Sunday, September 17, 2017

Top Five Cycling Tantrums | GCN


Unwritten rules, impeccable etiquette and gentlemanly behaviour - but not quite always. John ‘Chocolate Voice’ Beavan brings you our top 5 cycling tantrums.

Which is your favourite tantrum? Could it be…

-Jeremy Santucci getting ‘smashy’ at the Red Hook Crit
-One Pro Cycling’s Hayden McCormick not settling for second
-The Costa vs Barredo fisticuffs
-Debating turns on the front with Brambilla and Rovny
-Marcel Kittel emerging from Dubai’s sandstorm looking a little worse for wear

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cavendish Won’t Race Norway Worlds

Still recovering from a broken shoulder, Mark Cavendish had a disappointing showing at the Tour of Britain. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Former world road race champion Mark Cavendish announced Thursday that he won’t be lining up with the British team to race 2017 worlds in Bergen, Norway, September 24.

He posted a statement explaining that the shoulder injury sustained during the Tour de France was still healing.

“I’m gutted to say I won’t be representing Great Britain this year at World Road Championships in Bergen, Norway,” the Dimension Data rider wrote. “It was a goal I’d set to try and win this year, on a course that suits me at my peak.”

Cavendish finished second at 2016 worlds in Doha, Qatar. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) won the title that day, his second consecutive rainbow jersey.

Longtime rivals in sprint finishes, Cavendish and Sagan tangled in the Tour’s stage 4 finish. The Brit broke his shoulder, and the race jury kicked Sagan out of the Tour for what it deemed to be unsafe sprinting.

Cavendish returned to racing on home soil in the OVO Energy Tour of Britain but was not himself, finishing well off the pace. He abandoned the eight-stage race on the final day.

Sagan, on the other hand, will be a top favorite for worlds having just won the Grand Prix de Quebec.


Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/09/news/cavendish-wont-race-norway-worlds_448198#2FdsdyUViLjPM1Qh.99

Monday, September 11, 2017

Froome Says Grand Tour Triple ‘Not Impossible’

Chris Froome finally won the Vuelta after three second-place finishes. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
LONDON (AFP) — Chris Froome, fresh off wrapping up a Tour de France and Vuelta a España double, believes winning all three grand tours in the same year would “take some doing” but “nothing is impossible.”

Froome, 32, completed victory in the Vuelta on Sunday to become only the third man to achieve a Tour-Vuelta double in the same year and the first since Bernard Hinault in 1978. The Brit is the only rider to win the double since the Vuelta moved to its late-summer time slot in 1995.

No rider has ever pulled off a Giro-Tour-Vuelta treble. While Froome feels it is unlikely, he does not believe it is unachievable.

“I wouldn’t say it’s impossible,” the British rider, a four-time Tour de France champion, told BBC Radio Four on Monday.

“Nothing’s impossible, but certainly it would take some doing.”

He was more circumspect about his chances of surpassing Belgian great Eddy Merckx’s record of 11 grand tour victories.

“A completely different era,” said Froome, who finished second in the Vuelta three times (2011, 2014, and 2016) before finally securing the red jersey.

“Eddy Merckx’s time of racing, he was able to win every single kind of race on the calendar. The sport has transformed since his time.”

Froome’s double triumph came after a challenging period for Team Sky.

Bradley Wiggins, Froome’s former teammate, was revealed to have obtained permission to use a powerful corticosteroid before the 2011 and 2012 Tours — the latter of which he won — and the 2013 Giro.

Wiggins and team principal Dave Brailsford said the rider’s use of the drug, which was sanctioned by cycling’s authorities, was necessary for medical reasons.

Sky is also under investigation by UK Anti-Doping over a mysterious package that was delivered to Wiggins during the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine.

Sky denies wrongdoing and when asked if his support for Brailsford was unequivocal, Froome replied: “Certainly.”

He added: “For us on the road, we’ve just been focused on the racing side of things.

“Those allegations haven’t been aimed at us at all, so it really hasn’t been an issue.”

Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/09/news/froome-says-grand-tour-triple-not-impossible_447991#7JgSzMSMS1LdeGOd.99

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Contador Rallies with Strong Vuelta a Espana Time Trial

Spaniard into 5th but still 2:18 shy of podium in goodbye race

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) (Bettini Photo)

Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) made a huge leap up the overall classification as he moved from ninth to fifth overall at the Vuelta a Espana with an impressive time trial performance on Tuesday. He still remains more than two minutes adrift of the final podium spot controlled by Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb), and the three-time champion says that making the podium in the final race of his career will be tough to do.

"I think I did a good time trial, but after today I think reaching the podium will be very difficult," explained Contador.

Contador finished 59 seconds down on stage winner and race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), equal on time with Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin) while giving away some seconds to Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb).

When he crossed the line, he had the fastest time, and it would take Kelderman to push him off his perch. Contador said afterward that he had opted not to race the stage by numbers but by feel. He admitted that it hadn't been his best performance against the clock.

"I didn't have the split times of my rivals; I covered my SRM and preferred to ride only on my sensations. I don't think it was the best time trial I have done in the last years - even recently I have done better, like my time trial at the Tour de France," said Contador.

"There were some riders who were superior: Kelderman and of course Froome. We knew that Froome was the big favourite for today; I think today's time trial suited him down to the ground."

Why change a habit of a lifetime? As he did in the time trial and many other days before it, Contador is going to listen to what his body tells him in the final stages of the Vuelta a Espana.

"I will be riding on the base of my sensations, from moment to moment," he said when asked if he would attack in Wednesday's mountain stage to Los Machucos. "There are five nice stages to come, and I will continue to enjoy this race, including the stage to Madrid, which will be very special as it will be my goodbye race."

The chances to do gain ground are ever diminishing, and the make-up of the top 10 looks increasingly certain, with more than three minutes separating 10th and 11th places. The order in which the top 10 comes home and even the complexion of the podium is still far from a foregone conclusion. While Contador is coy on whether or not he will attack in the next few stages, he is expecting his rivals to put up a fight.

"I think a lot of things will happen in the next days; there'll be a lot of movement. There are riders who will make another move, like Lopez who will surely be on the attack," Contador said. "I think tomorrow will be very hard for everyone giving the difficulty of the climbs, and the ramps on Los Machucos."

Article Source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/contador-rallies-with-strong-vuelta-a-espana-time-trial/

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Nibali to Race 10,000-foot Taiwan Hill-Climb in October

Vincenzo Nibali is confirmed to race the Taiwan KOM Challenge in October 2017. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | www.brakethroughmedia.com (File).
Former Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali will race the Taiwan KOM Challenge this fall, joining another former yellow jersey winner, Cadel Evans. Race organizers announced that the Italian has committed to the 105km race that climbs 3,275 meters — more than 10,000 feet.

Nibali’s brother Antonio, also on the Bahrain-Merida team, will race the hill climb as well.

Other top professionals have raced the KOM challenge over the years. Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) and Emma Pooley raced in 2016 with Pooley winning the women’s title. Oscar Pujol (UKYO) won the men’s race last year.

The race pays out equally to men and women, 500,000NTD apiece, which is approximately $16,500.

Also of note, the race bars any rider with a prior doping suspension from competing.

The route climbs through the Taroko Gorge then up Hehuan Mountain to Wuling Pass after starting on Taiwan’s eastern coast in Hualien Qixingtan. The route begins with an easy 0-2 percent gradient for the first 20km. Then, the road climbs at a steady 6 percent average gradient until the final 9.5km. At the top, the course offers 10-22 percent gradients to the finish.

Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/08/news/nibali-race-10000-foot-taiwan-hill-climb-october_446971#KMRr3ZWIRC9PeOx2.99

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Froome Takes 'A Huge Step' in Vuelta a Espana Bid

Chris Froome on the podium after the 11th stage of the Vuelta a Espana (Bettini Photo)

Chris Froome (Team Sky) may not have won at Calar Alto on stage 11, but the Briton confirmed that his second place on the Vuelta a España's first major mountain finish and the time gaps he had established constituted a "huge step towards securing my lead" in the race.

