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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, May 2, 2018

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. - William Arthur Ward

Upcoming racing:

Latest completed racing:

Eschborn-Frankfurt: Rund um den Finanzplatz news

The report from winner Alexander Kristoff's UAE-Team Emirates is posted on the race results page.

Second-place Michael Matthews' Team Sunweb had this to say about the race:

Taking extra motivation from racing on home soil at Eschborn-Frankfurt, Team Sunweb put on a good show being present at the front of the bunch throughout the race and having men in all of the right moves. As the TV camera’s went live, a seven rider group had opened up a four and a half minute gap, with Team Sunweb posted men in numbers at the front of proceedings managing the gap.

The group came back with a chunk of action still to come, and Team Sunweb were immediately present at the front of the bunch setting a hard pace. As the kilometres ticked down, more groups went clear with Michael Matthews making a move and taking a select chase group with him. The race ultimately came back together, and the final was contested by a select group of riders. Team Sunweb’s Michael Matthews showed good form, finishing the day in 2nd place after a close and hectic fast dash to the line.


Michael said: “We did a good team effort today. We had the plan to make it a little bit harder in the middle of the race and that’s exactly what we did. We had all of the guys there to support me until the final climb when I made my move. The group got caught with 20 kilometres to go and from there I just focused on my sprint, seeing what I had left. It was a pretty crazy little final circuit but I ended up coming in 2nd. All in all it was a really good team effort today and I think 2nd is a good result.”

Alexander Kristoff

Michael Matthews finishes just behind Alexander Kristoff.

Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts added: “Our goal was to make this a really hard race, hoping for a reduced bunch sprint where we would go with Michael. In the beginning there was a good group of guys away and we focused on setting things up so the final played into our hands. The bunch dwindled down and in the end we had a really hard chase to bring the group back and set it up for a sprint with only a few fast riders left in the very small front group. Michael did a good sprint and we couldn’t be happier with a 2nd place.”

Bora-hansgrohe sent me this report:

With an astonishing team performance and an aggressive ride, BORA – hansgrohe excited today in front of their home crowd in Frankfurt. Almost the whole day the race looked to be under control of the German squad, and it took all efforts from a diminished bunch to bring back Emanuel Buchmann with just 4k to go. Within that group, Sam Bennett went into the final corner on the wheel of F. Gaviria. But when the Columbian misjudged the corner, Bennett had to open his sprint way too early. In the end, the Irish took 7thplace, while A. Kristoff secured his fourth win at Eschborn-Frankfurt.

The Course
A change of parkour, saw the Billtalhöhe coming back to the race in the first part, which mainly drove the peloton through the Taunus. While in the end, a new loop also passed the Henninger Turm, which originally gave his name to the race in Frankfurt. With non-less than ten climbs and around 2500 meters of total elevation, the 212.5 kilometers from Eschborn to the opera in Frankfurt, were once again a chance for the climbers, and a bunch sprint was by no means set. 

The Team Tactics
As most of the teams focused on the sprinters in their rows, BORA – hansgrohe wanted to bring their climbers into play today. With Emanuel Buchmann, Pawel Poljanski and Gregor Mühlberger, the main goal was to drop the sprinters in the bunch by setting a high pace already on the first climbs. While it was key to find cooperation in a possible break to arrive in Frankfurt successfully, BORA – hansgrohe’s fast men Sam Bennett and Pascal Ackermann could just follow the other sprinters wheels, to also give the team options in a sprint finish. Therefore, the German squad was prepared for all scenarios on home grounds. 

The Race
After a frantic start and a flurry of attacks, seven riders escaped finally from the bunch after about 20 kilometers. From BORA – hansgrohe Alex Saramotins was part of the breakaway to control the race from the beginning for the German squad. Entering the first climb of the day, the Feldberg, the escapees enjoyed a five-minute lead over the peloton, led by Sunweb. On the second time up the Mammolshainer climb, Emanuel Buchmann increased the pace in the bunch significantly, to put some pressure on the sprinters in the peloton. But it was Gregor Mühlberger who went up the road in a group of three, to bridge across to the leaders. Still, also the pace in the bunch was high, and after several attacks from the pack, another group, including Emanuel Buchmann, joined the race leaders, while some riders of the early break were dropped.

With 45k to go 8 riders were in front and BORA – hansgrohe was up there with Austrian Champion Gregor Mühlberger and Emanuel Buchmann. Coming into Frankfurt, there was another split in the leading group, but also this time Emanuel was attentively. The remaining four leaders gave it everything to prevent a diminished bunch from catching up, but with 4k to go also Buchmann was finally reeled in. Now, Sam Bennett showed himself confident at the head of this small group taking on the sprint finish. The Irish went on the wheel of F. Gaviria on the last 500 meters, but when the Colombian misjudged the last corner, Sam had to open his sprint way too early and therefore crossed the line in 7th, while A. Kristoff took a fourth win at Eschborn-Frankfurt.

