Thursday, March 30, 2017

Flanders Classics Hegemony Threatens De Panne Tradition

Driedaagse de Panne-Koksijde may have to change its date for 2018. Photo: Tim De Waele |
GENT, Belgium (VN) — Driedaagse De Panne celebrated Philippe Gilbert’s overall victory along the unseasonably warm Belgian coast Thursday, but this may also be the end of its 41-year chapter as the warm-up race for Tour of Flanders.

Gilbert, along with past greats like Michele Bartoli, Johan Museeuw, and George Hincapie, used Three Days of De Panne as final Flanders prep. That tradition could stop in 2018.

According to several in the cycling-mad area, organizer Flanders Classics is pushing out the three-day race to have the Wednesday spot free for its one-day race Dwars door Vlaanderen. In 2018, it could have a run of events: Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday, Dwars door Vlaanderen on Wednesday and its crown jewel, the Tour of Flanders, on Sunday.

Of course, Flanders Classics also has the Scheldeprijs the Wednesday after Flanders and Brabantse Pijl the next Wednesday following Paris-Roubaix, run by Tour de France organizer ASO.

Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) won this year’s Dwars door Vlaanderen, which ran March 22, the Wednesday two days before E3 Harelbeke.

The Flanders Classics power-play leaves little space for the Three Days of De Panne, organized by KVC Panne Sportief and for 41 years, sitting in the precious pre-Flanders spot.

“It’s pure tradition,” director Bruno Dequeecker told Belgian daily Het Nieuwsblad last month. “I don’t see how another organizer from the same country, the same region and with the same type of race can suddenly claim our date.”

De Panne could perhaps swap with Dwars door Vlaanderen, moving to the Tuesday through Thursday prior to Friday’s E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. It would need to come to an agreement with the E3 Harelbeke, which KWC Hand in Hand organizes.

The smaller De Panne and E3 Harelbeke organizers are seemingly at Flanders Classics’s mercy. The Belgian organizer is one of cycling’s big three, alongside ASO and RCS Sport.

The E3 Harelbeke at least has leverage thanks to its WorldTour status. De Panne sits just a level below as a 2.HC race and suffers somewhat as a result. Teams are either too busy with other races or their riders too tired between WorldTour events to bother with De Panne. It is not only the classics, but teams must prepare for major races like País Vasco starting the Monday after Flanders.

The 2017 De Panne start list looked like a colander with its many holes. Orica-Scott began with only six men. Its star Jens Keukeleire, second in Gent-Wevelgem behind Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), pulled out after the first day to prepare for the Tour of Flanders. Other big teams like Sky, BMC, and Dimension Data did not bother to attend.

Teams must conserve their energy for the top races, specifically the ones with valuable WorldTour points. This year, the UCI added 10 new WorldTour events to its calendar. Reportedly, part of the reason Flanders Classics applied for, and received, WorldTour status for Dwars door Vlaanderen was so that it could make its push for the pre-Tour of Flanders Wednesday date.

BMC Racing said that its star Van Avermaet is cherry-picking top WorldTour events for points and resting wisely in the week between.

“He’s not wasting energy [racing and winning Gent-Wevelgem] because we still have a week to rest before Flanders,” sport director Fabio Baldato told VeloNews.

“With the new UCI rules, races like Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem are very important just like Flanders and Paris Roubaix. And that’s with all respect to Flanders and Roubaix, because they are something special.”

Cycling’s governing body will announce the 2018 calendar this fall, but the unseasonably warm breeze seems to have blown in a change across the Flemish fields. Flanders Classics, according to some insiders, already made the deal with the Belgian cycling federation.

The Three Days of De Panne must find a new date or fight Goliath. It may go with the latter as Dequeecker said that he would take the rival organizer to court if necessary to protect his race’s pre-Flanders date.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Top 10 Cycling Photos - By Graham Watson

Legendary cycling photographer Graham Watson has recently hung up his camera after 38 years capturing our beautiful sport. Here's Graham's Top 10

Ex-Professional Cyclist Dan Lloyd talks you through the imagery featuring professional cyclists such as; Jesper Skibby, Sean Kelly, Mark Cavendish, Tom Boonen, Claude Criquielion, Fabian Cancellara, Miguel Indurain, Sean Yates, Nacer Bouhanni, Michael Matthews, Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Preview: Sprint or Attack? No Guarantees at Gent-Wevelgem

The peloton stayed mostly together during the early kilometers, taking shelter from the wind as much as they could in Gent-Wevelgem 2016. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media |
The northern classics continue Sunday at the 80th Gent-Wevelgem. With the fearsome Kemmelberg as its centerpiece, the race is always a tug-of-war between attackers and sprinters.