After the first nine days of skirmishing and a previous maximum GC margin of 36 seconds, Froome has now opened up a gap of more than double that, 1:19, on his closest rival, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).

Riders like Adam Yates and Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) lost time, while BMC Racing Team's duo of GC contenders, Nicolas Roche and Tejay van Garderen, had a very difficult day.

The GC is looking more clearly in Froome's favour after a week where he was in the lead but always by narrow margins.

Asked if this was a big step towards winning the Vuelta overall, Froome said, "Definitely. Given the time gaps today, it's definitely one of the more crucial stages that shapes this Vuelta a España. I'm really pleased with how it went. It's a huge step towards securing my lead at the Vuelta."

The Vuelta has moved into a different phase, Froome pointed out, given you "just have to look at the GC to see how the race has completely opened up now. It's a very different kind of race, it felt as if we were in the Spring Classics with this kind of weather, not something you expect in Vuelta a España.

"But we're all in the same boat, and you have to make the best of these circumstances. Orica made the race at bottom of last climb, [and put] a lot of people on the limit, when Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali attacked, the race exploded completely."

Froome singled out teammates Gianni Moscon and Mikel Nieve for praise after their strong racing on the final climbs. The two Sky riders managed to bring back Contador and Nibali well before the last flurry of moves on the flatter upper segment of the Calar Alto.

At one point Froome was seen talking to Moscon. "I probably told him not to worry too much about Nibali and Contador," Froome said of the conversation. "With a lot of road to cover, we didn't need to chase them full gas."

Asked by one reporter if he had buried the hatchet with Nibali following their stormy relationship during the 2015 Tour de France, Froome confirmed that was the case, saying there were "certainly no issues" now. Even so, it is clear that Nibali, himself a former Vuelta winner, is currently the Briton's biggest rival on GC and with Chaves on the back foot, Froome's teammates clamped down the Shark's attack.

Tellingly, Froome then was feeling strong enough in the final kilometres to allow Nieve to launch his own attack and go for the stage win, but as the Vuelta leader said, despite his easing back, the counter-moves proved too strong for Nieve's charge away to work out

"Today wasn't my cup of tea given the conditions, I do prefer the really high temperatures and today was almost polar opposite, but all have to make the best of this situation," Froome explained.

"I could sit back a little bit and I didn't want to play cat and mouse, guys like Contador and Nibali stood more to gain from this stage than me, so I left them to it. I told Nieve to go for it on GC and thought maybe they were not going to chase him, but the race opened up again."

Froome then shadowed Nibali all the way to the line in the final kilometre, gaining time all other rivals barring the Italian and Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb), a final indication, if it was needed, that he is more than in control of the situation at the Vuelta.

"At no moment was I afraid of being dropped," Froome emphasised. After such a strong initial performance on the Vuelta's first major summit finish of three this week, there seems to be little chance of that happening in the days to come, either.

Article Source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/froome-takes-a-huge-step-in-vuelta-a-espana-bid/

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Top 10 Cycling Friendly Cities 2017


It's not the first time that we've looked into the best cities in the world for cyclists, but with an update to the Copenhagenize Index, there are some exciting changes to the rankings. Does your city feature amongst the very best?

Cities like Amsterdam have long been known as extraordinarily cyclist friendly, with cycling engrained as part of everyday life for many. In order to encourage more people to use this mode of transport in urban areas, there's been a huge improvement in cycling infrastructure in cities across the world.

The Copenhagenize Index looks into a number of measures to judge how safe and encouraging each urban area is for cyclists, even including the use of cargo bikes! 136 cities worldwide are now analysed, and we bring you the results here. Some might surprise you!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

GC Battle Taking shape at Vuelta

Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
After just five stages, the battle for the General Classification at this year’s Vuelta a España is beginning to take shape. Chris Froome (Sky) commands the strongest army, and he faces a small group of talented rivals, each of whom brings a set of weapons to the fight.

During the race’s fifth stage to Alcossebre, Froome’s Sky teammates shredded the peloton, with Italian rider Gianni Moscon dropping many of the contenders on the steep final climb. The effort helped Froome distance himself from his Tour de France rivals Fabio Aru (Astana) and Romain Bardet (AG2R), as well as Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) on the day’s final 3km climb.

Yet the Briton was unable to shake Colombian Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) who appears to be the best climber among the challengers. Further back, American Tejay van Garderen—who has the time trial chops to contend for the overall—limited his losses to just 8 seconds, keeping himself in second place in the GC. Van Garderen’s BMC teammate Nicolas Roche had a good ride as well, ceding just 11 seconds to Froome.

After the first five stages, the battle appears to be between Froome and Chaves, with van Garderen and Roche also in striking distance. Behind these four, a second tier of favorites is poised to contend for the podium.

“Looking at the time gaps now, the GC is taking a bit more shape,” Froome said after the stage. “Chaves seems to be one of the strongest climbers in this Vuelta. Tejay and Roche are both still in the mix, and they have a few cards to play. I was surprised to see Nibali and Aru to lose a bit of time today, and Romain Bardet. But it’s a long race, and today was just a 3km climb, and it will be a different race once we get into the high mountains.”

Indeed this year’s Vuelta favors the climbers, as the route contains nine summit finishes. During the race’s second and third weeks the route also heads into the high mountains, with stages to Sierra de la Pandera (stage 14), Sierra Nevada (stage 15), and the Alto de l’Angliru (stage 20). Those stages present the best opportunity for Chaves to gain an advantage on Froome and the other riders. The diminutive Colombian has shown his climbing chops throughout his career, most notably during the 2016 Giro d’Italia, where he climbed to second place overall. Chaves also struggles in the individual time trial, and will be looking to carve out a time gap before the 42km individual time trial on stage 16.

Chaves has also showed he has the explosive power to stay with Froome on the punchy uphill finishes, where the race’s other climbers—Bardet and Aru, included—have lost time.

“[Chaves] has showed he’s one of the strongest climbs so far in the race. Last year, he rode extremely well, and I am imagine this year he will be up there again,” Froome said. “The TT is not really in his favor.”

Unlike Chaves, van Garderen will look to limit his losses on the punchy uphill days, and will instead target the long, grinding ascents that come on the Vuelta’s second week. Van Garderen will also try to distance himself from the pure climbers during the time trial.

After finishing stage 5, van Garderen said his game plan is to “keep chipping away” at Froome’s lead.

“It was a bit of a pity of losing a few seconds there at the end,” van Garderen said. “I am right there, if I keep chipping away, day by day, we’re headed in the right direction.”

The X-factor in the fight for the overall could be Spaniard Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), who will retire at the end of the three-week race. Contador’s bid for the overall took a major blow during the third stage, when he ceded three minutes to Froome. Yet on Wednesday Contador was one of just three riders to follow Froome up the steep climb to Alcossebre. If Contador can retain that form for the remainder of the race, he could ride his way onto the podium.

Like Froome, Contador said that the GC battle has begun to take shape. But the mountains that appear later in the race will determine the outcome he said.

“It was a short climb, very explosive. The longer climbs come in the second week,” Contador said. “First, we have to see how I feel, and if I can recover the sensations. And then we can see what we can do in this Vuelta.”

Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/08/news/gc-battle-taking-shape-at-vuelta_446458#LTbfdtXM42eOTI5c.99

Monday, August 21, 2017

Viviani enjoys first one-day WorldTour win at EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg

Italian praises teammates after overcoming late puncture

Winner Elia Viviani (Team Sky) (Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

After his narrow loss at the European road championships, Elia Viviani took revenge in Hamburg as he claimed the biggest one-day win of his career at the Cyclassics Hamburg. The Team Sky rider suffered a puncture with 50km to race in the German city but with his teammates fully committed to his cause, Viviani remained calm and then finished off the day with the win.

Viviani, 28, lead out the sprint with 200 metres to race and held off the fast-finishing French champion Arnaud Demare (FDJ) and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo). Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin), the man who beat Viviani to the European title earlier in the month, was fourth in the sprint.

