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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Thursday, September 8, 2016

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

Mix a little foolishness with your prudence: it's good to be silly at the right moment. - Horace

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Vuelta a España stage 17 team reports

Here's LottoNL-Jumbo's Vuelta news:

Robert Gesink of Team LottoNL-Jumbo fought up the Vuelta a España's stage 17 steep finishing climb to place third today. Gesink was with his team-mate Bram Tankink in a leading group, and only Frank (IAM) and König (Sky) were better on the Camins del Penygolosa in Llucena. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) remains in the lead.

"It was another good day for us, we fought and took opportunities in the final. Then you aim for the highest possible and I think today, it was the third place for Robert Gesink," said Sports Director Jan Boven.

"In the beginning, there were a lot of attacks. As a team, we had several riders to jump and if one was caught, the other went. Gesink was riding attentive and aggressively to get into the break, he was in almost every escape. Eventually, he escaped with Bram Tankink."

Before the final climb, several riders tried to escape and Tankink closed the gaps. Cataldo (Astana) and Frank escaped with 30 kilometres to go, but stayed within reach. On the final climb, Gesink could still overtake Cataldo but König and Frank were just too strong.

Roberty Gesink

Robert Gesink on the day's final climb

"In addition to the stage to Covadonga, where Gesink was second, and the stage to the Aubisque that Gesink won, this also was a stage where we knew there was a possibility for a good result. It's good that Gesink succeed again to get in the leading group.

"On Saturday, we want to go again for the highest possible place. That final climb should also suit Gesink, and let's hope that he can go in the front group again."

George Bennett retained his 12th place in the overall standings. The New Zealander of Team LottoNL-Jumbo finished 38th, 1-17 minutes behind the leader in the overall standings, Nairo Quintana.

And Tinkoff sent me this Vuelta update:

After a punishing final climb to the line of the Alto Mas de la Costa, the GC battle was nullified with the top four riders overall coming across the finish together, including Tinkoff’s leader Alberto Contador. Up the road, as part of the day’s successful breakaway, Michael Gogl raced to a respectable 13th place, another strong performance from the young neo-pro.

After the stage, Alberto reflected on the day and the Vuelta so far: "I am enjoying the race every day, as well as enjoying my home country and the fans. I am satisfied we didn't have a bad day where, perhaps, the main contenders were too vigilant of each other to make any big gaps.

“It is too early to draw conclusions on my form after today's final climb. I felt good throughout the stage. Maybe, the race was a bit calmer because the GC wasn't at stake. We will now focus on tomorrow and then the time trial, which will be tough, with hardly any flat parts over a very technical route."

With a peloton slightly refreshed by yesterday’s rest day, the race got off to a hard start with many teams wanting to be represented in the day’s break. As a result, it took over 50km for the escape to form, but when it did – comprising 28 riders – Tinkoff was represented by Michael Gogl, in his second successful break of the race.

Their advantage climbed to six minutes, with the gap not falling by the time the riders approached the lower slopes of the final ascent, having tackled the three previous categorised climbs on today’s parcours. Behind, the pace started to ramp up as each team aimed to bring its GC leader to the bottom of the climb in the best position. At the front of the race, it was every rider for himself, with a large number of the break staying clear to take the top spots.

Despite only 3,800m in length, the day’s finishing climb was a brutal ascent because of its punishingly steep gradients, with slopes ramping up to 21% at times. After attacks and counter attacks, the top four on GC couldn’t break one another, despite a strong effort from Alberto. He remains in fourth place overall with four stages remaining.

“It started hard today and was fast, then in the middle we had two climbs which the guys did yesterday in training so they were well prepared,” explained Sport Director Steven De Jongh after the stage. “Nobody was in trouble. We tried hard to get Ivan Rovny and Yuri Trofimov in the break but they were brought back. Then in the end Michael Gogl was in the right move and it was good to have someone up there if something was needed in the final. As it was, Alberto had good support from the other guys and then was up there with the best at the end. It was super hard with the gradients on the climb but he was looking good today.

“It was a nice result for Michael too, his second time in the break here. He’s doing very well for a neo professional. Tomorrow we’ll again be ready for anything. Everyday there’s something to look out for so the guys will again be careful.”

Tomorrow’s 18th stage covers 200.8km from Requena to Gandía over a rolling route that passes 1,000m altitude atop the day’s only classified climb, the second category Puerto de Casa del Alto. With the climb coming only 70km into the stage, it should be another day for the sprinters in the race, or one where the breakaway again makes it to the finish.

