Monday, December 11, 2017

Giro Organizers Consider ‘Plan B’ Due to Jerusalem Turmoil

The Giro hopes to bring its pink party to Israel, but regional instability threatens the 2018 race plans. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).
FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Rocket strikes and growing international protests centered on Jerusalem have prompted Giro d’Italia organizers to consider a backup plan for 2018. Next year’s race is due to become the first grand tour to begin outside of Europe on May 4 in Israel’s ancient city.

RCS Sport’s top brass in Milan are considering a “plan B” in case the political situation does not improve, according to sources. Violence, protests, and international condemnation have increased in the last week since U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Israel has always considered Jerusalem its capital but Palestine claims East Jerusalem — occupied by Israel since the 1967 War — as the future capital of a long-sought Palestinian state.

The scenario is far from ideal for a race organizer planning a massive million-dollar event in just five months’ time.

RCS Sport, celebrating its 101st Giro in 2018, considers the race a pink party. The host city for the big start typically comes alive in various shades of pink. Start cities Amsterdam (2016), Belfast (2014), and Alghero (2017), exemplified this when they embraced the three-week Italian tour. Jerusalem, always a contested city, must consider security over pink balloons and banners for the 176 professional cyclists.

The race had a brush with regional violence in 2014 when a car bomb was discovered in Dublin hours before the Giro’s stage 3 in Ireland. Race organizers said the 50-pound device was unrelated to the event.

Three rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza on Friday. Israeli military retaliated with targeted strikes the next day. Reports say four people have died. Eight nations, including Italy, have called on the United Nations to hold an urgent meeting following Trump’s move and the reactions it provoked.

RCS Sport is reportedly considering a worst-case-scenario plan B option that could see the race start in Italy’s south. Instead of three Israel stages, the 2018 Giro d’Italia could tour the toe of Italy’s boot in Puglia and move west over three stages. On the island of Sicily, it would continue as planned with stage 4 from Catania.

Another possibitity, which cycling director Mauro Vengni pointed out in September, is starting the race from Catania.

“I already have a plan B, all-Italian, but it will have to truly be a last-ditch scenario,” Vegni told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Anyway, keep in mind that our foreign minister is following the big start plans at every pass.

“I have the possibility of inserting in the Giro route, between the south and central Italy, three stages to replace those Israeli stages. But, I’ll repeat, this would be a true extreme solution, which I don’t really want to think about.”

Vegni and RCS Sport had yet to reply with an updated plan based on the current tensions when contacted for this article.

Already before the 2018 route announcement November 29, RCS Sport was pushed by international groups to reconsider its starting location. The Giro, however, hoped to keep politics out of the race.

The Giro is due to begin with a 9.7-kilometer time trial in the holy city of Jerusalem, which is contested and divided by the Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Armenians. Its second stage travels to Tel Aviv and the third heads south to the resort town of Eilat.

The secondary plans would see the Giro stay completely within Italy’s borders for 2018, something that did not even happen when the race celebrated its 100th edition this May. The route briefly passed through Switzerland in the Stelvio stage, when eventual winner Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) had to stop for an emergency toilet break.

Much is riding on the Jerusalem start. RCS Sport will want to push ahead with its planned Israeli stages assuming all is safe. It will receive an estimated €10 million from Israel according to VeloNews sources. The local organizer is also said to be kicking in a large sum, upward of €2 million, for Chris Froome (Sky) to race.

The association of teams (AIGCP) was unavailable for comment for this article.

President of the CPA riders union Gianni Bugno told VeloNews, “We need to have a plan A and B. If it remains how it is now in Israel, it’s not great, but we need to see how the situation changes when the team nears. The CPA will leave the decision to the organizer and the UCI governing body to decide what’s safe and what’s not. They need to decide if it’s worth going.”


Friday, December 8, 2017

Cascade Cycling Classic will Return for 2018

Mt. Bachelor looms in the background (Jonathan Devich/

North America's oldest pro race will go on under new management

Doubts about whether North America’s oldest professional stage race would return for 2018 were answered this week when the Cascade Cycling Classic announced it will be back under new management and with different dates on the calendar.

The Bend Bulletin reported this week that the race will return for a 39th run next year, moving from its traditional mid-July date to a new schedule from May 31 through June 3.

Former professional rider and two-time US pro road race champion Bart Bowen will take over management of the event from the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation, a non-profit group that operated the race as a fundraiser, according to the Bulletin.

Bowen, who will also replace Chad Sperry’s Breakaway Promotions as race director, teamed up with Visit Bend to assume management of the event and keep the race afloat, according to the local newspaper's report.

