a few guys went away early on and everything was kept under control by the peloton as other teams were looking for a sprint. This meant that we could sit back and look to keep Alberto Contador safe. It was complicated by a bit of rainfall on the downhill of the last climb where the bunch split considerably, but the guys stuck around Alberto and were up the front.

"As expected the race came back together after this and when the counter attacks came it always looked like ending in a bunch sprint." continued Sean. On a stage with no significant incidents or crashes, Yates was pleased to see the team cross the line without incident. "The only mishap was that Matteo Tosatto had a puncture which was unfortunate as he was looking after Alberto in the finale, but it worked out fine and the guys stayed safe."

Tuesday sees one of the race's two flat stages, at 178.8km in length. While the course passes over the first category Alt de Els Angels, the course is relatively flat, and the team's aims will be much the same as today's, explains Sean. "Tomorrow is largely the same and for us as we're here without a sprinter, so it's about conserving energy and staying upright, looking ahead to the stages that will be more decisive for us in the fight for the overall."

Ben King returns to racing in Catalonia after broken fibula

Cannondale sent me this update:

“I know it will be hard, but I've never done an easy race.” – Ben King

Ben King, a rider for the Slipstream Sports organization since 2014, makes his return to the peloton from injury this week at Volta a Catalunya. In January, King broke his fibula in a crash while training at home in Virginia and needed surgery shortly after to repair the break.

The absence was tough for King, who watched his teammates from afar in the early part of this season. “At times I felt estranged, like I was missing something,” said King. “A lot of relationships are strengthened at the beginning of the season as you learn to work together. I did stay in contact with most of the guys during the recovery. It was nice to feel included, and I definitely followed the races like a fanatical fan. I missed the all or nothing, do or die, team efforts. I missed my friends on the team. It was nice to have extra time at home but I also felt a strong obligation to the team. After months of training in the winter I was ready to test myself. I'm still rebuilding form, but I'm strong enough to be useful to the team now.”

Ben King

Ben King having a good day at last year's Criterium International

One minor footnote in his training? He spent seven hours on the trainer. In one day. “I was going after my training partner Andy Guptill's local record of seven hours,” explained King. “Training is often about quality over quantity, but in the beginning of my recovery my ankle was too weak to handle high resistance. Obviously I was eager to do everything I could to return as quickly as possible, so instead of going harder all I could do was go longer. Seven hours is a bit excessive. I know that. But I just did it one day. Mental strength training.”

His work ethic didn’t go unnoticed. "Ben has been incredibly hard working and diligent in his rehabilitation and training,” Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters said. “While his crash was disheartening, to see how dedicated and focused he's been in his return shows a person with true love for his sport."

Catalunya started Monday and runs through Sunday. It’s a tough way to come into the season as Catalunya makes its way in earnest into the Pyrénées. “This week will be a good indicator of how my recovery has progressed, and what I need to work on,” said King. “I know it will be hard, but I've never done an easy race.”

From here, his calendar isn’t set in stone. And King is waiting before talking about objectives for the rest of the season. “I'm still aiming high this season, but I'd like to get one under my belt before I talk openly about target races,” King said.

King raced the Tour de France in 2014 and won a stage at Criterium International last season (see picture above).

BMC's plans for upcoming classics

The team sent me this news:

21 March, Santa Rosa, California (USA): BMC Racing Team will continue its Classics campaign in Belgium this week with Greg Van Avermaet as captain for the three one-day races; Dwars door Vlaanderen, E3 Harelbeke and Gent Wevelgem.

Van Avermaet is hoping to replicate his Omloop Het Nieuwsblad success. "It's nice to already have a win on Belgian soil this season. No matter where you line up, you're racing to win, but racing in Belgium motivates me even more. My legs are really good at the moment and the guys have been doing an incredible job to support me so I'm feeling confident," Van Avermaet said.

Greg van Avermaet

Van Avermaet after winning stage 6 at this year's Tirreno-Adriatico

BMC Racing Team Sports Director Fabio Baldato said the team is motivated to win. "We're well and truly into the season now so it's no longer about getting race days in the legs. The hard work is paying off and as we've seen, Greg and the other riders are in great shape. I think we can see some nice results this week."

Stefan Küng will make his 2016 debut at Dwars door Vlaanderen after a quiet start to the season recovering from Epstein-barr virus (mononucleosis). "I'm really looking forward to racing again when I line up at Dwars door Vlaanderen. For me, the focus will be on getting some race days in the legs and seeing how my form is," Küng said.

Dwars door Vlaanderen (23 March)

Rider roster: Tom Bohli (SUI), Marcus Burghardt (GER), Floris Gerts (NED), Stefan Küng (SUI), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Loïc Vliegen (BEL), Rick Zabel (GER)

Sports Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA), Marco Pinotti (ITA)


E3 Harelbeke (25 March)

Rider roster: Marcus Burghardt (GER), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Floris Gerts (NED), Stefan Küng (SUI), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL)

Sports Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA), Marco Pinotti (ITA)


Gent Wevelgem (27 March)

Rider roster:  Marcus Burghardt (GER), Jempy Drucker (LUX), Daniel Oss (ITA), Manuel Quinziato (ITA), Taylor Phinney (USA), Michael Schär (SUI), Greg Van Avermaet (BEL), Rick Zabel (GER)

Sports Directors: Fabio Baldato (ITA), Marco Pinotti (ITA)

Giant-Alpecin & Liv-Plantur's upcoming racing

This schedule and roster came from the teams:


On Wednesday, the 71st edition of Dwars door Vlaanderen takes place and it is the traditional opening of another half week of racing in Flanders that lead up to next week's Ronde van Vlaanderen. This year's parcours is 199.7km long and again has the typical Flemish cobbled hills such as the Paterberg and Oude Kwaremont.