From the Finish Line
"I desperately wanted to finish off this inspiring team effort today, but it was difficult in the end as nobody had a lead-out train there. I caught the wheel of Gaviria and thought this looks really good for me. But then he misjudged the corner and I was at the front with 350m to go. If I wouldn’t have had to break as well, I think I still could have made it. But I missed too much speed from the corner, and when I realized that I was really disappointed. But my legs where brilliant today and that gives me a lot of confidence ahead of the Giro.” – Sam Bennett

“First of all I want to congratulate the whole team today. We had a plan, and we executed it almost perfect. From the beginning we have been in control of the race with Alex. Then we raised the pace in the bunch and Gregor and Emu were really active to form a new leading group. In the end the bunch gave it everything to catch Emu on the final 4 kilometers, but we than had still Sam up there. The last kilometers were frantic, but Sam was on the right wheel going into the last corner. But when Gaviria misjudged the turn, Sam had to go way too early. It’s a pity that we didn’t get the reward we deserved today, but I am really proud about how we presented our team today in front of our home crowed.” – Jens Zemke, Sports Director 

Robert Stannard wraps up the Tour de Bretagne with stage seven win

Mitchelton-BikeExchange sent me this:

The 2018 Tour de Bretagne came to a close in north western France today, with a short and punchy stage that couldn’t have suited Mitchelton-BikeExchange any better with Robert Stannard taking an impressive victory after strong work from teammate Sam Jenner.

A challenging week for the UCI Continental team began with the unfortunate loss of Australian Harry Sweeny to sickness after the opening stage, reducing an already compact squad to four riders and not the end of the bad luck.

With the first three stages suiting the sprinters, the Chinese outfit were drowned out of contention early on in some hectic and stressful finals before suffering a further blow with the forced abandon of Callum Scotson.

The team rallied and when the sharper climbs came on stage four, Brayan Chaves, Stannard and Jenner came to life with Stannard, active in the late attacks and finishing fourth from an elite leading group.

Colombian climber Chaves impressed in his first European stage race, riding himself into the ground before also being struck down by illness on the penultimate stage with Jenner and Stannard now the last men standing and one day of racing remaining.

Stage seven – Stage victory:
After some wet and windy weather throughout the week, the sun broke out and shone on the seventh and final stage to the seaside town of Dinan and after a cagey start the break formed, with Jenner making the move at the right time and helping the drive forward.

The peloton upped the pace on the approach to the closing circuits, making the catch as the race hit Dinan. With Jenner’s job done it was time for Stannard to step up and the 19-year-old didn’t disappoint.

Attacking from the front over the closing kilometres and using his strength over the last climb, Stannard created a decent gap on the chasers that he held all the way to the line, simultaneously climbing into the top ten overall.

Robert Stannard:
“I’m really happy with my ride today as it has been the hardest seven days of racing I have ever done. After coming close with fourth on stage four it’s great to finally get the win.”

“I knew going into the tour that this stage would suit me and although I didn’t feel great at the start of the stage I saved myself well until the laps and by that stage my legs felt far better.

“With three laps to go I found myself at the front and by the top of the climb I knew that I would have the legs to attack the next lap. I managed to get a solid gap with one kilometre to go and held it to the line.”

Sam Jenner:
“I was feeling good today and had an opportunity to jump across to the initial break and managed to take it. After the previous days where the break had stayed away I thought it could be the move and it had the right make up.

“We were brought back in the circuits and after being out front all day I didn’t have much left in the tank and then dropped out of the front group, but it worked out well in the end because Rob was part of the next attack and rode very strongly to get the stage win which is great for the team to end the tour on a high note.

“I’m showing good signs for the Baby Giro and have timed my form perfectly and it’s been a great experience here and opportunity to take some lessons out of this week and use it for the future.”

Tour de Bretagne stage seven results:

1. Robert Stannard (Mitchelton-BikeExchange) 03:19:51
2. Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix-Lille-Metropole) +0:04
3. Fabian Schmidt (Cotes d’Armor-Marie Morin) ST

Tour de Bretagne final general classification:

1. Fabian Schmidt (Cotes d’Armor-Marie Morin) 26:54:08
2. Stan Dewulf (Lotto-Soudal-U23) +0:12
3. Julien Antomarchi (Roubaix-Lille-Metropole) +0:43

Tim Wellens extends contract with Lotto-Soudal

The team sent me this news:

Tim Wellens has extended his contract for two seasons and remains at Lotto Soudal at least till the end of 2020. The Belgian rider, who turns 27 during the upcoming Giro, is a product of the U23 team of Kurt Van de Wouwer and in 2012 he transferred to the pro team. The past years he gathered 20 victories, including two overall victories at Eneco Tour, Tour de Pologne, Tour of Guangxi, Ruta del Sol, Grand Prix de Montréal, Babantse Pijl and stages in Paris-Nice, Giro, Eneco Tour, Tour de Pologne and Tour of Guangxi.