Fair weather is forecasted, and organizers have made the descent off the Kemmelberg much safer than it was a few years ago, but it’s the wind that is usually the main protagonist of Gent-Wevelgem.

Bunch sprint or attackers? That is the question for Gent-Wevelgem.

Despite its reputation as a sprinter’s course, the bunch has come in for a mass gallop only four times over the past decade. John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) won a sprint in 2014 and Tom Boonen (Quick-Step) won back-to-back sprints in 2011-2012. Oscar Freire won a sprint in 2007, but the other editions over the past 10 years have been won by attacking riders.

The bunch is usually thinned-down to about 60-70 riders, pummeled by crosswinds (remember Luca Paolini’s win in 2015?) in western Flanders and the cumulative effects of the mid-race climbs. The Kemmelberg, tackled two times in the 2017 edition, is usually the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Attacking riders pull clear, and it’s a drag race to the line.

New for 2017 are the so-called “plugstreets,” a kind of eco-friendly, grass farm road added to the route. The course also pays homage to World War I battlefields, and officially changed its name to Gent-Wevelgem — In Flanders Fields.

Who’s got the speed?

Gent-Wevelgem is drawing some top sprinters who parachute in, often straight from Milano-Sanremo to Belgium. Some will only race here and at Scheldeprijs, skipping the harsher, more challenging races at Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix.

A few stand out: Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step), sixth in his debut last year, was second in the Sanremo bunch sprint to Arnaud Démare (FDJ), who led the bunch in behind Peter Sagan and three others. Both Démare and Gaviria will be working for a mass gallop, and shoot to the top of the favorites.

Other speedsters include Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), Caleb Ewan (Orica-Scott), Dylan Groenwegen (LottoNL-Jumbo), Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Degenkolb and Eduard Theuns (Trek-Segafredo), and Danny Van Poppel (Sky). Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), who’s never won Gent-Wevelgem, was not on preliminary start lists.

So far, it’s been hard to measure Degenkolb’s form, and the German typically prefers harder, more selective races.

And so far through the first few classics, Quick-Step has proven a powerhouse. Once again, some of the bigger wins have escaped them, but victory at Dwars door Vlaanderen and second with Philippe Gilbert at E3 Harelbeke mean that the Belgian outfit will be present in the breaks and with Gaviria and Boonen for the sprint.

Who can stay away?

All eyes will now be on Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), who’s been on a tear this spring, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and E3 Harelbeke, with second at Strade Bianche. The Olympic champion is clearly on winning form, and has the legs to go the distance if the race tilts toward an escape.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) will be looking to make up for just missing victory at Milano-Sanremo. And after crashing in Harelbeke, the defending champion will be all-in for Gent-Wevelgem. Having Sam Bennett as a man for the sprint might help Sagan’s chances to save his legs if he’s part of a leading breakaway, meaning he won’t be the only one who will have to pull.

Sep Vanmarcke, second last year, will be leading a motivated Cannondale-Drapac crew, while defending Roubaix champion Mat Hayman (Orica-Scott) might want to stretch his legs before next week’s big races.

A few big names look to be skipping Gent-Wevelgem, including Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) and Gilbert, perhaps looking to save their matches for next week’s Ronde. Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard (Sky), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin) will try their luck in late-race moves.

And then there’s Boonen. Quietly eighth at Harelbeke, he’s shown glimpses of winning strength as he approaches his final shots at Flanders and Roubaix. He shares the record of three wins (with four others), and has indicated he’ll be riding for Gaviria if it comes down to a sprint.

But at 249km, that means Gent-Wevelgem is near “monument” distance, and it’s in that extra hour of racing that Boonen thrives in. Perhaps Tommeke has a surprise up his sleeve.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

2017 U.S. Pro Nationals Routes Revealed

USA Cycling announced the time trial and road race routes for 2017 U.S. Pro road national championships on Wednesday. The championships will be held June 24-25 in Knoxville, Tennessee, a first-time host venue for the event.

The weekend’s first event will be the individual time trial, held Saturday, June 24. The professional women will cover 23.17 kilometers, three laps of a 7.72-kilometer circuit, and the men will complete four laps for 30.9km. BMC’s Taylor Phinney won the men’s national time trial championships in 2016, alongside Carmen Small (Veloconcept), who was the women’s champion.

2017 U.S. national time trial championships route

After the time trial, America’s top pros will vie for the stars-and-stripes jersey in the road race championships, Sunday, June 25. In 2016, Greg Daniel (Axeon Hagens Berman) stunned a number of favorites from the WorldTour to win the title, while Megan Guarnier (Boels Dolmans) won a repeat championship.