It will be the first race for Chad Haga (USA) since the training accident and the team is delighted to see him racing again. "With the recent number of unfortunate injuries, we are heading to Belgium with six riders but we will still be ready to challenge and to make an impression as a team," explained coach Arthur van Dongen (NED).

"We will try to be in the breakaway and we must be attentive during the key moments of the race as the combination of the steep hills will make it exhausting. This is a very young line-up and it will be an important race in the development of the team." 

RACE: Dwars door Vlaanderen (1.HC)

DATE: 23/03/2016

COACH: Arthur van Dongen (NED) 

LINE-UP: Caleb Fairly (USA), Chad Haga (USA), Cheng Ji (CHN), Carter Jones (USA), Fredrik Ludvigsson (SWE), Sam Oomen (NED)

Cheng Ji

Cheng Ji will be on the start line for Dwars door Vlaanderen

E3 HARELBEKE (WT): The one-day races continue with E3 Harelbeke this Friday. Team Giant-Alpecin's classics squad will be looking to test their legs again in this tough race which features no less than 15 hills and four cobblestone sections along its 206km route, including the well-known ascents of the Taaienberg, the Paterberg, and the Oude Kwaremont.

Coach Luke Roberts (AUS) said ahead of the race: "At E3 Harelbeke we are facing one of the toughest races among the Flemish Classics. We have a few riders coming into good shape and I expect them to be competitive.

"The second half of the race contains a lot of cobbled climbs and narrow roads making it a difficult finale. With Zico part of the line-up, we also have some added local knowledge that can be to the team's advantage during this challenging race."

RACE: E3 Harelbeke (WT)

DATE: 25/03/2016

COACH: Luke Roberts (NED) 

LINE-UP: Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), Koen de Kort (NED), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Tom Stamsnijder (NED), Albert Timmer (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL) 

CRITÉRIUM INTERNATIONAL (2.HC): The racing comes thick and fast this week with the team racing in Spain, Belgium and France at the two-day Critérium International. The 85th edition features two stages on Saturday, a road stage in the morning, followed by an individual time trial in the afternoon and then on Sunday a mountain stage. The race offers a tough route and usually, with the mild weather conditions, it will be a challenging race.

Coach Arthur van Dongen (NED) said: "We start Critérium International with the same team as Dwars door Vlaanderen. We have an opportunist line-up for the two-day race that will be looking to take what chances arise.

"The young riders we take to France will get the opportunity to develop themselves and explore their general classification potential with no immediate pressure for results. The race will be decided on the last day with the 14.1km uphill finish to the Col de L'Ospedale."

RACE: Critérium International (2.HC)

DATE: 26-27/03/2016

COACH: Arthur van Dongen (NED) 

LINE-UP: Caleb Fairly (USA), Chad Haga (USA), Cheng Ji (CHN), Carter Jones (USA), Fredrik Ludvigsson (SWE), Sam Oomen (NED)

GENT-WEVELGEM IN FLANDERS FIELDS (WT): During the 241.3km WorldTour classic, the riders are often tested by wind and rain, including 9 hills along the route such as the Casselberg, the Catsberg and the Baneberg. But the last of the hills is the Kemmelberg, 35km from the finish. Therefore, not many editions of the race, in fact, end in a bunch sprint with often the winner coming from a small group of escapees.

Coach Marc Reef (NED) said: "The objective is to go for a good result with the experienced group of riders we have. The wind can be a factor in the early part of the race so we will have to be vigilant. The Kemmelberg will be a key moment in the race so we need be in a good position before the hill begins.

"If the race comes back together for a bunch sprint we will go for Zico who is showing good form at the moment and we can aim for a top 10 result."

RACE: Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields (WT)

DATE: 27/03/2016

COACH: Marc Reef (NED) 

LINE-UP: Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN), Roy Curvers (NED), Bert De Backer (BEL), Koen de Kort (NED), Ramon Sinkeldam (NED), Tom Stamsnijder (NED), Albert Timmer (NED), Zico Waeytens (BEL)

GENT-WEVELGEM IN FLANDERS FIELDS (WWT): Team Liv-Plantur returns to Gent-Wevelgem this spring with defending champion Floortje Mackaij (NED) leading the way. Mackaij won the 2015 race with a commanding finish to take her first classics win, and she and the team will be keen to push for the double in 2016.

The parcours is a gruelling 115.3km route that has served to favour the attackers. The course takes on five ascents including the Baneberg, the Kemmelberg and the Monteberg.

Coach Hans Timmermans (NED) said: "We have a good feeling coming into this race with the victory of Floortje last year. We are going to bring the experience of last year and aim for a strong result here. Floortje is going to be our leader together with Leah who is in really good shape at the moment with another top 15 finish last weekend.

"The outcome of the race is usually decided on the Kemmelberg and it will depend on if the bunch is able to catch the escapees or not. We will aim to put Floortje and Leah in a good position before the key moments of the race but we have to aware of the weather conditions with the open sections in the course where the wind can play its part."

RACE: Gent-Wevelgem in Flanders Fields (WWT)

DATE: 27/03/2016

COACH: Hans Timmermans (NED) 

LINE-UP: Leah Kirchmann (CAN), Sara Mustonen (SWE), Julia Soek (NED), Floortje Mackaij (NED), Kyara Stijns (NED), Riejanne Markus (NED) 

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