While Viviani didn't race the Cyclassics Hamburg in 2016, he explained Sky was committed to learning from previous mistakes in 2017 and pulled off the plan to perfection.

"When I had a puncture I had three guys around me to bring me back to the group and Owain and Danny did an amazing job in the last 5km," Viviani said. "This morning we studied what had gone wrong for us in this race and we were able to improve with this win.

"We decided that the left corner with 2.7km to go was crucial and we went through it with me and Danny in second and third which was ideal. I am proud of this win, but this win is for the team."

With the memories still fresh from Denmark, where he lost to Kristoff, Viviani added he was keen to start his sprint as early as possible and was relieved to hold on for the victory.

"To come second by two centimetres was not what I was hoping for, but I was able to spend a good week training and come here in great shape. When I saw the track guys begin their sprint with 200m to go I thought that I didn’t want to lose like I did in the European Championships because I waited," he said.

"I started my sprint earlier and led from the front and went full power to the line. I was happy that the long sprint came after 200km of racing too as it shows that all the work we did earlier in the season to get me ready for Classics really paid off."

For Viviani, the win was his fifth of the season, his last in Team Sky colours, and first one-day win since the 2014 GP Banca di Legnano - Coppa Bernocchi. After a lean start to the 2017 season in which he notched numerous top-ten results, Viviani has enjoyed a strong second-half of the year with a win at Route du Sud, and two stages of the Tour of Austria.

The Olympic omnium champion is a provisional starter at the Tour du Poitou Charentes from Tuesday where he will aim to add to continue his late-season flurry before he heads off to QuickStep-Floors.

Article Source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/viviani-enjoys-first-one-day-worldtour-win-at-euroeyes-cyclassics-hamburg/

Friday, August 18, 2017

Vuelta a Espana 2017: 10 Riders to Watch


A closer look at some of the major contenders at the 2017 Vuelta a Espana. See who made our list of 10 to watch.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Froome: The Vuelta is a Race I Love but It's Relentless

Team Sky leader ready for a fight in the final Grand Tour of 2017

Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Chris Froome has described the Vuelta a España as 'unfinished business' as he tries to transform his run of second places into a first victory and become only the third rider to complete the Tour de France-Vuelta double. Froome has purposely built his season around going for the double but admits that completing the job after winning a fourth Tour is the hardest part of the challenge. Yet he insists it is also that is the most motivating part.

"I've got a good feeling about this year's Vuelta," Froome said in a video interview shot at a recent training camp and released by Team Sky.

"I think we've got a lot more purpose and it feels like we're on much more of a mission this year. I don't think we've been to the Vuelta a España with a team as strong and as focused on the Vuelta as we are this year, and I'm certainly going into the race with a lot of confidence in the team around me.

"It's been a huge motivation for me, given that no one in the modern era has done the Tour-Vuelta double. It's an even bigger challenge for me than just targeting the Tour de France, so my motivation couldn't be higher at this point."

Froome has raced for 48 days so far this season, plus a few post-Tour de France criteriums and trip to Kazakhstan during the weekend to ride a criterium in the capital, Astana.

He again quietly started his season in Australia but skipped Liège-Bastogne-Liège and was not as competitive in the spring, finishing 18th overall at the Tour de Romandie and fourth at the Critérium du Dauphiné. He and Team Sky carefully planned the season so that he could extend his peak of form into late summer for the Vuelta. He is walking a tightrope between fitness and fatigue, knowing that some of his rivals are in similar condition after also racing hard in July, while others are fresh after riding the Giro d'Italia in May and preparing specifically for the Vuelta.

"One thing that really sets the Vuelta apart from other races is where it is in the season - after the Giro, after the Tour, towards the tail end of the season," Froome pointed out.

"You have this mixture of riders who have targeted the Vuelta specifically, and they are in fantastic shape. Then you have other riders who are coming off a big season already, and potentially hanging onto whatever condition they've got in the race, and people who possibly have missed their goals earlier in the season and the Vuelta is their chance to salvage what could have been a tough year for them. Typically, it makes it a very aggressive race, a very punchy style of racing, and always makes for great viewing for the fans.

"It's not easy to go straight from the Tour and shift the mindset to suddenly getting ready for another Grand Tour, another three-week race, just a few weeks on from the Tour de France. I think this year in particular it's been extremely hard, given the pressure in those last few days of the Tour. I think it was only natural to get Paris to and let go a little bit and switch off after such an intense period, so it's been quite hard to refocus again. Coming up to altitude with my teammates, a group of us who are focused on being at our best for the Vuelta, has made it a lot easier."

Fresh oppostion

Many of Froome's rivals are also in a similar position to the Briton, looking for another big result in their second Grand Tour of the season. Froome and Team Sky got the better of their rivals in July, beating Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) by 54 seconds and Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) by 2:20 but face many of the same and other, fresh opposition at the Vuelta.

"My main rivals at this year's Vuelta will be the likes of Romain Bardet and Fabio Aru who were in great shape at the Tour. Then there's guys who maybe haven't done the Tour and will have focused more on being ready for the Vuelta – Vincenzo Nibali, Bob Jungels, Adam Yates from Orica, who will also have Simon (Yates) riding with him. As a team I think they (Orica-Scott) pose quite a threat with Esteban Chaves also on the team," Froome suggested, pointing out that the slate is wiped clean at the start of Grand Tour.

"As with every other race we all start on zero, and everyone has to be given the respect of being a potential race winner. Only once we get in the race and someone actually loses time, then you can start to discount them slightly from being an overall contender. You've got to take everyone as a threat, as a rival."

Froome will ride the Vuelta a España for a sixth time in his career and it will be the 15th Grand Tour of his career. He is known for winning the Tour de France four times but it is the Spanish Grand Tour that proved he could be competitive over three weeks. In 2011 he came from virtually being unknown to finishing only 13 seconds behind Juan Jose Cobo, with teammate Bradley Wiggins third. Froome could have arguably won that Vuelta if he had been team leader but he was also happy to have kick-started his Grand Tour career and negotiated a good contract and protected role at Team Sky for the future.

He returned to finish fourth in 2012, second in 2014 and second again in 2016. He was forced to quit the Vuelta in 2015 but only after fracturing his ankle.

"It certainly feels as if I've got unfinished business at the Vuelta a España. I've finished second three times now, so it would just be incredible to win," he said, acknowledging that the 40km individual time trial gives him a great chance to gain time on gain rivals and equal out any time he might lose to his fresher rivals on the mountain finishes.

"The Vuelta is a race I love doing but it's relentless. The course is always a lot more mountainous than the Tour de France and the conditions are tougher. Being mid-August in Spain, it's quite common to have temperatures up in the mid 40s… it's brutal. Absolutely brutal.

"I think this year's Vuelta has certainly got a good balance between time trialling and mountain top finishes. With nine mountain top finishes it's heavily weighted for the climbers but, with an individual time trial of over 40 kilometres, there could be minutes won or lost there as well. It's a great balance between the pure climbers, and the rouleurs who can time trial. I think it's going to be a really exciting and well-balanced race."

Article Source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/froome-the-vuelta-is-a-race-i-love-but-its-relentless/

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Giro to Start in Jerusalem as Grand Tours Look Beyond Europe

After starting in Sardinia for 2017, the 101st Giro d'Italia will start in Jerusalem. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — After trips far abroad in Europe, it was inevitable that one of cycling’s three historic grand tours would break ground beyond the old continent. The 2018 Giro d’Italia will be the first with its planned departure from Jerusalem next May 5.

VeloNews learned of the deal, which should be announced in Israel’s holy city in September, last month. Organizer RCS Sport had considered going to Poland to start its 101st edition, which would have seemed logical since it issued a wildcard invitation to team CCC in recent years.

Instead of a two-hour flight from the organization’s Milan headquarters to Warsaw, expect a three-hour, 40-minute flight and a one-hour time change to Tel Aviv.