The race’s future was called into question earlier this year over rising concerns about increased costs to produce the event and traffic conflicts in fast-growing Bend. The race’s former July dates also conflicted with the height of the city’s influx of tourists and other summer-time events, adding more stress to an already extended community.

“Had Visit Bend not stepped in, I believe the race would be gone,” MBSEF events director Molly Cogswell-Kelley told the Bulletin on Wednesday.

The Bulletin also reported that the race will not be sanctioned by the UCI next year as it was in 2017 for the men and the past two years for the women, but it will be sanctioned by USA Cycling. The race is not currently listed on USA Cycling’s Pro Road Tour calendar, however.

Bowen, who lives in Bend, won the Cascade Cycling Classic overall in 1993 and told the Bulletin that the race was one of the driving factors in his choice to move to Bend.

"I had raced it previously," he said. "I remembered it then, and I wanted to move somewhere where there was a race, and Bend was high on my list. Now it’s kind of come full circle. I want to try to keep the race going. And we want to try to get back to more of the grass roots of why we love racing.

"One of my big goals with the Classic is to introduce a junior aspect to the race," he said. "That’s a big goal to make it sustainable in the future."

The race’s new dates will conflict with USA Cycling Pro Road Tour events the Glencoe Grand Prix on June 2 and the UCI 1.1 Independence Cycling Classic in Philadelphia on June 3. The Winston-Salem Classic takes place in North Carolina just three days before the Cascade Classic starts, but Bowen told the Bulletin he believes a substantial prize list – equal for both men and women – and the race’s reputation for challenging routes will draw a top field.

“Our goal is to draw those aspiring pros,” Bowen said, “and put more on the line every day in prize money. How do we make this exciting every day for those on both sides of the fence, people watching and people racing?”

Bowen also told the Bulletin that he expects to reconfigure the nature of the race routes from years past, although he would not rule out a stage with a mountain-top finish.

“I’m pretty confident that what we put together will attract riders who like to race in Bend,” he told the Bulletin. “[The mountain roads] will potentially have snowbanks, but we really feel that’s going to be a cool aspect of the race.”

Bowen also said he hopes to make changes to the fan-favoutite downtown criterium and reconfigure a more spectator-friendly version of the iconic Awbrey Butte Circuit Race, Cascade’s traditional final stage on a course that has been used for multiple national championships.

In 2017, Robin Carpenter, riding for Holowesko-Citadel, won the men’s race for a second consecutive year, while Allie Dragoo (Sho Air-Twenty20) won the women’s race.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Top 10 Inspirational Cycling Quotes

We all need inspiration from time to time, so here are 10 cycling quotes to ignite that spark inside, as well as giving you an insight into why cycling means so much to so many people.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The 2018 Giro d'Italia by the Numbers

The Giro d'Italia trophy at the 2018 presentation (Bettini)

History, statistics and vital information for the 101st Corsa Rosa

The 101st edition of the Giro d'Italia starts in Israel on Friday, May 4 and ends three weeks later in Rome on Sunday, May 27. It is the 13th time the Giro d'Italia will start outside of Italy and the first time for the Grande Partenza outside of Europe.

The race consists of 21 stages and three rest days on the three Mondays; with three stages in Israel, three on the island of Sicily on the return to Italy. The remaining 15 stages taking the riders north to the Carnic Alps to climb Monte Zoncolan and then west to the Alps near the French border for the final mountain stages to Prato Nevoso, Jafferau and Cervinia. The riders will transfer from Israel to Italy and to the final stage in Rome by plane.

Rome will host the final stage for only the fourth time. It previously hosted the concluding stage in 1911, 1950 and 2009.

Race distance: 3,546km
Average stage distance: 168.9km
Total distance of time trials: 44.2 (stage 1: 9.7km, stage 16: 34.5km)
Categorised climbs: 39 for a total
Elevation gained on climbs: 44,000m

Longest stage: Stage 10 from Penne to Gualdo Tadino will be the longest stage of the 2018 Giro d'Italia at 239km. The longest-ever stage was from Lucca to Rome in 1914 over a distance of 430km.
Shortest stage: The stage 1 time trial is the shortest at 9.7km.

The stages are officially classified depending on the degree of difficulty to decide the official time cut and other organisational aspects.

Time trial stages: 2
Low difficulty stages: 7
Medium difficulty stages: 6
High difficulty stages: 6

Leaders jerseys and teams

There are again expected to be four leader's jersey awarded to the leaders of the special classification.

The race leadership is based on the lowest overall time and that rider wears the iconic pink jersey or maglia rosa. It is pink because the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper that created the race in 1909 is printed on pink paper. The pink jersey was first introduced in 1931. Tom Dumoulin last wore it as winner of the 2017 Giro d'Italia.

