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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, June 29, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life. - Neil deGrasse Tyson

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EF Education First-Drapac announces Tour de France team

The team sent me this:

The conventional wisdom of racing tells us it will be hard to top the 2017 Tour de France. Second place, with a dark horse coming in to the biggest race on the calendar. It was a result few outside the team could see coming, and certainly one of the team’s proudest moments.

And yet.

The Tour’s 21 stages provide ample opportunity to dream. For stage hunters, for sprinters, for climbers, for yellow-jersey contenders. Everything is possible, and it’s on the sport’s biggest stage.

“The objective is quite simple,” Jonathan Vaughters, the team’s CEO, says. “We start the race trying to win the Tour de France. Is that optimistic and is that pushing the limits of our team? Absolutely. But we were second place last year. We have a little bit stronger team this year, and we have a parcours more suited to Rigo than last year. We have Rigo, who is stronger than he was last year. So we’re going in with the idea of trying to win the race.”

Find comments from each of our Tour riders below.

“The importance of the Tour is easy to explain. Everything in July is top level – every rider, every stage, every second. It all matters. I need to focus for 21 days. It’s important to focus in the race, at the dinner table, for the sleep. From the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep, it’s like the World Championships every single day for three weeks.”

Rigoberto Uran

Rigoberto Uran (sitting up) will lead his team in the hunt for the Yellow Jersey.

“It’s always a pleasure to race the Tour, but the main thing isn’t only to participate in the race but to be a main actor. I want to be present in the mountains with Rigo, and if the chance presents itself, to win a stage, but first and foremost, I want to arrive without any problems to the first rest day, to pass all the complicated stages of the first week in the best condition possible.”

“Being selected for this Tour team is a great achievement. There are a lot of deserving riders on this squad. Being chosen to race, to help Rigo as much as possible, makes me incredibly proud. To start the Tour is to fulfill a piece of my dream.”

My role is to take leadership on the road, and this becomes more and more important the better Rigo is riding, which became really evident last year in the Tour. When a Tour de France podium is at stake, every decision takes on a new sense of importance. I had a massive learning curve last year, riding in a team where a bad decision could impact our ability to achieve a great result. I learned a lot last year that I’ll bring into this year’s race, behind the scenes, to try to provide Rigo with the best opportunity to ride to an even better result than last year.”

In theory the cobble stage would suit me perfectly, but I go to the Tour to help Rigo, so there are no personal goals except to help him as best I can. I've had five Tour starts, and this is the first time I'm going with a team fighting for the podium. It's also the first time I do the Tour with #PinkArgyle, so that's exciting."

“It’s the race that everyone knows. If you ask someone about cycling, they say ‘Oh like the Tour de France?” so everyone can relate to it, cyclist or not. I’m there to ride the wind, get the bottles or whatever – domestique duties. I’m taking my first Tour day-by-day, ready to do whatever they need me to in support of our general classification ambitions.”

“I think my role is chief vibration officer. I have to keep the vibes up, make sure the frequencies are calibrated. Mostly I’m there as team player, looking after Rigo and the rest of the guys on the flat stages. If there’s some sort of a window where I can go for something myself, I’ll take that opportunity but that’s not what I’m going to the Tour to do – but you never know what can happen over three weeks.”

“Racing the Tour in 2016 was a huge learning experience for me. There’s a ton of things that I was able to take away from the race that I can bring to this year’s Tour. My role will be to help out Rigo to put him on the top step of the final podium in Paris. He’s a great leader that instills confidence in the people around him. Being a part of a team that has a legitimate chance to win the Tour de France is not an opportunity that comes around very often.”

EF Education First – Drapac p/b Cannondale for the 2018 Tour de France:

Sport Directors:


Team Sky riders win Dutch & British time trial titles

Here's Sky's report on the Dutch race:

Amazing, unexpected and one of the best days of his career - all ways Dylan van Baarle described winning the Dutch national time trial title.

The 26-year old rode to his first senior national title in fantastic fashion in Bergen op Zoom, winning the TT title by 30 seconds from nearest challenger Niki Terpstra (Quick-Step Floors).

And when caught up with Van Baarle, the achievement was still sinking in. “I never expected to win it,” explained Dylan. “I knew that with [Tom] Dumoulin not riding there was a chance to go for the podium. I thought I could make the top three but winning… It’s something else.”

It was a lengthy test at 52.3 kilometres and Dylan thinks he measured his effort well.