“Wearing the stars and stripes of the U.S. National Road Champion is a huge source of pride. It’s a tangible reminder of the hard work that I’ve put in day-after-day, year-after-year,” said Guarnier. “The success I’ve had while in the stars and stripes — winning Strade Bianche, the Giro Rosa, the Amgen Tour of California, the inaugural Women’s WorldTour — makes this jersey extra special.”

Both men’s and women’s races will take place on a rolling 12.71km circuit. The women will complete eight laps for a 101.4km race, and the men will complete 14 laps for a total of 175.4km.

2017 U.S. national road championships route

“Knoxville is an ideal location for the Pro Road and Time Trial National Championships. Being so close to the Great Smokey Mountains, both courses are incredibly challenging and offer cycling fans so many great viewing opportunities. We look forward to seeing some great competition for the Stars-and-Stripes jerseys this June,” said USA Cycling VP of national events Micah Rice.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Quintana Turns Focus to Giro d'Italia after Tirreno-Adriatico Win

'I'm hopeful that the best times are still to come' 

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) during the Tirreno time trial (Tim de Waele/

Nairo Quintana
 (Movistar) lifted the Tirreno-Adriatico winner's trident trophy above his head on the final podium in San Benedetto del Tronto, with a proud smile briefly revealing his inner happiness at winning the Italian race for a second time.

While some of his Giro d'Italia rivals stumbled and struggled during the seven days of intense racing, some claiming that they were still not at their best form in early March, Quintana and his Movistar team were rock solid and showed it in the opening team time trial, on the mountain finish on Terminillo and on the testing stage in the Le Marche hills.
Quintana is like a sphinx and never revealed any visible chinks in his armour. He always listens quietly when facing questions and judges his answers as carefully as his racing.
"I'm really happy with this win. Tirreno-Adriatico is a really beautiful race, one that I really like, and conquering it again makes me proud, for all the effort I put in here and especially my Movistar team, which supported me all the way to this time trial," Quintana said.
"I've finished this race in better shape than when I started it. I'm still building upwards, and I'm very pleased because I'm in good shape and have done some good work for the future races. More than winning, my goal is to progress well towards the main objectives of the season."
Quintana started the final 10km time trial with a 50 second lead on Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and 1:06 on Rohan Dennis (BMC) but had to ride close to his limit to ensure victory. He didn't panic or make any mistakes, and eventually finished 45th, in a time of 11:59, some 41 seconds slower than stage winner Dennis. It meant he beat the Australian by 25 seconds in the final general classification, with Pinot slipping to third at 36 seconds.
"I knew I had to go strong today. I couldn't let the specialists put too much of a gap over me," he explained.
"Yet, I was calm and confident that I could secure the victory with the advantage I held. With all rivals we had to face and such a tough course, it's a really prestigious victory to take."

To Colombia to prepare for the Giro d'Italia

Quintana has been cautious about revealing his plans between now and the Giro d'Italia as he prepares to target the ambitious goal of the Giro and Tour de France in the same season. However, he is set to return to Colombia very soon and train at altitude at home before returning to Europe to ride the Vuelta a Asturias (April 29-May 1) in Spain as a last test of his form before heading to Sardinia for the start of the Corsa Rosa on May 5.
He is not avoiding his rivals but just doing the preparation and training that best suits him and his Giro-Tour goal.
"I've got some important weeks coming up, with some important training at home, while also enjoying time with my family and friends as I get to my best condition," he explained.
"This race was all part of the process. Taking part in races like Tirreno-Adriatico is always important, and not only because the win that's at stake. In the end, it's also a Giro d'Italia-organised event, and that makes sure you'll find finishes very much similar to those you'll have to tackle in the Giro. For us, getting to know the roads, reinforce our bond as a team, get used to the pace we'll find in May - it's all about getting focused on that first Grand Tour goal of our season."
Quintana has clearly landed at least a psychological blow to his rivals, but he is aware that they will be stronger come May and perhaps be able to avoid the mistakes of Tirreno-Adriatico. He seems especially wary of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), who was the last rider to be dropped by Quintana on the climb to Terminillo.
"Team Sky were very unlucky in the team time trial and they'd have been a lot closer," Quintana conceded.
"In the Giro d'Italia we'll have to keep a very close eye on Thomas and not just him, also the rest of his teammates, who will be preparing for this big race very seriously. I think there's going to be a very high level of participation in the Giro d'Italia and we'll have to be very careful," he said.
"Nibali wasn't great here, for example, but he is always at a high level in the Giro. It's a home race for him, and so is Fabio Aru (Astana). They're always strong there, that's an objective for them they always live up to expectations. Other rivals? Geraint will very strong, and there are sure to be others. But the Giro is very different, and some riders who weren't so good here, will be building.
"Of course I also don't feel like all my victories in the early season mean I've reached the top of my career's physical condition, either. I've been developing gradually. Obviously there must be a limit to a rider's progression, but I'm hopeful that the best times are still to come."
Quintana turned 27 in early February and is arguably in the best years of his career. It is perhaps why he has set the goal of the Giro and Tour in the same season. He insisted he is not in a race with Esteban Chaves or any other Colombian riders to make history and become the first ever Colombian winner of the Tour de France.
"My objective is to win the Tour de France one day. I'm not sure if it'll be at the first, second or third try, but my aim is to win it, and other races. I'm a rider who wins from the start of the year more or less to the end of it, and my idea is to stay on this level."