More teams headed to Canadian races

This news came from Cannondale-Drapac:

The Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team will line up with a strong squad at the upcoming Canadian one-day races, one that’s capable of winning in a variety of ways. 

Defending Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec champion Rigoberto Urán will start at the Quebec and Montreal races. He will be joined by Alberto Bettiol, André Cardoso, Lawson Craddock, Ramūnas Navardauskas, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Toms Skujiņš, and Michael Woods. The Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec is on Friday with the sister race in Montréal following two days later. Urán won in Québec last year, while riding for Etixx-Quick Step, with a late race solo move.

Uran isn’t the only one with solid experience in Canada, either. Slagter has finished in the top 10 three times in Québec; Navardauskas has finished third in Québec and fourth in Montreal. Both races are technical, lumpy circuits that put premiums on positioning and bike handling.

Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran

“Québec and Montréal are both nice races. They’re fast with a lot of action on technical circuits. The WorldTour level is high and every team is strong,” said sport director Fabrizio Guidi. “We have riders able to face every situation and with skills to target a very good result. Good communication between riders can make the difference, especially when we start with more than one leader. I’m confident in this group.”

For Canadian Mike Woods, just off the Tour of Alberta, these races are a homecoming of sorts. “These are very special races to me,” said Woods. “Montreal isn't that far from my hometown of Ottawa, so these two races are effectively home races. There is a large group of cyclists from Ottawa that rides to Montreal to watch the race, and some, including my dad, even come out to Québec City. I always have unreal fan support.”

“There are a lot of things that make these races cool, and probably my favorite races on the WorldTour circuit,” Woods added. “Both courses are dynamic, technical and hard.  The race organizers treat the riders super well, and being the only WorldTour races in North America, the crowds are great.”

The two one-day races round out the Canadian swing for the peloton.

“We had two near wins already here in Canada, at the Tour of Alberta,” noted Woods. “We are bringing a really strong team to Montreal and Quebec. I think we have a real shot at making it on to the top step of the podium.”

Cannondale-Drapac for GP Québec and GP Montreal: Alberto Bettiol, Andre Cardoso, Lawson Craddock, Ramūnas Navardauskas, Tom-Jelte Slagter, Toms Skujiņš, Rigoberto Urán, Mike Woods

This Canada update came from Lotto-Soudal:

The end of the season is coming closer but it’s far from over yet. Like previous years the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec and Montréal are scheduled in September. The races will take place on Friday September 9 and Sunday September 11. In both races the peloton rides on a local circuit in the city.

In Québec there are sixteen laps of 12.6 kilometres to cover. In every lap the riders have to overcome four hills: Côte de la Montagne, Côte de la Potasse, Montée de la Fabrique and Montée du Fort. The hills are short but steep. On the Côte de la Montagne the maximum gradient goes up to 13%. The finish is located at the top of the Montée du Fort, which is a one kilometre climb with an average gradient of 4%. On Friday the last four kilometres will be very important.

The race on Sunday in Montréal is similar. The riders have to cover seventeen laps of 12.1 kilometres. The first climb, Côte Camillien-Houde, is situated right after the start. It’s 1.8 kilometres long and has an average gradient of 8%. The next obstacle is the Côte du Polytechnique halfway the course. The climb is short but has a maximum gradient of 11%. At the end of each lap there is a last uphill passage at the Avenue du Parc. This avenue is also the finish of the race.

Last year Tim Wellens won the GP de Montréal. He’s already looking forward to this year’s edition. Also our sports director Herman Frison likes the races in Canada and finds it a very good organisation. With the good results of last year he’s confident about the team that will represent Lotto Soudal this year.

Tim Wellens

Tim Wellens' famous stage 6 finish at this year's Giro d'Italia

Tim Wellens: “I felt bad for a while after the Olympic Games in Rio. My preparation for the Canadian races wasn’t perfect because it took me a while to get back in good condition. My last race was Plouay and it wasn’t good. Since yesterday I started to feel better and the trainings are smoother. I always like to go to Canada. The organisation is really good and the hotels are nice. I also like the fact that we have to do local laps. There are a lot of fans along the road and the atmosphere is really nice. Of the two races, Montréal suits me better but Québec is a very beautiful city to ride through.”

