Saturday, April 29, 2017

6 Sportive Tips For Beginners

Whether you are new to sportives or not, these tips can help you out on the day of the event.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sunday, April 23, 2017

9 Riders To Look Out For At The 2017 Liège–Bastogne–Liège

Dan Lloyd looks ahead to this Sunday's Liège–Bastogne–Liège and 9 riders you need to keep an eye on!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Your New Favorite Race: Liège-Bastogne-Liège

Positioning and climbing — two keys to Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Photo: Tim De Waele |
Welcome to the VeloNews 2017 WorldTour fan guide. Great news: There are tons of cycling races all season! Less-great news: Like trying to pick an ice cream flavor at Ben & Jerry’s, tons of choices can be overwhelming. So, we’ll try to help out by giving you quick, fun overviews of major races. Stay tuned for more previews.

Your new favorite race: Liège-Bastogne-Liège, April 23

Why should you care about this race? They call it “La Doyenne,” the “old lady,” and though Liège is six years younger than the August Paris-Tours race in … uh … August, it’s considered by most to be the oldest major one-day race. It’s also the final monument classic of the season and a damn hard race, what with 10 notable climbs over 258km of racing in Belgium. This is the exclamation point at the end of Ardennes week, a race that can only be won by a climber with impeccable endurance and tactical savvy to play the final sprint perfectly, because Liège isn’t often won solo in the modern era.

Most dramatic edition in recent memory? Boy, 2014 was a good year for the Ardennes. Earlier this week, I recalled that year’s edition of Flèche Wallonne, but one might argue that 2014 Liège was even more exciting. Giampaolo Caruso and Domenico Pozzovivo attacked on the Côte de Saint-Nicholas, the final climb, 5 kilometers from the line. They dangled with about a 10-second advantage as the chasers bickered, but under the red kite, 1km to go, they were in sight. Defending champion Dan Martin attacked the peloton and quickly got a gap. He gobbled up Pozzovivo. Then he was on Caruso’s wheel. Then … NO!! He was on the ground. Stay on your bike, Danny! The field swept by the fallen Irishman, and Australian national champion Simon Gerrans sprinted past Alejandro Valverde to win. Caruso was fourth behind Michal Kwiatkowski, leaving us all to wonder if Martin could have held off Gerrans in those final few hundred meters after the fateful right-hand turn.

Your race’s defining feature: Before 2016, I might have suggested that Côte de Stockeu was Liège’s defining feature. Heck, it’s got a monument for Eddy Merckx at the top — who would question the race’s only five-time winner? Alas, this nasty climb near Stavelot is not in the route. So, I’ll name the next best climb: Côte de la Redoute, which is always lined by spectators, camper vans, beer tents, and cyclo-touristes who surrendered halfway up the 2km ascent that averages a tick less than nine percent. This is where the late Frank Vandenbroucke put in an unbelievable big-ring attack on the climb’s steepest double-digit grades and rode on to victory in 1999. It was a different era, but it sure made for good television.

Ladies first? Kudos to race organizer ASO for doubling-down on women’s racing in the Ardennes for 2017. In addition to its Wednesday Flèche Wallonne Féminine race, Liège-Bastogne-Liège will host a women’s race for the first time. The 135.5km route features the same run to the finish in Ans as the men’s race: La Redoute, then the 1.3km, 11-percent Roche-aux-Faucons, and finally the 1.2km, 8.6-percent Saint Nicholas. It’s a fitting climbers showcase for the final race of the three hilly classics.

Who are you betting your beer money on this year? Never ever bet against Movistar’s Valverde in a race like this — both due to his age-defying strength and climbing abilities as well as his tactical knowhow and experience that approach wizard status. In the women’s race, I like how aggressive Katarzyna Niewiadoma (WM3) has been riding lately, and she is one of the best climbers in the peloton.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Gilbert Makes History with 4th Amstel Gold Race Win

Belgian is second only to Dutchman Jan Raas on all-time Amstel win list

Mike Kwiatkowski, Philippe Gilbert and Michael Albasini on the 2017 Amstel Gold Podium ( Bettini Photo)

Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) made history Sunday when he took his fourth win at the Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands, winning a two-up sprint with Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) to notch his fourth victory in the first round of the Ardennes Classics while climbing to second on the race's all-time win list behind Dutchman Jan Raas.