The three-week races — the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, and Vuelta a España — covered greater distances before. Usually the Giro or Vuelta do so to reach countries willing and able to pay the host fee. Tour organizer ASO has greater options with more countries bordering France and those nearby, like England, eager for the famed event.

Spain’s grand tour traveled to Assen in the northeastern Netherlands in 2009. After four stages, including one to Liège in Belgium, the caravan flew 2.5 hours back to the motherland.

The Giro reached is organization arm overseas to Belfast in 2014. The two-hour, 35-minute flight from Milan was not so bad compared to the re-entry to Bari in Italy’s far south from Dublin. Riders and top staff boarded a chartered jet, the rest made their own way. One journalist told of a 38-hour car journey involving two ferries and much soda to arrive for the continuation of the race with stage 4.

As with the 2014 edition starting in Belfast, the Giro will include an extra rest day for travel after the first three stages. VeloNews’s research suggests that the race could kick off with a stage in and around Jerusalem. With an agreement, it could pass through Jericho in Palestine. Stage 2 might cover areas south or perhaps to the north to Nazareth. Stage 3 could end in the vibrant city of Tel Aviv.

Sources said that it will restart in Sicily. After a three-week journey with a mountainous final, the cyclists will take a high-speed Freccia Rossa train to finish in the capital city of Rome on May 27. Jerusalem and Rome would offer the holiest of bookends to the 101st Giro.

The trip outside of Europe offers RCS Sport yet another test event, a possible springboard, for longer journeys. Cycling director Mauro Vegni spoke of such transfers this May when the race began on the island of Sardinia.

“The first is always the hardest,” Vegni said. “We did the big one in Ireland. We needed the structure, the cars, the extra rest day for the transfer. That was a massive undertaking.”

“Now, we are able to duplicate it and it’s not as hard, so I’m not worried about 2018. It’s more complicated [starting in Sardinia], worse than a big start abroad. Now, I can confront anything, also far away from Italy’s borders.”

RCS has talked about a start in the United States for some time. Former director Angelo Zomegnan tried to put the pieces in place, but never made it happen. Vegni too has shown interest in the U.S. and according to some reports, Japan.

Israel is strongly promoting tourism and offers RCS Sport a chance grow its Giro d’Italia brand globally. Also, the country has pockets deeper than the Italian provinces and cities interested in hosting the Grande Partenza.

Israel will need a budget of around €12 million ($14.2m). About €4 million ($4.72m) of that goes to RCS Sport for the hosting rights. It is a big budget, but past host cities say the investment is worth welcoming one of cycling’s famous events.

Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/08/news/giro-start-jerusalem_445586#Tx5Y3t3bZksKCJE2.99

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Sagan Edges Closer to 100th Pro Win at BinckBank Tour

World champion continues Tour de Pologne success in Venray

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) leads the BinckBank Tour (Tim de Waele/TDWSport.com)

A bike throw on the line in Venray gave Peter Sagan the 98th professional victory of his career and second WorldTour leader's jersey in 2017. Bora-Hansgrohe's World Champion repeated his Tour de Pologne stage 1 win from last week atthe BinckBank Tour in a photo finish ahead of Phil Bauhaus (Team Sunweb).

Neither Sagan or Bauhaus celebrated, and both riders were then forced to wait for the official confirmation of the result. Having checked the replays, Sagan emerged the winner for the third time at the race after his two wins last year.

"I was very lucky in the finish, because I was certain that I'd been passed on the line, but I took the win purely because I threw my bike at the last second," Sagan said. "I didn't even know I'd won until five minutes later. I didn't want to go too early in the sprint – I wanted someone in front of me – so I waited until a little later before I went. The line was just too far away then, so I let Rudi and Groenewegen keep the gap, and after that I started my sprint behind them so I had a better line, taking advantage of having two guys in front of me, but still Bauhaus did a great sprint.

Sagan will start the Voorburg 9km stage 2 time trial with a one second lead over Laurens De Vreese (Astana) and with all bar Piet Allegaert (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise) within ten seconds of his lead. Third overall last year, Sagan explained that he is focused on another title at the GC after his good showing in Poland last week.

"I'm going to keep going and fighting at the race. Tomorrow is a big day for everyone with a 9km time trial – it'll be tough and we want to make the most of it for Bora-Hansgrohe. It's a good day for Maciej Bodnar, and I'll try not to lose time myself," Sagan added.

Following the time trial, Sagan will have opportunities to reach the 100 win mark on the following five stages.

The win was also a special occasion for Bora-Hansgrohe's sports director Jens Zemke as he explained.

"It was my first victory with Peter, so I am really happy about this. After some bad luck, finally, luck is back on our side again," Zemke said. "The team worked perfectly together the whole day and we are here with a strong line-up. Even though it was really close today, it was a great start to this race. Now, the plan is not to lose time tomorrow, but with Bodi we have a strong time trial specialist in our squad."

Article Source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/sagan-edges-closer-to-100th-pro-win-at-binckbank-tour/

Thursday, August 3, 2017

6 Tips For Safer Cycling Descending | GCN Pro Tips


Descending is great fun but it's important to stay safe. We've got 6 great tips to help you stay safe on the roads.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Bora-Hansgrohe Manager Backs Call for Sprint Video Referee After Sagan's Tour de France DQ

Peter Sagan is still at the Tour in spirit 
Ralph Denk, the manager of the Bora-Hansgrohe team, has backed calls for some kind of video referee to rule on dangerous riding in sprints after Peter Sagan was disqualified from this year's Tour de France.

On Thursday Philippe Mariën, the chief UCI commissaire at the Tour de France, told Het Nieuwsblad that he was in favour of adding a video referee who could watch the sprint on television and make quick, well-informed decisions.

"I'm surprised to read that Philippe Mariën has asked for the introduction of a video judge for the sprints because when we tried to show the UCI commissaires high-definition video evidence during the Tour de France that Peter Sagan did nothing wrong they weren't interested in seeing it," Denk told Cyclingnews in reaction to Mariën's comments.

Sagan was disqualified after stage 4 of this year's Tour de France in Vittel. During the sprint, Mark Cavendish attempted to come through on Sagan's right, close to the barriers, and Sagan appeared to move across and stick his right elbow out. Cavendish crashed into the barriers, fracturing his right scapula, and caused a chain reaction that brought down several other riders.

The UCI race commissaires punished Sagan for irregular riding on the stage, which was won by Arnaud Démare.

However, the team insist that the UCI jury refused to hear from Sagan or view high-definition video evidence produced by the Bora-Hansgrohe team.

"It was a fundamental decision and so they should use television and video images to take any final decision, not only rely on the human eye. They do that in other sports, so they should do it on cycling, too," Denk said

Denk was left trying to explain the UCI commissaires' decision to his team and sponsors. He says that losing Sagan cost his team and sponsors 'millions' in terms of publicity.

"It's hard to calculate but Peter was in great shape and had already won a stage. He could have won a lot more. It was a big blow to the team and to our sponsors when he was disqualified. They were obviously very disappointed and they didn't understand why. We still don't understand why," Denk said.

The German team manager went as far as appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after Sagan's disqualification but ultimately failed to convince the CAS to overturn the UCI's decision. He is still angry about the ruling but now he hopes a video referee and a better disciplinary process with input from the riders involved can be introduced.

"The UCI should use every possible piece of information to make the right decision. I hope we can change the way things are done in the future, and video footage is properly used to make any disciplinary decisions," Denk said.

"Everyone in the sport would benefit and we'd avoid future problems in the Tour de France. We have a lot of sponsors who put millions into our sport and so everyone needs to know that the rules are fair and the best possible rules.

"Look at Formula 1; when there's an incident, they can call in the pilots and they listen to them before making a decision. The UCI commissaires never spoke to Peter or even to Mark Cavendish. He didn't really blame Sagan and he was directly involved. But the UCI didn't hear his opinion. That's wrong."

Meanwhile, Sagan has said he's already forgotten about the incident, and will start the Tour de Pologne on Saturday after launching a line of his own branded clothing.