The cyclamen-coloured jersey is award to the rider who scores the most points scored on stages, rewarding success and consistency. Fernando Gaviria won four stages and the cyclamen jersey in 2017.

The blue or azzurra jersey is awarded to the best climber, with points award on the classified climbs that feature on some stages. Mikel Landa won the blue jersey in 2017.

The white jersey is award to the best young rider under the age of 25 and, like the pink jersey, it is calculated on overall time. Bob Jungels won the white jersey in 2017.

Peloton size: The 2018 Giro d'Italia will consist of 176 riders, down from 198, following the introduction of the new UCI rule for team sizes. A record 298 riders started the 1928 Giro d'Italia.

Teams: 22 teams of eight riders will make up the peloton. The 18 WorldTour teams have an automatic invitation, with race organisers RCS Sport awarding four so-called wildcard invitations. One invitation is widely expected to go the Israel Cycling Academy. The four wild cards are expected to be named in early January.

Historical moments

The 2018 Giro d'Italia will again remember several historic moments in the history of the race and of Italy.

The opening time trial will be the 'Gino Bartali stage' in recognition of him being included in the 682 "Righteous among the Nations" heroes. Bartali – a three-time Giro d'Italia winner – smuggled information in the handlebars of his bike in Nazi-occupied Italy to help protect Jewish refugees during WWII.

Stage 9 to Campo Imperatore in the shadows of the Gran Sasso the 'Pantani stage' will remember the Italian climber Marco Pantani, who died tragically in 2004. He won at Campo Imperatore in 1999 before disqualified from the race in Madonna di Campiglio for a high haematocrit.

Stage 11 to Osimo will pass through Filottrano to remember Michele Scarponi after he was killed training near home just a days before the 2017 Giro d'Italia. Scarponi won the 2011 Giro d'Italia after the disqualification of Alberto Contador.

Several stages in the northeast of Italy will remember the victims of WWI on the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War.

WWI will be remembered on several stages in northeast of Italy

The Cima Coppi prize, named after five-time winner Fausto Coppi, is awarded to the first rider to reach the summit of the highest climb of each Giro d'Italia. The Colle delle Finestre dirt-road climb during stage 19 is the highest point of the 2018 Giro d'Italia at 2,178m.

Froome, the Giro and the double

Chris Froome is the latest Grand Tour rider to target both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in 2018. Marco Pantani was the last rider to complete the feat in 1998.

Victory at the Giro d'Italia would put him with Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali. It would also be his third consecutive victory in a Grand Tour after winning the 2017 Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana.

Clean sweeps: 4 riders have led the Giro d'Italia from start to finish: Costante Girardengo (in 1919), Alfredo Binda (1927), Eddy Merckx (1973) and Gianni Bugno (1990)
Giro wins without stage victories: 14 times, a rider won no stages en route to overall victory.
Italian winners: 69 Italian riders have won the Giro d'Italia,
Foreign winners: 31 riders from other nations
Youngest winner: Fausto Coppi, in 1940 he was 20 years, 158 days old when he won the Giro.
Oldest winner: Fiorenzo Magni is the oldest winner of the Giro d'Italia. He was 34 and 180 days old when he won the 1955 Giro d'Italia. Froome will turn 33 on May 20, while riding stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia from Tolmezzo to Sappada.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Five Keys to Winning the 2018 Giro

Sicily's Mount Etna will be featured in the 2018 Giro's first week. Photo: Tim De Waele |

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The 2018 Giro d’Italia, the route for which will be unveiled Wednesday, is rumored to present several difficulties for those aiming to win such as Fabio Aru, Mikel Landa, and Chris Froome.

Organizer RCS Sport celebrated its 100th edition with a mostly “Made in Italy” route in 2017. The 2018 edition will break the limits previously known to grand tours by being the first to travel outside of Europe. It begins May 4 in Jerusalem for three stages in Israel before returning to its motherland.

After speaking to several insiders and reading local press reports, VeloNews has learned most of the route. It is due to return to Italy via Campania, on the island of Sicily, will travel north up the boot with eight summit finishes, and will include a long time trial in the third week.

Here’s a look at how the race could be won.

1. With a strong start abroad

The start abroad will rattle some riders even if RCS Sport goes out of its way to make it as plush as possible. The organizer arranges with teams for the shipments of their tools and bikes and allows for an extra rest day to travel back after the first three stages. Only the Giro has this third day of rest, first granted in 2014.

The Dutch roads at the 2011 Giro caused chaos for Cadel Evans and a damp Belfast day quickly spoiled Dan Martin’s hopes. It could have happened anywhere in Italy, but the normal early-race stress combined with the foreign lands brought issues to a boil quicker.