Although he hit the deck about halfway though the 261km race, Gilbert, who also won the race in 2010, 2011 and 2014, initiated the winning move about 40km from the finish after the peloton reeled in the early breakaway. He then joined Kwiatkowski in a move on the final climb of the day, sticking the move to the line with the Pole and then blowing past after Kwiatkowski led from too far out. Gilbert is now only the third rider in history to win the Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold Race in the same season.

"He surprised me a little bit in the sprint, but knowing there was a headwind, I remained calm and got closer and closer," Gilbert said.

There had been considerable discussion leading up to the race about how course changes would affect the finale, with the mighty Cauberg climb coming 16km from the finish this year. Although some had speculated that the changes would lead to a bunch sprint, the new formulation seemed to embolden opportunists like Gilbert and his fellow late escapees, including Kwiatkowski, Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott), Nathan Haas (Dimension Data), Jose Rojas (Movistar), Sergio Henao(Team Sky) and Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida).

“We went early, on the Kruisberg, and we worked really well together," Gilbert said. "All the guys deserved to win, because they did a great job helping the group go. On Bemelerberg, I could see everyone was as their limit, but I attacked and got a gap with Kwiatkowski."

In the finale, Kwiatkowski forced Gilbert into the lead and then lingered about a bike length behind as they approached the final 500 metres. The Pole jumped viciously as he swung to his right, but Gilbert was quickly on him and moving past, eventually taking his third win of 2017 after Tour of Flander and Three Days of de Panne.

“Today’s race was hard and we rode aggressively, but this is my favourite way of racing," Gilbert said. "I’m not scared of this and I’m very happy of how things panned out. It was a perfect day. My goal every season is to win a Classic. Now it is already two and this is maybe for the years I didn’t win one."

Friday, April 14, 2017

How To Pedal | Cycling Technique

Pedalling comes naturally, for the most part. But there are things you can do to make your pedal stroke more efficient.

Where the pros have the edge is a well-developed flexibility, allowing their muscles to move freely through the full pedalling range. Regular stretching will go some way to giving you that flexibility too.

Cadence drills can help maintain your efficiency even when churning up hills, and even thinking about saving energy by keeping your upper body steady will help in the long run.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

BMC Celebrate Their First Ever Monument Victory at Paris-Roubaix

'This is at the top of the list of races we've always wanted to win,' says team manager Ochowicz

The BMC Racing Team celebrated Greg Van Avermaet's victory at Paris-Roubaix at their hotel on Sunday evening, savouring how the team performed throughout the 257km race, and how Van Avermaet joined the move that decided the race and then put his rivals to the sword with a perfectly executed sprint finish on the Roubaix velodrome.

Team manager Jim Ochowicz has been in professional cycling for over thirty years but this is the first time one of his riders has won the Hell of the North, and it was Van Avermaet's and BMC team's first ever victory in a Monument.

Video footage showed how Van Avermaet celebrated in the velodrome and with teammate Daniel Oss, who rode so generously to help him in the finale of the race. The importance of victory was also clear to see in the BMC team car, with footage capturing directeur sportif Valerio Piva and Fabio Baldato celebrating with sheer joy.

"It's as if I won myself," Oss said after hugging Van Avermaet and then watching him raise the winner's cobblestone in celebration.

"When I was away off the front, I dreamt that it was perhaps my day but when and the others came up to me, I gave everything I had so that the chasers wouldn't close the gap. I've realised that I can perhaps ride Paris-Roubaix with the aim of winning it. One day I want to come back and give it a try."

Ochowicz celebrates BMC quality and hard work

The BMC team, like all their rivals, lost some riders due to crashes and mechanical problems but other riders stepped up. Stefan Küng crashed and hurt his left wrist, while Manuel Quinziato was also slowed early on in what he later revealed was his last ever Paris-Roubaix as he considers plans to end his career this season.

When Van Avermaet crashed early, three teammates waited for him and Jeremy Drucker played a huge role in helping him get back to the peloton before other serious attacks were made. Australian national champion Miles Scotson later played a key role and managed to finish his first Paris-Roubaix.