Article Source:

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Why Do Professional Cyclists Slam Their Stems?

Matt Stephens asks pro bike riders at the Abu Dhabi Tour why they ride in extreme "Slammed" positions.

In the past few years we've witnessed handlebar stems getting "slammed" to the headset bearing cover. This gives an extreme saddle - handlebar drop, something that looks like it may not be comfortable. But with a change in UCI regulations, see video, it's helped the increasing trend of "slamming"

Ex-Professional Cyclist Matt Stephens talks to pro riders and finds out if the gains are vanity or performance driven?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Rally and Jelly Belly Expected to be Named to Tour of California Teams List

Race will announce official line up for first WorldTour edition on Thursday

The Tour of California takes off from Pismo Beach in 2015 (Getty Images Sport)

Cyclingnews understands that Rally Cycling and Jelly Belly-Maxxis will be among the teams named to the starting list for the 2017 Tour of California, the race's first year on the UCI's WorldTour calendar.

Multiple sources, who asked for anonymity because they are not authorised to speak on the issue, told Cyclingnews the two long-time US Continental teams have been selected for the 16-team field, although Michael Roth, a spokesman for race owner AEG, declined to comment before the official announcement on Thursday.

Rally Cycling director Jonas Carney also declined to comment on whether his team has been selected, while Jelly Belly-Maxxis director Danny Van Haute told Cyclingnews on Tuesday that he did not yet know his team's fate. Axeon Hagens Berman director Axel Merckx and Holowesko-Citadel director Thomas Craven each confirmed to Cyclingnews that AEG had informed them they would not be invited to the race this year.

The question of participation in the Tour of California among Continental teams has been an issue since last fall, when the UCI announced the race would jump from 2.HC status to the WorldTour, a category normally reserved for WorldTour and Pro Continental teams.

Exceptions to the rules requiring all 18 WorldTour teams to participate were altered for the 10 new WorldTour races that were added this year, however, with new events allowed fields with as few as 10 WorldTour squads, opening up the possibility that Continental teams could get in and prompting speculation about which teams would be included.

Participation in the country's biggest race has become lifeblood for many of the upper-echelon US Continental teams, which rely on the exposure the race provides to draw and keep sponsors. Among the 10 Continental teams currently registered in the US, Rally Cycling, Jelly Belly-Maxxis, Axeon Hagens Berman and Holowesko-Citadel are the only ones with a history of participation in the California race.

Pro Continental and WorldTour teams

Among the Pro Continental ranks, US-registered teams UnitedHealthcare and Novo Nordisk are likely participants and have history with the race.

Expect to see US WorldTour teams BMC Racing, Cannondale-Drapac and Trek-Segafredo on the start list, as well the German Bora-Hansgrohe team of Tour of California stage-win-record-holder Peter Sagan, nicknamed the 'King of California'.

Other WorldTour teams with the Tour of California posted in the calendar section of their official websites include Team Sky, AG2R La Mondiale, Astana, Quick-Step Floors, Katusha-Alpecin and UAE Team Emirates.

Teams that have calendars through May that don't mention the Tour of California include Bahrain-Merida, Lotto Soudal and Movistar. Teams without calendars include Dimension Data, FDJ, Orica-Scott, LottoNL-Jumbo and Team Sunweb. Of those final five, LottoNL-Jumbo and team Sunweb have the most history with the race, with LottoNL-Jumbo's Robert Gesink having won the overall in 2012.

Article Source: Cycling News

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

What Can Giro d’Italia Fans Learn from Tirreno-Adriatico?