“Like every year there will be several contenders for the victory, it are the same favourites as usual. The ideal scenario for me would be to finish alone like I did last year. However also Pim Ligthart is doing really well at the moment and maybe he’s able to do something special. In Montréal the finale usually starts in the last lap. There are two points where I can make a difference and that’s where I’ll have to attack if I want to win.”

Herman Frison, sports director: “It’s always nice to go to Canada. The organization is very professional and the atmosphere is really good. The hotels, the cars and the course, it’s all very well organized. About the races we must say that they are pretty tough. Last year Tim Wellens won for Lotto Soudal in Montréal and we had a good result with Tony Gallopin in Québec. The course is the same as every year so we know it pretty well by now. Anyway, for us the weather conditions play a major role. Last year it was really hot in Québec and because of that the finale started late and it was a big group of riders at the start of the last climb. In Montréal on the other hand, the weather was really bad, which was a good thing for Tim Wellens. In bad weather the peloton breaks into pieces, or a small group is able to stay ahead.”

“Even though the races are at the end of the season, there are always a lot of big names on the start list. Some of them are still in good condition; others are feeling the end of the season and are getting tired. Originally it was a different line-up for Lotto Soudal but because of crashes, injuries and several other races that are scheduled right now we had to make some changes to the selection. We may not have the strongest possible team at the start but I do believe that we can do a good job. Tim Wellens and Tiesj Benoot are the leaders and the other riders have to do whatever it takes to help them. It would be easier for the team if we have a rider in the breakaway. Anyway, if that doesn’t work out, we won’t be the team to control the race.”

Line-up Lotto Soudal: Lars Bak, Tiesj Benoot, Kris Boeckmans, Sean De Bie, Pim Ligthart, Jürgen Roelandts, Jelle Vanendert and Tim Wellens.

Liv-Plantur annouces rider signings:

Team Liv-Plantur is delighted to confirm that Juliette Labous (FRA) has signed a two-year contract and will ride for the team until the end of 2018. 17-year-old Labous has shown huge potential and is already the double French champion in the junior category in the road race and time trial. She recently participated at Albstadt-Frauen-Etappenrennen where she won a stage and took the overall victory.

"It is a fantastic opportunity for me, and I am looking forward to joining Team Liv-Plantur," confirmed Labous. "The team is associated with a vision of developing riders and it is great to see that teamwork is at the core of this vision. The team does not only focus on one leader but focuses on nurturing and supporting young riders, which were important factors in making my decision."

"Juliette is still very young and is one of the biggest talents in the world," said Team Liv-Plantur coach Hans Timmermans (NED). "I think she has everything that requires to become a world class rider in the future. Physically she is extremely talented but also mentally she is very focused and knows what she wants to achieve.

"At the last training camps where she joined our team we saw how willing she is to learn from our staff and other riders. After this training camp and participating in our German Talent Days she won the Nations cup race in Albstadt, which can be seen as the hardest races of all. We want to further develop Juliette’s talents within our structure of expertise and we'll take a long-term approach. The upcoming two seasons are essential to allow her to develop instead of expecting results."

Next to signing Labous, Team Liv-Plantur is also pleased to report that both Julia Soek (NED) and Molly Weaver (GBR) have renewed their contracts with the team. Soek is currently racing her third season and will extend her contract until the end of 2017. Weaver joined the team in 2015 and has also signed for one more season.

Soek commented on her contract renewal: "I am very happy to extend my contract with the team, already going into my fourth year. I feel good within the team and I am confident I can further grow. I am very much looking forward to the next season and with the new signings made I think we can become one of the dominant teams."

"Julia is an important rider in our team," said coach Hans Timmermans (NED). "She is a flagship member of the team and carries our culture, and continues to develop as a rider and as a captain. We are certain that she has even more to contribute and as Team Liv-Plantur develops further, we expect her to grow along."

"I am really happy to have extended my contract with the team for another year, and looking forward to the next season," explained Weaver. "I think everyone can see how the team has once again progressed and that’s really exciting. The professional environment here and the opportunity for development is ideal for me, and I hope to make a big step up again next season with the help of the trainers and experts on the team. Every time I race I’m proud to put this jersey on, so I am happy to continue here."

"Molly is an example of how our philosophy works. She is making steady progress and is becoming a core rider within our team. During her home race at the Aviva Tour of Britain, she made her mark and introduced herself to the elite level of cycling. She consistently works very hard to get our leader in the perfect position for the finale. We look forward to working with her and progress step by step."

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