Dylan van Baarle

Dylan van Baarle in 2014.

He continued: “It was a really fast course and we did two laps. There was a few uphill drags, but not too many. After the first lap I was on the same time as [Jos] van Emden, and then I managed to push the gap out. I felt pretty good right the way until the end.”

Dylan's mother was on hand to see her son take one of the biggest wins of his career - a special moment for a pro who rarely gets to race in his homeland.
“Of course it’s one of my biggest wins. The Tour of Britain [in 2014] was also a big deal, but being Dutch champion is something you dream of as a child. To ride with the champion’s jersey will be really special.

“My Mum really enjoyed it. I don’t race so often in Holland so it was really cool to have her there. It was an amazing day.”

And Sky's report on Geraint Thomas's winning ride:

Geraint Thomas claimed his first elite British time trial title with a supreme ride at the national championships.

Fastest through each intermediate split, the Welshman clocked a winning time of 48 minutes and 54 seconds across the three laps which formed a 39.7-kilometre course in Northumberland.

The Team Sky rider came home 37 seconds ahead of nearest challenger Harry Tanfield (Canyon Eisberg), with five-time nationals winner Alex Dowsett (Katusha-Alpecin) rounding out the podium, 54 seconds back.

“It’s great. Obviously winning the Dauphine was a big boost. I’ve done a bit of training now since, and to come here and win the nationals for the first time is really encouraging. I rarely get to race in the UK, and to do a one-off TT like that is rare too, so I’m really happy.

“I was confident but I didn’t know what to expect. As I say I rarely do a one-off TT, it’s always part of a stage race where you’ve got tired legs and things. Obviously (Harry) Tanfield has been riding well this year and I’ve been watching him, and Dowsett it’s what he does. TT’ing in the UK is a strong discipline anyway, so to come and win is super nice.”

Geraint Thomas

Geraint Thomas after winning the Dauphiné this year

For Thomas attention now turns to the Tour de France in July, where he will debut his new national skinsuit. On the prospect of that he added: “It’s going to be great, especially in the Tour to wear that. I won the road race a few years ago now back in 2010, so to add the TT to it is really nice.”

There were further strong showings in the top 10 for Team Sky riders, with Tao Geoghegan Hart claiming sixth spot, with Jon Dibben one place further back in seventh.

Lennard Kämna to take a break from racing

Kämna's Team Sunweb sent me this:

Team Sunweb’s Lennard Kämna (GER) is amidst a temporary break from racing whilst reflecting on his long-term career goals. The decision is made mutually between Lennard and the team as a precaution - to allow the 21-year-old to take some time to review his situation as an athlete and set long-term goals before getting back into racing again.

Team Sunweb’s philosophy is to develop young and talented riders using a gradual approach, step-by-step, with no pressure on short term results. Part of this development process is to continuously evaluate and adjust plans to find the best route on an athlete’s road to success. Lennard’s situation is being closely monitored, with Team Sunweb’s coaches and trainers having created a plan for the upcoming period.

Kämna said: “I turned professional at a young age and my career progressed quite rapidly. My first year with Team Sunweb at WorldTour level went very well and I was able to learn a lot. The first part of the 2018 season wasn’t what we had hoped for, due to some sickness and a few infections. Many things have come together over the recent months and after conversations with the team we decided that a short break was necessary to re-orientate and re-set our long-term goals. The understanding and patience from the team helps me a lot and I am very thankful for that.”

Head of coaching, Rudi Kemna (NED) said: “Along the years we’ve gained a lot of experience developing young talents, as athletes and as humans. We realise that at some point in everyone’s life people need to take a step back and re-evaluate their career. Together with Lennard the right decision was made for him to take a break from racing. He continues training and at the moment we’re creating the race plan for the second part of the season, without pressure for a fast return. We always put long term focus at the top of our priorities and with Lennard we recognize that he needs this precautionary moment to reconfigure and avoid future challenges, before continuing the focus on growing as a rider.”

Harm Vanhoucke to turn pro July 1

Here's the release Lotto-Soudal sent me:

Harm Vanhoucke turns pro at Lotto Soudal as of 1 July. The 21-year-old Belgian is a product of the U23 team which is led by Kurt Van de Wouwer. The young climber already showed his talent by winning the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia in 2016 and he already took stage victories in prestigious U23 races such as the Giro della Valle d’Aosta and the Tour de Savoie Mont-Blanc. Vanhoucke is currently recovering from anaemia, but he started training again.