"It's a dream come true to win Paris-Roubaix but dreams don't happen for nothing, they happen for a reason," Ochowicz told Cyclingnews as he celebrated with technical manager Allan Peiper.

"They happen to good people and they happen to good organisations. And we've got a great organisation and a lot of great people and a lot of great riders."

"It's nice to have this one. Greg and the team have had it as a goal for a long time. I've been coming here for 31 years now and I finally got one. It takes a while but it was worth the wait."

No regrets about Gilbert

Ochowicz has long preferred Van Avermaet as BMC team leader for the cobbled Classics. He let Philippe Gilbert move to Quick-Step Floors for the 2017 season and then saw him win the Tour of Flanders, with Van Avermaet taking second. However, he has no regrets about the decision, especially after Van Avermaet's super spring results. Few riders have been so consistently successful across so many Classics – modern and historic – between late February and April.

"This is at the top of the list of races we've always wanted to win and we put a lot of passion and energy and work into getting to the start of races like Paris-Roubaix at our very best," he said.

"We parted on good terms with Philippe and were still on good terms. I'm happy for him winning the Tour of Flanders and I'm sure he's happy for us winning Paris-Roubaix."

"We were pretty clear about our strategy: Greg was the leader. It has paid off. He's just leapt ahead in the WorldTour ranking and that's a goal of ours, as is the team WorldTour ranking. But we go weekend to weekend and we've got another big race next weekend with the Amstel Gold Race and then others after that."

Ochowicz was not afraid to claim at least some of the glory for Van Avermaet's transformation from a nice guy, but eternal second to one of the best Classics riders of his generation, who rarely makes a mistake in the biggest, most challenging races.

"I think we've helped him a lot, I really do," the American team manager said.

"We've had a lot of close calls and lots of discussions. But I think this season, more than ever, he's got a good feeling for the bike race, he knows what to do and does it so well. He's got the power to finish the job even against the best of the best.

"I think it's his mentality. He's more mature now in lots of ways. His training has gotten him farther ahead and I think the team is stronger around him. There's also all the science we do, the bikes and equipment we use and then the staff and directeur sportif and the tactics we use.

"You need the combination of a lot of things to win such a big race like Paris-Roubaix. In the end, we need the bike rider to put it all together and get to the finish line first. Greg now knows how to do that."

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Your New Favorite Race: Paris-Roubaix

Photo: Tim De Waele |
Welcome to the VeloNews 2017 WorldTour fan guide. Great news: There are tons of cycling races all season! Less-great news: Like trying to pick an ice cream flavor at Ben & Jerry’s, tons of choices can be overwhelming. So, we’ll try to help out by giving you quick, fun overviews of major races. Stay tuned for more previews.

Your new favorite race: Paris-Roubaix, April 9

Okay, same disclaimer here as last week for Flanders: I realize Roubaix isn’t new to most fans. For many of you, it’s already your favorite race. I still remember my first image of riders on the Roubaix pavé — it was Graham Watson’s iconic photo of Bob Roll, on the cover of Mountain Bike magazine. I was perplexed. So read on for a primer on all things Roubaix.

Why should you care about this race? Every major race on the calendar is unique in its own way, but Paris-Roubaix stands apart, completely unlike your typical road races, even the other cobbled classics. Unlike it’s fellow WorldTour events, 55 kilometers of the 257km route are held on pavé so rough that simply driving a car across them (let alone racing a carbon bicycle) is dangerous. The Flanders cobbles won’t transform a Skoda into demolition derby fodder. The Roubaix cobbles this with some regularity. These cobblestones are so special, so hallowed, that there is a society dedicated to preserving the sectors that make “The Hell of the North” so devilishly hard.

Unique race dynamics go hand-in-hand with a unique course, making Roubaix so special. Tactics are often far more aggressive, less cagey, because riders want to lead on the pave to avoid mayhem. Fans are almost always treated to an exciting race this special Sunday in April.