Article Source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/bora-hansgrohe-manager-backs-call-for-sprint-video-referee-after-sagans-tour-de-france-dq/

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Transfer Rumors: Quintana to Sky? Aru to UAE? Sure, Why Not

Nairo Quintana's future at Movistar is unclear. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

The silly season has begun in earnest.

With many of the peloton’s top stars signing contract extensions and no major team closures or arrivals for 2018, it seemed that it would be a fairly quiet transfer market this year.

Things have quickly heated up in cycling’s annual game of musical chairs.

In a Tour de France that’s seen more rumors than attacks, the biggest thing making waves Wednesday morning in the paddock was a blockbuster report out of Colombia.

Colombian radio reported that Nairo Quintana is unhappy at Movistar and wants to break his contract with one year remaining. Citing “unnamed sources,” Astana and Sky are reportedly courting the Colombian superstar.

As far as rumors go, this is a big one. First off, Movistar has Quintana under contract through 2019, and would not be keen to see its franchise rider leave easily. Most big-name rider contracts have a big buy-out clause written into the deals, so that means it would be expensive. And finally Movistar, the Spain-based telecommunications giant, uses Quintana to promote its brand in the growing South American mobile phone market.

Is Quintana leaving Movistar? Maybe, but not until he finishes out his contract through 2018.

On Wednesday, Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué told ITV’s Daniel Friebe that Quintana “is with us 100 percent for 2018.”

When VeloNews editor-in-chief Fred Dreier asked Sky principal Dave Brailsford about the Quintana transfer rumor, he laughed it off and said, “Brilliant, along with the rest of the peloton.”

“We’re a friendly team and open to all comers. I’m sure Nairo and his agent will be in touch,” Brailsford said. “Everything is for speculation at this point.”

One Sky rider at the center of all kinds of transfer speculation is Mikel Landa. The Spanish all-rounder said this week, “wherever I go, I don’t want to be the second man anymore.”

Several teams have offered deals to Landa, reportedly Trek-Segafredo, Astana, Movistar, and UAE-Emirates. Many see Landa moving to Movistar, where he would take over as the franchise rider from Alejandro Valverde and the possibly-exiting Quintana. In an interview with El País, Unzué did his best to walk the tightrope on Landa, only saying, “any team would be interested in a rider of his qualities.”

The big player this year on the rider market is UAE-Emirates, which has pulled out the checkbook for 2018. Flush with petro-dollars, the new-look team that morphed out of the separation of Lampre-Merida last season is looking to step up. Sources say the team is expanding its budget to $30 million, which would put it alongside Team Sky with the biggest budget in the peloton.

That kind of money attracts attention. La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Fabio Aru, Daniel Martin, and Elia Viviani are all linked to the expanded UAE-Emirates program for 2018. That sounds more like a wish list at this point.

Aru is said to be deep into negotiations to stay with Astana. The Kazakh-backed team will want to keep the budding Italian star in its stable, and is said to be offering a healthy contract to keep him in-house. Jakob Fuglsang will also reportedly stay with Astana.

Viviani is said to be unhappy at Sky after being left off the Giro d’Italia squad, and is shopping for a team that will give him more support in the sprints.

Martin, meanwhile, will be fetching a higher price following a breakthrough Tour de France that is confirming his grand tour capability despite being impacted by a back injury.

The key to Martin’s future is Quick-Step Floors. The entire squad at the Belgian outfit is off-contract at the end of 2018, but team boss Patrick Lefevere is quietly telling riders he has sponsors lined up to continue the team despite not publicly revealing it at this point.

Quick-Step has a bounty of quality riders, but it might not have the money to be able to keep all of them happy. Marcel Kittel, Julian Alaphilippe, and Fernando Gaviria are all demanding more money, and one of them could fly the coop if a nice offer comes along.

Katusha has penned a deal to keep promising Russian GC star Ilnur Zakarin, but the future of classics and sprint star Alexander Kristoff remains unresolved. There are rumors of Kittel moving into a Katusha jersey, but those remain unconfirmed at this point.

Another big talking point during this Tour has been the future of Alberto Contador. Trek-Segafredo sport director Stephen De Jongh told Dutch TV NOS this week that the 2017 Tour is Contador’s last one, something Contador quickly shot down.

“Right now, nothing is settled,” Contador said of his future. “People are talking just to talk.”

Trek-Segafredo wants to exercise its option to keep Contador for a second year, with talk of sending him to the Giro and perhaps a swansong Vuelta a España in 2018. Bauke Mollema, who stepped aside this year to give Contador a clean run at the Tour, wants his top GC position back for next season. The team is said to still be shopping for another GC rider for 2018.

BMC Racing has already extended its contract with Richie Porte, so it remains to be seen what happens with Tejay van Garderen. The team does not reveal the length of its rider contracts, but van Garderen is said to be shopping for a team that will assure him grand tour options. With BMC Racing firmly backing Porte for the Tour, the American might be changing jerseys for 2018.

Orica-Scott already has its trio of emerging talent firmly under contract — Esteban Chaves and Simon and Adam Yates — so what’s not known yet is the future of veteran Simon Gerrans. He was overlooked for the Tour this year and wants to race one more season. It’s hard to imagine the Australians not working something out to make everyone happy.

Cannondale-Drapac boss Jonathan Vaughters confirmed to Business Insider he’s looking for a new title sponsor to take over by the end of 2018. Cannondale wants to reel back its commitment and stay on as supplier but not be the title sponsor. Davide Formolo, the budding Italian star, is said to be leaving. Rigoberto Urán’s asking price, already near $1 million, will surely increase following his impressive Tour ride.

Another rider sure to change jerseys next year is French sprinter Bryan Coquard. Direct Energie left him at home during the Tour, and he’s already indicated he will join a WorldTour team in 2018. The other top French riders are under contract, with Arnaud Démare and Thibaut Pinot staying at FDJ and Romain Bardet staying at Ag2r-La Mondiale. Cofidis continues with its bet on Nacer Bouhanni.

So where do these rumors come from? Many of them are directly from rider agents, who enthusiastically stoke the rumor mill with the hopes of upping their client’s asking price. Team managers will also whisper some news or even riders themselves, especially the ones off a contract for the coming season.

Any rider without a firmed-up contract by the end of the Tour de France will start getting nervous. Teams fill up their rosters early. Every season is a game of musical chairs. There are only so many seats at the WorldTour table.

Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/07/news/transfer-rumors-quintana-sky-aru-uae-sure-not_444186#k4sTBs6LybjffWFr.99

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It’s Been a Tour de France for the Underdogs

Lilian Calmejane claimed his first Tour victory in stage 8. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | www.brakethroughmedia.com
How can someone root for the heavy favorite? I just don’t understand. No matter if I’m watching cycling, football, or even some obscure Olympic sport (modern pentathlon, anyone?), I cheer for the underdog. I enjoy surprises and fresh faces on the podium. Perhaps that’s why I’ve enjoyed the 2017 Tour de France so much.

Before going any further, my one caveat: During this Tour a number of favorites crashed out. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) didn’t even make it through the first stage. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) departed due to a crash (and an activist UCI jury) after stage 4. Richie Porte (BMC) crashed out in stage 9. And just today, Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) crashed out while wearing the green jersey.

This string of unfortunate crashes is a true bummer — but hey, crashes are part of racing. The departure of these stars has created a vacuum, and the underdogs have risen to the occasion.

As an American, I’m obligated to cheer for Cannondale-Drapac, the only U.S. team to actually bring American riders to the Tour. The green team’s Tour de France win drought was long and bitter. Rigoberto Urán is the monsoon storm it needed, winning stage 9, the team’s first since 2013 when Dan Martin won stage 9. Plus, Urán is poised to finish on the overall podium, should he keep his bike upright. The Slipstream organization has only reached the Tour podium once prior, with Bradley Wiggins in 2009. Unfortunately, that honor was won years afterward when Armstrong, who was originally third that Tour, had his result stripped.