In 2013, Vincenzo Nibali won Tirreno-Adriatico and then went on to claim the Giro d'Italia. Can he repeat the feat in 2017? Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).
LIDO DI CAMAIORE, Italy (VN) — Most of the Giro d’Italia favorites gathered along the sunny Tuscan coast Tuesday for this week’s Tirreno-Adriatico. A win in central Italy could equal success in the three-week Italian grand tour or it could just be a peak in a long season.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) last won the seven-day stage race in 2013 and went on to conquer the Giro d’Italia in the same year. But he is one of the few, since the race did not always suit grand tour riders.

The overall winner in San Beneetto del Tronto next Tuesday should be well-suited for the Giro’s classification in May given that the race this week includes a 16.1-kilometer summit finish and two time trials. He will also have to battle and conquer an A-list of rivals.

“The main guys for the Giro d’Italia are here, so it’ll be a good test for everyone,” Geraint Thomas (Sky) said. “Saying that, a lot can still change from here until the start of the Giro.”

When the dust settles in San Benedetto del Tronto, cycling fans still must wait around two months for the 100th Giro to kick off in Sardinia on May 5. It is a period of classics and other short stages races — and a time of speculation.

“You still have around 60 days,” Nibali told VeloNews. “It’s not written anywhere that Tirreno success will bring Giro success. It can be indicative, but there are those who already started strongly and started early. It’s hard to say if he who wins Tirreno will win the Giro.”

As Nibali spoke, Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) walked by in the press conference room.

Nibali added, “To have all of those riders here who’ll be at the Giro you could already get an indicator to how your rivals are racing and riding, their tactics, all those small things.”

RCS Sport’s cycling director, Mauro Vegni looked please with the cast he gathered in Tuscany for the start of Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday.

The start list of 22 teams, 176 cyclists, includes Thomas, Nibali, Dumoulin, Quintana, van Garderen, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Adam Yates (Orica-Scott), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), and Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates).

Olympic champion and 2016 Tirreno-Adriatico winner Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) is also on the start list. “But it’d have to snow again for me to win,” he said. Last year, bad weather forced Vegni to cancel the queen stage and opened up Van Avermaet’s chances.

“Tirreno on its own has value and importance because it’s WorldTour and gives points to the team, but clearly, it’s a testing ground for all the cyclists,” Vegni said.

“The sprinters are building for Milano-Sanremo here. And of course, you can see right away how those men who are building for the Giro stand.”


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Women’s Tour de France Cancelled in Protest over Clash of Dates

Route de France Féminine hit out at UCI after failing to secure a place in the WorldTour calendar

Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle-Honda) wins La Route de France (Wiggle-Honda)
The organisers of the women’s Route de France Féminine stage race – arguably the women’s Tour de France - have confirmed the cancellation of this year event, blaming the UCI for failing to include the stage race in the 2017 women’s WorldTour calendar.

La Route de France Féminine claims to be the continuation of the Tour de France Féminin and is France’s most prestigious stage race for women. However, the race failed to secure a place in the 2017 WorldTour calendar after the organisers were late in submitting their request. As a consequence the 2017 Tour de France Féminin (August 5-13) clashes with the UEC road championships and then the Crescent Vårgårda WorldTour races in Sweden on August 11 and 13.

In a Facebook post titled: ‘Tout simplement scandaleux, Merci l’UCI,’ race organisers Hervé and Brigitte Gerardin blamed the UCI for the cancellation of their race, while promising to organise the race in 2018 if it secures a better slot in the calendar.

“After more than 10 years of organisations at the highest international level, the 2017 Route de France is challenged by an inconsistency at the level of the international women's calendar,” the post reads.

“Despite the strong will of the organising committee to continue and a desire to organise the 2017 edition of the race, we have decided to challenge and to show the Union Cycliste Internationale our disagreement on the procedure of the implementation of the calendar team.

“In 2017, we wished to integrate the race in the new schedule of the WorldTour, access we have unfortunately been refused by the UCI for the following reason: our file sent mid-August, arrived too late to the UCI!?!

“Yes, we have agreed not to be in the WorldTour calendar but we denounce the inconsistency that has led to the cancellation of the Route de France. The 2017 calendar includes several events on the same dates as that the Route de France, which is stuck between the European Championships and two WorldTour races that are usually located after the Route de France. It is, therefore, impossible to envisage the organisation of our race because this situation deprives us of the best French and international teams.”

The organisers promised they would fight to put on the Route de France Feminine, but only on condition they obtained an ‘honourable’ place in the race calendar. They called on French and international women’s cycling to support them.

There was no initial reaction from the UCI to the organiser's decision and criticism.

Article Source: Cycling News