Most dramatic edition in recent history? Tough question — if you’re a breakaway guy, editions like 2012 when Tom Boonen won alone are your jam. If you prefer suspenseful sprints, 2016 was about as good as it gets. I love an underdog. In 2007 Stuart O’Grady was allowed to fly free after his CSC team leader Fabian Cancellara gave him carte blanche. It was amazing. O’Grady had made the early breakaway, after 25km of racing. He was set back by a flat in the Arenberg Forest, but he soloed to victory, holding off the likes of Tom Boonen, Juan Antonio Flecha, and other favorites. O’Grady was the first Australian to win Roubaix.

Your race’s defining feature: Unless you’ve skimmed up to this point, it should be obvious that cobblestones are Roubaix’s defining feature. But perhaps we should drill down a little more — which sector is most essential. On one hand, the cumulative effect of all the pave dictates the race. By the end many are too worn down to follow the winning attack, or too fatigued to sprint well in the velodrome. On the other hand, the Arenberg Forest is a truly iconic sector, even if it does appear relatively early in the race. You can’t win Roubaix on the Arenberg, but you can definitely lose it there. You can also lose body parts there. This is where Johan Museeuw shattered his kneecap in 1998, nearly losing his leg to gangrene.

Some races will rip your legs off — Johan Museeuw nearly lost one of his (literally) after a crash in Paris-Roubaix 1998 resulted in a terrible infection. Photo:
Arenberg is great, but I’m going to say that Le Carrefour de l’Arbre is THE cobblestone sector of Roubaix. The fourth-to-last sector, only 17km from the finish is where the decisive move often goes. Boonen launched a winning attack here in 2009, for instance. That edition also has some of the most dramatic race commentary ever when Thor Hushovd overcooked a turn and crashed into a barrier.

But the thing is … Some years we miss out on an epic showdown between the big favorites because a crash takes one of them out in the early stages of the race. Most recently, Fabian Cancellara was knocked out of the running last year in his final Roubaix, taking Peter Sagan out of the group as well. Other notables have come to grief on days they thought would be theirs to win the cobblestone trophy: Boonen crashed out in 2011; in addition to Thor’s crash (AY TOOOR!), Johan Vansummeren and Flecha also went down 2009. How can we forget George Hincapie’s steerer tube snapping in 2002, causing one of the wackiest (and most heartbreaking) crashes of all time?

Ladies first? Unfortunately, no. The Women’s WorldTour gets back to it at Amstel Gold Race a week from Sunday. We hope Ladies Roubaix happens someday.

Who are you betting your beer money on this year? With my head, I’m betting on Greg Van Avermaet, who has a strong BMC team and is on top form. With my heart, I’m betting on Tom Boonen for a record fifth victory — admit it, you’d love to see Tommeke get that Hollywood ending on the velodrome in Roubaix.


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tour of Turkey moved to October

UCI says stage race has support of Turkish government despite political turmoil

Kristijan Durasek (Cro) Lampre-Merida leads the ovreall GC at the Tour of Turkey into the final day (Bettini Photo)

The UCI has announced that the 2017 Presidential Cycling Tour of Turkey will take place between October 10-15 after it was postponed from its original April date.

The UCI added the stage race to the expanded 2017 WorldTour calendar but the organisers struggled to attract teams due to recent terrorist attacks, a failed military coup and oppressive action by Turkish President Recep Erdogan. A report in February said only one team had accepted an invitation to the race.

Thousands of dissidents, journalists and critics of Erdogan have been arrested in recent months, sparking concerns about safety and civil rights in Turkey. The country is due to vote in a referendum on April 8 that would give Erdogan sweeping powers. The Tour of Turkey was originally scheduled for April 18-23.

An initial request to move the race was turned down in January, but following a meeting of the UCI Professional Cycling Council (PCC) on 21 March in Brussels, the UCI agreed that the Tour of Turkey will be postponed to October 10-15 2017.

The UCI claimed the race has the continued support of the Turkish Government and the race organisation to ensure the success of the event.

The UCI specified that the date change is only for the 2017 season, revealing that the 2018 UCI WorldTour calendar will be confirmed in June at the next PCC meeting.

The October date will mean the Tour of Turkey comes after Il Lombardia on Saturday, October 7, and before the new Gree-Tour of Guangxi that will take place in China between October 19-24, which brings down the curtain on the long WorldTour calendar.

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