Dutch team LottoNL-Jumbo also snapped a losing streak that stretched back to 2014 with Primoz Roglic’s emphatic stage 17 win on Wednesday. The Dutch team occupies a similar station to Cannondale-Drapac in the WorldTour — it is aggressive but lacks the big budget and firepower to win everywhere. So it was a treat to see the yellow-and-black kit atop the Tour podium for the first time. And no matter the team, Roglic’s personal story is terrific. He used to be an elite ski jumper. This is his debut Tour. Plus, it was the first Tour win by a Slovenian — ever! “I really feel nice, it’s crazy that I’m the man who can also make cycling history in Slovenia,” Roglic said.

Even a French Pro Continental team had a taste of glory. Direct Energie rider Lilian Calmejane won stage 8, the team’s first since 2012 when Thomas Voeckler won stages 10 and 16 and Pierre Rolland won 11, then under the Europcar marque. Allez les Bleus!

And lest we forget team Sunweb, which has enjoyed more success than most teams at this race. I realize Sunweb is not a true underdog. Tom Dumoulin (yeah, that guy who won the Giro) took two stages last year. Yet the team has never won a classification jersey at the Tour. Now, with poor Marcel Kittel having crashed, Sunweb is poised to win two jerseys. Warren Barguil has the king of the mountains prize all but locked up, and Michael Matthews has a healthy lead in the points classification. This success comes after the team endured a tough 2016 season following a terrible training crash in January. It’s great to see Sunweb animating nearly every stage.

Of course underdogs cannot win every time. Chris Froome looks extremely strong in yellow, and his Sky teammates are imperious at the front of the peloton. No matter how the race for yellow plays out in these final days, the “anti-Froomes” have animated this race. Chapeau to Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet and the other rivals. Plus, after 17 days, this Tour has produced eight first-time stage winners, including Aru.

Froome may indeed win his fourth Tour de France as the heavy favorite. But when I look back on 2017, I’ll remember the underdogs.

Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/07/commentary/its-been-a-tour-de-france-for-the-underdogs_444209#osqte706iodtsptP.99

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Top 5 Sprinting Mistakes To Avoid | GCN's Pro Tips


To help you get to the finish line, or town sign, first. Here are 5 sprinting mistakes to avoid!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Curious George Bennett a Surprise Tour Contender

Climbing with the world's best on Sunday, George Bennett says stage 9 was the best race he's ever had. Photo: Eloise Mavian / Tornanti.cc / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

PAU, France (VN) — The Tour de France looks different through the eyes of an overall contender. Stages and climbs that were opportunities become potential threats. A chance for a moment of glory morphs into a chance to lose it all. The Tour de France looks different through George Bennett’s eyes, now.

It looks a bit scary, if he’s honest.

“It’s weird,” Bennett said, standing outside his team bus Wednesday morning. “When I first looked at the Tour, as a stage hunter, I was like ‘Ah, this Tour sucks, there are no opportunities.’ But now I look at it for the overall, and it’s like ‘oh, God, there are so many days I have to hang on.’ It’s a matter of perspective.”

The new perspective is that of 10th overall, 3:53 down on Chris Froome’s yellow jersey. Suddenly, the Tour is not what Bennett expected it to be.

Bennett’s Tour began upside down, sliding across wet pavement on his back. If you’d like a way to set expectations low, crashing on the first day works quite well. Yet a week and a half later the young Kiwi finds himself in the rarefied air of the Tour’s top GC men, benefitting from climbing form he’s never experienced before. That form only seems to be getting better. Few are more surprised by this than Bennett himself. He’s almost, but not quite, an accidental GC contender.

“Did I expect this? Not at all,” he said. “I expected to have been in a couple of breakaways by now. Probably be half an hour down. On a day like this, I probably expected to be at the Village getting a haircut, something like that. Drinking coffee and chillin’ out.”

Instead, he’s in full GC mode, riding near the front of the bunch and watching for gaps in the finale and grabbing bottles from teammates, not for them. It’s not a totally new experience: Bennett won the Tour of California this year, wearing the leader’s jersey for most of the race. But riding for GC at the Tour is something else entirely.

The new perspective and new pressure are the results of a good ride on La Planche des Belles Filles and a fantastic one on the road to Chambéry on Sunday. The latter, a massive route with three hors-categorie climbs, has Bennett wondering just how far he can go.

“We’ll see how important Sunday is in my career, but I feel like it was the best ride I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’ve never dropped some of the guys I dropped before or lasted that long with those guys. I don’t know. Maybe it was just one good day, or hopefully, it’s the new level.”

Bennett finished seventh on the day, crossing the line with Nairo Quintana, Simon Yates, Dan Martin, and Mikel Landa. He rode six watts per kilogram for over half an hour on Mont du Chat, according to his coach. Those are the sort of figures Bennett expects to see when he’s fresh. They are not the figures he expects after two hors-categorie climbs and nine days of racing. They’re the sort of numbers that land you in the top 10 of the Tour.

Still, Bennett tries not to read too much into them. He’s not a numbers guy. He doesn’t watch his power meter, doesn’t let it slow him down or force him to speed up. “At this stage in a race, after a couple stages like that, numbers are almost irrelevant,” he said. “As long as you’re healthy, you haven’t crashed, and you’re motivated … You just have to follow the guys. You can’t look down and be like, ‘oh no, this is my lactate threshold’ or some shit. You just go.”

The next two days, stages 12 and 13, are his next test. He doesn’t know how he’ll fare, and maybe that’s for the best.

“I’m as curious as you guys,” he said. “I’m excited to find out. Let’s see.”

Listen to George Bennett’s audio diary in the VeloNews podcast:

https://soundcloud.com/user-562497687/vn-podcast-ep-39-bouhannis-punch-arus-sneak-attack-the-tour-rolls-on

Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/07/tour-de-france/curious-george-bennett-a-surprise-tour-contender_443504#wIHtJSpTtuOq6Rdb.99

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rest Day Wrap Up - 5 Talking Points - Tour de France 2017


Dan & Matt provide 5 talking points from the first week of the 2017 Tour de France

Topics include
1. Nobody is too big to be disqualified, even World Champion Peter Sagan.
2. Pro racing is brutal. We've seen spills & thrills. But this year there seems to have been more than normal, doesn't there?
3. Marcel Kittel can do no wrong, or can he?
4. A new Thomas Voeckler?
5. The unwritten rules of cycling.... - Yep, this again!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Kittel Bristles at Questions in First Tour Sprint without Sagan


TROYES, France — Marcel Kittel’s high-wattage smile turned ice cold as soon as the TV reporter asked him the question everyone wanted to ask: did Peter Sagan’s absence somehow undervalue of your victory?

Thursday’s long, hot 216km stage 6 was the first bunch kick without Sagan and Mark Cavendish. Kittel was in no mood to talk about what everyone is still talking about in the Tour de France.

“No,” he said before pausing. “No, there is no difference. There are now two sprinters less.”

The big German star had just dashed to his 11th career victory — one short of compatriot Erik Zabel’s record German haul of 12 stage wins — yet Sagan’s controversial expulsion Tuesday, coupled with Cavendish’s subsequent exit with a fractured shoulder blade, was still the buzz around the race paddock.

Dubbed “SaganGate” among the Tour’s press corps (what else?!) the departure of two of the peloton’s biggest stars following the horrific finish-line crash in stage 4 left a gaping void in the Tour de France. It overshadowed Wednesday’s first showdown between the yellow jersey favorites, and it continued to churn into Thursday’s flat stage.

“It’s a shame for everybody,” Scott Thwaites, one of Cavendish’s teammates, told CyclingTips. “No one is really a winner, and you’ve got two of the best guys fighting for sprint victories going home.”

Forty-eight hours after the controversial DSQ, no one was happy. Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team had his bike lined up outside the team bus Thursday morning in Vittel, a sign of protest. An unconventional petition to overturn Sagan’s expulsion to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a sort of Supreme Court for sporting disputes, was shot down Thursday afternoon in Europe. The verdict stood: Sagan was out, and Cavendish was home.