Harm Vanhoucke: “I have been training for a couple of weeks now, but there is still a long way to go. I look very much forward to becoming pro, it is like a dream come true. It wasn’t a difficult decision to stay at Lotto Soudal because I have been part of the team since I first raced in the U23 category. Of course, I hope to learn a great deal from the riders who have been pro for years and who already have a lot of experience.”

“Especially the races which include a lot of climbing, like those in the high mountains suit me. I think that I’m not really fit for the one-day races, although I already won the Piccolo Giro di Lombardia. I will primarily focus on the shorter stage races, where I hope to be able to take the victory one day. But I would like to go once in my career all out for a Grand Tour and see where that takes me. But you have to sacrifice a lot for that. Let’s first see what I can do in the one-week stage races.”

“First, I will go on a training camp at altitude in Livigno together with some teammates. The Tour de Pologne will be one of my first races as a pro. That will be tough, especially because I haven’t been racing for quite a while now. Afterwards, I will participate in some races with the national U23 team as a preparation for the U23 World Championships in Innsbruck. I would like to make a goal of that race and battle for the victory. But it’s a one-day race, so it will all depend on how the legs feel that day.”

Kurt Van de Wouwer, head of Lotto Soudal U23: “Harm Vanhoucke had to take some rest before he could begin his pro career. There is of course some uncertainty when you’re out of competition for a while, but I am convinced that everything will be fine.”

“Vanhoucke is a pure climber, which his list of victories already proves. In the future, stage races such as the Tour de Romandie, the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Volta a Catalunya should suit him very well. Not yet for the general classification, but he can select some stages to show himself. That’s a first step before targeting the GC. He also has to improve his time trial skills.”

“It is always a nice feeling to pass on a rider to the pro team of Lotto Soudal. In the case of Harm, it quickly became clear that he would be a nice candidate for the WorldTour. The first part of his season didn’t go as planned, but now he fully gets the opportunity to further develop himself within the pro team. I think a rider such as Jelle Vanendert could play an important role for Harm. Vanendert already has a lot of experience in the races which should fit the profile of Vanhoucke.” 

Dorel sells Sugoi and Sombrio to Louis Garneau Sports

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this:

MONTRÉAL (BRAIN) — Dorel Sports has sold its Sugoi and Sombrio clothing brands to Louis Garneau Sports Inc., Dorel Industries announced Wednesday.

Dorel said it is exiting the performance apparel business to focus on bikes, parts, accessories and electric ride-ons.

"Despite the strong brands and products in Sugoi and Sombrio, apparel is not a strategic priority and has been a drain on Dorel's financials. It is in the best interests of our shareholders for us to focus on our core businesses. Sugoi and Sombrio are a perfect fit for Louis Garneau Sports Inc. They specialize in cycling apparel and I am confident both brands will reinforce their excellent product offerings to retailers worldwide," said Martin Schwartz, Dorel's president & CEO.

Dorel Sports' parent, the publicly traded Dorel Industries, expects to record an estimated $11 million of restructuring and other costs during the second quarter ending June 30, 2018, mainly related to non-cash charges associated with the write-down of trademarks and noncash inventory markdowns.

The company said the amount may be subject to change once Dorel finalizes its analysis of the transaction. Dorel will provide additional details and updates in its 2018 second quarter consolidated financial statements, which is expected to be issued on Aug. 3.

Dorel acquired Sugoi Performance Apparel in 2008 when it bought Cannondale Bicycle Corp. from Pegasus Capital Advisors. Dorel purchased Sombrio in 2014.

Louis Garneau Sports called the deal "a strategic acquisition that will reinforce its positioning on the West Coast of both Canada and the USA and provide strategic opportunities for growth in Western Europe and Asia."

"This acquisition will enable Garneau Group to rapidly increase its sales and become a world leader in cycling apparel," said Louis Garneau, the company's president and founder.

He said the three brands will be on display together at next month's Eurobike show. "We will present our three brands and put forth the Canadian spirit and the strength of our innovations."

Garneau noted that a second generation of family members are increasingly involved in the company. Louis' son William, 28, is general manager of the company while Edouard, 25, is sales director. Their sister, Victoria, 21, has just finished her studies in Fashion Design and will soon be joining her brothers full-time in the family company.  

You can read the entire story here.

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