2. Among the eight summit finishes

The reported eight summit finishes will have fans rubbing their hands with glee because they are often what defines the Giro from other grand tours. Many recall Vincenzo’s Nibali come-from-behind performance to overhaul Esteban Chaves on the final Sant’Anna summit finish in 2016, Nairo Quintana’s escape on the snowy Stelvio to win at Val Martello in 2014, or Ivan Basso’s comeback on Monte Zoncolan in 2010.

The race organizer spreads the summit finishes over the three weeks next year. The eventual winner will make the first steps toward the spiral trophy with Sicily’s Mount Etna, Montevergine di Mercogliano near Naples, and Gran Sasso in the Abruzzo region. The 2018 Giro sticks to its formula and piles them on thick in the final week, with a Zoncolan finish, 22 percent pitches at the end of a stage with 4,000 meters of climbing, and the gravel Colle delle Finestre roads leading to Jafferau — a 200-kilometer stage that climbs 3,500 meters.

3. Via time trial gains

The Giro strummed a perfect chord when it introduced the wine-themed time trials. After Barolo, Prosecco, Chianti, and Sagrantino, the 2018 race will travel to the Vallagarina vineyards near Lake Garda. The organizer can take advantage of the flat valley roads and the hillsides where the grapes thrive to produce a scenic and testing time trial.

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) won the time trial in 2017 to pave the way for his eventual win two weeks later. He had the legs in the mountains to fend off Quintana and Nibali, but overall victory would not have been possible without his gains in the time trial. It seems likely that Dumoulin will race the Tour in 2018, but this estimated 34.5km stage, along with the opening 10.1km time trial, could be enough to sway the attendance of time trial specialists like Froome.

4. Conquering Italy’s infrastructure

The foreign start could be a dream compared to racing back in the Bel Paese on the Italian roads that often suffer due to Italy’s weak economy and transportation department. Cyclists do not wonder if, but when and how often they will have to navigate diesel patches, ruts, and potholes.

Riders and teams protested against the unsafe conditions in 2011 and had the Monte Crostis climb and descent removed. Usually, rain highlights the poor conditions and already technical roads, such as when Bradley Wiggins slid out of contention in Pescara or the wet and muddy stage to Montalcino that Cadel Evans won.

5. Having some luck, or no bad luck

Luck will ultimately affect those who excel and fail in the 2018 Giro. Ask Tom Dumoulin, who had stomach problems and had to stop to relieve himself during the Stelvio stage in 2017. He lost 2:10 but still won the overall title thanks to his time trail and mountain defense. A badly timed stomach problem ruled out Mikel Landa in 2016. On the other hand, snow and race astuteness — and a bit of luck — helped Quintana to become the first Colombian winner in 2014.


Saturday, November 25, 2017

USA Crits 2018 Calendar Boasts 11 Races, $100k Purse

North America’s biggest criterium series USA Crits will include 11 events in 2018 from April through September. In addition to its nationwide calendar, the 12-year-old series will offer a $100,000 prize purse and introduce a new streaming online video broadcast.

“Creating a platform for fans to engage the sport and to follow the athletes is essential for developing recognizable athletes and sustainable growth, which will support the professional ambitions of elite cyclists,” said Scott Morris, director of development for USA Crits.

The subscription-based livestream service will feature host city and participating rider highlights, onboard live action cameras, lap-by-lap results, and racing footage. On-demand race recaps will be available afterward to subscribers as well.

In addition to the $100,000 overall series purse, each race will have a minimum $10,000 purse. In both cases, the payout will be equal for men and women.

2018 USA Crits schedule

April 28: Athens Orthopedic Clinic (AOC) Twilight Criterium, Athens, Georgia
May 26: Winston-Salem Cycling Classic, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
June 1: Oklahoma City Pro-Am Classic, Midtown, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
June 17: Harlem Skyscraper Cycling Classic, New York, New York
July 6: Natural State Criterium Series: New American Town Criterium, Bentonville, Arkansas
July 14: Andersen Schwartzman Woodard Brailsford (ASWB) Twilight Criterium, Boise, Idaho
July 28: San Rafael Sunset Criterium, San Rafael, California
August 4: Littleton Twilight Criterium, Littleton, Colorado
August 11: Benchmark Twilight Cycling Classic, West Chester, Pennsylvania
September 2: Gateway Cup: Giro Della Montagna, St. Louis, Missouri
September 15: USA CRITS Championship Series Finals: Location TBA, Northeastern USA


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Give thanks for a little, and you will find a lot. 
-Hausa Proverb

Have a Safe and Happy Thanksgiving!