‘A no-win situation’

This year’s Tour — with only three summit finales and at least eight flat stages — was supposed to be a year for the sprinters. And Thursday, when the Tour returned to the sprints following Wednesday’s mountaintop punch in the Vosges, the two biggest sprinters weren’t even at the start line.

Let’s go back to what happened: At the sharp end of a frenetic sprint Tuesday in stage 4, budding star Arnaud Démare swept right across the road en route to France’s first Tour bunch sprint win since 2006. Behind him, Sagan and Cavendish fought for his wheel. So far, so good. But in a flash, Cavendish tried to squeeze into a gap between Sagan and the barriers. Then Sagan’s elbow shot out, and then Cavendish was on the ground. Or so it seemed. At first, it appeared that Sagan had elbowed Cavendish violently into the fences in an unsportsmanlike gesture atypical of the affable and popular Slovakian star. The British former world champion crashed horribly into the barriers, and Sagan dashed to second behind Démare.

What happened next kicked off the biggest furor at the Tour in years. Sagan was ejected, and Cavendish was out with injuries. The Tour de France was making headlines again for all the wrong reasons.

“That was a tough one, wasn’t it?” said Quick-Step sport director Brian Holm. “If he wouldn’t have been [expelled], people would have complained. Now they complain when he’s out. For the jury, it was a no-win situation. I know if I had been the sports director of Bora, I would have been mad, blowing smoke out of my ears from anger.”

So what happened? The decision by the UCI race jury seemed extreme, but so was the crash. Riders are occasionally kicked out of the Tour for breaking the rules, for throwing water bottles in a sprint or catching a lift up the side of a mountain, so that’s nothing new. But kicking out cycling’s biggest star?

What got everyone so fired up was that Sagan was ejected for an offense that typically sees an offending rider relegated to last place. Sprints are always a rough-and-tumble dogfight as riders jostle for a clean shot to the line, so relegations are par for the course.

In fact, the Tour’s race jury initially relegated Sagan after Tuesday’s stage. Sagan was bumped from second place to last in the bunch, a ruling that might have cost Sagan a shot at winning a sixth-straight points jersey.

‘A wake-up call’

Coming into this year’s Tour, however, race officials warned teams that the race jury would take a heavy hand in admonishing what was considered dangerous sprinting. So the dramatic images of Sagan’s elbow and Cavendish’s crash urged something more decisive. When chief UCI commissaire Philippe Mariën sternly marched into the pressroom Tuesday evening, everyone knew something was cooking. Citing a rule that allowed the jury to kick out riders for dangerous sprinting, Sagan was out.

If race officials wanted to send a message, it seems to have gotten across.

“They want to show that they are willing to take riders out of the race, no matter who you are,” said Sunweb’s Michael Matthews. “If you have 1,000 wins, or you have one win, they’re not favoring anyone. They’re willing to take out guys if they think it is necessary.”

An uproar kicked off on social media. Incriminations flew on all sides. One Dimension Data sport director accused Sagan on Twitter of “violence,” while some piled on Cavendish, even making veiled threats to his family for forcing the popular Sagan out of the race.

Fans, racers and pundits scrutinized finish-line race video in real time as if it were a crime investigation. By the time the jury revealed its decision to kick out Sagan a few hours later, many had already come to the conclusion that Sagan’s elbow never even touched Cavendish. Instead, it appeared that Cavendish had collided with Sagan, who then shot out his elbow in a defensive move to try to retain his balance at 60kph. Some even laid the blame on Cavendish for trying to squeeze into a small gap between Sagan and the barriers. Others pointed a finger at Démare, who drove the action across the road and toward the barriers. The Twitterati verdict was unanimous: Sagan shouldn’t be kicked out.

“It’s left its mark on the race,” Kittel said. “It’s also a wake-up call for everyone that they jury can take a harsh and tough decision to make sure that the safety is there for everyone else.”

Coming into the Tour, the stakes couldn’t have been higher for both riders. Cavendish was just four stage victories short of Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34. Sagan was all but assured of tying Erik Zabel’s mark of six green points jerseys. Those records are safe for another year at least.

And with a sport short on superstars, losing two of its marquee names in one shot doesn’t bode well for the next two weeks. With Sky’s Chris Froome looking firmly in control in yellow, it could be a long way to Paris.

On Wednesday, the Tour rolled on without them, and by Thursday, Cavendish and Sagan were both back home. Cooler heads seemed to have prevailed, and the cycling bromance between the current and world champions was rekindled thanks to messages to one another on social media.

Unfortunately for fans, the Peter Sagan Show was cancelled after just a few episodes in 2017. Cavendish won’t be chasing Merckx’s record, and Sagan won’t be popping wheelies or dancing the hula after winning stages.

The Tour comes out the loser, and it’s poor Marcel Kittel who has to face those awkward questions.

Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/07/tour-de-france/kittel-bristles-at-questions-in-first-tour-sprint-without-sagan_443001#a4zqzAJrRIzSOO0D.99

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July!


I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him. 
- Abraham Lincoln

Have a Safe and Happy 4th of July!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Who Will Take the Tour’s First Yellow Jersey?

Tony Martin is the top favorite to win the Tour de France's first yellow jersey in Dusseldorf. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media | www.brakethroughmedia.com

DUSSELDORF, Germany (VN) — In a Tour de France where time trials are almost an afterthought, the 2017 edition opens with a chance for the “chrono men” to snag the yellow jersey.

The flat, straight, 14km course through the streets of Düsseldorf is perfect for pure horsepower. The lone wrinkle: Forecasters are calling for rain.

The sentimental favorite is four-time world time trial champion and German star Tony Martin (Katusha). The 32-year-old has won five Tour stages, three of those against the clock, but he’s never won an opening-day prologue or time trial. Saturday will be his best, and perhaps last chance.

“It’s a very fast course and the differences will be very small,” Martin said. “It’s a course that suits me very well. My biggest worry is to do something wrong.”

In 2015, on a similar course in Utrecht, Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) relegated Martin to second. The Aussie claimed the yellow jersey by five seconds. Dennis isn’t racing in Düsseldorf. Prologue specialist Fabian Cancellara, a winner of five opening-day prologues and time trials, has retired. So Martin is the five-star favorite to don yellow again following his 2015 crash in stage 6, which forced him to abandon.

“The pressure will be immense, racing at home,” said Martin. He grew up in Cottbus, in the former East Germany. “I am very much looking forward to the Tour. The ambiance should be incredible. There will be very large crowds, and that makes you want to go faster.”

Other TT powerhouses will be going all-in for their chance at yellow. Favorites include former world TT champion Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), as well as the LottoNL-Jumbo duo of Primoz Roglic and Jos Van Emden. Stefan Küng (BMC Racing), British TT champ Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), and French TT champion Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale) could also be challengers.

Rain will be a factor. Forecasters are calling for overnight showers, with the heaviest expected in the morning and slowly tapering into the afternoon. The first riders are off at 3:15 p.m. local time. Curiously, many teams have slotted their GC men earlier in the start list, perhaps in a bid to avoid showers. Some forecasts say the rain should be diminishing as the afternoon unfolds. The later starters could have better conditions.

Martin heads down the ramp at 6:20 p.m. local time, with the field starting at one-minute intervals. Defending champion Chris Froome (Sky) is last at 6:32 p.m.

Among the GC contenders, BMC’s Richie Porte looks strongest against the clock. He could be in the running to upset the TT specialists at their own game. At the Critérium du Dauphiné on a rolling, 23.5km course, Porte took 12 seconds out of Martin to win.

At 14km, the distance will eliminate many of the sprinters who can challenge in a shorter prologue course. Riders like Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb), however, are surely to give it a strong push, with hopes of keeping Martin on a short leash. They would start nipping away at the jersey via time bonuses in the stages to follow. With an uphill finale already on tap in stage 5 at La Planche des Belles Filles, whoever wins the jersey Saturday likely won’t be carrying out of the Vosges.

