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.

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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 |
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.”


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/

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.

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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."

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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 |

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.


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/

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."

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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.