Time Wellens

Tim Wellens will be with Lotto-Soudal for a while. Sirotti photo.

Tim Wellens: “I love stability. For the first time in my career my contract was about to end and that creates the opportunity to listen to other teams, to hear what they have to offer. That flattered me, but I think I’m good here at Lotto Soudal and I want to be part of the plans that Paul De Geyter and Marc Sergeant have. I want to further develop myself. Of course the one-day Classics will be marked in my agenda the next years too because they suit me very well, but I also want to evolve in stage races of five to ten days. I think I still have the potential to become a better time trialist, and the team has agreed to further work on that aspect. Time trialling is crucial in many stage races.”

“I think I can be satisfied with my victories in Mallorca and Ruta del Sol, but especially with Paris-Nice and the four Ardennes races. After Liège-Bastogne-Liège I started preparing for the Giro, my only Grand Tour of the season. In that rather short time I try to do sufficient extensive trainings, but maybe I will have a lack of intensity at the start of the Giro. I hope to use the first stages to get some intensity and then I hope to be able to play along for stage wins afterwards, as I did in 2016. But also further down the season I have goals set: Tour de Suisse, Tour de Wallonie, Eneco Tour and the Canadian races.”

Marc Sergeant, sports manager Lotto Soudal: “This is extremely good and important news. Tim is “our own product”, he was part of the U23 team of Kurt Van de Wouwer, who succeeds year after year in delivering talents for our team or other pro teams. Not every U23 rider can immediately set the step to WorldTour level, but many riders do make it to the highest level in the end. The Lotto Soudal U23 team is an example, nine Belgians in our WorldTour team were once riding for the U23 team.”

“Tim made a strong début as neo-pro, but he kept evolving year after year too. This season he has set a new step forward in the Classics and in one-week stage races he has proven to be able to play along for the prizes. And Paris-Nice isn’t just any stage race. In 2018 he also got a taste of the Flemish Classics, who knows that tastes for more in the future.”

“Tim is a perfect rider for a team as Lotto Soudal. A perfect Belgian, bilingual, a Flemish father and a Walloon mother, an attractive style of racing, a sensible guy with an opinion, who also pushes the team to a higher level,… Guys like him and Tiesj are riders who should be the foundation of our team the next years.”

Vista Outdoor to sell Bell, Giro and Blackburn, along with firearms brands

Bicycle Retailer & Industry News sent me this important update:

FARMINGTON, Utah (BRAIN) — Vista Outdoor Inc. plans to sell Bell, Giro and Blackburn — and its Savage and Stevens firearms brands — and return its focus to ammunition sales.

The company also said it will sell the Copilot bike baby carrier brand, Raskullz and Krashco child helmet brands and the Jimmy Styks paddleboard brand but retain CamelBak, Camp Chef and Bushnell, as well as its ammo' brands.

Vista's firearms and ammunition sales had already been soft for several quarters when the company found itself in the spotlight following the Parkland High School shooting in February. On March 1, REI, MEC and some independent retailers said they would stop ordering Vista products because of Vista's lack of response following the shooting. Although REI and MEC don't sell firearms, they sold Bell, Giro, Blackburn and other Vista Outdoor outdoor cooking and water sports brands.
In an investor conference call Tuesday, Vista Outdoor CEO Chris Metz said the canceled orders had little effect on the company. Answering an investor question, Metz noted that REI represents less than 1 percent of the company's total sales.

"As we look at the rest of it, there's been some puts and takes: So we've had some small independent dealers that sided with the REI side and we've had some independent dealers, frankly, that stepped up and said, 'We want to take advantage of this market opportunity and replace that volume.' In total it's built into our guidance and expectations, and fortunately we have been on this path of strategically determining where we wanted to guide the company way before any of the noise came about eight weeks ago."

The company announced last year that it planned to sell its Bollé eyewear and helmet brand. Metz said Tuesday that he expects to complete that sale, which also includes the Cebe and Serengetti eyewear brands, in the next fiscal first quarter. He said the company hopes to complete the sale of the other brands by the end of its 2020 fiscal year, 24 months from now.

Vista bought Bell, Giro, Blackburn and C-Preme from BRG Sports in 2016 for $400 million.

Vista released a statement Tuesday announcing the new plan and its financials for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended March 30, and its full-year results.

You can read the entire story here.

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