Recent prologue/TT winners

2015: 13.8km, Utrecht 1. Rohan Dennis, 2. Tony Martin +0:05
2012: 6.4km, Liege 1. Fabian Cancellara, 2. Bradley Wiggins +0:07
2010: 8.9km, Rotterdam 1. Cancellara, 2. Martin +0:10
2009: 15km, Monaco 1. Cancellara, 2. Alberto Contador +0:18
2007: 8km, London 1. Cancellara, 2. Andreas Klöden +0:13

Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/06/tour-de-france/who-will-take-the-tours-first-yellow-jersey_442063#xhbfZ20yvhTSrHcV.99

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Five Big Stories to Watch During the Tour

Can Chris Froome claim his fourth Tour de France yellow jersey? Photo: BrakeThrough Media
There’s never a shortage of drama on the Tour de France. Something “big” happens every day. Whether it’s a crash, a race-altering attack, or post-stage polemics, the Tour is always packed with more storylines than any race on the calendar.

That’s no surprise. The stakes are incredibly elevated for riders and teams. Everyone brings their A-game to France. The Tour is the one race of the season when every rider is at their absolute peak fitness. That compounding pressure makes the Tour de France such compelling viewing. Coming into the 104th edition of the Tour, there are enough plot lines to fill a novel. Here are five big stories we’ll be watching this month:

1. Froome’s quest

There’s no bigger story this year than Chris Froome’s run for a fourth overall Tour crown. The GC battle is always the central focus of any Tour. This year’s fight for the yellow jersey should be compelling on several levels.

Team Sky has dominated the Tour de France like no other squad in a generation. The UK team has won four of the past five yellow jerseys on the trot, and Froome enters this year’s Tour hoping to claim his fourth within five years. No rider’s won four Tours without winning a record-tying fifth. Can he do it?

Despite telltale signs at last month’s Critérium du Dauphiné that Froome might be off his best form, the Kenya-born star will line up as the man to beat. What’s in Froome’s favor? A few key points: Alberto Contador is the only other former Tour winner in the race. Froome’s experience gives him an incalculable advantage over his rivals. Second, “Fortress Froome” looks as strong as ever. For rivals to even get close enough to take a shot at Froome, they have to battle through a wall that includes Sergio Henao, Michal Kwiatkowski, Mikel Landa, and Geraint Thomas. And finally, Sky and Froome have consistently demonstrated they are able to tweak their approach to fit the demands of each year’s Tour route. Last year, Froome’s ambush attacks on the flats and on the descents knocked his rivals off-balance. They’ll surely have a few surprises up their sleeves again this year.

What could derail Froome? A few things. Like in 2014, perhaps a crash, or an illness will see him exit early. Some suggest that a growing media storm surrounding Team Sky and links to triamcinolone could knock Froome off-balance, but that’s unlikely. Froome has deftly handled the pressure and innuendo that comes with the yellow jersey. Since he’s not been caught up in the Fancy Bears leaks controversy, it’s unlikely to faze him much. Winless so far in 2017, Froome doesn’t bring that same aura of invincibility into the Tour. Froome will also face his deepest field of rivals yet. So to pull off another Tour win, Froome will have to be at his most nimble and aggressive.

Few can take on Froome one-on-one, but with an unconventional Tour course on tap, rivals must be ready to lay a trap to try to surprise Froome (similar to last year’s ambush that cost him the Vuelta a España). To beat Froome, a rival might have to be willing to lose to win. That’s a big ask, but this year’s GC battle has the potential to be the most fascinating in the past few editions.

2. The Sagan show

Peter Sagan’s stage 5 victory was his 14 stage win at the Tour de Suisse. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Whether he’s popping wheelies, stomping the competition, or producing Sagan-rich moments (when is the next video, Peter?), the Saganator is the best thing to happen to cycling in a generation.

This year’s Tour provides a wide-open canvas for Sagan to continue his emergence as cycling’s transcendent star. The two-time world champion packs the on-the-road chops and the post-race charisma to draw in mainstream sport fans. With plenty of opportunities for sprints, at least eight if not more, this year should be even better for Sagan’s growing legions of fans.

Last year, Sagan won three stages, and finished in the top-six in seven others. That’s Merckxian by any measure. And with Sagan poised to tie Erik Zabel’s record of six green jerseys, the Slovakian superstar (and soon-to-be father) will be a delight to watch before, during and after each day in the Tour.

Get the popcorn ready, kids, the Sagan Show is about to begin.

3. Nairo’s double

Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Another big talking point will be the most audacious bet in 2017. Nairo Quintana came within 31 seconds of pulling off the first half of the Giro-Tour double. There’s sure to be a lot of chatter about whether the Colombian’s gamble on cycling’s double was boom or bust. No one’s managed to pull off one of cycling’s most elusive achievements since Marco Pantani in 1998. Alberto Contador last tried it in 2015. He ran out of gas after going deep to win the pink jersey, racing to fifth in the Tour.

There will be huge pressure on Quintana to follow through in July. Just imagine if Froome crashes out — like he did in 2014, the same year Movistar sent Quintana to the Giro — and Quintana doesn’t have the legs to take advantage of the opening. Or the recriminations if Froome falters, but a “fresh” rider who didn’t race the Giro, like Richie Porte or Romain Bardet blasts into the yellow jersey instead.

However, another strong showing by Quintana would go a long way toward proving that a modern-era Giro-Tour double could be a realistic goal. There are already rumors flying around that Froome will attempt the Giro-Tour double, or even try to race all three grand tours in the same season. Quintana and Movistar deserve plaudits for daring. The idea that second place in the Giro is viewed as a disappointment reveals much about Quintana’s stature in the peloton.

4. Merckx’s record

Mark Cavendish collected his fourth stage win of the 2016 Tour de France on Saturday. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com
Stricken by Epstein-Barr all season, Mark Cavendish confirmed Monday he would race. Why is the proud Cavendish starting when he knows he’s far from his best? The allure of Eddy Merckx’s all-time stage-win record.

Though he regularly talks down the Merckx record, Cavendish wants it bad. Already with 30 stage wins on his palmares, cycling’s most prolific sprinter will roll into the Tour far from ideal conditions. With only four days of racing since mid-March, Cavendish is struggling to overcome glandular fever that derailed much of his 2017 season. Cavendish confirmed his professionalism and love for the Tour by committing to race. He’s proven time and again he can win even when he’s not at his best. This year could be even more challenging for Cavendish to claw closer to Merckx’s mark.

This year’s sprint field looks as deep as at any time since Cavendish has emerged as the peloton’s preeminent sprinter in 2009. Along with familiar foes, such as André Greipel, Sagan, Alexander Kristoff, and Marcel Kittel, there’s a band of young, ambitious sprinters coming up. Those include Arnaud Démare, Nacer Bouhanni, and Michael Matthews.

At 32, is time running out for Cavendish’s quest for the record? Fernando Gaviria, who won four stages in his grand tour debut at the Giro d’Italia last month, set to race the Tour next year, will only make things more complicated in the future. If Cavendish could squeeze a stage win or two out of this year’s Tour, the Merckx mark could be within his grasp.

5. Safety worries

Contested on the open road, pro cycling is subject to increasing worries about the threat of terrorism. Photo: Matthew Beaudin

Security questions both on and off the bike will be a hot talking point throughout this Tour. The UCI and ASO are under pressure to develop safer race conditions. No one wants to see another debacle like last year’s Mont Ventoux amateur hour.

It’s the safety concerns away from the race that have many more worried in France this summer. No one likes to speak about the vulnerability of an event as sprawling and wide open as bike race. Behind the scenes, French authorities are taking steps to try to make the area around a bike race as safe as possible. Expect to see more police and more controls along the route and at the start and finish areas.

Several high-profile attacks over the past months in France and across Europe have heightened worries coming into the Tour. Let’s hope this is one story that no one will be talking about.

Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/06/tour-de-france/five-big-stories-to-watch-during-the-tour_441653#AOOFAOfmdpU3e35i.99